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On his 60th anniversary, all that glitters is Gould

By Staff / October 21, 2002

Sixty years ago today, a young Maine writer's essays began to appear regularly in the pages of The Christian Science Monitor. John Gould was already a seasoned newspaperman, having filed stories for local papers since he was a freshman in high school. Today he surely holds the record for the longest-running columnist in any newspaper in America.

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John wasn't born in Maine but, to paraphrase a politician's quip, he "got there as soon as he could." He and his parents – a railway postal clerk and "the prettiest woman on Prince Edward Island" – moved to the coastal village of Freeport from Boston when John was 10. That's where John's education truly began. He rubbed shoulders with farmers, shopkeepers, sea captains, and Civil War veterans. His formal education included being graduated from Bowdoin College in 1931 with a degree in English. He married Dorothy Wells in the fall of the following year.

Generations of Monitor readers know all this and much more. John's childhood and his life with Dottie are the well-loved stories of his columns: the mystery of the three-tined fork, molasses cookies, visits to "The Island," the Battle of Gettysburg as told by one who was there.

John Gould's essays have brought readers along on nighttime sleigh rides and through Europe in a VW Beetle. We've experienced the astonishment of a lost baseball replaced by a brand-new one autographed by the Boston Red Sox, and the vicarious delight of a mother's first ride on a fire engine – on her 100th birthday. Combine a remarkable life, remarkably recalled, with a gift for storytelling, a mastery of the essay form, an engagement with the everyday, an eye for the ridiculous, and – most important – a sense of humor, and you'll know why Gould has been so welcome in the Monitor for so long.

Reader appreciation of Gould

We invited readers to send their greetings to John and Dot. We received hundreds of letters and e-mails from across the country, as well as from Canada and Great Britain. Here are some excerpts:

Over the years, John has brought his trademark humor, passion, and independence to bear as newspaper editor and publisher, author, farmer, fisherman, humorist, town moderator, fence viewer, loyal Bowdoin College alumnus, and friend. John's direct experiences as a Bowdoin student and alumnus are often a touchstone for his writing, and [many] stories owe their place in College history to John's spirited retelling. For his contributions to Maine literature, history, culture, and humor he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 1968 by his alma mater.

I don't believe that John has missed a single reunion celebration at the College since he graduated in 1931. [Gould asserts: I have attended annual commencements without a skip since I was graduated.] See you and Dot for your 72nd Reunion next June, John!
Barry Mills,
President of Bowdoin College,
Brunswick, Maine

Forty years ago I was a rough-cut, 19-year-old farm boy from Iowa who landed a job as editor of a newspaper in Grove, Kansas. Leigh DeLay, the shop foreman at the nearby Oakley Graphic, offered to teach me some of the ropes. One of the first things he did for me was hand me a Christian Science Monitor and suggest that if I were to write a column and deliver community journalism, I should read John Gould's column.

I can't begin to place a value on my friend's advice, any more than I can tell you how much your writing has entertained and inspired me these many years. Congratulations on reaching this milestone.
Clarke Davis
Valley Falls, Kan.

For years, we have enjoyed every single essay of yours more than you can imagine. Each one is like a Norman Rockwell cover on the Saturday Evening Post – exuding the perfect atmosphere of those times. I save each column for our grown children (and their children) – so they can sense what life was like "back then." You have just the right touch. Your style captivates even the unsuspecting reader.
Fay and Ed Kaynor
Amherst, Mass.