LEWISTON — At 100 years old, Mary Andrews may just be the Sun Journal’s oldest and longest subscriber.
Flowers and cards filled her Paris home this week, tokens of love from Mother’s Day and her birthday in early May.
Sitting neatly on her table was a copy of the Tuesday newspaper.
“I look forward to it every day,” she said.
Born in 1922 in Waterford, Andrews has lived in the Norway area all her life. She never has she wanted to be anywhere else.
“It’s home,” she said.
Over the last century, Andrews has learned about the accomplishments of friends, neighbors and family within the pages of the Sun Journal, Advertiser Democrat and, previously, the Lewiston Daily Sun. She finds information about her town, available nowhere else, printed alongside news from Maine and beyond.
“This is where I get my news, for local news, is in the paper,” she said.
And when a friend dies, Andrews often learns about it in the obituaries section.
She especially loves to read light, heartwarming stories, according to her son, Tom Andrews. Sun Spots is another favorite.
“I always read that,” she said.
As the Sun Journal prepares to celebrate its 175th anniversary Saturday, we asked longtime readers to share what the newspaper means to them and why they continue to rise with the Sun each day.
UNDERSTANDING LOCAL ATTITUDES
Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said reading the newspaper is a lifelong habit he inherited from his parents. Growing up in Lewiston, he would patiently wait for his mother to read through the newspaper, always in order, until he could get his hands on the comics.
“If we wanted to see something, we couldn’t take a section unless she had read it first,” he said.
Now as an adult, he follows his mother’s habit, reading one section at a time.
“One of my other administrators will come in (my office), it’s the first thing in the morning, and they’ll pull a section out, and it makes me cringe,” he said with a laugh. “They think by putting it back nice and neatly I’ll be OK.”
He doesn’t read the comics anymore, preferring to focus on the local content.
“I keep my subscription going because it allows you to follow the local events, get to understand the local attitudes about issues with people and see kind of trends in communities,” he said. “You can’t get that off the internet.”
“Plus, where else would I get my horoscope so easily?” (he’s a Scorpio).
Samson saw the impact of the Sun Journal’s first-hand coverage after inviting staff writer Mark LaFlamme to tour the 165-year-old Androscoggin County Courthouse.
LaFlamme’s article detailing the appalling conditions within the aging structure convinced the county commissioners that a new sheriff’s office was needed, Samson said.
THE DAILY TREK
Growing up during the 1930s in Wilson’s Mills — a small rural village located 100 miles northwest of Lewiston in Lincoln Plantation — 91-year-old Norman Littlehale recalled how his grandmother would “rig me all up, nice and cozy” before walking at least half a mile to the post office to pick up their mail and the Daily Sun.
In those days, no matter the weather, the day’s paper was always there, ready to be picked up.
“Things are a lot different (now),” he said. After moving from Wilsons Mills to Lancaster, New Hampshire, four years ago, he no longer gets the Sun Journal the same day it’s printed. But he continues to subscribe to the obituaries in particular, looking for his fellow 1949 graduates of Livermore Falls High School, where he attended as a boarding student.
“I don’t really have contact with any of the pupils, but I like to read the obituaries to see who — and there’s not many of us out of that 100 that are still above ground,” he said.
He proudly shared that three of his uncles and one aunt, all Gardiners, operated linotype machines at the Daily Sun, creating metal plates which would be used to transfer text and images onto paper.
When Irene Coady lost a cherished gold chain, she wrote to Sun Spots asking the community for help locating it.
Even to this day she’s disappointed that the chain with its anchor pendant was never found.
“I love Sun Spots,” she said. “I’ve written to them many times. It’s so informative for everybody, because it’s a little bit of everything.”
When she picks up the Sunday paper, one of the first things she does is look at the mystery photo to try and determine its location. She reads both the local and national news in the paper as well as Looking Back, a daily segment which reprints short snippets from the Daily Sun and Evening Journal 100, 50 and 25 years ago.
“It feels good to read something that you’re familiar with,” she said, referring to Looking Back. “It brings back either the memories or the people who were involved with that.”
Lately though, she’s been stuck on the letters to the editor. She’s an avid fan of Mark LaFlamme’s columns, too.
“I have to laugh, because the way it’s worded and everything, I love his column,” she said. “That’s one thing I make sure (to read). … When he’s got something in there, it’s like I can always picture what it is, you know?”
After moving to Auburn to marry a city firefighter in 1955, Coady and her husband, who subscribed to the Lewiston Evening Journal, would trade her in-laws for the Daily Sun every day.
“They had the fire calls in the paper,” she said. “Everything that you hear that something happened, ‘Oh, well, it’s going to be in the paper.’ I think they used to cover a lot more (back then).”
Coady’s kids first started saving money from delivering the Daily Sun. Part of their paycheck was set aside to purchase bonds, she said. When the bonds matured, her kids received a $25 payout.
Two months ago, Coady told her son she was having trouble bending down to retrieve her paper from the Oakhurst milk box on her porch each day. He got her a Sun Journal paper box instead.
“I’m telling you, it’s perfect,” she said. “All I have to do is open my door on the porch and I just put my hand on that slot there and get my paper out. … Those little boxes, it’s one of the better things they’ve done in many years.”
After her neighbor across the street saw it, he got one, too.
“There’s a lot of things I like about the Sun Journal,” she said. “You know, people have complaints a lot but eh, they need to get involved in something else,” she said.
PEACE, QUIET, COFFEE AND THE NEWSPAPER
After the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Lizette Deschenes had extreme fear and anxiety over leaving her apartment in Turner.
Information about the virus from the Sun Journal and TV helped her learn to live with it, she said.
Deschenes, a 51-year subscriber of the Sun Journal, loves to read. She has more than 400 books in her home from her.
“I just love to have the paper,” Deschenes said. “I’m an avid TV watcher, but I don’t like to listen to the news, I would rather read it. The peace and quiet that I have with the paper, with a cup of decaf coffee and everything, there’s nothing on, nothing to bother me.”
“I get more news on the newspaper than I do on TV,” she added. “They only give little spurts like three minutes or something like that, but on the paper you get the entire article so it’s a lot better.”
She enjoys reading the business section “because sometimes there’s a lot of new places opening up.” But it’s the stories about violence that stick out in her mind.
“I felt safe all the time, and all of a sudden, it’s happening right here in my neighborhood, jeez, that’s scary,” she said, referencing local shootings. Still, she’d rather know about local violence so she can be more cautious.
Beyond the news, Deschenes said she enjoys reading the comics, particularly “Nancy” and “Peanuts.”
“I like to fish through the paper to see if there’s anything good going on,” she said. “There’s so much bad news on the paper, that’s all there is on the front.”
Like Coady, Deschenes enjoys reading Looking Back.
“Some of the things I remember from 50 years ago, and that makes me feel old,” the 69-year-old chuckled. “Fifty years ago, I can’t believe I remember some of that stuff.”