A story from the Gazette's past: Gazette chronicle preserve history for present, future
By: PAUL KEDINGER
This piece was written by former Ville Platte Gazette Editor Paul Kedinger and ran in the Thursday, February 23, 1989, edition of Evangeline Parish's oldest newspaper.
Kedinger's article was a piece written to open up the Gazette's special section celebrating the newspaper's 75th Anniversary.
He shares a brief history of the newspaper, and reminds us of the importance of having a community newspaper then and now.
So, without further ado, I give you a delightful piece of local history:
Where does one start to get a firm grip on 75 years of history?
Of course, it’s Volume 1, No. 1, if you happen to be a newspaper. Regretlably, that is not possible with The Weekly Gazette because, unfortunately, a fire destroyed many of our back files. In fact, both Jules Ashlock, the son of our founder, T.G. Ashlock, and Bill Pucheu, the son of J. Emile Pucheu, who followed as publisher and editor, remember the earlier Gazette offices filled with bound copies.
Bill Pucheu led us to the earliest preserved copy of this community’s newspaper in the former FHA office, locked away with other family possessions. We cautiously lifted the tattered, brittle newspapers dating from 1917 and carried them back to our office.
You would have thought we had brought a newborn baby into the office, judging from the exclamations of delight and joy our staff exhibited as they peered at the top page and gingerly lifted the pages as they glimpsed through history in the making.
History-in-the-making perhaps best describes what a newspaper represents for its community. A recorder of the present, a critical examiner of the past, and a trained eye on the future, a newspaper is more than ink and paper transformed by the hard work of editors, reporters, photographers, pressmen and all those who daily toil to produce a chronological reflection of a community.
Perhaps, these were the ideals that prompted T.G. Ashlock to undertake his first venture into newspapering, The Ville Platte News, approximately two years before readers were introduced to The Weekly Gazette in Novem ber of 1914. That first newspaper, in partnership with a printer by the name of Abribat, who later moved to Opelousas, didn’t survive in the earliest days of Evangeline Parish, according to his son, Jules. The Evangeline Banner predates today’s newspaper, but it ceased publication in 1914 with the birth of The Gazette.
A transplant, as we are, the first Ashlock came here from Kentucky. He spoke no French, and, initially, worked in the area’s burgeoning timber industry. Gifted in math and writing, our founder married LaPerve Tate, a member of one of the oldest families in Ville Platte.
According to Jules Ashlock, the newspaper was purchased in the name of J. Emile Pucheu, but T.G. Ashlock operated it independently until he was named postmaster in 1924.
With only a coal oil lamp for illumination, the four-page broadsheet newspaper was printed by hand in an old shop behind the T.P.A. Hotel (now the location of Veillon Motors Co.).
The paper moved to an old shop heated by a wood-burning stove near the new high school about 1919. It remained there for the next 20 years.
The Gazette helped pay off the T.P.A. Hotel, a Main Street landmark, remembers Jules, who first joined the Gazette as a brand-new graduate of LSU’s school of journalism in 1932. He remembers his weekly salary was $15, not a bad wage in those days.
In 1940, Ashlock joined a partnership which established Evangeline Publishing Company, becoming its publisher and editor. The paper moved to Court Street in the building which now serves as Ashlock’s law office.
Standing in his law office today, Jules Ashlock gestures while describing how The Weekly Gazette followed the lead of The Daily World in nearby Opelousas and became the first onset weekly newspaper printed in Louisiana.
For a brief period in the late 1960s, the paper was owned by interests in the Opelousas daily newspaper, but in 1969 the paper was purchased by a group of Ville Platte businessmen including Bill Pucheu, Floyd Soileau, Elin Pitre, Jim Soileau and Ivan Ortego.
In 1972, the newspaper moved to its present location, the former J.H. Buller & Sons General Merchandise store. The shell of the old building was all that remained about contractors began extensive remodeling.
Ville Platte’s newspaper entered its newest era when it joined Louisiana State Newspapers on July 1, 1987.
Throughout its many moves and changes over the past 75 years, the focus of The Ville Platte Gazette has remained rock-solid: To serve the people of its community the best way possible. No less will be acceptable.
We hope you enjoy this special anniversary edition. Admittedly, it is impossible to condense 75 years of history into 44 pages. (We tried!)
You will discover that, in most instances, we have depended solely on past editions of this newspaper for our historical reflections. That’s the way it should be, we believe, because we, and our predecessors, are chroniclers of history as it occurs. Time is frozen in the pages of a newspaper; the moment is preserved for future generations.
Throughout the remainder of 1989 we will continue this glance back into the past shared by Ville Platte, Evangeline Parish and this newspaper. We salute those who came before us ... share their ideals ... and continue their strivings to serve you always in good faith.
Thank you for the past 75 years and for the future.