The big four oh. The birthday everyone shudders to think about because it signals the beginning of middle age.
This 40th birthday is different, however. Today marks the start of The Southeast Sun being your local hometown newspaper for 40 years, recording historical facts for its citizens, sharing the accomplishments of our young people and keeping the residents informed as to the goings-on of their city government and school system.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since we published our first edition and at the risk of dating myself, I’m the only one left who has been a part of The Sun for all 40 years, thus I felt it fell to me to write this column. Plus, this newspaper was the product of three men who came together to give the people of Enterprise something they felt was lacking, a good product to keep the citizenry informed.
My father, Howard Quattlebaum, along with two other advertising men in Enterprise, spent several months coming up with the idea and the first Sun was published and distributed on Thursday, May 6, 1982. Less than a year later in February 1983, the publication date was moved to Wednesdays at the request of several local advertisers.
I’ll never forget going home the first day our carriers threw newspapers and seeing all those orange bags in everyone’s yard. It was a sight to behold after all the hard work we had done just to get this baby off the ground.
We’ve seen a lot over 40 years. There have been six different mayors and numerous councilmen over the years, five Enterprise City Schools superintendents and too many school board members to count.
Downtown Enterprise merchants met in November 1982 to talk about starting the process to have the downtown area declared an historical district in an attempt to bring back business and preserve downtown buildings with businesses moving to the “fringe” areas of the bypass. In June 2019, the City of Progress was named a Main Street Alabama city and the downtown area is thriving, a multi-use area proving it is the heart of the city.
Securing the HS R&A Tier 2 manufacturer in 2003 who would supply the Hyundai plant in Montgomery for our city was a huge boost to the local economy with the creation of 350 jobs. The company has since expanded adding more jobs and contracting with other automotive manufacturers. Wayne Farms has expanded more than once and is up to nearly 1,500 jobs in Coffee County.
The Hwy. 84 bypass, which was once a two-lane highway connecting the community college and the New Brockton highway, is now a circle around the city with most of it four-laned and businesses clamoring for space to build. Traffic is horrendous during certain hours of the day but that’s a minor inconvenience for a growing city.
There has been good news along with bad news to record but that’s just the nature of the job unfortunately. Births, birthdays, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, obituaries, all recorded in the annals of our paper. It’s interesting sometimes to go back and look at the bound editions in our conference room and take a trip back through time to read events we’ve forgotten about or see faces that are no longer with us.
Other times it brings a tear to the eye to come across some of the bad events we’ve covered, none worse than the tornado in 2007 that destroyed two schools and took nine lives, eight of them students at Enterprise High School. Our staff worked countless hours to record the nightmare our city was undergoing with all the devastation surrounding us.
Let’s don’t forget Sept. 11, 2001 and the impact it had world wide but also touched our own community. Over the last 20 years we’ve had multitudes of flight students train at Fort Rucker then be shipped overseas to the Middle East to fight the War on Terror, losing their lives to preserve our freedom. And we’ve lost some of our own to this war — Tim Conneway, Andrew Hand and most recently, Joshua Watson.
These are the stories that are the hardest to write and the kind no reporter ever wants to have to cover. But that’s part of our job.
I hope these last 40 years have been a blessing to the communities we cover. It has certainly been a blessing to me, not so much in what we’ve done but in the people I’ve had the pleasure to work with and get to know who make Enterprise and the surrounding areas what they are. And I have been certainly blessed to be able to work with my dad until he passed away and my brother all these years.
I won’t be working until the end of the next decade, if luck has it, but hopefully there will be someone to take up the mantle and continue to provide our readers and advertisers a product they can be proud of and look forward to every week.
Thanks to everyone who has made us a success. We’ll be eternally grateful and know how much we love you.
Here’s to the next 40!
Caroline Quattlebaum is co-publisher for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at email@example.com.