Golden Girl: Hollenbeck honored for 5 decades of service

Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

While many things have changed around Benton in the last five decades, at least one has remained true to its core.

Since October 1970, Lynda Hollenbeck has reported the good, bad and ugly to the people of Saline County as a member of The Saline Courier.

On Friday, Hollenbeck was recognized with the Arkansas Press Associations highest honor — the Golden 50 award.

On Wednesday, APA kicked off its annual SuperConvention in Eureka Springs, which continued through Saturday’s awards luncheon.

“It is a very nice thing and I am proud of everyone who had a part in this,” Hollenbeck said. “This is not just for me, it is for everybody that was a part of this industry during those years. It was a very important time for journalism.

“It is something that will never come again like it was. I wish that were not true, but we came along at the best time — those of us that are still alive — when we did it. We got the golden years. That is a good name for it.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for all of the experiences that have occurred.”

Print journalism became a part of Hollenbeck’s life at an early age as her mother and father subscribed to three newspapers while she was growing up in Cotton Plant.
Proud supporters of print media, her parents funneled the news into their home via the Arkansas Democrat, the Arkansas Gazette and the Commercial Appeal (Memphis).

“I was introduced to journalism from birth,” Hollenbeck said. “We took the papers every day. They were on the table or in the yard. TV news was there, but we didn’t pay any attention to that. Print journalism was what my love was.”
Also a lover of the arts, Hollenbeck pursued a second passion once completing high school.
Hollenbeck made her way to The Hill in Fayetteville where she majored in fine arts at the University of Arkansas.

“I was going to be a vocal major and continued to do vocal music,” Hollenbeck said. “I had wonderful music teachers, wonderful English teachers and wonderful journalism teachers, all along the way, who encouraged to develop an interest in people and life.”
However, journalism was always heavy on her mind.

“I was interested in high school,” Hollenbeck said. “I wasn’t the editor of my school paper in college because by that time I had developed another interest. It was called ‘love.’

“I knew at that time that I wanted to do this. I was always exposed and a lot of it was being around newspapers and the printed word. My father couldn’t stand it if he couldn’t see his newspapers every day.”
In 1970, Hollenbeck found herself in the heart of Saline County. Following an interview at what was then The Benton Courier, she was hired as a part-time society editor working three days each week, which quickly evolved into a full-time position.

“I thought I wanted to do this and was pretty sure of it, but you don’t know until you get in there,” Hollenbeck said. “This was my niche.”
Hollenbeck said that once she began her professional journalism career, other avenues of work really never crossed her mind.

“I never wanted to do anything else,” she added. “I had an opportunity along the way, but there was nothing I ever really considered. I still loved performing, though.”

Hollenbeck is a charter member of the Royal Players organization and continues to stay heavily involved, along with the historic Royal Theatre in Downtown Benton.

Soaking up five decades of memories in her career, one particular time continues to stick out to The Courier’s senior member — Watergate.

“We would check that Associated Press machine every day to see what had happened over night in the Watergate investigation,” Hollenbeck said. “We were on top of that. We were the first ones that reported that (Vice President Spiro) Agnew had resigned. We got it first. (Owner Sam) Hodges was so proud. He really liked politics.”

During her career at The Courier, Hollenbeck has dined with a would-be president and first lady and a number of celebrities, including Robert Goulet and Burt Reynolds.

But it is the smaller, unknown subjects which interest Hollenbeck the most.

“Some times the best story is from someone you have never heard of,” she said. “I have always thought that. The least known can give you the best information.”

Another story subject that continues to stay with Hollenbeck through the years is the time she learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver by none other than Dr. Henry Heimlich.

The famed doctor was the keynote speaker during a dedication ceremony at Saline Memorial Hospital when Hollenbeck had the luxury of visiting with him.

“I learned how to do the Heimlich from Dr. Heimlich. Not many people can say that,” she added.
Hollenbeck’s love for people helped make her career more and more enjoyable.

“There is such a variety,” Hollenbeck said. “You meet every kind of person. Where else could you meet all of these people and really never leave the office? I have always loved it and I am so interested in people. That is the main thing. There is such a diversity. I like the little person as much as the more important.”
Throughout her career, Hollenbeck said the thing that brings her most joy is when a random person approaches at the grocery story or in a public setting just to say how much they enjoyed something you have written.

“Everybody has a story and some have many. Some have stories you will never hear, but everyone has one,” she said. “Open your eyes to what is going on around you and pay attention to the people. There is something happening everywhere you go, just watch for it.”