Editor’s note: A move last fall from one floor to another at the Shelburne News office at 233 Falls Road was an opportunity to look through shelves and drawers and clean house.
The best find was a legal-sized manila folder with only the date “1967” written in thick black marker.
Inside were original copies of the first dozen editions of
“Shelburne >> a newsletter <<”
the precursor to what we call the Shelburne News today.
Rosalyn Graham, a former editor at the paper herself who enjoys local history, was delighted. She visited with Phyllis Deming to reminisce as the Shelburne News approaches its 51st anniversary.
By Rosalyn Graham
It was 1967 and things were really hopping in Shelburne: lots of new residential development; proposals for changing the town government’s management, perhaps with a town manager; discussions of forming a Shelburne police force, changing kindergarten in town from a co-op to being part of the K-8 system; construction of the Shelburne Shopping Park.
Phyllis Deming was the busy mother of four young children, an energetic, enthusiastic volunteer who had tackled many projects, including the school hot lunch program and fundraising for lots of health-related causes.
She was also very aware of the many changes and challenges facing the town (her husband, Bill, had been a member of the Selectboard for several years) and Phyllis was very concerned that people in town were not aware of what was happening.
“I loved to talk to people and I knew that many of them didn’t know about all these exciting and important things that would affect their town,” she recalled recently.
Phyllis loved to talk to people and she loved to write, and those talents were the seeds for the launching Shelburne >>a newsletter<<. An ally who shared her enthusiasm for getting the news to the community was Stanton Muzzy. He owned Excelsior Press and was well-equipped to transform Phyllis’ handwritten copy into a printed typeset legal-size letter with a colorful flag that featured drawings of iconic local buildings and even a fire truck.
Shelburne >>a newsletter<< premiered in May 1967, promising to “keep the public informed on the plans, decisions and progress of Town organizations.” It would appear around the 25th of every month and be available free to the public at various retail stores in town.
Volume 1, Number 1 introduced the newsletter, and explained that, while the first issue was providing news gathered at random and on short notice, the plan was that all organizations and committees in town would be welcome to submit “items of information and interest to the town” by mailing them to the post office box no later than the 5th of the month.
In that first issue, there was the news that, while talks about establishing a Shelburne Police Department were being held, the selectmen (Historical note: in 1967 it was OK to say “selectmen.”) had already ordered a police cruiser. There was also news of major remodeling in progress at St. Catherine’s Church; the selectmen were puzzling over a possible site for a town dump; the Friends of the Pierson Library were holding a plant sale at the end of May with Marilyn Woodworth as chairman; the annual Pet Show at Shelburne Central School in mid-June would include supper, pony rides, hayrides and a frog-jumping contest.
Within a few issues, the Newsletter had grown from two sides of a legal sheet to four, and the volunteer helpers that Phyllis had invited to contact her were helping to gather the news and also helped with distribution.
After Phyllis picked up the printed pages from Mr. Muzzy, she brought them home and her children and their friends from the neighborhood helped with the collating while Phyllis stapled.
Like the rest of the operation of Shelburne >> a newsletter<<, the funding was voluntary. Town businesses that donated $25 had their names listed at the bottom of the last page.
There have been changes in the name, the ownership, the method of distribution, the technology (who would have imagined computers, digital photography, the internet and cellphones), but the role of the community newspaper in town remains what it was when Phyllis Deming wrote this in Volume 1, Number 1: “This publication will be useful and worthwhile only to the extent that it is used for communicating, and read for understanding.”
Shelburne has been well-served by Phyllis Deming’s vision and commitment all those years ago.