Editor’s Note – The Daily World is saluting local businesses and industries with our annual Profile Edition. During the preparation of this special edition, Arkansas Business magazine announced that The Daily World was among Arkansas’s 19 oldest businesses. In the above article, we share some brief moments of our company’s history and heritage. Please take time to read about the dozens and dozens of businesses that are the movers and shakers in our community in two sections we call “Profile 2009.”
Adorning the wall on the right as you enter the Helena-West Helena Daily World office is a glassed-in copy of the first edition of the newspaper. That edition is dated Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1871, almost 138 years ago.
In the March 23 edition of Arkansas Business, The Daily World was cited as being tied with seven other businesses, mostly newspapers, as the 19th oldest companies in Arkansas. Five other newspapers, including The Marianna Courier-Index, The Osceola Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, were established the same year.
The first issue of the Daily World was printed just six years following the conclusion of the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. Published by William S. Burnett & Co., the paper cost 35 cents a week. Subscription rates were $12 a year, $7 for six months and $4 for three months.
An advertisement for R.N. & C.H. Dailey’s, a dry goods store, listed the cost for linen towels at 12 1/2 cents each – two for a quarter. In 1871, ladies hemmed-stitched handkerchiefs sold for 10 cents and a pair of ladies dress shoes cost $1 a pair. The price of children’s shoes ranged from 50 cents to 75 cents a pair. A box of 5,000 “gents paper collars” went for five cents a box.
Some other businesses advertising during the early days of The Daily World included The Good Idea Saloon & Restaurant, C & J.T. Wooten Commission Merchants, W.E. & C.L. Moore Dry Goods, Nevill House, Louis Latague City Meat Market and Shelby House Hotels. A lot of years have passed and a lot of major news stories have rolled off the presses since that inaugural day way back in the 19th century.
Fast-forward a moment to 2009. On the evening of March 17, fire gutted the old Helena Pawn Shop located in the 400 block of Walnut Street. That building once housed the old Daily World offices. The fire left only the brick outer walls and a few remaining memories of some of Helena’s older residents. It was the work of an arsonist.
The report of the fire brought back a flood of memories to former employee Randy Tardy. Tardy is a retired transportation-business writer for The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“I read with sadness the March 20-22 account of the fire in the old Helena World Building,” recalled Tardy. “As I recall it was at 311 Walnut St., when I went to work there around 1946-47 at an after-school job.”
The Young family owned the business at that time and according to Tardy, editor Jack Young and his brother, Porter, the advertising director, took him “under their wing.”
Tardy began his tutelage in the “mail room”, which he describes as a heavy table midway between the front office and the pressroom back by the alley. Nearby, he said, were the composing tables and the Linotype machines which converted hot molten lead into printed letters and words – hence the term “line ‘0 type.”
“No one knew anything about a computer,” reported Tardy.
Tardy’s job depended on when the paper went to press.
“Weekdays it was around 3:45 to 4:30 p.m….if everything went O.K.,” said Tardy. “The Sunday paper was put together on Saturday. I would come down with the circulation manager (Ellis Word) around 4 a.m. Sunday to put one section inside another and get the papers ready for the carriers and the mail-a-ways to subscribers.”
Tardy credits Word as his early mentor in the business.
“Little did I know then that he was kindling my interest in a profession that would continue formally until July 2001, when I retired from the Arkansas-Democrat-Gazette after 25 years on the job,” said Tardy.
According to Tardy that old building didn’t look like much even way back then, but he said it was the working home of a lot of “wonderful people.”
Counting the Young family, which also included Mr. Charles M. Young, publishers some others Tardy remembers included Gentry Lowe, Mrs. Yahnkee, Betty Woods, Wallace Hornbeck, Alec Wahlquist, a pressman he knew only as “Lee” and a composing room jack-of-all-trades known as “January.”
“Somehow, we got the job done, even on days when there were printing problems and Jack had to put the heavy lead forms in the trunk of his 1939 or 40 Buick and haul them across the river to Clarksdale to have them printed,” remembered Tardy.
When the paper came off the press, Tardy said the mailroom “table” stamped the subscriber’s name on top of the paper. They would be sorted and hauled to the old post office across Porter Street from the Cleburne Hotel.
“On Sunday mornings, after we’d wrapped things up, Mr. Word and I would head down Cherry Street to Nick’s Café where we would have a stack of pancakes,” reminisced Tardy. “I would put a nickel in the juke box and listen to Art Mooney’s big band play “I’m Looking Over a 4-Leaf Clover,” or Blue Barron’s orchestra render “Cruising Down the River.” Then, it was home to clean up, look presentable and go with mother to 11 a.m. services at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“Newspapers are going through tough times right now, both the Daily World and the Dem-Gaz, but I have a feeling they are going to make it,” continued Tardy. “There is nothing like the ‘feel’ of a paper in your hands and the ‘depth’ of a story which a paper can provide. I recall it was once thought that television would spell the end for radio. Now, they are saying the same thing about the Internet vs. the printed page. We’ll see.”