A Different Kind O’ Bee

Hearing the word, “bee” what comes to mind? Honey…insects?  I think of backyard hives I hope to have. Farmgirls also think of our beloved MaryJane and the Farmgirl Sisterhood. In my hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, “bee” has an additional meaning: “The Bee” is the local newspaper. I recently toured The Newtown Bee, discovering the paper’s name isn’t the only unique attribute of this historical gem.

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Near a corner of Main street, just down from the monumental flagpole, sits a red clapboard building, home to The Newtown Bee. While the staff takes what they report very seriously, much about The Bee is different than other newspapers. Stepping inside, one doesn’t enter a stark, sterile office, but a cozy place, resembling an eclectic museum of unusual and fascinating Americana.  Three friendly canines who regularly come to work with their human counterparts greet those stepping through the door.

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One of the official "greeters" naps between visitors.

One official “greeter” naps between visitors.

R. Scudder Smith, Publisher and Executive Editor, is passionate about antiques and folk art. Many pieces have found a home along the offices and walls of the paper. Antique honey pots, cigar store Indians, weather vanes, finials, and carousel horses are just a sampling.

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IMG_8755Along with the usual awards and framed front pages one might see in a news office, every nook has something interesting to catch the eye. “Bee related” items are mixed in with local history like the old ball from atop the flagpole.  (It was Mr. Smith’s passion for antiques that launched The Bee’s separate, successful publication, Antiques and Arts Weekly, a significant read for New England antique enthusiasts, dealers, collectors and auction houses).

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Molded Terra Cotta plaque, 1883 -1887 by H.A. Lewis, S. Boston, from the Saturday Globe Building where it hung until July 1992.

Molded Terra Cotta plaque, 1883 -1887 by H.A. Lewis, S. Boston, from the Saturday Globe Building where it hung until July 1992.

The first issue of The Bee was released June 28th, 1877 by eccentric John T. Pearce. Copies were passed out by hand. The front page contained a fictional romance piece along with local happenings. Mr. Pearce was unpredictable, sometimes leaving his job duties to others, mysteriously disappearing, and later reappearing. Papers weren’t issued with any regularity, and by 1880 Mr. Pearce’s practices took a toll. Competition sprung from a new publication, The Newtown Chronicle. A former exchange editor from a paper in Springfield, Massachusetts, Reuben Hazen Smith, moved to Newtown, purchased the failing Bee, and later bought out the Chronicle. Due to the poor condition of the worn hand press, it took four weeks from his purchase for Mr. Smith to get the paper running again, but The Bee’s been published regularly ever since, by the Smith family to this day.

IMG_8751Editor Curtiss Clark thought he’d work there for awhile out of college – and has been with the paper forty-one years! In earlier years, Mr. Clark says the paper had a lot of correspondence sent from other towns. In more recent times, the newspaper has concentrated locally, “covering every aspect of community life”. Mr. Clark says coverage of a town this size by a local editorial staff is rare – most similar papers are now owned by bigger publications. He’s seen the face of media change firsthand.  In 1994, The Newtown Bee was  the first paper in Connecticut to go online, and is also on social media. “Heavy online presence makes it 24/7,” says Mr. Clark.

Editor Curtiss Clark in his office next to his favorite piece: a dog named "Spike". He likes his "Don't bother me demeanor." Spike's demeanor does NOT match that of Mr. Curtiss.

Editor Curtiss Clark in his office next to his favorite piece: a dog named “Spike”. He likes his “Don’t bother me demeanor.” Spike’s demeanor does NOT match that of Mr. Curtiss.

IMG_8735The building itself has been added to several times, resulting in a maze of offices and hallways. A year-round Christmas tree graces one of the many corridors, bringing more fun for the staff. Shannon Hicks, Associate Editor, says, “Every department has its own crushing deadlines and stress. The tree offers a fun outlet.” Typesetter Linda Bauer creatively changes decorations to coincide with various holidays and events.

For summer, the tree is done up in red, white, and blue. Past themes include Easter, Back to School, and Halloween, to name a few.

For summer, the tree’s done up in red, white, and blue. Past themes include Easter, Back-to-School, and Halloween, to name a few.

This large piece hangs in an office. Any guesses to what it is? (Leave your guess in comments).

This large piece hangs in an office. (Any guesses to what it is? Leave your guess in comments).

IMG_8739-001Through time, the paper and how it’s created has changed and updated. For townspeople, The Bee’s a household word; a big part of small-town Suburban life. I learned quickly moving here that to know what’s going on about town, one needs to read The Bee. From “Horse and Pet News”, to announcing little one’s birthdays, to “Snapshots”, a column about a different Newtown resident each week, the paper’s more than just “the news”. Residents often greet each other with “Hey…saw you last week in The Bee!”  Soon, families will be eager for the issue with school bus schedules. Whether reporting news good or bad, celebrating local residents’ accomplishments, or recording what’s happening with our kids in school and sports, it’s nice to see that while The Newtown Bee changes with the times, in many ways it stays the same: always an important piece of a close-knit community.

Hope you enjoyed our “tour” of my town’s paper!  Tell me, do you work in a unique workplace, too? Leave me a comment letting me know you stopped by.

Until next time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 20 Comments

  1. Beverly Battaglia says:

    This is such an interesting information about your small town newspaper. I like the history and the idea of decorating a Christmas tree all year for each special holiday!
    Love you,
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom, Isn’t that tree an awesome idea? I especially love how it was decorated patriotically when visited. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Adrienne says:

    I love the antiques and especially the honey pots. Mine looks like the third from the left on the top row. It meshes beautifully with the dishes and accompanying serving pieces that came from a Goodwill store in Antioch, CA. As for work space, I used to have a desk set up in my RV for the laptop and printer where I worked every day online. The view changed constantly, even though I may have been parked in the same space for a few months. Most of the time, I was working in the woods or near a lake, river or other body of water. No matter where I was, I was always “home.”

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Adrienne, aren’t those honey pots neat? I have a few myself. How cool to be working from an RV! I love how you say that you were “always home”. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Sippie says:

    Love the whole idea of the hometown paper that truly is a disappearing treasure, and I love that you wrote about it so well! But I give up on trying to guess what is the ornate wooden circular piece hanging in one of the offices there. What is it?? A repurposed Lazy Susan? A clock face without the clock? A victorian puzzle? A gypsy wagon hubcap? ??? Do tell!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sippie! Good guesses! No one at the newspaper seems to know what it is for sure, either! It does seem to be some sort of wheel. It is huge! I thought it was such a conversation piece. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Barbara Purvine says:

    I am so pleased my cousin sent me the link to this. No wonder she loves working for “The Bee”! (I think I’ll see if I can get a subscription mailed to Oregon!! 😀 ) Thank you, Nicole, for this wonderful post.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Barbara! It was an interesting place to visit. I first visited with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop last May. (They were wonderful to our troop, taking time out of their busy day to show the girls around and discuss what they do). I also think it speaks volumes in this day and age that they have staff that work there for so many years. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the post. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Marcia Aurand says:

    The piece looks like gingerbread decoration located on a gable to provide ventilation to an attic or barn. Just guessing though, is very interesting! Each time I read your posts I want to move into the area or at least north of Florida where I live now!!! Thank you for the pictures and words!

    Marcia

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marcia! Thank you so very much…I am so glad you enjoy my posts! (Come January, though, I often wish I was living where you are)! 😉
      Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. bonnie b says:

    Loved the story of your hometown newspaper. It is so neat that it has remained it’s own “person” and not a member of the larger publications.
    I often wonder if you have visited Stillmeadow, home of Gladys Taber. She mentions Newtown in her writings. Are you familiar with her? I bet you would enjoy her books.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Bonnie, I had not heard of Gladys Taber, but I just “Googled” her. I bet I would like her books! I will have to see if I can find them. Thank you for telling me about her. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Holly says:

    Thank you for sharing this very interesting story.Sounds like a fun place to visit.I think the large wooden piece is a ceiling medallion for a light fixture.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Holly, Good guess, as well. Could be? It would have to be a huge light fixture, like maybe some I’ve seen in old buildings with super high ceilings like some old ones in NYC. Thanks for “stopping by”! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Barbara Purvine says:

    My sweetheart, whose job history includes working as a slot machine mechanic and in security in casinos in Las Vegas years ago) seems to think the ’round thing’ is a Big Six wheel from a game of chance at a carnival or casino, and someone has possibly painted it.

  9. kay dallas says:

    its a finial

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Kay! I bet you are right…it’s a huge piece, and looks stunning on their wall. -Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Mike Anderson says:

    Your information on John T. Pearce, founder of the Newtown Bee is not up to date, I am a descendant of his family, his sister was my gr., gr., gr., grandmother, she lived to 109 and if she’d lived another year would’ve seen me born and 6 generations in the family, she married Charles J. Rockwell, a blacksmith/carriage maker for P.T. Barnum. Her brother John served with the 15th Virginia Infantry from 1861 to 1862. He regularly published his paper and they’re on microfilm at the state library in Hartford. He also started another paper in Bethel, left the Bee for a short while then returned to bring it back, I have articles dosumenting this history that I’ve researched. The Bee did a stroy on him when I had a veteran’s headstone placed at his unmarked grave in Center Cemetery in Bethel where his father, son and others are residing. Sarah F. (Pearce) Rockwell was living in Sandy Hook when her daughters were born and later moved to Danbury. John T. Pearce ran the Union Blockade in Norfolk, VA to come to Bethel and the family was in the hatting business in Richmond, VA where he and his siblings were born.

    Sincerely,
    C. Michael Anderson

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thank you for taking the time to provide this additional information. What an interesting man Mr. Pierce must have been! Thanks for reading and commenting. ~Nicole

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