Steve Holland was fresh out of journalism school at the University of Iowa in 1974, when he landed his first newspaper job.
Then-Hannibal Courier-Post editor Bob Ross offered Holland the opportunity to sit behind the sports desk, recently vacated by veteran sports editor Ed O’Neill. Holland knew of O’Neill’s reputation for accuracy and dependability throughout the northeast quadrant of Missouri. Holland also knew he had his work cut out for him, but he didn’t know exactly how much work that would entail.
It seems that some members of the Hannibal High School Boosters Club didn’t take kindly to this 22-year-old journalism “pup” trying to pick up where veteran journalist Ed O’Neill left off.
“I was a wide-eyed Iowian,” Holland, now age 63, said this week, when he stopped in town to re-trace the steps where he walked during during his youth.
“Missourians look at life a little different than people in Iowa,” Holland said. “You have to have a sense of humor.”
Now, looking at life from age 63 backwards, he can put those early Hannibal years into perspective.
“I had some trouble with the (Hannibal High School) Booster Club,” Holland said. All of a sudden, things got better. “I found out later that Ed had gone door to door and told the members, ‘Leave the kid alone. He’s doing a good job.’”
For this, Holland remains grateful. “I was glad I got the chance to meet Ed O’Neill in my life. He was a nice man.
“After my first full year of covering high school sports, they had the awards banquet. Hannibal is very polite. Everyone got mentioned,” including Holland. “They gave me really polite applause. Then they introduced Ed, who had worked as sports editor for more than four decades. He got a standing ovation. It’s like, ‘Ed, he’s ours. He’s it.’”
One of his fondest memories of Hannibal is meeting older folks in town during the summer months, when he wrote a series of articles he called “Saturday Heroes.”
“I talked to people about what happened in their lives. One guy played for the Washington Generals, the team that the Harlem Globetrotters always beat. One guy had pitched to Babe Ruth. And another guy had a mini racecar with a cross; he would race it in Jesus’ name. That was his hobby.”
Holland left Hannibal in 1975, ending up in Iowa City, Iowa. There he worked for the newspaper for eight years, before taking a career turn to teaching. He earned both his master’s and doctorate degrees, and still teaches part time, sometimes being called upon to teach teachers how to teach online.