The three Nichols Brothers platted the town of Englewood in 1896. Slowly, over the years many basic amenities arrived — but not a newspaper.
The town had to wait 59 years before it was able to read the first issue of its own newspaper, which was named the Englewood Herald.
The nearby Punta Gorda Herald had wanted to put out an Englewood paper, but was unable to find anyone with the needed experience to pull it all together. That changed in 1954, which saw a new arrival in Englewood, Jo Cortes, a former writer for the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C. Jo was shocked to find the town did not have its own newspaper. She stepped forward and applied for the job of getting a paper going.
Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Englewood Herald^p was published Sept. 2, 1955.
It was a weekly, sold for 10 cents a copy and was received with great enthusiasm.
The first edition had a killer of a lead story. Jo’s article announced the Intracoastal Waterway was definitely coming through Lemon Bay. This was tremendously important news to be brought to the community, as it affected everyone and the town itself.
Jo was the first editor of the town’s first newspaper. At that point in time, the editor was the whole staff. She gathered the news, put the paper together, did the writing and editing, sold the ads, got the paper to the Post Office to be mailed, delivered it to spots to be sold.
Jo only stayed with the paper a little more than a year, but was given great credit for finally getting the news rolling in Englewood.
It was no small accomplishment getting out a newspaper in a small community such as Englewood. The main problem was attracting qualified personnel. Few journalists cared to move to a tiny, isolated Florida village which still was still lacking good phone service.
Englewood had waited decades for a local newspaper and was so pleased with the publication. However, there was talk of it being discontinued because of the challenge finding some one to run it. Ash Wing had become editor, but was looking for a replacement.
Bob Wulfing grew up and worked in his family’s newspaper business, and knew small community newspapers well. When his dad sold their papers, Bob decided he wanted to live in Florida. He was thinking about looking for a job. While staying in Venice he drove to Englewood to just look around.
Bob said, “I had a brand new Chevrolet Corvair — ran beautifully. Right in the middle of Dearborn Street it quit. I got out and pushed if off the road. I looked across the street — there’s a newspaper office, the Englewood Herald. It was fate.”
Bob went into the paper and, after talking to the editor, went to Punta Gorda where it took five minutes for the publisher, Jim Jesse, to hire him. A new editor had been found, the paper would stay in business.
“The title ‘manager’ meant I was editor, reporter, photographer, janitor, sold advertising, and did everything else in between,” said Bob. “The paper came out once a week and was printed in Punta Gorda. On printing day I also did the stereotyping, engraving, darkroom work, proofreading and helped with the press work.
“There were no paper boxes then. The paper sold for 10 cents over the counter. You stuffed them in stores all around town each week. The store got half the money, the paper got half. A lot of papers were mailed. I had to address all those papers and all the shoppers too.
Englewood was coming alive in the early 1960s. Just a few of the important stories Bob reported on were the two new libraries, the Intracoastal Waterway being completed and the Tom Adams bridge being built. “It was an exciting time for a small community paper,” remembered Bob, even though there was often the problem of lack of news.
“Man, I’m telling you it wasn’t easy. In winter months there were so many social and business activities I could fill as many pages as I needed. In the summer it was just the opposite, had to dig like crazy to find any stories.
“Here’s a funny thing we did. In the 1960s, the New York papers all went on strike, so I put out a New York edition of the Englewood Herald^p. We sent the papers to New York. They were sold on a newsstand — sold them all. The Chamber of Commerce paid the freight.”
By 1968, Bill Beach was the Herald’s editor. His Dec. 25 edition was certainly different from most Christmas issues. It reported on one of the biggest stories the paper had ever covered, an horrific true-life drama papers all across the county were following. Beach’s headline read “Flight for Freedom ends in Swamp.”
Barbara Mackle, the daughter of well-known Florida developer Robert Mackle, had been kidnapped, buried alive and held for ransom. The accused kidnapper had been captured on Hog Island adjacent to El Jobean by members of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department.
In 1989, Sun Coast Media Group, which owned the Charlotte Sun^p and the Englewood Sun Times^p, purchased the Punta Gorda Herald^p and Englewood Herald^p from Thompson Newspapers. The Englew^pood He^prald^p became the Englewood Sun-Herald^p and eventually the Englewood Sun^p. Cortes, Wulfing and Beach are only three of the earlier journalists who helped lay the foundation of our community paper that in 2016 won a Pulitzer Prize.