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Atención—How It All Began

Connie and Bill Moore

By Connie Moore

At a cocktail party held in the early part of 1975, Jim Mullen sidled up to me and began to talk about the need for a local newspaper.

“People are forever missing out on concerts and plays,” he told me, “because there is no paper to tell them what´s going on. Is it true that you’ve had editing experience, and is it true that you and Bill are moving here in April? I think that the Biblioteca would take on a weekly paper as a project if we could only find an editor.”

I’d had two margaritas and was quick to say, “I’ll do it.”

April was months away. I didn’t really believe that it would happen. But heavens above, the very next Biblioteca newsletter announced that San Miguel would soon have a newspaper and that I would be its editor.

Jim Mullen had not been talking through his hat. I had barely had time to wave goodbye to the moving van before the fun began. We called the first couple of issues This Week in San Miguel, until we found that name belonged to a throwaway in Mexico City and we published an English and Spanish version.

Lupe at the library was my first wonderful sidekick, but within a matter of days, help came from all sides. Stirling Dickinson sent in hilarious material almost weekly; Kay Ream and Jean Dilley volunteered as a columnist with the “Did You Know” column, which is still going strong; Bea Cole did a little of everything; Fleta McFarland shared her gardening expertise and Carmina (of Posada Carmina) gave us fancy recipes each week and news poured in from everywhere.

Our problem had less to do with contributions than with production. There was only one printer in town who could handle our paper, and he seemed to be suffering from numerous symptoms for which there are no known diseases. His equipment was equally rickety—an ancient linotype machine and a 1985 Heidelberg press. Every week as I brought in the layout I said a prayer that Miguel would not fade away from terminal hypochondria, and that the Heildelberg press would not succumb to one of its numerous sinking spells before the next issue came out.

Bea Cole and I were strange dinner guests in those days. The galleys had to be proofread as soon as they came out, and if we went home, we could always be tracked down and summoned from the festive board to wield our blue pencils. Many’s the hostess who suffered patiently as her gourmet dinner turned cold—without so much as a rebuke.

For the first few weeks we could do no wrong—so happy was San Miguel to have a weekly, any weekly, no matter how precariously put together. But I became convinced we were a going concern, when the honeymoon was obviously over, we began to receive mad letters. A certain concert has not been written up. Why not? Because we did not have a staff of paid reporters to send out on assignments was why not. A ballet group had not been given publicity in advance. Why not? Because nobody had told us about the group and we were not clairvoyant was why not.

I imagine this sort of thing still goes on, with some San Miguel readers visualizing a large staff of reporters idly passing up hot news in favor of a game of tiddlywinks. Actually, we usually had three bodies on hand: two worked like slaves editing the contributions that came in, while the third, busy with scissors and paste, was making the next week’s layout.

Things eased up considerably when Eve Greene and Evelyn Giles (both later were editors) appeared on the scene to work night and day to help alleviate the complaints of our critics.

Mimi Loomer was also one of the early sacrificial lambs, spending more time in the news office than she did at home.

On August 29, 1975, we became officially Atención San Miguel—a name which had been approved by the board of directors of the Biblioteca, including president (at that time) Phil Maher, who we mostly referred to (most affectionately) as Big Daddy.

Big Daddy, wonderfully loyal in shielding us from attack, was somewhat less than perfect in improving the working conditions at Atención, which we constantly reminded him left something to be desired. We were forever after him for more space, a better typewriter, and chairs enough for everybody to sit down—and other such luxuries. It is to Glenda´s everlasting credit that she was later able to pry these amenities loose and create a reasonable facsimile of a decent office for Atención at the Biblioteca.

I feel that the paper has become more and more a vital addition to San Miguel as the years have gone by. For everybody who works on it, there is total exhaustion but never a dull moment. I am especially fond of remembering the time father Donovan came to us to ask for help in wording a classified add.

“I can’t quite find the words,” he explained—which struck us as odd since he was one of the most articulate and semantically accomplished of padres. But he had come across a situation that had him stumped. He had found, on his doorstep, a small urn filled with ashes, obviously the end product of a cremation. We felt sure that somebody in town was hunting all over for the deceased loved one, and he ought to advertise in order to bring the bereaved and the deceased together as soon as possible. But what to say?

We were all sitting there, wracking our brains for a non-macabre classified, when a friend rushed in and saved the day. She had heard by the San Miguel grapevine that an American car, parked on Hospicio, had been broken into during the night, and the trunk rifled. Its driver was not so upset by the loss of his suitcases as he was by the loss of his wife whom he had promised, while she was alive, trips to both San Miguel and Toronto.

Having brought her ashes to San Miguel, he now wanted to complete the journey to Toronto. He was quite sure that the car burglar, discovering that his loss was more than he had bargained for, had been stricken by conscience and put the urn in as holy a place as he dared. That turned out to be father Donovan’s doorstep. And so Atención without further ado was able to solve the problem.

In the years since then, Atención has tackled and done its best to solve many community problems, both exotic and mundane.

 

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