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Journal Scene History

  • Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Publishers' Auxiliary story on the Journal Scene and its project to renovate the icehouse. The photo caption says, “Editor Bill Collins merely walks around the corner when he wants a drink – his renovated newspaper building has a bar in it.”

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The Summerville Journal Scene's roots in Summerville stretch back to 1946, when Tom Hamrick established the Summerville Scene. Hamrick operated the paper until 1949, when he sold it to Jack Button.

Button died in the summer of 1972, shortly before a young reporter named Bill Collins moved to town with his family.

Collins, born in Ware Shoals, had reported for papers in Myrtle Beach and Atlanta but wanted to start his own operation.

He published the first issue of the Summerville Journal on Sept. 27, 1972, working out of a small brick home on North Main Street where McDonald's now stands, across from the County Human Services Building. When McDonald's bought the property, the paper moved to another building downtown.

In the fall of 1972, Button's widow sold the Scene to Banner Publishers, a publishing group that owned several community papers throughout the state – and one of whose investors was S.C. Gov. John C. West.

The Journal and the Scene competed for the next four years, with the Journal getting the worse end of the deal – Collins finding it difficult to persuade businesses to advertise with him instead of the governor's paper.

When President Jimmy Carter appointed West ambassador to Saudi Arabia in January 1977, West had to divest himself of some of his investments, and Banner Publishers decided to sell the Scene.

Collins wanted to get his hands on the paper, so, along with two Georgia partners, he was able to purchase the Scene from Banner Publishers and merge the two papers to create the Summerville Journal Scene.

In 1981 the partners purchased a dilapidated building on East Doty Avenue that had been built as an icehouse in 1907.

They renovated the interior and leased the front part of the building to a bar and restaurant. The rear of the building became newsroom, pressroom and advertising offices.

In 1982 Publishers' Auxiliary ran a feature on the paper and its renovated building under the headline 'Weekly shares building with bar and restaurant.'

The story noted that a clause in the deed for the ice house said the building would always be used for generating power, and Town Council had to pass a special ordinance to end that responsibility.

“But with the newspaper now housed in the old building, some observers noted that power still would be generated there – power of the press, that is,” the story said.

By 1991 Collins' two partners were ready to get out of the newspaper business. They sold their stock to Summerville Communications, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Evening Post Industries. Collins sold his stock over a five-year period, from 1992 to 1997, at which point Evening Post Industries became the sole owner of the Summerville Journal Scene.

He later sold his stock in the Goose Creek Gazette. The Gazette, along with the Berkeley Independent, comprise the other two properties within Summerville Communications.

Collins remained at the paper until he retired in 2007.

In 2007 Ellen Priest, the business manager at the Aiken Standard, was named president and publisher of Summerville Communications, and Judy Watts, a features editor at the Post and Courier, was named editor for the three papers.

In December 2013 Priest returned to Aiken as president and publisher of the Aiken Standard, and in January 2014 Watts retired. Currently, Steven Wagenlander serves as publisher and Frank Johnson as editor of the three papers.  

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