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What's in a name? A lot when you're the 'Screwdriver'

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
I had only been in Hartselle a day or two when someone off-handedly remarked "Oh, you work for the 'Screwdriver.'"
"Excuse me," I asked. "I work for the Hartselle Enquirer."
"I know," the person replied. "We've always called it the 'Screwdriver.' Don't know why."
I didn't know either, though it certainly didn't sound like a flattering name. "Screwdriver" didn't lend itself to much dignity for a newspaper, and as the new publisher, it wasn't a moniker I was eager to adopt. Back at the office, I asked the staff why the paper was called the "Screwdriver." The answer always came back the same: "Don't know, just always have."
For three years now, I've wondered why this paper was called the "Screwdriver," and had even threatened to give away screwdrivers emblazoned with the name Hartselle Enquirer to all new subscribers.
So, it's understandable this week when I became excited when looking back through old issues of the Enquirer as we were compiling a section on wild, wacky and wonderful stories from the paper's past.
I found a story titled "Screwdriver: A Nickname That Stuck." The story, written by former editor and current mayor Clif Knight, was published as part of the Enquirer's 50th anniversary issue on June 30, 1983.
According to Knight, the Hartselle Enquirer was "dubbed 'Screwdriver' at some point down the long string of its editions, and it has stuck like a leech."
The article did little to shed light on the nickname, however. As Knight reported, no one's sure how the nickname got started or who started the tradition.
In the article, a retired cotton buyer named J.C. Henderson said he heard the paper called the "Screwdriver" since he was a child.
"I guess it could have been nicknamed that because a screwdriver has so many uses around the house and the newspaper did, too, back in those days," Henderson said.
Henderson went on to prove his point, by recalling a story he attributed to former publisher C.R. Walker, and a farmer back in the 1930s.
The story says Walker was trying to sell the farmer a one-year subscription to the paper for $1.50. His sales pitch and the response went something like this:
"I can't buy it because I don't have $1.50," the farmer said.
"I'll settle for a load of firewood," the publisher replied.
"I don't have any wood," the farmer said.
"Then bring me a load of cobs," Walker answered.
"If I had the cobs, I wouldn't need the paper," the farmer said.
That's a great story, but still doesn't shed any light on the Screwdriver mystery. So I need your help. If you've got a Screwdriver story, or have an idea of why the name stuck, give me a call at 773-6566.

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