BROOKSVILLE — In 1965, a sick and weary Frank Sinatra refused to be interviewed by the writer Gay Talese, who was on an assignment to write a profile of the singer for Esquire.
Not to be discouraged, Talese instead wrote the profile, “Frank Sinatra has a cold,” by interviewing Sinatra’s friends, family and acquaintances.
Nearly 50 years later, Brooksville resident Joan MacCracken used the same technique to write a profile of her good friend and town clerk Gayle Clifford for the town’s quarterly newsletter, The Brooksville Breeze.
“She wouldn’t let me interview her,” said MacCracken, who started The Breeze in 2007, when she moved to Brooksville year-round from Orono. “So I talked to everyone else about her and took her picture on the sly.”
The story is one of MacCracken’s favorites in her new book, “All Around the Town: The Best of The Brooksville Breeze (2007-2015),” which was published earlier this summer. Other stories include a recap of the Brooksville Elementary School’s trip to the Grand Canyon, a history of ice harvesting in Brooksville and a profile of the town’s resident U.S. poet laureate.
“I love to write,” said the retired pediatrician, who practiced in Bangor for 23 years. “This gave me an opportunity to learn the history and the people.”
Eight years and 32 issues later, MacCracken decided that working as editor of The Breeze was too much to juggle when she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren in Portland and in Oregon. MacCracken retired from the post in spring of 2015, and since then The Breeze has yet to pick up again.
“I hope it comes back,” MacCracken said. “But if it doesn’t then at least this book is part of the history.”
Between the stories about the plumbers of Brooksville or the town’s old cemeteries, there are also cartoons drawn by Brooksville’s own Gail Page, illustrations designed by town resident Leslie Moore and ads that once promoted local events from The Breeze’s back pages.
But for MacCracken, it’s not just the content of The Breeze that matters, it’s the memory of producing it.
Four times a year, she spent a month brainstorming the upcoming issue and a month interviewing sources, writing articles and designing pages. Then she would pick up the 450 to 600 copies from the printing press in Ellsworth and drive them to Deer Isle, where they would be bulk-mailed to Brooksville households. The next month, MacCracken would take a break.
“That final month was work-intensive,” she said, adding that the hardest part of the process was when writers bailed on the articles they said they would contribute, leaving MacCracken with empty space to fill. But for the most part, the newsletter was a pleasure.
“Thinking of interesting ideas and interviewing people was so much fun,” MacCracken said. “People would say they really liked that article and that would encourage me to do more.”
When pushed for favorites by this reporter, MacCracken was quick to point out the book’s first story, “Finding Brooksville,” an essay by Bob Tredwell on how difficult it is to find and leave the town by car.
‘When you pass the sign in Penobscot that says you are going south on 175 and north on 199, don’t be confused: you are actually heading east,’ Tredwell wrote.
“That’s a gold mine of humor,” MacCracken said.
Though MacCracken started selling “All Around the Town” earlier this summer, she still has plenty of copies left. They are on sale at the Blue Hill Books, at the Buck’s Harbor Market, and at the Nov. 26 Christmas Fair at the Community Center in Brooksville.
The book also can be ordered from Tiffin Press, 110 Jones Point Road, Brooksville, ME 04617 or email [email protected] The book is $15 plus $3 for mailing.
“It’s an eight-year time capsule of history and news,” MacCracken said.