By JOHN GORALSKI
I was already a Step Saver paperboy in December of 1975 when the publisher announced a new Southington paper, the Observer, as a vehicle for local coverage. Local news would be its heartbeat, the early edition cried.
At the time, I wasn’t thinking about the importance of newspapers in the community. At the time, it was just a way for me to earn pocket change for movies or penny candy. I never would have predicted that I would someday be named as the paper’s next editor…but here we are.
Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of chances to leaf through the old editions of the Observer, and they read like a living history of this town. There are pictures of former town leaders, now gone, that used to be fixtures in the community. There are stories about my former classmates earning school recognitions, and now those young boys and girls are parents, leaders, and elected officials in our town.
Like any active community, some of the headlines are less than glamorous. The yellowed papers seemed filled with stories about pollution in neighborhoods, local wells, and even the high school. There were articles about corrupt town officials, teachers, and coaches. I remembered some of the storms, the floods, and electrical outages that crippled the community as I leafed through photos of Plantsville center submerged under a deluge of water or detours rerouting traffic on the old Route 66.
Leafing through those pages is like stepping into a time machine. Memories flooded back—good and bad—but that wasn’t what really stuck with me. It wasn’t the news stories or meeting notes but the personal features peppered in between. Throughout every challenge Southington faced, the Observer gave local residence a voice through stories, editorials, and letters. After each new obstacle, the spotlight swung toward the people in the community as they came together to find solutions.
Old schools were closed, and newer, better buildings were opened. Auditoriums and additions were built. Bicentennial celebrations awakened the town green with a sense of national pride. Abandoned downtown areas were revitalized by builders and local businesses. Libraries were expanded, sports facilities were built, and the small, blue collar town grew into an important crossroads in central Connecticut.
Culture grew as well. Abandoned railways were turned into walking paths. Local teams battled for state titles and national records. Highways, neighborhoods, and businesses sprang up in almost every corner of town, while shrinking wilderness areas were reclaimed as parks and open spaces.
Even the Queen Street area, crippled by the departure of a local manufacturer, was reinvented, rebuilt, and re-energized as a center for retail shopping and restaurants.
The Observer covered it all, in depth, in a way that no regional daily newspaper could touch.
I’m excited about my new role as the Southington Observer prepares to enter its fifth decade of local coverage, and I’m looking forward to fostering new ways to develop the unparalleled coverage of Southington news and sports that readers have come to expect.
We’ll continue to build our website to enable us to deliver more comprehensive news to your doorstep in this digital age. We’ll find ways to do it speedier and more comprehensive than anyone else. We’ll continue to grow relationships in the community so that our coverage is insightful, helpful, and relevant. After all, we’re a big part of the community, too.
I’m no longer that wide-eyed paperboy that delivered the first Observer back in the mid-1970s. Instead, I’ve become one of the longest tenured journalists in the paper’s history. Sure, there are a few people in our Spring Street office that have been here longer than me, but I like to point out that—as a paperboy for that first edition—I’m still the one that has been here the longest.
Over the past 11 years, I’ve built a lot of new memories in the schools and on the sidelines as I watched the next generation of Southington leaders write their first chapter in this town’s history. I’ve been able to rekindle friendships with former schoolmates and forge new friendships with the growing list of ‘Suddinton’ residents that continue to flock toward this community.
I can’t wait to see what the next decade brings. The only thing I know for sure is that it’s going to be a lot of fun…
John Goralski is the editor of The Southington Observer.