She’s still ‘Hayes-y’ after all these years
September 7, 2007
ASPEN ” Many of those working for The Aspen Times today weren’t even born when Mary Eshbaugh Hayes first came to work for the paper.
This is her 50th year under the newspaper’s employ, an anniversary that will be celebrated tonight at a private party and will be attended by a host of family, friends and co-workers both past and present.
An upstate New York native, Hayes, 78, came to Aspen in 1952 after a ski trip that January convinced her she wanted to live and work here. Having graduated from Syracuse University with a double major in journalism and English, at the time she was working as a reporter and photographer for the Aurora Advocate, a weekly paper in the Denver area.
When she moved to Aspen in September 1952, she already had been hired by former Aspen Times Publisher Verlin Ringle. She quickly met and became friends with various movers and shakers around the area, including her future husband, Jim Hayes.
Besides being a college-trained journalist, Hayes also was hired because she knew how to set up and run a darkroom, which fit nicely with Ringle’s plans to start using pictures in his weekly paper. She started by doing the “Around Aspen” and “Society” columns every week.
By the end of 1953 Hayes was married and pregnant, prompting her to quit her job for about five years to give birth to her five children. But in 1956, when Ringle sold the paper to Bil Dunaway, she relaunched the now-famous “Around Aspen” column, working from home and calling her sources all over town every Tuesday night. She continued doing just the column, with occasional breaks, until 1972, when she returned to full-time work as a reporter and photographer, in addition to writing the column.
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In 1977, Dunaway promoted Hayes to editor, and he continued to expand her responsibilities over the next 15 years, particularly as he decreased his own involvement in the day-to-day operations of the newsroom. Hayes oversaw the creation of the Times Daily in 1988, to supplement the century-old weekly operation, and personally increased the presence of feature stories about local personalities in the weekly’s pages.
“Everywhere I looked, I saw stories,” she said. “I used to keep lists of stories we needed to do. Even when I quit, I still had a list.”
When Dunaway sold the paper in 1992, Hayes resigned as editor, though she continued to write the column as well as obituaries and occasional feature stories until about four years ago. Now, her sole weekly contribution is the column, although she provides an invaluable service as the paper’s historian.
“I am fascinated still by Aspen and the people here,” she said this week. “And I don’t let the politics get me down too much. I used to.”
The author of two books about Aspen ” “Aspen Potpourri” and “The Story of Aspen” ” Hayes is now working on her memoir and a novel.
As for The Aspen Times, she mused, “It sure isn’t a small-town paper any more. I loved the weekly, and I still love weeklies. They keep the community feeling going [whereas] with a daily, you just have to get the damned thing our ever day.”