Events, Ponderings

My bittersweet adieu to the Journal

Today the Journal Tribune will publish it’s last issue, and then cease to be. I read Drew McMullin’s farewell essay in this yesterdays edition, and it revived the lump that has been in my throat since I learned our newspaper is being tossed. Why? Because it is not a moneymaker, and that is all that matters. I have to admit, I’m pretty upset and so very sad about this whole situation. Biddeford is doing amazing things, and has been doing everything right, and still we couldn’t save our local paper…of course I wonder if we had a fair chance to fight for it. Pay up or else, I guess.

But I’m going to try and keep my disappointment and accusations to myself, because the purpose of me writing this is a need to say something good. I need to convey my deep appreciation for the Journal Tribune, in all its forms, and for all the Journal staff who have ever served our community.

To the past and current staff of the Journal: Do you know that we use your work almost every day at the library? Do you know that we all rely on the work you’ve done to tell the innumerable stories of our city? Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, accidents, fires, triumphs, mysteries, successes, defeats, they are all there, and always have been. Do you know how often the words “Let’s check in the Journal” or some variation of which, have been and are uttered by the librarians of Biddeford? I can only imagine it has ever been so.

We have relied on you, and we are afraid of a future without you. There’s room in the out-of-town papers for the big Biddeford and Saco stories, but what about the little ones? Will the free weekly that is supposed to suffice have room enough amongst the all-important ads for all the little things that make our towns home? When people pass away will their loved ones still have an affordable option to have an obituary printed? I know from experience that a Press Herald obit costs quite a bit more than the Journal did – hundreds of dollars for a modest sized remembrance. Will people in Biddeford and Saco and surrounding towns be able to afford to have their loved ones remembered one last time?

What about in 10 years, or 20 years, when someone wants to learn about the how and why of our choices today in Biddeford – Saco? Will they be able to find that information locally, for free? Or will they have to pay an online service? Or will they have to go to Portland? Or Augusta? Can you even get to Augusta from here without a car?? I don’t know that you can, not easily anyway.

The thing is, our community newspaper is not just a business, it is NOT all about dollars and cents. It is so much more than that, it is the living memory of all of us, in a format that is almost universally accessible. It’s the memory of me, and you, and my kids, and your kids and grandkids. It is our grandparents, or the grandparents of your neighbors up the street, or of all the folks that have lived in your building or your block. It’s all the honor rolls, playoff games, new businesses, and programs at the libraries.

I am so grateful to all of the amazing editors and reporters that I’ve come to know over my 13 years here at the library. I am so sorry that your hard work has come to this, and I promise you that we will keep your words and images alive. I promise that we will do our best to care for and preserve the Journal Tribune and make it accessible to all forever. I wish I could do more. I’m glad I have it within my power to do something, at least.

Thank you for being a part of my story. I won’t forget you.

New Stuff

Rum did it!

I was looking up some late 19th century obituaries in the local papers and came away with a clearer sense of the amount of temperance propaganda that appeared in the media at that time. The first article that caught my attention was about an unfortunate fire that occurred in the General Qunby(sp?) Hook & Ladder House on Main Street where a young man, passed out drunk on a couch, died. The second piece, which appeared in the next week’s paper, was less tragic but still pretty grim. Here it is in full:

“-Mr. Patterson of Lewiston, who has had charge of the brick work on the York corporation, completes his work this week.  Mr. P. in conversation with a well-known Saco gentleman a few days ago, said that many of his workmen would have attended to their business more satisfactorily if Biddeford rum hadn’t frequently got the better of them. He made the statement that he often withheld the wages of the men for the reason that payday meant to them a day of disgraceful inebriation, made so by liquor obtained in Biddeford.” (Union & Journal, December 3, 1880.)

Which makes me curious–was Saco dry at this time? I hadn’t heard about that but I wonder if it was so. Also, apparently a “turkey raffle” was slang for going out to have some drinks, and it comes up often in the little quips about crime and public disturbances that appeared in the papers of the time. Lots of interesting questions to think about with this!