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History Corner: The Beginning of The Bridge

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The Bridge was born with a bustle of excitement that frothed up to my East Montpelier house in the 1990s. My parents, Dan and Emily Neary, were frequent customers at the Horn of the Moon Cafe. Mom had also worked with Nat Frothingham — later to become one of the founding publishers of The Bridge. My dad had been the third Montpelier bureau chief for the Associated Press in the 1970s. This cross section of connections led to my family’s involvement with The Bridge.

According to several first-person accounts about The Bridge, it was conceived during conversations held in the inviting ambience of the Horn of the Moon Cafe on Langdon Street.

I was on the eve of being in my 30s and only lived with my parents for stretches at a time, but I vividly recall them talking about the birth of a new newspaper around the kitchen table. My dad was recruited to be one of its first volunteer editors. I remember Dad sitting at his “Admiral Dewey” oak desk (purchased at an estate sale from the Admiral Dewey house) looking out the window over the valley as he pulled together the issue using a blue IBM Selectric typewriter, a landline telephone, and film photography.

He only did this for one issue, since he was not a fan of working for free, but he put his all into the issue and spoke of it with enthusiasm. He continued to be a supporter — from both an editorial and a financial standpoint — until his death in 2018.

The Bridge absorbed much of Nat Frothingham’s energy from that time forward as well. I began working for Nat at The Bridge in 2014, when The Bridge was still fighting to pay off debts incurred during the economic downturn in 2008. They still owed some employees deferred wages and were behind paying several printing bills.

Nat took out a $30,000 home mortgage to keep The Bridge alive. I worked with Nat and the team for the next three years to not only keep The Bridge alive, but to raise money to pay off the back debts and bring it into the black. I was also privileged to be the editor to bring The Bridge through the 2019–20 pandemic, when it had to cut back to one issue a month and advertisers had all but dried up as a result of the nearly complete lockdown of restaurants, bars, and other places of business. Time is limited in this space, but that The Bridge is still here is a testament to the endurance of this feisty little paper. Long live The Bridge.

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