Everybody seems to know about Walt and Milly Woodward, but another family owned the Bainbridge Island Review for an even longer period of time.
David and Verda Averill bought the paper from the Woodwards in 1962 and owned it until 1988. They actually bought the Kitsap County Herald in Poulsbo earlier in 1959.
David served in the Navy for four years where they made him a journalist. He went on to graduate from the University of Oregon in Eugene and worked on daily newspapers like the nearby Albany Democrat Herald. Verda graduated from Stanford in psychology, but was a music teacher. Both were born in 1928, the year Walt Woodward graduated from high school.
Charlie Averill, one of their sons, who lives on Bainbridge Island, said his dad was tired of working for someone else, so they bought the Poulsbo paper in 1959. Charlie said his parents bought the Review in 1962 because the Woodwards had started a paper in Kingston, and it was competition for their Poulsbo paper.
Charlie said his parents were part of Phase 1 of the move to consolidate papers, which is often done nowadays. Businesses like that “their ads would appear in both papers.”
Even though the Woodwards were heroic figures in town, Charlie said he doesn’t recall his parents feeling pressured. One reason might have been that Walt Woodward stayed on as news editor for a while. “My parents were well-thought of too,” he said.
Charlie said both owners ran the newspaper “in the glory days of community journalism. It was the only way people could find out about local…whatever,” he said. Everyone advertised because there was no other choice. “Newspapers were very successful.”
He said the Review office used to be on Winslow Way so people downtown could just walk in and get an ad, buy a paper or submit a news story. With no internet, it was the only way people could find out what was going on around town unless they went to a meeting.
He added he commuted to Seattle to work in investment management for 30 years and, “Everyone on the ferry was reading the paper.”
Charlie said his parents loved owning papers in small communities where they could make an impact. He recalled meetings in his living room with school officials talking with his dad about how to pass a levy. “He liked all the back and forth.”
Charlie said his dad wrote a column called The Newcomer that he still finds interesting today. But one of the biggest stories he remembers the paper covering was the arson at Bainbridge High School around 1976. He was working in the mailroom at the paper at the time, and he heard about a fire at Bainbridge on the radio. He called his parents, and they went out to cover it in the middle of the night. He said they were proud they beat the dailies because they didn’t have anybody there.
The fire was in the old building built in 1928 that by then was “unsafe for student use.” However, there was still the lunchroom and library there, along with faculty offices. Caps and gowns for the upcoming graduation also were there, and Charlie recalls a local laundry pitching in to clean them since they smelled of smoke.
Another big story that affected his family even more was the one that burned down the Review office when Charlie was 9 years old. It was a three-story building where now cars wait for the ferry. It had been built during World War II, and the blaze was caused by a defective heating system.
The Averills were divorced in 1970, and Verda took on the paper. His mom excelled. She became the first woman president of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association in 1981. Her ex-husband had been president in 1968.
In 1979, Verda traveled to mainland China, soon after it was opened to American travelers for the first time. The Review in those years included a weekly tabloid supplement, “The Kitsap Magazine,” which published a 20-page issue titled “China Today: Close-up of the People’s Republic,” written by Verda following her trip.
She retired in 1988 at age 60 and asked her sons if they wanted the paper so they could keep it in the family. Charlie actually had helped his mom at the paper from 1986-88. But they both said no, sell it, because neither of them had any interest in selling ads.
“I didn’t like asking people for money,” Charlie said.
Verda sold the Review to Black Press, which owned seven papers in the states and 24 in Canada at the time. At age 70 she started up the print version of the BI Library News, where she worked until she was 85. Charlie said she kept her same values as a journalist, though with a lot less expense and not much advertising.
She died at the Madrona House on BI at age 88.
Charlie, who later served on the BI City Council for two terms, doesn’t recall his parents’ “editorials being too strong, one way or the other.” He does find it ironic that the island favored Republicans at the time because they were the liberal party, just the opposite of today.
Charlie said his parents never complained about things at the paper. They did a little bit of everything, and hired folks to do the rest. Selling ads was work, but most of the issues had to do with the press. “Each paper had a very old printing press in their office,” he said. “They thought it would be more productive if they only used one of them, but then there was the fire so they went to Seattle and Shelton to have the paper printed. Running the press was a big challenge back in those days,” he said.
Overall, Charlie said: “As owners of The Review, I’d say a major goal of their work was to support the local community — local businesses, local residents, and of course organizations like the schools and city government. In those decades, almost all businesses here were locally owned, and they reached out to the community with advertising and small news items in the local newspapers.”