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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Back home again in beloved Gate City

Dean Shalhoup

To say “I’m back” would imply I left at some point, which, of course, we avowed ink-stained-come-carpal-tunnel-stricken lifers just don’t do.

Whether we can or not remains a mystery; no known true-blue, bona fide lifer has ever really tried.

So, I’ll call my most recent intra-company move, which this month boomeranged my grizzled and creaky – but unflinchingly wide-eyed and ever eager – form back to the mother ship, what it is: a practical, sensible component of a recent newsroom realignment.

That action was aimed at refining further our two-pronged approach: reaffirming our commitment to all things local and pushing promptly through cyberspace breaking news, important updates and such need-to-know-now information to all your devices.

I’m resuming the assignment I cherish most of all: Nashua. Nashua people. Nashua places. Nashua things. Nashua nonprofits, their events, stuff with “community” in the title, things with “history” written all over them.

Now and then (dinner isn’t all dessert, after all) you’ll see Amherst, Hudson, Hollis, Merrimack, Milford and Mont Vernon under my byline, but I won’t be straying far or for long.

Once upon a time they took “Nashua” out of our name banner, but it’s impossible to take the city out of The Telegraph.

To be sure, there’s no wheel-reinventing going on here, no wholesale reassigning of jobs or positions. Think of it as retreading the tire; the wheel itself is solid, pertinent and needs no reinvention.

It was just about three years ago that I put my name in for a vacancy at The Milford Cabinet, a 2005 Telegraph parent company acquisition. Old friend and longtime associate Marty Karlon was Cabinet editor at the time. I’d be covering Amherst and Mont Vernon, but retaining my weekly Telegraph column and doing occasional Telegraph stories. Fair enough.

Plus, what’s cooler than working out of a c. 1853 former schoolhouse – complete with a bell tower and working bell and frozen-in-time composing room museum?

Things changed in Milford, but I never regretted my decision. I met tons of great people, others I’d probably call “interesting” and still others – my favorites – the oddballs.

Milford’s iconic downtown, The Oval, was a two-minute walk down Middle Street that included a wave to the ambulance guys and gals and Lisa at Lisa’s Sweets, whose black raspberry ice cream is to die for.

Opposite our School Street side is the Fire Department, still staffed largely by call men and volunteers. For this little boy at heart, nothing beat hearing a dispatch on the scanner at the same time the air horn blasted two rounds of “53,” the signal that has summoned the guys round the clock for decades.

Then I could stroll to the front doors to watch the guys arrive, jump into trucks, roll up the doors and come roaring out, lights flashing and sirens wailing. Hey, there’s a kid in all of us, right?

Covering Souhegan Valley towns comes with another bonus few reporters are fortunate enough to experience: the crime beat. Not so much the crimes themselves, although we did come across our share of classics, but it’s the people behind the glass and, indeed, on the bench who make covering Milford district court a downright pleasure.

In the clerk’s office, Lynn, Erica and Megan personify cooperation and helpfulness, and, as I actually told Justice Martha Crocker one day, if I ever get caught at something, I hope it’s somewhere within the Milford court’s jurisdiction.

Though it certainly isn’t farewell – I’m sure something (Mont Vernon Town Meeting, perhaps?) will lure me back now and then – I’ll miss the day-to-day out that way, along with the friends and contacts too numerous to mention, especially in Amherst and Mont Vernon, who returned my calls, answered my sometimes dumb questions and otherwise helped me do my job.

At the risk of sounding all buzzword and promo-speak, I truly am psyched about what I see ahead here. It’s impossible not to get all giddy, even for a baby boomer like me who was raised on dial phones and mimeograph machines, when you peer through the magic portal into this brand new world of communication and realize just how profoundly the technology before us enables us to bring thousands of readers up-to-the-minute news and information, especially when time is of the essence.

So, I’ll see y’all around. Call me, write me, flag me down on Main Street. You’ll know me; I’m the guy who never left.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Saturdays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.