In the Quad-Cities we have a newspaper that has a captive audience.
It is not tacky, as the embarrassing name implies. But it is called the Toilet Paper. It is a serious, informative read.
In fact, readers cannot escape the Toilet Paper, which is plastered on the inside door of 120 restroom stalls and above the urinals at parts of the Rock Island Arsenal.
It offers U.S. Army Sustainment Command news and readable Arsenal Island history tales.
“I wanted to put out a newspaper that no Command employees could miss,” says George Eaton, historian for the Command, known by the acronym ASC. It has about 1,400 employees on Arsenal Island.
The Toilet Paper has a monthly circulation of more than 120 because two generals get five separate copies of their own.
It is a slick, newsy one-page sheet measuring 11 by 17 inches. The type is large enough to be read from a distance for — uh — understandable reasons.
As expected, there have been snickers at the name. Eyebrows were raised. But considering where it is posted, the name of Toilet Paper is appropriate, Eaton says without a flinch.
“A few said it was a waste of money. Those were the only complaints, but the Toilet Paper costs only 50 cents a sheet to produce,” says Eaton, a retired lieutenant colonel with 21 years of active duty.
“Is it effective? I’ve had more history questions in the nine months that we have published than in my nine years here.”
In the past, the ASC sometimes had modest luck explaining its story to employees and telling the history of Arsenal Island and its military ties to the Quad-Cities.
Eaton, who was a dual history/theater major at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., was convinced that something new was needed. He launched the Toilet Paper.
“I didn’t ask permission. I told those who inquired that I would be doing something different.”
The higher-ups at the Arsenal did not complain, Eaton said. However, there was a note of concern on the part of Maj. Gen. Yves Fontaine, ASC commanding general, who heard about the Toilet Paper from others.
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“General Fontaine has his own private bathroom, so he didn’t get the first issue,” Eaton says. “Since then, he has ordered five issues each month. The same for Brigadier General Brian Layer, deputy commander.”
The Toilet Paper is popular with ASC employees, Eaton says. That sentiment is shared by Michael Printer, an Arsenal employee who explained the Toilet Paper to me when we once were seatmates on a flight.
“It’s interesting. We learn things. Everyone really likes it,” Printer said.
Alongside ASC news is a column of military history tidbits. The May issue briefly notes that in May 1943, wartime rationing began; in 1911, the United States Navy ordered its first airplane; and in 1967, the U.S. bombed Hanoi. Half the page in the May Toilet Paper is about the Battle of Credit Island.
Past issues have covered stories such as the origins of Fort Armstrong and the Black Hawk War. A future issue may carry the story of Camp McClellan.
Eaton, as command historian, wears many hats. He writes some of the stories, along with Lisa Wallace, his assistant. College students have contributed.
The masthead of the paper calls it ASC History Toilet Paper, but everyone, says Eaton, “Simply calls it the Toilet Paper.”
Contact Bill Wundram at (563) 383-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.