The Catoctin Banner

The Chronicle Press in Emmitsburg has a solid history of publishing newspapers. Ironically, The Catoctin Banner can trace its roots there as well. Under the management of Art Elder, the Chronicle Press published an ad flier called The Banner for several years prior to the publication’s transfer to Lori Smith Zentz. Lori took over the layout and publication of the piece and gave it a new mission with her first edition published in June of 1995. Lori said, “I was so excited when Art Elder at the Chronicle Press offered me the paper.”

According to Lori, Bo Cadle was asked to take over The Banner, but he declined and referred Art to Lori. Lori had become acquainted with Bo when submitting information for the community newspaper he published for Emmitsburg residents, The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch.

At the time, Lori was leaving a job with the Y to start her own marketing and promotions company at home. It was her dream to be able to publish a newspaper.

Though The Banner was a publication originating in Emmitsburg, with the transfer to Lori, she focused on Thurmont to compliment Bo’s coverage. Her mission statement read: “To provide a friendly source of community news and information for residents of Thurmont and surrounding communities; and to promote a sense of community pride and spirit.”

Initially, The Banner was basically a newsletter of eight pages. It swiftly grew to 20 pages. Then, when it changed to a larger newsprint format with the January 1997 edition, the page count averaged about 16 pages. It was spot color blue print throughout the publication.

Lori said, “In 1995, we didn’t have the internet the way that we have the internet now. Things were not easily found. You had to make phone calls and read newspapers, and research by going to the library. Now, we’ve grown and everything is digital, but people still enjoy picking up a newspaper and reading.”

The Catoctin Banner

With the June 2000 edition, the publication’s name was changed to The Catoctin Banner, and the coverage area grew to include the region that it still covers today.

Lori was featuring some quality writers who provided engaging content, while community groups and citizens shared their good news to be published. George W. Wireman was a well-known local historian in Thurmont. He joined the Banner after the Glade Times and Mountain Mirror newspaper in Walkersville, where he was a journalist, closed. He wrote the “Roving Ron and Traveling Terri,” the “Then and Now,” and the “This and That” columns. “George Wireman was such a good advocate and helpful resource for The Banner,” said Lori.

Anne W. Cissel, representing the Thurmont Historical Society, wrote the “Thurmont Scrapbook” column and Christine Maccabee wrote “Short Essays in Human Nature.”

Even as a small community newspaper, The Catoctin Banner saw its share of national action. Thurmont Elementary School was the media hub for the Israeli Peace Talks at Camp David in 2000. There, Lori and George met reporters from all over the world.

Lori went to the White House to report the local Challenger League playing baseball on the White House lawn. She had a tour of Marine One. Her then-school-aged daughter, Taylor, went along as her junior reporter and wrote about the experience for school. Lori said, “Little Thurmont was making such big news!”

After the transition of the newspaper to Deb Abraham Spalding with the October 2007 edition, Lori retired form her career in marketing and communications. She took six years off to volunteer, take care of her kids, and help at her husband’s business. She now serves as an administrative assistant at Catoctin High School, where part of her duties includes publishing the CHS bi-weekly newsletter.

Lori said, “I’m excited that it’s [The Catoctin Banner] been around for 25 years, and that Deb is still staying true to the original mission. I really wanted to help the community to see the good.”

Our Contributors

Lori published The Catoctin Banner as a one-person operation with some paid writers. When Deb took over in October of 2007, The Catoctin Banner became a project of her E Plus Graphics business in Emmitsburg. She worked hard to grow it. It was, and still is, direct-mailed to households in zip codes 21788, 21778, 21727, 21780, and 21719. Free copies are put out for pickup in Taneytown, Keymar, Woodsboro, Smithsburg, and north Frederick in Maryland; and Blue Ridge Summit, Rouzerville, Waynesboro, and Fairfield in Pennsylvania.

Deb inherited a number of key people in the transition from Lori. George Wireman stayed on to write “This and That” until his death in January 2012. A number of other volunteers and writers merged to form a diverse Banner Team including Jim Houck, Jr.; Theresa Dardanell; Michele Cuseo; Carie Stafford; Aaron J. Heiner; Joseph Kirchner; Christine O’Connor; and many others who have since moved on to other endeavors, but may still contribute from time to time.

John Nickerson, a.k.a. Gnarly Artly, our cartoonist, created our full-color Banner masthead logo. He even created different versions of it for different seasons.

Current staff and contributors have been steadfast in their commitment to the community and the team. They include James Rada, Jr., contributing writer and editor; Michele Tester, managing editor and layout design; Maxine Troxell, webmaster and “Taste of the Past” columnist; Blair Garrett, contributing writer and multimedia manager; Barbara Abraham, editor and distributor; Jeanne Angleberger, “Health Jeanne” columnist; Jack Davis, distributor; Anita DiGregory, “Catoctin Kids” columnist; Joan Fry, contributing writer and distributor; Ava Morlier, “Culinary Student” columnist; Ana Morlier, “Gardening Gangster” columnist; Dr. Thomas Lo, “Ask Dr. Lo” columnist; Christine Maccabee, “On The Wild Side” colunmist; John Nickerson, cartoon artist; Valerie Nusbaum, “Happily Ever After” columnist; Priscilla Rall, “Veteran Spotlight” columnist; Buck Reed, “Supermarket Gourmet” columnist; and Denise Valentine, “Tickling Our Tastebuds” columnist.

The main person who made a huge difference for Deb was Grace Eyler. She started working at E Plus in 2008, soon after graduating from Catoctin High School. Grace learned the graphic design skills that Deb knew, and then passed Deb’s skills and speed. Many know Grace as the face of E Plus Graphics and Promotions, where she now serves as the manager.

The Catoctin Banner Newzine

In 2008, The Catoctin Banner became full-color. Printing technology had advanced to the point that it was affordable to do so. After Deb and team launched a magazine project that failed, The Catoctin Banner was reformatted to include some of the elements of the magazine. In June 2019, the first Catoctin Banner Newzine was published. This change included a full-page photo on the front cover and layout styles that were less news format and more magazine. The newzine format is still being used.

Michele Tester is The Catoctin Banner’s layout artist. She has incorporated styles and design elements that make reading more fun. Every month she begins with a blank slate and somehow, she creates a finished project that really deserves recognition and praise.

Banner Advertisers

The Catoctin Banner exists because of its advertisers! We are so grateful. Without them, there would be no Banner! The costs of publishing have increased 300 percent from 2007 to 2020. Every month, games are included in The Catoctin Banner in order to draw the reader’s attention to the advertisers. Hot links to advertisers’ web addresses take the online reader to the advertiser’s website when they click on an ad. Reminders to “visit our advertisers’ businesses and mention that you saw their ad in The Catoctin Banner when you do” are included throughout every edition.

With that said, there are several advertisers who have been on board with The Catoctin Banner from the first edition, and there are advertisers who have advertised since Deb took over in 2007. These advertisers are the base that allow us to publish.

As a thank you to advertisers, as long as they don’t break their agreement—whether it be a continuous advertising commitment or a six-month contract—their rates have not been raised…for as many as 13 years!

Here are the advertisers who have been on board since at least 2007: J&B Real Estate; Pondscapes; Catoctin Mountain Spa & Tub; Catoctin Veterinary Clinic; Main Street Groomers; Catoctin Mountain Orchard; Rich Shank, now with Shank and Associates; Mountain View Lawn Service; Marie’s Beauty Salon; Main Street Upholstery; Bill’s Auto Body, now D&J Auto Body and Towing; Mike’s Auto Body; Nails By Anne; and Hillside Turkey Farms.

Turn the page to see who the longest running, continuous advertiser is!

J&B Real Estate has been advertising continuously since July 1995!

In the very first edition in 1995, it’s interesting to note that Dr. John Hagemann of Catoctin Chiropractic in Thurmont (now Center of Life Chiropractic), Peking Palace, and Nationwide Insurance (Zentz Insurance in Thurmont) are the only advertisers who are still in business.

These advertisers have never stopped advertising since signing up: Nutritional Healing Center; Affordable Self Storage; Baker Tree Service; C&K Grooming; Capital Womens Care of Frederick; Carriage House Inn; Catoctin Church of Christ; Catoctin Mountain Flooring; Complete Automotive; Craigs Mower & Marine; Delphey Construction; Denny Brown Custom Painting; Doug’s Auto; East Park Automotive; Emmitsburg Tattoo Company; Frederick County Chimney Sweeps; Gary The Barber; Gateway Automotive; Gene’s Towing; Getz Computers & Communications; Graceham Moravian Church; Harriet Chapel; Here’s Clydes; Hessong Bridge Contractors; His Place; KLS Home Improvements; Lawyer’s Automotive; Little Moore Realty; Long & Foster, Taylor Huffman Team; McLaughlin’s Heating Oils & LP Gas; Melissa Wetzel, CPA; Mick’s Plumbing & Heating; Nusbaum & Ott Painting; Ott House Pub; The Palms Restaurant; Quality Tire & Auto; ReMax, Kim Clever; Scenic View Orchard; Senior Benefits Services; Slater & Slater PC; Spike’s Auto Care; Squeaky Clean; and Tracy’s Auto Repair.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your commitment to the mission and the community!

The Favorites

Over the years, a number of columns have come and gone. Deb wrote a “Who Am I?” column for five years. In it, clues about a mystery person were given, and readers would call in their guesses. The next month, an article would answer the clues. The person who garnered the most guesses, by far, was Donald Lewis of Thurmont. Later, James Rada, Jr. wrote a Veterans Day cover article in 2014 about Mr. Lewis’ active military service during the coordinated D-Day attack on German forces at Normandy, France. This was one of our most popular articles.

In addition to his military service, Mr. Lewis served a variety of roles in our communities. He and his wife, Freda, owned a business on the square in Thurmont for many years. He served as Thurmont’s mayor and as a Frederick County commissioner.

The Bessie Darling Murder and the Raid on the Blue Blazes Still were popular historic topics. George Wireman and Spencer Watson both wrote versions of the Bessie Darling Murder, and George Wireman wrote about the Blue Blazes Still Raid.

Though there is not one standout in the “Spotlight” column that Theresa Dardanell wrote for several years, this was a special column that helped us appreciate church congregations, EMS and fire companies, and public service organizations.

Valerie Nusbaum’s “Happily Ever After” column receives the most expressed acknowledgement with emails and comments. She is humorous and often makes correlations that hit home. She makes it easier to know we’re all in this community together.

The Catoctin Banner now showcases a lot of quality content, from history and current events by Jim Rada, Jr. to cooking and baking with Denise Valentine, Buck Reed, Maxine Troxell, and now Ava Morlier, or environmental awareness with Christine Maccabee. Our writers are greatly appreciated and valuable to our community.

We hope we haven’t missed anyone in expressing our history and our thanks. But, when you start naming names, it’s easy to do, so please forgive us.

Thanks to all who send in good news, share photos, or contribute in any way to this project. We all work together to celebrate the good things, good people, and fabulous history of the Northern Frederick County Region. You’re the best! Cheers to 25 years!

Members of the Banner Team are shown in front of the E Plus Store at 1 E. Main Street in Emmitsburg. Some are photoshopped in the photo (obviously). From left (standing) Buck Reed, Supermarket Gourmet; Ava Morlier, Stories From A Culinary Student; Ana Morlier, Gardening Gangster; Jeanne Angleberger, Health Jeanne; Anita DiGregory, Catoctin Kids; Blair Garrett, Writer & Multimedia Manager; Maxine Troxell, Webmaster & Taste of the Past; and Valerie Nusbaum, Happily Ever After; (seated, top to bottom) John Nickerson, Gnarly Artly Cartoonist; Gracie Eyler, Advertising Sales & Design; Deb Abraham Spalding, Publisher; and James Rada, Jr., Contributing Editor. Not pictured: Michele Tester, Managing Editor & Layout Designer; Barbara Abraham, Editor  & Distributor; Jack Davis, Distributor; Joan Fry, Contributor & Distributor; Dr. Thomas Lo, Ask Dr. Lo; Christine Maccabee, On The Wild Side; Priscilla Rall, Veteran Spotlight; and Denise Valentine, Tickling Our Tastebuds.

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