From 1977 through 2001, the Wendell Post newspaper was published by and for the residents of Wendell, Mass. With its distinctive local perspective, the Post covered local politics, people, and events, but also issues with national implications, including the anti-nuclear movement, environmental concerns, recycling, and peacework.
The Wendell Post collection contains nearly every issue of a community newspaper produced in a small, rural New England town. Most issues include reports on town meetings and elections, the schools, and public works, but the Postalso carried news of the stuff of daily life such as births and deaths, high school graduations, anniversaries and Old Home Day, profiles of town residents and town history, and the crime report.
The collection is open for research.
Background on Wendell Post
In April 1977, a group of young residents of the small hill town of Wendell, Mass., published vol. 1, no. 2 of a local newspaper, the Wendell Post, eschewing the usual route of beginning with issue number one. In the premier issue, the editors stated that the Post was "an attempt to broaden our ability to communicate the workings, activities, and concerns among the Wendell community," and although the paper evolved over its twenty-four year life in format and schedule, it kept true to its roots as a sounding board for community issues and community values.
Beginning with a small staff of five (Kathy Becker, Lewis Becker, Michael Idoine, Gary Neilson, and Karen Pierce), the Post soon gathered a core group of committed contributors, editors, and distributors, most notably Anne Diemand and Jonathan von Ranson. Although each issue featured a fairly standard diet of Wendell news -- reports on town meetings, elections, the schools, and public projects -- the Post also carried a full slate of letters to the editor along with articles on nearly any topic that caught local interest. Next to a record of typical daily events such as the crime report, records of births and deaths, high school graduations, anniversaries, Old Home Day, profiles of town residents and town history, the paper carried full coverage of current issues affecting the predominantly left-leaning community. Articles on the anti-nuclear movement, environmental concerns, recycling, and peacework run side by side with reports on the 1984 tornado in neighboring New Salem, music and restaurant reviews, and notices of missing pets. The paper was always produced locally, cheaply, using simple printing technologies and, often, hand-lettered column headings, and its price never surpassed the fifty cents is sold for in 2001.
Staff Memories of the Post
Several members of the Post staff submitted their memories of the newspaper.
I remember how much fun the layout sessions for the Wendell Post could be. The large format portfolio would be spread out on a table and everyone there that day or evening would look at the big empty spread and collectively take a breath and sort of say, "Well, here it goes..." That's when watching the creativity flowing would be fun to watch as each issue came to life. Lead stories, the artwork scrolling around the spaces between articles, gauging the reader's responses to letters to the editors. Creative writing peices, Wendell history stories, remembrances by citizens of Wendell, obituaries - which inevitably lead to funny anecdotes we remembered about the deceased or kind memories of things they had done, etc.
I guess thinking about this forces one to remember that the Wendell Post was as alive as our town is.
I wrote a brief column about the music scene in Wendell when I first came to town....there were and still are so many diverse musical people that there was a real need for this and no shortage of information or great music of all kinds... From outerspace to rock and roll to folk to African to reggae to...anything in between... and all awesome!
Anne Diemand Bucci:
As for my memories. . . wow!!... so many years we worked and played at the Post.
My involvement in the Post started when Louie Becker asked me to deliver them, if I wanted to be involved in a local paper that several community members had gotten together to create.
My first reaction... yep, I want to be involved. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to help in whatever way I could.
That led to monthly meetings to decide what topics we wanted to cover... what would be timely... voting, old home day, etc... what was going on in our town... we tried to make sure people would be aware of things that normally just made their way through the grapevine. Then there were the phone calls. Asking folks to write articles, prepare copies of the selectboard's minutes, the town clerk's notes, the typists to type the articles once they were gathered. Then we would gather. In the beginning it was at the "purple house". Myron and Kathy's home. We would come together after working all day at our jobs, make a meal together and start on what many times was an "all nighter"! Then bring it to Highland Press in Athol and wait for the days it took to be printed and put together. I remember with almost parental pride going after the paper and looking over each pages... remembering how much fun it was to create.
Many years, many jobs that I did or was a part of on the Wendell Post, from the first delivery on my road, calling volunteers to come to the meetings, writing stories, putting the paper together, deciding on policies, it was over two decades of our lives that I am so happy I had the chance to be a part of. It helped me grow not only as a community member but as an person.
Jonathan von Ranson:
It was the spring of 1978, and I'd just gotten divorced and arrived at my remote land in Wendell for a summer's respite, planning to build a summer cabin with my kids. Basically burned out from a dozen years of newspapering, I'd also just sold the pair of community weeklies I'd published for five years in the Hartford area. Each time I emerged from my woodsy getaway I met somebody interesting, learned something cool, got invited to another pot luck or was given a new dog (well, that only once). Each time I gained a further sense of the gem of a community I'd landed in. As a small-town businessman, I'd been extremely drawn to the '60s counterculture. There was a vein of clear thought-water Wendell seemed to draw on that permitted -- even enabled -- subversive imagination. Civilization re-screwed, renewed and back on beat -- a slightly earthier, less escapist version of sex, drugs and rock & roll.
Very soon I joined the staff of the two-year-old Wendell Post. What a patchwork of quirky editors' notes and handwritten headlines -- it stretched my tidy ideas about layout almost to the breaking point! I had no trouble with the content, though. It elicited idiosyncratic sharings from the community relating to matters of community interest both big and little, often written with an openheartedness that a chest surgeon isn't likely to see, let alone a reader of one of my issues in Connecticut. The hair was let down, writers were experimenting with the topical and emotional boundaries of community. It was the perfect newspaper for a tribe, I gradually realized, that was helping itself along a more promising survival path. I became a reporter and part of the group that gathered every other month, often at Brenda Vincent's house, for an assignment session.
I must have been one of the Young Turks of the endeavor, because after many years, one of my story offers was not acceptable to other members of the staff. I wanted to report what I'd describe as a particularly emotionally tearing incident for the town involving a local family's misfortune, and I felt strongly enough about its importance to make the disagreement a matter to quit on. Today I have mixed feelings about my decision, feeling, generally, that bloody, messy, free discussion is more useful than safer or more considerately-bounded speech. But aware that, sometimes, I can be absolutist, that easy does it in the commons of a newspaper, indirection can be more effective, a paper must not unnecessarily alienate or take sides, etc. An older Turk talking here.
There was probably a genius to how this was handled... or the genius may be that this community is strong enough to handle just about anything, including overzealousness, disgruntlement, missed opportunities, new (digital) media, whatever... I'm proud to have been a part of the Wendell Post through staff changes for many eventful years. It was a feat to do it all those years, and Kathy Becker and Anne Diemand, who were with it throughout, deserve a giant thanks.
The Wendell Post collection contains nearly every issue of a community newspaper produced in a small, rural New England town. Beginning in April 1977 with volume 1, number 2 (there was no number 1), the Postpublished continuously for 24 years, covering local events from a local perspective. Most issues include reports on town meetings and elections, schools, and public works, but the Postalso carried news of the stuff of daily life such as births and deaths, high school graduations, anniversaries and Old Home Day, profiles of town residents and town history, and the crime report. A concern for preserving the unique rural quality of life in Wendell runs throughout the Post, appearing in letters to the editor, coverage of environmental issues, the siting of Route 2, or the spraying of herbicides by the local utility company.
Gift of Kathy Becker, 2012.
Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, Sept. 2013.
Cite as: Wendell Post Collection (MS 762). Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.