Alex J. Hayes
The first few years I worked at the Times, I thought Holly was a mythical creature.
We had very few stringers back then, and most, such as the late Dick Watson, would come into the office to file stories. Holly was ahead of the time and emailed from York Springs.
The late Bill Schwartz would use words such as kind and friendly to describe this newsroom veteran.
The late John O’Donnell would always answer the phone “Holly, my dear!”
B.J. Small, Donna Wagner and Pat Nevada — people from that era whose names I do not have to preface with “the late” — assured me Holly was a real person.
After a few years, Holly returned to us full-time. In 2013, she became my right and left hands.
She is often the first contact readers have with our newsroom. She is kind, patient and knowledgeable.
Life is pointing her in a different direction but I, and all of Adams County, are very blessed that this has been her destination for so many years.
Adam Michael is stepping up to the plate after 13 years on the sports desk. Like Holly, he is deeply dedicated to the paper. We appreciate everyone’s patience as he molds into his new role.
There were a hundred reasons for the Gettysburg Times team to be concerned when I became assistant editor.
*Will he be organized? We’ve seen his desk and it leaves a lot to be desired.
*Will he be a team player? Sports guys can go either way. They’re usually highly competitive, somewhat egotistical types. But they also know it takes the synchronized effort of many and the ability to forgive quickly to build any sustainable success.
*Can he replace Holly Fletcher? Almost definitely not, but who could? The 28-year newspaper women who can prioritize answering massive strings of emails, editing copy, writing stories and a family life never grew on trees, but they’re increasingly rare in today’s world of low wages and quick layoffs. The boy better have some new tricks up his sleeve.
*Can he wake up on time? The guy brags openly about throwing out his alarm clock at the age of 22. Maybe he can program his phone?
These would have been good questions. These are not the questions my hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone co-workers devised.
All they wanted to know was whether or not I’d continue to pour Hershey Miniatures and Lifesaver Mints into the seemingly bottomless crystal bowl that Holly has tirelessly refilled since its unveiling.
The old adage is still true. People won’t remember you for what you did, they’ll only remember you for how you made them feel. Chocolate makes people feel pretty darn special. So does Holly.
I am keeping with this notebook theme of Holly Fletcher. She has been in the center of this office, quite literally if you have seen the layout of the building here.
Joking aside, she truly is a kind, caring, and compassionate coworker to have by your side in the office. She provides the necessary support through sometimes what feels like an avalanche of a job as a reporter.
I am so honored I had the opportunity to share her story this week on her nearly three decades of experience in the news industry. She is onto a new chapter in her life, and I am so proud of all she has accomplished here at the Gettysburg Times.
Although I try to remain mindful and think positively, there are weeks where the world gets to me. This was one of them.
During the week I spoke with Kathy Gaskin, who worked at Survivors Inc. for 13 years and was its executive officer for 3 years. Until it closed in June, Survivors provided education, housing, an emergency hotline, and legal support for women who were trying to leave abusive relationships.
Now there are no places for abused women to stay in the county and the services Survivors provided are reduced or non-existent. And the hoops that nonprofit organizations must navigate to find funds for another shelter are enormous.
And then there was the SCCAP fundraiser on Saturday in which Executive Officer Megan Shreve resorted to selling desserts in a (mostly successful) effort to entice donors to contribute money to keep the doors of the SCCAP homeless shelter open.
Because funds for the shelter were dramatically and unexpectedly reduced recently, the shelter is now closed during the day and there are more and more homeless people on the streets of Gettysburg.
And then I read that the Walmart Corporation (to take only one relevant example) reported earning a profit of $129,000,000,000 (that’s over 12 billion dollars) last year, some of which came from the people in our community.
These disparities made me wonder about our voters and our government. How can we be so selfish and uncaring that we do not routinely provide safety nets in the form of safe housing to our most vulnerable citizens while we let our corporations earn obscene amounts of money?
The state should be the guardian of its people, not its corporations. But we seem to choose the opposite.
Well it was very hot this week, and perhaps that was affecting my mood. But I think it’s more than that.
It had been more than two decades since I was able to attend the world’s grandest airshow at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. So, I was delighted to accompany a new friend in his sleek single-engine airplane as we flew to nearby Fond du Lac a week ago.
By the hundreds of thousands, pilots and other aviation buffs have gathered in the small Midwestern city every summer for 50 years. More than 10,000 aircraft swoop into Wittman airport during the weeklong event, when the air traffic facility bears a banner, “World’s Busiest Control Tower.”
It’s simply a plane-lovers mecca. Among the vintage aircraft are some of the early generations of flying machines. Nearby are prototypes of amazing planes we’re likely to see in large numbers in the future.
Daily airshows feature some of the world’s best aerobatic pilots who do things with airplanes most of us who fly can barely fathom. These women and men fly high powered aircraft safely, with incredible precision and consummate skill.
It’s the best era in a half-century for aspiring pilots. Airlines, cargo companies and flying schools are desperate for pilots, mechanics and instructors.
Local efforts are afoot to introduce aviation-related programs in area high schools and community colleges. Anyone interested in such careers should go for it; the sky’s the limit.
Hoping for a repeat visit next summer I’ve got Oshkosh Airventure 2020 in my calendar already.
Thursday’s speech by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Manitowoc crane factory near Waynesboro was a well-oiled machine.
At the very insistent direction of personnel from Pence’s office and the Secret Service, those of us with cameras literally ran from place to place as Pence toured a vast assembly building.
At each point where Pence was scheduled to shake hands and chat with workers, scaffolding was set up to give us the perfect angle for photos. We got maybe 60 seconds to shoot before we dashed to the next location, where we mounted shaky scaffold stairs and jostled for prime vantage points before the VP arrived.
During Pence’s actual speech, delivered before a huge flag hanging from a pair of tall cranes, we had an opportunity to take pictures from the “buffer” space between the stage and the crowd of hundreds of workers. Again, we were directed to run, only this time we were told to crouch at the same time so as to reduce the chance we would block anyone’s view.
Afterward, we were hurried onto the stage, from which we could shoot down as Pence shook hands with workers. The pace was less frantic, but we were reminded repeatedly and forcefully not to touch the podium.
I’m not complaining. Even though I ended up sweaty and tired, our minders made it easy for us to get good shots, and I managed to take good notes despite the frequent wind-sprints.
I did come away with a couple of questions.
Between the Secret Service, state police, the crew of Air Force Two (which was scheduled to land at Hagerstown), and others, perhaps dozens of public servants were involved in creating the event, the purpose of which was to urge people to pressure their representatives to vote for the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade. Both parties have long mounted such events to advance their agendas. I’m certainly in favor of officials communicating with their constituents, but I’m not convinced these spectacles are the best use of public resources.
And, what if a journalist with mobility issues had been present, or someone even older than I am? OK, I’m not really that ancient, but it took effort to keep up with folks less than half my age. I won’t be able to do that forever.
And, speaking of veterans, farewell, Holly! You’ll shine in your new position!
The Gettysburg and Northern Railroad is at it again.
This company is the bane of my existence, causing damage to my property and wreaking havoc on the environment.
It’s bad enough they spray their chemicals, which they claim are perfectly safe. They’ve killed my entire back lawn plus the vegetation on the bank behind my house, which has caused expansive erosion exposing the roots of my trees, killing some of them. The erosion allows runoff which eventually finds its way into the Chesapeake Bay, or so the bay folks have been telling us for years.
But, the railroad says some 1970’s law allows them to do what they want and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Today they were back at it, this time chopping down trees, one in particular being my tree.
I’m sure they will claim sight distance as a reason, saying the engineer must be able to see vehicles at upcoming road crossings.
OK, I get that. Trains shouldn’t run over cars, as if rounding the bend behind my house the train would be able to stop even if the engineer saw someone on the tracks. But we’ll pretend that would be possible since we’re not dealing with a lot of logic and intellect anyway.
So, they have a fellow, who looks to be about 5 feet, 8 inches tall standing there pointing to trees for the fellow operating the saw to chop down. As if that short dude can determine from the ground what an engineer coming around a curve can see.
Those train engines are tall. Very tall. That engineer can see a long ways, after clearing the curve. And, thanks to that curve, even if there was a vehicle on the tracks at the signaled crossing, he wouldn’t be able to get that train stopped for quite some distance anyways.
Chopping down my young mulberry tree served no purpose. And it was at least 8 to 10 feet back from the tracks. It wasn’t right next to the tracks or the road.
There really wasn’t a good reason to chop it down, just like there has been no good reason for the spraying that causes such devastating erosion.
We’ve already lost part of one fence; it fell over the embankment because of the erosion, after a foot of our property had washed away at that point. Now the embankment is encroaching upon the new fence we put up. If the railroad is allowed to continue its destruction unchecked in another decade our garage will topple over the bank and onto the tracks, even though that garage has been there for something like a century and was fine until the last couple decades. And there won’t be any trees left around here by then.
What a bittersweet week.
One day your’re learning about the agricultural base that supports the entire county and the next you’re watching the rock-like support system of the entire newsroom move forward.
Holly — the entire tub of glue and staples and double sided sticky tape that unmistakably held the newsroom together — has taught me so much in so little time. I wish you the absolute best.