(Host) As she prepares to retire from the Burlington Free Press after 30 years,
journalist Candace Page reflects on what she owes her mother and fellow
journalist, Ruth Page.
(Page) My mother, Ruth Wolf Page,
celebrated her 90 th birthday this month. It’s been only a year or two
since she retired from her final job. She’s a hard act to follow.
I was a child, Ruth and my father, Proctor Page, owned a weekly
newspaper – although it might be more accurate to say the newspaper
owned them. Most of the news in the Suburban List consisted of town
notes, submitted by correspondents who mailed in bulletins about Grange
socials, out-of-town visitors and their neighbors’ trips to the
Mom was the one-woman professional staff, with an
occasional hand from Dad, who ran the business side. One of my most
enduring memories of childhood is of mother sitting at the kitchen table
on a Sunday night pounding out the week’s editorials. That cleared the
decks so that during the week she could work all day, cook dinner for a
husband and three children in Burlington each evening, then drive back
to the suburbs to report on whatever town board was meeting.
She and Dad sold the newspaper in the late 1970s, but retirement proved not to be in my mother’s genetic makeup.
reinvented herself as editor of National Gardening magazine. That led
to a nationally syndicated public radio program, Ruth Page’s Gardening
Journal, which led to a book. By this time, mom was approaching her 80s
and I realized I had to abandon her as a role model because I’d never be
able to keep up. Until she was 90, she contributed commentaries to VPR,
focusing on the environmental issues that have become her passion.
perhaps it is no surprise that I find myself, late in my career, as a
daily journalist in Vermont, writing about the environment and small
town life – a job that has entertained me and enlightened me and kept me
fed for more than 30 years.
I left Vermont as a young woman, to
write for a big city newspaper. The work was challenging and I became a
better reporter, but it also left me feeling empty. My stories went
into the newspaper and out into the ozone and evaporated. I missed
walking down the street in Essex or Burlington and having people stop me
to praise or complain about a story. I missed knowing the family
history of the people I wrote about. I missed community. Soon I came
back to Vermont.
My mother taught me to be a writer, but her
greatest gift to me professionally was the life she led as a
working-woman journalist. It never occurred to me that journalism was a
man’s profession, even in the 1950s. I worked my first assignment for
the Suburban List when I was about 9, reporting on the Champlain Valley
Fair. With a little shove from Mom I marched into the mobile office of
"King Reid" Lefebvre, impresario of the midway, and asked for an
interview about the latest scary roller coaster ride. I’ve been asking
questions ever since.