FALMOUTH — If there’s one thing to be learned by reading old newspapers, it’s that times may change, but often the news stays the same.
The first issue of the Falmouth Forecaster, published Oct. 23, 1986, had a front-page story about installing a town-run swimming pool.
The debate has been reopened several times in the last 25 years, and came up again during the “town center” bond proposal last year, even though that bond did not include a proposal for a pool.
Now, interested readers can find all those stories in one public place: The Falmouth Memorial Library’s Forecaster index.
“This is just an index. It helps you find a date and page, but then you have to go look at the actual newspaper,” said former library Director Lyn Sudlow, who retired two weeks ago, but is still at the library to “tie up loose ends.”
Library volunteer Dolores Rimkunas has been creating the index one day a week for the past 10 years, entering headlines, date, bylines, sections, pages and other identifying information for every article published through 2003.
When The Forecaster first started, in 1986, it was printed twice a month in black and white, and was mailed to all Falmouth residents.
Over the years, the paper has grown to include four editions and a website that cover 14 cities and towns from Scarborough to Bath. It is no longer mailed to Falmouth residents, but it is still free and available at many area businesses.
All the articles that Rimkunas has entered are already searchable online, at falmouthmemoriallibrary.org/forecasterindex. As they are entered, they are immediately available to search.
Sudlow said she would like to make scans of the actual pages of The Forecaster available online, but that, for right now, the index is all the library is able to do.
The library has 1986-1999 scanned and burned onto CDs and on microfilm, which was paid for in 2000 by a grant from the Maine State Library, matched by The Forecaster and other donors. The scans and microfilm are available for patrons to view in the library.
There are also the physical copies, which are stored in the old section of the library . Only a few editions are missing, which Sudlow said are available in the scanned version because the Yarmouth Historical Society provided copies for scanning.
“Falmouth doesn’t really have a good history book, so I thought that this was a project the library could take on,” Sudlow said.
But it will be up to Sudlow’s replacement to take over the project, as she steps away from her role.
The library is also in the process of creating a cemetery database with names and GPS coordinates for the locations of graves in town and a searchable obituary index, all of which will be available online.
In the meantime, Rimkunas will keep plugging away, entering details for every story in The Forecaster. She said she doesn’t mind the repetitive process and that she’s even seen some stories and letters she missed the first time around, including a letter to the editor her son wrote when he was in middle school.
Former Falmouth Memorial Library Director Lyn Sudlow, who retired two weeks ago, points out the library’s archive of The Forecaster, stored in the old section of the library on Depot Road. Ten years ago the library began a newspaper indexing project, which is now available to search online.
The first edition of the Falmouth Forecaster, published on Oct. 23, 1986, pulled out of the Falmouth Memorial Library’s archives of the paper, which include nearly every edition the paper has published in Falmouth.
The masthead from the first issue of the Falmouth Forecaster, published in 1986.