Forty years ago, or so, when I was in my teens, my mother, who was a typing teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, began the onerous task of trying to teach me to use a typewriter.
I was one of the best hunt-and-peck-method typists in St. Augustine; despite my mother’s best efforts to teach me the importance of using the proper finger locks.
Being the industrious entrepreneur that I am, even at that innocent age, something told me that if I was going to learn to type – I was going to require something to write. An idea was born that I look back on today and get a good chuckle.
I decided to publish a newspaper – The Ferrol Herald. It debuted on Labor Day Weekend which is why I’m reminded of it today.
In the early 60’s, before we had photocopying and cheap offset printing, The Ferrol Herald went to press on the finest mimeograph machine available at the D&B school. (I need to remember to send them a check for paper and supplies because I’m certain that’s going to pop up on a polygraph exam one day!)
Mimeographs were commonly used for low-budget amateur publishing, including club newsletters and church bulletins, so it seemed like a natural fit for me.
Something about the whir of the drum and sight of each resulting purple-tinted edition made the whole process seem intoxicating … maybe it was just the fumes from the spirit ink.
With subscribers from one end of Ferrol Road to the other, I made my rounds as reporter-turned-delivery-boy to the tune of 25 cents per issue. That was pretty amazing since The Record cost about the same at that time.
Of course my total subscriber base was only about a dozen or so generous neighbors who didn’t mind placating a local kid who showed a little creativity.
Dr. Trice, Mrs. Staubach and the Halls were some of my first subscribers, however, when the news spread of a local source for information about which ladies had received a new permanent wave or which family had purchased a new car, it wasn’t long before my customer base blossomed.
Lucy and Dan Rockwell, Thelma and Talmadge Skinner, Dorothy and George Cash, Virginia and Ken Kapphan, Clarie and John Bobinski, Frances and Sam Barrancotto, Johnny and Kay Heckendorf, Thelma and Bill Green and Mary Kay Hopping numbered among my loyal readers.
People were used to getting their news in the paper. Besides The Record, if you wanted the news from the rest of the world, you had to subscribe to not one, but two Jacksonville newspapers; The Jacksonville Journal and The Florida Times Union – one delivered in the morning and the other delivered each afternoon. After all, not every St. Augustine home had a black and white television set yet, so, Walter Cronkite wasn’t yet the news source upon which we would soon came to rely.
No one ever heard of a Blackberry or thought of getting news by e-mail delivered directly to their cellular phone. There were no fax machines, satellite communications or Internet to research your stories. Instead you stuck your nose in a World Book Encyclopedia, and, if you were lucky, you were updated annually with the Year Book.
Now I ponder the miracles of technology and how much we have come to rely on the worldwide web for our news and information and how much those hunt-and-peck typing skills have paid off for me as I sit in front of my computer keyboard.
Who would have ever thought that Citizen Kane would be replaced by citizen journalists?