Newspaper founded by Vining remembers 86 years

Published 12:06 pm Friday, January 31, 2014

Seth Vining Sr., was the editor the Tryon Daily Bulletin from its beginning on Jan. 31, 1928, to Jan. 1, 1976. During most of that time his wife, Gladys, managed the office.

A native of Eufaula, AL, born in 1899, Vining went to work when he was 2 years old as a printer’s devil for the “Eufaula Daily Citizen.” In 1919 he became editor of the Hurtsboro, AL “Tribune. “Shortly thereafter, in pursuit of additional education, he entered Piedmont College Prep School, Demorest, GA. Because of his advanced age and experience, which he shared with some WWI veterans attending the school, Vining took college courses as well as college preparatory courses. In 1921 and 1922 he edited the college newspaper. In 1923 he became superintendent of the college print shop. In 1923 he married a Piedmont schoolmate, Gladys Gibbs, of Mill Spring, NC.

In 1924 Vining established the “Cornelia Northeast Georgian” publication. In 1927 he worked for the “Hendersonville Times-News.” In 1927 the Vinings moved to Tryon, attracted here because Mrs. Vining was a Polk County native. He opened a job printing shop in what is now the lower level of Owen’s Pharmacy. In one room he set up his equipment of press and hand-set type. There was not enough job printing to keep him busy all the time, so he toyed with the idea of starting a daily paper in Tryon. It would have to be on a 17 x 22 ½ inch sheet of paper to fit his single sheet feed press. Folded over, the sheet would make a four page, two column paper. In planning his newspaper he folded a sheet over, and with a pencil, he sketched some boxes on the back. He originally wanted the back page for ads to promote his job printing.

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Carter Brown came in the office, observed what he was doing, and asked what it was. On hearing the explanation, Brown asked what an ad would cost each month. Vining quoted a price. Brown said, “I’ll take this box,” and wrote “Pine Crest Inn” in the box. Brown was Vining’s first advertiser.

Thereafter Brown always boosted the newspaper. The inn would phone in the names of guests to have them listed in the Bulletin, but they always wanted the names to be spelled correctly.

The first issue of the newspaper came out on January 31, 1928. From January to August the paper was distributed free. While Vining had wanted to reserve the back page to advertise his job printing, the paper was so popular that all the merchants wanted to have an ad on the back page. The post office distributed the paper throughout the county without charge. Six schoolboys served as carriers distributing the Bulletin throughout Tryon after school. The paper was printed six days a week until WWII when the Saturday issue was discontinued. Merchants felt that ads in the Saturday issue were not effective because the stores were closed on Sunday.

In 1937 the subscription rates were: one year, $1.50; out of state $2.00; six months, $1. In spite of the apparent reasonableness of the subscription cost, in the early days many subscribers paid in produce.  This produce included farm goods, eggs, chickens, all kinds of vegetables, etc. It was a time before electric refrigerators and freezers. Refrigeration was in ice boxes. There was an ice plant in Tryon, but a block that might have weighed 50 pounds when it left the plant would have melted down by the time it was delivered to the home ice box. Without a freezer to preserve the perishables, Mrs. Vining was kept busy canning the subscription payments – in addition to raising two children, teaching school, teaching Sunday school, helping in the newspaper office, and more. The Vinings particularly remember canned apple juice supplied as payment by a Saluda subscriber. The can was place on a marble top antique table in the Vining basement. The apple juice ate through the can and ran over the marble top, creating and enduring stain on the marble.

In 1934 Vining moved to the present quarter of the Bulletin. In the new quarters, the paper was put out on a linotype machine. He bought the Polk County News, which was a weekly that had been started in the 1890s. The weekly was popular in rural Polk County and repeated much that was in the daily issues of the Bulletin. The Bulletin continued to have two columns a page, but more than four pages, up to 1955.

In 1955 Vining consolidated the Polk County News with the Bulletin. In 1955, a cylinder press was installed in the building. This installation required a gas flame underneath to eliminate static electricity so the sheets of paper would light properly when they came out of the press. It also enabled the paper to be printed in four columns. The Bulletin currently is printed by the offset method. The old printer’s devil who hand-set type and then ran the linotype doesn’t think he could get the paper out today.

In the early days, Vining had to send it to Atlanta to have illustrations cut, so there weren’t many illustrations in the early issues.

The cut at the top of the left column of the front page of each issue, “Curb Reporter,” was made by Cliff Berryman, Washington D.C. editorial cartoonist. The cartoonist was visiting William S. Knight, Tryonite and D.C. patent lawyer. During his visit, Berryman spoke at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club and drew the caption for Vining.

Many local citizens contributed articles to the Bulletin. The length of articles was restricted by the size of the paper and the necessary advertising to editorial content ratio. Brevity was the rule. Vining therefore edited many a submission. Some contributors complained, but if they wanted it printed word for word they had to pay.

Vining was noted for his brevity. Theodore Lightner, a Tryon resident, played bridge in tournaments around the world. When Lightner won the world championship in a London tournament, the Bulletin gave three lines to the achievement.

Vining did not recall a biggest story. He put a damper on sensationalism. He only wanted to print what was best for the community. If a story was not good for the community, he would not print it no matter how exciting it might be. He also kept personality out and took a neutral approach. He refrained from publicizing large donations by Tryonites for the public benefit. This restraint arose after he publicized a large donation and the donor reprimanded him, saying, “After that publicity I had requests for money from all over and as far away as the state of Maryland.”

Vining’s policies as publisher and editor caused him to be written up in trade journals on numerous occasions, but when asked about the publications he answered, “I had them once, but I don’t know where they are now.”

While Vining’s memory went short on sensational stories, I went long on people. His recollections have been populated with people in Tryon. His columns specialized in naming the people who visited Tryon, including many illustrious people. These visitors liked to have their names printed in the Bulletin so they could take copies home to show their friends.

These visitors exclaimed, “It’s easier to get your name in the “New York Times” than in the Tryon Daily Bulletin!

Vining vividly recalled Mrs. Calvin Coolidge’s visits to Tryon. She stayed with a friend who lived on White Oak Mountain. She often visited the newspaper office when she was in Tryon and she contributed articles. After completing a day’s visit to Tryon, she would wait in Misseldine’s Pharmacy until her hostess’s chauffeur arrived to drive her home. On Sundays she preferred to attend rural churches to attending Tryon churches. She liked to meet the people in the county.

During one of her visits, rumor circulated that she was about to remarry. A New York gossip columnist checking on the rumor telephoned the Bulletin office.

Vining answered, “I don’t know. She was in here this morning, but she didn’t say anything about it.”

She would pay a social visit on Tryonites, the newspaper would write it up, and the Tryonite cherish the copy of the Bulletin as a souvenir of the visit.

One time, Mrs. Coolidge stopped in the post office to mail a letter. The postmistress stopped her because she hadn’t put a stamp on the envelope. Her explanation that she had a franking privilege was the first encounter of the postmistress with the privilege.

Charles Beard, the historian, frequently visited Tryon and the Bulletin office. On one occasion, “Life” magazine reviewed one of his books, including numerous photographs of Tryon with the review. One of the photographs was of Vining and Beard in front of the newspaper office.

One time, Beard brought a New York senator into the office to meet Vining. It was a Monday on which the linotype operator had not showed up for work, and Vining had to operate the machine. Mrs Vining was in the front office and he had instructed her, “Don’t let anyone in the back to disturb me or I’ll never get the Bulletin out.”

She followed her husband’s instructions, and Vining never got to meet the senator from New York, but Beard continued to visit the newspaper office.

When Norah Flynn lived in Tryon, her sisters, Lady Astor and the first Gibson Girl, visited Tryon and included the Bulletin office in their visit. David Niven, the actor and author, also visited the Flynns, and Vining called him, “my Hollywood correspondent.”

Margaret Culkin Banning was a friend of the Vinings who contributed to the Bulletin. She referred to the Bulletin in her novels about Tryon. In February 1976, when Tryon celebrated Seth Vining Day, Banning wrote the following letter:

“I think Seth Vining Day should be a permanent legal holiday in Tryon. When I think of all you have done for the town, the country, the state – maybe the world! – I feel you deserve all the honor and affection that can be given a great citizen and a dear friend.

“You have been a great factor in maintaining the simplicity and kindliness on which life in Tryon is based. You have made people in Tryon neighbors, not merely acquaintances. You have made us laugh and you have shared our griefs.

“Thank you for everything and please stay close to us for many years. We need you and Gladys very much.”

When interviewed, Vining made little mention of the organizations he served and drives he supported. Yet, after retirement in February 1976, he was instrumental in the formation of the Polk County Historical Society.

A check of the record would reveal that before that, he had the following credits: charter member and former president of the Tryon Kiwanis Club; former president of the Tryon Country Club; former president Tryon Chamber of Commerce; magistrate; chairman of the Tryon School Board; Democratic precinct chairman, etc.

In the Tryon Congregational Church he served as assistant Sunday school superintendent and teacher, as well as serving on the board of deacons as an usher and more.

-article submitted 

by Jim Vining