Several years ago, when I was working in Jacksonville, N.C. for the Daily News, we began planning for the newspaper’s 50th birthday.
Yeah, compared to Burlington, Jacksonville is a young whippersnapper of a city. The place wasn’t the size of Yanceyville before 1930. It wasn’t even the largest most vibrant community in its own county before World War II. Swansboro (shipping and fishing) and Richlands (farming) beat it all to heck.
Then, of course, the government came in and built Camp Lejeune and thousands of Marines and sailors called the place home for short periods of time. Tons of businesses sprang up. A newspaper, first called the Onslow News and Views — motto, “The only newspaper to give a whoop about Onslow County” — emerged under the guidance of first editor Billy Arthur.
The rest is pawn shop and topless bar history. Well, that’s too flip, but you get my drift.
Anyway, the 50th anniversary of the newspaper that would become the Daily News was to arrive in January 2004 — during my time there. We planned a big section to note the date and celebrate it with our community.
Trouble is, the community didn’t really want to celebrate with us.
Oh, we produced a special section and a good one. I think it turned out to be 12 pages. As it happened, that was quite a bit because there were only two advertisements in the entire thing — and one was our own.
I remember being dejected and depressed by the entire project. Certainly people there couldn’t hate the newspaper that much. It was a humbling and bitter experience. It truly soured me on the entire community now that I think back on it.
So when we began plans in Burlington to mark the 125th anniversary of the Times-News I was hesitant and a little leery. No one wants to be bitten twice.
But I should have known better. After all, one of the things I have always known about Burlington, Graham, Mebane, Elon, Haw River — and all of Alamance County is that this community supports its own. If there is a festival, people attend and participate. Local events don’t die on the vine for lack of nurturing. People here participate, volunteer, buy tickets and show up.
Believe me it’s a great thing that not all communities have. In Jacksonville, for example, the city has tried for years to have a festival. They scheduled it in spring, summer and fall. Each time it has failed due to lack of interest and attendance. Stands to reason in a way, Jacksonville is a transient town made up largely of people transferred there from somewhere else. It has a core group of longtime residents — but not nearly enough. What I can say about Jacksonville is this, in times of trouble, that community steps up big time. In a military community that does matter a great deal and I salute them for it.
But there is a lot to be said for living among people who support local businesses, schools, concerts, art, theater, festivals and fireworks shows on Halloween. The Times-News 125th anniversary section is testament to it. In all there were dozens of ads bought by local businesses and institutions that wished the newspaper well on its birthday. As a result, we were able to produce a 32-page section that could be seen as a keepsake for readers in Alamance County.
It might seem like a small thing, but to me it was huge and reminded me just how much I enjoy living here. I’d like to take this space to thank each and every advertiser who purchased a spot in our section. It was much appreciated. I would also like to thank the waves of people who visited our office for our open house on Thursday. So many stopped to speak and offered such words of encouragement.
I’ll never forget.
And here a couple of photos from events this week celebrating the newspaper’s birthday. Some old friends showed up.
Me with Jim Wicker (left) and Jack Sink (right). They worked at the Times-News for a combined 66 years — 46 of those were Jack’s. He probably took photos of every person in Alamance County during his time there.
Jack again, this time with our current photographers Scott Muthersbaugh (near) and Sam Roberts. These photoguys stick together.
I snapped this photo for Don Bolden who is with former and current staff members Tim Rodriguez, Don himself, Frances Woody, Jay Ashley and Louie Jones.