It could be argued that Payson’s first newspaper was published by the students of the high school, for in the autumn of 1926 they began a newsletter printed on their hand set type printer. It was called The Round-Up.
A copy of Volume 2, number 1, dated November 1927 begins by announcing, “The Payson Schools sponsored an Armistice Program at the Payson Dance Hall Thursday, November 10. The program was: Music, Trio; Invocation, Judge Vann; Song, 6 & 7 grade girls; Readings by L. M. Henderson and K. A. Ribelin; Violin Solo, Howard Kaeff; Address, Hon. C. C. Faires of Globe; Music, Trio. After the program the school had a dance. The Payson Pain Killers furnished the music. The receipts for the dance tickets amounted to $23.75. The money left over from the expenses will be added to the School Fund.”
The issue goes on to report on the school election held October 8th: “There was some confusion getting somebody to serve on the board, but finally Mrs. C. E. Chilson, Mrs. Cline and Mrs. Boardman consented to act. All ended well with Mrs. Ogilvie receiving 40 votes and Mrs. Neal 18. The reelected was trustee the term before and thru her good judgment and that of the other trustees the school has progressed greatly in the last few years.”
There was an indication that the town was growing. “The school continues to grow, in fact has grown until we are cramped for room and teachers again. New families moving in and increased interest in high school are the principal reasons for our larger enrollment.”
The High School curriculum was outlined in that early newspaper. Freshman – Algebra, English I, Modern Progress. Sophomores – Geometry, English II, Spanish I. Juniors – English III, Commercial Geography, Modern Progress.
“Besides these all are taking Musical Appreciation and Penmanship. The boys of all grades take Woodwork, and the girls Domestic Science.”
Then this comment, “The teachers are very sorry to state that they have no stubborn Seniors to take their much needed attention from the other promising classes.” 1
About the time the high school students began publishing The Round-Up in 1926, a 50-year-old cowhand named Bert Slater arrived in Payson. His odyssey had taken him from Illinois where he left his childhood behind to venture to Colorado. There he worked on cattle ranches and prospected for gold, but eventually his sense of adventure took him on to Idaho, California, El Paso, and finally to the isolated town of Payson, where he soon became active in civic affairs.
He soon became a fixture in Payson’s round of dances and clubs, even becoming a member of the Civil Air Patrol. After 20 years as a local resident he thought it was time to realize the area lacked one thing: a home-town newspaper. He purchased a hand-operated printing press, and adopting the title of the high school’s former publication began a weekly called the Payson Roundup. The year was 1946, and for the next 10 years the townfolk were reading his four-page, pamphlet-sized paper.
In recounting the venture, he once wrote, “At the time I started the paper I had never had any experience in that kind of work. I did not know the type had to be set ‘backwards way,’ but by trial and failure I finally learned and was able to print the little paper of home news.”
Every paper was headed The Payson Roundup, HOME NEWSPAPER OF THE TONTO BASIN. Items were short but to the point. “Mr. and Mrs. Bert Herron left Payson on the 9th, after managing the Elk Café and Bar for the past year. The Herrons intend to spend a vacation camping, just resting up for awhile. The owner, Mrs. Polly Brown, is manager of the Bar and Mrs. Etta Goswick has the café. Lotta Clement is the cook and Ann Wilbanks is the bartender.” (June 20, 1952)
There were stories about the local Civil Air Patrol club searching for a lost plane, and the big training operation of CAP members from all over the state which took place out of Payson’s airstrip. First Lieutenant James Deming was in charge, and Second Lieutenant Bert Slater operated the walkie-talkie.
There were also announcements of weddings, church services, and special needs such as, “If you need a good lawn mower, Ed Fuel has one he will sell.”
The handset type produced frequent typographical errors, but that could readily be overlooked for the important local news that was imparted.
“When the stork visited Mrs. Ruby Holiday and left a baby girl, she was the first white child born IN Payson for some time.”
“J. D. Miller returned home on the 15th after an absence of quite some time. Just where all J. D. was gallivanting around we don’t know, but that’s his business and none of our own.”
Slater might have been called Payson’s Poet Laureate for he wrote poems calling the town to Saturday night dances. He printed them on postcards and sent out the invitations to his entire subscription list of 150 homes.
“Next Saturday nite at 8:00 P.M.
On the fifth day of October,
If you like to dance the old time way,
And will stay just tolerable sober,
You had better come to the Elk Dance Hall
And you’ll have a wonderful time.
You boys dig up only half a buck;
You galls, not a dadburn dime.”
Any advertising that appeared in the paper was complimentary, and while subscriptions were set at $1 a year, they were more or less voluntary. No one was ever billed.
After 10 years of continuous publication he sold his newspaper and printing equipment to friend Bert Sprague in 1956.
Slater was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and when he retired on his 80th birthday he was honored with a plaque presented by the Chamber. The next year, on his birthday, Saturday, Feb. 23, 1957, Bert Slater died peacefully. The night before he was still active, and had been helping with a talent show put on by the Payson Little Theater.
1 See Chapter 30 of The Story of Payson, published in The Roundup on November 11, 2009, “The Class of 1927.”