Every summer since 1992, we have asked our readers to take part in Cape Cod Life’s “Best of the Cape & Islands” Readers’ Poll. Recently, I dug out the very first Best Of issue to try and get a sense of what it was like to manage this annual deluge of data in the days before computers. Reading through that magazine, shown here in all its pre-digital glory, my eye was caught by a headline saying “Blank Ballots” in the Letters to the Editor section. The long-ago letter made me laugh out loud.
Apparently, a few of the thousands of paper ballots painstakingly printed by staff members, then mailed to subscribers, were sent out with ‘We Need Your Help” on one side and Best Of choices on the other. Several mailings were mistakenly sent out with blank ballot sides, prompting humorous responses from subscribers. My favorite line was that sent by an anonymous subscriber who simply responded to our query for help with a succinct one-line response; “You sure do!”
Believe it or nor, several of the people who worked on that long-ago Best Of still work for Cape Cod Life. When I asked them what it was like to handle the first Best Of results nearly 20 years ago, they simply rolled their eyes and said things like “I’ve blanked it out.” I gather it was quite a laborious process in the days before computers, taking months of work.
Year after year, Marianna Lynch, who is still our super-efficient office manager, made it her personal mission to do her personal best for every lucky winner. This year, Marianna’s job and that of everyone in the office who helps process more than 500 winners, was made miraculously easier when our IT Manager, Anthony DiSpezio, figured out how to streamline the online voting process. The end result was that we were able to double the amount of votes in our computerized ballot box this year.
Of course, readers in 1992 could never have imagined that they would be able to carry a miniature hand-held telephone to the beach and if they wanted to find the best places to eat, shop, picnic, or do just about anything on the Cape or Islands, all they would have to do is click on a picture of a Cape Cod Life Publications lighthouse app . . . and every 2011 Best Of winner would appear right before their eyes. As of this June, Cape Cod Life’s Apple iPhone app makes that possible for any one who wants to find the best of anything.
For all of us at Cape Cod Life, the excited responses from Best Of local businesses will always be our best reward. That and the sight of those shiny award plaques placed in windows all over Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. We haven’t figured out yet how to affix all those hundreds of shiny gold and silver stickers to the glossy plaques—but give us time.
May this summer be one of your Best Ofs ever!