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That's Life: Memories in Print

By Phyllis McGuire
iBerkshires Staff
04:58PM / Tuesday, January 21, 2014
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After I read editor Erik Sokolowski's "goodbye" in  the final issue of The Advocate dated Jan. 16, a wave of nostalgia swept over me.
 
As a newcomer to Williamstown  in 1988, I soon learned that the town had it's own newspaper and it was free. I picked up a copy of the Advocate in a restaurant one night when my husband Bill and I dined out. We looked through the classified ads as we were leasing an apartment while looking for a  permanent home. 
 
My Bill  did not waste any time but quickly became acquainted with the people in town, and when we were coming out of the post office one afternoon, Bill pointed out a couple that he said owned The Advocate. I was surprised to see the  owner and editor of The Advocate, Bill Densmore and his wife, Betsy Johnson, walking on Spring  Street.  As a New Yorker, my chances of ever running into an editor of any newspaper had been nil. 
Yet, there Becky was wheeling a baby carriage, with her husband  beside her. 
 
In the 1990s, the Densmores sold the Advocate to Ellen Bernstein.  And in 1995, when Mark Rondeau was the editor, I submitted a column to The Advocate for the first time. I had written the column on a Smith-Corona typewriter, using enough White-Out to paint my living room . But eventually I produced a copy that would be readable without causing snow blindness.   
 
Bill delivered the column to Mark Rondeau in The Advocate office located  on Spring Street. Poor Bill. What a climb it was up the steep flight of stairs  leading to the office, but he never complained, no matter how many times in the future, he brought my columns to Mark. Bill was so supportive of my efforts as a writer,  I used to tell people that he was better than an agent.

As a freelancer, I wrote for The Advocate now and then. Mark was receptive, with only one warning. "Get it to me by nine o'clock Monday morning."
 
Ralph Renzi's column in The Advocate  was a combination of a calendar of town events as well as a homey review of what people in town were up to. It was very popular, and usually contained snippets that brought a smile to the reader's face.  I  keep the one in which he mentioned my Bill. 
When Glenn Drohan took over as editor of the Advocate, I was writing feature articles as well as a column. What fun it was and still is meeting people who would have remained strangers to me if I were not interviewing them for The Advocate, the Berkshire Eagle, the North Adams Transcript and in the last six years, iBerkshires.
 
During the years I  wrote for the Transcript, there were at least seven editors. Dave Nahan was the first editor who published my column in the Transcript. Then two more editors came and went before Kevin Moran, the managing editor, was named editor. I remember asking Kevin, "How does it feel to sit in the big [editor's] chair?"  
 
After my Bill passed, I was on my own in many ways, including getting my column to the newspapers. 
 
Once when a column I had written for the Transcript went missing. Kevin  showed up at my home. When I opened the front door, I saw him standing there, looking as young as a school boy. I never imagined that I would be able to say that "The regional vice president of news for New England Newspapers Inc. had come to get a copy of my column," but it would be true as Kevin was recently named to that position. 
 
Noah Hoffenberg of the Bennington Banner followed Kevin as the Transcript editor, and it was with Noah at the helm of the Transcript that my column was given a name.
 
When  Noah called in his first days at the Transcript and asked me, "What do you want to call your column?"  I sputtered "I don't know. You are coming at me out of the blue."  
 
"Do you want some time to think about it," Noah said.
 
So a day later, with Noah's help "That's Life." was born.
 
Less than a year after Noah came to the Transcript, he returned to the Bennington Banner to fill a vacancy there as editor.
 
Jim Therrien replaced Noah at the Transcript. I always admired Jim for his spirited editorials. Tammy Daniels was the managing editor under Therrien, but I never met her as she worked nights.
 
It seemed that every time you renewed your subscription to the Transcript, there would be a new editor. Glenn Drohan replaced Therrien when he, like his predecessors moved on to another publication owned by New England Newspapers.
 
Whenever I stopped by the Transcript office, Glenn had a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Maggie Button, city editor, and I would look at each other and shake our heads. Sadly, Glenn succumbed to cancer a few years ago. 
 
When  I was looking for another outlet for my work, Noah Hoffenberg, with whom  I kept in touch, suggested I try iBerkshires.
 
I knew that Tammy had resigned from the Transcript and was now the editor of iBerkshires, so I called her thinking that at least she would know who I was. In time, I was also writing features for iBerkshires.  
  
The Advocate approached me about a year and a half ago.  "Why don't you write for us," the editor said. I  couldn't resist — it is always nice to have someone ask you to write for them rather than search for places for your work.  
 
Since then I have written stories for both iBerkshires and The Advocate, but with the demise of The Advocate, that chapter in my life as a writer comes to an end. 
 
And now here I am writing about my experience with print publications in iBerkshires an online publication. Ironic, I suppose, but change is inevitable!
 
Editor's Note: We're very glad Phyllis continues to provide us with her local musings and interesting articles.

Tags: columnist,   news media,   

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