Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Neighborhood Weekly

Stanhope press from 1842

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always been a reader, even waaaay back, when I was a kid. Before there was electricity. Back when we had to read by the light of a coal oil lamp. 😉 

So I was about ten or eleven and I read a book (I don’t remember the title or the author) in which some kids got a small printing press for Christmas. The smart kiddos decided to print their own paper.

They had all kinds of adventures, collecting the stories and taking pictures.

Looking back, I realize what a dork I was. The story I read sounded like so much fun, I wanted to have those adventures, too. Naturally, I told Sister Debbie and our friend, Marsha Hagberg, about the fantastic book (so fantastic I can’t remember so much as a character’s name.) They weren’t really dorks, but I talked them into it by telling them they wanted to have fun, too. 

We didn’t have a printing press. (I can’t imagine a printing press for kids, but that was the story.) We didn’t have a typewriter or know how to type. So we decided we’d write our newspaper.

By hand.

On notebook paper.

Next came the problem of what to put in our newspaper. Since we lived in the same neighborhood, we named our newspaper the Neighborhood Weekly. And naturally, we’d have stories only about our neighborhood.

We didn’t have the most exciting neighborhood in the state. We probably didn’t have the most exciting neighborhood in town.

Ours was a neighborhood with nearly all stay-at-home moms and 3 1/2 kids in each house. I don’t even remember any divorces or singles in our neighborhood. 

We had one widowed lady, but she was old (not retired, but her kids had left home, so that’s old. Right?)

Our neighborhood was made up of a doctor, a banker, a TV repairman, a store owner, the postmistress, a newspaper editor and a geologist. (The preacher lived closeby.)

But our stories weren’t about people the doctor saved or bank robberies or what the store now had for sale. It wasn’t even about Dad buying a new pumping unit.

I honestly don’t remember the stories, but I have a feeling they were somewhere along the lines of–

“The Lunsford family bought a new car this year. They’ve had it for a month or two. It’s blue.”


Much to the embarrassment of their daughters, Susan, Debbie and Marsha, the Spess and Hagberg families learned a while back that they’ll be getting new babies. But what else is new?

We really didn’t have a lot to say. But since when did that stop a writer? 🙂 (There was probably a lot of white space in our paper.)

We wanted to have a Ann Landers type of column in our paper, so we asked Marsha’s mama, Betty, what we could write.

Betty Hagberg was one of a those beautiful women who had a lightning wit and infectious laugh. She happily took time to help us.

Here’s pretty much how it went.

Dear Crabby,

I have a problem. I’m a newly married woman, and I can’t help myself. I keep falling in love. First with the ice man, the laundry man and the milk man. 

Please help me! What can I do?

Signed, Fickle

Dear Fick,

Don’t be stupid. Buy a refrigerator, a washer and a cow.

Signed, Crabby.

So we wrote one newspaper, and copied it until our hands fell off. We probably had all of three copies completed when we stopped.

Next we had to decide what to charge. At that time, the local paper only cost about a dime, (I told you it was prehistoric time. Right?) so we figured in fairness, we shouldn’t charge more than two cents. And we wouldn’t divide the money. We’d save it up and buy our own little press, like in my book.

Here’s the strange part. (To us, anyway.) No one would buy a copy. We went door-to-door, asking women if they’d like to buy one, and we got turned down again and again. LOL.

Thinking back, I realize now it was probably that time of the day when women were cooking dinner, getting their kids bathed and homework done. But back then, we were surprised.  

Only two cents. Why didn’t everybody want one?

But Dork and her gang didn’t give up. We knocked on doors until, finally, the newspaper editor’s wife did us a favor and bought one. I don’t remember who else we sold them to. We probably whined to our moms, who took them and promised to pay us later. *snort*  

The next Thursday a very small piece appeared at the bottom of the first page of the C-Town newspaper, announcing that Debbie, Marsha and I had started publishing our own newspaper.

The next day the teacher called me to her desk. “I saw in the paper that you started a newspaper. If your mom’s finished with her copy, I’d like to read it.”

Translation (in my mind at least.) Miss Holler didn’t want to pay for a paper, either. Sigh!

A few months later when we started talking about putting out our paper again, Marsha’s mom made a suggestion.

“Maybe you should call it Neighborhood Weekly . . . or Whenever We Feel Like It.”