October 23, 2006
By JIM SHEA, Courant Staff Writer
GLASTONBURY -- A dwindling group of former Hartford Times employees met Sunday for its last annual reunion, the gathering coming exactly 30 years and a day after the paper ceased publication under the headline: "Hartford Times Closed after 159 Years."
"I'm getting old," said organizer Jean Adreen, 77, who worked in the Times advertising department. "People like the reunions, but no one has offered to take over."
About 60 workers attended the luncheon at the Gallery Restaurant in Glastonbury. Times employees began meeting annually since the paper closed in 1976. This year's reunion was billed as the "Final Edition."
Perhaps the most well-known person in attendance was Cynthia Bercowetz, 76, who wrote a popular consumer column in the Times called "Dear George."
"I was just picked out of the reporter pool to write the column," Bercowetz said. "I started in 1963 and we used to get 1,000 letters a week from people looking for advice. They never gave me a byline and refused to reveal who George's identity was."
Bercowetz went on to work for the Journal Inquirer of Manchester and then The Hartford Courant. Her early involvement in consumer issues led Bercowetz to develop an interest in identity theft, an area in which she says she has become a "national expert."
Although the Times folded just as computers were beginning to be introduced, many of those from the typewriter era have kept up-to-date with the technology.
Ivan Robinson, 76, of Tolland, who was the editor of the Hartford Times Sunday magazine "Accent," said he has three computers at home. "Computers didn't faze me at all," Robinson said. "I just saw it at as a new tool and adapted to it."
Former Times photographer Ed Lescoe, 59, of Farmington, recalled the intense competition between the Times and The Courant. "I remember driving back from Southington one night developing film in the front seat of a car so we could get the photo into Sunday's paper," Lescoe said.
Hartford attorney Steve Goddard, 64, who covered city hall and politics at the Times from 1963 to 1969, noted how politics has changed.
"Today, politics is driven by money and television ads," Goddard said. "You go back to the old campaigns and they said some things that were not too nice, but they didn't have the money to get it out to the public.
"Now they say these really vicious things about each other and then at the end of ad say they approved the message," Goddard said. "It's all nonsense."
Former Courant reporter Thomas D. "Dennie" Williams, who retired after 40 years in 2005, was the reunion's keynote speaker.
Williams recalled the pressure Times and Courant reporters operated under when Hartford was a two-newspaper town. "I still remember how painful it was to be scooped by the Times," Williams said, "and how good it felt to scoop them."
Williams said that after the Times went out of business, the Courant lost some of its sense of urgency. "It wasn't the same after 1976," Williams said. "Investigative pieces took longer to get into the paper because there was no competition anymore."
The "Final Edition's" last toast was offered by master of ceremonies Ed Turn, 78, a former Times staffer and Andover first selectman:
"Here is to all those in the Hartford Times employees family who have enjoyed friendship and fellowship for so many years."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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