The Commerce News
February 16, 2000
Same After 125 Years
It was 125 years ago this
week that the first issue of The Northeaster Progress was published
in what was then Harmony Grove. According to Frary Elrod's Historical
Notes on Jackson County, Malcom Stafford was editor and W.A.
Shackleford was printer. They published it until 1881, when W.T.
Goss became editor, changed the name to The Citizen and operated
it until 1884. According to Elrod, the name was changed to The
Harmony Grove Signal in 1884, and ownership changed several times
over the years. It became The Bumble Bee in 1888, and then The
Harmony Grove Age. In 1891, the paper was purchased by Dr. W.B.
Hardman, and the name changed to The Harmony Grove Echo. In 1895,
it was bought by John F. Shannon, who owned it until 1934.
On Aug. 6, 1904, an act of the legislature changed the name of
Harmony Grove to Commerce, so Shannon changed the name to The
Commerce News. After Shannon died in 1934, the paper went through
several owners and operators until Mrs. P.B. Trawick bought it
in 1936. She sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Albert S. Hardy in 1943.
Their nephew, current Commerce Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. bought
the paper in 1978, and he sold it to the Jackson Herald Publishing
Company, now MainStreet Newspapers Inc., owned by the Buffington
family of Jefferson, in 1987.
The paper, like the community it served, underwent many changes
during the years under new owners and operators, but its purpose
has remained the same since 1875: to provide local news and advertisements
of importance and interest to the readers of the Commerce area.
In the course of those years, The Commerce News has won its share
of awards and recognition among newspapers, but the greatest
recognition has been the faithful readership of its subscribers.
It remains the oldest business in Jackson County (followed by
The Jackson Herald, which will turn 125 in a few months), because
its mission has not changed.
Today, the pages of The Commerce News contain more local news
and more local advertising than ever before. For all the improvements
in communications over the past 125 years, no other means of
disseminating local news has come close to matching that of the
local newspaper. Today, interested citizens can get international,
national, state and regional news on the Internet, from radio
and TV stations, and from magazines and newspapers. But the only
place they can get local news is from the local newspaper. No
other news media covers local activities like local newspapers.
No other newspaper covers Commerce like The Commerce News, whether
through its weekly edition or on its web page (www.mainstreetnews.com).
Who's to say what the future will bring, but the owners and staff
of The Commerce News know one thing: as long as the newspaper
exists, it will provide that local news. Readers will be able
to get news about Commerce, Nicholson, Maysville, Jackson County,
local schools, sports, social events and more from The Commerce
News. It's been the newspaper's mission for 125 years; it will
be its mission as long as it exists.
The Commerce News
February 16, 2000
Pro Wrestling A Tacky
Addition To 'Lights Festival'
The "City Lights Festival" took
a turn for the tacky when organizers agreed to bring in professional
wrestling with its "up yours" approach to entertainment
that has less class than a game of donkey basketball.
How did we get from a legend in country music to the moronic
arena where men smash chairs over each other, throw one another
through sheets of glass and glorify simulated violence in the
name of entertainment? At a high school where the staff and administration
are trying to fulfill the state mandate of "character education,"
we're using "characters" of a different sort to raise
funds for a performing arts center. That's a valuable lesson
- to show what wrestling?
I guess with the city's fine cultural center used largely for
beauty pageants, professional wrestling should not be a surprise.
But an entertainment lineup boasting "Syn," "Fast
Eddy," "Suicide Ride" and "Harsh" seems
significantly lower on the family entertainment value scale than
Bill Anderson and Steve Wariner.
Don't misunderstand: this could make big bucks. There is no argument
that professional wrestling is huge right now, and it may turn
out that the City Lights Festival's biggest money maker will
be the City Lights Out Wrestlefest at the high school, given
the interest in that sort of thing here.
That would make it all the more embarrassing. An annual concert
featuring famous (and soon-to-be-famous) musicians can't make
enough money; bring in the clowns. Shakespeare is too highbrow
for Commerce; bring in the Three Stooges. Better yet, stress
the possibility that some wrestler will be hurt, that fans might
get lucky and see a jugular cut or at least a compound fracture.
General admission tickets for the wrestling will cost more than
those for the concert, if that tells you something.
If Commerce must tap professional wrestling to raise money for
a performing arts center, we don't need one. The House That Syn
Built will be vastly under-used, except for pep rallies and assemblies
by the high school. If we want to develop the performing arts,
why not use the proceeds from the festival to hire a music/drama
teacher? Without performing arts instruction, we hardly need
a place to perform. Right now there is no significant instruction.
The "festival" has strayed from the course. Anderson
offered a free concert to benefit a good cause. But we got greedy
and decided Anderson's generosity should finance a $1 million
building. Last year, the concert netted about $25,000, which
wouldn't make the annual payment on that kind of project. The
thinking, obviously, was that something had to be done to make
Commerce is trying to cash in on Anderson, trying to find a way
to make a bunch of money to build something its citizens would
never pay for themselves. Brad Paisley probably won't attract
as big a crowd as Steve Wariner did. So, Anderson and Jim Ed
Brown will hold a private pickin' and grinnin' to raise a few
more dollars from the die-hard fans, and the decision was made
to offer the rest of the folks something more suitable to their
The music is wonderful. The wrestling is embarrassing. Surely,
it didn't have to come to this.