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Remembering Rocky Ridge's Witty Newspaper

Jeannetter Thomas

Mother Teresa is quoted as once having said “I am just a pencil in the hand of the creator.” Edith Tabler writes similarly: “If any of you have done anything immoral, illegal, or funny please let me know so I’ll have something to write about. ”Who is Mother Teresa? Almost all of us know. But who is Edith Tabler and why didn’t she acquire more fame? Between 1972 and 1974, Ms. Tabler was the roving reporter of the Rocky Ridge Newspaper. Yes, Rocky Ridge had its own newspaper, of which she states, “There may not be much to see in a small town, but what you hear makes up for it.” 

For three years she wrote about the lives and foibles of an out-of-the-way rural farm community— making people laugh and laughing at herself as she went along. “If anyone thinks I got hit on the chin by a disgruntled reader of this paper they have been misinformed (the dentist did it) though I will admit I have been threatened a couple of times.” Edith–along with a small staff who wrote the disclaimer, “We are not responsible”—collected news, typed, edited, dittoed (it was the days before Xerox) and sometimes simply carbon-copied a two or three page newsletter that I’m told sold for 25 cents. “I put my paper, typewriter and two tired fingers together and that is what emerged. 

Remember a nickel doesn’t buy much these days,” she declared. Nothing was sacred to Edith. She wrote poems on current events or new trends or just community happenings. She pointedly reflected on fellow towns people’s mishaps or embarrassments, sometimes asking a simple question that only those in the “know” would understand—but you got the gist. She did it all in good humor, and as I’ve said, laughed at herself the most: “I hope this page is worth the price. I never claimed to be a poet, you know, (or a writer either for that matter). Anyone want this job? The pay isn’t very good and a lot of people quit talking when I come around. There must be some benefit. If you can think of any, let me know!” What I can think of is that Edith Tabler, the spinster sister of the more widely known auctioneer, Albert Tabler, preserved a small segment of history. 

The everyday workings of ordinary people, in laughter and fun, their sicknesses and their triumphs, in scattered poetry and broken prose, with rough hands and a gentle heart. She connected people, for after all, that is what the newspaper is all about. And she did it in her own humble style, railing at seatbelts that now buzz, good naturedly complaining about the trend from red fire trucks to yellow (“Did you know that ‘Red is dead?’”), keeping the community posted on upcoming events, and just generally telling everybody: “I hope to contact more people and let you know what your neighbors are doing.” 

I never knew these papers existed until a neighbor brought out a stack to share a few months ago. When I began talking about it, others said they had their copies. I spent one night, reading them cover to cover and enjoying her literary “genius” immensely. Mother Teresa she may not have been, but she put a pencil in the hand and created, and someone should bind these for the archives of posterity. Thank you, Edith Tabler, for your service to journalism.

Read other stores by Jeanette Thomas

Have your own memories of life in Rocky Ridge?  
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net