Charlie Johnson

Mud-splattered former Editor Charlie Johnson works from a window still while gathering information for a flood story in 1972. Despite the damage, Standard Journal did not miss a publication.

MILTON — Across the country, several landmark events occurred in 1890, including the creation of Oklahoma as a territory on May 2, Idaho and Wyoming being admitted as the 42nd and 43rd states in July and Ellis Island opening as a U.S. immigration depot on Dec. 31.

Jan. 23, 1890, was a significant day in Milton history as the newspaper now known as the Standard Journal was established by William Penn Hastings. The newspaper was first called The Milton Weekly Standard.

The newspaper was founded as a prohibition newspaper, with its first offices being located along Broadway. While it started as a weekly newspaper, it evolved into a tri-weekly paper within a few weeks and became a daily paper on May 7, 1900.

On May 1, 1952, the weekly Union County Standard was created as a companion publication.

The newspaper has continued to evolve and maintains its strong commitment to covering news stories occurring throughout the local communities.

In 2003, the newspaper’s two titles, the Milton Daily Standard and the Lewisburg Daily Journal, were combined into one title, Standard Journal.

The newspaper has operated under the ownership of Sample News Group since 2008. In 2010, the paper upgraded to a fresh look, taking on its current tab-size format.

Kate Hastings, William Penn Hasting’s great-granddaughter, worked at the paper from 1981 to 1987. Her late father, William Penn Hastings II, served as the paper’s publisher and general manager.

“We’re all proud of the Standard,” Kate said. “When we have family reunions, people come from as far away as Illinois and Florida and they all want to see the Standard building. They’re all excited it is going strong.”

During her time at the paper, Kate worked as a reporter, photographer, social editor, and in 1985 was named editor.

Of her many memories of the newspaper, Kate particularly remembers covering a tornado that ripped through the Allenwood and Dewart areas on May 30, 1985.

“It killed six people locally,” she said. “One thing that stuck out... I was north of Allenwood and there were two homes side-by-side. One was reduced to match sticks. The other one, 60 feet away, just had damage to the down spouts.

“It was hard to imagine that with these two homes... the tornado had almost selected one and left the other unscathed.”

Kate also has vivid memories of the day in 1987 when the bridge crossing the West Branch of the Susquehanna River into Milton collapsed.

“I remember that I was home for lunch,” she recalled. “I had put the paper to bed. At that time, we put the paper to bed about 11:30 in the morning. I got a phone call from the Standard saying the bridge had collapsed.”

As she was driving to Mahoning Street to cover the collapse, Kate turned on WMLP radio and heard radio personality John Yingling broadcasting from the scene.

Yingling had just crossed the bridge moments before the span collapsed.

“He immediately got to a phone and went to a live broadcast,” she said.

That incident was not the first time a bridge crossing the river in that area had collapsed.

In the 1920s, Kate said the Ku Klux Klan was hosting a rally on the island, which was attended by 10,000 people.

“The Milton paper never wrote a single word about the fact that it was going to happen,” she said of the rally. “The only mention of it was the fact that so many people crowded on the bridge from Milton to the island that the bridge collapsed.”

She added that the people crowded the bridge to watch a fireworks display taking place as part of the event. Hastings said no one was killed in the incident.

More significant than the bridge collapse, Kate said, was the fact that the Standard Journal did not publicize a Ku Klux Klan event.

“I think the silence is deafening,” she said.

Her uncle, Frederic G. Hastings, started working at the newspaper in 1911 and served as editor until 1971.

“My Uncle Fred, I am discovering... was really instrumental in getting many institutes to be racially integrated,” Kate said. “He did that partly by the power of the press.”

She said Frederic sat on the YMCA board of directors and was the only member of the board, at that time, who was pro integration.

“Uncle Fred just kept up the drumbeat in editorials about how ridiculous that was,” Kate said. “The Milton Standard was the only newspaper in Central Pennsylvania that did not identify people by race.”

In addition to the Hastings family, many others have played an important part in the history of the newspaper.

Korean War veteran Harold Prentiss was a fixture at the Standard Journal for many years, having worked at the newspaper from January 1967 until retiring in December 1994. He held several key positions at the paper, including sports editor, news editor and managing editor.

Prentiss lived through, and covered, several historic events in Milton, most notably the 1972 Agnes flood.

“I spent a lot of time walking from one end of Milton to the other, talking to people, getting their impressions,” Prentiss recalled.

Floodwaters also impacted the Standard Journal building on North Arch Street, with water reaching about three feet on the first floor of the building.

Prentiss said staff moved newsprint from inside the building into railroad box cars on the tracks to the rear of the facility, in an attempt to protect it from the flood waters.

“It got all wet,” he said of the news print. “We had to cut it apart with chain saws.”

While covering the flood and its aftermath, Prentiss was particularly impressed by the speed in which residents re-built after the disaster.

“Our people just did it,” he said. “That really impressed me. They may have lost out on some (government) benefits, but they got the job done.”

Kate was particularly impressed by the way in which the newspaper covered the 1972 flood.

“We didn’t miss an issue,” she said, adding that the daily paper was printed in Danville when the Milton building was flooded.

“Just getting to Danville was a trick,” Kate said.

For long-time Standard Journal subscribers, memories abound of stories covered by the newspaper, and events the paper was involved in promoting.

Tom Reimensnyder, of U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Mifflinburg, said he reads the Standard Journal every day.

“I really enjoy articles on veterans,” he said. “There are a tremendous amount of people in the area who were in the military.”

Reimensnyder is also thankful the Standard Journal has brought the U.S. Army Field Band to perform in the community every other year since 1994.

He has served as a flag carrier with the color line during those events.

“I get chills up and down my spine, just by carrying the flag, when they play the military songs and the veteran’s songs,” he said.

Reimensnyder also has a distinct memory from 1995, when Standard Journal teamed with the Central Susquehanna Valley Veterans Council to bring The Moving Wall to Milton.

“I was one of the ones to help locate names on the wall,” he said. “A lady asked me if I knew anyone on the wall. I said, not personally, but they are all brothers.”

The woman then led Reimensnyder to a section of the wall.

“She put my hand on a name on the wall and said ‘that’s my son,’” Reimensnyder recalled. “Just that one name meant an awful lot to me.”

While preserving the memories of community news stories, and bringing local events into the community, the Standard Journal has also embraced technology.

Prentiss helped to lead the evolution of the newspaper from typewriters to the digital age.

Bill Hastings asked Prentiss to visit a location in New Jersey where computers were produced that the newspaper was looking to purchase.

“We started out with a 20-gigabite system,” Prentiss said. “It meant we’d have to purge the system at least twice a morning so it wouldn’t overload.”

While some struggled with the conversion from typewriters to computers, Prentiss embraced the change.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I liked the technology.”

The technology has continued to evolve. In 1999, the newspaper launched its first website.

“This was exciting for our staff,” Amy Moyer, Standard Journal publisher, said. “The newspaper has maintained the site that is visited thousands of times each month. This is one more way for us to reach out to readers and to provide our local advertisers with a vehicle for reaching those readers.”

In 2012, the Standard Journal started offering online subscriptions.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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