70th Anniversary Edition: Although different, Sunday Dispatch is still here

My Corner, - Your Corner - Tony Callaio
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Seventy years old – wow! That’s a long time to produce a newspaper. Yet, here it is, 2018 and you can still find the Sunday Dispatch on newsstands.

John C. Kehoe Jr., the initial publisher and owner of the Dispatch, said in the first edition, “Your Sunday Dispatch will appear on the newsstands every Sunday. It is a new venture but a permanent figure for the future.” He was correct, but I wonder how far in the future he was thinking?

He also went on to say, “Though this issue is small in composition to metropolitan weeklies, we are proud of the Sunday Dispatch because we know of the many obstacles overcome to achieve this, the first publication.”

It’s ironic how the paper has come full circle in 70 years and more true words have never been spoken.

With technology at the forefront and the digital age upon us, it is much easier to glance at our smart phones to get the latest news. Phones and computers connect us to the world in a matter of seconds, and quite frankly, it’s hard to compete with that.

Newspapers have joined the digital age by necessity. You can read the Sunday Dispatch online if you’re at the beach, in the back of a taxi or seated at the restaurant of your choice. Talk about convenience.

With all the obstacles Mr. Kehoe had to face with the first edition, we, too, have obstacles today. The world of communication is a competitive world indeed.

For some reason, and it’s rare, this area has always been competitive in the newspaper industry. After all, it’s only been major metropolitan areas and major cities where a two-newspaper system can survive. We are far from a major city, but yet, in Wilkes-Barre and Greater Pittston, two-newspaper systems exist.

It’s hard to fathom because, as a whole, newspaper subscriber numbers have dropped over the years and survival is difficult.

Just like the very first edition Kehoe spoke about when he said the paper was small in composition, so has become our paper – and most papers across the country.

Even though the Dispatch is not the size paper it once was, it’s content that counts. We’ve always strived to put the best paper on newsstands as possible. Like most 70-year-olds, we’ve become trim and lean, but still remain wise to Greater Pittston.

Times change and so do people. Ttechnology changes, too, and we all have had to adapt.

Members of older generations of Dispatch readers can still run down to the local grocery store and pick up the Sunday edition. They can still hold the paper in their hands and read it over a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.

Who hasn’t experienced their parents asking them to run to the corner store to pick up the paper in their youth? Who even remembers corner stores? There used to be a family-owned stores every few blocks. For me, in just a three-block radius, there were Curcio’s, Deeb’s, Sorcelli’s, Detato’s and Burke’s stores. The funny thing is, they all thrived and owners provided for their families. Times have changed in that industry, too.

I recall volunteering to run to the store to buy the paper for my parents. One of those stores had all the newspapers in huge piles. Back then, I was told to buy the Sunday Dispatch, the Times Leader and the now-defunct Sunday Independent.

Oh, yes, and I grabbed one other item. The store would have fresh pastries on Sunday morning; my favorite was the gigantic hard-crusted cream puff. Yum!

On the way home, I was guilty of skimming through the paper while walking deliberately slow to catch as many pages as I could before I returned home. You’d be surprised what you can read in two blocks.

Once I got home home, everyone fought over who would get to read the paper first. After someone read the paper, it had to be put back in the exact order as it had been delivered. We all wanted the feeling of reading the Dispatch first.

Nobody would discuss what was in the paper until everyone had a chance to read it. Nobody wanted to hear the news or see photos before it was their turn.

I think everyone — and I mean everyone — would look for his or her name or photo in the Sunday Dispatch. Maybe you’d find it in someone’s column, maybe you’d find yourself in a photo, or maybe you’d be a person answering a question from the “Inquiring Photographer.” Or how about looking for your name at the end of the year to see if Santa mentioned you or if you had a fictitious New Year’s resolution?

I hear all the time about how the average size of the Dispatch was at least 64 pages, not including the social section. Speaking of the social section, if you were a bride and your photo did not appear on the cover of that section, well, your wedding wasn’t official.

The Dispatch has appeared in various shapes and sizes over the years. If you have a paper from the ‘60s or ‘70s in storage, pull it out. You’ll be surprised at how large the format was. Through changing times and cost-effectiveness, the physical size of the paper has shrunk.

So many writers, publishers, editors and photographers have come and gone in 70 years. It’s hard to believe I penned my first article, albeit a freebie, in 1991 when I wrote about my dad’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It was a front-cover story. From that point on, I was off and running with my writing career.

A few years later, I was asked to be a weekly columnist, which I declined three times before saying yes in 1999.

I wasn’t shooting photos for the paper at that time, but soon after that, I was at the office on New Street when there was a discussion about an event needing a photographer and no one was available. Being an amateur photographer for many years, I volunteered. That opportunity allowed me to photograph hundreds of Greater Pittston events and literally a few thousand people over the last 18 years.

Never in my wildest imagination, so many years ago as I was racing to the corner store to buy the Dispatch, did I think I’d one day be a writer and photographer. I have three people to thank for my newspaper career: the late John “Chick” Watson for publishing my first article, Ed Ackerman for trusting me to write a weekly column and current editor Dotty Martin for allowing me to continue to do so all these years.

Thank you to the die-hard readers – past, present and future — of the Sunday Dispatch for keeping us running for 70 years and for keeping John Kehoe’s dream alive.

For other 70th Anniversary stories, click here.

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My Corner,

Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.