It is hard to believe that it was 15 years ago that Webb Weekly began publishing. Being part of those 15 years gives me a lot of pride and satisfaction. I could never have believed that the Webb Weekly experience that has been such a positive part of my life would be still going after all of these years.
The founder and publisher of Webb Weekly the late, Jim Webb Sr. inaugurated this paper in January 2003. His reason and philosophy for doing so could just as easily be summarized as the same as that expressed by Dietrick Lamade, founder of the Grit for his new publication when it started. “Let us avoid printing those things that are calculated to distort the minds of our readers and make them feel at odds with the world. Let us do nothing that will encourage fear, worry, temptation, and other forms of human weakness. Let us make every issue ring with the joy bells of life. Let us give the readers courage and strength for their daily tasks, and let us try to bring happy thoughts, good cheer, and contentment in their hearts.”
Jim Webb said that he always wanted to start a weekly newspaper that would have many of the same positive qualities as the Sunday Grit. As Webb Weekly moves into its 16th year of existence — it does so with gusto — succeed Grit.
“I believe in this country we have gotten away from the local, family-owned newspapers that were more finely attuned to the needs of the local community,” Webb once said. “I think that we have largely succeeded in bringing the homey quality of a paper like Grit back to life that celebrates the accomplishment, hopes, and triumphs of people as well as putting out a publication that is good for people of all interests.”
Jim Webb Sr., and now his son, Jim Jr., have provided me a wonderful opportunity to share my writing skills with the people of this area and for this, I am very grateful. I have had the pleasure of working with some excellent editors at Webb from Robin Van Auken to Mike Rafferty to now, Steph Nordstrom. They have afforded me a wide berth to write about a wide variety of interesting people and events.
As many of you might have noticed, history, particularly local history, is a special passion of mine and Webb Weekly has afforded me a great opportunity to present stories about this to our readers.
Some favorites of this type include my story about the Imperial automobile, the car manufactured in Williamsport.
I also enjoyed writing about Katie Knight, the first woman mortician in Lycoming County. This woman pioneer was very interesting to write about.
John Anderson, a former Williamsporter, who took some breathtaking photographs of the Sioux and Lakota Indians in the late 19th century, proved to be another very interesting story for me.
The story of Jack Ernst, the quarterback of the 1925 Pottsville Maroons football team, was one of the most interesting sports-related stories that I have done.
One of the most enjoyable, historically themed, stories I have done, occurred just last year when I interviewed “President Abraham Lincoln.” I asked questions just as they might have been asked during Lincoln’s lifetime and the man who portrayed Mr. Lincoln, James Getty, at a presentation at the Thomas Taber Museum answered them as Lincoln would during his lifetime. This provided me with a rich insight into the character of the “Great Emancipator,” and made me appreciate the film “Lincoln” that much more.
I have written about people who were a part of history. In November 2003 I wrote about an area man who served as the Air Force representative on the casket team for President Kennedy’s funeral during those dark days of November 1963. I also wrote about another area man, Tom Kline, who served in the Marine Corps with Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
One of the most interesting people who was a part of history was the late Joe Lockard, who tried to warn of the incoming Japanese planes during the Pearl Harbor attack. I interviewed him in 2011 for the 70th anniversary of that attack, not long before he died.
In 2014, I did a story on U.S. Navy Captain “Pete” Tzomes, who had the historic distinction of being the first African-American to command a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Houston. Not only did he describe his naval experiences, but he also detailed the struggles of growing up as an African-American in Williamsport during the 1950s and 60s.
In the sports realm, my favorite story was my account of the Williamsport Crosscutters winning the New York-Penn League championship against the Brooklyn Cyclones in Brooklyn in 2003. As a rabid Crosscutters fan, I was thrilled to the core to be on hand for this joyous, historical occasion.
I have also written various articles that have celebrated the accomplishments of athletes from various sports, including several state and national championships.
I have been able to write various nostalgic stories that looked back on former places, people and times in our past. Several of these stories come to mind. In 2010 I wrote a story that recalled the former Village Tea Room and their delicious sticky buns through an interview with Barry Edmonds, who worked there and later ran the establishment in its final years.
One of the first major stories I did for Webb Weekly was in the March 5, 2003, issue and was about Bob and Dean McNett. Probably no one in the past 50 years or so has touched so many lives locally as Bob and Dean McNett. They did this through their “Radio Corral” on WRAK, as well as hosting their shows that featured some of the top country and western acts of the time.
Lou Johnson, one of the last home delivery milkmen anywhere, was a wonderful and nostalgic story for me and no doubt it probably struck a chord with his many customers. That story ran in our August 31, 2005 issue.
Some of the stories I have had the most fun in writing were stories about people who were legends and perhaps institutions in this area.
My story about the late, Fred Plankenhorn, “a spinner of the oldies” since the late 50s when they weren’t oldies was a lot of fun for me to do. I understand that it brought back a lot of good memories for people who attended dances where Fred and his compatriot, Kerby Confer played music.
One of our area’s musical legends, Sammy Ray, was the subject of another article in January 2006. He brought smiles to many faces during his 80-plus years of musicianship.
A man who recorded many smiles with his camera, and also was the lens of the Little League World Series, “the late “Putsee” Vannucci, was another fun and interesting story for me in August 2007.
My story about local radio personality Gary Chrisman in March of 2006 gave me a lot of pleasure. And speaking of Gary, I did a story in 2012 on his memories of former Monkee, Davy Jones. That was a story I found very interesting because I idolized Jones and the Monkees during their heyday, 1966-1968.
I very much enjoyed doing a story on the multi-talented Lena Yeagle, in 2012. She is a very talented musician and artist, and she is a roller derby queen.
In December 2004 I had the privilege of writing about my father, in a story titled, “A Son’s Tribute To His Father.” It highlighted his long life of service to others, and I was glad to do it, but it is difficult to write about things that involve yourself and others close to you.
On a related note, I wrote a story about my dad and his brothers, John and Skip and their role as volunteer ushers at the Community Arts Center. I hope through that article I was able to shine a light on all the dedicated people who act as ushers at the CAC.
I have a real soft spot in my heart for a story I wrote in October 2009 of Bobbie Joe Lamey, a waitress at the Pit Stop restaurant in Clinton County. She performed her work from a wheelchair, cheerfully and with enthusiasm. She said her goal in life is to be an inspiration to others — she already is.
I guess the one thing I am really grateful for is that the people at Webb allowed me the opportunity to write tributes about several people that I believe were notable to me. I was able to write a tribute to my friend “Honey” Person, and local historians Richard and Miriam Mix and the one I did about our beloved “Old Lefthander,” Bill Byham. The tribute I am most grateful for is the one I was allowed to do for my beloved wife, Mary after she died of leukemia in July 2014. It was very healing for me to be able to express my grief so openly and it really helped me through those dark days.
Speaking of my dear Mary, I believe firmly that she continues to help me move my pen in hand across the paper as I write my stories. I guess it would be more accurate to say she moves my fingers across the computer keyboard. Mary, you are the light of my life, and my inspiration and your light has never really gone out for me.