Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Rural newsletters bring neighborhoods together

Historically, our community and church news was spread when people greeted each other at McHarg’s General Store, at the toll house where they had to pay for using the newly graveled road and at Sunday school and worship services at Olivet Christian Church. Hattie Page frequently suggested that the church needed a Harg community newsletter.

Hattie was a well-known figure on the University of Missouri campus because she was "an old woman" - age 38 years! She sold "Harg" news items to The Columbia Herald Statesman for 10 cents a printed inch to help her pay a semester’s tuition in journalism school.

Hattie wore old women’s black lace-up shoes andlong skirts, and she did her hair up in a bun at the top, but she had a lot of young ideas. One was that the crossroads "town" of Harg needed a community/church newsletter to spread the local news once a month. Too often someone had died and was buried before friends knew of the accident or illness! Many homes had no telephone, and none had the communication devices that we take for granted today.

William and Cynthia McHarg built their store and home on Harg’s intersection. The home remains. The other Harg buildings were the white frame building that was once a toll house, a blacksmith shop that became a garage and, later, a community club house. The store received mail for the community on a "star route" arrangement. Harg was on Missouri’s road maps! Indeed, the church and community needed a newsletter.

The Rev. Harold Reisch andhis wife, Bess, came to Olivet from an Illinois church where Bess had put out a newsy monthly paper for the church. At a February meeting in 1951 at the home of Ham and Edna Holt, we started the Olivet News. Bess was our adviser. Edna was a secretary at MU and a natural editor and publisher. Helen Vemer called around to get the news and details of the notes people gave us. I put them into story form, and Edna re-typed it and took it to a printer in Columbia. The church finally bought a mimeograph to save money.

Our intention was to unify the community and the church for the benefit of both. We printed news of community clubs, items from nearby churches, accidents, illnesses school honor rolls. The Harg Hustlers 4-H club had 69 members and was named Outstanding Club in the County. We wrote about ball teams, farm events, social activities and the construction of Olivet’s first outdoor "john." Employed women donated the $35 for new lumber. When lightning struck and killed Behymer’s Jersey cow, neighbors were without milk and cream. That was news!

Olivet paid what it cost to mail the Olivet News to all who asked to be on the list. People sent varying amounts in gifts, calling the Olivet News "a letter from home."

Night meetings lasted past midnight. Edith Jacobs, Helen and I shared the responsibility for 17 years. We wrote, verified and sorted the news - and whispered about a few items we didn’t dare publish.

Edna placed the items on the stencil and retyped them for a printer in town. Berniece Hartley, longest to work on the Olivet News, kept the mailing list up to date. Mary Wegener saved every issue, calling it a "written history of Harg and Olivet."

I composed the items for 30 years and made lots of mistakes. Here’s one I never lived down: "Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs recently drove to the St. Louis Zoo and visited his mother there."

Yes, Hattie Page’s idea was a good one. We needed a newsletter!

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