The Washington Daily News is my old friend

Published 6:40 pm Monday, September 19, 2022

When I pick up my copy of the Washington Daily News, I am reaching for an old friend.  The Daily News has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. There was never a day, except Sunday, the newspaper did not make its appearance in our house when I was growing up.  My stepfather, Lloyd Roberts, a print and typesetter technician at the Daily News, brought home a paper every day.  When he died, the local newspaper carrier, Mr. Gray delivered the paper to our house.

The paper was much larger in size than it is today and was the source for everything local. It really was the social media of my youth. The Daily News printed the names of people who had been admitted to the Beaufort County Hospital as it was called back then. Births were announced and obituaries contained a lot of information and included many family details. It would often share who was visiting from out of town, who left town, wedding portraits of brides, and the wedding and reception details.  School menus for the week were printed in the paper, and back then the lunches were full course meals. Everything was freshly prepared. The cinnamon rolls, delicious homemade-tasting soups, mouthwatering fried chicken, salmon coquettes, spaghetti, sliced turkey with gravy and the cake squares were just a few of my favorites. You could tell by reading the weekly menu, what day the cafeteria would be the most crowded, most likely ‘fried chicken day.’.

The schools had columns that talked about the latest happenings, school life, football and basketball games and much more. My school, P. S. Jones High School, had a weekly column written by various student contributors called ‘Teenage Tones from P. S. Jones.’  When you saw the student who wrote the column at any school event, you wanted to make sure they saw you so you could get your name in the paper, and have it mentioned that you attended the games, dances or wherever was going on.

Once we read the paper, it took on another life as an indispensable helper. It was used for schoolbook covers, cleaning windows, wallpaper, gift wrap, hair rollers, shelf liners and it was tucked in window sills to keep drafts out. Mama used it to help tomatoes ripen faster when wrapped in newspaper, and some folks with fruit trees would wrap apples and pears in newspaper to keep them fresh and prevent rotting while they were in storage.  Even midwives would ask for stacks of newspapers as part of their supplies when they prepared for an imminent birth to keep the mattresses clean.

 When I was about fourth grade, my love of words came from learning to read the newspaper. I felt important that I could learn new things and important events the same way adults did. And one more thing, my third-grade teacher Mrs. Parham taught us how to make paper mâché animals from strips of newspaper. I thought that was awesome!

 When I lived away in northern states for decades, I had stacks of newspapers to read that people sent to me. Yes, my old friend, the Washington Daily News has been a constant in my life, all my life. And what a friend it is.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.