Transcript of a taped interview
Narrator: Stewart Hoskins
Tape #:10 A – E
Dates: December 8 and 9, 1981
Interviewer: Donald Kobler
Stewart Hoskins was publisher of The Lakeville Journal from 1940 to 1971. He describes technical changes in printing methods, editorial direction under his wife Ann, important issues that concerned the weekly newspaper and several community projects that it supported during his tenure.
Property of the Oral History ProjectSalisbury Association and Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut 06068
This is Donald Kobler interviewing Stewart Hoskins December 8, 1981.
DK: Tell us who you are.
SH: This is Stewart Hoskins being interviewed by Donald Kobler. I don’t know why, but. .
DK: Tell us how you and Ann happened to acquire The Lakeville Journal.
SH: Is it on?
SH: This is Stewart Hoskins being interviewed. I am told that this is important for the history of the future of the world, but aside from that The Lakeville Journal is a subject under what? My wife and I came up to Lakeville in 1940 because we wanted to get away from New York City because that was at the tail end of the Big Depression and I was getting nowhere then and we wanted to move out of the city into the country. We also wanted a little business of our own. I wrote many letters, saw many people and finally received a letter from Mrs. Dorothy Belcher who then owned The Lakeville Journal. She said, “Come up and see us.” So we did. After six months of talking about it and working on the problem, looking it over, talking to people in town, we thought Lakeville and Salisbury was one of the loveliest places possible to live in. Being a country boy myself,
DK: Where did you grow up?
SH: I grew up in a very small village, even smaller than Lakeville, near Stamford, Conn., called Glenbrook. That is amusing because one of the first letters I ever received as a publisher of the Journal was a critical letter saying, “Why don’t you go back where you came from, you city slicker.” And my answer to that was that I came from a smaller place than Lakeville, so no more
letters like that came in. But to follow the story, Mrs. Belcher had taken the Journal over from the widow of Ben Jones who had run the newspaper for 30 odd years. He had bought the paper from Col Card, who had started it in Millerton as a sort of adjunct to the Millerton Telegraph or some such name. And Ben Jones finally bought Mr. Card out, moved to Lakeville and ran the paper for over 30 years, hiring Mrs. Belcher in an unusual circumstance — a woman operator of a mechanical linotype, which was rarely done in the 30’s. She worked hard and long for 20 or more years on that job, starting, I think it was $5 a week. It may have been less. And she became quite good, very good. Well, when Mr. Jones died, they were talking about selling the paper. Mrs. Belcher wanted to keep her job and the widow, Mrs. Jones, wanted to get rid of the Paper. So the upshot was that they worked out a deal between themselves which I don’t know about, but at that time the paper was very small. It consisted of four pages of local news. It also consisted of filler news which was received from outside in various ways, either in mat form (Do you want me to go into this?)
SH: Mat form, like a cardboard impression of type which had to be cast into a solid impression of type of metal right in the shop or in plate form of a solid cast of the type done elsewhere and sent to the Journal. They were used as fillers. From that evolved the system by a big national organization whereby they sent to small weekly newspapers filler pages completely printed with advertising and with national news and incidental news like how to grow a pig and how to cook a bailed egg.
DK: Is this what was called “boiler plate”?
SH: Boiler plate: it was pre-printed. It made the local newspaper twice as big as it ordinarily would have been which pleased everybody. The point was that in the early days, 1890 up to 1940, very few newspapers — small newspapers — had the capacity to set enough type in a short length of time with the people available and print it: put it together, to turn out any size larger than 4 pages. In the early 1900’s much of the type in the Lakeville Journal, particularly Vol. 1, No. 1, type was set by hand, one letter at a time. Then after that Mr. Jones experimented with the forerunner of the linotype, which is the mechanical way of setting type, and from that finally got to the point where he could afford and could put in one linotype. And that was the one Mrs. Belcher ran, learned to run, by herself, there. Nobody knew anything about how to do it, and the paper was put together with the linotype. We also had facilities composed of a great big pot like the iron kettle up by the Town Hall in which hot composite metal, mostly lead, was put in block form or miscellaneous form and under which was a kerosene high pressure heater. It heated the metal up to just the right temperature which you guessed at and then you poured that into a box-like affair just the right thickness, the same thickness as the type, and you poured that into a box against which the impressions, the cardboard impressions of the type, were put. Or, you re-used the slugs, which we called them, the linotype residue, which were saved once the paper was set in type and then was broken up, re-melted, re-used, so we re-used that as a supplement to the
linotype type and to make impressions from other sources.
DK: Had you and Ann had any experience with this kind of thing?
SH: We had no experience directly with the publication of a newspaper.
I had had supplementary experience in types of work which I found very valuable to me up here. In New York City, or in Jamaica, Long Island, I was in a big printing organization composed entirely of presses which printed national magazines. I learned; I had got an idea about what the back shop operation was in printing and in binding. I sold advertising of various sorts. I did miscellaneous work. I wrote little odds and ends of things. I worked as a press agent for a real estate company and so forth. I had a certain amount of background, which also came in very handy, but I didn’t know what was what when I came up here. We knew nobody in town, except later I found two people — one person who had walked into the shop one day and said, “By the way, you don’t know it but I was your mother’s bridesmaid, in New York City.” And that was a relative of the Metro family. I forget her name now, but there were two sisters. The only person I knew in town when we moved in — we moved into the building which is now the Psychiatric Center? — What is it called?
DK: Housatonic Mental Health Center.
SH: We moved in there. We rented it for a very low sum and I came up ahead, a week ahead? to get the house in order and it was early spring, very cold, no heat in the house. I had to figure out how to get the Journal — take over the Journal that week and get ready for my wife and two children to come up. And it was a little bit hectic. But somehow or other we got the first issue out. Mrs. Belcher stayed on for six months or so as the only linotype operator.
DK: Where was the Journal located then?
SH: The Journal was located in the small brown building between the hairdresser and what used to be the old telephone building on upper Main Street, It had a funny history itself. It’s a tiny little building on a tiny little spot, plot of ground. And looking it over, it was two stories. It only looks like one story, but the
back half has a second story underneath opening up onto the edge, not the edge, but near the pond, the hockey pond. But that building, small as it was, had been added onto twice: once on the front the porch had been rebuilt as a part office; and the back side, it’s still visible now, you can see the old line of demarcation. Ten years later — it was only 25 foot frontage or something like that — ten years later we wanted to expand so we expanded onto the right side, added about 8 feet on that and 10 feet back, and then a couple of years later we added a little shanty on the back side of that, and we still were growing – I’m jumping ahead a little bit — We still were growing. But we’d run out of land. We hadn’t run out of building or desire; we’d run out of land. And that’s one reason why the Journal was moved about 1958, I think it was, to the present location which was then a factory building, the most famous one in Lakeville. At that time when we bought the Journal, the front office, small as the building was, the front office was divided into half with a real estate office on one side and the Journal office on the other side.
DK: Was that the Fish real estate?
SH: No, no, it was a man from Salisbury whose home was up in the corner of the Lime Rock Road, the sharp corner, I don’t remember his name.
SH: No, no. I can’t tell. He had that: we were crowded into about an 8 by 10 foot section. The entire editorial, advertising, bookkeeping and every other thing except the actual press work out in back and the composition, in that little bitty space. It was very interesting. We still rattled around because I was the sole advertising manager. I was the publisher. I was the editor. I was the editorial writer. Until I could get a bookkeeper, I kept books. Off and on for many years when I lost bookkeepers, I kept books. I sold advertising, as I said. I tried to get out and around to see people. I attended as many meetings as I could. And then I had to go out back to help to put the paper together because we had only one other employee except Mrs. Belcher. And that was Charles Barnum. Barney, we called him. He lived on Orchard Street. He had been there for a good many years. He had formerly been a carpenter, and he — his father-in-law, Mr. Jones, had run the
thing and he became a printer. He learned his trade right there. Mrs. Belcher learned her trade right there. And I think I learned most of my trade right there. Because there were no skilled newspaper men around except Jack Bell who had been a part-time reporter and a top-notch sports writer for local sports. At that time Lakeville and Salisbury had baseball games and there was bitter rivalry, and Jack wrote beautiful stories about this rivalry, among other things, beautiful rivalry, of course, with Millerton, etc. Hop Rudd has mentioned those things. But Jack sort of drifted away when I moved in. I think he had had hopes of running the paper, but something happened, either he didn’t get the backing he needed from his father, who was a lawyer in town, or he really didn’t want to. I don’t know. But I found I had to write most of the stories for the first year because I — the income from the Journal was practically zilch — as they say — I have a little book which is about 5×7 inches, about 40 pages thick, in which I kept track of all the income, all the outgo, everything, including a pencil purchased. Item by item, including newspapers sold, one by one, and all the expenses. And it didn’t fill up that book in six months. And the records beforehand bear me out. Somewhere was — it may still exist — Mr. Ben Jones’s recordings of a daily take. It might have been $5.38. He sold other things on the side. But that was the daily income. And, frankly, I wasn’t too discouraged because the fact the Journal at that time was a small, four-page local paper, struggling, meant that it was for sale for a very reasonable price, even for those times. For these times, 50 years later, 40 years later, I should say —
DK: Do you care to mention the price?
SH: It was — I’ll put it broadly — it was well under $10,000. That’s incredible isn’t it? Now I won’t mention the price that we finally wound up with asking for it, but that came after 40 years. So, the bookkeeping was very minimal at that time. I didn’t feel I could afford a full-time bookkeeper. I knew I couldn’t afford a full-time bookkeeper because the Journal itself cost 5 cents a copy; we had two full-time employees. We had taxes on the building, and we were paying rent at that time on the building until a year or two later, we made a deal with Mrs. Jones to buy the building
for also a minimal sum. The expenses — the income was very small, but — I mean the expenses were very small — but the income was commensurate.
DK: Even smaller?
SH: Well, I won’t go into details, because it was a very interesting experience. This was just — in 1940, the spring of 1940 — just when the world in (and?) Europe was going to pieces. There was war going on. Everybody was screaming about helping Britain. And there was a great fear — a great argument — about whether or not the United States should enter the war and we started what to us was a brand new business without any backlog of cash, without knowing anybody in town, and just hoping. Well, it went like that. I think I did finally break down and hire someone to take telephone calls.
DK: Was Ann working on the paper then?
SH: To jot down the nickels and dimes we collected and the dollars and ten dollars we owed. I don’t know whether I advertised, but the word got about and a young woman, who walked into my shop early on from Sharon, said, “I’d like a job as your bookkeeper.” I said, “Do you know anything about books?” She said, “No, but I can learn.” I said, “I don’t either. I’m learning.” I hesitated because she wanted probably $10 or $12 a week, you see. She said, “Don’t worry about that. I can baby sit for you on the side, separately, you see. I can work part-time, doing part-time babysitting.” I think we hired her on that basis for a while. Then finally she stayed for a year or so, and from then on I had a procession of bookkeepers which I won’t go into now. Now what do you want to know about, Donald? The early turn (?) You asked about Ann. The early year, the first year, Ann practically never entered the shop. She did write because she had written previously odds and ends. She liked to write. She was a very — you well know, Donald — was a very good poetess in her own right — or poet, I would say. She was very articulate and made friends very easily. So she started a little shopping column, which took hold very well and it got our name around quite a bit. She went by car to Torrington and to Canaan and places that had never heard of the Journal before. But she hadn’t done any work in the office
or the shop until 1941 when Pearl Harbor came along and the world exploded. We were really utterly confused. Everybody was patriotic, of course, and even I, with my bad ears and theoretically an important job disseminating news and being a little bit on the upper edge of the age bracket for the draft, I was registered as 4-F or something, I don’t…
DK: That was the term.
SH: But I was — felt — had a little guilty conscience behind it — but here I had a job, a paper to run and a family to support. I compromised and I offered my services in war work down in Torrington. I thought it would be a part-time basis. The upshot of it was I was hired immediately. I was to go up to Canaan to help put the Canaan magnesium plant together which was started from scratch very shortly thereafter, which was producing magnesium which was a new element for manufacturing light-weight plane wings and things like that. It had never been tried, and this method of getting magnesium from the ground or from ore was entirely brand new. They worked furiously. There were — when I went up there — I’ll tell you in a minute how they worked — but when I went up there, they said, “You check in up there. You’ve got a job.” I said, “Okay, when do I start?” They said, “Now.” When I got up there, I picked up the phone in Canaan, and phoned my wife and said, “Look, I’m stuck. I’m on a 70-hour a week schedule. Somebody’s got to run the paper. You go down and sit down at the front desk, and I’ll come at night and help you out. What you can’t figure out, you see. And two people out back will do their part. We’ll get the paper out.” So that’s the way she got into the Lakeville Journal early. She got so fascinated with it and got so good about it in her job that she became a full-time editor and then editor-in-chief, full-time boss of Stewart Hoskins and ran the paper better than I ever could have done it. I think we actually made a little profit that year, which I had not achieved the first year. That is how my wife, Ann Hoskins, got famous in town as editor-in-chief and why she became, if I may say so, quite beloved in the town. She knew everybody, tried to help everybody, and knew what was going on, in many, many things. She was one of the women who started the kindergarten idea. There was no kindergarten in town then. She,
Bill Barnett’s wife and Tom Wagner’s wife and half a dozen others got together and decided to start their own kindergarten. So they did. Then they decided that they ought to get some help, so they talked to the town. The town said, “Okay, we’ll give — put a little money into it.” And they survived for a year or two and then the town finally took over, and that’s how you got a kindergarten in town. And things like that happened. The early days were really rugged because there were times when we were subsisting on nothing and really nothing at all, and there were times when I was hard put to it to pay two and a half people in the shop, let alone my wife and myself for doing work, and the hours we put in, of course, were terrific. We would just skip our pay for a week or so and eat bread and water almost and survived, but there were children around. And incidentally, during all this time, we had two young children, age 4 and 8, I think, something like that. My wife kept house for them, saw them off to school, got the lunches and dinners, and went to work. I don’t know yet how she did it. She did it for 30 odd years until they grew up. But, back to the Journal- The first year was very interesting and I got to know people. I think Bill Rayns- ford was the first person in town who really deliberately walked in and said hello to me, “Welcome.”
DK: Is that right?
DK: What was his position in town at that time?
SH: He practically ran the town, outside of Abe Martin. Bill Raynsford was a Justice of the Peace who kept the peace in town and knew every person who was good or bad, who meted out justice with a most even- handed way of anybody I ever knew. If they had him as a Supreme Court Justice, they wouldn’t need anyone else. He also was a carpenter, an expert carpenter. He was also probably on dozens of committees and things like that. He was a wonderful guy. Incidentally, one little twist of this is his wife was — caught the eye of my wife before we bought the Journal because at that era — late 38, late 30’s, sometime I think it was during the Fourth of July or something, they used to have a parade between Lakeville and Salisbury, go all the way from Lakeville to Salisbury, and it was quite elaborate, with bands and everything. They didn’t just go from Salisbury to the cemetery. They went all the way. It might
have been Memorial Day. There was Mrs. Raynsford, which we found out later- anyway, there was this beautiful white object on top of a white horse, dressed in white, walking sedately in this parade. It was the only person on horseback. And that always struck me. Ann said, “Look. There’s an angel in Lakeville.” We were driving through Lakeville. I don’t know. She may have had angel wings on for some reason, maybe pre-Christian. But, remember, we found out later it was Mrs. Raynsford. Bill Raynsford was the first one. I don’t know who the others were. We finally got to know them very well. That took care of the first year, and then I got sidetracked for two years, I think, in war work. I would finish my stint of 70 hours, helping in a very nominal way, but helping to put this mag plant together, which was really critical to the war effort up at Canaan. It was wonderful the way they worked at it. Because they were pouring concrete for footage at one end of the big building, it’s still there, and getting magnesium, the finished product, out from the other end of the building, they were working so fast. They didn’t wait until the building was finished. But then a year later when that was finished, I went down to Torrington and worked at the Torrington Company for a year grinding bearings for airplanes and other things like that, which was interesting, but just laborious hand work. It helped the war effort, but it didn’t help my Lakeville Journal, you see. Finally, that petered out and we were still so broke, even with my added income, we were still so broke that when that petered out, I came back and spent six months or eight months in a little local Lakeville products — what was it called then? —(Local Industries Ed.) in the present Lakeville Journal building, which was manufacturing skis, I think, for, the Army, among other things. And then they got into the side manufacturing of tables. Mr. Howe of Hotchkiss created a table which we manufactured. They were doing odds and ends of things. I was down to an 8-hour day there, and I was nearer home, so I could pop in and out. See to the Journal. But I still had to supplement my income to keep us out of the red, or out of the deep red, and that petered out and I went back to the Journal. Things settled down. The war came to an end finally.
From then on it was just slugging, slowly, slowly growing. I did make some innovations fairly early which I was quite proud of. The Journal back shop was composed of one linotype, of a composing table(s) on which the type was put together, the linotype type, the pages were put together and locked up in frames, taken downstairs, put onto the press to print. Upstairs there was a lot of hand type still in use from the past years when it has been very essential, but now slowly being discarded. But we used it for headlines. When I first took over, there was no such thing as a headline larger than 10 pt. which is a little bit larger than the paragraph heading now. I took over and we started setting one and two column heads for news stories which was incredible because nobody around here had seen a headline in a newspaper before. I also slowly wanted to get rid of this so-called boiler plate and over maybe a year or two I was able to get rid of it eventually, but even before then I was very proud of the fact that we had built up the paper from 4 pages, local news and advertising, to 10 pages of local news and advertising. It was either three months’ time or a year and three months’ time, I don’t remember which, but I remember being so proud, I wrote an editorial about it, “10 pages in 10 weeks,” or something like that. I got repercussions from Don Warner’s father, who was also Donald Warner who lived in town, a well-known lawyer here, who phoned me about it one time and said, “Look, I can’t find anything in the newspaper any more. It’s too big. Where is the news about the Strawberry Festival or whatever you want at the church, or where is the news about Salisbury?” I said, “On page 2.” He said, “Oh, l never read page 2.” That page 2 and 3 and 7 and 8 were pre-printed outside news that nobody ever read. It looked very fulsome, but nobody ever read them. He was mad because I changed the sequence of the thing. Very shortly thereafter as soon as we not only had Lakeville and Salisbury news, as soon as we had branched to expand to Sharon news, that was heretical because Sharon was a foreign country. And we finally went to Canaan, of all places, and to Falls Village. People in Lakeville and Salisbury were really mad at us. They wanted a local newspaper, but a local newspaper meant to survive,
you had to get local advertising, and there were all of two stores in town: Bill Barnett’s store and one meat – grocery – store the A&P at that time. We couldn’t survive on that, you see, so we had to expand. And we did expand slowly until we covered not only Canaan and Sharon but also Falls Village and Lime Rock, of course, and Cornwall, and down to Kent and then up to Norfolk, and partially up into Sheffield, a little bit from Millerton. But those were on the edges because there was no real reason why anybody in Kent should read a paper called the Lakeville News, you see, and this we were better than anyone else, but
DK: But it coincided in a sense, didn’t it, with the Regional School District?
SH: The reason why I decided to expand was that in 1938 the Regional School #1 had opened up and was just going, was getting really settled down when we took over the Lakeville Journal. They were having their problems over the fact that all the Canaan students didn’t know anybody in Lakeville or Salisbury or Kent and so forth. It was like putting six foreign countries together and trying to run them. I thought that was a very good opportunity for the Lakeville Journal to coincide with the area covered by the high school, and it worked out beautifully that way because slowly with the news and with the mix-up of the students, the people got to know each other in each town and they almost got to like each other. It took a long while, but there was an awful lot of rivalry at that time and antagonism at that time which I trust is now pretty well gone. They held things together. The churches got together. Even the baseball teams got together sometimes. That helped us. Frankly, I don’t think we could have done it if the high school hadn’t existed. I’m a little skeptical that the high school could have done as well as it has, as soon as they had, without the Lakeville Journal backing them.
DK: Yes, I remember Dr. Stoddard pored over the Lakeville Journal every Thursday when the paper came.
SH: He did what?
DK: Dr. Stoddard, the principal of the high school, would just pore over the Lakeville Journal.
SH: Yes, I know, but he also — he would pore over the Lakeville Journal, but he would also blast the Lakeville Journal every once in a while. But we became very good friends. He was an interesting character whom I got to admire very much. He used to come in when he got into all sorts of trouble — which I won’t go into — because of complications with people who didn’t like him. He used to come in and talk to us. Frankly, Ann and I on an evening when we were trying to get the work down, he would talk to us about his problems and we would commiserate and we learned an awful lot of behind the scenes things that never got into print. But that’s one of the plusses actually of being a publisher and an editor of a small town paper. You get to know things that 50% of which may never be printed, but it’s a background for what is printed and you can do a better job of what you write about. Without playing favorites, without prevaricating, without covering up anything, we would not cover up things that we thought were wrong. When we first started to write to include news of crime in the area, the Canaan Barracks — we had no local policeman, did we? — except Bill Raynsford as justice —
DK: Not until later.
SH: You got news from the barracks, which they were not used to giving out, and ran little very short things about people who had been convicted or arrested for this and that. The response was almost negative at first. People, very important people in town, phoned and said, “Look. You’re giving us a bad image. This is a nice community. We love each other.” I said, “Very good, but if people don’t know that their house might be robbed or something else might happen, how are they going to protect themselves or how are they going to maneuver?” Finally, they more or less came around to our point of view, but it was quite a push. They were not used to any kind of criticism of anything in print that happened in town. They would much prefer to cover it up. Although these fine, fine people were doing their best in their own way, by means of various local, wonderful organizations, to keep the town on an even keel and to make it work. I give them full credit all down the line on that score. We tried to cooperate.
DK: Do you want to tell us a little more about your experiences during the war years with the Journal?
SH: Well, the war years were very interesting because everything was rationed. People now say rationed, but I say rationed: including gas and food, and things to buy. It made it very difficult because people didn’t want to advertise what you couldn’t buy, so our income was curtailed a great deal. Aside from that, it made living a little bit difficult too. Because my wife found that after a while to buy a pound of sugar, she had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and stand in line where there were 30 people ahead of her to get a pound of sugar for the family, or things of that nature. People like Martha Briscoe blasted the system because she didn’t feel it was necessary at all. There was an adequate amount of food in the country, but it was funneled primarily, of course, to the Army, but they had ignored the necessity to keep the public reasonably happy. But gasoline was another matter which they had to ration. That was — that kept us from going to Torrington to sell advertising and things of that sort. This early rising really got the women of this town furious because it did no one any good. They might as well have gotten there at 10 o’clock in the morning and lined up as well as earlier and earlier. Nobody got the benefit of it. I forget how they solved that problem, but it petered out after a while. The attitude in this town, Lakeville and Salisbury in particular, including Sharon, too, was very interesting to me. I tried to run an even-handed editorial comment in editorials. By the way, I had instituted editorials which are purely personal comment, labeled as such. It has nothing to do with news, but it’s an integral party of good newspapers because it gives a point of departure for discussion about big issues. I had written an editorial about the war and the impact of the war on local things. But Salisbury, of course, is named after a town in England, and Salisbury people were very pro-British, and well-known people like Bob Osborn and others whom I can’t recall at the moment but very well-known people, were 90% pro-British, which was logical, but they wanted to enter the war before 1941, you see, before Pearl Harbor, to help the British.
Really they were very active in pushing that. On the other hand, there was the group in the country popped up called America First. Controversy.. The pro-British people were in preponderance. On (change of tape) the other hand, having read fairly extensively I picked up a little item at that period of time — not point in time — period — that said just casually that the American people who were drafted, the soldiers, are now in intense training with wooden guns. 1 sort of hesitated about that. It gave me a little thought about entering a war with wooden guns and practically nothing else, you see, so I wrote a very mild editorial suggesting we not go to war yet, see, until we were a little better prepared. That brought down a blast from all the best people in town. They really went — it took them several years before they got to say hello to me again. After a while, we got to be quite friendly. They never forgave me, I don’t think, for saying, “Let’s wait a little bit.” I wasn’t ridden out of town on a rail, thank goodness, because a few people also agreed with me. That’s the problem of being an editor or publisher of a small area paper where everybody knows you, you know everybody, and if you avoid controversy, you’re not doing a good job. If you enter controversy, you’re in trouble by one faction or another factions, and it makes for very interesting living.
DK: Not always comfortable.
SH: We survived that episode. And I never forget V-Day, was it? — the first V-Day when bells started ringing, the church bells started ringing and a midnight mass — not a mass — a mass gathering at one of the churches — I think it was the Congregational Church. There were bonfires all over the road in Main Street in Salisbury. People were really enjoying themselves. We went back to the office and I wrote about 200 words, had somebody come in and set it — one of my linotype people — I had one different one then — and I put it together and took it down to the press and printed it on a small press myself. It was called Special Edition, Lakeville Journal. It was about typewriter-size paper, one side. We took it — a couple hundred of them — spread them all over town as
our contribution to the final victory. It was the only special edition I think the Lakeville Journal has ever printed.
DK: Is that right?
SH: Yeah, special, because it didn’t come out as a supplement. It came out extra, a different day in the week. In saying I printed it — go back to the fact that during our growth, Dorothy Belcher left us, Jack Bell left us, so I had to get a linotype man. I had all sorts of people. I had one come in from New York, a big, stout guy, who was New York-oriented, who was very likable and affable, but a terrible linotype operator. He couldn’t set a line of type without making one mistake in it. We used to proofread that and get him to do the line over again and proofread the whole thing and we finally proofread it in the page form and we would still find errors. The point is that all of them in that era before Social Security went into effect and the 40-hour week went into effect, which was about ’43 or ‘4, somewhere in there, there was no such thing as overtime. You hired a person on a weekly basis and he was supposed to do the job as it came up. And always, and it still exists today, in a small newspaper operation, anybody working for it expects to have to work some evenings a week, even though they may take a morning off. But they expect to work late at night some nights of the week just before publication. This poor man — I’d haul him back after supper and say, “You got to correct this. We got to get it out tomorrow.” And he’d come back and he would say, “Oh, Mr. Hoskins,” every time I’d take anything to him. We had finally to part company. I think his wife also preferred to live in the city rather than in hick towns like Lakeville and Salisbury. We wound up with a young man named Al Elder who came from Yonkers with (his wife) Evelyn Elder. Both of them became very well known, with the Masons. He was a Mason, and she was in many other facets of the organization. Al worked for me. He was a top-flight, excellent, meticulous, fast linotype man who knew more about the English language than I did and a lot more about music and German and goodness what than I did. A foreign phrase would creep in somewhere or music creep in or composer or writer or something, he’d correct my spelling.
He wouldn’t say a word half the time. The only difficulty about Al was that every once in a while he’d see something, some news story that would amuse him. So in setting type, he’d put in — not even in parenthesis — his own comment. “This town’s cockeyed to me” or something. It would run right along. Now if you proofread that fast, you’d miss that and it’d get printed, you see. We were frightened to death that all of his comments would get out into public view. I finally asked him please, not to do that anymore. He was good. He went on until he died of a heart attack, a good 20 years or so later, I think.
DK: Yes, I remember he was wonderful to work with.
SH: Yeah, he was very good. He had a couple of small heart seizures right working the linotype. We had to call the doctor in. He’d come back to work later. No, he had ulcers — he also had ulcers and that would wreck him — and he’d fold up in the middle of the day or just fall off his chair. We had many, many people during my 30 years, of course, in different types of work. Slowly, as it came along, we expanded so that we were able to expand the size of the paper from 4 pages, I said, to 6 pages, to 8 pages, and finally 10 pages and then in the ’50’s I had a fairly good organization. Charlie Barnum — to go back — Charlie Barnum was my only person who knew anything about the back shop printing. He could set type. He could run the presses. He could cast metal, as I explained before. But, he was all alone. Although I had one or two itinerant printers coming and going — at that time there were a lot of itinerant printers who would drop into town and fade away a day later. I remember one one-legged man who came and wanted a job. I gave him a job because I wanted to get some work out. He did all right, but in the main I found I had to fill in in the back shop as well as fill in the front shop — and do a lot of work there, sell advertising, as I said. So I learned by trial and error how to do everything in the shop except run the linotype. I tried to set and I did set a couple of lines, but I thought this is silly, because if my linotype man gets sick I’m going to have to run a linotype and everything else and I’ll be darned if I’m going to do that. One thing I’m
going to be ignorant about. I did learn how to make up pages, how to set hand type and make headlines and set even invitations and things in the job printing end and to organize it and to read proof upside down and backwards of the type, and break up the type and put it away and do everything and case mats, set ads which were composed of large type and small type and odds and ends of engraving, and things of that sort, special little figures. I learned all that. I found I was working 50% of my time in the shop and 50% or less — 5% of my time in the office and the rest of the time outside the office. And that’s why — another reason why — I was very happy to have my wife in the shop in front. She got expert too in setting type. She could set hand type. And she could make up a page if necessary. We’d go out and fight about it in the middle of a Wednesday night at 12 o’clock, what to cut out, what to put in, because the thing about a newspaper is that it’s brand new every week. Everything about it is brand new except the size. The size is predetermined 8 or 10 pages, partially due to the amount of advertising, partially due to the amount of news you have. But you’ve got to decide which is which and to make it fit. And then to make a little profit after, but you’ve got to make it fit every week. Every time you make up a page, you’ve got to decide what to put in. If it doesn’t fit, you’ve got to kill one part of it or add another part of it as a whole. It’s a real puzzle every week, which fascinated me and aggravated me because this all would happen in the middle of the night when we were trying to get the paper — the last two pages or the last four pages — together. My wife was the boss of that because she’d say, “Stewart, there’s a news item about the Woman’s Club or the League of Women Voters or a church social that you’re leaving out.” I’d say, “We can’t. Where are we going to put it? These ads — I can’t take an ad out, I’d lose $10. We got to meet a payroll.” Well, the only answer is — sometimes we’d have a lot of news left out — because we had too little news to fiddle around with and really break even. She’d say, “Well, it’s up to you.’ I’d say, ”Okay. “So we’d add two pages because we didn’t want to leave out local news because my charming wife thought it was unfair to
the community. Even though we went broke in the process, it was still unfair to the community. So that was why — the Lakeville Journal has earned — actually earned for years and years — a very good reputation of not only all the news that’s fit to print but some of the news that a lot of people would prefer its being left out. The advertising did grow slowly, but it wasn’t until after the war that it did that. My staff grew slowly. I did get a full- time bookkeeper. I experimented with a full-time editor during the first year — a young college graduate — but it somehow didn’t work out. I was just a lousy boss or something. We couldn’t get along, and I didn’t know enough to know how to train him to be a good reporter. He was educated but not in this kind of work. So he went elsewhere and probably made out very well. Over a period of time I avoided any editorial worker — outside person editorially — the news end of it for quite some time because my wife could handle most of it and I could handle the rest. Correspondents — is a word which in newspaper lingo is — comes under different headings — but fundamentally people who work part-time to send news into a newspaper from outside, outlying places, foreign countries like Canaan and Sharon, you see. They were very essential and they were very helpful because they knew the towns better than we knew the towns. That was largely the news end of it. We didn’t have any key reporters who sat in on police news or sat in on murder oases or anything like that until very late in the game. Bob Estabrook has done a better job than I ever did on that score. He’s been able to’ hire and have good people in key spots. But we didn’t. We were working under-staffed all the time because of financial reasons largely.
The war came and the war went and we printed our special edition — which I still have in a file somewhere, faded, yellow, stained —
We all survived and we all got to know each other better and the town grew slowly, but not very much. Ann and I used to have a joke about our readership. The readership was so small when we took it over. I think it was 325 paid subscribers. By “paid,” I mean they paid $2 a year. We used to come over the hill from Sharon from New York and look down over the valley. All we saw was woodland and lakes. We’d say, “Where’s our subscription list? How are we going to make money in this wild country?” But the readership was very small
at the start — 300 plus. I talked to the former owner, Dorothy Belcher, and she said — we were printing 500 copies — and I said, “What’s all this — where are all these going to? They don’t pay for this thing.” She said, “Oh, I can’t ask them to pay. They’re important people in town. I can’t ask them to pay to buy the Lakeville Journal.” I said, “Well, let’s try.” So I tried and got some very charming letters back, saying, “Oh, of course, we’ll pay for the Journal. Nobody ever asked us before.” And that brought in a tremendous income of $100 or $200 a year. I thought that was famous. But that’s the way we grew. We used to go around and tuck spare newspapers into mailboxes just to alert people that we existed. We didn’t believe they knew who we were. It grew slowly, and our correspondents in the different villages outside helped us to grow. And the contribution or organizing all the news and anticipating all the news helped us to grow. And the organization just grew slowly. Al Elder helped a lot. Then when the war ended I was able to hire one or two local people that turned out to be a very good move on my part. With the help of government subsidy, they had the GI benefit bills or something like that where under certain circumstances you could hire an ex-serviceman and if you were unable to pay him full salary, you’d still give him a job for a certain length of time and the difference between what you could pay him and what was subsidized by some outfit or other, some government
DK: Job training.
SH: Job training that was it. I don’t know whether it was the federal or state or what. It worked out very well. Ray Fowlkes was one. Right after the war he popped in with no experience or training and said he wanted a job. I gave him a job, and he’s been there ever since. Almost 40 years.
DK: He’s one of those people who can do anything.
SH: He’s one of those people that taught himself with Al Elder’s help to run a linotype. Al Elder did help him a lot. After we had been able to buy another second-hand linotype, two linotypes, he taught himself that. He taught himself everything in the shop. What
little help I knew, what little things I knew about it, he could do everything very well. He could repair damn near everything. He thought of smart ways to simplify a lot of operations. He’s been invaluable ever since. Kenny Weir came out of the Army, very shortly after that, and he’s still with the Lakeville Journal. He settled down — he started to learn to linotype. He could set type. He did make-up work, but he preferred the press work. And he’s become an expert pressman. He can do other things too.
DK: Bill Stanton worked . . .
SH: Bill Stanton was the third local man. They all came within about six months of each other, under the same set-up. He settled down at more the composition end of it, the make-up of the paper, and things like that. He did not like machinery, but he could do everything else. He was very congenial, very helpful in all sorts of — he lasted my regime and on for several years after that. So that’s the way it went.
DK: Stewart, what were some of the important public events in which the Lakeville Journal played an important role?
SH: Well, there were several — a lot I’ve forgotten. Of course, we always think the newspaper is more important than other people might think. I think we did a good job in several fields. For instance, early on, in the ’40’s, Salisbury township was involved, had a building committee to undertake expansion of the grade school, then located on the corner of Lincoln City Road and Main Street. They had a building committee of all the top people in town, a dozen of them, and so forth — very well known, like George Milmine, and others — Howell White, I think — several others — who had worked on it and brought it to a Town meeting or brought it to some discussion meeting — I think it was — their recommendations. There was a lot of controversy. They planned to enlarge the current building, but they realized there was a real problem in doing it because of the way the land sloped down and so forth. There was a lot of controversy. After that first meeting, Ann got interested in the matter. She interested others who were education-minded, like Mrs. Howell White and Fran Wagner and many others in town — they should deserve
recognition, but I can’t say offhand. She formed a committee, said, “Look, nobody really knows whether their recommendations are good or bad. Let’s find out what other towns have done who have built in the last five years.” So she and her committee got into automobiles and went around to various schools, all the way over to Rhode Island almost, up a little bit into Massachusetts and around, every new school they could find and got all the facts and figures, looked them all over, got comments whether they were good or bad, or so forth, and they brought all the facts and figures back, together with pictures, and turned them over to me. Ann said, “Now what do we do with all these facts and figures? Here are so many rooms, so many students, so many teachers, it costs so much a square foot.
We don’t think it’s good, or we don’t think the lay-out’s good compared with other schools, it’s much higher, or much lower. What do we do with all these figures?” I said, “Let me look at them.” And I had had a little experience in organizing charts and graphs and things in my background, so I started to catalogue all those things and get them into correct order and sequences, comparisons. We discovered there were very definite criteria that you could look for. You just couldn’t take the cost statement by anybody for granted, because somebody else had done a better job or worse job. We published that and Ann wrote an article, and I had a great big box of facts and figures all organized, showing the comparison of what had been done all over. Plus what was recommended by our local committee. We published it, with explanation but no comment. I said, “Here it is.” The result was at the next meeting the school board resigned and a new school board was put into office because the school board had recommended something the facts sort of showed was not the best way out of the problem. So, without rancor, they said, “Let someone else take up the ball and run with it.” They all resigned and a new committee was formed. They moved the whole idea. They enlarged their idea. Instead of trying to save money at present, they looked for the future a little more and got architects to design a building up on the hill 200 yards from the present building. At probably a lot more cost, and then they had to prove their paint, prove that it was better. It was very interesting. In a year’s time, all
the facts came out, and the pictures and the architects’ things and their discussion and they okayed it. I think the Lakeville Journal had a lot to do with that new grade school on the building which is a very good one in lay-out and it’s very helpful. They discovered that not only that building, that the old building was full, still full, but the new building was full, so both buildings have been in use ever since. If they had ever added onto the old one, they would have had to do another job two years later. That was one little bit of thing we helped the town with.
Another was a different way. We didn’t help the town so much as we had crisis from the point of view of the 1955 flood which caught everybody unawares. We had just hired a photographer, who was a woman, not a young woman; a middle-aged woman, a photographer, and we had just gone into the method of making our own pictures in the shop which was relatively new anyway. I remember we had just hired her because one of the first assignments we had was the 1955 flood where I and Ann were personally waked up early in the morning by Cam Becket, our lawyer and well-known character in town. He said, “The town’s under water.” We were asleep on the Interlaken Road at that time — I forget where, yeah — and we didn’t know that after two days or three days of rain, the little brook, Burton Brook had overflowed. But we jumped in our clothes at 3 o’clock in the morning and went downtown. We called our photographer and said, “Get on your rubber boots and come along.” This woman had never experienced anything like this before, but she was game. She got into a car and we found that we were really in deep trouble all over the area. It got worse and worse, as a lot of people know or can read about. It was a newspaper holiday, because it was brand new local news, fresh news, and big news and everybody was rousted out to help. At the same time, we were a little fearful because our printing plant had been moved —— no it wasn’t — it hadn’t been moved at that time.
DK: No, it hadn’t.
SH: No, it hadn’t. We were not fearful for our printing plant because it was up the hill from the water, but we were flabbergasted in driving down that we couldn’t walk along Main Street because it was under a foot of water. Nobody now believes that. It was
under water from the hill up by the Holley-Williams House all the way up to Bostwick. It was not deep water, but it was under water. Cam Becket, among others, was out on the front porch of his office which was then next to the telephone building sweeping the water away from his doorstep with a broom. So was — what’s his name, who ran the little shop, the stationery store?
SH: Ed Paavola was doing the same thing. It was just lapping over and lapping into their businesses. It was fascinating, so our photographer got — wading along — you could drive but not through it, because it was about a foot deep. We started investigating all over the area, and we’d get up to the other side of Smith Hill and then all the river bank, the area in the valley of the Housatonic was flooded, absolutely flooded. The Ortiz’ house, now, was surrounded by water. You couldn’t get to it. Everything was under water, all over. You’d go north along Route 41 and you’d run into water. You’d go east toward Sharon, you’d run into water. Lime Rock had a real crisis. The bridge was out. The bridge did go out there, and it was under water. They had rowboats in front of the old inn to rescue people. Jean Bower, who’s now living in town, was one I — a man named Sharoni (sp?), who was my advertising man at the time, lived right down there. The call went out to the Governor’s office. At that time, as I remember, the governor was . . .
DK: Ribicoff? Wasn’t Ribicoff the governor then?
SH: Oh, yeah, Abe Ribicoff. How can you forget Abe Ribicoff?
DK: And what about the photographer? You didn’t mention her name. •
SH: All right, Abe came to the rescue in Lime Rock. Our photographer —
DK: Was Ruth SoRelle, wasn’t it?
SH: Ruth SoRelle was. We lugged her all over in the car. I think we went with her, not in her own car. She took pictures, and, now — oh, particularly up in the Twin Lakes area where there had been a landslide, there’d been a rock slide on Barrack Matiff: there’d been a minor landslide over on the River Road. Lime Rock village was partly under water. The bridge was gone, and so on. Of course.
Winsted was hardest hit, but that was out of our territory. We didn’t see Winsted personally for several days after that, but that was a fantastic sight to see. Luckily, our area was not hit so badly. It was just flooded. But it was a holiday for us from the point of view of news because we could splurge. We didn’t have to hold back on anything. We had — Ruth had dozens of pictures all over the place. We followed her around. We found that we really couldn’t get by car from one town to another all over the area for 24 hours at least, maybe more. But we had our own little engraving plant at that time, as I recall which was more or less new to us, fairly novel for a small weekly paper. We could make our own engravings. So we went to town and produced a special section, how many pages I don’t recall, 4 or 8 pages —
DK: It was quite extensive, as I remember.
SH: Pictures — all pictures, with captions — and it was quite good.
I was very proud of it. I think we got a newspaper prize, and award, with one of our newspaper organizations. And we printed a lot of extra copies. I’m sure a lot are hanging around in people’s attics right now. It was beautiful from the point of view of doing a historical service to the town of recording events that happened. Talk about recording events, this is a sort of sideline. We went to every single fire in town for 30 years no matter what hour of the day or night they occurred. I personally took pictures. I was not very good at camera. Or we’d get Ruth SoRelle out of bed to take picture of night fires. We couldn’t do a lot of those. But we covered the town. And my wife would drag me out of bed at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning to go to a fire. Some of them were spectacular and devastating. A night fire is one of the worst things
I can imagine. None of them I know of were due to arson, thank goodness. But they were there and many, like Abe Martin’s garage, where the travel office now is, was one of the big ones. The old Roberts’ Hall — not Roberts’, the old Lakeville movie house —
SH: Was not a night fire. That was a Christmas Day fire which was fabulous.
I’ll mention that now. It was unusual because it was sub-zero weather, as I recall. It was either snowing or had been snowing. There was a lot of snow on the ground. As soon as they turned the hoses on, it froze everything and there was a foot of ice all over the pavements and everything. It was really the toughest fire to fight I ever saw in my life and the building was destroyed. But there were many, many fires, many barn fires, many house fires, none of them were nice. We had one in our own house on Interlaken Road. with the fire companies. And, while I’m about it, as — as an ex-newspaperman and as a resident of Lakeville — I want to put in a plug for the volunteer firemen because I think they certainly deserve it. Bill Raynsford was fire chief, among other things.
DK: That’s right. He was.
SH: And did a wonderful job, and they have ever since. Other things that the Journal did
DK: This is December 9, 1981, continuing the interview with Stewart Hoskins. Stewart, do you want to tell us about the role that the Lakeville Journal played in Opinions Unlimited?
SH: I will try. To precede that, I’ll mention the fact that John McChesney had organized a more or less monthly free meeting of educational value, open to all residents, in which he — to which he invited well-known people in different categories: some in the arts, some in labor, some in politics. These people came and spoke. It was very good because anything done culturally in the area is very good for an area, keeps people a little more stimulated than usual. That, by the way, is one reason why we, my wife and I, moved up-here because we spotted the fact that people were interested in things of that sort. We felt that a newspaper should be broader than just disseminating news items. He ran those meetings for several months — I don’t know how long. They were very good, very interesting, but I felt that they were — did not provide the listeners an opportunity to get a different point of view from the speakers. Many were controversial. I think I commented on that editorially one time. There were two sides to that question. There may not have been — I forgot whether it was during the McCarthy issue problem in. Washington
and all over the country — where the dissenting opinion was completely squelched, but it had never been squelched in this area. I felt it should be permitted to take hold. Out of that, I think, came the possibility that we set up a little local, so-called Town Meeting of the Air which George Denny had been operating for years all over the country and even in Europe. George Denny lived in Cornwall.
His wife — what was her name?
SH: Jean Denny was his first assistant. Jean Denny got interested in the idea, and George did, too. Plus other people, like Jake Rand, and a number that I can’t name offhand. We formed a little organization and called it Opinions Unlimited, a name which I’m sort of a little bit proud of inventing. Getting national figures, deliberately set up to consider the two alternative points of view of national interest that filtered down and became local interest because we’re all citizens. So we would get with George Denny’s help important people. Among them we got Thomas Dodd and George Bush’s father?
SH: Prescott, who was then a Senator, I think. Mr. Dodd wanted to be senator. I think he had been in Connecticut politics. Or was he in the legislature?
DK: He did become senator, eventually.
SH: Yes. He became senator because he was out to get Prescott Bush’s seat. We got them here to talk. I think it was at the high school. A very big crowd came. There was a mediator — what do you call them now? — not a mediator, a person who was sort of the chairman of the meeting —
DK: A master of ceremonies?
SH: Yes, kept them on the ball, kept them from wandering off the subject.
Set up the rules of so many minutes for each side — like a regular debate. This debate went very well for Mr. Dodd, but not very well for Mr. Bush. One reason being that the majority of people in this town, this area, at that time, were Republican and they still are — and Mr. Dodd was a Republican and Mr. Bush was not.
DK: No, just the opposite.
SH: Just the opposite? Prescott Bush was the Republican and Dodd?
DK: Dodd was a Democrat.
SH: I’m flabbergasted. Just the same, even in this area of Republicanism, Mr. Dodd, the Democrat as you say — that’s true, his son is a Democrat, isn’t he? — was a far better speaker and got his points across far better and he really submerged Prescott Bush who was a mild- mannered person, very gentle and very considerate and abided by all the rules and also very intelligent and had done a good job. But Mr. Dodd didn’t care about that. He wanted the seat and he went to town. Well, that was one of the first meetings we held.
I can’t give a sequence of the meetings. We did hold several very successful meetings. The point was that we had put the meeting open to the public questions after the two conflicting speeches where each side like a regular debate, with questions from the floor. That was very satisfactory because local people could speak their opinion. We went on from there and with the Denny’s help got very well-known people. One thing was very intriguing, and very exciting and very depressing, in a way, was an Opinions Unlimited meeting we set up to discuss the Joe McCarthy problem which was running rampant all over the country. I won’t go into the pros and cons of that, but we again got two top figures. One was Bill Buckley of Sharon, who was pro-McCarthy, and another was the editor, I think, of the Washington Post at that time, a very high-ranking person who had been pilloried by McCarthy. I can’t remember his name now. It was all set up. My wife, who was the editor of the paper at that time, had the smart idea of running book reviews about the books which these two people had written recently about McCarthy, one pro and one con. We got two local, well-known book reviewers to review them, and we ran them in the paper.
DK: Do you remember their names?
SH: One was the man — the Tribune book reviewer — down in West Cornwall? DK: Lewis Gannett?
SH: Lewis Gannett. The other was the man on the road up to the Cobble who has written many, many books and was a good reviewer. He has since died.
DK: Sterling Baer?
SH: No. He’s very well known around here. I apologize for not remembering his name.
DK: Maybe it will come to us. (the person is Hal Borland.)
SH: They wrote reviews. We ran the reviews which were critical but not too biased particularly. They stated their points of view in reviewing the books. Immediately we got a wire from Bill Buckley saying he was not going to speak. The Journal was trying to sabotage by running a critical review about his book. We tried to point out to him that we had no control over what the reviewer said. We did it in all sincerity, trying to interest the public and get more people there. He would have none of it. We spent hours and George Denny spent almost all night phoning various people trying to get a substitute for Bill Buckley. And Bill Buckley practically said he was going to sue us if we didn’t retract. We never did retract. We explained but didn’t retract. We got a substitute from the Chicago Sun — I think or Tribune — Chicago Tribune, who was pro-McCarthy. Unfortunately, he was not a good speaker, and the meeting sort of ended on a very confused note because there was a very hot, two- sided opinion in town about whether McCarthy was a nice man or not a nice man, a dangerous man or a patriot, you see. So that meeting sort of fell apart, much to our regret, and from then on the Opinions Unlimited went a little downhill. It was a sort of an anti-climax after that. It sort of petered out. We still are in existence, officially.
DK: You mean there’s a treasury somewhere?
SH: Jake Rand has the funds — sitting on $58 or something like that —
DK: That’s earning interest.
SH: That ends that. Opinions Unlimited. But the Lakeville Journal was very interested in setting this up, and we got tied into this. Another thing I — came in — was the zoning question in town.
DK: That was also controversial?
SH: Which Stewart Hoskins got deeply both interested in and caught in the middle of. Zoning, most people know, is not a new thing, but it was very new in Connecticut. About 60% — 40% of the towns
were not zoned, and the other 60% were. But none up in this area was zoned, and the people, the normal residents, didn’t understand the purposes of zoning, which I won’t go into. But I personally felt it was a very good thing. Bill Barnett, of course, latched onto me. I was fairly new in town, so I was expendable. He got me with Dolph (sp?) Baumann and Howell White and one other person — I forget who that was — as a committee. I was promptly elected chairman, but I was flabbergasted about that. It’s one of the theories I had about running a newspaper was to keep out of local politics so I could comment un-biasedly, but I felt that zoning was not political. It was logical — I mean you could talk about it in other terms. We spent one year setting up very simple rules, simple compared with what exists today, and nobody worries about. We held a meeting, a Town meeting, and it would all pass more or less without any trouble. A week later, two weeks later, a special Town meeting was called by petition to eliminate zoning before it had even taken effect. It was on the books, but nothing had happened. Nobody had done anything about it. Nobody was hurt, nobody was helped. They called this Town meeting, and all of the real old-timers who were born and brought up here particularly and who felt their land was theirs to do with what they wanted to despite what their neighbors said or thought. They usually made out pretty well, I’ll admit that. They came out in force. They came out in such force that we — our committee and our pro-zoners — were taken totally unawares, so much so that never — there was a little rumor that there was dissension. Of course, the meeting was posted so we knew a week ahead, but we didn’t know the degree of controversy. So we pro- zoners ambled into the meeting — 8 o’clock meeting — at a quarter of 8 — and we found there wasn’t a seat available. We found there were 100 people outside waiting to get in, all non-zoners. We found the small room upstairs was crowded with people, and the hallways were crowded with people, none of them zoners. It was fantastic because it was a completely undemocratically conducted meeting, the worst I’ve ever seen in town. I hope it never happens again. It was — they got a lawyer from Canaan, of all places, to plead their cause. They packed the meeting with a chairman who would not even listen to — or recognize a raised hand if he suspected.
They ranted and raved about the dangers of zoning. When my committee —
and I in my very mild way had discussed the problem with some well- known people, including Cam Becket, and Pete Brazzale and I think Bill Barnett, what I should do. I felt that they were out to get me and not to get zoning because I was a newcomer in town.
DK: What year was it?
SH: About ’44 or ‘5. I proposed at the meeting, in written form, that I would be glad to resign, but it did not mean that I felt zoning was wrong. If they wanted a different chairman, I would prefer to resign and have zoning continue. Well, they accepted the resignation, but they didn’t accept my premise at all. The other members of our committee tried to talk. I was muffled because I had resigned. They tried to talk and they were hooted down and shrilled down and practically ridden out of the meeting. All my pro-zoners were out in the cold outside. Of course, it was voted down unanimously. Nobody said no. So that was the first attempt in Salisbury to have zoning. I wrote an editorial after that deploring the set-up and the method they took, the fact that it was a voice vote. Nobody outdoors could wait and vote by ballot, or anything you see. That was another thing. They wouldn’t have a ballot vote. I felt it was really — as they say now — unconstitutional. It was dirty work. It was town politics in the raw. I accepted that in my editorial, but I predicted that we would get zoning eventually even though it took several years. And we did. /It came back about five or six years later. Then they started working very slowly and very easily and Charlotte Reid’s husband — what is his name:
DK: Gordon Reid.
SH: Gordon. Why don’t I remember names like that? He was very good about explaining, calling small local meetings, explaining to every group, 2 or 3 or 10 in people’s homes, all over the area. Others did the same way. They took a couple of years before they even considered forming a committee and putting it to a vote. It did go through and it started again very circumspectly and then built up from there to a point where now a lot of people still object because it’s too rigid. But I think it has done a very good job in town to preserve the essence of the town. Of course, the interesting thing to me, which is not a novel idea, is that a beautiful area like this, is discovered by people, they move up here, and every
time they move in they become more Sarumite than the original owners, like converting to a different religion, you know. They don’t want any other newcomers in. That has gone on all my 40 years I’ve been up here. It is still going on. So the town and area has grown only slightly, and zoning has done its phase of the work. Sometimes it’s failed, but in the main it’s done pretty well. The town has grown, the last recollection a few years ago, the least fast-growing — a double negative, I think — or something — area in the state.
The population has gone up about 5% and the amusing thing to me was that in about 1960 the population had just about reached in total the population that existed in town in 1860. Between that it^had all dropped off because the mining had stopped. Well, that was my first and only foray into politics as such. I was really shot down, as they say. But I still believed in zoning.
DK: Well, Stewart, another controversial issue in which the Journal took a lively interest was the teaching of sex education at the high school. Did you want to comment on that? That brouhaha?
SH: Sex education teaching is like zoning. When you don’t understand what it’s all about, you object to it. And when you do, you understand that there are reasons for it and it makes sense. Except for certain people who can never quite get over the fact that they should be all in the church or all in the family or not at all, which was the original result of being all in the family with no sex education at all, practically, except very few. Inasmuch as the families had given up on this during the ’50’s — when did this come up, in the ’60’s?
DK: Late ’50’s and early ’60’s.
SH: And the church is very reluctant to go into detail about it, just let sleeping dogs lie.
Under Dr. Stoddard there were very progressive ideas on what to teach, how to teach, andso forth. There
were excellent teachers there, including Don Kobler and others. So that very innocuously one teacher took on the task of having one course — it wasn’t called sex education — it was just hygiene or something like that.
DK: It was just a unit that was part of a biology course.
SH: Part of a biology The school committee approved of a book which
explained biological processes of having children and that was about all it was- very innocuous. It had been on bookshelves and in libraries for years. Not in schools. That created a furor which had many, many ramifications I don’t feel I should or can go into now, but it involved Dr. Stoddard as principal in a very nasty way which was not his fault. It involved the State Police in a very nasty way which was their fault. I’ll never forgive them, though I’m all in favor of the State Police. The man in charge then, a Lt. Menser, and I will name his name, was very anti-sex education, and used the State Police as look-outs, watching for any evidence of possible boy-kissing-girl out in the lobby or this or that or Dr. Stoddard talking to students late in the evening. They actually posted look-outs at the school. They went into people’s homes asking questions of the students. One private diary was purloined by the police and disseminated. Unfortunately, the churches got into this. The logical church is well-known who would oppose it. They did oppose it, mainly up in the Canaan area. It got to be nasty, and here I was, trying to disseminate news but trying to be even-handed about it — it was very difficult — but with Ann’s help as — who had become by that time an expert editor — she kept it as even- handed as possible, printing both sides of the story, and this and that, the objections and all the conflicts, and everything else. But whether that (letter?) of the Journal helped to smooth out the situation or whether just the logic of the situation and the progress of the sex education all over the country was growing without any real difficulty. It sort of simmered down. Now maybe you can tell me why it simmered down. I don’t remember.
DK: I think, in part, because it just became so tiresome after a while that people . . ,
SH: I think maybe that one book was withdrawn, but they still taught the subject somehow or other, I think, or they reinstituted…
SH: It was made optional for parents who wanted to have their children sit out that segment. So the favorite topic that was assigned to students who (did not study the unit) . . . was conservation.
SH: I am very pleased to say that in all these controversies and there were a lot of small ones as well as large ones, the Lakeville Journal as such was not really criticized more than normally for being completely• biased. Some newspapers, I am sorry to say, particularly in small towns, where there is a one-sided opinion, like all of one religion or all of one political party or controlled by commercial or industrial interests, there is a tendency to be one-sided. I have known of that to happen. The Journal I long felt we couldn’t do that and we tried our best not to. Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t get criticism. We got hundreds of letters over the years, both pro and con. And we printed all the opposing letters, in preference — if there was space involved, in preference to the ones that favored us, because I wanted to be fair. But we did have a good solid support all down the line in most cases. I suppose there are still people in town who think I was a very bad publisher and a very bad editor, but I don’t think there is a single person in town who thought my wife was a very bad editor or anything. As far as I could find out, they all loved her. Now that’s a gloss-over of that argument down at the high school. Of course, there were lots of fights about expanding the high school and the money to put into it and this and that, but that was more or less normal.
DK: How about some of the other kinds of contributions that the Journal made to the life of the community? Especially I’m thinking of the cultural activities that you and Ann supported.
SH: Well, the cultural activities — there were different aspects of that. One is that we completely supported all efforts to expand the arts, so to speak. For instance, Music Mountain has been going, struggling, and we did our best to support that in the paper. We always, of course, ran news about events like that. There were smaller organizations. For a while, there was actually a Salisbury Players, a theater group which Margot Street had instituted and they put on shows in which my wife appeared once or twice. Because she was — I stole her from the acting career — she married me instead of going into acting. She loved it. But that petered out after a while. That kind of activity — and there were always
church musical activities open to the public. There were choral groups around. Harry Bellini was in a choral group that worked and Al Elder and his wife, who both had wonderful voices, were in it. And they were active for years and years. And along came a little group that opened up an experimental theater in Sharon. This was not the Sharon Playhouse group the first year or two. It was a small group that came out of Trinity College. They were complete amateurs. They wanted to set up a little summer theater. They remodeled an old barn down there a little bit, hammered and sawed and put up scenery and sold tickets. It lasted for one year, and then quit. Then along came a man from Sharon and Jud Philips, who has lived in Lakeville and in Sharon and in Canaan and in various places, who was very theater-minded, who started revitalizing that and started up a Sharon Playhouse group. That started in the old barn which is now the gallery. That had a checkered career, but my wife was in on that because she loved the theater. There were many other activities. There was the playhouse up in Stockbridge, the playhouse in Williamstown; playhouses down further south of here — in Pawling — and they were all over the place.
DK: I think it’s to the Journal credit, too, that it covered these events with critical reviews.
SH: That is one of the most unusual things that I have ever seen in any small weekly newspaper. That is fully attributed to Ann Hoskins.
DK: That’s right.
SH: Not to the publisher. I spent close to 30 years of my life as an escort at, to theaters and to every event of that sort which Ann Hoskins reviewed. I merely went along to keep her company, and I got a free seat in every theater and everything because I was Ann Hoskins’ escort. She was a reviewer. I remember for several years when she covered at least four different theaters and two or three other events in one week. We’d come home late at night; I’d go to bed, and she’d sit up and write the reviews and be wide awake early in the morning to get the children to school and to go back to work. That went on for years. That really helped — and the Hotchkiss School was of course deeply involved in its own theatricals and things — and Salisbury School in a lesser way.
And that, I think, was a great asset to the community. Jud Philips, of course, was deeply immersed for years and years and years, spent a lot of his own money, keeping the playhouse going in Sharon, and was instrumental in getting a bigger building built and is still going, thank goodness. One of the statistics about playhouses — just to show you what Sharon has done and the people of the community have done by supporting it — probably the number of summer theaters in the country has been reduced by 60% of what it was four years ago. There are very few left in Connecticut: one down the river and one or two others.
So Sharon has done a good job even though they’ve gone broke and then raised money and then gone broke and broken even — their career is somewhat like the Lakeville Journal in that respect. But they still survived, and the Lakeville Journal did, too. So my wife was very instrumental in all the cultural activities. She was very knowledgeable, which was great, because it wasn’t a matter of just saying that they put on Hamlet at the Playhouse or maybe Abie’s Irish Rose or something, and say so or so was the leading actress and did a nice job. She really reviewed them and we panned them sometimes if she felt that way. So people got to count on them. That was part of her job. I tell you she spent many a night late typing.
DK: I’m sure she did. Of course, Summertime was one of her…
SH: We got into slowly developing, slowly developing special supplements. The first one was, I think, the Christmas supplement. Evolved out of her original column, her shopping column, which was a free column, about where to shop for different things. So she developed a shopping column, expanded-that in which she wrote about maybe 50 or more shops. I think it finally wound up with writing about 100 shops, most of which she covered herself, and finally broke down and got a couple of other people to go out and point it out. We put them in categories: clothes, toys, kitchen equipment, etc., for so they were easy to follow. Of course, we had to sell advertising to warrant it, which we did because by that time we had been pretty well accepted in places like Barrington and Torrington as well as Salisbury and so forth. That worked out, but it was very, very hard work. Every supplement meant extra work with almost the same staff. It was not only hard work for the editor — and I think she probably had one assistant then — it was hard work on the
shop people, too, because we’d turn out the regular paper. We had one in the spring about spring house cleaning and spring this and that, planting….
DK: Spring Tonic?
SH: Spring Tonic. Then we evolved a series of ten in the summer which was largely arts and crafts and things with reviews and news of that. And previews of things to come, and things like that. It was very good. Out of that more or less — then we’d a fall one — what you did in fall, how to take care of your house. My goodness, we wound up with 8 or 10 special supplements during the year. No, we wound up with more because there were 10 in the summer, plus about four other supplements. I had a brilliant idea, which wasn’t so brilliant in the long run. Having a little summer booklet to be distributed to visitors to the area, tourists, you might say, to promote the tourism, which promoted local businesses. I went all over the area from Williamstown, Massachusetts, down to Kent, east and west, getting dope about their activities and consolidating it, dope about what to do and where to go, food and everything else involved, restaurants and sports, and so forth, and put it together in a little book, with a few historical articles mixed with it. Which I dug up and actually paid a few people to write. By saying paid, it meant $5 a crack which was big money to me. Then I gave it away free to all the people, the Chambers of Commerce, and special places all up and down the valley. We printed 10,000. Well, putting that booklet together, going around and getting the information, selling the ads, and putting together 60 or more pages, getting photographs, and printing it all in the middle of a time which was fairly active anyway, almost killed me in the shop and I did it for 25 years.
DK: That was called the Pleasure Book.
SH: Pleasure Book, yes. People asked for it, looked for it, asked for it. But it was logically discontinued when Bob Estabrook took over. He had plenty to worry about besides that. It did create a little extra income for us although we worked hard for it.
DK: Since you’re speaking of this extremely busy schedule that evolved, you might explain how you took a vacation.
SH: I’ll explain that in two words. We didn’t. We took three vacations abroad and weekends, as I recall, in 30 years.
DK: But you did at one point take the Christmas week off, didn’t you?
SH: Before that there was a problem of giving vacations to the people we
had hired. After a few years we had gradually enlarged out staff, a couple extra out back and one or two extra out front, a photographer and odds and ends of people like that. We thought we were approaching General Motors level of employment by that time. I worried because every time we gave — first a week, and then two weeks’ vacation, to anybody in the shop — we had nobody to replace him, you see. So everybody else had to do extra work. That got me down, I’ll tell you. I couldn’t get away part of the summer because at the start of vacations I had to fill in. By that time I was able to fill in at every part of the shop – all the presses, all the make-up, anything except the linotype. I decided very shortly — maybe five or six years after we got there — it was very silly: the week after Christmas and before New Year’s, that one issue there was a dud. Nothing was happening. People quit advertising. Christmas was over. They wanted to relax. So I decided to shut the shop down. I had to get special dispensation from the post office department to interrupt my continuity. Otherwise I would lose my permit, the second class permit. But I got it. And I shut down the shop for a week in the winter. Then that was all very well, but after a while, with the progress of labor, people who worked wanted not one week’s vacation. They wanted two weeks’ vacation. Of course, the big companies, they gave you three or four weeks’ vacation. Schools, you know, they give two months’ vacation, ostensibly, but Don Kobler would argue about that. So we still had to give a week’s vacation in the summer, but we got rid of one week’s vacation in the winter anyway, and we got a rest between Christmas and New Year’s, but it wasn’t a real rest. Sort of catching up. So we only had three vacations in 30 years. Once we went to Cuba before it was banned. And we had a lovely time in Cuba- Pre-Castro. Gorgeous. We came back and actually the Journal had managed to survive. We had a fairly good foreman at that time who came and went, very knowledgeable but very flighty, and I wasn’t quite sure. Another time we went — we had a lovely plane trip to Italy -r- and to Greece and to various places, part by boat and part by plane. That was 12 or 14 days — maybe 15 days. We came back from that wonderfully rested, so much so that my mind was a complete blank. I hadn’t the slightest idea or desire to take the reins again. I found that innumerable things had gone wrong, including one missed issue, broken machinery, and people quitting and so forth. I hadn’t
the slightest desire to say, “Well, now I’m here, let’s get going.” It frightened me, Donald. It frightened me. My mental lethargy. It had never occurred before or since.
DK: But you did recover.
SH: I did recover, but it was a slow recovery, and the Journal almost went —
DK: What year was that?
SH: I don’t know. I think it was in the ’60’s. The Journal almost — well, we had real trouble, we lost a lot of revenue, lost a lot of good people, and we lost the intelligence that I had tried to put in on running the place. There was no real head of it. The trouble with our vacation was I was not only the publisher, wrote editorials and a few special stories, feature stories that I covered, but over the period of years it had evolved into a logical split between my wife and myself of responsibilities. She took over complete charge, with my thanks and praise, the editorial department. She could do what she wanted, hire whom she wanted as long as we didn’t go broke, fire who/1 she wanted and have as many pages of news as she wanted. I took over the rest of the job which included overseeing the bookkkeeping, which meant sometimes filling in as my own bookkeeper when I lost one. We had a dozen in the last 30 years. I also did supervision of advertising which included doing the advertising many times when I lost the advertising person. Including — and this was quite important — including the entire job printing end of the Journal. And the other important thing included all the shop, the mechanical production. I had full charge of that.
I had full charge of keeping the news going and our subscribers happy with what product they got. And we did, we kept on expanding. But my job was — had forced me — and that goes back — the third vacation I think we went to England. But there were very few vacations. As soon as we wanted to go on vacation, it meant two key people were away instead of one key people. So that’s why we didn’t. The only time my wife left me and went on a vacation herself — it was no vacation — was on a march to Washington and a march to Montgomery. We got mixed up in that during the 60’s with the civil rights movement.
DK: Do you want to tell about your involvement with Concern?
SH: Concern led up to — was mixed up with the civil rights business which had been progressing throughout the country and disturbed many, many
people. We did not start — there was a little organization called Concern which people who have read the Journal for any years will remember. It may still be going, but I have no affiliation with it now. It was started by a minister — or the idea was sparked by a minister in Sharon — the Episcopal Church — his name escapes me — he got up in the pulpit and said there should be more interplay between blacks and whites in the various communities and also throughout the country. There should be not only more equality but more friendship, more concern, and there’s where the word “concern” came in. “Concern” about your neighbor — black or white or anything else. We had, even at that time, we had many neighbors who were not of so-called American extraction. They were from all over the world. Merely because they were black — they had more right to equality, so-called, because they were native Americans, native to this area. Anyway, he called a meeting and we went to that just to cover it. A few people came and one or two blacks came, too. From that evolved a very rickety organization for a while because both sides, with all the best desire in the world, it was very odd now to look back on that set-up, that era, look back on the fact that black and white even in this very nice, very neighborly area, that ’ they didn’t really understand each other.. They were really only friends on the surface. They didn’t really understand each other and didn’t do things together. So we tried to pull them together. We talked about it. We had meetings and we elected officers and we did draw a fair, equalized crowd of both whites and blacks. John Wedda was very instrumental in that, among others, I can’t think of them offhand. But we held monthly meetings for several years. At first it was fascinating because we were all reluctant to talk, reluctant to express-our feelings. Then when the dam broke, it was almost like a family fight because everybody was pouring out all their gripes about, really about trivial things, but it had built up over the years. Even the whites had gripes. The blacks had more. And it went on. I think again that that organization, which Ann and I were deeply involved in and the Journal supported and ran news about, did a lot of good in this area to ease any possible tension between blacks and whites. We even went so far — not to any degree, but to some extent — to make people aware that there was so much discrimination that housing was a problem, among other things.
Schools were not a problem. That was the irrational part of this thing. Blacks and whites went to school. No problem at all. As soon as they grew up, they grew away from each other, which made no sense. Housing was a problem. We tried to get a fair housing thing. I think the state of Connecticut put in a fair housing thing. We tried to get the local realtors to go along with it. Some did, frankly, and some didn’t. That sort of petered out, but the tension was dissipated, at least, how much… DK: Did you go down South during the civil rights demonstrations there? SH: Yes. There were movements in Connecticut to support the southern civil rights movement. It was going very badly in Alabama. To send emissaries down there on a nationally organized march on Montgomery first, which is the capital of Alabama. Many people, many people all over the area were very interested in this, were very pro that, and again I say, Concern may have helped their opinion. DK: I’m sure it did.
SH: Ann got sucked into this because she always was enthusiastic and ready to do anything. She signed up to march on Washington with a group from Hotchkiss, I think, teachers up there, which had at that time run a summer school, camp for blacks, as a matter of fact, which should be mentioned and did a good job. Anyway, bus loads were to go to New York, take a plane to Washington and then join up with people from all over the country and march on the capitol. I think, I’m sure, when she came home she wrote articles about that. But her personal stories to me were incredible because not only was it not only an eye-opener to her to see the antagonism down South, but the organization was not of the best and everything went wrong, including plane flights in terrible planes which were almost unseaworthy, so to speak, not being able to get a plane back because there were mixed instructions. They had spent all night in the airport waiting for a plane and then getting stranded in Kennedy Airport in the middle of the night. No way home, and Ann got lost from her crowd and she was wandering around Kennedy at 2 o’clock in the morning. It was incredible. It was the story she told me; she finally got a taxi into New York City and holed in at a hotel. I finally went in there to meet her. Everything went wrong, but the march was successful. She — so much so that months later when the march on Washington came — you know.
DK: Martin Luther King? ‘
SH: Martin Luther organized the march. She went down there and that was much better run. That was a gorgeous experience for her. I was sorry I couldn’t go, but I didn’t dare leave the Journal, you see. So that was our vacation.
DK: Stewart, earlier you told quite a bit about the technical processes in the early days when you and Ann took over the Journal. How about bringing us up to date on the way the techniques evolved in the last 20 years?
SH: I’ll try. To bring you up to date, I have to start way back. Printing had not changed in method, particularly newspaper printing, for some — since about 1880 up to 1940 when we took over. Therefore we took over what we thought was equipment, small and worn out as it was that would last for a long time. Actually, it did. We started with one linotype, as I said. We started in the shop with one casting unit, a funny metal bowl to heat up metal in for casting mats, which I should explain came from national publishers like car manufacturers. They would get one ad set up and then make reproductions of it on cardboard imprint, sent those around to different papers, hundreds of them. We would have to reverse the process and make the cardboard impression into metal again so that it would go along with our type. That was the reason for that. We had one press, which could only print two pages of the Lakeville Journal at a time. We used flat sheets, hand fed, one at a time, and then when we finished the run we turned the paper over, put it back up on top and made up two more pages and print the other two pages backside, and that was all right when there were 500 copies and four pages to run. It wasn’t all right when there were 8, 10, 12 pages, and the circulation started going up to 1000, 1500, 2000, and finally wound up with 4 or 5000 and is now, I think, above 6000. It was not all right, but that press kept on going for — we kept it going for 20, 25 years or more — we kept it operable. I learned how to run that press because Charlie Barnum, our one pressman, as soon as we added two pages or added 50 more papers, he would say, “Hoskins, you can’t do that.” I’d say, “Charlie, I’m going to do it. Let me take over.” The first time I took over, ^messed things up completely, wasted 100, 200 sheets of paper completely, got all wound up in the ink rollers, spent hours cleaning the press up. But I was determined. And of course after that every time Mr. Barnum had to be relieved because he was going home for 5 o’clock supper, I would have to take over and run the press. So it got to be
a habit. Finally I- Ken Weir helped take over. Well, I hired another man, a retired 65-year old, one of the best workmen I ever saw. He could run the press but he couldn’t lift the chases. The chases, I’ll explain, were the metal frame around which, inside of which was the type, which was metallic and almost an inch thick. It consisted of hundreds and hundreds of lines, each one a line of type, that’s why it’s called a linotype, plus advertising which was a hodgepodge of different size things, including different sizes of type and everything, plus later on pictures, that all had to put together and fitted into the form by hand and made to fit. It’s simple to read a newspaper and look at it and say, “Nothing to it.” But you try to make everything fit into four or eight pages or into one page and it’s a real problem. You have to juggle all the time. I got quite good at that. So I was into make-up, into press work and I was also, aside from doing outside advertising, I was supervising advertising. I could make up ads. We had another gadget which was a sort of metallic way of setting larger type than linotype, but it was done by hand but cast and converted into words and so forth. I could do that. I laid off photography. I took pictures, but I will go into that in a second. But in the shop we had downstairs in this little building that we originally started in, we had the Babcock press, we had two small what we called job presses, platen presses, sort of clam shell effect, where the type was put in vertically on one side of the clam shell after it had been checked and locked up and proofread. Ink wells would come down and roll back up and ink that. The other side of the clam shell under power would come back and forth against this, in a very tricky arrangement, and while it was going back and forth at different speeds, you had to insert your little piece of paper into it to make an impression and then pull it out in the next sequence. It got to be quite tricky. I liked things like that. That’s the way we did our job printing, plus the big job printing, like booklets and town reports, we were doing town reports and booklets as well, but we wound up printing everything from small, small calling cards to quite large booklets. That meant, in the booklet end, a bindery. So we had to get a folder. So we got a folder, which kept on going bad and kept on going wrong. We’d kick it and talk to it and make it work and it’s still working, I understand. The two
presses — the little presses — were very interesting, because the only job presses I ever heard about in any newspaper were hooked up, the power came from water power from the Lakeville Water Co., the Lake-
ville reservoir, not from electricity, because they were put, installed before Lakeville had electricity, you see, and it was a very neat system. We didn’t have a meter on our system, so we didn’t have to worry. All we had to do to turn on the power was to turn on a valve like a faucet. Then throw in a clutch and there she goes! f you wanted slow motion, you just turned it on a little. If you wanted fast, you turned on a little more. It was very easy to work. No electricity. We used those
things until we moved to our bigger building in Pocket Knife Square in ’58. We were there 18 years, I think. The water flowed through a water turbine which formed the motor power for belts which was transferred into the action of the presses. One water turbine now is on a pedestal in front of the Lakeville Journal, if anyone wants to see it. It should have a sign on it, what it’s for, but it doesn’t. We finally, eventually, got a third one like that, but it was automatic, and it went bad. It was hard to work. So we supplemented that instead with sort of a little small facsimile of our Babcock newspaper presses: the same idea as the flat bed press. We used that for years. We had the folder, and we operated a full job printing establishment. For small weekly newspapers, it’s highly essential to do other printing as well as the newspaper unless you find a publisher with lots more than I had. You had to utilize the people who might not be printing the newspaper or putting it together, utilize their time doing something else. So job printing was very important. Job printing meant customer contact and talking to people about their problems. A lot of them didn’t know anything about printing or what they wanted, even a calling card, what kind of type they wanted or anything else. Booklets got more complicated. And that was Stewart Hoskins’ job, among other things, too, you see. So there is another reason why I didn’t dare go away because I never had a substitute. Then eventually we grew. We had no room. Eventually we got into photography. That’s another point. Originally, there were no pictures in the Journal because there were no facilities. People had cameras, but we couldn’t get engravings fast enough to get them in the paper, you see. The nearest place we could find was Pittsfield, so for several years we took what pictures went into the Journal up to Pittsfield, drove them up, we had them engraved, brought them
back or drove up the next day to get them, just to get one or two pictures to dress up the Journal. That went on for years. If I could comment now, it evolved so much that eventually during the war — the ’40’s — when all our young men were in boot camp or abroad, Ann, with my approval, initiated the idea that we should send a free copy of the Journal to every person in the service, which we did for several years, which they appreciated. We got very nice letters. I remember one from Bill Doolittle from somewhere out in West Islands — the Eastern Islands, I mean* — saying “Thank you. It just came just before Christmas.” One thing that quite pleased us was that we concocted a Christmas special for the boys in service composed solely of pictures. Have you ever seen them?
SH: We sweated over that. We asked people for pictures about the area.
We wanted to remind them that home was still here and we were thinking of them. We wanted them to remember what it was like. I really worked over that because every picture — they were all different sizes — I had to fit them into eight pages. Some I had to reduce. Some I had to enlarge. I spent all night — I had them all over the living room floor, figuring out how to do it. Then I took them up to Pittsfield to get them engraved. Then we had to bring them back to print. Putting pictures on our old press was a problem which I won’t go into. It was a problem even to print type because that type of press — certain parts of it you had a padding against which the paper and the type were pressed. There were always bad spots in the type or something else or a flat, flat picture was hard to bring up to the right texture. You got too much ink or too little ink. And I was quite proud of that -issue. Finally we broke and got a tricky type of camera which would, an engraving unit — a sort of one-man unit. That would take photographs, take negatives and then you had to make, treat metal plates and then stick the plate under an arc light against the negative. You would get an impression — a light impression — which you had to wash off and treat with acids to get an etching, to get proper depth to it to make an engraving in the old-fashioned way of acid-etched engraving which all newspapers were using then. There was no other way except wood blocks and things *Pacific Islands*
of that sort. And that worked very well, but I had to hire somebody to run it. That’s sort of digressing now on our physical equipment, but that shows you how we slowly expanded over 30 years. We got a photographer, and we got a photographic unit, and we got an engraving unit which helped. We were more flexible. We could get late pictures in the paper. Then we had a cutter, to cut, trim booklets and odds and ends of paper. We had a cutter which was hand — just like a big slicer — it was operated by hand — with a pressure, hand turnstile type of pressure, to hold things in place. And that was slow going when you had to do a thousand booklets or something. One time I did the Pleasure Books — 10,000. It always happened that that had to be done in the middle of the night. I was the one. We worked our people pretty hard, and they all expected a certain amount of night work. But they all petered out, say, at 12 o’clock except Ann Hoskins and Stewart. Ann was right there, typing things out in front, and I was right there cutting and trimming or printing out back. That leads me to a very interesting little anecdote, if I may digress. Our first shop was right next to the old telephone building. Their telephone switchboard was up on the second floor, 10 feet above and three feet away from the window of our press room, right next to where the person running the press would be. Every once in a while when I would be working very late at night, and Ann would be home, she would get worried about me, if I’d fallen into the press or not, or hurt myself, you know. I was really worried because I was there all by myself. She would phone the operator. At that time there was no dial phone. She-would say, “Yeah.” You don’t say, “I want number 684.” You want Don Kobler or Susie Somebody. So Ann said, “This is Annie. How’s my husband doing?” She’d say, “Just a minute. I’ll look out the window.” Then, “Yeah, I see the press is still going.
I guess he’s all right…” And she’d hang up.
DK: That was probably Margaret Garrity, wasn’t it?
Yeah, one of the Garrity sisters. Both Garritys worked there, I think. It was wonderful, and I was very sad when the push-button thing came in, dial phone. It was nice to know someone was watching over me. That was almost the extent of our original equipment. Then we grew.
We grew so much we put a floor into what used to be the old coal bin. We converted a coal fire thing which I had to run down to at six o’clock in the morning and stoke and then run back and get breakfast and then run back to get to work every day for a couple of years. We finally put an oil-fired thing in — automatic — so it actually operated. We put timers on the linotype so they would start up certain hours in the morning instead of pushing the switch on the timers because the metal had to heat up before you could use it. The first year or so I was running back and forth, stoking fires and getting ready for the day’s work or the night’s shutdown. The coal room I converted into a bindery, part bindery, part folding room. Then we were running out of space. We had no place to put job printing paper, newsprint. We finally built a little addition on the right-hand side: downstairs for storage of paper, upstairs for an enlargement of our front office and also for room to install the second linotype. That worked out very well. Every paper, I must tell you, was folded for years and years by hand. We had a crew of women — to supplement myself who always went down and helped to fold and my wife would fold when she could and my daughter when she was home from school, and the back men in the shop when they weren’t busy, which they usually were — by a group of women in town led by Josie Loffredo who sort of organized the bindery workers and it was wonderful.. I could call them in at 10 o’clock at night for a late run or something and they would come in and fold. They would grumble a little bit, but they were wonderful. She held them together, with different people, for years and years. But it was all hand work. Everything we did was the hard way, so to speak, for years, and remained almost —. That was the extent
of our — if you can visualize — our mechanical plant. Upstairs we had type stored away, we had hand type, we had all sorts of gadgets to facilitate, we had all these metal frames, we had stones, we called them, flat tables with stone tops which you imposed the type on. It was spread out upstairs. Actually, we had so much; we kept borrowing metal to supplement the metal we used. We found we were storing so much. Actually, our floor started to sag. I was horrified one time.
I looked and there was about a two-inch sag in the floor. I visualized
the whole damn thing caving in on me. I hurriedly got a couple of metal posts and propped the thing up. It was frightening for a while. I hadn’t realized how much metal over the years we had bought and piled up and were using or partly using or re-using or something — all over the shop. I finally threw out the gas heater and got an electric type of box heater which was much better, things of that sort. We kept trying to improve all the time. We got our mailing system, for instance, started in a very simple way. I don’t know whether it was writing down the names or what, but then we got a little type of plastic thing that a hand puncher punched addresses on. Then that got a little more complicated, and we had to have a double system, alphabetically for reference and by due dates for billing people, when bills were overdue. Our circulation kept growing. We had had to cull and change every day of the week almost, all these things because it’s not like your computerized things now which are all done by the big magazines automatically. We did everything by hand. Finally, after building the front part for the storage, we still needed more space for tie engraving room and upstairs for the third lino. That’s when we wanted the third lino. We got a little shed adjunct, not a very tall ceiling, adjunct, behind the first addition. That worked for a while. Then we ran out of space because the — at that time, the late ’50’s — we were still doing things almost in a primitive way. The volume had grown so much, we were counted on to produce not only the newspaper but job printing. We had an increased staff because of this. Because of it we were out of space. We had to decide whether to just stay in that same size forever and ever, or move. At that time we did manage to buy 8 acres of land down near the old town garage on Porter Street — opposite it — and get plans made for a building, hopefully. The only difficulty was that we — even during all those years when we had broken even or made a little money, we also had not broken even, our accumulation of wealth was far in the future, so to speak. We could not, even with plans, we could not swing the financing to put up a building even though we had the land. Which broke my heart, and I have regretted it ever since because it would have been a perfect solution to — the second best solution
was the one we took. When the old factory building closed down and was taken over —
DK: Pocket Knife Square? The Holley building?
SH: The old wooden building between the two brick buildings, stone buildings, was torn down. It was revitalized and the old — all of the old machinery was taken out, the belts — it was a fabulous place. Did you ever see it?
DK: No, I was never in it.
SH: They had driving machines all belted to one belt, which was originally water power, and later on diesel power. The water power came out of the lake. There must have been 50 or 60 of those, all in a row, belts, belts, belts, all over the place. There were grinding machines. That was all cleared out, and there was space available. We went in there, and we had to move. The problem was how to move? It was 200 feet, but Bill Raynsford solved one of the problems. The moving van company up in Ore Hill — what is that?
SH: Arnoff solved the other half. Bill tore one whole side of the building off our little building, jacked up my big, big press and hauled it out sideways out of the side of the building, put it on rollers and rolled it cross-lots down across between the back end of the place which now exists into the new building downstairs. It was quite a feat. It wasn’t a huge press, but it was heavy, terribly heavy. Then he had to put the wall back on again. Arnoff jacked up the linotypes, and we got those out the front door. They are terribly top-heavy machines. There were awfully top-heavy. They sat on a three-legged metal thing which was not adequate. They were quite high, and you could almost push it over by hand. So when you started to move them on rollers, they were very dangerous critters. Then to get them up on a truck and roll them down a hill and get them off again scared me to death. I think it scared Louis Arnoff, too. He wished he hadn’t attempted it, but we finally managed it without even a broken piece of type. We got them in there and got going. Then we were able to enlarge. We went from newspaper printing with that small press to
We finally got a second- or third- or fourth-hand four-page press, which was automatic. In other words, you get it started and you could push a button and it would go by itself and feed itself and come out
by itself and stack up. The only problem with that was that that again printed only one side of the page. We could print four pages at one time instead of two, but we had to turn it over and the paper was terribly large and heavy. Turn it over and put it back on the press and get it all ready to run again. You attached a supplementary, auxiliary folder onto that so that when it came out four pages, it would go through. I rigged up a little gadget which I was quite proud of which would enable the press to keep on running instead of falling onto a stack, it would keep on running into the folder, which it was not made to do. I rigged it up so it would go. It worked pretty well for years. It speeded up the operation. We still couldn’t get away from Wednesday night printing. We had that as an extra press. We got a better cutter. Then we got involved in — along came offset printing methods. In the meanwhile, if I may say so — before that happened — the technique of printing, of engraving pictures was changing all the time and rapidly, and they evolved before they had straight offset methods of photography and making plates for printing, right on the — no intermediary problem involved, they had to make plates of some sort with depth to them and then mount those on blocks of wood the height of the rest of the type. Then put that on the press. And to avoid the old acid-etched engraving, they came up with a — different companies came up with — some things like a cylindrical engraving on plastic. Some were hot needles, some were called needles, but they were all depth, they were all engraved in depth, and there was always something going wrong with them. They were adjustable, but nobody could quite figure it out. There was a period of time for about five years when there were all sorts of new inventions coming along. We had two different types. That was the intermediate stage of getting engravings before the offset process. We were caught in the middle. We could do nothing else but try to go along. It all cost money. Then along came the offset engraving which I won’t explain now, but actually a sort of flat surface — almost flat surface thing. It’s photographic which the images are imposed on it, but does not with a solution that is light reactive but does not entail the real depth the way the old types of things. By depth, it might have been a 32nd of an inch, but it was depth, you see. That required a different
kind of press. It was a funny system, but it worked beautifully because you could photograph what you wanted. You could photograph a page or single sheet or a picture or different things, paste them up, re-photograph the whole situation, a full page of a newspaper or not, or just a calling card, and photograph that and put it on a special gadget on a sensitized plate, put that on a special gadget which was exposed to very high, intense light and make it work. All you had to do then was wash off the gook on it, and you had a plate on which you could print. Very thin, very easy to put on the press, and the presses were quite fast. It came in all sizes and types, from tiny little ones which we started doing, the small ones with small printing. We sort of cut our eyeteeth or baby teeth on how to do that. We had to get a camera to go along with that. Then every time you did one thing, you had to do six other things. We struggled through that operation. We finally got fairly proficient and wound up eventually with a fairly large press for printing everything but the newspaper. We could print booklets and things all by the offset process. We had two or three different size presses. We wound up having a big camera which would handle a full page size. We wound up with a full dark room for the photographer. We had room then in the new building, so it was all right. But it was expensive, and every time we’d get a little more revenue from more subscriptions or more ads, it would be spent right there right away on the press. We had to hire someone else to run something. It was a wonderful merry-go-round. So we then — the linotype then started to become irrelevant because you could photograph. Then they came up with these typewriters which were converting hand typing into tapes which went into a gadget which — don’t ask me how — came out in strings of beautifully set columns of type — theoretically beautifully set columns of type which could be handled, trimmed, and they were just the width you wanted, could be stored away until you needed thenv and so you could type up well ahead of time and get all these stories stored away, but you couldn’t do that for advertising. This offset process of reproduction by photography was gorgeous because then you came to making up a newspaper, you didn’t use hot type, as we called it,
which was solid metal, very heavy — every damn page weighed a 100 to 150 pounds. You had to manhandle it. All you had to do was paste these things down. Or paste the photograph down. Or paste the proof of an ad down. And shoot it under a big camera. Then wash it on a plate and — a sensitized plate — and get a plate all ready for the press. It was wonderful. We got quite expert at that, and were good at converting them ourselves. We had to get a better, a very good proof press to do that, at that time to do that, and we still set type two ways: we set it with a slowly activated offset process and we could also, because we had the linotypes and we were still fumbling, we used the linotypes to make proofs for those instead of running them through the other gadget. We had a mixed type of operation for a couple of years, trying to learn the new process and doing some work the new way and some work the old way. We had too many people, actually. It was not efficient, but it was the only thing we could do. We got to the point, I’m proud to say, and all the men and women involved, got expert enough to handle this new process which was revolutionary because for 100 years printing had never changed. They learned it right there at the Journal and got pretty good at it, and we got a product which, even for job work, was very good. We did not have a press big enough to print the Journal on. We did what we’d never done before, we farmed out printing of the Journal to the Barrington paper, who had beaten the gun on us and converted the whole way. They had the money to do it and we didn’t. We couldn’t afford it. The fact that we couldn’t print the whole paper offset was a detriment because we had to arrange to have it done elsewhere. We finally took it to Great Barrington, as I think I said, and they did it. It was a chore to go up and back and lug it up and back. It was satisfactory because you had a better product. The pictures were better and easier to reproduce. We had more flexibility all down the line, but it was also fairly expensive because it was not done in our own shop. We — of course, if we had stayed another 30 years, we possibly could have gotten our own presses which Bob Estabrook finally did quite soon after he took over. I’m very pleased about it. For a year or so before then, before we sold to Mr. Estabrook, we were taking our newspaper elsewhere to print which posed various problems — the problem of volume, because we had to lug all those papers back in a van, back down to the Journal and then get them ready for mailing by addressing. We had to manhandle that all. By that
time we had so many pages and so many subscribers that actually it filled up a fairly good-sized van car, a big van, going and coming. Then whereas in contrast to the first several months when we were here in 1940, our total output was put in one mail bag, carried down on the shoulder of Henry Day, who was a local character who did — man of all, jack of all trades — carried down to the post office and when we had grown to need two mail bags, he thought that was a terrible burden. He finally got a wheelbarrow to take them down to the post office. We wound up with so many newspapers 30 years later that we could hardly stuff them into a big, big automobile van right to the ceiling. So that’s what happens if you stay with something long enough. In the meanwhile, it was nip and tuck for many years and remained so — and may still remain so, I don’t know — but I am quite pleased with a couple of things. One is that we survived. The second is that we innovated many things. We improved. We got the confidence of the people and we did, I think, a reasonably good job of helping the area. We had the rewards of knowing that we were reasonably well liked. For instance, when we wanted to print that special edition for the service men, the pictures, the cost of engravings was excessive to us. We very baldly went to various people around town, including Sid Cowles — who was a wonderful friend, he ran the Community Service — and others in the area and said, “Look, we’re practically broke. We can’t do it, but we want to do it. What do you think?” They covered the extra cost of that as a pure gift to the town and to the servicemen, things of that sort. During the years many well-known people contributed articles, contributed drawings — Robert Osborn contributed many drawings, some facetious, some very • important ones — various writers in the area contributed odds and ends of things or made comment, and we got the assistance eventually of people who are knowledgeable in music to cover music events, like Music Mountain, people who were knowledgeable about theater, to relieve Ann of the necessity to go to so many places and did that in their spare time. They were paid a very, very minimal amount, if any, in many respects. We got people like Maurice Firuski to write us a column on books for some time until we had a battle about the Second World War, but we still remained very good friends. He got
tired of writing anyway. We had book reviewers that we could count on. We had people contributing to special things: Mark Van Doren contributed poetry every once in a while, especially for one Christmas cover. The Christmas covers I want to mention because to me they were absolutely unique in the history of newspaper printing. I’ve never seen — I’ve seen many Christmas covers and they’re usually Santa Claus or a Christmas in blatant red and black — and no attempt at originality or anything else. Or big words: Merry Christmas to You All. The dailies don’t even bother about it. They ignore holidays. But the weeklies try to be festive and local about it. We went them one better. Every single Christmas issue had a full page cover that was generated either locally in our shop and then possibly with the help of people in the area. Nothing was purchased. Nothing was bought elsewhere. They were unique. Everyone was original, pertaining to the area. We had young Mr. Blagden, Tom’s son — Allen Blagden, who did a Christmas cover for us, a beautiful painting which he would otherwise charge somebody a large sum of money for. We had Timmy Foster, who was working for Ann at that time as an assistant editor who was very artistic, very good, do a Christmas cover for us — I forget which. It had a sort of topographical simulation of the whole area with all the rivers and all the bridges and everything else, beautifully done. Our photographer would do special effects types of things. We had Marianna van Rossen Hoogendyk down in Sharon do a couple of covers. Mark Van Doren, as I say, contributed a tricky little set of covers, with illustrations and poems and everything on the front. The people who were able to create in the area were most helpful all down the line all the years, but particularly in these Christmas covers. Some time, some day, somebody’s got to resurrect those and get them in a presentable shape where they should be displayed or something, because I have in my file little negatives, slide negatives, but whether or not they could be blown up and reproduced I am a little doubtful, you see. Otherwise, they were in frame form, they were all framed at one time, and what Bob Estabrook has done with them, I don’t know. I personally think they would make a wonderful local exhibit sometime. Incidentally, way back, years ago, there was a special kind of a set-up down in the high school gymnasium — a sort
of arts and crafts show or something like that — we put on a special exhibit of that there, which was quite novel, too. We had a big booth. We had it all rigged up with graphs and charts of our growth, what we did, what we covered, and had pictures all over it. I was rather pleased at that, the only one attempt at publicity to advertise ourselves we ever did ourselves. That was very soon on.
DK: But you did receive recognition for a good many of these things.
SH: We did receive many awards. We became early members of the Connecticut Editorial Association. Then later we became members of a new New England Editorial Association. Also, the going concern of weekly newspapers, called the National Editorial Association. It was different from the daily newspaper, the big association, but it served a good function and we attended meetings of all three at one time, mainly the Connecticut. Each organization gave prizes out for different things, excellence for different things about newspaper publishing, including all-around excellence, front page, best make-up, best layout- of advertising, the best editorial and 10 different categories. We were quite pleased because we wound up at actual count with a fair number, over 100 in all three: national, regional and Connecticut. We won prizes in many, many categories, and a couple national ones. We were quite good, especially one I remember. We competed in a special edition award which was no holds barred, in other words. You had to do a good job in a special edition that made sense to your area. We spent about two weeks — we didn’t spend two weeks, we spent about 10 days — getting ready to — thinking about and organizing, getting pictures — special pictures, special articles and things. And then we spent a hectic seven days after one paper was out getting everybody in the shop to work like dogs to set all this special stuff, special edition, entirely separate from the newspaper. It was sort of an historical resume of the area and the town with photographs, with drawings, with tricky advertising which was done in an old-fashioned way. We dug up all our old-style type which meant much longer hours of work because it was all done by hand. We wound up and then we had a supplement to the supplement, so to speak. Then we had another supplement to that: a little history of the Lakeville Journal itself with pictures. We wound up with the equivalent of 54 regular Journal pages at once. That was far more
than we had ever attempted at any time. I sent that on to the national contest, and I found out later, after viewing some of the exhibits, that some of these outfits, with much better equipment and more manpower and everything else, bigger and bigger circulation, has turned out 200-page things. But ours was so novel and unusual, we got second or third prize in the national thing. There was a big cup hanging around. It’s apt to have disappeared now. I don’t know where it is.
I think Bob’s got it somewhere. But we did get 100 prizes and that was nice. We got a very nice send-off when we finally decided after 31 years and getting along in years ourselves and really being somewhat worn out and because the whole method had changed and we were feeling like old fogies at the time. Really, literally, knowing that a lot of money had to be put into the Journal to bring it up
to snuff under modern-day technique. So we finally sold out.
DK: What year was that?
SH: It was ’71. We agreed on just about this time in 1170 and we sold out. We agreed to stay on with Bob Estabrook for six months while he took over and learned the ropes. Bob is a very excellent newspaper man, but he did not know any of the mechanical end of it. He did not know the printing end of it, the job printing end of it, and anything else. He just knew the editorial, but he’s very good, very smart.
He’s got a good organization. It’s grown. He’s grown. We were glad to bail out, frankly. My wife certainly deserved it and had earned a rest. I was ready to not try to think about doing a good job
for the public because a bad job would be criticized. We — the public, somebody gave us a good send-off at the White Hart Inn. I don’t know I don’t remember who did it? Do you?
DK: I don’t recall how it was organized.
SH: It was very nice. There’s a plaque hanging around with thanks from somebody.
DK: That was a very rewarding career for you and Ann, wasn’t it?
DK: I don’t imagine you would have had it any other way.
SH: Not now. In the meanwhile, of course, my two daughters grew up here.
This they regard as their home town. They didn’t — weren’t born
here — and didn’t go to school all the time here. They went to Indian Mountain, and the local grade school and the high school, but only hither and yon. They got off on tangents. Then they got married and have not lived here, but they still regard this as their home town. It was a gorgeous place to bringup children.It was wonderful for me. You know my only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the out-of-doors and tennis and skiing and so forth, which I loved. Even to play on Kent Fulton’s 9 hole golf course. I
never did that although I covered the events. Kent deserves an accolade for keeping people together in the ’30’s, you know. He provided jobs. He was wonderful. But whether or not anybody 10 years from now is going to remember Hoskins, I don’t know, because probably Bob Estabrook’s name will take precedence at that time. But … I thank you all and I regret my charming wife is no longer with us. We did have ten years of being able to enjoy ourselves without worrying, but those ten years were sort of disrupted by various illnesses which I regret. But I’m sure we could not otherwise have had as happy a ten years. It was all by accident because I was doing terribly in New York City. I was not keeping my family alive, and I was not earning a living. I took this as a last resort. And it was a last resort because it lasted. So I’m very pleased and I want to thank you all.
DK: Thank you, Stewart. You certainly made your imprint on the Journal, and the Journal has made its imprint on the community. I just want to add that I think that from my experience with the Journal, both as a reader and a co-worker at various times, what a very pleasant place it was to work and that you made the paper a real community asset.
SH: I didn’t mention the fact that we once got to Patagonia and all over Europe and places, but…
DK: Thank you very much, Stewart.