Founder Recalls Courier’s Birth 81 Years Ago
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from an article written by the founder of the Canarsie Courier for the newspaper’s 50th anniversary issue. We are reprinting it this week in honor of our 81st anniversay, which was marked at a ceremony today (April 25) on Rockaway Parkway. See below for the significance of the location.
By Walter S. Patrick
It was in 1921 — April the 22 to be exact — that the late Lester J. Stillwell and I published the first issue of the Canarsie Courier, a four-page, seven-column sheet, that was printed in Manhattan. I might add here that, in order to get started on this questionable venture, we borrowed the sum of $200 from a local bank.
At that time I was 27, Lester was 25, and we were ready to conquer the world with our initiative and drive. Referring once again to Einstein’s remark, it seemed, relatively speaking, as though (at 27) I had lived a lifetime.
I’ll never forget "getting out" that first issue. With the help of half a dozen youngsters, who are now grandfathers, we went door-to-door giving out the thousand copies we had printed and had to practically force local residents to take a copy. I should add that this was our distribution method for the first six months, until we finally got the courage to start charging two cents a copy).
I think I ought to state here that Mr. Stillwell, one of the finest friends a man could hope to have, was unable to do any actual work on the Courier (except to help fold it Thursday nights). He had a family, a wife and three growing boys to care for, and I just had a wife. Some readers may remember her weekly column "About Town With Peggy." So Lester continued working as a linotypist for a firm in Manhattan, which I had resigned to "sit" on the old New York World, also as a linotyper, to carry on the destiny of Canarsie’s only newspaper.
For historical purposes I should say here that a few years before the advent of the Courier, Robert Dunnet had printed a small weekly, The Canarsie Local, which only lasted a few months’.
I’ll never forget after the Courier had been published for about six months, I told Lester that we finally made a profit of $1.00! What a wonderful feeling it was! Each week, Lester and I financially nursed the paper along. He contributed $50 a week and I donated $25. I should add that I worked one or two nights a week on The World to augment my weekly Courier salary.
The Courier was "born" on a desk in the office of the late Jacob Harkavy, a young real estate dealer who had a small office on Rockaway Parkway, on the present site of the GreenPoint Savings Bank, next to the old BMT subway station.
Our second office was a little six-by-ten wooden shack, which we rented for $10-a-month. It was located where the public health building now stands at East 95th and Conklin Avenue. We couldn’t afford a telephone, so we used the one in Charlie Lehman’s grocery, which is now the Courier office on Conklin Avenue.
We’re 81 Years Old!
Today, April 25, at approximatley 11:30 a.m., a plaque will be erected at the GreenPoint Saving Bank at the corner of Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road to commemorate that location as the site of the first office of the Canarsie Courier and to honor this newspaper on its 81st anniversary.
A number of dignitaries are expected to attend today’s ceremony, including the current publishers, officials of the Canarsie Historical Society and political representatives, as well as officials of civic, school and religious organizations.
It was in 1921 when Walter S. Patrick and Lester Stillwell began to record the history of our community in their own unique, grassroots style, writing articles and taking ads from a small real estate office. The newspaper was a free, four-page, seven-column sheet that was handed out door-to-door by newsboys. A few months later, Mr. Patrick decided to charge two cents per copy.
The history of the Canarsie Courier is, essentially, a history of Canarsie itself. No one thought much about making a journal of the comings and goings of the burgeoning population until Patrick and Stillwell came along. After all, this was merely a scant 21 years after the turn of the century. People were coming to America in droves and settling in communities like ours. There surely had to be a vehicle by which to chronicle their comings and goings.
That was the Canarsie Courier.
We continue to be committed to serve the residents and businesses of Canarsie and the surrounding communities, just as we did 81 years ago.