COPAKE FALLS–With Thanksgiving upon us and the rest of the holiday season not far behind, thoughts of home and family assume a prominent place in the hearts and minds of many.
That sense of home that the holidays engender and accentuate can be found any day of the year in the pages of a new book, “Down Maple Lane, A Place to Call Home,” written by Elinor Mettler and published by The History Press, Charleston, NC, as part of its American Chronicles series.
The book is a collection of Mrs. Mettler’s Down Maple Lane newspaper columns, her observations about people, seasons, the newspaper she founded, family, everyday things, public affairs, language and all aspects of life in the Roe Jan area, including what the heck the Roe Jan area is.
In a phone interview this week, Mrs. Mettler told the story about how she got into the newspaper business in the first place.
She and her husband, Dr. John J. Mettler, Jr., a veterinarian, had returned home to Copake Falls from a trip abroad in celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary. The year was 1972 and Mrs. Mettler said she arrived home to discover that someone had started a local newspaper in Copake. “How come I never did that?” she asked herself. The newspaper was called, The Roe Jan Inquirer, an unfortunate name, she thought, but that did not stop her from going to the office and offering to write a weekly column. Her offer was accepted and she was hired to work in the office a couple of days a week.
Not too long after that, the man who owned the Inquirer, sold it. The new owner let Mrs. Mettler know her services were no longer required by leaving a note in her desk.
Mrs. Mettler’s revenge was the Roe Jan Independent. She published the first issue of her new weekly on June 14, 1973, with the assistance of a woman who used to work for the other guy, and two months later, the Inquirer was out of business.
In addition to her other duties as a newspaper editor and publisher, Mrs. Mettler wrote her Down Maple Lane column every week or two, about “whatever moved me at the moment” to write about it.
When something occurred to her, she would “just do it. It comes out of my head and goes into my fingers,” Mrs. Mettler said, noting, she used to write with pen and paper, but she now uses a keyboard because she can’t read her own handwriting anymore.
Always identifying herself as a journalist, when asked, Mrs. Mettler attributes her get-down-to-business writing style to her years reporting the news, when she went to a meeting and had to get the story out and in the newspaper. “That’s the way it’s done.”
She wrote the column until she sold the newspaper in 1986. It was from these hundreds of columns written over 13 years, that those appearing in the book were chosen.
The columns are grouped into chapters according to subject and when the publisher told her she had some extra pages she could fill up with more columns, she decided instead to close the book with three selections by her late husband, who sometimes made guest contributions to Down Maple Lane. Doc Mettler, as he was known locally, died in 1991. The Mettlers were married for 53 years.
In one of her reflections on small town life, Mrs. Mettler writes: “Recently, I was discussing with some people visiting here from enormous cities, the Corn Day I had just photographed, and one, a photographer himself, asked what a Corn Day is. I explained it as a demonstration (of experimental plantings, etc.), and this amused him and yet struck him as rather wonderful.
‘Where I live,’ he said, ‘A demonstration is when crowds of people are in the street throwing things at policemen.’”
The book is available in the Copake Pharmacy, Herrington’s in Hillsdale and at bookstores throughout the county.