The National Hillbilly News was first published by the Poster Show Printing Company in Huntington, West Virginia. The reality of it is, that company was the printing company owned by Orville Via. The magazine was a publication that was largely due to team of Orville and his wife Jenny. This is probably one of our favorite publications because it seems that it was written for the fan by fans of country music. We also get a more personal sense of what was going on with their publication in their editorial writings they would each make. Should we also note the obvious reference and reverance to the music they were writing about - Hillbilly Music?
We had the good fortune of making contact with a nephew of Orville and Jenny, Don Wright, who also helped them get the magazine out doing various odd jobs for them at the print shop. He was kind enough to provide us a bit of background related to them and the magazine.
Let's learn a bit about this husband wife team that decided to publish this magazine. Keep in mind they started this during World War II where newsprint could be in scarce supply at times and limit the efforts of publications. It wasn't as easy as it appears today with the numerous slick publications we see on the racks just bout everywhere.
Orville Wright Via (Uncle Orville as he was known to Don) was named after Orville Wright, the pilot/inventor (but no relation to Don's family) His father was a short, stout concrete block maker and mason; his mother was tall and thin.
Orville eventually became a printer and owned a successful print shop in Huntington, Poster Printing Company, later renamed Poster Show Print Company coincident with moving the their new Auburn Road shop and residence. Their phone number was 7477 (phone numbers had only four digits in those days) and they had the same number on their car license tag.
Orville was an immensely talented person (the Christmas Card seen in this article was his creation). He was good at art, music (played piano/organ by ear), building, fishing, boating and more. The Queen Anne Chair in Don's possession was hand-built by Uncle Orville.
He was also the timekeeper and announcer at the weekly professional wrestling matches that were held at the WCMI Radio Center in Huntington.
He was also involved in the very early days of NASCAR racing.
He married the former Virginia Lois Dial (Jenny) around 1935.
Virginia Lois Dial Via (Aunt Jenny) was born at Culloden, West Virginia. She was the second child of Rufus and Nora Dial, sister to Margaret and James, wife of Orville Via. She was an attractive gal in her day and a hard worker. Probably the most giving person this world has ever known, Don tells us his Aunt Jenny would always give her last dime to whomever needed it. And it was not just material things she gave, more importantly, she gave her love as well. She was like a second mother to Don and his brother Dick.
Nothing was more important to Jenny than her family. She worked for quite some time at the Lawrence Drug Store in Huntington which was one of the largest and busiest drug stores in town. She worked the soda fountain, which had a pretty sizeable business at lunch hour.
When Don would take a trip uptown, it always included a stop to see Aunt Jenny because she would treat a family member to a milkshake or whatever they wanted. She pretended she had the authority give it away, but secretly paid for it out of her own pocket.
She was also Orville’s right-hand man in his print shop business. She could run the presses, fold, staple, set type or anything else. She enjoyed gardening, especially after they built their house and shop on Auburn Road. Orville was a dreamer, always thinking of new adventures to get into. Jenny’s nature was to go along with anything that someone wanted to do; perhaps in part due to her optimistic attitude, she could be sold on about anything. It was not that she didn’t or couldn't think for herself, but rather she just loved life and her family enough to want for them anything that they wanted.
Orville always seemed to be into something that usually they could not afford. He thought little of buying a new press or a certain type of machine even when they were having trouble putting food on the table. This is not to imply he was irresponsible, but rather he just wanted things perhaps a little prematurely. In today's technological world, folks might term him wanting to be on the 'bleeding edge' of his business.
Orville and Jenny seemed to both lack money management skills, but it didn't seem to bother either of them as it might others who felt the stress of monetary pressures. Jenny's attitude throughout her years was to enjoy life.
The most important highlight in Jenny and Orville’s life was the birth of their daughter, Vicki Lynn in 1950. They had treated Dick and Don like sons, but finally they had their own offspring. And, she was a cutie, with looks and a figure that closely resembled the little movie star, Shirley Temple. Orville and Jenny were so proud! Later in life, Vicki returned the love her parents gave her and became the caregiver for her mother.
The magazine inluded its creed in its early issues in 1945 that provide us a bit of insight as to how Orville and Jenny approached their publication.
" The purpose of this publication is to promote friendship and good feeling amoung our readers, the hill-billy music radio entertainers. Never will the columns of this magazine be used to stir up unfriendly feelings or to further the unselfish cause of any individual or group.
Orville was close friends with a good many of the old country music stars such as Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. They both were from Huntington and could be found in Uncle Orville’s shop from time to time. Orville had the most unique handwriting as seen in that Christmas card. He could have done almost anything in life, but he enjoyed printing most of all. At one time he wanted to be a telegrapher like his Grandpa Vass, but Grandpa knew it was a dying business and talked him out of it.
Jenny wrote in that second issue that they went all out to promote their publication. She notes that they had contacted all of the radio stations (we're going to presume only the ones that played country music) and also to almost every "hillbilly" in the country - their first press runs were over 6,600 issues. Their initial annual subscription rates were all of $1.50 for twelve issues. Jenny told the readers that the response to their first issue was overwhelming. Entertainers were wanting up to 10,000 copies alone to sell at personal appearances and over the air. But Jenny noted that the paper shortage at that time was still acute and wouldn't allow them to publish in the requested quantity.
The magazines first issues list the print shop address as 1412 Madison Avenue in Huntington. Later, Orville would build a two story 'home' for he and Jenny at 3918 Auburn Road. It was two stories. They lived in the apartment quarters upstairs and the print shop was located on the first floor.
When Don would visit the print shop, he recalls that he would always get a “Hi Ole Bud” and usually a quarter for a movie or whatever from Uncle Orville.
The publication had a variety of contributors through the years it was published. Fans will recognize some of the names who were early pioneering country music journalists. One has to appreciate the detail and mentions of many regional artists that the publication was good at mentioning.
Let's take a look at some of the regular contributing journalists.
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