“Look, kids,” my father would say to a car full of weary travelers. “It’s the totem pole.”
And just like that, Mad Libs publications got thrown on the floor of the back seat, and the cranky passengers would perk up to see it for ourselves. Yes, that was the totem pole, indeed. And, yes, we were in Bethany Beach.
For years, my grandmother worked for Avon in Newark, Del., and she gained access to a time share in Bethany Beach every summer for a week. It was only one week — one of 52 in a year — but that one week would fill us with enough warm memories to get us through the next 51, until we could come back again the next summer.
It was a week filled with make-your-own-sundaes downtown, hours spent playing basketball alongside Garfield Parkway and the safe kind of environment my parents felt fine letting us just go off and do our own thing while the adults would often stick around the house and do adult things (drink booze and talk badly about children).
Bethany Beach was always a magical spot to me. It was the “happy place” that would live in the back of my mind, and allowed me to get through the trials and tribulations of normal life for a 9-year-old boy — you know, like having to sit next to “gross girls” in social studies or mustering up the courage to jump off a rooftop to prove to your friends that you would. It’s funny. As I got older, I began jumping off roofs and performing ridiculous stunts to impress those same “gross girls,” but ...
Well, yeah, I digress.
I had an earlier fling with Bethany Beach for a previous job, and grew to love the inland towns around Bethany just as much as my former childhood oasis, along with the other beach towns along Route 1. I admired the pride shown by the “locals” who grew up here, the satisfaction of those fortunate enough to retire here from somewhere else and the young families trying to make a go of it in a place they felt was ideal to raise their children.
A few years later, when Susan Lyons and I were discussing starting a new paper in the area, I grew excited at the prospect of working here again — even if it was somewhat tempered by fears of the area not supporting a new newspaper. Those fears were beaten down in my mind by two elements: 1) the opportunity to work with Susan Lyons again, and; 2) the chance to cover this area in a way I felt would be most beneficial to the community as a whole.
What happened as we started talking to people and businesses about the project was surprising to me, to say the least, though it really shouldn’t have been.
You see, people respected Susan Lyons. Each person we approached threw his or her support behind her. They placed their faith in the same woman I did, and that was all I had to see to know that we could make it work if we stuck to a plan and hired people smarter than us. I felt that all we needed was a fair chance to make this happen, and the goodwill Susan had built over the course of her lifetime in this community was going to give us that opportunity.
As much fun as I often have at her expense on this page, the truth of the matter is I love Susan Lyons. Words can not adequately express how much I admire and respect her professionally, and how fortunate I feel every day over how close we have become as friends.
It’s also been a blessing to meet the many people who have worked here over the years. Susan always says, “People make the paper.” And she is right.
Perhaps the greatest thrill of this entire ride has been seeing our extended “Point family” grow. We have had the joy of seeing Susan Mutz, Carolyn Fitz, Jaime Ellis, Monica Scott and M. Patricia Titus all have “Point babies,” and celebrated along with Susan Lyons for the birth of all five of her grandchildren, and anxiously await the impending sixth.
We have seen Bob Bertram attach himself to young designers and help them find their visual voices, and watched Chris Clark climb anything climbable just to get one more angle at a shot he had already taken 983,246 times. We shared Shaun Lambert’s exhiliration as he went home to Alaska to see his family, and felt nearly the same pride for him when his beloved Seahawks won the Super Bowl last Sunday. I’ve felt a kinship to every person who has worked here, and still do today.
We have seen mayors, councilmembers, state officials and county council members been elected, serve their terms and leave, and we have watched as crime has made its way here in different ways. There has been joy, heartache, hope and anxiety. Just what you would want out of the experience of life.
Thank you, readers and advertisers for the ride. What a blast!