Tryon Daily Bulletin History

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Front page of first edition of Tryon Daily BulletinThe Tryon Daily Bulletin — its history, its character, its quirkiness — are all contained in a short preface the founder, Seth Vining Sr., wrote for the paper’s 25th anniversary edition on Jan. 30, 1953.

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In that short preface, there is contained the uniqueness of the Bulletin, the character of the founder, the unusual community the paper serves, and the beloved, quirky oddities which had their origins in the production challenges facing a small shop printer attempting a daily edition.

“This special edition of The Bulletin cannot be catalogued and arranged in any systematic order with a table of contents, for the entire job has been done in those moments between the regular editions,” Vining explained to readers of the Silver Edition.

The paper’s press in 1953 was able to produce just two pages at a time. As copy came in, it was quickly fed to the two-front, two-back printing operation as the staff scurried to keep a 96-page special section on schedule.

“A loyal staff has been working constantly for the past two weeks. As fast as advertisements and news copy came in, two pages were put into type and printed. When four pages were printed they were folded; when eight pages were ready they were inserted to begin the nucleus which grew from day to day to form the complete Anniversary Edition with the silver cover.”

The copy for the 25th Anniversary Silver Edition was prepared “by a number of civic minded readers,” Vining reported.

As was true also of the daily paper, this special edition was something like a bee hive, the creative product of a busy community of foragers and pollinators. As the community relentlessly swung the Bulletin building’s big front door, the pages rolled out, with no real time for any one designer’s intervention. Some larger, mysterious, natural rhythm took over and it produced honey.

Of course, Vining himself was known as the town’s “walking chamber of commerce” for promoting “every worthwhile civic project.” Vining took on the title “Curb Reporter” for his wanderings in search of the “triumphs and daily doings” of the ordinary people. Cliff Berryman, a Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist for the Washington Star and frequent visitor in Tryon, drew the Curb Reporter logo in the 1930s. That logo is still in use today.

Vining was editor and salesman and printer, so the townspeople took up writing the stories. There were just folks, civic-minded folks.

A few were well-known artists and writers from among the national glitterati that frequented Tryon. At one time, Nora Flynn’s daughter, the actress Joyce Grenfell, was the Bulletin’s London war correspondent and David Niven covered Hollywood.

“Seth made himself close to all those people and it helped the paper,” a friend, K.A. Bowen remembered. “He treated them just like ordinary people and never put on airs. He made them feel a part of the community.”

But all were volunteers practicing “social networking” many decades before the term was coined.

In his preface, Vining went on to thank the readers. It is the readers, he said, “who make or break a paper.” He also thanked the many friends who contributed “news, advertisements and suggestions” over the years.

And then he said a personal word.

The paper was a very personal enterprise for him. The Bulletin’s Dec. 25th, 1948 front page featured a picture of the Vining family gathered in their living room under a headline, “The Seth M. Vinings send to you personal Christmas greetings.” Vining family engagements, weddings, ball games and family histories were regular front page features.

But the Bulletin was a personal for lots of people. Everyone felt they were a part of the paper. The Bulletin chronicled the comings and goings “of people who are known, our neighbors in whom we have a real interest,” as Edmund M. Wylie described it. In the Bulletin they found their children’s years marked like notches on the walls, their best hopes and joys expressed through their clubs and cherished civic projects. The paper chronicled the birth of a town, right down to listing every new house and business built in the early years. All were all recognized and celebrated.

Vining acknowledged that shared experience.

“We present this edition to you not boastfully but as a souvenir of our mutual struggles for growth and happiness,” Vining wrote.

In those few sentences, Vining gave us the essence of “the world’s smallest daily newspaper,” a slogan Vining took from a casual remark made in the 1930s regarding the paper’s small, Reader’s Digest size. It was englarged in 1955, to 8 1/2” by 11”.

For one, in the words of his preface you see clearly the unpretentious graciousness and simple wisdom of the founder and editor, without whom there neither would nor could ever have been a Tryon Daily Bulletin.

His son, Seth M. Vining Jr., took over the paper in 1976, continued and enlarged the paper’s spirit and tradition, and made sure to sell it to a family operator in 1989 when he retired. That family, the Byrds, continue to operate it today.

In Vining’s preface, you have a clear acknowledgement that the paper has always been and remains the community’s. Not in some marketing sense. Actually.

The people wrote the articles. Then they read them. That remains true to a large extent today, although solid local reporting by staff journalists now provides about a quarter of the content.

From Vining’s preface over 50 years ago, you get the sense that this was, and remains today, a unique community, a community that treasures its place.

In the Tenth Anniversary special edition of the Bulletin, David L. Edsall, formerly the dean of the Harvard Medical College, described the feeling people have for their Southern Appalachian home by quoting the final epitaph of an old Roman, Similis, who had retired to the country: “At his death, seven years later, he had inscribed upon his tombstone, ‘Here lies Similis, who reckoned many years of age but lived only seven.’”

You see in Vining’s preface a people that live, not in quiet, rural isolation but in active well-being and contentment, a community that not only could but actually did — and largely still does — write its own newspaper every day, and write with a style that garners a loyal audience of thousands of readers, mostly here, but including sentimental followers around the world.

Tryon boys reported that their Bulletins, full of personal tidbits of daily lives, were popular pass around reading in the WWII baracks because the paper kindled memories of home, no matter where the reader was from.

With their subscriptions and advertisements, Vining reminds us in his preface, the people paid his family and staff to compile, print and distribute the community’s newspaper. The public even made the suggestions that led directly to management decisions, a hallmark of small town, family publishing.

Author, lecturer and national political and civic leader, Margaret Culkin Banning of Duluth, Minn., who wintered at Friendly Hills in Tryon, wrote a tribute for the 25th anniversary edition, saying, “There is no publication of any kind which can rely more surely on the deep affection of its public. That affection has been earned many times over. The community of Tryon has an unusual temperament and one which is difficult to define or express in words. But the Bulletin has managed to express it and to preserve it.

“When a stranger comes to Tryon, we show him The Bulletin. This paper, we say or intimate, will show you the way we live here, what our interests are, and how we balance them.”

O.K. So, these many fans weren’t there for the compiling, printing and distributing. With good reason.

Even someone who never entered a pressroom sees from Vining’s statements that the TDB has always been a small operation, one with a loyal staff that works constantly through challenging production issues to put out a daily edition.

That was six days a week to start, five days a week since WWII — in a small town that in 2008, certainly in 1928, might have been lucky to have a weekly paper, if any at all. In the early 1900s, Tryon had a year-round population of 300 people.

The make-up of the paper, oddities caused by small operation production issues, became habit and culture. All copy for each day’s issue had to feed a constant, all day printing schedule of two and later four pages at a time. In consideration of efficiency, as soon as copy was set it was simply stripped in, running down one column, then on to the next to its end, whereupon the next story began and followed the same pattern.

Because no one knew in the morning just how many pages would be printed that day, nor where they would fall, there could be no organization of story “jumps” between pages, except from front to back, since these two pages ran last.

Even after the Byrd family installed a new, two-unit News King web press in 1993, which allowed up to 32 pages to be printed in one run, classified ads continued to be placed at random, as “fillers” on every page. Somehow, habitual readers had come to like this oddity and the staff felt it forced bargain shoppers to scan every page. Only in 200x were classifieds grouped in a section, after page counts made the “scan every page” theory unweildy.

Staff protests ensued and perpetually simmer still.

For the staff, whose names were called many times in thanks by every editor, and are noted in the chronology below, the TDB has always been a laborious task, with lots of hand work and thousands of daily details to attend. As Mr. Vining pointed out in 1953, at the Bulletin there are only “moments” between regular editions. Special editions are a real chore.

Yet, not to beg mythology, or to say any human endeavor can rightly be remembered as entirely satisfying and without regular dollops of dire distress, but still, all in all, The Bulletin has been one of those rare phenomenons of human enterprise where all the players win, all genially acknowledging the other as the most culpable for the success and general happiness.

Here’s a chronological look back at the history of the paper:

June 30, 1899 – Seth M. Vining is born in Eufaula, Ala. Printer’s devil Eufaula Daily Citizen, 1911. His first paper, a weekly, lasted one month, August 1916; journeyman printer, Fla. – Ala., 1917-1918. Editor, Hutsboro, Ala., Tribune, 1919; entered Brooks Phillips college pre school at Demorest, Ga. 1920; editor college newspaper 1921-22; Supt. college printing dept. 1923 and married Gladys Gibbs of Polk County, N.C. Established Cornelia Northeast Georgian, 1924-1926; foreman Polk County News 1927; Started Bulletin 1928 and retired 1976.

(ART: Cover of First Edition)

Jan. 31, 1928 – The first edition of the Tryon Daily Bulletin is published by Seth M. Vining from his job shop printing office located beneath the A&P Tea Co. grocery store, now Owen’s Pharmacy. Price One Cent. Vining writes a statement of its purpose: “This, the initial issue of The Tryon Daily Bulletin, goes to you as a result of our firm belief that such a publication will be of service to the general public as an effective medium for immediate advertising and for the transmission of important community news while it is still news. We will endeavor to publish the Bulletin six days a week and continue it as long as we feel the service it gives justifies the existence. The Bulletin is not attempting to take the place of a newspaper, for its miniature size makes it impossible, and all the news matter will necessarily be very brief but sufficient to be informative. We chose the modest name of Bulletin to give it a proper label, but in function we hope it will service as effectively for its purpose as a daily newspaper. The advertising columns are open to all for legitimate purposes. If we fail to solicit your advertising, do not feel slighted. Serving as editor, printer and devil it will be impossible for the advertising manager to call on every business house each day. The Bulletin is published for our mutual benefit. Use it as often as your need justifies. We gladly publish notices of your club meetings, and will appreciate any news suitable for this type of paper.”

1930s – Cliff Berryman, noted cartoonist for the Washington Star, creator of the famous Teddy Bear and a Pulitzer prize winner, gives Vining’s personal column an identify by drawing The Curb Reporter logo. It features a Keystone Cop telling Pop Vining, reporter’s pad and pencil in hand, to, “Move on buddy!”

1935 — Seth M. Vining moved The Tryon Daily Bulletin offices to the old Bank of Tryon building, sharing space with several other businesses renting there. He will later buy the building in 1959.

(ART: Photo of Vining and Arledge in pressroom in Sept. 1930. Hub Arledge photo)

Jan. 31, 1938 – The Bulletin is still published six days a week. Price One Dollar for six month subscription. 500 extra copies are printed for anniversary edition. They sold out three days before publication; people were asked to return copies for others to buy. A photo of Lake Lanier appears, noting that “a number of attractive homes” were going up there. David Niven is appearing in “Prisoner of Zenda” at the Tryon Theater, where the pre-show newsreel features the Tryon Daily Bulletin. Margaret Culkin Banning writes from Minnesota that of her two daily papers, she can do without if necessary The New York Times but not the Bulletin. “It tells me the news which I cannot possibly miss.. great disasters, world triumphs, and who is staying with the Flynns.”

January, 1938 – Lefty and Nora Flynn give a party for The Bulletin in celebration of its Tenth Anniversary. A big birthday cake is brought in by Lefty wearing an apron made of Bulletin pages pasted together. Pop Vining writes years later, remembering, “The Flynns did many nice things for Tryon people and always shared their friends with others, whether it was Lady Astor and the other Gibson Girls; Tim McCoy or Richard Adinsell, author of the ‘Warsaw Concerto.’”

(ART: Editorial conference)

Oct. 3, 1939 – Letter from David Niven, Hollywood, California arrives to the TDB, which Niven called the “Tom Thumb of newspapers.” “Dear Seth: I have been very bad about writing but you must please forgive me as I am the world’s worst letter writer! I am leaving Hollywood in about ten days and going back to my Regiment. I don’t know how long I shall have in the East but if I have any time at all I shall of course ask Nora and Lefty Flynn if I can come down and say good-bye to everyone. I am writing this in case I don’t have time in which event, I am asking you to say goodbye for me. I will not embarrass you all by telling you how I feel about Tryon and the grand people who live there; but I would like you to know that when I leave this great country of yours which has been so generous and so kind to me for the last six years, the warm spot which will be in my heart always for the United States will have a warm spot of its own which will be Tryon.” (Actual letter now displayed in Bulletin lobby.)

1940s – Robert Ripley meets with Seth M. Vining to talk about including the Bulletin in his “Believe It Or Not!” series. During the visit, Ripley reportedly comments that it is nothing to publish the world’s smallest daily newspaper, but to support a family with it for more than ten years is indeed a significant accomplishment.

1950 – Seth Vining Jr. returns to Tryon and joins the Bulletin staff.

Jan. 30, 1953 – The Bulletin publishes its 25th anniversary edition. Price Fity Cents.

* Creative persons story

* Nora Flynn letter

* Banning letter

* Kaltenborn letter(s)

* staff list

1955 – The Tryon Daily Bulletin buys the Polk County News, Mr. Vining’s one time employer, and expands from its small size, 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 to its present size, 8 1/2 by 11. Two years earlier in 1953, Vining alerts readers the change is inevitable in a note, “Last Anniversary Edition,” featured on the inside back cover of the 25th Anniversary Silver edition. “This will probably be the last anniversary edition of this “world’s smallest daily newspaper.” The present small size does not meet the demands of a growing community. Many progressive advertisers want larger space. There is not room for many pictures and longer articles. The increased circulation has presented some production problems which we can’t master with present equipment. We solicit your cooperation in making the adjustment when the time comes, and assure you of our constant effort to give you the best newspaper service possible with the means available.”

1976 – Seth Jr. takes over The Bulletin. From 1971 until his retirement in 1989, he and his wife, Bos, take no vacations.

Jan. 31, 1978 – Bulletin publishes its 50th Anniversary edition. Price Fifty Cents.

* Seven Generations letter

* Libby’s Lines

* Our first advertiser (ART: Carter Brown picture)

* List of Tryon mayors

* History of early Tryon

* Nina Simone piece

* Remember this scene (ART: Train picture)

* The staff

January, 1987: Seth M. Vining dies at the age of 86.

Nov. 17, 1989 – Seth Vining Jr. sells the Tryon Daily Bulletin to the Jeff and Helen Byrd family, and a group of Byrd family friends.

Early 1990: Ronnie Mosseller, a renowned rug maker living in Tryon, tells the new owners a memorable story about the founder. Mosseller recalled seeing Mr. Vining coming out of the post office one day. “He happened upon one of our enthusiastic new neighbors,” Mosseller recalled. “He said to Seth, ‘What you need is a partner at that newspaper.’ Seth said, ‘I’ve got a partner,’ to which the confused friend replied, ‘I didn’t know that. Who is it?’ Seth pointed at the sky and said, ‘Him,’ and walked on.” Mosseller, a classic comedic actor on the Tryon Little Theater stage, demonstrated the gesture in the way only he could.

August 14, 1991 – The Raleigh News & Observer fives a wink and a nod to “the world’s smallest daily newspaper” in a story about North Carolina’s “dubious distinctions.”

Jan. 30, 1998 – Bulletin publishes 70th Anniversary Souvenir Edition, edited and largely written by Caroline O’Neil, with reprint of Bulletin’s first edition inserted.

* Of the birth

* Pop Vining in action

* The rooster of Trade Street (ART: The rooster)

* Seth Vining Jr. remembers (ART: Seth and Bos)

* Libby’s update

* Bulletin’s home is architectural gem

* Press room has come a long way (ART: Quinton Arledge; Seth with new Solna)

* To Err is Human

* Getting out the Bulletin

* Third Generation looks back

* Tryon Daily Bulletin – Byrd column

* Look Back – Wanda Cash

* Staff list

Jan. 31, 2003 – The Bulletin publishes an edition on the occasion of its 75th anniversary celebrating 75 years of Thermal Belt history.

* A child’s view – Anna Pack Conner

* Marjorie Bos Viing – we worked hard

* Seth Vining Jr. memories

* These folks – staff list

(ART: Bank of Tryon building)

Jan. 17, 2008 – The Tryon Daily Bulletin building, a Romanesque Revival commercial building erected in 1907 by the Bank of Tryon, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.