From the Editor: Finding treasures in ‘The Vault’ at Sky-Hi
August 9, 2013
In the news biz, it's called the morgue.
Remnants of dead and gone news. The last remaining soldiers of a run, stashed chronologically in a dark and seldom visited closet or neglected nook.
The Sky-Hi News is fortunate for needing more space for its morgue than most newspapers in Colorado, with newspapers dating back to the early 1900s.
And we as staff are fortunate to have this wealth of history within a few feet of our work desks. We also are fortunate to continue this important lineage of community journalism.
Readers may have noticed two new constants in our present newspaper, one called "It Happened in Grand," another "From the Vault." The former glances at the oddities and the "interestings" not quite meaty enough for complete stories, nonetheless worth a few lines in the newspaper.
The latter forces us journalists into the recesses of the morgue.
Without rhyme or reason, we delve into the yellowed pages of the past, picking at random a newspaper (Middle Park Times; Sky-Hi News; Winter Park Manifest) and a year, and finding the month and day nearest to the present, and we simply start reading.
I'm becoming a morgue junky. I enjoy reading the news of the time, finding that much of it is still news today: water issues; welcoming veterans home; national forest timber sales; beetle control operations and congressmen visiting beetle-killed forest areas; "dope" threats to youth; small business struggles, road projects, rodeo results and the countless token announcements of community meetings and events.
Then there's the news of a bygone era: who was in Denver for the weekend; who picnicked where; who hosted guests; and even, who was in the hospital for what.
The ads are also telling of the time: businesses of the past some still may remember. And Coors beer ads on news pages before the industry abandoned print for more glamorous TV spots.
Upon picking up a 1951 edition of the Middle Park Times recently, I came across an article about the Times' own history.
The origin of the Middle Park Times was in Grand Lake, according to "Story of the Middle Park Times." At the time this story was written, Paul Way was publisher, the cost of the paper was $2.50 for a year, and the paper printed in Kremmling boasted being the "Official paper for all of Grand County."
"June 1, 1951," the story starts, "marked Volume 71, No. 1 of the Middle Park Times, born of the Grand Lake Prospector at Grand Lake in 1881, the brain child of George W. Bailey and John Smart, owners and editors."
On its 71st anniversary, the newspaper paid tribute to Smart and Bailey. The story reported Bailey went on to be a Colorado Supreme Court justice and Smart, city editor of the Denver Post.
The Grand Lake Prospector was "full of advertising, of local news items of tales from Teller and Lulu and Gaskill mining towns booming in the (18)80s," the story reads. "The type is odd and much of it now in disuse, but the paper obviously told the story of its times which is the function of every newspaper."
Bailey sold his interest, and Smart moved the newspaper to Hot Sulphur Springs in 1889 after the county seat moved from Grand Lake to Hot Sulphur. He changed the name to the "Grand County Prospector."
According to the story, sometime after the move, a man called Judge Pettingell suggested to then editor Willard Miner the name be changed to the Middle Park Times "to fit the changing times."
Around 1901, Smart sold to Oliver Needham, who was its editor until Glenn Sheriff Sr. and the Judge took it over the following year. "Mr. Needham was "habitually drunk from Friday to Friday when the paper came out," the account reads.
The Judge, who each week printed an advertisement that the newspaper was for sale, practically gave away the business to Morton Alexander, who bought the Middle Park Times for $900, "and the judge held a chattel mortgage and an undated promissory note." But Alexander eventually made good with the Times and the judge.
The Times fell into the hands of many owners and editors until Way wrote its history in 1951. "Times have changed since 1881 and the Times has changed with them," Way wrote, "but the policy of the paper remains unchanged: to publish the news and promote the growth of this Empire of the West, Middle Park."
And so too is my challenge each and every day.
The Middle Park Times flag lives on. In 2007, the Middle Park Times became a countywide week-in-review subscription newspaper published on Thursdays. For the past six years, the Middle Park Times has focussed on printing the best countywide stories from the Sky-Hi News and is distributed to subscription holders.
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