MM turns 30

From left, Dick Armstrong, Tom Buchkoe and Leonard Heldreth stand outside the Marquette Monthly cottage on Third Street in Marquette. (Photo by Jackie Stark)

By Jackie Stark

Living in the U.P. is like living under a double-edged sword.” So began the very first article in the very first edition of Marquette Monthly, which hit the streets 30 years ago in October 1987.

All 20 pages of that premiere edition were created at the home of founding editor and publisher Mary Kinnunen, a woman with a unique vision and the guts to carry it out.

MM would go on to have offices in a number of places in Marquette, ultimately settling in at the cottage at 810 N. Third Street, where it remains today.

“Mary knew what she wanted and she pretty much got it,” said Dick Armstrong, MM’s circulation manager of 30 years.

Brought on roughly six months into the magazine’s life, Armstrong originally drove to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, to pick up the papers printed there by a newspaper.

“My kids were young then, so we’d all pile into the van and go up there and get them,” Armstrong said.

He would bring them back for Kinnunen to distribute. Though, as the magazine grew and as distribution grew right along with it, Armstrong eventually took over all the delivery of the magazine.

He now drives across the Central and Western U.P., dropping off bundles in stores, medical offices, libraries, visitors’ bureaus, coffee shops, anywhere and everywhere people go. People have come to know him as the guy that drops off the Monthlys.

“All the friends along the way at stops that I made between (Marquette) and Copper Harbor have become wonderful friends,” Armstrong said. “It’s great fun to visit and see everybody every month. A lot of us know each other really well and yet we don’t even know each other’s names.”

Armstrong is one of three people who were with MM in its infancy that remain involved in the magazine today. Also on that list are chief photographer Tom Buchkoe and film reviewer and writer Leonard Heldreth.

Heldreth, who was an NMU English professor when MM first began, wrote an article in the premiere edition about the iconic film, Anatomy of a Murder, at the request of Kinnunen.

“I got a phone call from a person I’d never heard of,” Heldreth said. “She wanted to do a story on Anatomy of a Murder. Would I do it?”

The answer was yes. Heldreth eventually became MM’s regular film reviewer, and maintains that role today, though he has retired from NMU.

“I’ve got a couple guys I fight with about movie reviews,” Heldreth said. “Then I’ve got people who say, ‘I read you every month. I really look forward to it.”

That first October 1987 edition also included a photo spread from Buchkoe, who was brought on board right from the very start because he happened to be in Beauchamps Camera Corner at the right time.

“While I was in there, a skinny little blonde comes walking in. She says, ‘I’m starting a monthly magazine and I’m selling advertising.’ My ears perked up. ‘A monthly magazine about Marquette? Oh, cool, somebody to sell pictures to,” Buchkoe said.

They ran three of Buchkoe’s photos in that first edition, and he was named chief photographer, a position he has maintained for three decades.

With 30 years under its belt, the magazine has earned itself a loyal readership, though it took some time to get there.

“It took a while before people were noticing it, and then once they did, you ended up having regular customers that would wait for Dick to come fill up the rack, ‘Where’s my Marquette Monthly?’” Buchkoe said.

Armstrong said that aspect of the job is one of his favorites.

“You drop off a bundle, you walk out, and you see three out of five people get up and walk over to where I left the papers and they pick up a paper,” Armstrong said. “It’s very rewarding in that way.”

All three men spoke fondly of Kinnunen, impressed by her drive and determination.

Armstrong in particular recalled Kinnunen’s no-nonsense attitude when it came to MM’s quality, telling the story of a few bad press runs that resulted in Kinnunen making the trip to Canada with him.

Standing in the pressroom, the machines buzzing as MM’s were printing at breakneck speed, Kinnunen had had enough.

“She pulls one off and she says, ‘No, we’re not going to run any of these. Stop it. Shut it down,’” Armstrong said, laughing. “‘It’s got to be better than this. I can’t have this.’ My jaw is hanging on the floor and everyone is looking at us. She just didn’t take any guff.”

“No, she didn’t,” Buchkoe echoed.

Kinnunen ran the magazine for a few years before selling it to Pat Ryan O’Day, who took that young publication and turned it into the magazine it is today.

The publication began with 20 pages and a handful of advertisers, some of whom still advertise with MM today. A few of those original sections still exist: Features, Out and About and Locals, (though Out and About has certainly expanded since those first couple of pages 30 years ago, now with its own editor to cull all that information together).

A few of those original sections ran their course, and new ones have been added: In The Outdoors, Lookout Point, At The Table. The page count has grown. So to, has MM’s base of freelance writers.

Though many parts of creating MM have changed over the years—pretty much every step of the layout and printing process has given way to computers—the fundamental purpose of MM has stayed the same: highlighting the unique culture of the Upper Peninsula through stories about its people, its places and its art.

We hope our readers continue to find great writing and great storytelling within our pages, no matter what changes come our way.

Here’s to the next 30 years.


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