The Listening Post: Aurora's first community newspaper
Remember the days when everyone worked in the office and periodically gathered around the water cooler to catch up on the latest news and gossip? Those in close proximity listened intently hoping to get an earful. Now working from home social media has replaced the water cooler. There are those of us who remember that the radio was the major source of information and the telephone “party line” was the best source of gossip.
Looking back to the early 1940s the major sources of local news in Aurora was the publication of The Aurora Press by a small group of youngsters. The only other sources of written information came from columns covering Aurora in two area newspapers, The Chagrin Falls Exponent and The Ravenna Republican.
The Chagrin Falls Exponent was the first regularly circulated newspaper in Cuyahoga County outside of Cleveland. First published in January 1874, the paper covered the area of western Geauga County, northern Portage County and eastern Cuyahoga County. Founded by J.J. Stranahan, the paper was the first in the area to not have any political affiliation and was “Open to All – Controlled by None.” The Exponent in addition to covering local news, births, deaths and advertisements, Stranahan’s editorials focused on local, regional and national events.
The newspaper published in Ravenna, Ohio from 1882 until 1928 was known as The Ravenna Republican. Both prior to 1882 and after 1928 the paper had different owners and titles. Known as the Star in 1839, the paper combined with The Home Companion to form The Portage County Democrat in 1854. With the formation of the new Republican Party, which had absorbed the Free-Soilers, Know Nothings and Whigs prior to the Civil War, The Portage County Democrat was the local organ that supported the Union in the Civil War. In 1868 the paper changed names becoming known as The Portage County Republican Democrat. Other mergers occurred and today the paper is known as The Record-Courier. While The Exponent was apolitical, the Ravenna Republican consistently ventured into the world of politics.
While the community could read the two papers for regional news, the real source of what was happening in Aurora from 1946 through its final issue in 1968 was The Listening Post published by a small group of civic minded people from Geauga Lake. Using borrowed typewriters and mimeograph machine the primary focus of the group as stated in its 10th Anniversary Edition was “to promote a spirit of friendliness and cooperation among the people of our community.” Starting with a circulation of 250 copies in 1946 by 1955 the paper was reaching 1,000 household across the entire Aurora community. Not only did every residence in Geauga Lake receive a copy but also everyone one in Reminderville and those in Aurora and Solon who requested copies. It was also sent to “boys in service” and “vacationers in Florida.”
Over the years of publication, many dedicated themselves to providing the community with a wide variety of news. In the column entitled, “The Post Listens” reporters shared all the local “comings and goings” in Aurora; family outings and vacations, weddings and anniversaries, births and deaths, and hospitalizations. The Aurora schools, the P.T.A and high school sports were given weekly coverage. While Rev. J.R. Hutcherson from the Federated Church in Aurora (The Church in Aurora) wrote periodic articles on faith. Geauga Lake Community Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Rita’s Church, and the Valley Lutheran Church were covered in each issue. News of the police and fire departments along with local government actions were a vital part of the reporting. Editorials and letters to the editor provided the foundation for why the paper was published as it was emphasized that the “Listening Post is your paper. Make good use of it by sending in your criticisms, writing your suggestions or jotting down events of interests.” The cost of publication was paid for by local area businesses not located in Aurora, but also Solon, Reminderville and Mantua.
A yearly highlight of the paper was its annual Easter Coloring Contest. The contest had entries from children in grades pre-K through sixth. Submissions were judged by the paper’s staff. Prizes were awarded for the top three in each grade level. In the 1954 contest, first place winner preschooler was John Ranc getting a toy truck. Barbara Whaley won a doll kit for the 1st-3rd grade category. In the category for 4th-6th grades Terry McAnerney won a terrycloth shirt. One entry of special note in 1953 was the entry submitted by 10 year old fifth grader Jim Vaca. While Jim did not win a prize for his coloring, he did go on to win election as Aurora’s Ward One councilman.
One may wonder why the paper was named The Listening Post. Initially known as Giles Pond, the area south of the Geauga Lake was a collection of summer cottages. Lacking modern amenities such as electricity and running water, many of the residences had to carry water from the local common well. According to longtime resident Steve Spencer, a well was located on his property the near the corner where Lloyd Avenue and East Blvd. intersect. Residents would often gather at the well’s pump and share the latest news and gossip. It was the community’s “water cooler.” It was there also that the Geauga Lake postmistress, who lived in Spencer’s house, delivered the mail to those who had not stopped by the post office. The pump handle and the “ear” became part of the paper’s identification. At the top of each issue was the title The Listening Post with a hand drawn pump handle with an ear attached.
When The Listening Post ceased publication in 1968, the community was without a local newspaper for a short period of time. In 1971, former Mayor Ralph Kiedel, along with his two sons, Gregg and Kenneth, founded the Aurora Advocate. For nearly 50 years the newspaper has been Aurora’s source of local news, sports and civic events. Like earlier papers, The Aurora Press and The Listening Post, the Advocate has provided a platform for the citizens of the community to voice their thoughts and concerns.