Page News commemorates 150th anniversary with open house next Thursday

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― From his office on Luray's South Court Street, Harrisonburg businessman Samuel J. Price published the first edition of what is now the Page News and Courier on March 15, 1867.

It was 14 years before the railroad came through Page County, more than 15 years before either the towns of Stanley or Shenandoah were established and 40 years before the Luray Electric Light Plant was completed.

In the debut issue of what was then known as the Page Valley Courier, Price gave readers his idea of how a newspaper should function in an 823-word salutatory.

“We believe the press is a potent engine for the improvement of the mind, the elevation of the moral tone of society and the diffusion of much useful and instructive information not otherwise to be obtained,” Price wrote.

It's a philosophy that has continued to guide the community paper for the past century-and-a-half.

Next Thursday, the Page News staff will host an open house in celebration of the paper's 150th anniversary.

“The staff was the driving force behind this event becoming a reality,” said 11-year Page News and Courier Editor and General Manager Randy Arrington. “At the beginning of the year we began to discuss how we would mark our sesquicentennial. An open house was among the many ideas discussed. The entire staff embraced the idea as a way of reaching out to and reconnecting with the community.”

The staff kicked off its sesquicentennial celebration in January, with the launch of a monthly “Looking Back” series on the paper's Local Life page. Each installment highlights the paper's history and its role in the the community, as well as Page County's history. Topics have included the paper's eight editors, Page County men who made the ultimate sacrifice during times of conflict, a day in the life of “street hawkers” who each Wednesday sell copies of the week's issue on Luray's Main Street and a look back at Fourth of July celebrations and traditions throughout the county.

Highlights from the series will be featured in a special keepsake section that will be included in next week's issue, to coincide with the open house. The 32-page section includes snippets from the paper's debut issue, reflections from editors past and present, highlights from the past 150 years, old photos and more.

The paper has additionally offered several subscription specials throughout the year in celebration of its milestone anniversary. Annual in-county subscriptions will be offered for $15 to all attendees at Thursday's open house. The special was initially advertised for first-time subscribers, however, following feedback from several longtime subscribers, management will extend the special to everyone during the two-hour event.

The event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. at the paper's office in Luray with light hors d'oeuvres and tours of the two-story facility on South Broad Street, where a century ago visitors may have caught an old printing press in action in the downstairs area that now houses back issues of the paper, or gotten a glimpse of 50-year employee C. Richard Zirkle as he handset type letter by letter.

Guests will meet the paper's nine employees and view displays throughout the office, including old issues, memorabilia and archived photos that the paper will retain. Attendees will get the chance to take home other old photos from the past several decades in exchange for a donation to the Courier's Newspapers in Education program.

The open house will culminate at 6:30 p.m. when the PNC staff gathers with guests for a welcome and remarks by Arrington, followed by special staff presentations to local nonprofit groups and efforts throughout the county.

“For a century-and-a-half this newspaper has covered and reported the people, places and events that have made up the fabric of our lives and our ancestors' lives since the end of the Civil War,” Arrington said. “We hope that this open house and our efforts throughout our 150th year will help keep us connected to the community that we serve.”

It's a community that even 150 years ago the paper was proud to call home.

“We sent the first number of the Courier to a great many persona who are not subscribers,” Price wrote in the debut issue, “but who we know to be our friends. To those persons we say, we intend devoting our entire energies to the Courier ... and promise that we may 'wear out, but rust out never.'

“We intend to make it a local paper, in the full sense of the word.”

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