February 5, 2023

This commentary is by Eric Peterson, who was producing inventive director of Oldcastle Theatre Firm in Bennington for 48 years. His columns have been revealed within the Bennington Banner, Berkshire Eagle and Albany Instances Union.

Our mail supply might be sporadic. Not too long ago, after getting no deliveries for a few days, mail arrived fairly unexpectedly on a Sunday. The supply included the Friday and Saturday editions of the Bennington Banner. I’d learn most of every on-line however nonetheless sat down and browse by means of the printed version. I want it. Previous habits die arduous.

My dependancy to newspapers started in my junior yr of highschool after I took a journalism class. We received our decide every day of The New York Instances and New York World Journal Tribune. Newspapers had been dying for a number of years. The World Journal Tribune was a merger of the New York Telegram, the Journal and Herald Tribune. The town had already misplaced a number of different dailies, together with the Brooklyn Eagle, the Mirror and The Solar. The identical factor had occurred in Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit — all throughout the nation, newspapers had been being murdered by the speaking field that confirmed up in each household’s lounge within the early Fifties.

Jimmy Breslin wrote a column for the World Journal Tribune, also referred to as WJT. I’d by no means learn something like his column earlier than. He coated fires, murders, politics, the lifetime of the town. His writing might seize the vocal rhythms of cops, thieves, political hacks, clergymen, rabbis, schoolteachers, subway mechanics — in different phrases, the voices of the town crammed his columns. 

After I went to the town for theater conservatory after which faculty, I continued studying Breslin, who switched to the New York Submit when the WJT expired. The Submit additionally had Pete Hamill, one other sensible Irish American author. Breslin and Hamill each wrote novels and journal items and even appeared on the field that stored killing their newspapers. 

By then I used to be additionally studying The New York Instances on daily basis. Throughout the Watergate scandals, it wasn’t uncommon for me and my associates to purchase two and even three editions of the Instances each time Haldeman or Ehrlichman or Mitchell had dedicated yet one more crime. The Instances had good columnists, too, though none like Hamill or Breslin (Hamill did write briefly for the Instances years later). However the Instances coated the world like no different American newspapers. The Washington Submit was giving it some actual competitors due to younger reporters named Woodward and Bernstein. 

However I lived in New York Metropolis, not Washington. The Instances grew to become my hometown paper, so I forked over a few quarters for it and the Submit on daily basis. The Submit was not the Murdoch-owned rag of at this time. It was a energetic paper with Al Aronowitz writing about rock music, Larry Service provider on sports activities, and Murray Kempton.

My first newspaper byline got here within the Banner, as the highschool journalism class periodically received a web page within the hometown paper. Seeing my identify in print in an precise newspaper was thrilling. Later I had the prospect to have a byline on, not the college paper portion, however the precise Banner. 

Bennington had two excessive faculties on the time and the Banner had one sports activities reporter. Each faculties performed weekend soccer video games and since they shared Alumni Subject, when one had a house recreation, the opposite performed an away recreation. I used to be requested to cowl a Bennington Excessive Faculty away recreation in Brattleboro. 

The sports activities editor gave me specific directions that this was an area newspaper; readers had been within the native crew. Subsequently, I used to be to emphasise the Benn Hello gamers. That proved tough when Brattleboro beat the Benn Hello Catamounts by a rating of 72 to six. The lone Catamount landing was scored towards the opposition’s third string — however that landing run was my lead. 

Years later I started writing a weekly column for the Banner. It appeared on the leisure web page, which made sense, because it was a general-interest column. However when the columns started coping with a controversial native situation, the managing editor moved them to the editorial web page.

In 1990, former Vermont governor Richard Snelling was working for his previous seat after shedding a U.S. Senate race to Patrick Leahy. He got here to the Banner workplace to be interviewed by a few of its reporters and I used to be invited to take a seat in. 

Snelling was spectacular, a sensible, profitable businessman who had received 4 phrases as governor. He anticipated to be in cost, anticipated to get his means and didn’t undergo fools gladly. He had a profitable document as governor and ran as if campaigning was beneath him. The principally younger reporters had been understandably in awe of him. 

The interview didn’t go effectively. Snelling thought among the questions unfit of his time or consideration. He snapped again at questioners, telling them their questions had been ignorant, and he was typically contemptuous.

My column didn’t run till a number of days later and, for the reason that reporters had coated the Q&A, I made a decision to jot down my column about Snelling’s demeanor. A buddy of mine had been a member of his cupboard and as soon as informed me, “I assumed I used to be the largest SOB on the earth, after which I labored for Dick Snelling.” That grew to become the opening line of my column.

The day it appeared, somebody from Snelling’s workplace known as the then-publisher of the Banner, Kelton Miller, to complain. (That’s placing it mildly). The caller demanded my work be banished from the pages of the Banner. Kelton wasn’t thrilled, however declined the suggestion.

Per week or so later, Michael Bernhardt, who was working for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket with Snelling, got here to the Banner for an interview. I launched myself to him and he stated, “You’re the man. The man who wrote the column.” 

He then guided me a number of toes away from others and whispered, “You had been completely proper.”

One week later I used to be in Montpelier at a reception and shook fingers with Mr. Snelling. He checked out me intently. I started sweating profusely and fearing for my life. Then he smiled and stated, ”Good to see you once more.” 

The cantankerous Gov. Snelling was elected for a fifth time period. Mr. Bernhardt misplaced to Dr. Howard Dean. Gov. Snelling, whose contributions to Vermont had been many and who improved the state in quite a few methods, died simply eight months into his fifth time period. He was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Dean.

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