With this issue, Chesapeake Bay Magazine marks four decades of publishing. Begging your indulgence, we take a moment to flip through the family album. Aw, look, baby pictures! . . .
by T.F. Sayles
A lot of interesting things happened in 1971. East Pakistan became Bangladesh. China joined the United Nations. The legal voting age in the U.S. was lowered to 18, by constitutional amendment. Southwest Airlines was born. Cigarette ads were banned from television. The Navy got its first African-American general officer, Rear Admiral Samuel Gravely. Greenpeace was founded. Floppy discs were introduced. Lots of interesting things. And most importantly, from our admittedly jaded point of view, Dick and Dixie Goertemiller launched Chesapeake Bay Magazine--or simply Bay Magazine, as it was commonly known in those days, because the word "Chesapeake" was quite small in the earliest logo. That momentous event happened in May of that year, making this our 40th Anniversary issue--an appropriate time to look back and see how we've changed (or not changed) in four decades, in nearly 500 issues.
The Goertemillers were not publishers--not magazine pros who saw a publishing niche and lunged for it. They were just very enthusiastic cruising sailors who loved exploring the Bay and saw a need for a magazine that helped others do the same. Of course it helped that Dick was both a natural storyteller and a talented self-taught artist (he still illustrates the Cruise of the Month column) and that Dixie was a keen-eyed editor and a sharp businesswoman. Dick's woodcut illustration of the Hooper Strait screwpile lighthouse adorned the magazine's first cover and inspired the illustration of Thomas Point Light that became the magazine's icon, as part of the logo, from 1974 to 1980. Indeed, in those early years the magazine argued loudly for the preservation of Thomas Point Light, which by 1974 was the last manned screwpile light in service on the Bay--though its days as such were numbered. "Can We Save Thomas Point Light?" the magazine asked on its October 1974 cover, urging the Coast Guard to consider automating the existing light, rather than its usual practice of tearing down the old structure and replacing it with a smaller automated "spider." The following year, after the lighthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places (in 1999 it became a bona fide National Historic Landmark) the Coast Guard relented and kept the light manned. It remained so until 1986, when it was at last automated. And it's been the magazine's unofficial emblem all along, appearing on our cover (including this issue) 15 times--many more if you count the six years it was part of the logo.
By late 1974 the Goertemillers were ready to turn the business helm over to someone else--namely current owner Richard J. Royer, who was then an advertising salesman for the Washington Star. The Goertemillers remained on the masthead, though, Dixie for several years as assistant to the publisher, and Dick well into the 1990s as the magazine's cruising editor. In addition to Dick Goertemiller's popular Cruise of the Month article (which essentially dates back to the very first issue, even though it was called Local Charts until February 1972), there were a number of stalwart contributors in the early days. Chief among them was Loring D. Wilson, a prolific fishing and outdoors writer who contributed, among many other things, three year-long series in the magazine's first decade--an 11-part study of salt marsh ecology in 1974, a 12-parter on watermen in 1975 and another 11-parter in 1976 on the Bay's environmental challenges. The latter covered all the expected bases but one--nutrient pollution, which was only beginning to show up on the environmental radar in those days.
There being nothing new under the sun, that series did include an installment on nuclear power and thermal pollution (Calvert Cliffs)--an eerie echo, given the current nuclear power crisis in Japan. Another issue from the 1970s that has a familiar ring: the energy crisis. It's a chronic problem now, but in 1974 it was new and alarming, and the February cover posed the obvious question on CBM readers' minds: "Will the Energy Crisis Kill Boating?" It did not, and has not, yet--though that issue too has spooky resonance nowadays, given the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa.
Other stalwarts of those early days included Gordon Dalsemer, whose 37-part "Chesapeake Captain's Catastrophe Chronicle," a tongue-in-cheek log of his boating misadventures, ran from October 1971 to November 1974. There was also Anne Hays, who covered the sail racing scene for 12 years, from 1972 to 1984, in her Starting Line column; and John Schueler, who wrote a column called Captain's Log for 10 years, from 1974 to 1984. Even the famous Gilbert Byron, the Thoreau of the Chesapeake, appeared frequently in CBM in those days, first with a three-part story on the exploits of Captain John Smith and later with many other contributions, including an excerpt from his Walden-esque book, The Cove Dweller.
And then there are the fishing guys--Bill Burton and John Page Williams. Burton, already well known as an outdoors and fishing columnist for the Baltimore Sun, first appeared in CBM in early 1975 and remained our fishing guru for 20 years. John Page Williams, however, is the undisputed Iron Man of CBM. A senior naturalist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, John Page started his Naturalist's Almanac column in April of 1980 and he still contributes a regular column, now called Angler's Almanac. He also does boat tests, destination features, environmental stories and how-to articles.
On the photography side, the notables over the years have been Bob Greiser, who was the magazine's primary photographer from 1975 to 1995. In those two decades he had a remarkable 123 cover photos, and of course countless images inside the magazine. Photographer John Bildahl is the next most prolific shooter, particularly in recent years, with 55 cover photos since 1993. We've also relied heavily on talented shooters Michael C. Wootton, Starke Jett and Vince Lupo. And of course we've featured the work of Dave Harp and Kevin Fleming--the deans of Chesapeake nature photography--and we've even published the work of the Bay's most famous photographers, Aubrey Bodine and M. E. Warren.
And, as the saying goes, it all seems like just yesterday. . . . Twenty years ago, on the occasion of CBM's 20th anniversary, Dick Goertemiller wrote a guest column, sharing his memories of the magazine's first two decades. He concluded by wondering what the next 20 years would bring. Well, now you know, Mr. G.--it brought 20 more years of the same idea you had in 1971. Here's to you, Dick and Dixie, and here's to another 40 years!