The July/August issue of Yankee features one of the most complex stories we have done during my nearly 30 years here at Yankee. We titled it “25 People You Must See This Summer.” We put this together many months ago when the editors got together repeatedly to toss out the names of New Englanders we knew personally, or New Englanders we had read about, or New Englanders we wished we knew. We finally reached agreement on 30 people. Then we called a team of photographers and set them loose.
While not a travel story about New England, we felt the people we chose (we wrote about 30, but only had room at the end for 25. But New Englanders do not waste anything, so I have a feeling the five will make their way to our readers one way or another) would certainly provide impetus to anyone wanting to experience not just the landscape, but the people who give New England its special flavor.
A week or so after the issue came out we heard from a man named Ray who lives in Nashua. He said it was one of his favorite issues ever, and he was determined to not just see each of the 25 people, but to get their autographs on the pages. Well, he certainly took to heart our advice: “25 People you must see this summer.”
Over my years here I have seen this phenomena many times with Yankee readers. I do not know any other magazine whose readers do not just read but who take the stories to heart and put them into their own lives. One of the first stories I wrote for Yankee, back in 1980 or so, was about one of my favorite spots in Maine. It’s called the Oxford Hills, and at one time I had lived there in the break-your-heart lovely village of North Waterford.
It was a fall story so I wrote about a hike up Mt. Tirem, then descending and heading to the Fillebrown apple orchard for cider that Tom Fillebrown made right in front of you. I also wrote about an all but unknown French restaurant in Paris, Maine, and the joys of digging in the earth for gems and minerals after visiting Perham’s Gem Shop in West Paris.
Here’s what happened. Hundreds of readers drove up to these places, many hugging the issue of Yankee and they followed my story as if it had been a road map. They hiked the mountain, they drank the cider, they brought back gems from Perham’s and they polished off a fine dinner at Maurice’s unlikely touch of France. I remember talking with Tom Fillebrown a few weeks after the story came out and he was all but speechless. He had signed his first autographs! He was a fine farmer and orchardist, a true native of the Oxford Hills, but never before had he been a celebrity!
It is one of the best reasons to write for Yankee’s readers. They are not just reading stories, filling in time, or looking for one more tip on how to lose five pounds — they are living inside the pages, looking for New England even if they have moved away, even if they, in fact, have never been here, except in their dreams, hoping one day to travel the back roads to find cold fresh cider pressed right in front of their eyes.
Actually, Yankee is that map after all.
Yankee editor Mel Allen is the author of A Coach’s Letter to His Son.