A look back: The Granby Drummer: 1970–2019

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In the late 1960s, CPPAC* didn’t exist; there was no financial model to predict and prepare for capital expenditures or taxes. Granby’s population was booming, and the schools weren’t keeping pace. Granby Memorial High School was overcrowded and on the brink of losing accreditation, mainly because of a lack of classrooms and support infrastructure. The Board of Education had a plan that included major additions and renovations to the existing two-building campus. The Board of Finance projected the project’s cost after state reimbursement (sound familiar yet?) and took a bonding issue and a large tax increase to the taxpayers for approval. Almost a year and four budget referendums later, the proposal had not been approved.

A group of concerned citizens formed an ad hoc action committee hoping to find a way to influence town opinion. The members of “The Loose Group” gathered in Bruce and Bobbie Sullivan’s living room to brainstorm a course of action. Their kids’ education was on the line. Their research determined that those voting “no” were mostly empty-nesters or younger people unaware of the ramifications of losing high school accreditation. They decided to publish and direct mail a pamphlet with information answering all of the voter’s concerns. It underscored the downside of doing nothing—a lower credit rating for the town, lower property values, decreased state reimbursement for education and schools, the community’s reputation and negative impact on college admissions.

It worked. At the next referendum the proposal passed. Until the most recent renovations in 1999, the results of that vote served the community well. Out of that effort came the idea to continue providing the community with a “voice” and forum. In 1970, the group again gathered and changed the organization’s name to Citizens for a Better Granby (CBG). The new organization took on two major tasks: creating The Granby Drummer as a monthly all-volunteer publication and sponsoring a public forum series that lasted for several years. Decades after the forums went silent, the Drummer thrived and also won the Hartford Courant Volunteer of the Year Award for community service.

 Volunteers have always been the heart of the Drummer. Those who, in the early years, set up Green-Stamp-financed Selectric typewriters on their dining room tables to type the content in pre-measured columns. Writers who covered board meetings, told human interest stories, historic tales and wrote monthly columns or poetry. Folks who gathered for three nights ten times a year, first in private homes and later at the Masonic Hall next door to Bank of America, to “wax” and lay down the typed copy on poster-board weight “boards”. It was a volunteer commitment fondly referred to as “Paste Up.” The completed boards were handed off to a volunteer courier who drove them to the printer in Rocky Hill regardless of the weather. An advertising manager beat the bush every month for enough ads to pay printing and mailing costs and there were times when volunteers dug into their own pockets to make up the difference. A long list of editors managed assignments, trucked typewriters (and later computers) and copy to typists at the Masonic Hall. They laid out the content, trained new volunteers and found a way to fill a lean paper’s pages to meet the printer’s edict—add or decrease by four pages only!

Some editors served for several years and sometimes returned to serve a second stint. However, there were times when a new editor took the helm each year. Finding an editor was often a monumental quest—ads and editorials unabashedly begged for candidates and didn’t hesitate to proclaim, “Without an editor for next year, the Drummer will cease to exist!” Obviously, someone always stepped up. They grew the paper from an 18-page, 8.5×11 newsletter to the 32–40 page, full-color, standard tabloid-size paper it is today.

The Selectrics were replaced with boxy little Mac Classics in the late 1980s and the editors have kept pace with publishing technology ever since. The ad manager now has a staff to handle the demand for local ad space. After the paper moved into the Victorian next door to the police station and outfitted it with volunteer-built and -donated fixtures and furniture, production was extended and now is ongoing all month long. The actual computer-based production cycle that creates the files for submission to the printer takes place during the next-to-last week of the month. The same printer in Rocky Hill prints, bundles and delivers the “hot off the press” papers to the post office for delivery to your mailbox. The editor oversees every stage of production but also keeps the computer system current and functioning, engages in community outreach and coordinates the many activities in which the Drummer participates.

The Drummer is one of a handful of like papers across the country—one started with a political agenda, by a politically motivated group of volunteers—that has survived for more than a couple of years. Unlike the scores of papers that failed, the Drummer evolved and became not a mouthpiece for politics or a single issue, but a well-balanced voice of the community.

Granby Drummer volunteers and CBG are proud and humbled to have served this community for 50 years.

*CPPAC–The Capital Projects Priorities Advisory Committee was established to minimize the impact of capital projects that are funded outside the normal operating and educational budgets.