Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 33
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: January 1995 Volume 33 Number 1, Pages 3–16
The Berwyn Post
Even though he had been bed-ridden in his mother's home on Central Avenue in Berwyn for several years, during World War II Bob Goebel wanted to be a part of the war effort. The result was "a monthly newspaper, published by Berwyn men and women on the Home Front for the Berwyn men and women on the Fighting Front".
The first issue appeared in April 1943, and its publication continued on a monthly basis until May of 1946, by which time nearly all those who had served through the war had returned home again.
The beginnings of the paper were recalled in the first anniversary issue a year later, in April 1944, by Ted Lamborn Jr. in his column "Berwyn Barnstormer", signed simply "Barney".
"You can believe it or not, but this little sheet was hatched up over a chess board at the home of your Editor-in-Chief [Bob Goebel]. Bob was a bit blue this particular evening about a year ago, feeling that his part in the war effort was practically nil. A lot of boys had left for the service, and still more were planning on entering. It looked like the beginning of a lonesome duration. He couldn't work in a defense plant, and his chances of ever serving in the armed forces was out of the question, all because a disease, generally termed as arthritis, set in some nine years ago. This resulted in his being confined to bed. It sort of sounds on the depressing side, you say? Not if you really know 'Scoop', for he's not built that way. A more cheerful, determined and business-like editor is not to be found.
"But to get back to the chess game -- during the course of the game Bob came through with what he termed a 'brainstorm', to the effect that there was a definite need, he felt, for a news letter, in view of the fact that there was no home town newspaper; and he was going to attempt to work one up, provided he could locate a few persons that might be interested in helping. The idea clicked and preparations were soon in progress for the first issue. The Red Cross offered the use of their mimeograph equipment, the Devereux School typewriters were available for cutting stencils, and the staff of girls, made up primarily of service men's wives, set out with an enthusiasm comparable to that of a high salaried office force. The editor assigned each volunteer to his duties and with no questions asked they all went about their new jobs. One hundred and thirty copies were mailed to service men the first month, with a few spares that were placed in the Library and Control Center. These extra copies were just enough to create the interest and support of just about everyone in town. Checks began filtering in, requests for copies resulted in setting subscription rates, and news items were phoned in, not by reporters, but by individuals. That was the reception your Editor's 'brainstorm' enjoyed."
The purpose of the publication was stated in the first issue.
"Our purpose in preparing this little newspaper is to provide you with bits of information and home-town news that you would not otherwise receive in your letters from home. Then, too, we would like to act as a sort of news exchange, passing on to you news of other Berwyn men and women in the Service."
At the same time, it was pointed out that to accomplish these purposes the cooperation and help of the readers was essential, and it was also noted:
"In this we need your help. Write to us and tell us about yourself, that is, as much as you can without betraying any military secrets. Tell us too just what you would like included in your paper. After all you are the ones we want to please so -- here we go, we hope you like it."
Its recipients certainly did like it! In fact, after just the first few months it was reported that "we've heard, either directly or indirectly, from about 50% of those on our mailing list". Here are a few of their comments, indicating how they felt about the new news letter.
"Just a few lines to thank you for a very interesting paper -- it's just what we fellows want." [Oklahoma]
"The paper is a wonderful idea and as for me I'm hoping it has all the success in the world." [Hawaii]
"I think the newspaper is a very good idea and I want to thank your whole staff for it." [Washington]
"You and your helpers did a good job on your newspaper. I appreciated receiving a copy." [Georgia]
"I think this little monthly newspaper is a darn good idea. I am already looking forward to the next issue." [India]
"When a soldier is away from home, especially across the sea, one of his greatest pleasures is to see and read a hometown newspaper." [North Africa]
"This paper sure is a swell idea. It's just like a dozen letters all wrapped up in one." [California]
"Just a few lines to let you know ... I think it's one of the finest things that could ever be done by the folks at home." [Georgia]
"It is a swell idea to start a home town paper, as that is where a soldier's heart is." [New Guinea]
"I received the most wonderful home town paper. I think it is the most wonderful thing anyone has done for the service fellows yet." [Kansas]
With the second issue "Quick Quotes from Our Mailbag" became a regula, and most popular, feature of the newspaper.
When the first two issues appeared, the paper still did not have a name. The editor explained in the first issue why this was so.
"You will note that a space at the top of page 1 has been left blank. Normally that is where you would expect to find the name of this humble publication, but the truth of the matter is that it hasn't any. We've racked our meagre supply of grey matter in an effort to provide one for it but -- no soap. Now we've said before that this is your paper so how's about a name for it? We'll welcome any and all suggestions and may the best name win."
In the next issue he acknowledged that while a few suggestions for a name had been received, there were still "not so many as we'd like to have before we make a decision". To encourage more suggestions, it was announced that "a box of the finest Home Baked Cup Cakes you can sink a tooth into" was being offered as "a prize for the best name sent in before the next issue goes to print", with all names previously submitted also eligible for the prize.
From "on maneuvers in California" Sgt. Robert A. Hughes wrote:
"... About a name for the paper, anything with the name Berwyn on it looks good to me. I even like to see the postmark Berwyn on a letter so why not something like The Berwyn Post, 'cause that's really what it does, keeps us posted about what's going on back home. ... I think we are finally going to get out of this miserable desert and 'boy!' will I be glad. If you hear of anyone coming out this way tell them to save their money and go to Atlantic City."
And so, with the third issue the previously un-named publication became The Berwyn Post. On the first page of the issue it was announced,
"The name which this humble publication now so proudly wears was submitted by Sgt. Robert Hughes, now on maneuvers in Calif. There were 21 names entered in our name contest, 10 of them being sent in by a prolific private by the name of Henry Hamilton. The following names gave the ultimate winner some close competition: The G. I. Journal, The Dog-Tag Monthly, and Salutes and Reports.
"As soon as the winning name was announced, the impressive christening ceremony took place, at which time a bottle of perspiration was broken upon the keyboard of our smoking portable.
"Now then, Robert, if you let us know where and when you want the cakes sent we'll give Mrs. Irvin Raum Sr. the 'go' ahead signal (she's going to bake 'em) and they'll be on their way, with our congratulations and sincere thanks."
The first issue consisted of four mimeographed pages and was produced with the help of four persons who, in addition to Goebel, "generously contributed their time and talent for the preparation of this issue -- Mrs. Harry T. Williams, Mrs. Claire Hughes, Mr. Theodore C. Lamborn Jr., and Rev. Pice Collins". (Incidentally, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Hughes, and Ted Lamborn continued as members of the staff for as long as the paper was published, and the Rev. Collins probably would have too, had he not been transferred from the Berwyn Methodist Church to a church up in Easton in March of 1944.)
The Rev. Price Collins was also the "guest columnist" in the first issue; he was followed by Mary E. Wingard, acting principal of the high school, and the Rev. Elbert H. Ross, of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, in the next two issues, before the "guest column" feature was discontinued.
Early on each issue carried news of enlistments and inductions into the service by local residents, news of promotions, decorations and medals awarded, and reports of casualties, as well as general local news, including a column of "Berwyn Bits", sports news, high school news, a column of "Firehouse Facts", and a column of "Church News". And in addition to the "Quick Quotes from Our Mailbag" column there was also a column, originally called "Lads and Lassies" but with the sixth issue in September renamed "Salutes and Reports", with news of changes in location or assignment, promotions, and those on furloughs and leaves. In August a "Chaplain's Corner" column, each written by one of the ministers of the churches in Berwyn, was inaugurated.
In fact, so well did The Berwyn Post become a hometown newspaper that many of the local residents wanted it delivered to them too. Accordingly, in the August issue it was announced,
"This month, in response to many requests, additional copies of "The Berwyn Post" are being produced so that those folks in town who would like to read a copy may do so. These extra copies are not for sale, we just ask you to leave a donation in the box provided for that purpose. By providing these extra copies and accepting your donations we hope to accomplish two purposes. We hope the circulation of the extra copies will stimulate interest in the paper with the result that more of you folks will send in news items, either about things of interest here in town, or about some boy or girl from Berwyn in the Service, and to do this we need your cooperation.
"With your donations, we want to be able to finance not only the extra copies, but also the cost of the copies which are mailed to the men and women in uniform.
"Beginning with this issue we are [also] offering 1 year subscriptions for every $1.00 donation, persons who have already donated will be credited with subscriptions at the same rate."
Copies of the newspaper were now being sent to 170 men and women in the service, and it was requested that if readers of the paper "know of any Berwyn man or woman now in the Service whose name we do not have, just turn their name in to any staff member and we'll see that they get their copy regularly".
The circulation of these extra copies stimulated an interest in the paper beyond the expectations or hopes of Goebel and his staff. In November the paper appeared in a new and larger printed format. In a box on the first page, under the headline "Surprise", it was revealed,
"We are able to make this change from mimeographing to printing only because of the unfailing generosity of the citizens of Berwyn. From business houses, community groups, church organizations and individuals, the money has rolled in, and in most cases these wordsaccompanied the donations --'If you need any more, come back and see us.' This sort of support is heartening, indeed. We've had lots of other assistance, too. The Paoli Branch of the American Red Cross allowed us to use their fine mimeograph equipment each month. On one occasion when our stencils wouldn't fit the Red Cross equipment, the Trinity Presbyterian Church came to our rescue with their outfit. The Methodist Church came in for its share of the mimeographing chores when we needed a couple of hundred postcards run off in a hurry. The Berwyn Theater came through with a bit of free advertising to help our local paper sales get rolling. Dozens of persons have offered their services in whatever capacity they could help. We could go on telling you of many more ways in which the people of Berwyn have helped the Post on its way, but these few incidents will give you an idea of the way Your Community has gotten behind Your Paper. We of the staff of The Berwyn Post sincerely hope that our efforts will prove worthy of this splendid backing."
(Apparently the change in format was not a sudden one as it was also revealed, "We could have told you last month that this change was coming, but we decided to wait and surprise you. We hope the surprise is a pleasant one.")
During the first eight months of publication the staff of the paper grew threefold. On the masthead of this November issue were fifteen names, with Bob Goebel, Price Collins, Charles T. Smith, Ted Lamborn Jr., and Joseph Kelley listed as editors; Mrs. F. Claire Hughes, as the treasurer; Joseph Carbo, in charge of circulation; and Mrs. Harry T. Williams, Mrs. John Bunce, Miss Erma Lewis, Mrs. Howard Yohn, Mrs. Robert A. Hughes III, Mrs. Bud Leamy, Miss Eleanor Christie, and Miss Mildred Dannaker comprising the stenographic staff.
The first photograph, of the dedication of the Roll of Honor on the north side of Lancaster avenue at the intersection of Waterloo avenue on December 5, 1943, was printed in the January 1944 issue. With the April issue that year a full page of photographs of places in and around Berwyn and drawings, the photographs by Ted Lamborn and the drawings by Bill Eadie, who had just joined the editorial staff, became a regular feature of each issue.
In that same April issue "Barney" provided a behind-the-scenes description of the "offices" of the paper. In his "Berwyn Barnstormer" column, which made its debut in that issue, he noted,
"The editorial room was automatically set up in the Goebel dining room, where Bob is located. The 'City Desk' is a portable stand across his bed, and a telephone is suspended on a handy little bracket (invented by Ted Lamborn and fabricated by Chris Shank) to facilitate the handling of 'exclusive' stories. The dining room table is used in sorting mail, changing addresses, totalling donations and also serves as a composition desk, copy desk, proofreader's desk and for a hundred other things that come up at the monthly meetings. It is really an education to see the file cards being tossed around by the staff stenogs handling changes of addresses. You would wonder how in their filing system, the alphabet has maintained its original sequence. The room, as a whole during the meeting, has the cluttered-up appearance of a ress room, with the exception that butts are not thrown on the floor.
"And so, from a small beginning, features have been added, the staff has increased, and from a $14.75 mimeographed sheet has developed this copy, which costs your home folks over $100.00 a month to send to you."
The circulation of The Berwyn Post had now reached 1400, with some 600 copies sent each month to service men and women and 800 copies circulated locally.
(The way in which the staff operated was described in an interview with Goebel reported in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin on August 15th. "We hold one monthly staff meeting each month," Goebe1 reported. "Then, during the rest of the three weeks that we are getting out the sheet, the gang simply drops in and out of the office when they can." He also noted that while much of the news comes in by mail and phone, "like any other paper, our reporters and photographers often cover stories in person".)
A special recognition was given to "Ye Editor" in September. Hidden modestly back on page 6 of the October issue, it was noted,
"At the regular monthly meeting of the Post staff, Friday, September 22, Bob Goebel received the American Legion Citation. The award, which may be given annually, was made in recognition of his work as editor of the Post, and was presented by William H. Kohlmeyer, service officer, and Clarence L. Reifsneider, adjutant, on behalf of Dalton-Wenzel Post, No. 646, of Paoli. ...
"The Main Line Band, under the baton of F. Alfred Patton, furnished music for the occasion, having assembled [outside the Goebels' home] at the corner of First and Central Avenues."
Goebel and the staff wanted to make the December 1944 Christmas issue of the paper "something special". Accordingly,
"After considering a number of ideas as to how we could make this Christmas issue something special, we decided that our best bet would be to give you as much news about your friends in [the] service as we could possibly gather. To this end we sent queries to nearly 200 Berwyn families, and enlisted the aid of the Paoli Honor Roll Club and Mrs. Arlington H. Dannaker, of Strafford, to gather the news in those areas. .. .
"In some future issue we hope to publish a similar round-up of news of those from the Malvern and Devon areas.
"In order that the added expense of the larger issue would not deplete our modest 'bankroll,' and also at the request of local business men who wanted to send you greetings, we've allotted a limited amount of space [the last page] in this issue for advertising.
"As an illustration of the generous manner in which the folks at home support your newspaper, many of those who took ad space voluntarily gave us from two to ten times our suggested price."
The result was an enlarged issue of fourteen pages, with the "Salutes and Reports" column considerably expanded. (Decorations in red and green also appeared on the first and last pages.) More than 40 local businesses took advantage of this opportunity to send Christmas greetings to "our boys and girls in the service" and other readers of the paper.
Less than six months later Robert F. Goebel was dead, at the age of 30. In early Jun of 1945 he went to the hospital for an operation, and two days later he passed away. As reported in a box on the first page of the June issue,
"Robert Goebel, editor of the Post, passed away on Wednesday morning, June 13, in the operating room of Chester County Hospital, having been received at the hospital two days previously. His serious condition upon entering left only the barest possibility for the necessary operation to be successful. ...
"To the very end Bob displayed the same courage, cheerfulness and buoyant faith that helped him meet and rise above the physical handicap under which he has labored since a football accident 12 years ago. This issue of the Post, prepared under conditions of severe pain, is a mark of that undying spirit of courage. ..."
There was never any question about whether the newspaper would continue "in tribute to his memory", as it was stated in the masthead of the first issue after his death. The plans for its continuation were also outlined in that issue.
"'How shall we carry on?'
"First, the Goebel home will continue to be staff headquarters. There Mrs. [Louis] Goebel [Bob Goebel's mother] will be available at the telephone, ready to accept changes of address and information, anxious to receive visiting service men and women. There mail addressed to The Berwyn Post, P. 0. Box C, Berwyn, Pa., will be brought for sorting. There at the monthly staff meetings policies will be considered in the spirit that prevailed when Bob presided over us.
"Secondly, the responsibilities that were Bob's have been parceled out among the staff members. Service men and women's news will be handled by a committee consisting of Mrs. Bunce, sorting out the "Quick Quotes"; Miss Lewis, gathering together "Salutes and Reports," and Miss Eleanor Christie, assisted by the Misses Supplee, being responsible for feature articles. Mrs. Robert Hughes, assisted by Mrs. Williams, will handle news of local interest. A new member of the staff, Clarence Achuff, has agreed to cover sports. Let your news be known to these people, always remembering that any news addressed to Box C, Berwyn, will in the end reach those responsible.
"In the third place the mention of the above in no way detracts from the work of all who are mentioned in the masthead as assisting. All are at least reporters, each has a specific part in the work. No one person can hope to replace our late editor, but together we shall strive to bring to you, to the best of our limited ability and divided responsibility, the news which has meant so much to Bob's readers. ... Thus Robert Goebel's Post will continue to bind home front and fighting fronts together and bear constant tribute to him in whose beloved memory this work is carried on."
The masthead, incidentally, now included 24 names. Among those who had joined the staff since the "first anniversary issue" were the Misses Virginia and Phyllis Supplee, with the April 1944 issue; Mrs. Francis McAdoo, Miss Dorothy Raum, Miss Bertha Christie, and Miss Mildred Kirkner, with the February 1945 issue; Mrs. Joseph Dudas, with the March issue; and Clarence Achuff, William Pyott, and, of course, Mrs. Louis Goebel, with the July 1945 issue.
After the war ended on V-J Day in September 1945, in the October issue a new, and long-awaited, feature, a "Return to Civilian Life" column, was added. In the following issue it was re-titled "'Civilianized' Again". (Had he lived another three months, Bob Goebel could have begun to consider getting rid of the beard he had started on D-Day on June 6, 1944 with a vow not to shave it off until Berwyn's men and women in the service came marching home again.)
The disappearance of "the fighting fronts", along with more and more men and women being "civilianized" again as America demobilized, naturally raised a question about the future of The Berwyn Post.
In the February 1946 issue the question was addressed. After pointing out that "the treasury has now become so depleted that the March issue will be the farewell number, unless friends and readers feel called upon to contribute [funds]", it was also noted,
"Although a great many of the local boys and girls are home, the Berwyn Post still has on its mailing list the names of 400 service personnel who have not been fortunate enough to receive discharges. We feel that these boys and girls are as deserving of the home town news as were those who received the Post during the war. But if they are to benefit by this service we must have the financial help of those who have so generously supported us in the past and also the help of those who have returned to civilian life. For your information, the cost of each month's issue is approximately $135. ..."
The community agreed -- and once again responded with its support.
Two months later, however, it was reported that "nearly all" of the local "boys and girls" who had served during the war had returned home, and that the May issue would be the farewell number.
"With the return home of nearly all who have served through the war, the work of Robert Goebel's BERWYN POST has served the purpose of its founder, conveying local news of interest 'from the home front to the fighting fronts,' and servinq as a medium of news exchange for those in uniform. For three years the staff has considered it a privilege to make what small contribution it could toward preserving ties between the local community and its citizens scattered around the world, a privilege to work with and in memory of the late editor whose dream became a reality in this paper.
"With the next issue we take leave of our labors, remembering gratefully that the paper's accomplishment was made possible only by the generous and continuous support of individuals and groups of the community. To you who have been our readers is also expressed an appreciation for the numerous encouraging comments which in the months gone by have flooded our mails. But above all we bespeak our gratitude to those for whom the POST has been particularly compiled, the men and women of the armed forces, who have given so much of themselves -- some their very lives -- to maintain in our time that American freedom and initiative of which this paper has been a symbol.
"To all of you, then, whom we are privileged to call friends, the May issue of the BERWYN POST will be our final salute and farewell."
Fittingly, on the front page of the final issue was reproduced the program for the annual Memorial Day service in Berwyn, to be held at 11 o'clock in the morning on May 30th at the Easttown Grammar School. A highlight of the service was the dedication, by Bill Pyott, of a memorial plaque to honor Robert F. Goebel for his "outstanding service, community spirit, and as originator and editor of the Berwyn Post".
The plaque was the culmination of an effort that had been started in the previous August by Louis Lieberman and the Berwyn Business Association, together with a committee of representatives from other local civic and church organizations, to raise a fund to "create a memorial to the work accomplished by Robert Goebel in this community". (The solicitation of funds for the memorial was "confined largely to local business people", but contributions of "up to $1.00" from men and women who had been in the service were also accepted.)
Otherwise, there was nothing in this "final salute and farewell" issue to indicate that it was to be the last one. Its epitaph was perhaps summarized simply in a letter from a young Berwyn woman in the Navy, stationed in Florida. Included in the final "Quick Quotes from Our Mailbag" column, it expressed the feelings of many of the readers of The Berwyn Post over its 38 issues:
"I am certainly sorry to learn that the Post will end with the May issue. ... Thanks for the wonderful job in publishing the Post."
Page last updated: 2009-05-12 at 10:09 EST