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History in the News

Many fans of Beaver Island know that in 1955 the Beaver Beacon was started by the Civic Association (the predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce) and became the Island's first newspaper since the demise of the Mormon press. But few realize there had been a precursor off the Island ten years before, that was devoted to propagating Island news.

In the early 1950s there had been much talk about starting a monthly paper, but it did not happen until Dr. Gene Bales of Indianapolis found a Ditto machine, bought it, and sent it up as a donation. The first issue, put out by Father Joseph Herp, Vera Wojan, and Mrs. Harry Vail, came out in January 1955 to 300 subscribers, and was filled with news about the newly formed Beaver Island Boat Company and its plans for building a ferry. The previous fall, hunters and other visitors had been forced to make whatever arrangements they could to cross the Lake. The Medical Center was only eleven months old; plans by the DNR to introduce wildlife to the other islands were afoot; and an option was taken on the decrepit Print Shop so that it could be restored as a base for the still-to-be-formed Historical Society.

More than a decade earlier, in 1941, five young women from Pontiac who had grown to know and love Beaver Island banded together to produce the monthly Rushin' News, so called because they were always "rushin' around." Their idea was to help Beaver Islanders in the service maintain contact with their home during the fearful days of the war. Their first issue contained stories and snippets of news that were similar in tone to Margaret Hanley's contributions to the Charlevoix Courier (see The Journal of Beaver Island History for samples.) Month by month over the next three and a half years the subscription list grew, until it passed 285. News from the Island was gathered until a few days before the publication date, and then the five girls (Marian Rick, Mary Fox, Rita Vallier, Margaret Lynch, and Kay Partney) worked through a few nights on an old mimeo machine to get the ten-page paper ready to mail. Collections, dances, and other fund-raising activities took place both on and off the Island to cover costs; their was no subscription fee. When Kay Partney joined the WAVES in 1944, artist and poet Eleanor Harrington was drafted to take her place.

Some of those who received the paper are familiar names: Erwin Belfy, John Bonner, Dan, Owen, Pat, and William Boyle, Francis and John Burke, Daniel F, Daniel L, Edward, Eileen, Francis, James, Leo, Norman, and Victor ("Father Vic") Gallagher, Paul (Danny) and Robert Gatliff, Robert Gibson, Dan and Gerard Gillespie, Dan Greene, Fred Korthase, Art, Bing, and Pete McCafferty, Rolland McCann, Don and Ed McCauley, Robert McDonough, Ben, Bernard, Billie, and Francis O'Donnell, Charles Pischner, George and Henry Ricksgers, and many others. The letters they wrote back to the staff indicated how much these issues meant to them, and how important they were for keeping them sane when the whole world was going mad.

When the war ended, the returning service men and women frequently stopped by the editorial office to say hello to the intrepid staff, whom many of them had not previously met. As it turned out, two members of the staff wound up marrying subscribers. The cessation of hostilities also brought to an end the printing of the paper. It would be ten years before the Beacon arose to resume carrying the news of our goings-on to the Island's many friends.




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