SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Mary Ann Barrows "Thou Shalt Lie Down..."

(08/13/2017)

By Bob Weaver 2002

Yesterday at Mary Ann Barrow's memorial service I read from one of her favorite poems, Thanatopsis -

Thou shalt lie down with patriarchs of the infant world - with kings, the powerful of the earth - the wise, the good, fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, all in one mighty sepulchre ... By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

It was fitting poetry for an old newspaper woman, forty years worth.

It would be hard to imagine the lines of type she composed in all those years, read and forgotten by thousands.

She had been indecisive about going to the writer's group one Friday evening in early fall. I asked her to make up her mind. "O.K., come and get me," she said. Taking my topless Geo Tracker, I started to Jeanne Wilson's house, tucking-in Mary Ann with a large sleeping bag and turning up the heater, only her face exposed. "This will start rumors, you know," she said.

"I want you to be sure and come to my funeral," she said. "You're not planning on dying right away," I responded. "No, but when you've been in the newspaper business as long as I have, I don't expect many to show up."

Mary Ann's ashes return to earth, Pleasant Hill Cemetery

"I'll be there," I said. "Maybe you could say a few good words," she asked. "You're good at it." It was then she said after doing this kind of stuff, reporting, "You'll be lucky to have a couple of friends left, maybe a few who have grown to know you, like an inner circle. But don't count on it."

She told me a story about a local official she quoted in The Chronicle. The following day he angrily came to the office to cancel his subscription.

She asked the man if he had been misquoted, stating she would be happy to make a correction. "It's not that," he said. "You're a horse's a - - ", after which he left to stick his head back in the office, saying "Besides, you're a communist."

She said "I'd like to remember how many people canceled their subscriptions those 40 years," stating she believed few of the incidents related to inaccurate reporting.

Mary Ann with Mary Wildfire and her children Patrick and Cynthia at Calhoun Writer's Guild meeting

During the funeral, it was noted Mary Ann made Gaylen Duskey the Sport's Editor when he was in the 9th grade. There had never been a Sport's Editor before, but she placed the crown on his head. It's obvious Gaylen has never gotten over it.

Rev. Bob Nicholas recalled the glorious "Silver Haired Girls" of Koffee Cup fame, who "had a table near the entrance so they could check on everyone, coming and going." Most of them are now gone, he said, but "I can remember their roaring outbursts of laughter," during the meal.

Mary Ann with the late Barbara Anderson, and writer Sue Kellam

Mary Ann has been a blessing to me, her friendship, feisty independence and hard work. Beyond her public life, she was a humble person who shared her love of music and literature with husband Olin, and quietly clung to the Calhoun community. She had gracious thoughts. "They welcomed an outsider, and they allowed us to make a living and a life here," she said.

She was among those aging Calhoun ladies we will sorely miss.

MARY ANN RECALLS COMING TO CALHOUN

We've bought The Calhoun Chronicle in Grantsville.

That's what my husband told me on an April day in 1945.

Was I prepared for this? I had some newspaper experience, both writing and typesetting, married to a man who started out at the age of 12 as a printer's devil, and had worked at numerous newspapers.

But we didn't own an automobile, house, or furniture, and our $1500 nest egg had been depleted by $500 with the down payment.

To further complicate things, I was six months pregnant.

I had never heard of Grantsville, never been near that part of my native state, and never lived in a small town. It was several months before I saw the place, for I had to stay with my mother elsewhere until the birth of our son.

We had moved across the United States and back twice in our three year marriage, to Seattle, Washington, when my husband was in the Army, then moves to North Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas for his newspaper work.

We then moved back to West Virginia, this time to make a big investment on a shoestring.

It was a pleasant surprise that we were made welcome in that small town. We were newcomers, but The Chronicle had been established in 1873, and was a weekly visitor in most of the homes in the county. That eased our way, providing we could produce a paper every Thursday consisting of local news and advertising.

My first work for the paper was keeping the books and proof reading, things that I could do at home with the baby. Two years later I had to do more work to keep things going. Fortunately there was a good local grandmother to stay with our son while I sold advertising, collected news, set type, waited on customers, kept up the mailing list, continued with the bookkeeping, and lots of other things.

Mary and Olin loved music

Finally I had learned how to operate every piece of printing equipment in the shop. Most had to be replaced as new technology came along, and I had to learn all of them.

We worked hard, many weeks past 60 hours, and even when at home for the evening, it came as second nature to be ready for events as they happened. A fire once destroyed a big business block in town; there were several floods, a few murders, scandals, gas explosions, auto accidents, many happening at the most inconvenient hours of the night.

Eventually my husband had to retire and I was left to run the paper. Finding local help, many of them got printer's ink in their blood. It was a good place to work. When the paper was sold, I stayed on another ten years in the same capacities, giving up the bookkeeping.

I spent 40 years in the newspaper business, and continue to live in that small town which has provided pleasure and companionship well beyond my expectations that day in 1945...Mary Ann Barrows, 1994


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