History in cardboard boxes

One of the great things about working at a newspaper is that you will from time to time have the opportunity to sort through files that have been compiled by reporters and editors of the past.

You’re never quite sure exactly what you’ll run across. In same cases, the notes are meticulous. Yellowed clippings from newspapers published long ago are marked with the dates that the stories and photographs appeared in print. The original photos themselves, often containing cropping instructions, either have the names of those who are in the pictures written on the back or have pages from a reporter’s notebook with all of that information either taped to the back or attached with an old paper clip.

Those aren’t as much fun, though, as the photos that have no identification with them, or clippings that have no date included with them.

When you come across those items, you’ll take extra time to look, trying to put names with the faces that were captured in black-and-white images while hoping to be able to at least identify the locations where the photos were taken.

We all take digital photos for granted these days, especially in the news industry. It’s easy for a reporter to bring back multiple images from an assignment and for an editor to pick which of the images that will be published. Not that long ago, though, the system didn’t work quite that fast. There was film that had to be developed and prints made before a selection could be made. Once chosen, editing instructions would be attached to the print and the image would be sent off to be prepared for publication.

All but a few of those older photographs were shot on black-and-white film. There was no need for the photos to be shot or printed in color — all of the pictures were published in black and white.

Whether the archives are very complete or not, or the identification of those who appeared in the photos were attached or not, those items offer a glimpse into our region’s history, a look at something that might be long forgotten today but, at a certain time in the past, was very significant.

It’s information that’s often stored in deteriorating cardboard boxes stashed in many, many places. A reminder about the importance of those countless boxes that contain newspaper clippings and old pictures came across my desk just a couple of weeks ago, in the form of a deteriorating box that had been recovered from the old offices of The Weirton Daily Times. Having made their way from Lee Avenue in Weirton to 401 Herald Square in Steubenville, the box contained what those of us in the newsroom consider to be a tremendous amount of useful information.

Items in a couple of envelopes were interesting, especially as this year’s long Independence Day holiday comes to an end. They came from 1976 and dealt with the activities held around our region as part of our nation’s bicentennial.

Many dealt with the planning for the parade that took place in Weirton and Steubenville. Planning for the event was handled by men and women who played big roles in both communities for many years. For example, one of the photos included Steubenville Mayor William Crabbe; Charles Misoyianis, who was chairman of the Weirton Bicentennial Committee; John Anetakis, who was chair of the Weirton parade committee; Mike Sinicropi, who was assistant chair of the Weirton Bicentennial Committee; Steubenville Councilman Coleman Mullens; Richard Martin of Weirton; and Mrs. Robert Gregson and Mrs. Ira McClave of Steubenville — that’s the way some women chose to be identified at that time.

Other clippings mentioned names of others who were prominent at that time, including Weirton Mayor Mike Andochick; Steubenville Police Capt. Samuel Murray; Steubenville Recreation Director Harvey Woods; George Williams, vice chairman of the Hancock County Bicentennial Committee; Weirton Police Chief George Redish; Steubenville Service Director Robert Smoger; and William Schaefer, whose title was listed as Steubenville’s relocation director.

It’s been 43 years since our nation turned 200, and many of those who were involved in planning our region’s bicentennial celebration have died. Their efforts remain a part of our area’s history, though, and their stories deserve to be remembered. And that’s what makes all of those old clippings and black-and-white photographs important markers of our past, and things that need to be preserved.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)


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