posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken
Reading Kate's blog about riding around on police patrols, I have been struck by the difference between a small city like Portland and a much smaller town like Littleton.Littleton_map

Every state probably has a Littleton, but if you're keeping track, I'm talking Massachusetts here.

We have a weekly newspaper called the Littleton Independent. I've written stuff for that paper for ...yikes! ... almost 30 years.

Some things change:

  • The editorial page gets moved around, the op ed page gets moved around (and is not always "opposite" the "editorial" page, either; go figure),
  • The news stories sometimes jump to the second section (a journalistic no-no, I understand, assuming several family members are actually reading the newspaper at the same time).
  • The editors change so often that I could field two baseball teams with the folks I've written for over these three decades--and that includes bench-sitters and somebody in the bull pen.
  • The paper was owned by a local man 30 years ago; since then it's been sold to various conglomerates including the New York Times and the Fidelity investment folks. None of which did me a whit of good when submitting freelance articles.

On the other hand, some things never change:

  • The second section always leads with sports, from high school to whatever pee wee league is in season, with lots of pictures.
  • The ads take up a lot more room than the news stories.
  • And one you can bet on: The Police and Fire Logs are always at the top of page two.

Some newspapers actually make their Police and Fire logs boring. "Police responded to a citizen call on Main St." "Police made 24 traffic stops." I mean, yawn! The Littleton Independent, on the other hand, often has really interesting fare. Some of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • 911 A mother called 911 because her son refused to get out of the water at the town beach.
  • A father called 911 one morning because his teenaged daughter had had a telephone call the previous night at 10 pm.
  • The older lady who called 911 because she was sure there were burglars in her attic. (Disclaimer: this was not in Littleton.) The consensus of the responding officers was that the lady actually had "bats in her belfry" and they weren't talking about flying mammals, either.
  • And the winner is: The three-year-old who dialed 911 because her father told her to clean her room. As is often the case, the punch line was "peace was restored."

Of course there are real emergencies in any town. Within a block of our house we've had many automobile accidents as well as a murder and a small plane crash with loss of life. Our family has had more than our share of medical crises, so we actually revere these men and women who have literally saved our lives.

Still, we can be part of the problem, too. A few weeks ago the police came to the door to make sure all was well. They insisted that someone had dialed 911 from our house, then hung up. Because the line was busy, they sent an officer to check. We were baffled but safe. A few weeks later I figured it out. Phone The used phone I'd bought for a dollar from a church sale had a safety feature: just pressing the little on-off button a couple of times sends a 911 call.

I forgot to look, but I'm guessing it was reported as a "well-being check on Goldsmith St."

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Comment by Karyn J. Powers on February 8, 2008 at 2:27pm
I toured our 911 center last week and came away breathless. There is so much going on and some of it quite scary, I can see why the funny stuff is such an annoying relief. A woman holding her baby in the hallway of her apartment building had to explain that her baby had reached over and pulled the fire alarm. Much nicer than getting the call reporting a pulseless, nonbreathing infant, or the second or third call to the same couple for domestic incidents.

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