I vowed when the news of the merger of the North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle was announced, there would be no maudlin farewell column from me.
I started at the Transcript when it was owned by the Hardman family -- Jim was the chief editor and Bob was the publisher. I never called them by their first names -- I was too young and I respected them too much, so it was always "Mr. Hardman" and "Mr. Hardman."
I never had aspirations to work at The Boston Globe, New York Times or The Washington Post as many of my grad-school classmates wanted. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had just broken the Watergate scandal and everyone and their Aunt Tillie wanted to be a journalist. I just wanted to come home and work at my hometown paper.
As a child, I gazed into the basement windows of the Transcript building when it was on Bank Street and watched as the papers rolled off the old lithograph press (which is rumored to be buried under the North Adams Plaza parking lot).
At the Transcript’s home on American Legion Drive, it was impossible not to hear the press as it churned out the daily paper and commercial jobs. The throbbing of the press was the heartbeat we all moved to. Even as I write this, I can hear -- and feel -- the distant thumping of the press at The Berkshire Eagle running. I doubt if any of the customers coming into The Eagle even hear it, but it’s there in the background, almost like white noise.
I started in the ad department of the Transcript. As I said, everyone wanted to be a reporter and there were no reporter spots to be had anywhere. I figured at least I was working at a newspaper and gladly took the job.
I moved over to the newsroom 11 years later as an editor. I had never held a reporter’s position and was afraid that would be a detriment. Editing others’ stories was a breeze, but I had to work hard to develop a street-wise reporting sense.
As a small paper, the Transcript was a training ground for reporters just starting their careers. The wanna-be reporters would come to us fresh out of college, stay for a year or two, and go on to bigger papers. There were literally hundreds of them over the years. Some I’m still in touch with; others have scattered in the wind. Each and everyone changed my life in some way.
When the printing operation of the Transcript was moved to its sister paper, The Berkshire Eagle, I moved with it. For five years I’ve been sitting in The Eagle newsroom, working for the Transcript. A strange feeling at first -- The Eagle was the Transcript’s biggest competitor for two-thirds of my career, and I felt like I was in "enemy territory."
That was then, this is now. My co-workers at the Eagle are like family and there are other Transcript alums here. There will be no more physical Transcript newspaper, but it will always be in the hearts of those of us who had the privilege to work there.
When I got married some 30-odd years ago, the staff of the Transcript got together and gave me a recipe box filled with their favorite recipes in their own handwriting. Not only are all the recipes really good, but I feel like the people who shared them are with me when I make them.
Jean McArthur’s Sloppy Joe Fondue
Makes 2 cups
(A special treat on Friday nights as we worked getting out the Saturday paper.)
1 15 1/4-ounce can sloppy joe mix
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Put everything in automatic fondue pot but cheese. Set heat control on "cheese." Heat until hot, and add cheese 1/4 cup at a time and stir until melted. Serve with French bread or crackers.