65 years and still kicking in print

All together now: Happy birthday to The Charlotte News! Happy birthday to The Charlotte News! Happy birthday to this newspaper!

That’s right: This spunky compendium of what’s happening in town is celebrating its 65th birthday.

The first edition was printed on July 18, 1958.

The oft-told tale is that teenager Nancy Wood needed to sell her horse but didn’t know how to find a buyer.

At the end of summer, Wood would be headed back to her boarding school for her senior year of high school. With college on the horizon, it was time to find another home for her horse Socks.

Socks had an aversion to being loaded into a horse trailer. Wood hoped to find a buyer in Charlotte, close enough that she could ride him to his new home and forego the trailer.

At that time, the only newspaper where she could have taken out a classified ad was the Burlington Free Press.

Her father suggested she start a newspaper, so she and a group of other teenagers started a newspaper in the basement of the Charlotte Congregational Church. It was a project of the youth group.

From the archives. The first issue of The Charlotte News came out on Friday, July 18, 1958.
From the archives. The first issue of The Charlotte News came out on Friday, July 18, 1958.

As it happened, Wood found a buyer before the first issue of the newspaper came out, but by that time the train had left the station.

The kids were fired up about putting out a newspaper. In the first sentence on the first page of the first edition of the newspaper, they staked out their mission: “We hope this first issue of The Charlotte News will lay the foundation for a permanent newspaper in our town. The purposes of this paper are to inform the townspeople of coming business and social functions; to report local news and to describe, through feature stories, unique and interesting places and personalities in our town about which little is known to many of us.”

Six and a half decades later, that’s still a pretty accurate description of this newspaper’s mission, except now we also like “to afflict the comfortable to comfort the afflicted,” as they say.

The kids wrote and typed the stories. They sold ads which they drew by hand. The town was very supportive in both reading the newspaper and buying the ads, Woods said.

A few weeks after the debut issue, Wood returned to school and her friend Connie Waller took over as editor.

Marjorie Coleman was the adult adviser to the group of youths producing the newspaper. Eventually, she took over as editor and gradually the newspaper became a labor of love mostly performed by adults.

But still today, The Charlotte News loves to get writing from young people. In fact, if you know a young person, or are a young person, who would like to write for the newspaper or otherwise contribute to the volunteer effort needed to put out each edition, please call 802-881-4728 or send an email. We would be thrilled to hear from you — even if you’re not a young person.

“People really chipped in and were excited about having a little newspaper,” Wood said. “Back then, the only way you had any idea of what was going on in town was looking at the bulletin boards at the stores or word of mouth or phone contact.”

The first issue had four pages printed the front and back of two sheets of paper on a mimeograph machine and stapled together.

Today, there are a lot of people living in Charlotte who don’t remember the thrill of sniffing newly printed mimeograph pages when they’re handed out.