The Garden Island newspaper back in the old days

The founder — in 1902 — and the publisher and editor of Kauai’s The Garden Island newspaper was Sometaro Sheba, who was succeed-ed in 1907 by Kenneth Hopper, who went on to a 22-year career with Garden Island Publishing Co. as its business manager, secretary, managing editor and, later, as its president and director.

One of Hopper’s editors was former barnstorming aviator Charlie Fern (1892-1995), whom Hopper hired in 1922 as a sportswriter.

Fern would personally report the main baseball game of the week, assigning reporters to cover ball games he couldn’t for $1 a story.

Charlie would then edit the copy his editors would mail to the newspaper, write his story and make up the sports page for the weekly paper.

He also reported local news (the newspaper printed only local news in those days) — news of the courts, police reports, government meetings and stories on location.

Other news came from women around the island who mailed in notes of weddings, births and parties for $1 a note — Makaweli Notes, Waimea Notes, Eleele Notes, etc.

Passengers embarking and debarking inter-island boats at Nawiliwili and Ahukini were another news source.

When Charlie was promoted to editor in 1924, circulation totaled about 3,000 for a 10-page newspaper that came out once a week on Tuesdays, later on Wednesdays, with all distribution done by mail. Editorials were Charlie’s kuleana.

The outspoken and fearless editor had words of praise for old-time Kauai Board of Supervisors Charles A. Rice, Walter McBryde, Eric Knudsen, Manuel Aguiar and Henry Wishard, because “they ran a good, tight ship. They never had a deficit, they never had high taxes, they always lived within their budget, and they knew what their budget was.”

But he made enemies, also, by “showing up the phonies,” as he put it.

Charlie Fern would remain at the newspaper for 44 years, retiring in 1966 as owner of the paper.


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