2018-04-11 / Front Page

Recording History, and Making A Little Bit of It Too … Those Good Ole’ Irregular Days

By Kirsten Brown Kelley

Mike Monahan burns the midnight oil at the Irregular in the late 70s. Mike Monahan burns the midnight oil at the Irregular in the late 70s. EDITOR’S NOTE: This year is a momentous one for the Irregular. In addition to the loss of Mike Monahan, one of the main movers in the newspaper’s formative years, 2018 is also our 50th year in publication.

In honor of Mike and all he did to help make the newspaper what it is today, we are reprinting an article written in 1998 by Kirsten Brown for our Sugarloaf Magazine (in its turn, that article marked our 30th year).

Mike’s thumbprint on this local rag will never fade. As he and his “partner in crime,” Howard Smith, said in an interview in 1981 when they sold the newspaper to the Larmores, “Our aim when we took over (the Irregular) was to turn an essentially resort- and entertainment oriented paper into more of a small-town local newspaper, without losing the entertaining ‘Irregularities’ that made it attractive in the first place.”

Season's Greetings, Irregular-Style (Monahan on far left, Smith on far right). Season's Greetings, Irregular-Style (Monahan on far left, Smith on far right). Established “since 1968 or thereabouts,” as the paper’s slogan faithfully states, would put the longstanding Irregular newspaper, “Serving The Western Mountains Of Maine Where the Kids Grow Straight and Tall and the Women are all Good Looking,” at 30 years old this season.

“In the beginning God was there,” smiles former Irregular editor, writer, photographer, paste-up, and ad sales and design man Mike Monahan of Kingfield. “At the point I came on, Dave Rolfe had sold to Ed Rogers and Ed hired Howard Smith to run it in the fall of 1975.”

The late Howard K. Smith of Carrabassett Valley and Kingfield, artist, photographer and TV station man, was making the paper weekly in the fall of 1975, said Monahan, who answered a help wanted ad in the Irregular’s classifieds in February of 1976.

Artist/editor Howard Smith. Artist/editor Howard Smith. “I had no idea what (the position) was for, so I answered it and there you go — I started working with Howard on ads, photos, writing and paste-up — (we were called) “Whoop Moffitt and the Midnight Oil Company,” Monahan said with a laugh. (Mike was Whoop and Howard was the Midnight Oil.)

During the years of 1977-78 after Monahan and Smith had bought the Irregular from Rogers, the paper (sometimes pasted-up by candlelight) was printed at a newspaper printing outfit in Brunswick called The Times Record.

“We’d spend all night pasting it together and then we’d flip a coin (at 3 or 4 o’clock) in the morning to see who would take it to Brunswick,” Monahan smiled. “We’d take it to the Times and drop it off, go to Dunkin’ Donuts, come back and wait in (their) waiting room and by 10 or 11 a.m. we’d have a car full of papers.”

Monahan said for 10 cents each, wholesale, he and Smith would hand deliver and pedal the papers from Farmington to Kingfield to Rangeley and Sugarloaf and would meet in Carrabassett Valley by 7 p.m. the same night with their pockets literally filled with nickels, dimes and quarters — all from a day’s work.

“And sometimes dollar bills, but very rarely,” Monahan said with a laugh.

At that time, the paper was a weekly production up until the month of April when fewer issues were produced and more likely to be printed monthly or bimonthly during the summer.

“You actually sold more ads per month if you just (produced the paper) twice a month,” said Monahan, who sold ads from Kingfield to Stratton once a week. “It got you out — I was out all the time.”

Monahan, today a sign painter, says he learned all of his lettering and calligraphy skills from Smith, who used to hand-draw the Ski Rack ads and did wonderful artwork and last minute stuff often times by the seat of his pants.

“If I have any great memories they are of Howard — of watching the creative mind at work — he was a lot of fun to work with,” Monahan said.

Morning Sentinel writer Laura Dunham and Evie Norton both worked part-time as freelance writers, and Joyce Demshar of Carrabassett Valley was their typesetter, Monahan said.

“Howard and I would get this rough copy in from these two women (Dunham and Norton) and we’d just run it straight,” he said with a laugh. “Laura was our mainstay — she would crank out the stuff — she writes the same way she talks. She’d start off with a capital throw in a few commas and end with a period.”

On an IBM Composer (which was state-of-the-art 200 years ago, Monahan joked) Demshar would type a whole ream of stuff dropped off to her in the Valley Crossing building (where the typesetting machine was kept) at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

“Then it was this steady Brrrrrrr — Wack! from the IBM,” Monahan said.

Later, Monahan and Smith would return to spec the type, and would actually cut out any typos with an XACTO knife and hand paste the correct letters back in using pieces of old copy.

They did this to each little word!

Monahan said with one issue they held a contest to see who could find the most typos.

“We got about 20 replies,” he said. “One woman wrote, ‘I think we found 220 (mistakes) and we stopped counting.”

Subscriptions in 1976 were $8 a year and a paper cost just 15 cents, a deal for some of the most wacky, zany, off-the-wall stuff you ever read.

Circulation back then was around 1600-2000, Monahan said, and the paper was never up to date on technology.

“We were always dealing second hand and 20 years behind,” he said. “We were never, ever cutting edge technology.”

Smith and Monahan pasted up the paper together using a conventional waxing process and copy from a typewriter, which Monahan said seemed to slowly turn into a whale with the passing of time.

Former dark room technician

Mike Gerstner (who now works in a Biddeford sign shop), staff writer John Doughty, editor and photographer Tobey Levine, artist, writer and associate publisher Parker Hall, writer Gail Lehay, writer and ad saleswoman Phyllis Mitchell, writers Mary Bass Poulin and Shelly Poulin, correspondent Jack McKee, photographer, writer and ad saleswoman Alice Yates, ad saleswoman Janet Peruffo, photographer Chip Carey, editor Nancy Marshall and editor, writer, dark room technician and artist Claudia Diller now of Portland, were just a few of many who left their mark at the paper.

“In the 70s I did some writing and some illustration part-time,” Diller said. “I used to work in the darkroom, back when the office was above Keenan’s.”

Diller, who was raising two children, lived at Sugarloaf during the winter and filled in at the Irregular whenever she was needed.

“The first piece I submitted was (during hunting season) a tongue-in-cheek piece about a bear that was roaming around in Eustis. A game warden had been called up to remove it. They got the bear into a (crate), but they couldn’t remove him for a while, so Jim DeRosby played rock and roll music for the bear (first he tried classical but that didn’t work) to pacify him until the warden got there,” Diller said.

Along with her article, Diller illustrated a full page on all the animals of the western mountains who were mad about being hunted.

Alice Yates of Kingfield, who worked at the Irregular from 1978 to 1980 while living in Phillips, said the job was one of the first she held upon moving to the area. With a graphic art degree and minor in photography, Yates sold ads, wrote captions and stories, took pictures and even rewrote stories “off the wire.” She remembers when the paper was printed at the Franklin Journal in Farmington.

“Back in those days we all did everything,” she said with a laugh.

“We learned to use our English. It was a lot of fun — we never put a paper together (much) before five in the morning.”

Yates said all-nighters to complete an issue were a given, as well as musical “jam sessions” Smith and Monahan held during the entire production process which added a little fun to the job.

“It was a great place to work,” she said. “It was truly the Irregular — you never knew what to expect.”

“Everybody and his cousin came through and helped,” Monahan said with a laugh.

Smith and Monahan ran a fabricated April Fool’s Day story in the newspaper one year about how Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation was changing its name to the Sugarloaf Mining Corporation, after the (made up) discovery of a bauxite diamond mine under the resort’s ski slopes. (They said the lift lines would be used for ore buckets!)

“Within 24 hours Larry Warren had us in his office and wanted a retraction,” Monahan said with a laugh. “That one almost put us out of business.”

Around 1978, the paper took a turn, merging into the “Rangeley Lakes and Sugarloaf Irregular” newspaper, also marking the beginning of an idea sparked by Smith and Monahan to create a summer dining guide, called the Monahan and Smith Maine Menu Dining Guide.

The first dining guide produced was a 16-page Boothbay Harbor restaurant guide which grew to cover eating places from Boothbay Harbor to Damariscotta, to Bath in its second year of publication when it was a 32- page guide. The second year also saw the start of a Kennebunk, Camden, Belfast and Rockland guide, and the year after that all the guides were put together, Monahan said. By the fifth year, Monahan and Smith were creating a guide for the entire state.

Monahan and Smith soon decided they couldn’t produce both the dining guides and the paper, so they put both operations up for sale to see which one would sell first. They got offers on both and decided to sell everything.

Shirley Larmore bought the Irregular newspaper from Smith and Monahan in March of 1981, owning it for about two years. Monahan stayed on selling ads for six months after the transfer, he said.

Irregular Office and Production Manager Heidi Murphy, who started at the paper as a dark room technician 13 years ago, says she remembers adapting to changes in computer technology when the company switched from the Compugraphic typesetting machine to the desktop publishing program PageMaker.

Murphy says 1990 was the last year of the glossy Sugarloaf Magazine, which was also created from scratch by Monahan and Smith, growing from a 32-page winter publication to a 96-page area wonder.

Formerly owned by Peter Webber and Dave Rolfe and known as the Original Irregular, the paper now located on Main Street in Kingfield, has been owned and operated by C’s Publishing Company and the Costello Family of Lewiston since 1989 and today has a weekly circulation of about 3,100.

Monahan said when he first started, operations were conducted in what is today the Route 27 Carrabassett home of Lynn Chase and from there went to the second floor of the Carrabassett Yacht Club, the former Chateau de Tague, across from the “Valley Pizza” building which is no longer in existence.

“From there we went to Keenan’s second story in Kingfield, when Al Bolduc had a ski shop underneath,” Monahan said. “We settled in briefly at the Red Stallion, but that just didn’t work out.”

News headquarters were also located in a building which used to be Resort Real Estate at the entrance to the Sugarloaf Inn Road, and at one time, the paper was housed in a building behind “Hassle Castle” on Sugarloaf.

“World Headquarters” for The Irregular has moved numerous times and legend has it the paper began on a bet, but one thing’s for certain — the women of the western mountains are still good looking and the paper is still going strong. Happy 30th Anniversary Irregular!

— Reprinted from the Sugarloaf Magazine1998-1999

Return to top