Editor Peter Randall Got Printer's Ink In His Veins

From the 75th Anniversary edition

Hampton Union

July 23, 1975

Editor Peter E. Randall Got Printer's Ink In His Veins

By Peter E. Randall

July 1964 - March 1966

Take one fresh-out-of-college journalist, combine with one famous and ambitious politician and mix together on a small weekly newspaper and you’re in for the recipe for the Randall Days as editor of Hampton Union.

In July 1964, I began 18 months employment for Wesley Powell, then publisher of Hampton Union. "Controversial" doesn’t really describe Wesley best but it’s the closest word I could use. Most people either hated or loved him and there were more than a few days when I had both emotions, sometimes only minutes apart.

No matter how one felt about Wesley though, he certainly wasn’t dull. Editorials and a column called "Around the Big Wheels" tickled his political friends and enraged those who considered him an enemy. We were particularly fortunate in acquiring scoops especially concerning county government, and there were often a few red faces around the county when the Hampton Union appeared sometime on Thursday.

Old Press

"Sometime" is really accurate because we were printing on a very old press that usually worked out mostly due to a loyal and innovative back-shop crew. And always with the help of the front-shop crew. The editor was expected to help out in the back shop when he was through writing stories. On Wednesday afternoons, I would change to old clothes and help to make up pages, set my own heads with hand type, then help collate papers as they came off the press. One week, due to an extra large pre- Christmas issue, I arrived one Wednesday morning at 7 and worked straight through until 3 Thursday morning. Ink spattered and greasy, I rolled into bed with the resolve that it was going to be the last pre-Christmas issue I would do for the Hampton Union!

Yet, I look back on those days with a sense of accomplishment. My work in the back shop gave me a real appreciation for that aspect of the paper and I soon learned how all the pieces of the weekly went together. I disliked having to peddle papers on a route on Thursday but I did get a chance to talk with store owners, paper boys and others who were always ready to give their opinions on both the paper and its owner.

There were other good times also. That difficult pre-Christmas issue was tempered in part because we printed a four-color Christmas picture on the front page and when has Hampton Union done that since! There was also the knowledge that Mrs. Powell always read the front page proofs and would be sure to pick up my misspellings! There are memories of working with the late Kirby Higgins and his wife Carrie. No matter how late I brought in film for processing, they always managed to get the prints out in time. There are memories of many town correspondents who reported the lesser known but perhaps more important day-to-day activities of seacoast residents.

Labor Day Riots

In my 18 months, two news events stand out most in my mind and both are connected. One was the Hampton Beach Labor Day riots. I was at the beach for one of those riots. As I walked along the boardwalk amidst the milling teen-agers, one boy of about 14 told me to get ready because it was going to begin in about 15 minutes. "What did he know" I thought, but he knew and it did begin.

It was about 3 a.m. before things calmed down enough for me to leave Dunfey’s Restaurant where a large group had gathered to avoid both the rock-throwing kids and the shotgun-firing policemen. Afterward, I sat through most of the trials of those arrested. Almost everyone was convicted, but all appealed and only one or two were convicted in Superior Court.

Related to this event was the firing of John Roden as chief of police. The selectmen decided he should be replaced and he was asked to resign. Roden refused and for weeks we carried articles, usually from the selectmen’s point of view.

Roden demanded a hearing, which was his right, but the paper was due out on the day of the hearing. On the day before, I met with Roden’s lawyer and got the basis of his defense and used it in the paper.

During a recess in the hearing, someone gave the selectmen and their lawyer a copy of the paper and they were enraged. I was called in and given the worst calling down from that lawyer I have ever received. They said we were unfair and biased in our reporting of the hearing. John Roden was never going to be rehired and he must have known that, but we gave him the only public "day in court" (because only a few people could fit in the actual courtroom) that he received. Knowing that John got his chance to make his points known, made those sharp words by the lawyer became dulled.

I left Hampton Union in March 1966 to work for New Hampshire Profiles. Those 18 months were really a brief period in my life but they are always remembered pleasantly. Printer’s ink got into my veins then, and it will always be there. For that experience I will always be grateful to Hampton Union and Wesley Powell.

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