The Bar Harbor Times has been a beautiful and amazing institution. I worked at the paper for 22 years. From early on, I loved the paper, I loved my work, I loved the idea of serving the community through the paper and I loved journalism as a form of communication, as a record of human events and as a celebration of the brave and well-meaning endeavors of individuals.
Polly Saltonstall was the editor when I first started, and the paper was located at the intersection of Main and Cottage streets in a storefront building that opened onto a lively street scene and meandered out back to a dark warren of shop space — some of it, itself, a relic of the business’ earlier printing-press days.
In the summer, at the town’s busiest, the windows would be open and the sound of people and traffic wafted up; the heat was sweltering. I recall sitting at a group of desks jammed together in the second-story front room with Letitia Baldwin, Nan Lincoln and Maureen Baker. Polly sat in the next office back and would pop through the door with some great tidbit of information.
After every week’s issue went to bed, Letitia — on the dot — would tidy up the notes strewn around her desk and take a damp rag and wash off the previous week’s worth of coffee stains and crumbs. Then she immediately got on the horn and started working on the coming week’s stories. I bet she still does that at the Ellsworth American.
A couple of other short-term editors later, I recall the moment when the staff learned that Earl Brechlin was hired for the position. At the time, I didn’t know much about who Earl was, but that moment struck me with delight because of Nan’s reaction. She immediately called him and, when he answered, she sweetly said, “Hey, boss.” That was his own typical greeting; during his tenure there, I enjoyed hearing his warm “hey, boss” many times, and I enjoyed his passion for the paper and the largeness of his spirit. I bet he still says “hey boss” at the Islander.
Peter Travers blew onto the scene like a star in the firmament in the early 1990s. Usually grave, with a sly sense of humor, perhaps a bit shy, he quickly became a beloved personage in the community. Multiple cameras strapped around his neck, one with a superlong lens, tall and exuding competence, his arrival anywhere always had people exclaiming, “Oh good, Pete’s here.”
Collegially, he could be a little difficult to get along with. But on assignment with him, I always thrilled to the wonderful, palpable perception that people had when they saw him and to what his representation meant as a standard-bearer for the newspaper. I bet he’s still the photographer to beat in Florida.
There were many other people from the 1990s — Al, of course, Cindy, Joyce, Mark, Diane, Nicki, Mike, Andy and others whom, I fear, I can’t remember at the moment. Polly, Earl, Nan and Letitia all have earlier memories of the paper than I do, as do tons of other people in the community.
People moved on. And there were many people to come — other editors, reporters, ad reps, receptionists (although we must never forget Maureen’s three decades there. I bet she was tapped at the pearly gates to replace St. Peter as receptionist). In just the two decades I was there, there were new publishers, new owners, new eras in technology and new buildings.
Most importantly, there were always new things to write about in this incredibly diverse, exciting and evolving community. The blend and clash of human endeavor drives reporters to record them in articles and readers to pick up a paper.
Personally, I always enjoyed the sense I felt that I was honoring, as best I could, those endeavors within the framework of an old and sturdy institution. But I also appreciate the flow of change; change is what makes writing so much fun. And for readers, there are plenty of other newspapers and other journalistic outlets, becoming newer and better all the time. That is exciting and for the best: Creating a record is, in my opinion, one of humanity’s highest accomplishments, and the ways that people create records is fantastically interesting.
So, The Bar Harbor Times, like everything else, is ephemeral in the great scheme of the universe. But it once had greatness in its role as an ongoing record-keeper. Now it has greatness in its role as an important piece of the community’s history. That’s good, and it’s sad.
Laurie Schreiber lives in Bass Harbor.