Friday, September 29, 2023

Insight: You too should be so lucky

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

It’s been said you can’t go home again, but in my case, that’s not entirely true. Yes, time doesn't stand still in the places you leave behind, circumstances do change, and life moves ahead, but for me, returning home means I get to be around the most positive, highly supportive, and best group of friends for a lifetime I will ever have.

Rush-Henrietta Class of 1971 classmates gather at Veterans
Park in Henrietta, New York to celebrate each other turning
70 this year. The group is tight-knit and for some, they are
lifelong friends. PHOTO BY NANCY PIERCE    
Rush-Henrietta High School’s Class of 1971 held a special party last weekend in Henrietta, New York marking a special occasion with members of the class all turning 70 at some point during 2023. Having been to many reunions and gatherings with this group in the past, I counted down the days until my wife Nancy and I could fly there and join the festivities and it turned out to be one of the best events I’ve experienced with this group.

One of the first people who greeted me during our get-together at Nashville’s in Henrietta on Thursday night was my friend Ricky Jentons. He was the first person I met when my family moved to Henrietta in September 1966. In the 57 years I have known him, my opinion of him hasn’t changed. He remains one of the brightest and smartest individuals I’ve ever known, and he is also a gifted athlete who could play every sport with ease and be a standout in all of them.

For me, Ricky Jentons was a natural born leader and I looked up to him as someone who was kind, thoughtful and cared about his classmates. That was evident at this latest event as just about everyone wanted to sit with him or speak to him over the two days we were there.

At this gathering some classmates attended who had never been to one of the reunions previously, such as Sharon Ferguson Cubitt from South Carolina or Pam Tuety, who lives nearby but had never participated before. It had been 22 years since I had last visited with Rob Branch at our 30th reunion, but he had the farthest distance to travel to make it to the event, flying in from Ramsey, England where he lives with his wife, Judith.

Nancy and I spent time with our friends Janice and Bob Hartman, who are slowly recovering after their home burned to the ground last fall. And I discussed at length with my friend Jerry Wells some classmates who lost their lives prior to previous reunions. I was close to both Mike Wilson, who died at age 68 in 2021, and Todd Clemens, who died at age 65 in 2019. Both Mike and Todd were good people who were wonderful athletes in school, beloved by us, and taken far too soon.

I also listened to an incredible story as my friend LoisAnn “Sam” DeCicco Creekmur told me about what happened to her several years ago. It seems she took a 23-and-Me test and discovered that the man she thought was her father for her entire life wasn’t her biological dad, and her sisters were her half-sisters. Sam then confronted her mother, who was now in her late 80s, and she admitted having an affair with a man from Virginia which led to her birth. When Sam asked her if she was ever going to tell her this fact, the mother said she probably wouldn’t have if she wasn’t confronted with the truth. Sam eventually tracked down her real dad, who had passed away. She discovered that she has family members in Virginia, and they have accepted her with open arms.

There wasn’t enough time to visit with everyone at the gathering, but I did share some quality time with my pals Nick Vecchioli and Chuck Young. I enjoyed seeing my friends Cheryl Carlin House, Amy Camardo Andersen, Ed Michel, Chuck Mangos, Molly Fahy Cupello and Dave Calver. I became Facebook friends with two women I’ve known for more than 50 years, Linda Payne Schlaugh, and Mona Carmichael Procopio.

For years now, classmate Janet McGraw Howland has been key in helping this group stay in touch and keeping us all together.

In a text to me after we left to fly back to Maine, Janet told me that Ricky Jentons has announced that we are now going to start gathering every two years.

“We all know how important it is to keep our strong bonds going in love and support for each other,” she said. “Every one of us has been through the traumas of life. That’s why I get so emotional seeing them all laughing, hugging, and connecting again. It takes us back to a simpler time. We’ll just call it a reunion without a number anymore.”

Classmate Gloria Van Gelder gave us a birthday card reminiscing about the old days. It mentions simple things bringing a smile to our faces, being lucky to have such good times and it also means we’re kind of old.

Personally, I find it comforting to know that I have the best group of friends who’ve known me for almost my entire life, accept me for who I am, and are on this journey through life with me. You too should be so lucky. <

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Andy Young: Dealing firmly with uninvited guests

By Andy Young

It’s autumn in Maine. The tourists may be gone, but the seasonal trespassers are back.

I have long respected all of Mother Nature’s creatures, but only up to a point. As far as I’m concerned animals, insects, fish, and plants own all of the outdoors. If I’m bitten by a mosquito or eaten by a Grizzly Bear outside, well, that’s on me.

However, should an uninvited non human guest invade my indoor space, I reserve the right to respond by either gently escorting the harmless interloper out, or taking decisive action against intruder(s) such as stinging insects, house-destroying termites, filthy rodents, or similar vermin.

Which brings me to last Friday afternoon, when I returned home after a tough week at my place of employment. I pulled my car into its accustomed space, then electronically shut the garage door behind me.

And that was when I saw it.

Well, I didn’t exactly see it. But I sensed motion, enough to strongly suspect that a mouse had invaded my allegedly impregnable garage.

Were mice capable of communicating with humans I’d have politely but firmly asked the cute-as-a-button but potentially disease-carrying trespasser to leave. Sadly though, these tiny rodents are incapable of understanding human speech, and while I have nothing against any particular Mus musculus, the fact is one’s home rarely has a single mouse; there are either none, or a great many. And because this particular encroacher was clever enough to get into the garage, it stood to reason that sooner or later it would figure out to get into our actual living space, which I zealously maintain solely for occupancy by our family and occasional invited guests.

The industrial-strength mouse traps I’ve used previously have been quick and efficient, so I put a dollop of peanut butter on one and left it near the spot where I had detected the motion. Then I got on my bike for a quick ride down to the grocery store, certain that when I returned the problem would be solved.

But I was in for a shock when I got back an hour later. It wasn’t just that there was no mouse: there was no trap! The only plausible scenario: whatever the metal-and-plastic ambush machine had snapped on had taken the device with it!

No one would have blamed me for thinking I was seeing things when I returned to the garage later that evening. I heard a scraping sound, and seconds later saw the trap, seemingly dragging itself along the garage floor. Closer examination revealed that the object was being propelled by a determined but gravely injured chipmunk, one that had the misfortune of not only springing the trap but was too sturdily built to have been quickly and humanely dispatched by the contraption. That left just a single compassionate option, which was to put the suffering creature out of its misery by whacking it with a shovel.

I felt sick at heart; I had never physically slain a living thing before, aside from a few thousand mosquitoes and deer flies that had instigated hostilities with me for no apparent reason. Wracked by guilt, it probably wasn't coincidental I slept fitfully that night, at one point dreaming a friend and colleague I like very much had gotten killed in a plane crash.

If, as some religions maintain, there’s a penalty in the hereafter for taking the life of a fellow living thing, I’ll have a hefty price to pay.

But in the court of the here and now, I’m reluctantly pleading guilty to Justifiable Rodenticide, which, fair or not, is still generally considered just a misdemeanor. <

Friday, September 22, 2023

Insight: A lesson in patriotism

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I recently read some social media posts online from someone who self-described himself as a patriot because he supported one political candidate over several others.

Ed Pierce meets Medal of Honor
recipient General James H.
Doolittle at a luncheon at The
Pentagon in Washington, D.C. in
January 1981.
As a military veteran, it made me chuckle because I’ve had the great privilege to meet and serve with some of the most unselfish and unassuming individuals who shied away from political pronouncements but were willing to put their lives on the line to protect our nation and their friends, no matter what political beliefs they held. During my time in the U.S. Air Force, I got to know many people who served in Vietnam or Korea and continued to serve in the military without ever mentioning the terrible things they witnessed during those wars.

In January 1981, I got to meet Medal of Honor recipient General Jimmy Doolittle, who had been portrayed in the Hollywood film “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” by actor Spencer Tracy. The movie was an account of Doolittle leading the first American bombing raid of Japan during World War II.

Doolittle’s daring mission took place on April 18, 1942, a little more than four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he volunteered to command 16 B-25 air crews taking off from the U.S.S. Hornet on a 650-mile perilous flight to bomb the Japanese mainland, continue flying over the Sea of Japan and land in China when done. The air range for the bombers was about 200 miles further than first calculated and after taking off, many of the U.S. pilots realized they wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to China.

All were successful in dropping their payloads and all but one of the B-25 flight crews were forced to ditch their planes at sea, bail out, or crash-land in Japanese-occupied China. Three crew members died trying to land, eight were captured by the Japanese and only four survived their brutal imprisonment by the war’s end. Five different crew members were held captive in Russia for 13 months before being released.

As for Doolittle himself, he bailed out of his B-25 and landed in a rice paddy in China and was rescued by friendly forces. His bombing raid didn't inflict serious damage to the Japanese war effort, but it struck a blow for America and lifted the spirits of U.S. military forces at a time when it was needed the most.

Some 39 years later, I was Doolittle’s guest for lunch in Washington, D.C.

I found him to be a humble and genuine man, who preferred to remain out of the spotlight. He told me that he was just a pilot who loved to fly and remained at heart a kid from California who loved his country and didn’t consider himself to be a hero. He said that he lived his life with a simple philosophy which was, “only worry about those things you can fix, and if you can't fix it, don't worry about it, accept it, and do the best you can.”

It was also my great privilege to meet and interview General Robert Scott at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in 1982. Scott had retired from active duty by then but frequently visited the base as its former commander and he was the author of the book “God Is My Co-Pilot” about his service as a fighter pilot in Burma and China during World War II.

He flew 388 combat missions and racked up 925 flight hours from July 1942 to October 1943, and is credited with shooting down 13 Japanese aircraft, making him one of the first U.S. aces of World War II. After being reassigned as a flight instructor for about a year in Florida, Scott volunteered to return to China in 1944 to fly fighter aircraft equipped with experimental rockets. He led 37 missions to destroy Japanese supply trains in eastern China and before the war ended, Scott was transferred to Okinawa to lead similar strikes against Japanese shipping and resupply lines.

During my interview with General Scott, I came to realize that he seemed to be cut from the same cloth as Jimmy Doolittle. He told me about how much he enjoyed walking the entire length of the Great Wall of China several years prior to our meeting and he came away from that experience with a renewed love for America and how much he was willing to give up personally and professionally to preserve our nation’s freedom.

When I asked if he considered himself to be exceptionally patriotic or a hero, he answered me this way:

“Real patriots don’t talk about their exploits in combat, they are embarrassed to be singled out for doing what anyone else who loves our country would, and that is, doing unselfishly what needs to be done to help their countrymen when a foreign enemy threatens our brothers and our sisters,” Scott said. “Some politicians try to exploit their patriotism, but many veterans know when your life is on the line, politics goes out the window.”

Both Jimmy Doolittle and Robert Scott exemplify for me the real meaning of patriotism, a willingness to humbly serve our nation, and love for their fellow man. <

Andy Young: The Storm That Wasn’t

By Andy Young

Hurricane Lee was of no more than passing interest to residents of northern New England when it began forming off the African coast in early September. Such storms never directly affect Maine, although those of us living in the Pine Tree State always cross our collective fingers that such destructive weather events don’t lay waste to any unfortunate island, Caribbean nation, or southern United State in its path.

Hurricane Lee is shown in a National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration photo as it
approaches Maine on Sept. 15, 2023.
But then Lee changed direction, and by the middle of the following week she appeared to be on a course headed directly toward southern Maine’s coast.

I was never a Boy Scout, but several friends who were always impressed upon me the importance of being prepared, and I’ve always taken that advice seriously.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, I went down to the grocery store and bought every last gallon jug of bottled water they had. I also grabbed 60 rolls of toilet paper, several cartons of canned soup, and one manually operated can opener. I then went to the hardware store to procure a dozen flashlights, along with enough batteries to power the city of New Orleans for the entire week of Mardi Gras. I subsequently secured enough flotation devices to stay buoyant in case my family and I were washed out to sea, and some neon vests so that we’d be visible to any and all potential rescuers.

Since the increasingly dire forecast indicated the storm and all its destructive fury would arrive at around dawn on Saturday, I went to bed early Friday evening, clutching a flashlight in each hand. However, before retiring I securely attached a life vest to each of my four extremities.

That night I had the sorts of nightmares no one’s experienced since poor Dorothy Gale back in turn-of-the-20th-century Kansas. I wasn’t seeing any scarecrows, tin men, or cowardly lions, though; my terrifying visions involved my loved ones and I being torn to shreds by ravenous sharks, swallowed by whales, or, worst of all, getting swallowed by a whale, regurgitated, and then eaten by ravenous sharks.

I awoke Saturday morning to an eerie stillness. Assuming it was the calm before the storm, I tip-toed out of my bedroom, preparing to witness the deluge.

The skies were cloudy, but there had been little to no rain. There was a gentle breeze, although at one point I thought I detected a gust that exceeded ten miles per hour. By 10:45 that morning the sun was out.

The prophets of doom at the weather bureau had been wrong. To paraphrase Ernest Lawrence Thayer (author of “Casey at the Bat,” for the uninitiated), mighty Lee had struck out.

Of course, I’m not complaining. We all make mistakes, and I for one would prefer that when they do miscalculate, our weather predictors overstate a non-event rather than pooh-pooh something that ends up being cataclysmic.

We actually did get a small vestige of the storm Saturday afternoon. The wind gusts had picked up by the time I decided to bike to the local Hannaford to simultaneously obtain some bananas and some exercise, although happily the intensifying air currents were at my back. Feeling like a Tour de France participant, I made what is ordinarily a 25-minute trek in less than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the wind became even more severe while I was in the store, and when I emerged it was clear I’d be facing gale-force tempests as I attempted to pedal home.

How long did that return trip take me?

I don’t know.

I haven’t gotten back yet.

But at least I know that whenever I arrive, I’ll have plenty of toilet paper. <

Friday, September 15, 2023

Insight: Leaving history in the past

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

A very wise person once told me that if I wanted to leave yesterday’s baggage behind me, I had to power forward without looking back. For me, that became clearer during a recent visit with my younger brother and his wife to our home here in Maine.

Ed Pierce, right, and his brother Doug in
Arlington, Virginia in 1981.
During our time together, he told me that he lives in the present and looks forward to the future, rather than thinking about negative events that we experienced growing up and rehashing the past.

For some time now as an adult, I have found it hard to overcome some of that negativity and have thought about and questioned why some people in our past acted the way that they did and how it shaped me into who I am today.

For me, remembering the past is a key component of my existence. As a baseball enthusiast, I enjoy recalling great games I have watched through the years and pouring over statistics on the back of my baseball cards.

I find it interesting to learn about the minor league careers of players, the numerous towns across America that they may have played in during the 1950s and 1960s, and the teams that they played on once they reached the major leagues. It’s been fun to discover towns and cities I never knew existed once fielded baseball teams and the players depicted on old pieces of cardboard continue to represent their past days of glory.

It’s also fascinating for me to examine the sometime obscure stories of people who became footnotes in American history. I’ve watched just about every episode of many popular Western television series of the 1950s and 1960s and can point out actors who went on to appear in major movies after playing a bit role in “Gunsmoke” or “Rawhide.”

Even though those are some of my distractions, I tend to dwell on reliving negative incidents from my childhood.

Until my brother’s visit, I thought he knew many of the same basic facts about my parents, but I was mistaken.

Back in the 1980s, I found several old Army photographs of my father taken during World War II and there was something different about his appearance in the photos.

When I asked him about it, he told me that while he was attending Manhattan College in New York City after his discharge from the Army in 1945, he became a professional boxing fan and would often go to bouts at Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium.

He told me that on one of those occasions at a boxing match, he met a plastic surgeon who performed rhinoplasty, which changes the way that your nose looks. Because he was always self-conscious of the way his nose looked, he made an appointment in 1946 with this plastic surgeon at his office in Queens and paid to have his nose reshaped.

That’s what was different about his appearance in the old wartime photos and what he looked like years later.

When I related that story to my brother, he said it was something that he never knew previously, but I did. He went on to tell me several stories about my mother and father that I hadn’t heard before, but he had.

I told him about how after my father’s death, my mother was asked out on a date for breakfast by a dentist in Florida. The dentist said he wanted to take her out for breakfast, so she got up early and put on some nice dress clothes. The dentist even held the car door for her as she got into his car to drive to breakfast.

But the date quickly soured when he drove to a nearby river, parked his car and then reached behind his seat. There he had a brown paper bag containing two bagels and a tray with two paper cups of black coffee he had purchased at a gas station. That was his idea of taking her to breakfast while she was expecting something a bit more substantial at a nice restaurant.

My brother told me about attending funerals in New York state for several relatives when I was either in college in New Mexico or serving overseas while in the U.S. Air Force. He spoke about meeting distant relatives at those funerals that I had only heard about while growing up, but I never have actually met in person.

By the end of his visit, we had compared many stories about our parents and our childhood memories that we either had forgotten about or had been glossed over by the passing of time.

We both agreed that although we did survive some troubling incidents growing up, we also experienced many wonderful times too. We agreed that our parents were not perfect and despite some of their flaws, they did the best they could to raise us and give us a good life.

And although there were some unpleasant and unsettling events living with them, the way we turned out is a testament to their love for us.

They are both gone now and even though one never moves on, perhaps I can move on to a new life.

Andy Young: Disposing of rotten fruit (of the loom)

By Andy Young

Folding clean laundry and putting it away isn’t a project that makes me quiver with anticipation, but when it comes to menial but necessary jobs, there are far more odious ones to attend to. However, sometimes performing the most innocuous tasks can lead to healthy self-analysis, and I had such an experience not long ago.

Every so often, usually two or three times a year, I try to collect some potentially useful items of apparel that I and/or various family members have outgrown or no longer have any practical use for and donate them to some organization that will either repurpose them or get them into the hands of someone who’ll value them as much as we once did.

Our family’s typical donation box contains books that have occupied the same spot on the shelf for years, or maybe decades; gently-used (or in some cases never-used) appliances; mystery gadgets serving no particular purpose besides taking up space that could be better used for something else, and good quality clothing that no longer fits anyone in our house or, for whatever reason, hasn’t been worn since before the last time one of the books we’re giving away was opened.

But there are some things that schools, churches, homeless shelters, and organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army justifiably don’t want. Television sets that are inoperable in my home aren’t going to work any better in someone else’s, and the same goes for inert fans and vacuum cleaners. Local libraries don’t need or want books with broken spines or missing pages. And the folks who run church rummage sales have no more interest in holey (as opposed to Holy) t-shirts than anyone else does.

Which brings me back to the day when I was putting clean clothing into its appropriate space. I had a bit of trouble stuffing clean underwear and socks into their assigned spaces; those drawers were filled to capacity. Closer examination revealed that I own several pairs of undershorts that: A) no longer fit; B) have a waistband that has long since lost its elasticity; C) contain more holes than a block of Swiss cheese; or D) have each of the three just-mentioned problems.

It’s no surprise that no charitable organizations accept used underwear donations because, well, would YOU buy someone else’s used underwear? But throwing away old clothing, even undergarments that are more air than fiber, is environmentally irresponsible.

Multiple sources report that the world produces 92 million tons of textile waste annually, with China (20,000,000) and the USA (17,000,000) the leading offenders. But what are we supposed to do with all that ratty old underwear?

Well, in at least one local community, there’s an answer.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Apparel Impact, a veteran-owned company that operates in New England, now has a textile-recycling box at the Cumberland Town Hall. Residents can drop off clean, dry sheets, towels, footwear, backpacks, duffle bags, and clothing there, including elastic-free socks and tired old underwear!

The company will distribute still-wearable garments to those who can use them and repurpose the rest for materials such as mattress stuffing. The service Impact Apparel offers doesn’t just help individuals who hesitate to throw anything away until it is utterly useless; they’re serving the greater community as well, since informed estimates indicate that nearly ten percent of local landfills are comprised of textiles.

I am overjoyed to learn about Apparel Impact.

Now if there were only a responsible way to dispose of TVs that don’t televise, fans that don’t blow, and vacuum cleaners that don’t suck. <

Barbara Bagshaw: Legislature had a chance to help struggling families and it failed them

By State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw

I went to Augusta to try and make life easier for my constituents and the citizens of Maine. The cost of living in Maine has gone up dramatically since January 2021. According to the U.S Congress Joint Economic Committee, it costs the average Maine family an additional $625 a month more than in January 2021. That is $7,500 more a year to live in Maine.

State Rep. Barbara 
It is getting harder and harder for people of average means to live in Maine, afford a house, or save for the future.

During that same time period, the State of Maine over-collected $1.5 billion from taxpayers. Because Maine’s Constitution requires a balanced budget, in the past year, the state returned more than $1 billion to taxpayers in the form of $850 and $450 relief checks. That only occurred because the Maine Constitution requires a balanced budget. It also happened to be an election year.

Along with my Republican colleagues, I proposed using the excessive tax revenues to make structural changes to our tax code so that people can keep more of what they earn to help pay bills. I do not believe that it is right that government has grown bigger while family budgets have gotten smaller.

Our proposal was a modest $400 million out of a $10.3 billion budget, especially for low- to middle-income earners. In order to deny our proposal, and the opportunity to participate in a bipartisan budget, majority Democrats rammed through a partisan budget. They then used a parliamentary loophole top shut down the Legislature three months early.

On cue, the governor called us back into “Special Session” because our work wasn’t finished.

This abuse of the legislative process saddened me because I went to Augusta to work for and with everyone, regardless of political party. I wanted a budget that addressed the needs of all Mainers, not just government programs, nonprofit advocacy groups, and well-connected lobbyists.

The budget that passed also eliminated the popular Senior Citizen Property Tax Stabilization Program before it had a chance to work. It did expand two existing programs — the Property Tax Fairness Credit and the Senior Property Tax Deferral Program, which is good, but fewer people will be served. I favored making changes to the Senior Citizen Property Tax Stabilization Program instead of eliminating it.

I am hopeful that the Legislature will realize that the Maine public wants less partisanship and more collaboration on policies that benefit all Mainers.

It is an honor to represent part of Windham in the Legislature. If there is any way that I can be of assistance, please contact me at .My office phone number is 207-287-1440. You can find me on Facebook at To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at <

Friday, September 8, 2023

Insight: The Rico Suave Experience

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

My first-ever date didn’t exactly go the way I expected and years later I’m still trying to figure out where I went wrong.

After asking out several girls during my sophomore year of high school without success, I made the decision to try a third time after the Christmas break. There was a young lady named Paula Gleason who caught my eye, and we were in the same English class in school.

One day I passed by her locker and stopped and asked if she would like to go to the JV basketball game with me on Friday night. This was all new to me and it was challenging to overcome my shyness and approach her to ask for a date. But I summoned my courage and to my surprise, she said yes.

During dinner with my family that evening I announced the good news and my father had one question for me. He asked me how I was going to get her to and from the game.

As it turns out, basketball season in high school runs during the winter and I was so consumed with trying to muster enough courage to simply ask her for a date that I completely forgot about the transportation aspect.

I immediately ruled out walking in the ice and snow for miles to get to the game and I knew that none of my friends had their driver’s learner permits. This meant having to ask my father to drive us there and pick us up after the game because my mother didn’t drive.

This predicament of mine was very humorous for my younger brother, who laughed at my having to resort to asking my father for a ride for my first date and needled me constantly about it.

Sensing my misery, my father agreed to take us to the basketball game at Roth Junior High School and pick us up afterward. Since I did not receive an allowance growing up, he also gave me yardwork chores to do after school so I’d have money that I could buy her popcorn and a Coke.

Picking up on cues from my brother, about halfway through the week my father also joked that he was going to allow my brother to ride with us when we drove over on Friday night to pick up Paula for our date.

This made me highly nervous and mad. I didn’t appreciate being the source of amusement for my father and brother when I was already anticipating everything wrong that could happen on my first date.

But focusing on the JV basketball players and their season statistics helped me. I wanted to impress Paula with my knowledge of the game and the ability to rattle off to her that Jim Graney was averaging 12.6 points per game or that Dave Pfeffer was leading the team in rebounding with 9 per game.

Right up until it was time to leave to pick up my date, my brother insisted he was going along for the ride to Roth Junior High School. At the last minute, my father said no, easing my mind.

We found Paula’s house and my father drove us to the school. Before pulling away from the front entrance, he handed me a quarter and told me to call him when the game ended to pick us up.

I had an awesome time at the game with Paula and liked the fact that she was into basketball as much as I was. She appeared to appreciate that I had memorized some statistics too. The game was over, and the crowd was exiting the building.

Finding the pay phone, I dropped in the quarter and received 15 cents change as the phone call itself was only a dime. To my astonishment, my father didn’t answer the phone. I tried again 15 minutes later and again he didn’t answer.

The school janitor came along and told us he was locking up for the evening and going home. With 5 cents left in my pocket, I had to ask Paula for a nickel to make another phone call home to my father. Once again, he didn’t answer.

We sat on a bench outside the gymnasium, and it began to snow. It was light at first, and then started to get heavier. After about 20 minutes of sitting there in the snow, we noticed headlights approaching and it was my father. Cold, tired, and embarrassed, none of us said a word as we drove Paula home. On the way back to our house, I asked my father why he didn’t answer my phone calls and he told me he had fallen asleep reading the newspaper and didn’t hear the telephone.

The following Monday I saw Paula in the hallway and apologized for my father falling asleep. I asked her if she’d like to go out again sometime to make up for this debacle.

She said no and mentioned that the reason she accepted the date in the first place was because she thought I had my driver’s license.

The next time that I asked a girl out on a date, I made sure that I could drive.

Tim Nangle: Delivering for Maine’s students and teachers

By State Sen. Timothy Nangle

As lawmakers, it’s one of our most significant responsibilities to address the needs of our local communities and ensure that Maine’s educational system remains strong and resilient. This year, we made great strides to support students and teachers, focusing on the heart of what makes our communities thrive: collaboration, care, and forward-thinking.

State Sen. Tim Nangle
To start, we fulfilled our commitment to provide 55 percent funding for K-12 public schools, guaranteeing essential resources for quality education for every Maine student. We also are continuing to fund free schools meals for every kid in Maine, ensuring every student is fed and ready to learn.

One thing I’m particularly proud to see become law is LD 921, “An Act to Allow the Local Foods Fund for Public Schools to Be Used for Processed and Value-added Maine Food Products,” sponsored by my colleague Sen. Cameron Reny.

Thanks to this bill, Maine public schools can now serve our students an even broader range of locally produced food. Not only does this pave the way for healthier meal options for our kids, but it also bolsters our state’s local food economy, providing a vital boost for our dedicated farmers.

Essentially, we're nurturing our kids and supporting our farmers — a win-win for our communities.

Pensions and retirement benefits for our educators also received much-needed attention. The supplemental budget included a substantial investment into the Maine Public Employee Retirement System, aiming to enhance the living conditions for nearly 37,095 of our retired state employees and educators. They've devoted their lives to shaping the future of our students; it's only right we ensure they're cared for in return.

But our commitment to education isn't just in the present. We've set our sights on the future, making it easier for Mainers to get a quality education.

To start, we’ve invested nearly $8 million to prevent tuition hikes across the University of Maine System. We’ve also continued the promise of free community college education for an additional two years. These steps guarantee affordability without compromising the quality of education and make sure Maine continues to have a skilled workforce.

I am deeply impressed by the efforts of my colleague, Sen. Joe Rafferty, in championing the essential LD 1609, "An Act to Prevent Student Homelessness."

From my conversations with local educators, I've recognized the importance of ensuring all students have a stable environment to foster their learning. This new law established the Maine Student Homelessness Prevention Fund.

With this new support system, we're not just addressing immediate financial challenges but laying the foundation for a more secure, education-focused future for our young Mainers.

Additionally, LD 753, also sponsored by Sen. Joe Rafferty, will hopefully help with one immediate challenge: the educator workforce shortage. This act will allow retired teachers and educational technicians who dedicated a decade or more to teaching to re-enter the classroom. They have years of experience that can significantly benefit our students and provide immediate relief to our schools.

The feedback and concerns of our communities inform our actions. We aim to be responsive, flexible, and compassionate. By focusing on local communities, listening to the needs of our educators, and always keeping the best interests of our students at heart, we can ensure that Maine remains at the forefront of quality education.

To those teachers, students, and community members who’ve shared their insights, concerns, and hopes with me, I say thank you. Your voices matter. They guide each legislative decision, making sure that we're always moving in a direction that benefits our local communities.

One final thought: please be extra cautious when driving near school buses. Always be prepared to stop; remember that buses frequently halt to pick up and drop off students. It's crucial to come to a complete stop when a school bus has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended — passing a stopped bus is illegal and dangerous.

Additionally, be watchful for kids who might be crossing the street when the bus stops. Remember, state law requires school buses to stop at all railroad crossings. Every driver's attention and patience are essential in keeping our young Mainers safe.

If you wish to discuss any legislative matter or need assistance, I'm here to help. Reach out at or call 207-287-1515. You can also follow updates on Facebook at and sign up for my e-newsletter at <

Andy Young: Car Talk

By Andy Young

Sometimes the intense pressure of keeping a secret simply becomes too much to bear.

A 1973 Ford Maverick, like this one, was Andy Young's
first automobile. COURTESY PHOTO
Okay, I’ll admit it.

I talk to my car.

I never said much to my first automobile, an eight-year-old 1973 Ford Maverick that had 81,000 miles on it when I bought it. And what phrases I did utter were usually angry ones since our one-way conversations only occurred after one of my too-frequent stalls in the middle of a busy intersection.

But I learned from experience and used only gentle words of encouragement with my next ride, a $200 1974 Dodge Colt which featured, among other things, a missing gas cap and a non-functional odometer frozen at 95,000 miles. But it seems kindness goes a long way with motor vehicles, since its four-cylinder Mitsubishi engine kept on chugging reliably for three years.

In fact, that rusty chariot would probably still be on the road today were it not for several holes in the floor, one of which was big enough to get my hand through. A mechanically skilled friend suggested that unless I was prepared to start using the same sort of brakes Fred Flintstone did, I should probably find another form of transportation. Reluctantly bidding sayonara to my rapidly oxidizing companion, I got myself a used Vette for a thousand dollars, hoping to acquire both more reliable transportation and a surefire way to impress the ladies.

It turned out those rumors suggesting guys who drive Vettes were irresistible to women were pure hogwash. However, that Chevette responded favorably to my verbal encouragement for four years, until I bought my first-ever non-preowned car, a 1989 Hyundai Excel. And even though I didn’t (and still don’t) know a word of Korean, when I spoke it listened, and we had a wonderful decade together.

Since then, I’ve had two other cars, both of which have been easy to stay on speaking terms with. Apparently, some autos actually can talk these days, but I’ve not yet had the pleasure of owning one. I’ve ridden in a few, but their ability to converse seemed limited to canned phrases like “Your door is ajar,” “Parking brake is on,” or “Fuel level low.”

I would love to be able to carry on a two-way conversation with my car, or any motor vehicle, for that matter. A wise person (okay; my nephew’s girlfriend) once said, “If it has a name, it has a soul,” and since many drivers quietly name their autos, it follows that there are a whole lot of lonely four-wheeled conveyances out there that would really appreciate the opportunity to chat.

While I’d appreciate being able to talk with my car, one thing I’d never want to see is cars with the ability to talk with one another. That’d be a disaster waiting to happen.

I can only imagine the reaction I’d get after my car learned from some arrogant Ferrari that it gets premium gas, or from a pompous Tesla it receives a weekly wax job, and lives in a heated garage. No one, least of all me, wants to have to mollify a resentful, covetous automobile, even one with a mere four-cylinder engine.

These days I often chat about cars with some of the students in my high school English classes, including one young man who drives a pickup truck that gets 12 miles per gallon. He asked me if I ever take any abuse from people because I drive a Prius. Of course, I answered him honestly, replying that I never do, or at least not from anyone who matters.

Yeah, I talk to my car. Doesn’t everybody? <

Friday, September 1, 2023

Insight: Spin move to pay dirt

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

In 48 years of working for newspapers, by far and away the most difficult task I’ve ever undertaken is reporting about high school football games. One might think it’s a breeze to show up, watch the game, and write an article about what happened afterward.

Covering high school football games was
probably the most challenging work that
Ed Pierce did when he worked as a
sportswriter for a daily newspaper
But that’s only part of what a high school football reporter is expected to do. It didn’t take me very long to find that out and my trial under fire took me as a journalist to places and situations I never imagined while sitting in a college classroom learning about how to write and construct a newspaper story. Here’s just a few examples of the challenges I had to overcome in reporting high school games over the years.

In my first-ever assignment for a daily newspaper in Florida covering prep football, I climbed the bleachers, stepped into the press box, and asked, “Who’s the official scorer?” To my dismay, in unison the few people in the press box screamed at me, “You are.” That meant I had to keep track of how both teams scored, the number of yards a touchdown was scored from, and the time of the score, along with keeping my own notes for the newspaper article.

My newspaper required me to not only submit a full story about the game but also to submit a full box score for both teams, which included passes completed, passes attempted, passing yardage, number of interceptions, rushes, rushing yards, receptions, receptions yardage, fumbles lost, fumbles recovered, penalties and number of yards penalized, number of punts and average punting yards. That was in addition to listing every scoring play and time of scoring, scores by quarter and final score.

Once cell phones became prevalent, the newspaper I was working for also required me to call in to the sports desk at the end of every quarter and at halftime so the score could be posted live on the newspaper website.

Games typically started at 7 p.m. on Friday evenings and those covering games knew to keep a close eye on weather reports and updates because if lightning was observed nearby a game, the teams were sent to the locker room for safety reasons, and it was an automatic half-hour delay. Games were played however, if it was raining but without thunder and lightning.

Another significant factor for me was to check the press box ahead of the game to see if there was room for the press in there. Often, I found that every seat in the press box, other than the referee assigned to keep the scoreboard clock, was filled by a coach of one of the teams wearing a headset to communicate to the playing field below or a bevy of team videographers. Eventually, I chose to stroll the sidelines, but that required keen vision when I was standing on one team’s 30-yard line and the opposing team was on the 10-yard line on the other end of the field.

After the game ended, I had to go out on the field and interview players or coaches. Sometimes they had a group prayer and that took time while my article deadline was ticking away. At first, my high school football articles and box score information had to be at the newspaper by 11 p.m., but within a few years, that had dwindled down to 10:30 p.m.

Many games started at 7 p.m. but didn’t end until 9:45 or so, that is if the game there didn’t experience lightning or other issues, such as the field lights going out and then restarted, extra time devoted at halftime to presenting the Homecoming King and Queen, honoring championship teams from years past, or overtime.

Some high school teams always made sure that reporters had a complete roster of jersey numbers and that was helpful, but on at least one occasion I can recall a high school team removing a player during the afternoon before a game for an academic infraction and replacing him on the roster with his cousin, who also had the same last name, Johnson, and the same first initial of “M.” Going off the roster I was provided in the press box, at halftime I mentioned to one of the team’s assistant coaches that their running back Johnson was having a great game and he agreed. I featured his three touchdowns prominently in my article only to learn the next morning about the last-minute roster switch, that Mark Johnson was not Marcus Johnson and ended up with major egg on my face.

My Friday evenings would typically end with me getting the quotes, dashing to my car, totaling all the box info and either dictating the article with quotes inserted and the box score to the sports editor by phone or finding an available Wi-Fi at 10:15 p.m. and transmitting it to the paper by laptop. The stories were constantly being written and revised in my head as the game went on. This wasn’t rocket science, and eventually I took great pride in being the first one to turn in my articles, season after season. Now you know the rest of the story.

Andy Young: Opening Day

By Andy Young

I’ve looked forward to Opening Day ever since I was old enough to realize it existed. The only days I anticipated more were Christmas and Thanksgiving, and by the time I began my three-decade adolescence, my devotion to baseball was total.

That’s why I couldn’t wait for the day the season began each year in early April. I even attended a season-opening game at New York’s beautiful Shea Stadium one year. Certain so-called “experts” were forecasting a grim season for my favorite team, so imagine my joy when they vanquished the visiting Montreal Expos, 3-1. Ace pitcher Jerry Koosman hurled a complete game, and I knew right then Joe Torre’s Mets were going to shock the world. I was even more convinced of it after they won their next two games.

Historical note: the New Yorkers lost 96 of their final 159 contests that year, finishing last and confirming those “experts” did indeed know more than I did. Adding insult to injury, that opening day win represented one-third of Koosman’s victories that year; he lost 15.

In my youth baseball’s season-opening contest reliably took place in Cincinnati sometime during April’s second week. But these days the big-league season opens in late March, often under a dome and occasionally in a foreign country.

Today I’m no longer youthful, nor an avid baseball fan. I’m a veteran high school English teacher who has learned that things change with the passage of time. (Exhibit A: New York’s beautiful Shea Stadium was demolished 14 years ago.)

Currently I’m occupied with trying to help high schoolers unlock their full potential. The more diligently they work on their literacy skills, the more clearly that they’ll see that they’re capable of doing far more for society than striking out the side on nine pitches or clouting a tape measure home run. Few of my students will ever earn the money a major league professional athlete in their prime does, but if my colleagues, my students’ parents, and I do our jobs right, the young folks in my class will realize that in the long run, being a multi-millionaire before turning 30 years old is far more likely to become a curse than a blessing.

However, despite my waning interest in professional baseball my enthusiasm for Opening Day remains. The difference: I’ve realized the one that truly matters occurs in late August.

Teachers understand that no day of the school year is more important than the initial one. It’s our one and only chance to make a positive first impression on our new students. Equally importantly it’s their only chance to get an initial read on the person(s) who’ll be guiding their academic growth for the next 10 months or so.

Like the baseball season, a school year is a marathon, not a sprint. Any decent algebra student can deduce that 180 six-and-a-half-hour school days add up to a lot more time than 162 Major League Baseball contests do, and that was true even before several rule changes designed to speed up games were enacted this year.

Major League Baseball players earning the sport’s lowest allowable annual salary will bring home at least 10 times the money the average educator will get paid this year.

But what a teacher gives (and receives in exchange for their efforts) is arguably worth better than 10 times what even the most skilled professional athlete will produce in his or her most productive season.

It’s just as true now as it was in my childhood: for me, nothing is as exciting as Opening Day.

Not even a Jerry Koosman complete-game victory. <