The Herald’s first Sunday edition, shown here on a microfilm viewer, was published April 5, 1981. (Julie Muhlstein)

The Herald’s first Sunday edition, shown here on a microfilm viewer, was published April 5, 1981. (Julie Muhlstein)

40 years of Sundays: Herald’s seen changes, mission remains

The newspaper’s first Sunday edition was published April 5, 1981, and this columnist was on the job.

It wasn’t a surprise when The Herald’s first Sunday edition landed on porches the morning of April 5, 1981.

That was 40 years ago this Sunday, and I was part of it — as a newbie on the newspaper’s copy desk. Back in the typewriter days, in 1978, I’d been a Herald intern. In March of ’81, I started full-time during a hiring spree in preparation for a Sunday Herald.

The Everett Herald announced Jan. 31, 1981, that it would start publishing a Sunday morning paper April 5. Until that day, it was a six-day publication with a weekend edition on Saturdays.

Readers saw another big change that April morning. With the Sunday paper, the name was no longer The Everett Herald or its Western Sun edition in south Snohomish County. It became simply The Herald. The name would change again. Since 2009, it’s been The Daily Herald.

This week, our newsroom’s microfilm helped refresh my memories of that first Sunday edition. Most noticeable now is its size. Not counting color comics, TV listings and the Family Weekly national magazine insert, it totaled 74 pages in six sections, plus a 27-page Venture magazine-style section produced by the staff.

“My memories are of all the hard work and planning that led up to it, and of getting The Washington Post to do it,” said Larry Hanson, who retired as Herald publisher in 2002. The Post owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. That’s when the paper was sold to Canada’s Black Press, which in Washington operates as Sound Publishing.

Hanson, who spent 45 years with The Herald, was vice president of marketing in 1981. Then-Publisher Christopher Little, who had come to Everett from the Washington Post Co., wrote about the Sunday launch in a March 30, 1981, issue of the “expediter,” the employee newsletter: “Sunday adds breadth and depth to The Herald.”

There was no promotional article on that first Sunday’s front page, just teasers to new sections and a paragraph that began, “A new day dawns.”

Topics reached far beyond Everett. The lead story, “Bracing for ferry shutdown,” by Joe Copeland and Byron Acohido, was a preview of a 13-hour protest strike planned by ferry workers. The other major front-page story was “Boeing’s plans are out of this world” by Scott Wilson. It looked ahead to the space shuttle Columbia’s first flight on April 12, 1981, and the company’s immense role in “orbital space.”

Local stories, on a page labeled Community, included Jim Haley’s feature on the Lowell Community Church and Mark Funk’s look at the changing Edmonds waterfront.

A Perspective section featured “A Look at Our Faults” by Mark Harden, exploring the region’s earthquake risks. In Sports, Herald writer John McDonald profiled a new Seattle Mariners manager, Maury Wills.

A Real Estate section told of the Howard S. Wright Construction Co., credited in Jim Fulton’s article for shaping the Seattle skyline. The Economy section brought readers closer to home with a look at the Marysville Livestock Auction, described as “the New York Stock Exchange and a country fair rolled into one.”

Northwest Living had a comically illustrated take on “The Hassle Factor,” exploring pet peeves in different parts of the country. In the Venture section, outdoor writer Wayne Kruse and photographer Rich Shulman took readers on a vicarious hang-gliding adventure.

And back on page D13, a story with the headline “Are WSU sports hurting academics?” is notable for its byline — Eric Stevick. Today he’s The Herald’s local news editor. When he wrote about engineering students and faculty crying foul over funding at the Pullman campus, Stevick was a WSU senior and soon-to-be 1981 graduate. He’d been city editor at WSU’s Daily Evergreen and at the time was its “depth reporter.”

Stevick would go on to The Daily World in Aberdeen before coming to The Herald more than 30 years ago.

I’m one of just a few current Herald employees who were here in ’81. The staff was ramped up before the Sunday paper started. “That changed a lot of people’s lives,” said Hanson. He recalled upended schedules. What had been a five-day operation, with a small Saturday staff, turned into seven-day staffing.

A full-page Herald ad on April 5, 1981, labeled “The first Sunday Herald has been brought to you by the following individuals,” listed 400 names after a paragraph touting the hard work of “Our employees.”

At the time the paper was sold in 2013, the Daily Herald Co. had 209 employees. On Wednesday, Herald Publisher and Sound Publishing President Josh O’Connor said by email that The Daily Herald now has 55 employees, plus 44 at its printing plant at Paine Field.

I remember that spring of 1981 as a heady, newsy, exciting time. The week before the Sunday paper started, on March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot and seriously injured in Washington, D.C. The era of the space shuttle was about to begin.

At 27, having worked three years at The East Oregonian in Pendleton, I had lots to learn.

There are things in that Sunday paper we wouldn’t see now, such as full-page cigarette ads. And things we take for granted today, email and the HeraldNet website among them, were a long ways off in 1981.

Kim Heltne, a former executive assistant at The Herald, on Wednesday shared correspondence exchanged among editors as the Sunday edition was being planned. The words of Joann Byrd, Herald executive editor from 1981 to 1992, jumped out at me from a letter she created back then — on a typewriter.

“Sunday should be substantive,” wrote Byrd. “Getting behind the straight news stories, to pull out the people and the reasons, is the major thing I want us to do all week.”

Julie Muhlstein: jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com

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