Our readers often surprise us with tidbits of information about odd or obscure happenings in our South Kitsap community. And those tips sometimes lead us to a trail where we find fun, intriguing, revealing and, yes, heartfelt stories that we can later share with you in print.
Earlier this week, longtime Port Orchard resident Joy Tierney called me on the phone with a question. She had been clearing out contents from old storage boxes in her house when she came upon a rolled up, yellowed print copy of a special section produced by the Port Orchard Independent to celebrate the newspaper’s 75th anniversary in 1963.
Would I like to take possession of those newspapers? My answer, of course, was “absolutely!”
Just a few years removed from a major task we took on in 2015 to commemorate twin 125th anniversaries — or quasquicentennials — as I understand it: Port Orchard’s incorporation as a city in 1890 and a citywide weekend celebration to observe the event, as well as the birth of the Independent newspaper.
Readers with sharp eyes and rudimentary math skills will notice that the gap between the years 1963 and 2015 doesn’t add up to 50, but rather 52.
An otherwise exhaustive article in the special section, produced in 1963, chronicling the history of newspapering in Port Orchard is vague as to why 1888 was determined to be the Independent’s birth year.
The town’s first established newspaper was started in 1886 by city pioneer Thomas Cline, who christened it the Kitsap County Pioneer. He ran the publication until selling it to his newspapering right-hand man, A.H. Sroufe, the following year.
In 1890, Cline once again caught the newspapering fever and started the Broad Ax. After a couple of years, Cline sold it to W.L. Wheeler, who changed the paper’s name to the Independent. He then merged it with the aforementioned Pioneer in 1892.
OK, so journalists aren’t known for excelling in their high school and college math classes. But that bit of fuzzy sourcing aside, the 1963 special section is a fascinating look backward — not so much for its recounting of Port Orchard’s early years, but more so with how it reflected the year the section was published and how the newspaper chose to commemorate the anniversary in print.
The Independent’s publisher at the time, Jack Rogers (he had held that position since 1947), chose to print a 60-page comprehensive, three-section 75th-anniversary special section that emphasized his deep political connections in the state.
On the A section’s front page, a large photo of President John F. Kennedy dominated. Next to the photo was a reprinted letter from the president to Rogers that congratulated him, the newspaper staff and the citizens of Port Orchard for the occasion.
Mr. Jack Rogers:
“I have learned with much pleasure from our mutual friend, Senator Warren Magnuson, that the Port Orchard Independent is celebrating its 75th anniversary. I am delighted to extend congratulations to you, the members of your staff and the people of Port Orchard on this memorable occasion.
Free newspapers, such as yours, are a vital part of our American heritage, an essential force in our political liberty and a tangible symbol of freedom we cherish. The Port Orchard Independent has been a responsible spokesman for the democratic principles of liberty and justice, and has made many thoughtful contributions during these past seventy-five years to these ideals.
With every good wish for many more years of responsible service to your readers.”
John F. Kennedy
While the letter probably was ghosted by a lowly White House staffer — or, more likely, it was written by Magnuson’s press secretary — it’s grandiosity was tempered by the realization that just months later, Kennedy would die at the hand of an assassin in Dallas. A poignant footnote: The president’s photo emblazoned on the Independent’s front page was to be most remembered by appearing on the front page of newspapers across the world detailing Kennedy’s death in editions immediately after the shooting.
The 75th anniversary newspaper’s two other sections also had front-page splashes that included salutations from Washington state’s two fabled senators, Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson (has any other state had such a powerful duo of senators?) and Congressman Thor C. Tollefson, a 6th District Republican who was defeated for reelection by Democrat Floyd Hicks in the LBJ landslide election in 1964.
Not to be outdone, Gov. Al Rosellini also graced a section’s front page. The resulting publication Rogers and his team produced was outstanding, to be sure. But as fascinating as the section’s historical vignettes are, the congratulatory advertisements are snapshots frozen in the early 1960s.
A full-page ad by Park Shore Real Estate lauded its “Community of Happy Homes” — called Parkwood — “one mile east from Port Orchard on the Manchester Highway, turning right at Jackson Avenue.” It promoted its development of custom-designed homes in “a park-like setting,” prices starting at $15,250 “with easy terms to qualified buyers.”
Buchmann Motor Company, Westbay Beautyette on Bay Street, Helm’s Food Store, Kitsap County Bank,C”aldwell Trading Post, Blanchard’s Department Store and Price’s Drive-Thru Dairy Stores — business names from a different, long-gone era in Port Orchard — also bought congratulatory ads in the special publication.
There’s plenty more to digest. A newspaper editor could get lost in those pages. Thanks, Joy, for the contribution. We’ll keep these memories in print close at hand.