BILL PERKINS, OF PHIPPSBURG, reflects on his days as a “copy boy” with the old Boston Post while enjoying a cup of coffee at Jimbo’s Diner.

BILL PERKINS, OF PHIPPSBURG, reflects on his days as a “copy boy” with the old Boston Post while enjoying a cup of coffee at Jimbo’s Diner.

PHIPPSBURG

Decades before he moved to his ancestral Phippsburg home, Massachusetts native Bill Perkins came to know Maine by proxy, so to speak.

As teenage “cub reporter” for the old Boston Post, Perkins was responsible for writing short bits in “The Observor.” Little, “off-beat” stuff, as he put it.

Because the Boston Post circulated mostly north of North Station and did well in New Hampshire and Maine, he picked up daily newspapers from as far north as Portland, brought them back to the office next to the Boston Globe on Washington Street, and “yanked out” tear sheets.

“One of my prime responsibilities was obituaries and any news stories that in my opinion could be followed up on,” he said.

By the time he was 20, in 1955, Perkins had graduated to reporter.

Alas, the newspaper closed the following year.

“John Fox had purchased the paper and his speculative enforcements were going broke,” Perkins recalled. “The Post, as the holding corporation, was going down with them. The paper sunk under my feet. I got my feet wet.”

Perkins went on to a career as a social worker, specializing in youth initiatives. His wife, Kathleen, was a nurse. When they retired 12 years ago, the couple, who had raised four children, moved to the home on Cox’s Head his forefathers built in 1808.

Now serving as on the Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors, Perkins is back to his specialty — working in the interest of youth.

POST DAYS

A high school graduate at 16, the Everett, Mass., native spent a year at Northeastern University, on a track scholarship. He was a New England champion in the 100-yard dash. But Perkins was young to be in college.

His father, a police officer, knew the Post’s young reporters, who came to the department for information. Lt. Perkins got his son a job there.

“I ended up a copy boy at the Boston Post at the age of 17,” he recalled. “We worked from 1:30 p.m. until whenever — sometimes 1 the next morning.”

Perkins “gravitated” toward editorial.

“We sold lots of papers in Maine and New Hampshire,” he said. “The trains headed out of North Station with a lot of Boston Posts on them.”

The Boston Post, of course, also distributed its famous Boston Post Canes throughout New England.

In 1909, the newspaper had several hundred ornate, goldtipped canes made, and selectmen throughout New England presented them to the town’s oldest living man. In 1930, women were included in the recognition.

In towns throughout Maine and the region, the Boston Post cane tradition carries on.

Perkins might not have known it at the time, but he played a historical role in that tradition. City editor John Manuel asked him in 1956 to cover a Boston Post Cane presentation at Quincy City Hall.

Perkins, up to then unaware of the tradition, did as asked.

“It was a sweet little old lady,” he recalled. “I saw her get the cane. It had a beautiful bronze head on it. They took it very seriously.

“As far as I know, that was the last one the Post ever presented. The paper folded a couple of months later.”

WHERE’S THE CANE?

In Phippsburg, Perkens attended a recent meeting of a committee that’s making plans for the town’s 2014 bicentennial.

Perkins happened to think back.

“We were brainstorming,” Perkins recalled. “We were looking for anything we could think of, and I brought up the Boston Post Cane.”

Perkins set about looking around town to see who might have Phippsburg’s.

He called newspapers, including the Boston Globe, which had published a list of Boston Post Cane presentations. Nothing.

“They may be in somebody’s attic in Woolwich, or on Bay Point Road in Georgetown,” he said. “Great grandchildren may be looking at it and saying, ‘I wonder what this is.’ So I’m putting out a clarion call.”

The town might purchase a replica and present it to the town’s eldest resident as the “Phippsburg Cane,” he said.

SCHOOL BOARD

Perkins earned a position on the RSU 1 board as a writein candidate last year. He entered a relatively new school system “cold,” he said.

“There’s a learning curve,” he said, “and for me it was rather steep. I knew the politics of … Massachusetts. I think I’m pretty much over it now. That has a lot to do with the quality of the people I’m serving with. The level of commitment is infectious in these local schools.”

[email protected]timesrecord.com


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: