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Colburn Hvidston III, Published July 26 2009

A tribute to mentor and friend

Cal Olson was my friend.

He was my hero, my mentor, an example I strove to emulate.

He was a multitalented journalist and a very effective people manager.

He was my photo coach in a time when such a coach was not yet a part of the formal newspaper scene.

He was a visionary thinker who would lean back in his chair, hoist his Western boots up on his desk and contemplate “the big picture.”

He was routinely the most demanding of taskmasters, while at the same time exuding an aura of total objectivity and fairness.

He was an assignment editor who detailed to me precisely what he wanted me to produce, but who constantly challenged me to digress in a different direction if doing so would result in something better than what he originally envisioned.

He was a desk editor who could be tyrannically, but constructively, critical of how I laid out my own photos on a page, but he never ever uttered a negative remark, even if justifiable, when I was the one who did the layout work on a photo take of his own.

He was a riveting storyteller who possessed a commanding demeanor, a sense of humor and a hearty laugh.

He was the essence of what National Press Photographers Association aspired its membership to be. For its first 62 years, he was the organization’s only two-term president. He challenged me to also participate in NPPA and what it stood for.

He was the only overnight house guest Jackie ever ironed sheets for! (Circa 1965 as a Grand Forks (N.D.) Press Club guest speaker.)

He was the photo chief who sent me a quart of Promicrol when, as a University of North Dakota sophomore, I wrote The Forum and asked him what kind of developer they were push-processing Tri X in.

He was the one from whom I cherished hearing his occasional, “Ya done good!” And now, my friend, I make a comment on your life.

“Ya done good, Cal.”


Hvidston was The Forum’s photo chief from 1970 until his retirement in 2004. Olson hired him in 1968. Olson died last week. Memorial services will be held Monday and Tuesday in Sioux City, Iowa.