Here's the Scoop: February 29, 2012

Things will never be the same
It’s the end of an era here at the Catskill Mountain News. This week’s paper marks the last one on the job for jack-of-all-trades Esther Snyder of Roxbury.

At a few years north of the traditional retirement age, Esther will be stepping down from her twice-a-week chores as typesetter/proofreader/obituary editor. I doubt, however, that she’ll be slowing down much.

As noted, Esther has worn several hats in her quarter-century of work at the News — her second career after an even longer stint performing office duties at Roxbury Central School. Back in the “olden times” there was plenty of type to be set here, as most news items arrived via the post office. As the trend of e-mailing news rose, Esther shifted her focus more to proofreading duties.
Anyone who has ever proofread knows that this is a thankless task. In the office, there are plenty of comments like, “Wow, glad you caught that one before it made its way into print!”

A few always slip past
Unfortunately, there are always some typographical errors that elude every set of eyes that glances over them. Despite the fact that the errors originated on someone else’s keyboard, the proofreader is a common fall-guy/girl.

As much as I would like to blame others for my typos, I have a hard time pinning my mistakes on Esther. Oddly enough, Esther takes care of this task for me. You see, even though she’s already read the entire paper, she does so again with final product. The following week, she’s fond of saying, “Did you see the error(s) that got in?”

Being a big fan of “ignorance is bliss,” I usually am unaware of the typo(s) that Esther is about to point out. Naturally, I am thankful for her sharing the knowledge that these errors made their way into print. Forever.

Along with plain, old-fashioned typos, she politely points out common grammatical errors to the writing staff. Esther makes certain that the comments being delivered are not actually coming from her, but from “Mr. Webster.”

Wrote the book on it
Ironically, after 25-plus years on the job, Esther has no real need to refer to Webster’s dictionary — she has compiled her own volume of notes regarding certain spellings, rules for hyphenating, etc. For instance, are you aware that “firehouse” is one word? We weren’t either. Until Esther corrected this mistake numerous times.

And speaking of the aforementioned hyphens, I love them like I love baseball — but Esther is not nearly as fond of these little devices. I’m not taking that last one out, however.

She’s also a stickler for the proper spelling of names. I’m willing to bet that she knows how to spell the first and last names of just about every man, woman and child in the Town of Roxbury. Her diligence in this department has saved countless errors over the years.

I noted above that Esther was the obituary editor. This was an unofficial title, but well-earned. Of all stories in the paper, Esther has always had a grave concern about errors in obituaries. She is always very respectful of the dignity of an obituary. These pieces are no place for mistakes — or puns like “grave concern.”

Bringing back the past
Being from the “old school,” Esther grew up reading this paper when it was dominated by “social” news about the comings and goings of neighbors. That side of the paper has been in steady decline for many years and has largely disappeared.

However, Esther has done her part to keep such news alive. When the scarce amount of news to be typeset is finished, she often “heads downstairs” to make some calls to see if anyone in her community is interested in sharing their activities in The Roxbury News.

Esther’s diligence usually nabs a few folks, but there aren’t many residents who participate. I like to joke that Esther’s persistence has spurred an avalanche of Roxbury residents opting for Caller ID.
It’s only natural that Esther wants to see the news she has collected make its way into the paper, but when it’s tight, this column sometimes gets left out. I like to remind Esther that she could ensure The Roxbury News makes it into print, if some “Andrew Jacksons” make their way to my wallet. Darned if she didn’t track down a supply of counterfeit mini-Jacksons that she funnels to me upon request. They are hard to spend, but I appreciate her effort.

Late-night writing
Esther’s day doesn’t end when she leaves the office, either. She often arrives and tells us she was up until the wee hours — writing letters. In fact, her letter-writing volume is so legendary, I think she may single-handedly be keeping the post office afloat.

Over all the years, Esther’s quirky personality has spawned many memories. I think the one that will always stick with me occurred several years ago when her car was in the shop and she borrowed a family member’s Monster Truck for a few days. I’m not sure how she got in or out of this hulking, mud-covered beast, but she did.

Plus, there were mechanical problems with the Monster Truck, as well, and I believe she could drive only in second gear. I’m sure that cut down on her opportunity for doing some donuts in the cornfield on the way home.

I could go on and on about my years with Esther as co-worker and friend. Anyone who knows her is aware of Esther’s devotion — to family, friends and newspaper readers.

Even though she won’t be coming into the office each week, I’m sure we’ll be able to keep tabs on her by reading The Roxbury News — as long as the Jacksons keep flowing, of course. Thank you, Esther — I sure hope there are no typos in this piece.
— Brian Sweeney