That's right, today in my ongoing series -- "America: Just Read It"-- we turn to Yankee, published by a family-owned company. Based in Dublin, New Hampshire, it's got nearly 1.8 million readers and a new design and frequency. Yankee is like a Frank Capra picture -- without the cynicism.
First things first: the size factor.
The magazine has gone from a 6x9-inch format to an 8x10.5-inch template. The smaller size began during the paper rationing of World War II, and I found it charming. It's much easier to stuff a small mag into your bag or briefcase than its larger cousin. So despite the heavier-stock paper and sleeker design, I say smaller is better. Take note: this theory does not apply to the iPod Shuffle. It holds 240 songs, but try and get it to shuffle! Worse, you can't pick your songs, so if you're hankering to hear No. 165, fuggetaboutit. You'd have a better chance keeping that promise to join a gym. At least, that's something you can control.
As to the updated Yankee, it's now bimonthly, but beautifully retains, in the words of its founder, "the preservation of our great New England culture." New columns: "Here in New England" profiles people, places and things, while "The Guide" gives readers an inside view of the New England way of life -- from recipes, like Rhode Island Johnnycakes, to seasonal activities. Yes, some of the design pieces are useful in any region and a moving human-interest story isn't bound by geography, but Yankee always supplies a local topspin.
For instance, the story about Shirl Penney, born into poverty in Eastport, Maine, and the man who adopted him, Clarence Townsend, brought tears to my eyes. In an age when "family values" is used to divide and conquer, Penney's life is an important reminder that family is defined by love and care. At 57, Townsend adopted the infant and instilled in him the value of education -- and Penney has succeeded beyond anyone's dreams. He's got a lofty title at Citigroup/Smith Barney and wants to bring industry back to his hometown.
Similarly, the short piece by Alexandra de Steiguer, who spends five months a year on Star Island, 10 miles off the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine, was personal and unusual. A photographer that doubles as a winter caretaker, her moving black-and-white shots, which capture the stark beauty of the Isles of Shoal, grace the article. I couldn't spend five hours in such isolation; frankly, I would surrender state secrets if denied the theater and Chinese food, but I admire her passion for the natural world.
Reading Yankee is an education in regional lifestyle; this one is decidedly can-do. True, I'm never going dogsledding in Maine because I don't do chilly. Ditto for skiing. But come fall, book me a B&B and, like my parents before me, I'll happily journey to Vermont to watch, as my mother explained, "the leaves turn color." Not that we don't have trees in Pennsylvania, but she ascribed a special glow to New England foliage, and I suspect Yankee would agree.
And don't miss the "Yankee Swopper" section. The current ad offers a month in a 150-year-old home north of Boston in exchange for house- and pet-sitting in May. This is the kind of ad, as fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" know, that you find in Floyd's Barber Shop in Mayberry. Personally, I like it. In a world of virtual reality, Yankee is the real thing.