WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: Remembering my childhood newspaper

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

It was part COVID-19, part the economy and just part of the times. A weekly icon faded from existence about a year ago in early April 2020: The Trenton Tribune stopped publication.

Owner and publisher Tom Holmes summed it up, “People don’t take to newspapers like they used to.”

Holmes, ‘Tom Mac’ to his friends, had been doing the newspaper thing for a long time. His grandfather started the Tribune in 1909; and Tom Mac apprenticed with his father setting type and printing the paper with real ink in the 1940s. When his father died in 1958, Tom Mac took over and published the weekly newspaper for more than 60 years.

“It’s such a loss; I always said when the bank account went in the red, it would be time to shutdown,” explained Tom Mac. “At the end, the finances were bad; no one was buying advertising. It’s really sad to think about.”

According to Holmes, the paper was in continuous publication every week since that first issue on Oct. 22, 1909. It was mailed to subscribers; and could be found at locations around town. Tom Mac’s grandfather, Dr. W.L. Holmes, founded the Tribune; and Tom H. Holmes, Tom Mac’s father, printed it from the beginning. The Holmes family is entrenched in Trenton’s history as W.L. named many of the streets in town after his children including ‘Hamilton’ for his son, Tom H.

“The other children got streets, too: Augustus, Daisy and Pearl,” said Tom Mac.

Tom Mac took to the publication and was a one-man workforce for much of the time. He wrote the stories, set the type on the old ‘Linotype’ machine; and printed the copies. It was a labor of love for the community he loved. He did grow with the times as he converted to computers in 1975; and set the linotype machine for the final time.

“So much transition over the years; I feel it was a big, big thing for me to be part of it,” mused Tom Mac. “At the end, I had the paper in Sherman printing it, but printing costs have gone sky high in recent years. I don’t blame them; they did a great job. It just priced us out of the market.”

Tom Mac said he went through the regular newspaper stages, Singer machines, Topic Graphic and off-set printing over the years. Most of the subscribers were in Fannin County (like Trenton), but there were some out of county and even out of state. At its height, there were just over 1,200 subscribers with an average of 1,000 subscribers most years. At the end, there were only about 400 subscribers on his labels sheets. He still owns the publication number for the venerable newspaper; and still has that last set of labels ready to go.

My first experience with the Trenton Tribune was the 1970s when my father, a Trenton native, began subscribing to the newspaper. He ‘took the paper’ for the rest of his life until 2015; he would have been shocked to know it only lasted five more years. I remember getting the mail as a youth and seeing the newspaper. I had no idea you could get a newspaper that way. I would ask Dad if I could read it just to see what it was all about. I got into that habit; and read it for the rest of the years I was at home. I also remember fondly of picking up the paper off the kitchen table over the years to glance at the front page. I’d get the latest news in the burg of Trenton. It made me feel part of it all; it made me feel good.

The local newspaper is the soul of the community. It is vital to what is going on and what is happening in your town. To lose it is to lose that connection we all share on a daily or weekly basis. Life is just not the same when your newspaper folds.

I’m sad that it ended. I understand why; the internet and digital world have moved on. We simply don’t sit down long enough to read a newspaper (well, I do, but the majority don’t). I hate that an icon and landmark of a community is lost to history. There is so much that the Tribune chronicled that can never be duplicated again.

“There is so much history to the Tribune; the Fannin County Historical Society and the Fort Worth Historical Society want the past issues,” said Tom Mac. “We took such care of them over the years; I’ll never get over it ending.”

Me neither, Tom Mac. Me neither…

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.