Merry Christmas! And Happy Anniversary to UsNov 30, 2020 02:16PM ● By Michael Capuzzo
High on the Allegheny plateau fifteen winters ago, snow fell on the village of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, the gaslights shone on Main Street, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol played in the theater, and shoppers crowded into Dunham’s for Christmas gifts for the 99th consecutive year. That December a new publication appeared in icy bundles in the restaurants and shops and in camps and farmhouses amid the hills and creeks for miles around: Mountain Home, “Free as the Wind.”
The artist Tucker Worthington illustrated the first front page with a Dickensian barker beckoning the reader to the town’s famous Dickens of a Christmas celebration. On the fifteenth anniversary of Mountain Home, my wife and I—she is Teresa Banik Capuzzo, the editor and publisher—look back now with gratitude from the vantage point of 180 consecutive monthly issues and, according to the pencil marks I see on the back of my napkin, more than ten million readers later.
We have too many readers, advertisers, writers, artists, photographers, and wellwishers, from Wellsboro up to Corning, over to Coudersport and Towanda, farther up to the top of the Finger Lakes, over to Ithaca, and farther down below Williamsport, to thank on these pages. So I picked four out of a hat. First is Thomas Putnam, the great impresario of Wellsboro’s Hamilton-Gibson theater, who introduced us to our late art director Tucker.
Second is our photographer Sarah Wagaman, an elementary school art teacher in Wellsboro, who just won a top photography award from the International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA). This is especially impressive because the association of the top regional magazines in North America includes legendary photography magazines like Arizona Highways. Sarah won for a remarkable photo of a red-phase eastern screech owl who “took up residence in this old tree near the house,” and, unperturbed by humans, appears to be snoozing in the hollow of the tree, with slits for eyes. “Mr. Who Who,” she calls him.
Third, please put your hands together for…Carrie Hagen, a Philadelphia journalist and author. Carrie just won a top IRMA award for “Public Issues” for our September 2019 cover story, “The Basket Babies,” about a Gaines woman who discovered a hidden graveyard of babies buried in baskets in the family cemetery, all victims of the 1918 Spanish flu. “A well told story that sadly, holds extra weight this year,” the judges wrote. “We would be wise to learn from histories such as this.”
Mountain Home has always felt like family. Something unique in all of American journalism, we write it and publish with you, our readers, out of an old house by a creek with a view of the town green. Family forgives, right? So I’m going to cheat, like Time magazine does when it’s Person of the Year is a universal (American Women, 1975; the American Soldier, 2003). So the fourth “person” we’d like to thank are the friendly, spirited, talented, ever-welcoming people of Wellsboro, 216 years old this year, never much more than 3,000 residents in any decade, for showing us by example in this season of light that the Dickens Festival will return. So will the Christmas toast over the groaning table, the laughter in the theater, the roar of the football crowd, the handshake and the hug, as surely as Mr. Who Who will open “his beautiful cyan-colored eyes” in the hollow of the tree near the house. Lucky us, to be here with you to tell those wonderful stories.