Ten Years of Hampton Magazine

(Published Aug-Sept 2007)

By David G. Young

It seems the older I get the faster time goes by. While I was in college those four years seemed to drag along like decades and back then ten years seemed like an eternity. Nowadays time zips past like a rocket and a decade feels like a moment. That’s why it was so startling when we realized at the beginning of this year that August 2007 marked the tenth anniversary of Hampton Magazine.

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Over the past ten years Hampton magazine has grown and improved in numerous ways, yet our mission has always remained the same: “to provide residents with timely information about events, programs, accomplishments and people throughout the community. But, even though Hampton Magazine as we knows it today is ten years old, the roots of this publication go back several years further. It’s an interesting -- and sometimes confusing – story.

Hampton Magazine, or Quarterly … or Whatever

The first issues of a publication called Hampton Magazine that appeared in residents’ mailboxes actually started back in 1994. Up until then my career as a freelance writer had been mostly focused on creating newsletters for large corporations. It was enjoyable, challenging work, but I wanted to create something larger that served the community. When the Pittsburgh Press folded following a strike in 1992, sources of information for local readers became scarcer. There were few local papers and the Post Gazette began dropping coverage of the Route 8 corridor.

I spoke about the problem with Linda Mueller, who at that time was the Public Relations Liaison for the Hampton Township School District. Unable to secure consistent coverage of School District Accomplishments, Linda produced a quarterly newsletter that was mailed to all residents. But even with that much coverage she agreed that Hampton residents would benefit from a monthly publication that provided more consistent information about events and people in the news.

Thus was born the first Hampton Magazine, a monthly publication that would be supported through advertising revenue. We published the first issue in April 1994 and received an enthusiastic reception from Hampton residents, merchants and officials. In fact we even held a reception for the magazine at a restaurant called The 4C’s, which was located in the Conley’s motel near the Turnpike entrance.

I’d like to claim the credit for inventing the concept of a “community magazine,” but the idea locally was actually originated by Mt. Lebanon Magazine, which began publishing more than 25 years ago. Although newspapers continue to fill a need for news, features, and commentary, Mt. Lebanon Magazine showed that there was also an ongoing need to provide readers with lifestyle information,

In 1994 there were few other municipalities doing that, however, and Hampton Magazine received a lot of local coverage in the media about our innovative editorial plan. In the years since there have been a number of community and regional lifestyle magazine s that have cropped up, but Hampton Magazine was among the pioneers.

However, producing a magazine 12 times per years was a unique challenge and changes soon overtook Hampton Magazine. Between 1994 and 1998 I launched community magazines in McCandless and Cranberry Townships, but the logistics of printing and mailing multiple editions proved too problematic. In 1998 I consolidated the three community publications into a single regional magazine, which was much more efficient. The conversion was relatively trouble-free … except for Hampton Magazine.

You see, when I began publishing Hampton Magazine in 1994 there were already two publications reaching residents. The School District published “School News,” a four page newsletter, four times per year. In addition, the Township’s Parks & Recreation Department published a program brochure, called Hampton Highlights, three times a year listing upcoming classes, events and programs.

Beginning in 1995 both the Township and the School District approached me about printing their publications within the pages of Hampton Magazine, which was also mailed to all residents. It was a way to maximize the information we were each providing to residents while saving on the cost of printing and mailing.

Unfortunately the decision to discontinue publishing a separate Hampton Magazine presented the problem of what to do with the Hampton Highlights and School News inserts. A meeting was held to discuss the problem, with Township Manager Chris Lochner, Superintendent Ken Sholtz, Parks & Recreation Director Alex Zarenko, and Public Relations Liaison Linda Mueller attending. I presented a proposal to publish a new magazine four times per year which would continue to provide lifestyle information but which would also continue to carry the School News and Hampton Highlights. We worked out a production schedule that met both organizations’ needs and I suggested we call it “Hampton Quarterly,” both to differentiate it from the previous publication and to reflect the new publication schedule.

So, the first issue of “Hampton Quarterly” hit the mailboxes in August of 1998.

W. Christopher Lochner, Hampton Township’s Manager was integrally involved in the planning stages of the publication and has seen it grow in impact and value over the past decade:

“Hampton Magazine is an ideal example of what can be accomplished through the power of coopera­tion and teamwork. We who live and work in Hampton Township share many blessings: beautiful surroundings, a convenient locale, ample recreational opportunities, and, not least of all, a common municipality and school district. We recognize that by working together, the municipality and the school district can better meet the information needs of all residents in a cost‑effective and thorough manner.

“Over the past ten years Hampton Magazine has presented an image of our community that is both positive and uplifting. As one aspect of Hampton’s quality of life, the magazine has generated a great deal of interest in Hampton on the part of visitors, developers, entrepreneurs, government representatives and prospective residents. It’s been exciting to see the publication expand to meet the evolving needs of our citizens.”

The first few issues of Hampton Quarterly were pretty lean, compared with the magazine today. They ran 24 pages and contained few almost no advertising. Gradually, though, the magazine began to grow. We stared including advertising on the covers and began adding lengthier articles about upcoming events, interesting people, community organizations, and more.

Over time, however, the Quarterly in content and pages and the original production schedule wasn’t working. In order to fit the timing of various programs and news requirements the old schedule called for the magazine to be printed in April, June, August and October. The long gap between October and April was causing a backup in information and timing problems for some announcements, so in 2002 we added a fifth issue, to be published in February. Since there is no known word for publishing five times per year we stuck with the name “Quarterly.” 

That additional issue helped for a while, but the magazine kept growing in content and length and information still kept piling up between issues. Finally, in 2004 we switched to a bimonthly format in which the magazine is published in April, June, August, October and December. At this point it made sense to go back to using the name Hampton Magazine, although to this day many residents still call it “Hampton Quarterly.”

So, for six months each year Hampton Magazine brings you between 40 to 48 pages of notes, announcements, events, feature articles, information, and news about our community. Hampton magazine is the only editorial publication that reaches every household in our community, which has grown to over 7,000 households with more than 18,000 residents.

Hampton Township Then and Now

Over the past decade Hampton Magazine has documented the many changes and enhancements to living and learning in the township. Most of those changes are readily apparent: the expanded swimming pool, the new Middle School, the new Community Center, the extensive renovations to the High School, and many other improvements. It makes me wonder if any comparable ten-year period in the future will see as many changes in the infrastructure of Hampton.

But we also have to remember that the world in many ways is a very different place today then it was in August of 1998. Of course, there’s been no bigger change to our world than the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Looking back at 1998 from a post 9/11 perspective makes that world seem simpler and less complicated. Among the notable events happening around the country and around the world that year, were these:

·      The US and the United Nations were embroiled in the Kosovo conflict in Europe.

·      A first-class stamp cost 32 cents.

·      The administration announced the first balanced Federal budget in 30 years. (Have there been any since?)

·      The Euro became the single currency of Europe.

·      Titanic took in more than $580 million, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time.

·      In 1998, the Steelers finished 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time under Bill Cowher. The Pirates also missed the playoffs, finishing 6th in the Central Division.

·      More than 76 million viewers watch the last episode of Seinfeld.

·      India and Pakistan seemed on the verge of a nuclear war.

·      John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth in 1961, returned to orbit at age 77 in the space shuttle Discovery.

·      Three movies were filmed in Pittsburgh that year: Dogma, Temptations, and Inspector Gadget.

·      Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra dies of a heart attack at age 82.

·      President Clinton was embroiled in a White House sex scandal that brought about impeachment proceedings in the Senate.

·      Top movies that year were Affliction, American History X, Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, and There's Something About Mary.

·      The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour connected the first two modules of the international space station.

To gain some perspective on how much has changed over the past ten years in the township, I asked several individuals that have been involved with Hampton Magazine to share their reflections:

Joyce Fastucca, the Township’s Public Relations Coordinator has seen many of the major changes first hand.

“I can't believe the homes and patio homes that have been built in this township over The last 10 years. The township park has become a great facility with a new pool, baseball fields, and the community center. The park has always been a real asset to the community, and now with the new pool, baseball fields, soccer fields and the new community center with running track, exercise equipment and many activities it is terrific.  The library has become a favorite spot for all of our residents now that it is in the community center. Hampton is a great place to live and bring up children. The school district is one of the best, and the township truly lives by its vision statement: the Township of Hampton is and wishes to remain a financially responsible residential community that promotes citizen and business involvement for the betterment of quality family living.

As Joyce points, the Library has undergone a huge transformation. Starting out in borrowed space in Shopper’s Plaza, the Library is now a central focus for many Hampton residents. One who was there in the beginning, was Judy Gifford, one of the Library’s founding board members.

“It's been 18 years since we held bake sales and raffles to both raise awareness of the library effort and money.  Our group started with 4 women and grew to 100 in 9 months time. We made the declaration that we wanted to start up with no local tax money and we did. Our goal was to provide a community resource for all ages in Hampton and it is. Two milestones since it opened in September 1990 have stabilized its future, one being the establishment of RAD (Regional Asset District) and the other the opening of the Community Center. The trustee board now has new faces with an infusion of new ideas, which I welcome. From a personal standpoint, the library effort represents one of the most fun experiences I ever had and I treasure the memories and the friends I have because of it.”

Pat Forest, Hampton Township School District Community Relations Liaison was quick to point out a number of accomplishments for the district over the past decade:

“Hampton High School has established a stronger theater department.  It has joined the Gene Kelly Awards program, established Sate technology classes, introduced Stage Technology classes and its accompanying productions and begun an annual musical production at HMS. Also in the arts, the District established a stringed-instrument department. The HTSD Technology Department has also grown from a one-person to its present four-person operation.  Parents can now get 24/7 information about their children's grades from the comfort of their home through the PIV (Pinnacle Parent Internet Viewer).  Parents can also learn about their child's Food Service account on-line. The District established a continually growing web-site to serve the communication needs of the community.

“In 2001, HHS was expanded to include 22 new classrooms, a large group instruction room, a green house, a gymnasium and a wrestling room.  In 2003, the Middle School was renovated and an additional 40,000 square feet were added. In 2000, the District established the annual Hampton Heroes program.  To date, 162 area veterans have been recognized and honored during a Veteran's Day ceremony. We now have a full-time Athletics Director, a second HHS Assistant Principal and a special education director.”

Alex Zarenko, the Township’s Director of Community Services has overseen a great many of the major changes in the Township’s operations over the past ten years.

“Since 1998 our program insert, Hampton Highlights, has increased from 3issues per year to its current distribution schedule of six issues, and from 6 pages to 12-14 pages each issue. Approximately 8 new miles of roadways were taken over by the Township and we added approximately 10 new miles of storm water infrastructure. DCS has also implemented an annual storm-water detention pond maintenance program.

“Of course, we’ve made significant new improvements to the community park, including the ball fields, pool, pavilions, roads, parking areas, utilities, and restrooms. The road department has new heavy equipment – a larger front rubber tire loader, larger backhoe, skid steer, a mini-excavator, and larger GVW dump trucks.

“Recreationally, the past ten years has seen an expansion of the Township’s Independence Day celebration and major growth in our year around leisure programs, such as swim instruction, youth sports, adult sports, child care, dance instruction and others. We’ve undertaken a complete computerization of the DCS operation, including new computer registration, scheduling, and rental software programs. Although it’s not visible, over this same period we also have maintained an increased work load with the same number of labor staff members.”

The Heart of Hampton Award

One of the most interesting aspects of publishing Hampton Magazine for more than ten years has been the opportunity meet so many interesting people. In researching and writing articles about the School District, the Township, our civic organizations and our residents I came to learn a lot about our friends and neighbors. Specifically, I learned that a great many friendly, hard-working, accomplished, talented and community-spirited people were to be found in Hampton.   

Some of these people lived in Hampton and some of them only worked in Hampton, but lived elsewhere. Some were paid employees and some were volunteers. Many of them worked with our youth, which seemed appropriate given the passion that Hampton residents have for our children and students. Some where teachers, some were professionals, some were municipal employees, some were private sector employees.

In short, the people that we wrote about were very different from each other in many ways, but they all had one thing in common; their efforts helped to make Hampton a special place in which to live. We felt that it was fitting to find a way to honor some of these people, in some way. After all, there are numerous awards for celebrities and performing artists. There are awards for top professionals in many fields. But there are few awards for those people who actually impact our day-to-day lives the most … our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

Thus was born the Heart of Hampton Award. We started small the first year (1995) with a simple presentation to our first recipient, Edna Halli. Edna was a long-time resident, the official census enumerator, the township’s unofficial “welcome wagon,” and the consensus choice for the first Heart of Hampton award.

The next year we partnered with the Hampton Alliance for Educational Excellence to hold a dinner at Wildwood Golf Club, the proceeds of which would go to support our educators and students. In 2000 and 2001 the Hampton Rotary assumed the production of the dinner, with the proceeds to benefit the Rotary’s scholarship fund for Hampton students.

But I’ve been proud to be associated with each Heart of Hampton dinner each year between 1996 and 2001. We honored 31 people over that period, young and old, professional and volunteer, resident and non-resident.

When I reflect back on those dinners they were great events, often moving, frequently funny, sometimes touching, occasionally inspirational and always fun. Over the years we were treated to speeches that were filled with gratitude, humility, pride, laughter, tears and love. The longest speeches ran perhaps five to ten minutes. Dr. Bob Rylands was possibly the funniest. The shortest was given by a recipient who was so overcome with emotion she couldn’t speak. The best, in my opinion, was given by Marilyn Ulm who spoke movingly about her friend and fellow teacher, the late Jane Topnick (our first posthumous award).

One of our most poignant awards, as I look back on it today, went to Fire Chief Bill Goodrich. He was recognized in 2000 for his efforts -- over most of his lifetime – on behalf of the North Hampton Volunteer Fire Department. A 1964 Hampton High School graduate, Bill became Hampton’s second junior fireman at age 16, receiving his badge before his diploma. He eventually became assistant fire chief and a member of the NHVFD board of directors.

Bill Goodrich, who also owned and operated an auto repair shop on West Hardies Road, held every position over his 40-year career, including Chief, Lieutenant and Captain. He held the department’s overall career response record and served as past president of the Northern Area Fire Chief’s Association, an organization which he helped form in 1980.

Bill Goodrich’s selection as a Heart of Hampton recipient in 2000 gave all residents a chance to recognize his lifetime of service to the community. Tragically, Bill heroically died at the scene of a fire on Aug. 17, 2002 a scant two years later.

But, to be sure all of our recipients were most worthy and deserving of the award. We generally hosted between 150 to 200 guests at each dinner, which were all held at Wildwood Golf Club, and each was an evening to remember; a celebration of all that’s good about Hampton Township. After all, how many communities get a chance to celebrate the people who truly make a difference?

Sadly, the logistics of staging the awards became too much and we discontinued the program after 2001. There has been talk of reviving the award, and I would like to see that happen, but it would require a dedicated effort from a group of individuals or an organization.

A Word About Our Advertisers

When we published the first issue back in 1998 one thing that was missing from the magazine, for the most part, was advertising. There wasn’t a conscious decision to exclude advertising and in fact we didn’t even discuss it at that time. But one advertiser asked to be included in that first issue of Hampton Quarterly. Since the inside back and back covers contained only sports schedules in that issue, including an advertisement didn’t pose a problem, so Dr. Marsha Albright became our first advertiser.

Most publications are dependant upon advertising so their contents and layout tend to reflect that dependency. Their articles and columns are typically interspersed with ads, often resulting in an advertising-to-editorial ratio of 50-50, or even 60-40. That’s why most magazines seem crowded with commercial messages. From the beginning that wasn’t our plan for Hampton Magazine.

Originally we decided to only include advertising on the inside and back covers of the magazine. That way it wouldn’t intrude on the editorial content. And there’s really not much more you can do with cover space, anyway. Covers are printed in a separate process from the interior pages and the full color ink and glossy stock make covers ideal for advertising. However, as the magazine became better known and received wider recognition more advertisers began to ask to be included, and that presented a dilemma.

The Township and School District sections are not designed to accommodate ads and we had a concern about not overloading the publication with commercial messages. We also had some concerns about what types of ads to allow. Accordingly, we set some policies into place: advertising is limited to no more than 8 pages (approximately 25% of the contents) and we don’t accept political ads or any content that is either controversial or offensive.

Many readers have commented that the magazine has an uncluttered look, compared with similar publications. It also offers great value to our advertisers, since we are the only publication of this type that is mailed directly to all households in the township. In return, our advertisers make an invaluable contribution to the production of the magazine.

Most of us are probably a little jaded about advertising since it’s so pervasive. Everywhere we go, everywhere we look today, we seem to be confronted with commercial messages. It can be quite annoying, I agree, but we also tend to forget that advertisers pay most of the bills. Without paid advertising newspapers might cost $100 per copy and cable television bills could top $1000 per month!

Of course, advertising doesn’t pay the entire cost to produce Hampton Magazine, but it does help to defray the expenses. Our advertising revenue pays for mailing the magazine to all households and covers a substantial portion of the printing costs. Over the past ten years our partnership with advertisers has been mutually beneficial, but we owe them thanks for their ongoing support … especially Dr. Albright, who is still advertising in the magazine ten years later.

Into the Future

Who can say what the next ten years will bring for Hampton Magazine? As the township and school district continue to grow and prosper we will continue to provide residents with timely information. We’ve always looked for ways to make Hampton Magazine more valuable for our residents and we continue to do so in the future.

In 2006 we inaugurated a new website, www.hamptonmagazine.org. This might prove to be one avenue to provide more timely information to residents. We are also always on the lookout for interesting stories about Hampton residents and hopefully we will be able to continue bringing you those stories (and don’t be shy about letting us know you have a story to tell”).

One thing I do know for certain … Hampton residents are appreciative of the job we’ve been doing for the past ten years. I routinely receive complimentary calls, emails and comments on Hampton Magazine. In fact, Dr. Harry Sarver, a long time resident, the former Middle School Principal and current School Board member, recently told me:

“Hampton Magazine has been a vital link to our entire community from the very beginning. Beyond the mission of keeping residents informed about events and programs around the township, Hampton Magazine has grown to become the “voice” of Hampton. Whenever any community group or organization needs to present it’s story to residents they can count on Hampton Magazine to provide a fair and balanced account. We’re lucky to have such an informative, insightful and valuable resource.”

Fellow School Board member Gail Litwiler echoes Harry Sarver’s sentiments. She added, “I know how grateful our residents are to receive timely, topical information about the District and the Township. Hampton Magazine has been a great communications tool and in a larger sense the magazine has provided our residents with a true sense of community.”

Over the next ten years we plan to continue serving as the “voice of Hampton,” one of Western Pennsylvania’s great communities, with an exceptional school system and a terrific population. It has been, and continues to be, our pleasure and our privilege. And thank you to the community for your continued support!

If you have questions or comments on this article please email them to editor@hamptonmagazine.org

 

  

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