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
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.
—Volume 1 Issue 2; July 1945
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.
Behind the Scenes
Nicola and Rose Fantetti
This husband wife duo were one of the earliest columnists for the magazine, based
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-music.com wishes to thank Don Wright,
nephew of Orville and Jenny Via for contacting us and providing us with
biographical information about his aunt and uncle as well as sharing
his memories and other images as noted.