Norma Lugar (1934-2010)
This portrait of Norma Vecellio Lugar (1934-2010), by Chris Jamison, hangs in the halls of LeisureMedia360, and captures perfectly the intensity, passion and Italian beauty of the journalism veteran who intimidated the 27-year-old Richard Wells when she interviewed for a job in 1975, but then broke the tension by getting up to leave and walking into a closet.
The story below is excerpted from our Sept./Oct. 2014 issue. For the full story view our digital edition for FREE today!
The support of readers and advertisers has been the delightful constant through four decades of the magazine.
“They said it couldn’t be done . . . and a few times, we thought just maybe they were right.”
Those were the first words in Volume I No. 1 of this magazine. And when I wrote them in the fall of 1974, I was 26 years old and operating as pretty much a one-man band out of a one-room office in the Crystal Tower Building; and those words were as true as they were unoriginal.
Sitting here 40 years later in a somewhat bigger office and in the company of about 30 co-workers, I’m reminded of a thought from the lady who would, not too many months after that premier issue, become the first editor of The Roanoker: “Every generation thinks it invented sex,” was a favorite bit of wisdom and insight from Norma Lugar, who left us in 2010 after a pioneering 50-year journalism career that included long stints at both The Roanoke Times and The Roanoker.
Maybe if you were lucky enough to bring the first modern city magazine for Roanoke, Virginia to fruition, you do earn a little of that kind of feeling. Perhaps especially when you were foolish and brash enough that you didn’t even see another city magazine until after the first Roanoker was out.
Whatever celebration and exuberance there was that fall – when gas was 53 cents a gallon, a stamp cost a dime and the Dow hit a high of 950 – is at least as much a testament to those who believed in the project as to my own work. Here’s a First National Exchange Bank ad on the inside front cover, talking about “Think of all the things you’d like to do in life.” Here’s Branch & Associates, talking about “taking the tangle out of Tanglewood” with its 419 straightening project. And MKB Realtors, just a year old itself, although then called Lugar Mastin Kirkland Bolling. And on the back cover, Don Peery’s “10 Reasons to Buy a Peery Home.” His ad would run for the subsequent 13 issues – giving the magazine an anchor to build on well into 1977.
There’s another part to what made that fall among the most exciting times of my life. There at the right of the words “FALL/1974” and “INAUGURAL ISSUE” is the simple declaration: “60 cents.” And toward the back was a little box offering the deal of four issues for $2. Or 12 for just $5.
Point being, yes, you can sign up advertisers to help pay the print bill, but if there aren’t readers out there paying attention to your content and to those ads, you are very quickly facing the reality of no, it couldn’t be done after all.
Forty years and more than 300 issues later, the same principles and the same deep gratitude apply. This 148-page issue would not be possible without the nearly 60 pages of advertising messages in it. Nor without the subscription copies that go out not only all over the Roanoke Valley, but also to states all over the Southeast and beyond. Nor without copies coming off the newsstand racks at the likes of Barnes & Noble, Kroger and other outlets.
And you know what, that 60 cents in 1974 is just over $3 in today’s dollars. So our per-copy price has gone up only slightly over the 40 years. Thank you, Roanokers everywhere, for staying with us.
I like to think that our journalistic efforts over those years have made that staying with us a relatively easy call.