Looking Back: The Beginning of baystateparent

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine

So much happens in 20 years; 20 years equal a generation. Looking back to where our family was in 1996, it seems like a lifetime ago. The two pieces of 1996 history that played the biggest role in our home were the debut of the Spice Girls and the Beanie Baby phenomenon (which, by the way, we just gave away). In a home with a 9-year-old and a 3-year-old, those two things were, by far, the most important things in their world!

One phenomenon that made its debut in Central Massachusetts was a new magazine, Today’s Parent, now called baystateparent. A question I am often asked is, “Why did you start Today’s Parent?” Here is my response.

Originally from Spencer, we had lived away from the area for several years, doing the things that one does in his or her mid-20s. My husband and I were married. We had two children and found that the priorities in our lives had dramatically changed, including the publications that we read.

When my husband and I moved to West Boylston in 1994 with two young children in tow, we were desperate to find answers to the following question: WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH CHILDREN IN THIS AREA?

Of course, we did not have the luxury of the resources of the Internet in 1996, as we do today. We relied on print advertising. Most of the niche publications in the area were geared toward single young adults. It was difficult to discover where a family could find the right stores, activities, birthday party locations, and so much more.

Since I was already in the publishing business, it seemed natural to begin to research the birth of a potential new publication. With the research done, a small-but-mighty staff was hired to launch what has now become a staple in the area. Can you imagine your life without the resource of baystateparent?

A most fortunate acquisition was engaging Paula Ethier, who did the first mock design of the magazine, as art director. She was so excited to join our team and to have this new project to work on. Paula has carried her passion through every issue for all 20 years. Suffice it to say, very likely, baystateparent would not be here today if it weren’t for Paula’s vision and steadfast loyalty to the publication.

The other face of Today’s Parent was MaryJo Kurtz. She brought her ideas to the table and found a corral of writers willing to work for little money, who poured their heart and soul into well-written and well-rounded articles to which our readers could relate. Our goal was to create a publication with a clear purpose. I believe we achieved that goal!

As the publication grew, so did our family. Often ideas for articles were based on current issues that our children were dealing with. When we did not have options for the covers, the children of our staff often graced them (they never seemed to mind). Not only was this a publication for families, but the group that put it together also became a special family of its own.

Now in the very capable hands of Kirk Davis, baystateparent has more than lived out my dreams. Each month, I pick it up from the table in the entryway of our church and I pore over every page with pride. I know the trials and tribulations that go into this monthly project, and I also know that it continues to serve its purpose beyond my wildest expectations.

The Bible says, “To everything, there is a season.” Readers come and go as their children age and grow. There will be a new generation of readers who will be picking up baystateparent as new moms. They will look at it for the first time and I hope they will instantly realize that it is not an ordinary publication; it is published specifically with them in mind.

Happy 20th anniversary baystateparent! I look forward to reading you in the future, when I can look at your pages with the eyes of a new grandparent (no announcement here). When that happens, I can only imagine that I will be looking for all of the same things that brought the first pages to life 20 years ago.

A Lot Happens in 20 Years

by MaryJo Kurtz

 When baystateparent Editor-in-Chief Melissa Shaw recently mentioned the 20th anniversary of this magazine to me, I admit that I had a pang of wow. It was the same day I learned my 25-year-old son, Sam, had his bid accepted on his first property — so I was already pondering life’s milestones. With Melissa’s reminder, I was thinking, a lot happens in 20 years, doesn’t it?

Sam was just 5 when I met with the original owner of this magazine, Kelley Small, to talk about the editor job at what was then Today’s Parent. We sat in her North Oxford office at Pedlar Publishing. She was excited to introduce a family magazine to Central Massachusetts, as she was both a publisher and the mother of two young girls in the area.

I was thrilled for the opportunity to write a resource for others who were young parents like me. It was an opportunity to blend my journalism background and the magic of starting a family.

Together with Creative Director Paula Ethier, the mother of two young boys, the three of us ventured into new editorial territory. With each parenting experience we were having personally, we thought of new topics to discuss in the magazine. Our meetings were filled with ideas, problems, and solutions. Photos for those early issues were mostly taken from our scrapbooks and the collections of our friends. It was an exciting time.

For the early issues of Today’s Parent, I spent hours calling area attractions looking for listings to put in our Calendar of Events. Within a few years, the announcements were coming into the magazine in such large amounts that we were running out of space to list them all. It was 1996, and the magazine had planted its Bay State roots.

Sam became a regular fixture in the office in those early years, often coloring or doing his homework while the adults around him finalized the pages of each monthly issue. This week, he told me that he remembers how busy everyone was, how big the building’s bathroom was, and where Paula used to sit. He recalled, too, playing with a frog the one time he was on the cover of the magazine; he was 7 at the time. We have the photograph framed on a wall in our family room.

In 2000, I resigned my position as editor to spend time with my new son, Joey. It was a tough decision to leave the Today’s Parent family, but it was made much easier by Editor Carrie Wattu, who continued to publish my stories through the years. As my children grew older, the topics of my pieces changed: peer pressure, first cell phones, choosing a college.

Through all of my years of parenting, I could count on this publication to have my back, providing a creative outlet as I grew my writing career while also publishing quality local stories to help me raise my two children.

When I returned as Editor-in-Chief a few years ago, the publication had changed hands. It was now called baystateparent, it was owned by notable publisher Kirk Davis, its offices were in Millbury, and it was ready to commit to a Website. The readership expanded to cover the entire state. No longer were we scrambling for photos from our personal collections; we were now considering pictures from a pool of talented local models. It was, and is, personally rewarding to know I had a role in helping to launch this established local resource.

Paula is still there, now the mother of two grown boys. My desk was next to hers and we spent much time laughing, catching up, and sharing stories of our nearly grown boys. It was very difficult for me to again say goodbye when in 2014 I decided to accept a new position outside of baystateparent.

But while my life has grown in a new direction, a little piece of my heart holds dear the time I spent at baystateparent. It grew, as did my career as a journalist. Its stories changed, as did my own.

   I could reminisce a bit longer — and certainly share dozens of stories — from my years at this magazine, but Sam just invited me to see his new condo. He is about to start a new chapter in his life, just like baystateparent. A lot happens in 20 years, doesn’t it?  Congratulations, bsp.

Congratulations, baystateparent!

By Carrie Wattu

Congratulations baystateparent on two decades of being Massachusetts’ go-to publication for parents. The magazine remains a trusted community resource, and I’m grateful to have been a part of its history.

I was hired as editor in 2000 by the publisher at the time, Kelley Small. I was brand-new to publishing and parenthood. Five months pregnant with my first child, I left my teaching job to start a new career at the magazine. I was excited!

Life was low-tech then. We saved our stories on floppy discs. Calendar listings, story ideas, and news releases poured in by mail. Email was used sparingly. We sorted through stacks of printed proofs to choose the cover photo.

When my daughter was born, I used film to capture her milestones — and only had 24 chances to get the shot. I would send away to have doubles printed and distribute them to grandparents and relatives. My husband and I didn’t have cell phones. I don’t know how I reminded him to pick up diapers!

During my nearly 12 years with bsp, technology evolved and so did my family. I welcomed twin daughters! We eventually got cell phones (truth be told: one is still a flip) — and texting, email, Facebook, FaceTime, Siri, and Google Maps have become the norm.

Life is high-tech — and hectic — today. My daughters are now 15 and 12 (times two). I owe much of our family fun through the years to the bsp calendar and advertisers. So many of our day trips and adventures were to farms, ice cream stands, museums, nature sanctuaries, and libraries — all inspired from bsp.

Kudos to Kirk Davis, Paula Ethier, Melissa Shaw, MaryJo Kurtz, and a legion of talented writers and photographers for their years of serving the community.  

Here’s to many more! Happy anniversary!