A Christmas to remember…

Written by: Marvin Baker

It was late November 1995 and I had just been hired as editor and publisher of the Cavalier County Republican in Langdon. Then, my entire world was turned upside down.

The very day I was supposed to start my new job, we attended my mother’s funeral in Hazelton. I was devastated and my siblings were devastated. At that point in time, I wondered how I would cope.

The people who owned the newspaper told me to report the following week and there was a nice bouquet from them at the funeral.

A week later I arrived in Langdon to start my new job as a manager of one of the larger weeklies, at the time, in North Dakota. The first few days were spent learning the system, so that broke the ice, but the sorrow was there fully and completely when I went home from work.

Those early nights in Langdon were difficult so to distract myself, I turned on French TV out of Winnipeg and challenged myself to mimic and speak French. It was a short, daily diversion.

After about two weeks I realized there is only one thing to do. Dig in! The paper had its own issues and was deep in debt so there was only one way to go for myself and the Republican, and that was up.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but as the weeks of winter wore on, people I came into contact with were so nice to me, even when I made mistakes like spelling a name wrong in the paper or leaving a piece of information out of an ad.
I couldn’t figure out why people were so kind. The residents of that community couldn’t have liked the paper that much, and they hardly knew me, other than what they read in the initial issue after I started.

It took years for me to figure this out, but the merchants, the sports teams and the community at large were aware of what happened, and yes, they did care about their newspaper and they apparently cared for the individual who was charged with bringing it back from financial collapse.

People invited me into their homes for a meal, they included me in community events whether I wanted to be included or not, all the coaches were good about giving me interviews, even when they’re beloved Cardinals lost a game, while others gave me tours of the county and introduced me to their friends.

I still remember a county commissioner, whose name is Neil Romfo. He took me on a tour of Cavalier County and when we got back to Langdon; knowing I was young and had beaucoup college loans to pay back, he gave me a Canadian $5 bill, put his hand on my shoulder, smiled and told me if I keep that in my wallet, I’ll never go broke.

I still have that $5 bill, but it’s not in my wallet any longer. And every time I look at it, I think of Neil Romfo. It was his way of welcoming me to Langdon and Cavalier County and assuring me that things would get better.

Gradually they did and as Christmas approached, I realized there were a lot of people like Neil, willing to help, willing to listen and welcome a virtual stranger into their community.

Those of us who worked at the newspaper had a Christmas party at one of the restaurants and that too, helped break the ice even further. It told me that even though everyone was cordial and professional at work, they were also human and we quickly bonded as a staff.

All of these things helped motivate me during a time of intense grieving and not only did it heal my sorrow, but the newspaper slowly started making money so we could promise everyone would get a paycheck every two weeks.
It was about trust, it was about friendship and it was about the willingness of a community to embrace someone they didn’t really know. And when Christmas came, a number of people invited me to spend it with them. I think they knew I didn’t really want to go home, but we had to be with my dad.

Because of all this, the four years I spent in Langdon were no doubt the best years of my career as a journalist and some of the best years of my life. That’s why to this day I have a fondness for the community of Langdon. To me, it’s a special place that helped me get through an extremely difficult time.

Merry Christmas Langdon!

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