How many newspaper columns can trace a 140 year history?
Dec. 17, 2009 – Research library with Libby Oldham and Ralph.
Learned that W. H. Macy originated Here and There in the 1880s or 70s? He was Associate Editor from 1865. 1887 – Hussey by himself. William Hussey Macy, born in Nantucket on 4 Nov 1805 to Josiah Macy and Lydia Hussey. William Hussey married Eliza L Jenkins and had 8 children. He passed away on 19 May 1887 in N Y.
From Mimi Young -- Dear Ken, I remember your mother very well - she was small in stature but a powerful personality. In the early 80s I worked at the Cottage Hospital and in those days, the paper printed a list every week of patients in the hospital. Merle would come in personally to collect the names, not just telephoning for the information as you might expect. I can still hear her voice going over the names and then dropping by for a quick chat with Paul MacNamara, then the hospital administrator. Her Here and There column was always the first thing I read in the paper and to this day I think about her tag line of "light your carriage lamps and bicycle lights" at whatever time the sun set that week.
Notes from interview with Bob Mooney on December 5, 2007.
Bob had a paper route – had the whole north side of town for which he got paid $1.75, by Merle. He had to report in with an empty bag.
Discussed personals in the paper. Who was visiting. Who was traveling. Who was in the hospital. Also obits. Here and There.
Interview with Ruthie Grieder and Bill Grieder (228-1399)
Wednesday April 9, 2008 – at their home overlooking Hither Creek in Madaket. They used to live at 43 Orange St. Her mother’s home (Chapel) is at 31 Union St.
Mentioned I should talk to Irene Smith, married to Stan Smith. 228-1413 at 27 Surfside Road.
Also Debbie Dunham Taylor (228-4469), married to Hugh MacVicar and now to Bob Taylor. Bob is Elmore Taylor’s son. – Her mother was Catherine Hatch who was a good friend of Merle’s. Seems to think that Merle may have dated Arthur Billy Dunham, her father. Spoke with Debbie on Sunday the 13th and it seems Ruthie was confused about this.
Used to call her Merly Bird at the hospital. Remembers the Personal Columns and also Who was in the Hospital. Loved the old Here and There column.
May 22, 2008 – Interview with Marianne Stanton at the Downyflake.
Remembers Merle and Art from Air New England – Art was her first husband’s copilot – Jimmy McDevott. 1972. She was married in1973. Knew Art first. Art was in the community theater. That’s how they met. Her Dad and Mom were in the theater too. Tom G. introduced Art to Merle.
Remembered her driving out in the red Bronco in her pajamas and fluffy slippers to wait for Art to fly in.
Art had already had his problem where he got lost so he was flying as Jimmy’s copilot.
1981 Marianne went to work for the paper. Merle was working in the hospital then, doing insurance. Medical records. Had been there for a while. Mentioned Paul McNamara. Also mentioned St. Paul’s playing music. And writing Here and There, Looking Backwards, Obits, Personal notices that can’t be printed any more. Red flag for burglars. Stopped some time in the late 80s.
Always busy – remembers her red coat. Deadlines. Art would drive her in, come in the front door with copy at the last minute. “Nobody else better have died this week.” She was obviously overscheduled. Merle and her mother would really get into it. Mom wanted to tell Marie how the paper should be run.
Russell Baker wrote a column about Here & There in the NY Times. Jupiter in conjunction with Mars, the chickadees, light your carriage lamps, the Redsox. Russell wrote that when the world gets too much, he turns to read Here & There – calming, quiet little isle.
Post on the “Islander’s Blog” by John Stanton – December 7, 2008
Merle Orleans – The Quintessential Newspaperwoman
Someone, I forget who, once wrote that he learned how to act by watching old cowboy movies. He meant those horse operas that filled Saturday matinees, before the genre was spun into spaghetti westerns, crafted to reflect the sensibilities of great Japanese Samurai films, or turned into political tracts.
As a kid I felt the same way about certain big-city newspaper columnists. They were a window through which I could see a certain kind of urban life, filled with attitudes and characters that to me felt as comfortable as an old pair of sneakers.
Then I moved to Nantucket. My first week on island I met a woman who was the island counterpart to those columnists that had shaped my youth, whose writing was a sort of mirror image to the urban world they walked.
Merle Orleans – her full name was Merle Turner Blackshaw Orleans – stormed into the newspaper office, where I had just begun my new job one morning. She declared that we should write that an elderly man – who appeared to have walked into the ocean the night before, in a state of confusion brought on by some sort of Alzheimer’s – like dementia, and drowned – had died in a swimming accident.
Merle Orleans had a very old-fashioned way of looking out for people, of allowing them to preserve a sense of dignity, when their names were linked to unhappy events. I was young and arrogant, and it took a while for me to understand that.
Merle had been around newspapers since she was a little girl. Her father was Harry Turner, editor and publisher of The Inquirer and Mirror in the early 1900s. The newspaper, like a lot of small-town newspapers has always had what might be called a local society column, where bits and pieces of news, announcements and observations, were cobbled together.
Merle wrote the “Here and There” column for 50 years, and once upon a time there was no way to get a sense of this island without reading it. Russell Baker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and long-time summer resident, once told me “Here and There” was always his favorite part of the newspaper.
She began her column by noting when the sun rose and when it would set, reminding readers when to light their automobile and carriage lamps. Years passed before I realized the importance of knowing when the sun rose and set, or got a feel for those rhythms. It was not until then that I began to understand life here, rather than simply tying to superimpose my own life over this place.