It’s like Christmas morning. I just got a big box of Hubbard newspapers in the mail from my friend Barb. She saves all the papers from our hometown and boxes them up every few months and sends them to me.
I would call her to thank her, but I’m pretty sure she’s on a cruise with her mom and dad. I know this because it was on the front page of one of the papers, along with a 5-by-7 photo of her parents and a brief history of their 50 years of marriage. The only thing they left out was the addresses of the people going on the trip and their garage door codes.
And that sums up the newspapers in Hubbard, Ohio. The town has a population of about 8,000 people and they have four weekly newspapers. Yes, you heard me. They support four newspapers. That’s in addition to the two daily papers for surrounding cities.
You can imagine what a treat it is to read them. Each one of them has its own personality, agenda and backstory. One is run by a guy from my church, and one is run by someone I was a reporter with years ago and a local hairdresser. One paper is very focused on nostalgia; the front page features old photos of the Palace Theater, old guys in fedoras standing around the bar at the Marconi Club, and “Guess Whose Yearbook Picture This Is” contests. Another paper is just retyped press releases, which is entertaining in its own right.
Each of these papers is a wonder. Where else can you read a front page story about an opera singer who came back to Hubbard to put on a little demonstration for the Catholic school kids and be able to point to the picture and say, “Hey, that kid was our paper boy on Stewart Avenue!”
There are few stories or ads where I don’t recognize someone.
Hubbard is like the intersection between Pleasantville and Mayberry. Some things never change and that is so weirdly comforting. When I pick up those papers, I’m happy to find that the McBride House still has geese and country decor on the porch. That Mrs. Kollat is still adviser to Future Teachers of America. That there is still a Zitnik and a Williams bowling at Bell Wick Bowl, and there’s still a Giancola and a Rosile playing high school football. Ray Wells is still a patrolman and Art Magee is still mayor.
These are papers where you can sign your letter to the editor “Grandpa.” And most people know who it is.
My husband used to read the bowling team reports aloud to me in a Garrison Keillor voice and, I’m telling you, that kind of an evening just can’t be beat with a stick. At one point, he stopped and said, “This can’t be right. There are two bowling teams for Patton’s Sparkle Market, one for grocery and one for produce? How can a grocery store produce department have its own bowling team?”
I snorted. “Have you seen the size of Patton’s? They moved out of that old store across from Lawson’s years ago and they’re in the new store now. Their produce department has the entire Class of 1975 working in it. Of course it has its own bowling team.”
My only complaint is that there is sometimes just not quite enough information. Instead of “She is the daughter of Bill and Maryann Johnston,” I propose they do something like this: “She is the daughter of Bill and Maryann (formerly Smith - you know, the one from Class of 1977 who broke up with Duane Perry to go to the prom with that foreign exchange student from Germany and wore scarves her entire senior year to hide her hickeys) Johnston (You remember Bill Johnston. He was Paul Johnston’s younger brother, not the one who was suspended for surreptitiously placing a middle finger on his leg in the Key Club photo for the yearbook, but the other one, the one who was friends with Ron Whatshisname. Ron married Patti Wright her junior year and she was pregnant at Homecoming and wore that empire waist dress . . . pulled it off nicely, I recall.)
I’ve always had two underlying fantasies: One, to start a small town newspaper and the other to move back to Hubbard, into our old house on Stewart Avenue, adding about three more bathrooms and walking to Mageros’ candy shop every afternoon for chocolates - hell, what am I saying - walk everywhere. My ultimate dream life would be to combine the two and start a fifth weekly newspaper in Hubbard.
I could send them to Barb, who will be long gone, living in a high-rise condo in Florida. She’d be so jealous.