Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey, the first west-to-east transatlantic flight took place, and novelist Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Added to that list — the first-ever edition of The Cheshire Herald was published.
Perhaps not as history-changing as the beginning of the atomic bomb era or one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in human history, the arrival of The Herald did mark a significant step for the local community. For the first time, Cheshire would have a true “hometown newspaper” that focused on the ins and outs of life in this small New England town.
The very first edition was published on Feb. 4, 1953. On the front was a picture of a wounded soldier receiving immediate medical treatment on the battlefield. The photo was courtesy of the U.S. Army and did not identify any of the men seen, or the battle in which they were a part. The caption simply asked that local residents “help save the life of a fighting man by giving blood Monday, Feb. 9 — it could be the life of your man.” Given that the Korean War was by then in its third and final year — the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in July — the implication was obvious: Giving blood was a matter of life and death for those on the front lines.
That first edition of The Cheshire Herald had little in the way of stories and more in the way of announcements and notices. The “lead story” let readers know that the local PTA was about to host its annual fair, one that organizers hoped would draw as many residents as it had the previous year:
Following the pattern of last year’s successful party, the committee again plans to feature a cake booth, candy booth, flower booth, parcel post booth, and white elephant booth. In addition, there will be a special booth for children.
The closet things to “hard-hitting news” that week? An announcement that the Cheshire Zoning Board of Appeals would consider four new applications for various requests. One was from Elford King, who wanted to subdivide a lot — 200 by 133 feet — at the corner of Cornwall Avenue and Pine Street. The application was denied. Fred Gumprecht had better luck, as his request to be granted a used car dealers license for his garage off South Main Street was approved.
The other two applications, one to lease office space in a building on Waterbury Road and another for permission to build a 40-by-60-foot henhouse, were withdrawn and held over for future study, respectively.
There was no editorial, but there were at least a few general columns of advice offered, including the first-ever “The Green Thumb” column, written by George Abraham, a native of Naples, New York. The gardening-centric feature would become a staple in The Herald over its first decade-plus of existence, and in this first piece, Abraham ran the gamut of flower talk, from African Violets to Poinsettias. Abraham also offered some words of encouragement for the new home of his weekly column:
They (publishers Howard and Ruth True) have undertaken a big job to provide this community with a valuable service and we take great pleasure in working with them. We will do anything we can to make the Trues and their paper a credit to this community.
In addition, The Herald ran a “Here’s How to Do It” column, offering tips on how to make some very generic home repairs, and then a health column, offered by the Connecticut State Health Society.
As far as advertisements were concerned, a few appeared in The Herald that continued, and do continue, on. Strollo Brothers Service Station, R.W. Hine Hardware, The Notch Store, and Cheshire Package Store all bought ads in that first paper, as did some establishments that have since closed but left an indelible mark, such as The Green Dolphin Restaurant, Lone Oak Market, and Wadinger’s Record Room.
At the time of the first publication, the Trues were certainly hoping that their paper would become a staple in Cheshire, and by the time 1983 arrived, that hope had become a reality. Though the Trues had moved on, a new publisher, August Loeb, who purchased the paper in 1963, had taken the reins and expanded on what the Trues had built. Loeb, unfortunately, would not see the 30th anniversary, as he died in 1981, but the paper continued on.
The Feb. 3, 1983 edition of The Herald had a special article announcing the 30th anniversary of the paper, insisting that it’s “ambitious goal” was to fill it’s pages with important journalistic content, at a time when “editorial content all too often (took) second place to business concerns.”
“However,” the article continued, “the endeavor of the founders — and later of August L. Loeb, who purchased the paper in 1963 — enabled the dream to come true (no pun intended!).”
The front page of that week’s publication also included news on the town’s grand list — up a little over 1% — as well as the sad news of a death in town:
Around noontime last Sunday, Sgt. Gary Walberg and Officer Paul Krupinski were dispatched to Higgins Road along with an ambulance, after a resident there had called police headquarters to report an untimely death. The officers were shown to an outbuilding on the resident’s property, where the body of the deceased — reportedly a person known to the residents — had been discovered. Pronounced dead at the scene by Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Dayton was Allen Winslow, 42, of Meriden. Exact cause of death will not be released pending an autopsy, but police said that no foul play is suspected. Next of kin have been notified.
Unlike 30 years prior, there was now an editorial page, including several letters to the editor from local readers. In one, Beth Ross took time to write about how much being a member of the Cheshire Jaycee Women’s Club had meant to her, while another, from Cheshire Chamber of Commerce Chair John Capone, commended Matthew Bowman for his commitment to public service.
Much of the paper, from the size — eight pages in the first edition to 44 pages 30 years later — to the multitude of sections offered, had changed dramatically in the three decades. Yet, arguably, the biggest changes were to come over the next 30 years.
By the time The Cheshire Herald was ready to publish its Feb. 7, 2013 edition, new publishers, Joe and Maureen Jakubisyn, who took ownership of the paper in 1988, had steered the publication through all of the technological advances of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In addition to the printed edition of the paper, readers could access The Herald online via a website, as well as subscribe to an e-edition. The Herald also suddenly had a presence on Facebook and Twitter, something the staff in 1983 could scarcely have envisioned.
The front page of the paper’s Feb. 7, 2013 edition told the tale of just how far The Herald had come. A color photo of two brothers performing a traditional Balkan dance routine at St. Peter’s Church greeted readers, with the lead story informing all that the Grand List had seen a slight uptick from the previous year, much as it had in 1983. There was also news that the Town’s plans to build a new Field House at Cheshire High School was moving forward, though it remained unclear exactly how much the project would cost.
The reconfigured front page informed everyone that a story on page 3 dealt with the future of Chesprocott Health District and whether the Town would remain with them for the foreseeable future, as well as a photo spread of a concert at Highland School. As for sports, CHS girls’ basketball may have lost a game but came away as co-champs of their league anyway.
In the Feb. 7, 2013 editorial, The Herald stated something that is reiterated this week. The success of the paper over decades was due to the loyalty of the readership and the continued belief in the need for good community journalism:
Cheshire remains more than just a “bedroom” community of commuter workers passing one another silently along Route 10. It shows its passion at the numerous sporting events throughout the year and its heart at several fundraising activities. Even if that commitment to Cheshire has waned some, it is far from dormant.
For 60 years, we have brought you the story of Cheshire. It’s been a fascinating tale, one that is far from over. Hopefully, we have another six decades of reporting left in us.
It’s been another 10 years since those words were written, and even more has changed. Once again, there is new ownership, and once again The Cheshire Herald is responding to the way technology changes how we consume news. But what hasn’t changed is the commitment to covering the town in the way the community deserves.