In two weeks or so Janet Post and I will celebrate a dozen years in the newspaper business. Ah yes, we went to work for Hoch Publishing the first week in February of 2001.
I know I have told you this before, but in case we have some new Peabody Gazette-Bulletin readers in the community, I will say it again. We were just supposed to be filling in for six months or so until a new batch of journalism majors graduated and Hoch Publishing could hire one with a “fire in his belly” to be a small town editor. I am not sure what happened to that plan.
Maybe you all have noticed that sometime in the past week, all the trees downtown were cut down. Oddly enough, in the first issue of the paper we printed under the Hoch Publishing banner, there were front page pictures I took of city employees cutting down several of the Bradford Pears — the beginning of a plan to take them all out. Of course there was a great hue and cry from some business owners who wanted to keep “theirs” and so only four or five were removed that day. Here we are, 12 years later, and they are all gone. It is kind of amazing how that event happened to fall in place like that.
That initial attempt in 2001 to remove the trees came during a winter that saw thousands of starlings and sparrows roosting in the trees from dusk until dawn. Guess what they made all night long? Yup, bird doo-doo. The sidewalks, curbs, and parking areas were a smelly mess!
Eventually, after the removal of additional trees, there were not enough to attract a huge bird population. However, the trees continued to grow and began causing severe problems at the other end — under the concrete. And there were problems with the electrical wires that were originally high above the trees when they were planted in the 1980s. There was talk for years of getting rid of them. They created more problems than pluses.
This past week they were all cut down.
I missed the whole event. No one let me know this time that there was a photo opportunity for the front page. I just happened to drive downtown and it was all over! City employees were picking up limbs and branches and wrapping the remaining stumps in some kind of plastic with fluorescent stripes.
I was a fan of the trees and thought they added a great deal to our downtown, especially in the spring when they bloomed and in the summer when they provided shade. However, for some reason they reached greater heights than anyone predicted when they were put in and they did a lot of damage to the sidewalks. And who knows what problems might still lurk beneath the concrete? Sometimes a plan, no matter how attractive or appealing, just does not fill the need and it is time to move on.
Although the trees are gone and another plan will likely be implemented to create some shade and ambiance in our downtown, I kind of wish we had a photographic record of the final event since the beginning of the tree removal was on the front page of our initial edition. However, life is not always that convenient.
As I type this, Janet and I have no idea what pictures might be on the front page of our anniversary issue. What we know is that somewhere between the first week in February of 2001 and the first week in February of 2013, we have given you our best shot at being front and center in the Peabody news world and we will continue to do so as long as Hoch Publishing will let us. Thanks for reading the paper!
— SUSAN MARSHALL