Remember a little while back, when local history buff Art Pease shared an article from the Hanover (N.H.) Gazette announcing the impending debut of the Valley News in June 1952? If you don’t remember, you can check it out here.
That post led to something really special: Beverly Chapin, née Way, one of the people mentioned in the Hanover Gazette clipping, recently reached out to us and shared some of her memories from the Valley News’ beginnings and her life in the Upper Valley.
Beverly Way was born in Burlington in 1931, during the Great Depression, and grew up in North Hartland during World War II. She was one of 35 graduates with the Hartford High School Class of 1949. In 1952, she was 20 years old and had been working as a stenographer at the VA in White River Junction before she was referred to a teletypesetter operator job at this new newspaper that was about to start up, the Valley News.
She worked at the paper for a couple months before enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps. Her beau, Paul, had joined the Navy and proposed; when they wed, she became Beverly Chapin. After their time in the service, she and Paul eventually settled in Enfield and raised four children there.
Now 66 years after the Valley News’ founding, Beverly is about to celebrate her 64th wedding anniversary and 87th birthday. She and Paul have retired to North Carolina, about an hour outside Charlotte. Beverly’s sister lives next door.
Beverly emailed me after the initial post about Art Pease’s clipping, and we talked on the phone for some time last week.
“It was a very friendly atmosphere, there wasn’t a large staff at the time, and we just kind of all knew each other — by name, at least — and it was very sociable,” she said, recalling the Valley News’ original offices on Route 10 in West Lebanon. “Everything has totally changed, you’re not using linotype any longer. It’s all computerized.”
She joked: “I’m not as old as the aardvark, but technology changes quickly.”
She recalled how her father winterized a camp house on Lake Champlain, all the family could afford during the Depression, by tacking cardboard cartons on the wall. “You did what you had to do. We ate a lot of fish,” she said.
And the home didn’t have a telephone, so her mother would walk up to the farmer’s house nearby if she needed to make a call.
“I learned to type on a manual typewriter; now I have a whole computer setup, laptop, tablet,” Beverly said. “It’s nice to be able to share some of these things and to remind people that times have changed so drastically.”
It was so great to hear from someone who worked at the same business and lived in the same area as me during a very different time, especially now as our business continues to change, adapt and evolve (just look at this website!). Beverly first reached out by email, just to say she appreciated seeing the Gazette article, and I asked her what life was like back then; she responded by sharing memories and reflections from that time period. When we talked on the phone, she graciously agreed to allow those memories to be shared with all of you, as well.
Thanks so much, Beverly. It is much appreciated. You can read what she wrote below, along with some of the scans she sent of Valley News clippings from the time. (And another big thanks to Art Pease for sharing the clipping in the first place. You never know what you’re going to find when you share something like that!)
Memories of the Valley News’ earliest days and life in the Upper Valley, shared by Beverly Way
(From an email on Aug. 6, 2018)
Thinking about “time” and how did I manage to raise 4 children, garden, can, cook & bake from scratch and also sew when I had to teach myself most of those last 3, along with housework, etc., I realize not only was I younger but there was not much TV and no computer to distract. How life has changed!
I have been musing a great deal recently on days long gone, not just because I am old but because there have been reminders such as your article, searching family genealogy, the inevitable demise of individuals from my past, and talking with a 17-year younger sibling about our parents when they were younger, our brother who died in an accident when she was only 2, and life in our family that she missed since she was not yet born. Thankfully my memory so far has held up quite well and I can share much.
When the building was being erected on Route 10 in West Lebanon to house all operations of the Valley News and a staff being gathered I was a stenographer at the VA Center in White River in the Adjudication Division. This was post WW II when a surge of veterans were returning to a civilian life that had undergone major changes as a result of the war. Many went away as boys, came back men after horrific experiences and found “home” and “family” life was very different than they remembered. Many needed help and/or education to make the transition as well as medical and surgical treatment. I worked in the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Division at the VA but eventually it was downsized so I was transferred to Adjudication, the legal branch charged with deciding disability levels and benefits for individuals with service-connected disabilities. That work load also became lighter over time. The attorney for the Rating Board knew I was thinking seriously of moving on and referred me to his friend Allen Butler, driving force behind establishing the Valley News.
I was hired and we started work weeks early to be trained on an entirely new technology, the teletypesetter, with a factory rep teaching us. Then we had some time to practice before first publication day. We worked on a keyboard much like the typewriter but with more functions as it punched a paper tape coded for the linotype machines which had also been modernized. In case you’re not familiar with the history, linotypes were originally set by hand with the blocks of letters, numbers, etc., that made up a line for printing. They were modified so that the tape was read and molten lead flowed onto a sort of tray and that formed the print a whole line at a time. If the tape had not been justified properly it could cause an overflow of the melted metal that really gummed up the huge linotype and had to be all cleaned out before continuing.
We worked in a small side room beside the main printing room. A young man named “Lindy” was in charge of the linotypes – as I remember there were 3 monster machines, one of which was for advertising only because of the graphics – and Lindy gave me a tour and full explanation when I goofed. That room was very noisy with machines that held the type faces, inked them and then did the actual print onto paper that came on huge rolls of newsprint (the unprinted paper) and it was cut into pages as it went. National and international news came in by wire and was converted to the lintotype function automatically. What we were doing was to set up all the local items back in the day when most towns and villages had a correspondent who sent in periodic columns of who was visiting from out of town to a town resident, local club doings and anything else that might be of interest. Or – how to be the village gossip and get paid for it. We also typed up the local news written up by the paper’s reporters and their feature articles and anything else such as editorials, local school news and events when most towns still had local schools.
At that time there was a weekly paper, The Landmark, published in White River but the Rutland Herald and the Boston Globe were the main news sources available. Local radio was yet to come and TV news still years in the future.
The Valley News did well in a short time if memory serves. The delivery vehicles, usually private, picked up at the plant in the afternoon to get the papers into stores in time for evening homecoming and into roadside indvidual boxes along the way.
All through school years we learned state and national history, patriotism was part of life and honorable and encouraged. My father was a Navy veteran of WW I and followed the news of the world more than many, we had a “grade school” (now elementary school) teacher who included following the news of WW II as part of class work, and as a member of the marching town and school bands I was in countless Memorial Day and Armistice Day observances, and knew what they truly were about. My father worked at the VA hospital from the time it was getting ready to open in 1938, we heard President Franklin Roosevelt’s announcement of Pearl Harbor on the radio and father explained what it was about as much as a 10-year old could comprehend. In the following years a favorite uncle and a favorite cousin were drafted as were several others I knew less well because of distances. My father joined the neighbors in becoming Air Raid Wardens who did regular shifts staying up at night to monitor blackout curtains and watch for planes. They needed to be able to identify planes by outline both day and night and make reports by telephone so I studied the material also. My mother took me along to gatherings of village women In North Hartland where we all folded bandages at tables in the library as women were doing all over the country. The gauze came in precut to size but with raw edges, we folded in all four sides and had special metal blades to press the folded sections flat to be stacked and then they were returned to be sterilized and then sent to the war fronts and hospitals. There were no machines yet invented to do the cut, fold, count & stack automatically.
This was also a time of rationing of many items when we shopped with ration stamps as well as money, and gasoline was rationed. We had to use a special letter form to write to military so it could all be censored going both ways to prevent any spying or inadvertent disclosures that might be used by the enemies (such as the numbers of various military vehicles being shipped on open flat cars by rail from Canada and the Great Lakes region manufacturing plants through places like White River Jct. in our area to Atlantic coast ports to be shipped to Africa and Europe. As kids we used to watch the trains go by from the bank at top of our garden). All ages helped with the scrap metal drives. This country was very involved beyond the military.
It was the beginning of so-called women’s liberation because women were needed in the defense manufacturing industries, farming, food production to be shipped to troops and to our allies, all types of office jobs including those connected to anything to do with military or war efforts, and it impacted even child care for all those women who had children AND a regular job. The allies prevailed, war ended (sort of) and the troops returned to wives who had grown and changed as had the whole economic world. The men had changed in ways no one understood and we’re still learning.
By the time the Valley News was born the US was involved in the Cold War against primarily Stalin, dictator of the USSR, to keep communism from overtaking the world and Korea was the battleground, a police action but never declared a war. The draft still existed to supply the military and the high school classmate I was seriously dating by then enlisted in the Navy. Months later I enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps after giving notice to Mr. Butler that he needed to find a new trainee for my job.
Army enlistments were shorter than Navy and Paul proposed just before I left the Army. We married back in Vermont, drove to California before the interstate systems were built and got to travel the old original Route 66 Chicago to California where Long Beach was home port for his ship. We’d settled into married life, I found a job with the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant headquartered then right in Long Beach at the oceanside Civic Auditorium, then the Navy started cutting back and decommissioned Paul’s ship. He was ordered to Japan shore duty his last 6 months on active duty and I stayed in Long Beach where he returned just one week before the birth of his first son.
As soon as the baby was cleared to travel we boarded at LAX and flew home to Vermont. To find an affordable place to live we settled in Enfield in Currier’s Mobile Home Park, later when the 3 offspring had all outgrown the length of their beds we found a large old farm house to buy in Etna. Years later we sold that large house because children will grow and leave home. We bought our “retirement home” back in Enfield Center with a small piece of beach on Mascoma although we were still working and years from retirement.
Housing prices were rising rapidly along with taxes, Paul was declared 100% disabled before retirement age and could no longer do our own upkeep on the house so we eventually sold, got a truck and RV and spent a while traveling and living in RV parks except when we returned to park in our son’s yard in Cornish for the summer. After travel lost its appeal we looked for a place to settle and ended in the Carolina’s where we had some family already living and where there is no snow to shovel, housing could be found that was affordable and taxes much lower. At 86 and 87 years old now and about 3 weeks from a 64th anniversary, we live where nature is a bit easier to cope with in the Piedmont region between mountains and coast and 3 family members live right next door and down the same street along with one in the next town. Paul likes it fine here but I shall always miss northern New England, things like spring lilacs, rhubarb and horseradish in the spring, the northern birds, birch trees, and even the snow and cold so I do get homesick at times. The RV is still in Mike’s yard but we are no longer able to make such trips. I’m just a displaced Yankee who still follows the news from “back home” and most thankful for the internet.
Beverly Chapin raised four children, not three. (Sorry that I wrote you out of this, fourth child! ;)) And the home without a telephone was in Mallets Bay in Colchester. The farmer who owned the home “lived probably 1/2 to 1 mile up the road from our camp,” Beverly said, “and that’s where my mother had to walk to use their ‘phone when I suffered an abscessed ear and they needed the doctor to come out – back in those good old days when doctors made house calls, as he did again the night my brother was born and delivered at home.” Thanks again, Beverly. 🙏