Thirty-Five Years… and Counting

I do not remember a time when I was not fascinated by well-written words and the good turn of a phrase. When I was in grammar school in the 1950s, I was reading such books as Confessions Of An Advertising Man by David Ogilvy and The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. When I was 16 and a junior at Boston College High School, I founded the school newspaper. We called it The Eaglet.

After graduating from Holy Cross in 1969, I worked for Cahners Publishing, a national publishing company based in Boston. In 1979, in business for myself, I published the first issue of Cape Cod LIFE. I will always cherish the memory of receiving a congratulatory letter from Norman Cahners, founder of Cahners Publishing. Norman wrote, “Brian, few people can appreciate as much as I do the significance of the accomplishment of publishing your first issue of Cape Cod LIFE.”

Thirty Five Years and Counting

The following summer, photographer Gail Davis and I staged the cover photo for our Indian Summer issue at The Cash Market in Marstons Mills. I asked a charming looking lady walking by if she would pose as a customer in our photo. She said to me, “Young man, (Remember now, this was a long time ago) if I let you take my picture, what do you propose that you would do with it?” I said if it would be okay with her, I would put the photo on the cover of the next issue of Cape Cod LIFE.  She said, “I have never seen Cape Cod LIFE.” I did not have a copy with me, so I went into the Cash Market, purchased an issue, and gave it to her. She said “okay.” Later, she was very appreciative when I brought her a few copies of the magazine with her photo on the cover. At the top of the photo, there is a tree branch, which I am holding. The branch is covering some phone wires; we were careful to crop out my thumb.

In the summer of 1983, writer J.P. Neath, photographer Alison Shaw, and I visited with legendary television news anchor, Walter Cronkite, at his home in Edgartown. A few minutes in, I thought the interview was going swimmingly. However, when J.P. and Walter started talking about Walter’s love of sailing, I could not resist. I interrupted by asking follow-up questions about sailing. Mr. Cronkite stopped the interview and asked me to wait outside until it was over. How many people can say they were thrown out of an interview by someone known as, “the most trusted man in America”? After the interview, Walter took me down to his dock and aboard his beloved 42-foot sailboat, the Wyntje (pronounced Win-tee, the vessel was named for the first woman to marry a Cronkite in the New Amsterdam colony in 1642).

Thirty Five Years and Counting Thirty Five Years and Counting

In December of 1987, our cover featured a Christmas wreath hanging on a front door with a red border all around the cover. I was really flattered when I received a strongly worded letter from Time magazine telling me never to run a red border again because Cape Cod LIFE was infringing on Time’s trademark and copyright.

In the summer of ‘89, writer and photographer Stephanie Foster, Art Director Donna Murphy and I visited the home of Millie and Tip O’Neill in Harwichport. At the time, Tip was congressional speaker of the House. Our interview actually was with Millie, much more so than with Tip. We titled the article, “Speaker of the Household.” The following excerpt is memorable: “At home, he calls her ‘Mom.’  When she hears ‘Millie’ she knows trouble is brewing. They are a devoted couple that kid each other in mock arguments, but Millie rules the roost. To get his goat, she calls him ‘Speaker.’ The Speaker smokes his cigar outside the house.” Stephanie photographed all of us out on the beach. Tip put his arm around Donna and said, “So, how is it going, Murph?”

Thirty Five Years and Counting

In December of ’91, we devoted a special issue to the subject of Hurricane Bob.  When the storm hit, much of Cape Cod was without power for about one week. My home away from home, my classic wooden motor sailer, the Lady Carline, ended up high and dry on Amrita Island in Cataumet. I was standing on the beach taking photos when a helicopter was lifting the 10-ton Lady Carline overhead and back into the water. The power of the downdraft from the copter was phenomenal. I was looking through the little viewfinder on my camera when something passed in front of my eyes and over my head. A wooden rowboat that had been lying on the beach in front of me was now lying right behind me. Heavens to Mergatroid!

Ten years ago—in 2004—Cape Cod LIFE celebrated with a special 25th anniversary issue. I was so happy to receive a congratulatory letter from Senator Ted Kennedy.  He wrote a warm, personal letter about his family’s love of the Cape going back to his father and mother, Joseph and Rose’s first visit here in 1922. He wrote how he and Bobby and Jack played football on the beach. He went on to write, “Jack felt that creating the Cape Cod National Seashore was one of the finest of all his achievements in public life. He knew it would guarantee that all future generations would be able to enjoy the blessings of this special place he treasured most of all.”

In the spring of 2009, Senator Kennedy agreed to let Cape Cod LIFE reproduce a painting he had done of himself sailing his beloved Mya—and that we could put it on the cover of our annual Cape Cod ART publication. We posted the image on our website and heard from folks all over the world enthusing about his talent as an artist.

When I founded Cape Cod LIFE 35 years ago, the magazine’s original mission statement included, “hoping to contribute to the long-term enjoyment of our beautiful, fragile peninsula and nearby islands.” I thank all of our readers, writers, photographers, staff members, advertisers, and distributors for their support enabling Cape Cod LIFE Publications to serve the area we love so much. And thank you for enabling me, Judy, Josh, and Max to live the Cape Cod life. As we look to the future, I invite and ask for input from all of you to further enable all of us to contribute to our long-term enjoyment of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the Elizabeth Islands. Please and Thank You!

My Best,


Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher


Brian Shortsleeve

Brian Shortsleeve is the President and Publisher of Cape Cod Life Publications.

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Highland Light and Wireless Station, North Truro, Cape Cod, Mass

Highland Light and Wireless Station, North Truro, Cape Cod, Mass