When I was a young man, I wrote for the famous Independent News. Often I would write my articles in the old historical museum in Lincoln Park.
Reflections of the Old Independent News
By Richard Mabey Jr.
For well over 10 years, mostly during the decade of the 1990’s, I wrote articles for the famous Independent News. During these years, I also held down a full time job, working in the International Public Relations Department of AT&T.
The Independent News was a great regional weekly newspaper that had a circulation of well over 50,000 copies a week. It was circulated throughout over two dozen towns in northeast New Jersey. I was blessed to have a significant amount of artistic freedom in the area of themes and subjects that I wrote on.
One of my all-time, absolute favorite themes to write about was on the subject of the history of northeast New Jersey, and specifically about the history of the old Morris Canal. The process of writing these historical articles, in itself, provided a certain amount of joy and fulfillment for me.
I would wake up early on Saturday mornings, walk down from my house to the old Lincoln Park Museum, to begin the process of writing an historical article. There was a corner of the museum that had a little desk in it. The desk was surrounded, on both sides of the corner with bookshelves of old books on the subject of the history of New Jersey. The bookshelves were built from floor to ceiling. In fact, they were the remaining bookshelves from when the museum had served as the little library in Lincoln Park.
I would first write my article, freehand, with a pencil. Then, after a few rewrites I would use an old fashioned mechanical typewriter to type up my article. I remember that it was such a great thing; to have all of these old and rare books, on the subject of New Jersey history, to be surrounding me as I wrote my article. They made for such great easy research.
I remember that I would type up my articles on the official letterhead of the Beavertown (Lincoln Park) Historical Society bond paper. There is something very special about bond paper. It has a quality that is leaps and bounds ahead of the “copy paper” that most of us use in this modern, new millennium.
After I had finished typing my article, I would address one of the envelopes from the box on the bookshelf, to my left hand side. If you look closely at the photograph on the top of this blog, you’ll notice the three sticks on your right hand side, from where I am writing at my desk. They are leaning there in the corner. Well, just to the right hand side of the top of these three sticks, you’ll see a narrow cardboard box that is on top of a larger cardboard box. The large cardboard box contained the #10 envelopes. The smaller box contained the Beavertown Historical Society letterhead.
I kept a sheet of first class stamps in the top drawer of the desk. So, after addressing the envelope, I would simply put a stamp on it.
After I had finished my article, I would lock up the museum and walk downtown. I’d walk to the old True Value Hardware Store in town. As you walked into the hardware store, there on the left hand side of the door was photocopier. It was the honor system. There was a little jar there on top of the copier. The charge was ten cents per copy.
I would make a copy of my article and put in my one dime or two dimes, depending if my article was one page or two pages in length. Then, I would walk down to the post office and mail my article off to my editor.
It was all such a Mayberry feeling. The old mechanical typewriter was a blast to type with. There was that down-home feeling, of the honor system of putting your dime or two dimes in the little glass jar, after you finished making your copies. I think that those big box hardware stores on the highway use the same system.
Then there was nothing like the sound of the squeaking of opening the old mailbox hinged door to deposit my envelope containing my typed article. Often times, after mailing my article on the Saturday afternoon, I would stop in at Moe’s Sweet Shop and have an egg salad sandwich on whole wheat bread with a cup of hot tea with lemon. I remember, so very well, that Bob Nitkin made great egg salad sandwiches.
There was something so Mayberry about it all. There was something almost enchanting about the whole process. If you think that I’m homesick for that magical era, you’re right.