Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 8, 2011 and The Weekly Packet, December 7, 1961
The Weekly Packet, Celebrating our 50th year
by Jerry Durnbaugh
Editor’s note: This week’s Remember When is the last of the items printed in this space over the last year, marking The Packet’s 50 years in publishing community news. Jerry Durnbaugh’s Clipbored column from the December 7, 1961, issue pays tribute not only to Gayle, his wife, but to the staff and community for making the newspaper successful.
When the head of the English department at Manchester College asked me to take over editorship of the college paper, I was somewhat disconcerted. Fresh out of the navy, I had just re-enrolled, knew few professors, fewer students, and nobody on the paper’s staff.
I needed help from someone in the know. So I approached the current copy editor who, it turned out, was just a wisp of a girl, of a size that belied her energy.
Under no circumstances, she said, would she be assistant editor, she was too busy. So I made her “Editorial Assistant” for the next year, a year which with rare succinctness, she later described our relationship as “I hated him.” And she did, too.
SINCE OUR PURPOSE was to convert the paper from a gossip sheet into a newspaper, there was no social fraternizing with the staff. The “Editorial Assistant” grumbled through the year, hating me more as the year wore on.
When it came time to choose a successor, she was the logical choice. But she flatly refused.
This made it necessary to throw the editorship open to a popular election among staff members. It wasn’t a rigged election, exactly, but with the head of the communications committee I was able to set the qualifications for editor in such a manner that only she could qualify, and so she was elected by popular accord.
With this mandate from her public she had little choice.
She became editor, I became finished.
But at least now I could fraternize, except that she wouldn’t date me.
In such a position, one must persevere. So I succeeded in getting a date, then another and finally a third before she definitely decided there would be no more dates. But the bait for the fourth proved too strong—it was a political dinner of some sort and the chance to meet the Governor or a Senator or somebody—I forget who.
THAT,APPARENTLY, turned the trick and started what, normally, would be called our “courtship.”
Since I was working for a newspaper, our dates were seldom run-of-the-mill affairs. As often as not we attended fires, traffic accidents, speeches, suicides, ball games or developed pictures in the darkroom.
When Christmas came, I was at a loss for a suitable gift. I couldn’t seem to find anything within my means so, in desperation, I got a diamond. Imagine my surprised, then, when she took and told it was just what she wanted!
Six months later, as we honey-mooned in Maine, I knew my bachelor days were over when she said, “Jerry, you need a haircut.” That hasn’t changed much. I still need a haircut.
WE SET UP housekeeping in a house trailer, and when our collection of books literally forced us out, she was as pleased as I at the home we acquired. And she was agreeable, too, when we decided to buy a six-acre lot in Blue Hill—“for the future.”
The future came sooner than we expected.
We had lived in our new home less than a year when the question of starting the PACKET came up. After a hectic two weeks in the area, we decided the PACKET was a must. Six weeks later we were living in Blue Hill, three months after that the first issue of the PACKET appeared.
AND THAT IS why I am writing about this subject today, on the PACKET’s first anniversary. Because despite what little I have done, and the help and encouragement we have received from local people that thanks simply cannot express, and the excellent staff with which we work, the PACKET just isn’t possible without Gayle.
It is Gayle who, by holding down a full time job teaching, keeps us in groceries. It is Gayle who, week in and week out, pitches in at the PACKET at whatever task is necessary—writing, doing makeup, handling advertising, folding, seeing that the papers reach the mail, taking pictures, covering meetings—and still manages to be a creative teacher. It was Gayle, who, after a full day of teaching, would come down to the PACKET, work the night through, grab a hasty breakfast and, with tears in her eyes, head for Ellsworth and another day of teaching.
Who am I to complain when her third full-time job—keeping house—sometimes gets behind? But such is my imperfect nature that I do complain, and such is her sacrificing character that she bolsters up my depressions and tolerates my gripes and grumpiness.
For she is a teacher, and a journalist, and a manual laborer, and a homemaker and a mother. How she does it all is beyond me.
I love this girl, this energetic bundle, who now is as excited as a child over the prospect of Christmas. I am always amazed at her enthusiasm, even when our marriage hits those rough spots which all marriages endure. As if I didn’t have enough reasons to feel no man could have a finer wife, she added another—little Jenni, now 2, who is going to have all her mother’s out-going personality.
So the PACKET certainly isn’t “my” paper. Sometimes I wonder if it’s “ours.” I think, more accurately, it’s Gayle’s—and yours.