(Editor's note: This column ran in the centennial edition of the Lake Placid News in 2005.)
I have to either blame or credit the Lake Placid News for starting me on a writing career. My first job was covering school activities during my high school years in the 1940s. It's a terrible addiction, seeing your name in print.
From that I went to working on my college paper, and ended up editing that in my junior year. I had my eye on the field, but the University of Rochester didn't have a journalism course; it had a great scholarship program, though.
While working in New York I met Jim Loeb, who was buying the Adirondack Daily Enterprise with his partner, Roger Tubby. They wanted to open a Lake Placid office, and my advantage to them was that I knew the area. Besides, with no experience, they didn't have to pay me very much; my salary was $25 a week, about what most secretaries made. Somewhere along the way I switched to the advertising department and learned that part of the business.
The News didn't have to worry about competition from the daily. Grace Lattimer had assumed the role of publisher after her husband George died; her son George was helping her. They were putting out a very good, small town weekly, similar to dozens of others around the state.
The paper had a solid following. I'd heard stories for years about the fantastic job they did covering the 1932 Winter Games. Doing research for magazine articles in recent years, I've seen what excellent work they did.
All newspapers were having trouble meeting rising costs, however, and that plus age and other factors finally made the News ripe for a buyout. The Adirondack Publishing Company was ready to tuck this into its production schedule, but the community was not quite so ready to welcome the change. Rivalry among the three towns in the Tri-Lakes was still strong, and besides, those new owners were Democrats!
My only instructions from the publishers were that the paper should give good coverage of local government affairs and the other major activities that affected the community. Oh yes, and I also had to sell and lay out the advertising.
Village, town, school and chamber of commerce boards had scheduled their meetings so that they didn't overlap. Many of the same (almost always) men served on more than one, often. That meant that the movers and shakers had to attend only one meeting a week. I put in at least two nights a week. Then the sports council was added to the mix.'
To say that for the most part these were not very exciting is the understatement of the week. By the time I left ... maybe still ... you would have to hold a gun to my head to make me attend almost any kind of meeting.
One night at a village board meeting I was sitting with my legs stretched out in front of me and a file folder with my paper for taking notes on my lap. I woke up as I felt the folder slide down my legs and watched the papers fan out like playing cards on the floor in front of me.
Bob Peacock said, "If we're keeping you up, Marge, just let us know." Smart-aleck ... it was already midnight!
Then there were the extracurricular events. The big hotels - Whiteface Inn, the Marcy and the Lake Placid Club - were existing on convention business. Sometimes there would be more than one at the same time, because the chamber was booking them into the village as a whole.
The plus side was that these were leading business, political, scientific, sports, sometimes health organizations at the state or national level, which meant they had top speakers and hot topics.
The most fun was the contact with the journalists assigned to them from the city papers or the wire services. I could pick up a lot of behind-the-scenes information on the outside world at the press table and especially at meals.
For other weekend entertainment - I use the word carefully - there were sports events. That schedule was heaviest in winter, of course, when often I'd be delivering my copy for Monday's Enterprise late at night. I envy everybody today's production methods.
The only positive thing I can say is that learning all those sports gave me an edge when I applied for a job with the Syracuse Post-Standard to get accreditation to cover the 1960 Squaw Valley Games (only papers of a certain size qualified). It worked again with the Associated. Press for the 1964 Innsbruck Games; my husband Jim was on the bobsled team that year.
When I first started out with the Enterprise, what I knew about hockey I could have printed on my little fingernail. To my dying day I'll be grateful to Don Beaney for his patience and the help he gave me. I sat with him in the control box at mid-ice where he kept score and did the announcing. I can't begin to list all the people who helped ... especially by not letting me know what a dummy I was.
One person who boosted my morale often was Louis Gelles. I'd meet him in the morning at the post office, and now and then he would stop me with his shy smile and say, "You know, Marge, that editorial you wrote about ... was really very good." That would keep me going for at least two weeks.
Grover Cleveland, who'd had a photo shop on Main Street for years, had a real "nose for news." He must have started out working in the city, because he stopped in often at the office downstairs in the Masonic building at the Barry & Wilson Print Shop to give me some little tip. On the day John Kennedy was shot in Dallas, I was pleased that the first telephone call alerting us to the tragedy came from my Lake Placid News contact. We beat the daily again ... the wire service bells went off several minutes later, but the presses would have been rolling.
The call enabled the Enterprise to carry the biggest story of the era almost as it was happening.
It was a great relief when the publishers finally gave me some part-time help, but after eight years, I was wearing down. I sometimes wondered how Grace Lattimer could always be so calm and gracious; of course, she was a lady.
But then, doing some research in the old editions, I found that one week her lead story ... always supposed to be the biggest thing happening that week ... was the speaker at the Methodist Church on Sunday. I think life in the village had stepped up a bit by the 60s.
Leaving the paper was a little like leaving home after growing up on a farm where my family also ran an inn business. I swore I'd do anything not have to get back into that line of work! Neither one seems all bad, now that I'm reminiscing.
I went out to Squaw Valley in advance of the Games, to look for a job; the Post-Standard would only pay once I started covering events.
As I told my brother Joe Pete when he arrived with the nordic team, by the time I found one I had about $5 between me and prostitution. He thought that was pretty funny, but that's about the closest I came to having to go back either to farming and the inn business or to newspaper work!