NEWSPAPER - Port Royal TIMES
HISTORY OF THE PORT ROYAL TIMES
(The following was Included in the SPECIAL BICENTENNIAL ISSUE of the TIMES on Wednesday, June 30, 1976)
“In presenting the Port Royal Times to the people of Juniata County, we do so with the satisfaction that it will meet their approbation and support.”
Thus began Volume 1, Number 1, of The Times, on May 18, 1876. Young John W. Speddy had, “upon the encouragement of several citizens” of the Port Royal area, decided to begin a publishing venture that this week observes its 100th year of continuous publication.
The Times, the only newspaper ever published on the west banks of the Juniata River, began modestly in a building located where the Juniata Valley National Bank building now stands [southwest corner of Market & Third Streets]. Mr. Speddy lived on the second floor with his wife, and here the office remained until Mr. George M. Runkle purchased the business in 1919, at which time he removed the printing facilities next door to his home [at 208 Market St.], which now houses a ceramic shop.
In 1961, the owner, Lee W. Smith, moved the office into larger quarters in the old elementary school building, where it is now published. An interesting coincidence is that Mr. Speddy served on the school board of Port Royal at the time the present building was voted for construction.
John W. Speddy (sometimes pronounced “speedy” was born August 16, 1846 in Mifflintown. His great-grandfather was William Speddy, a “daring and resolute! But unsuccessful agent of the colonists in pressing their claim to Pennsylvania.” He removed in 1785 to Lost Creek Valley in Juniata County, at what is known as Speddy's Gap.
Editor John W. Speddy received his education in Mifflintown. At the tender age of 14 he was employed in the office of the Tuscarora Register of Mifflintown, A. G. Bonsall, editor and proprietor. Mr. Speddy spent three years ‘at the case’ (setting type by hand from the so-called California job case), thoroughly learning the trade, after which he attended a select school taught in Mifflintown by Prof. E. J. Way. Among his school mates were L. W. Doty, president judge of Westmoreland County; W. S. North, freight agent for the P.R.R., and “the lady who later became the wife of Rev. T. A. Robinson of Wilmington, Ill.”
Leaving the school at the end of the year, Mr. Speddy was clerk in the store of Joseph M. Belford at Mifflintown for a year. He then went to Philadelphia and was compositor and bookkeeper in a newspaper office. He then came back to Mifflintown and after spending a short time there, went to Milton and started the Northumberland County Herald. He conducted it for a year, then removed the plant to Mifflintown and began publishing an independent Democratic weekly paper, called the Independent. He continued to issue this paper until August, 1872, which plant was destroyed by fire - which, according to historical accounts, was not an uncommon occurrence for 19th century newspapers – and was obliged to suspend publication for six months. The paper was then issued without interruption until January of 1876, at which time he sold it to Col. E. B. McCrum of Mifflintown. The Independent was later merged with what became The Juniata Tribune. Mr. Speddy, thus, was the founder of two newspapers that survived into the 20th century.
The first issue of The Times appeared May 18, 1876, dimensions 24 by 38. In 1894, he enlarged it to an eight-column sheet, 26 by 40.
In the first issue, Mr. Speddy set the policies of The Times “intended as a family newspaper, which will be independent in all things and neutral in nothing.” His motto, “lntelligence and Virtue - The Watchwords of Liberty” have remained on the “flag” of The Times since that time.
Contemporary sources note that the paper was “devoted to the interests of the county and Mr. Speddy has made it a success in every way. He has a plant which is the equal of any in the county, and he uses a Campbell press. The type for the newspaper, in those days, was set by hand - picked up by composers letter by letter, locked up into a “form” and put on the press, which was run one at a time, one sheet at a time. The papers were hand addressed in pencil, and delivered by the post office in those days too. Besides publishing The Times the printing office found time to do commercial printing as well - specializing in sale bills for auctions. The bills in those days were the size of a regular newspaper, and were also run by hand. The printing aspect of the business, of course, has continued until the present time. Countless are the letterheads, envelopes, business cards, wedding invitations, booklets and statements, along with sale bills, placemats, wooden rulers, pieces of string, and church bulletins, which have emerged from Times Publishing through the years.
Mr. Speddy, busy newspaper man that he was, also found time and inclination for other valuable public services. He was president of the Borough Council, a school director, and served on the school building committee. He was “liberal in his political views, but decided on all important questions.”
He was ready, according to the files of The Times to use the power of the press against all rings, combinations, etc., and to stand by the people in every fight for right and fair dealings. Mr. Speddy, a staunch Methodist, was warmly interested in temperance reform. He was the father of one child who died on early infancy. He was a life long member of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Port Royal and a local preacher. In fact, the present Methodist Church was originally named for Mr. Speddy, and the large stained glass window on the front of the building was dedicated in his memory by his widow.
Mr. Speddy, according to the columns of The Times was a man of substantial dimensions. In his column, which he wrote weekly, many are the mentions of church suppers, grange festivities and other events, where Mr. Speddy made an appearance. According to contemporary account as a “rivalry” of sorts existed between Mr. Speddy and the published, or as the term “Editor and Proprietor” of the Juniata Sentinel on whose girth was the widest. Local tradition has it that Mr. Speddy met his untimely demise, when after a local church supper, he returned to The Times office, after having devoured a half-gallon crock of chicken gizzards - a particular weakness of Mr. Speedy it seems - and was found the following morning, sitting in his chair at his desk-two pieces that are still part of The Times office.
The Times rapidly gained in popularity in Juniata County, and its subscription list grew weekly to make it “Juniata County's Leading Newspaper” - a challenge that has been before each published of The Times since its infancy.
The subscription price of The Times at its founding was $1.00 per year in Juniata County where it remained until 1959, setting quite a record for subscription prices. Of course, on occasion, rather than money, subscriptions were bartered for eggs, meat, apples, or what have you. This was particularly true during tile days of the “Great Depression.”
Following the “chicken gizzard incident” and Mr. Speddy's premature demise. The Times was sold about the year 1905 to J. S. Moorehead, an official of the Tuscarora Valley Railroad. He personally took no part in the publishing of The Times as opposed to other publishers of this newspaper. Mr. Moorehead engaged the services of A. H. Stookey to be his editor and partner a relationship which lasted until about 1909, when The Times was sold to Clark McAfee.
Young McAfee, an engineer and surveyor, from Turbett Township, was not a printer, contemporary sources tell us. In fact, one reference in one of the old Times he jocularly remarks that he was “like a bull in a china shop.” His editorship lasted for a year, and then the newspaper passed into the hands of J. B. Parson. “Jackie” Parson sat in the editor's chair until 1919.
Regretfully, little is known of these editors of The Times. The files at this office are notably erratic and sketchy, at best. A. H. Stookey seems to be the most mysterious of them all, leaving few traces of his tenure with The Times. Local historical accounts offer little information. J. B. Parson, according to local tradition, was employed at the Capitol in Harrisburg, and left by morning train thence.
The columns left in our possession, however, show that a common denominator of all editors has been a determination to utilize the pages of The Times in service of the county.
In the year 1919, following the end of World War I, The Times was purchased by the editor who held the newspaper the longest - a 40 year dedication to newspaperman in his own right. But that was not all, for George M. Runkle, son of the local meat merchant, began his involvement with The Times as a young lad of 12.
His widow, Blanche, who resides next to the building where the newspaper was printed for 40 years, says that “Jud,” as he was known all over Juniata County, worked a whole year, evenings and weekends, for Mr. Speddy, back in 1898. At the end of the year, it was time to be paid for his services. His remuneration was a $3.50 suit, Mrs. Runkle remembers. Any youth today wouldn't work the afternoon for that, she noted wryly when reminiscing about The Times and her husband.
Mr. Runkle, in fact, was involved with all the editors of The Times as he worked both for Messrs. Speddy, Stookey, McAfee, Parson, and later employed Lee W. Smith, who would succeed him at the helm of the paper.
“Popsie” as he was known to the children of the town, spent his entire life in the service of the town, spent his entire life in the service of The Times first apprenticing as a “devil” and later as journeyman, to eventually become its proprietor for more than a third of the life of the newspaper.
During his tenure, the linotype was brought into the operation. This was the marvel of the printing industry, and capable of setting full lines of type by using a keyboard. This was a veritable revolution to a printer accustomed to meticulously pick out each letter by hand. The linotype was purchased in the 1920s for the astronomical sum of $5,000, and still does service in producing type for this newspaper.
Legion are the children of the area who remember “Popsie” sitting at the linotype, and would crawl up next to him and watch the “slugs” magically eject from the jaws of the machine.
The lines would then be put into neat rows, and brushed for “type lice” and made up into pages that went “to bed” on a new press. The new one was driven by electricity, but still had to be fed sheet by sheet by hand. It was not uncommon for the printers in those days to go upstairs in the office for a nap, while waiting for the last pages to be finished and ready to go.
Not only was Mr. Runkle a full time editor and printer, he also clerked at public sales all over the country. A community minded citizen, he was one of the charter members of the Friendship Fire Company, but would not serve on school boards, borough councils. A busy man, he spent long hours in The Times office, producing the kind of newspaper he could be proud of.
He too, was the one who originated the practice of sending The Times free of charge to all soldiers. That was his contribution to the men in the service, he felt. In fact, this is a practice that still remains a policy of The Times.
He enjoyed writing for the newspaper, and took great care in not hurting anyone's feelings but printing items exactly as submitted. One of his decisions, too, was to keep the price of The Times at $1.00 per year. For many people, he used to say, The Times was the only paper that came into their homes, and especially during hard times, he wanted his loyal readers to be able to enjoy the paper without any sacrifice.
In 1959, Mr. Runkle decided to hang up his printer's apron and “picastick,” and sold the business to Lee Smith, one of his employees.
Mr. Smith moved the office to its Fourth and Milford Streets location in the old Elementary School building, and built two additions to the back to house new printing equipment, and a new web fed newspaper press. Quite an advance, this press could run 8 pages at one time, in a matter of 1 1/2 hours.
Mr. Smith kept the business until 1971, when he sold it to its present owners.
At the present time , 8 persons are employed at the newspaper and print shop, which has the capability of producing the most versatile and creative printed products in the area.
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