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From the Publisher: Mystery of the ‘Magazine Man’ solved

  • Concord street vendor, The Magazine Man, sold area newspaper magazines and tobacco products, 1940s.

    Concord street vendor, The Magazine Man, sold area newspaper magazines and tobacco products, 1940s.

  • Paul Ingraham Denning -- known in his day as the 'Magazine Man' -- sold newspapers, magazines and tobacco products during the 1940s.

    Paul Ingraham Denning -- known in his day as the 'Magazine Man' -- sold newspapers, magazines and tobacco products during the 1940s.

  • Concord street vendor, The Magazine Man, sold area newspaper magazines and tobacco products, 1940s.
  • Paul Ingraham Denning -- known in his day as the 'Magazine Man' -- sold newspapers, magazines and tobacco products during the 1940s.

The second volume of our Concord Memories history books had been out only a few days when John Ball stopped by the office, wanting to discuss one of the photographs from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s that it contains. Turns out it was my favorite image in the book: the “Magazine Man” reaching to extend a newspaper to a customer from his trailer somewhere downtown, a fedora on his head and a long cigarette holder between his lips.

The photograph came from the collection of the Concord Public Library, and aside from dating the image to the 1940s, the caption contained little information – not even the Magazine Man’s name.

Thanks to Ball, I can now share his story.

The Magazine Man, Paul Ingraham Denning, was Ball’s grandfather. A Massachusetts native, he served in both the Navy and Army during World War I, Ball said. Denning was struck in the legs by shell fragments during the war, and as a result both legs were amputated below the knee.

After the war, Denning lived primarily on Pearl Street, making his living by selling magazines, newspapers and tobacco products from the trailer, which he parked in front of the State House on Main Street. The cigarette in its holder was his trademark, along with a handlebar mustache that I can’t make out in the photo.

Ball said Denning drove an MGA sports car with specially made hand controls, and he set aside a penny from every sale he made toward his dream of retiring to Hawaii – a dream he would in time realize.

Denning died in 1953, and is buried in a Hawaiian cemetery for veterans called the Punch Bowl.

“A remarkable guy, really,” said Ball, who has accompanied his mother to Denning’s gravesite there.

As a student of history, I love such stories – and I’m delighted that the Concord Memories book has helped bring Denning’s back to life.

I would be remiss if I didn’t explain how you can get your own copy.

The book costs $39.95 and is available at the Monitor during normal business hours, online at concord2.pictorialbook.com, and at Gibson’s. We have a limited number of the first volume, which covers Concord’s early years, on hand as well.

The story behind BOWW

Judging from online statistics, our series on the Brotherhood of White Warriors, or BOWW, the prison-based gang that has spread onto Concord’s streets, was widely read – and judging from letters and calls we’ve received, some readers were displeased with the space and prominent display we devoted to the project.

In my mind, the first observation answers the second: This is a story of interest and significance to the community, and merited the attention we gave it.

The project grew out of daily crime stories, one involving a violent assault on Redington Road and another the arrest of a Concord teacher in the company of a former student. The police tied both incidents to BOWW, raising obvious questions: Where did this group come from, and what sort of threat did it pose?

As is often the case, we pursued the larger story by pairing two reporters: Annmarie Timmins, a longtime staff member with extensive experience covering the courts, prison system and the police, and Jeremy Blackman, a relative newcomer recently assigned to the police beat.

They worked on the story off and on for weeks, interviewing police and prison sources, researching the records of BOWW members, tracking them down and requesting interviews with them as well. Photographer John Tully and graphic artist Charlotte Thibault joined in the effort, as did a number of editors.

Together they produced a series that took readers to places they otherwise would not go, offering insights into the harsh realities of prison life and the struggle to manage it.

As the series made clear, the police and the corrections system – and therefore all of us, really – have a challenge on their hands.

Reporter moves on

I am saddened to report that reporter Ben Leubsdorf left us Friday for a job with the Wall Street Journal in Washington. It’s a homecoming for Leubsdorf, who is from Washington and came to us in 2010 from a job in Detroit with the Associated Press. He covered a regional beat and city hall before becoming our State House reporter in 2012. At the Journal, Leubsdorf will cover central banking and the economy.

Leubsdorf will be succeeded at the State House by Laura McCrystal, who joined the Monitor in 2011 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. She has worked as a regional reporter as well as a night editor, and has been covering city hall since 2012.

Timmins, fresh off the BOWW project, will cover city hall until we fill the vacancy created by Leubsdorf’s departure.

New sales representative

Aside from reporters, the employees most visible in the community are our sales representatives – and actually, the skills required to succeed in either field are more similar than you might think. But that’s really a topic for another column.

My purpose in mentioning them today is to announce that Candace Fitzgerald has joined our sales force. You may know her: She grew up in Concord and since her high school years has worked at Thirty Pines, as a receptionist, waitress, bank teller and in the car business, rising eventually to sales manager at Lincoln of Concord. She joins Sherri Cote, Alex Chaisson, Nicole McGurk and Zach Cosseboom on the Monitor sales team.

(Monitor Publisher Mark Travis can be reached at 369-3250 or mtravis@cmonitor.com.)

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