View All Posts
Posted on July 2, 2020 at 3:04 PM by Brian Hughes
Even before the flourishing railroad town of Crestview became an incorporated city and the seat of Okaloosa County, it had a newspaper, and has had one ever since. Friday, the city’s twice-weekly Crestview News Bulletin marked its 45th birthday.
The Bulletin began life as the Okaloosa Consumer Bulletin on July 3, 1975, and featured a lead story — appropriately enough — about William H. “Bill” Mapoles, who started the city’s first newspaper.
One of the county and Crestview’s earliest movers-and-shakers, Mr. Mapoles was an attorney, served as a state representative and later a county judge and state senator, and was a driving force in the Legislature behind the creation of Okaloosa County.
Rep. Mapoles moved his hand-operated printing press from Laurel Hill, where he’d founded the Laurel Hill News, to Crestview in October 1915, a month after the Sept. 7 vote to form the new Okaloosa County. There he founded The Okaloosa News.
His father, pastor and Judge J.T. Mapoles, and step-brother, J.W. Mapoles, started The County Journal in Milligan in 1916.
Upon the April 11, 1916, vote to incorporate Crestview, The Okaloosa News began a crusade to encourage voters to choose the town as the new county’s seat, facing a similar barrage from the Baker Advertiser in support of its own community’s efforts.
(Laurel Hill, the third community in the running, no longer had a newspaper upon Rep. Mapoles’ — and his printing press’s — move to Crestview.)
On March 30, 1917, just days before the vote, The News carried a headline reading, “Baker’s Eleventh Hour Campaign: Falsehood Nailed to the Cross” in response to the Advertiser’s article headlined, “Former Crestview Booster Now Supports Baker as Place for County Seat.”
Rep. Mapoles, in a signed front-page editorial that makes readers yearn for the back-story, indignantly declared, “The man who wrote it maliciously lies when he says or intimates that I carried to or gave away whiskey in Holt on the day of the [county creation] election.”
Journalism being much more inclined to sensationalism in those colorful days, another front page blurb added, “The sane, sensible man who will unhesitatingly tell you that Crestview is the right and proper place to put the court house [sic], but that he is going to vote for Baker, is to be pitied and prayed for if nothing else, for undoubted the devil has charge of his soul.”
Upon Crestview’s selection as the county seat, Judge Mapoles moved The County Journal to Crestview, thereby giving the town two newspapers. Sensibly, they merged in March 1918, creating The Okaloosa News-Journal under Bill Mapoles’ leadership.
In September 1926, W.D. Douglas, who had been the News-Journal’s editor since 1922, purchased the newspaper from Mr. Mapoles and hired Mallie Martin as its editor.
In September 1929, the Okaloosa News-Journal received competition from a new rival, The Okaloosa Messenger, whose editor and publisher was none other than Mr. Mapoles’ wife, Celeste, who also ran the Atlasta Hat Shop on Main Street. (“At last, a hat shop.” Get it?)
Mr. Mapoles had a gentlemen’s agreement not to compete with his old newspaper, Baker Block Museum Director Ann Spann said. Mrs. Mapoles had no such restraint.
“The moral of the paper will be, sobriety, manhood, womanhood, and cleanliness in all things, and in no wise least, but last I will tell the truth in all things though the Heavens fall,” Mrs. Mapoles poetically promised. “In fact, my motto is, ‘Blind as a Bat to everything but Right.’”
The Messenger’s focus tended toward society and domestic issues, such as an article about “Little Doc” Enzor’s new radio that he’d installed in his Chevrolet, which the paper described as “the niftiest thing in town.”
Meanwhile, the News-Journal stirred up moonshiners when it ran several articles describing how to make liquor at home. Moonshining was a booming Depression-era business in North Okaloosa County at a time when legitimate jobs were scarce.
“You are making it hard on us to do any business,” one moonshiner lamented in a letter to the editor, while another complained the articles were “putting us out of business faster than the prohibition agents.”
Mr. Martin and his partner, H.C. Hensley, bought the News-Journal around 1930 when the Depression squeezed Mr. Douglas out of the business. An April 1933 edition reported that fliers from Maxwell Field Station, Alabama, would do summer bombing practice at an airfield in Valparaiso to be developed with $2,000 and local labor. That airstrip became Eglin Field in 1937 and eventually evolved into today’s Eglin Air Force Base.
The Messenger’s focus continued on more domestic issues, including a July 13, 1933 revelation that the New Central Café across from the railroad station got new ceiling fans, and, in 1934, a piece about exciting technology employed at another business.
“Jesse Cayson, Jr., the hustler and bustler of the City Pharmacy, has had his drugstore electrical sign done over with what is known in electric terminology as ‘neon,’ which gives a combination of colors at night…which makes it very attractive and beautiful,” Mrs. Mapoles reported.
The Sept. 8, 1933, Okaloosa News-Journal reported it had yet another new owner, a future politician named Robert L.F. Sikes, who then owned the Valparaiso Star.
In August 1934, both papers sponsored entrants in the Methodist Missionary Society of Crestview’s beauty pageant in the high school auditorium. Alas, both of their contestants were defeated by the City Pharmacy’s entry, Miss Corrine Steele.
Unlike Rep. Mapoles and, in 1940, Congressman Sikes, former News-Journal editor Mallie Martin was unsuccessful in his bid for governor in 1936 against a crowded field of 14 other candidates, The Messenger reported.
Both papers carried social news to the delight of readers, including one-line reports of who visited whom, who took a trip out of town by automobile (especially exciting in the ‘20s and ‘30s), and especially, who gathered for local club meetings at whose house.
A typical sample was a 1940 blurb about the Rook Club, “entertained Friday afternoon by Mrs. Jack Steele at her attractive home. The rooms where four tables of players were grouped were decorated by cut flowers.” The article then listed Mrs. Steele’s 15 guests, all identified by their husband’s names, as was the convention of the time.
In 1940, Willie “Cooter” Douglass bought The Okaloosa Messenger, which he owned until 1946, establishing himself as a local media icon in print and radio and earning renown for his country wit. It was Cooter Douglass who nicknamed State Road 2 between Laurel Hill and Baker the “Hog and Hominy Road.” The paper published at least until December 1946.
Not all news was cheery. Crestview’s newspapers also shared tragedies, such as The News-Journal’s 1943 article about 13-year-old Boy Scout David Sampsell drowning in the L&N Railroad watering pond, which is now the west Twin Hills Park pond, and World War II servicemen’s deaths.
The News-Journal got a new editor in Wilbur Powell in 1941, who bought the paper in December 1946 and tripled its circulation by 1951. Its offices were at the corner of W. Pine Avenue and Main Street where the Elks Club lodge is now.
Starting in 1951, The Okaloosa News-Journal also published the Crestview High School newspaper, the Bulldog Growl, which was inserted in the News-Journal.
The News-Journal was temporarily absorbed into the new West Florida Daily Globe, still published by Wilbur Powell, in March 1952, to meet the demand for more Korea Conflict and local military news. It resumed as the Okaloosa News-Journal weekly two years later.
The paper’s June 24, 1954, edition established a “first” for The News-Journal, when rural farmers received their copies by air, the papers being dropped by Preston H. Mays, a Crestview commercial pilot, who threw them from his Piper PA-12 single-engine plane.
On Jan. 1, 1955, Ed and Ellen Broderick bought the News-Journal, and Mrs. Broderick launched her popular “Maw’s Meanderings” social news column.
Ed’s ill health forced them to sell the paper in January 1969 to Leonard Publishing of Santa Rosa County, owner of the Milton Press Gazette, which, by coincidence, had been founded by W.H. Mapoles’ father, Judge J.T. Mapoles. Printing moved to Milton, but the editorial offices, under editor Terry Graham, the Broderick’s daughter, remained in Crestview.
Ms. Graham resigned in February 1970 and Joel Gaston, former assistant city editor of the Pensacola News Journal, took over as editor and publisher of the Okaloosa News-Journal. In November 1979, Mr. Gaston’s wife, Rose, became editor upon his resignation.
Meanwhile, an eventual rival to the Okaloosa News-Journal formed with the July 3, 1975, first edition of the Okaloosa Consumer Bulletin under founder and publisher Roger T. Robinson, who was recently inducted into the North Okaloosa Historical Association’s Family Wall of Honor.
The paper continued the popular “Maw’s Meanderin’s” (now without the “g”) social column while it focused on articles about the north county’s history. Shifting to more local news, the name changed in 1978 to the North Okaloosa Bulletin, with Mr. Robinson as editor and Jack Becklund as publisher.
In 1985, without explanation, The Okaloosa News Journal editor Gayla Dease removed the hyphen that had been between News and Journal since 1918. In 1989, Paul Stanton became its publisher and started a weekend edition, complete with color comics, in May 1991. He went back to a weekly format in February 1992 until finally closing in December 1992 after 77 years.
In September 1978, James Knudsen, former owner of two central Florida newspapers, bought the Bulletin and moved Bob Overturf, who was sales manager, to the editor’s desk. The name changed to the Crestview News Leader in January 1993, then to the Crestview News Bulletin a few years later.
Another paper entered the scene when The Citizen Review started publishing in September 1994, running until October 1997, when it was sold to a consortium from Live Oak. Its four-person staff, editors Larry Woods and Ann Spann, and sales representatives Terry Lamey and Angie Shoutard, had left the North Okaloosa Bulletin to start their own paper.
In 2006, the Northwest Florida Daily News opened a Crestview bureau and started publishing a weekly North Okaloosa County section called The Hub as a rival to the News Bulletin while simultaneously making offers to buy the paper from Mr. Knudsen and make it part of their parent company, Florida Freedom Newspapers.
Mr. Knudsen accepted Florida Freedom’s offer and sold the paper in early 2007. The Hub stopped publishing and its staff moved into the News Bulletin’s offices on West James Lee Boulevard near Main Street. Hub editor, the beloved Kelly Humphrey, became editor of the News Bulletin, and established an unmatched relationship with the newspaper’s service area.
Subsequent corporate mergers and by-outs saw the News Bulletin’s parent companies change several times and the staff whittled down, with the gradual loss of the paper’s photographer, sports editor, layout designer, several writers and most administrative staff. It most recently became part of Gannett, a nationwide media giant.
Through it all, Crestview remains one of the few remaining mid-sized communities in the country that can still proudly boast its own newspaper. And to think: it all started with a man who had a vision for a county, its seat, and keeping its citizens informed through a community newspaper.
Sources: “Crestview: The Forkland” and the Baker Block Museum, Ann Spann, director
1915-1918: The Okaloosa News
1916-1918: The County Journal
1918-1992: The Okaloosa News-Journal (published as West Florida Daily Globe, 1952-54)
1929-1946: The Okaloosa Messenger
1975-present: Okaloosa Consumer Bulletin/ North Okaloosa Bulletin/ Crestview News Leader/ Crestview News Bulletin
1994-1997: The Citizen Review