Adventures of an Old Newspaper Writer

Interview notes on the way back to the newsroom from an assignment often found their first light of day in the little notebook.   Driving and writing at the same time is a skill.
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We wrote on newsprint those days, long sheets the size of legal pads, whitish and cheap but useful.    There were no computers in most news rooms in those days, and when working on deadline editors would literally yank finished “takes” out of the typewriter.   A “take” was the double spaced type on the newsprint page.   The pages were then glued together in a long strip with rubber cement, corrected or improved or spiced-up by the editor and then passed on to the copy desk to be further enhanced.

All these memories poured forth from the dim recesses of my packed brain, from a category called Reporter.  I was reading a novel in which the main character was a reporter who had joined the staff at a larger newspaper, and as luck would have it (in novels) a choice story fell into this man’s lap.   The novel is good, I enjoyed it very much, it is well plotted and the characters are believable and well rounded.  But what I liked most about this novel is that it is set in an old fashioned newsroom very similar to the one in which I worked thirty years ago, and brought back a flood of mostly happy memories.   The plot is so realistic it could almost be a documentary film.

When I got the job I was not a reporter.  I had no training, no background, no experience.   I had been working as General Manager of a small weekly paper, more of a glorified clerk than anything else.   Then the paper was bought out by a new owner, and the new hot shots filling the editor and manager jobs were hired because they had years of experience and … well, I didn’t.  I had written a couple of things.   A column called Girl Scouting chronicled the weekly meetings with action-packed accounts of…well, the Girl Scouts.    Then one day I came upon a garbage truck on fire…that was a real scoop!

So I went to the daily-and-Sunday paper that covered half of the county.  In short, I all but begged the editor to give me a chance at being a correspondent covering my home town, and as it would turn out most of the township and council meetings and school board meetings in the county, with exception of the two major cities.   Well, the editor hired me because he had no one else to put on the beat.   It was a one-shot, coverage of a major school levy committe meeting.   It was a very big deal, as small town meetings go.   The reporting I did on that meeting was apparently sufficient, because I was assigned to write feature stories on two assignments…a Jaycees chapter being formed at the state prison farm.   Big time.   It was Christmas, and there was a brightly trimmed and lighted tree in the room where the meeting was held.   I did the interview, chatted with a few prisoners who were going to be members of the group.      My unintentionally hilarious lead paragraph was something like: “Crime prevention is of major importance to inmates of the prison farm.”      My next big story was a feature on two elderly brothers who operated a landscape tree farm.   The big story there was that one of the brothers had quit smoking, and his brother was growing tobacco on the property.   Potential for a Pulitzer there.

I don’t recall the progression of my career as a correspondent.   About two years later, working part-time, the paper created a full-time position working in my home town, police and fire calls, school board meetings and school feature stories.

Those were the days!

Confessions of a “Non-Traditional Student.”

At the age of fifty, I declared that since half my life was over…the other half (arbitrarily estimated at fifty more years) would be…mine.   Really it was more of a threat than a promise, but when complaining that everyone but me had been allowed to pursue a college education, and by implication, a career.   “Everyone” being my children, and “pursue” meaning opportunity.  Their response:  “go for it, Mom.   Do it…”  Right.   Me and a bunch of eighteen-year-old kids.

So I drove off to the Community College, grabbed a course bulletin, and sat down in the cafeteria.   So far so good.   Hmmm…what to study.   Since I had no idea at this point if I would just take a couple of courses, or what.   First things first…. courses that would be interesting, add to my store of knowledge, and something that I could do without making a fool of myself.

Since I was already a newspaper writer, English seemed like a logical course of study.   Psychology was a no-brainer, pardon the pun.   I wanted courses that I would enjoy, learn from, and be able to use in some capacity later on.

Well, I took to school like a duck in water.   After the initial “oh no, not another senior student come to make my life miserable,” the professors put up with me and in fact treated me exactly as any other students.   Although a lot of them were eighteen, many were much older, and they all treated me [almost] as a peer.   I refrained from trying to hang out with them.   I didn’t tell the English profs that I had been a working writer, mainly because one of the reasons I wanted to take the course was to test my writing skills.   Psychology was just darn interesting.

By the end of the first school quarter I was hooked.   I loved school, much more than I had in high school…yes, MUCH more!   I signed up for English and Psychology courses the Winter quarter, and the Spring Quarter.   Summer session was tempting, and I got into position to attend classes as a full-time student the following September.

By this time it had occurred to me that I really wanted to pursue an Associates Degree in General Studies, which I completed in May of 1988.  I had taken great pains to make sure than my course work was on track in case I wanted to transfer credits, which I did…93 credits transferred to Cleveland State for September semester of 1988.

[…to be continued]

The Garden

About a dozen years ago I decided to build a new house in the middle of a cabbage field.    A bit radical, but having been recently widowed and really not inclined toward farming, mowing and maintaining eight and a half acres was a daunting, if not near-impossible task.   It didn’t take long to contract with a modular home company and design a house that was really bigger than we needed.

But what an adventure!   Once the field was prepared, a massive hole–a basement actually–was dug, creating a giant mountain of sandy soil which was at one time the base of an ancient lake.   The ridge on which we live is an old lake shore, which millions of years later became the road on which our home is located.   The digging went well, and although the workers held their breath waiting for ground water to come seeping or pouring out of the ground, the to-be basement stayed dry.

We were deemed fortunate, as a newly under construction house a mile or so down the road required seven sump pumps to clear the basin so that the cement floor could be poured.   Anyway, the mountain in what is now our back yard grew taller, as the hole grew deeper.    I loved it….being a lover of anything resembling a stone, rock, boulder, I was much enthusiastic at the thought that these particular stones coming to the surface had never been seen by humans.   At least not in the imaginable duration.

We were hoping for BIG stones, boulders such as many new homes feature proudly in their front yards, but the largest stone we found was no  bigger than my fist.   I believe much of it, maybe most, is Berea Sandstone,, and chert, and all sorts of rock that had either always been there or arrived with a glacier back in the ice age.

What is my blog about?

The title of this blog is: SOMETIMES. It is my current choice of what to call the blog…but also leads to all sorts of great topics to follow and to write about. Searching for other blogs, written by other people that is, opens an entire new field of topics dealing with the universe and the backyard.

To begin with, I have already lived a long time. Not as long as some of my relatives…or ANY of my late husband’s female relatives…but still a long time. In fact planning for the future is one of my favorite hobbies, although I have already come to the realization that age really does limit activity.

Oh not these people who are “old” even when they are kids. Yep–we all know them. Or those who just can’t wait to retire so they can watch all the TV they want (geez…endless football!) and not have to DO anything.

Three things I always wanted to do: be an airplane pilot, climb mountains, and sail endlessly on a boat. All of the above have draw-backs, of course, starting with my fear of heights and fear of water. On second thought, those are good reasons for not fulfilling those particular dreams.

As a kid my goals were to become a Police Officer, a Lawyer, and a Psychiatrist. Those were all possible–but I didn’t realize it at the time since I never dreamed of going to college. Another aspiration was to become a Dancer. But sigh, that was out because I have two left feet as they say, and drove my dance instructor to drink when I took dancing lessons.

Having a vivid imagination all of my life has contributed wonderful dreams and ideas about all sorts of things. One thing I have always been is a Writer. That actually came to pass as a newspaper reporter and writer. When turning 50 I decided to go to college. At last.

So all of the above is brain-storming for my blogging101 assignment today. The goal was three topics… I jotted down 13 off the top of my head. So I’ll research the blogs to find kindred souls and topics of interest. That narrows down to more than I can count.

Writing is its own reward, of course, and I can certainly marvel at my own deathless prose and clever turns of expression…but writing for a field of potential bloggers who might be interested in what I have to say is priceless.

Why Am I here?

Ah, the age-old question. Easy answers, but maybe complicated.

I am here because I have endless blog ideas in my head, begging to be published. More to the point is that I need a shove to get this stuff out where others can read it–if they are interested.

Metaphorically my brain is less like an orderly file cabinet, and more like a series of cardboard boxes filled willy-nilly with stories and ideas, rough drafts, deathless prose just waiting to be uncovered. This material might never see the light of day without a shove in the right direction.

Here’s a few topics I want to include in my blog: CATS. Writing. Back In the Day…, Books. Collecting stuff. History. Opinionated Rants and Pious Preaching. Outrageous Historical Misinformation.

Actually I already have an introduction to my blog, SOMETIMES, which has been languishing in my blog draft file. In fact…there are a couple of such intro pieces, now that I think about it.

…glad to be aboard!

November has arrived…

Yep, it’s the first of November. It’s raining, soaking the maple leaves coating everything. My van is sitting out in the drive, waiting to get into the garage, which only involves moving a half dozen boxes of stuff from the garage so there is room for the car. Sigh. It can’t be that easy of course.

I like rain…always have. Especially loud clapping thunder, and pouring rain coming straight down. Lightning not so much but when that is part of the sky show lightning has its own charm, albeit danger.

Welcome to my Wonderland

When Alice fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, she had no clue as to what to expect.    She didn’t know where she was going, what she would find once she got there, and why the whole thing was happening.   “What the heck?”  Alice must have said.
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Actually the whole adventure must have been something like writing a blog.   Where to go?   What to do?

There is a vague idea of where THIS blog is going.   It will be rambling, like any good blog, and really have no set-in-stone content.   It will deal with Dreams, Wishes, True Life Adventures, and History.   It is a diary, a journal actually…which will include wishful thinking, harsh reality, political commentary, photo albums, maybe some humor.   Of course humor is in the opinion of the beholder, and what one person thinks is hilariously entertaining another will consider stupid and boring.   There is Smiling Humor, Rolling Eyes Humor, Smirk Humor, and Sick Humor and I suppose there will be a little bit of each herein.

The stories will be true, unless otherwise noted.   Of course the occasional exaggeration, or half-truth, or would-be truth, or even could-be-truth, or might-have-been truth.   Sometimes a locale will be identified by a made-up name, or vaguely described.   Many individuals who are named will be mis-identified, or even fictitious.  Where historical or presumed factual information accompanies photographs or news reports the information is to the best of my recollection or point-of-view.   In the case of errors, please feel free to let me know when information is wrong or incomplete. Maybe I’ll edit it.

The photography and writing is mine, unless otherwise stated.   Many of the photos were taken by my late husband, Bob who excelled at photography, as well as most other things!

So come on in to my version of Wonderland!   Enjoy the scenery and the stories, and have a good time looking around.

An unlikely visit from a Hummingbird.

My story about the Butterfly on my deck originally included a Hummingbird.  The tale is true, but I decided not to stretch my credibility by putting two improbable creatures in the same post, but they were in fact on my deck under a canopy at the same time.

There are a pair of the little birds that work the red Bee Balm, and the huge Hibiscus flowers, a brilliant scarlet.  We have had hummingbirds in the gardens for years, so although they never outwear their welcome and run short of charm, they are not really a novelty.   The birds prefer red, going after Million Bells hanging plants which they like so much they actually come around the plant to work the flowers hanging underneath the roof.  They are not shy about being inside the canopy.

Photo by Karen Chandler, Visioning

So, while I was trying to get the photos of the black and blue Butterfly with my battery-less camera a hummingbird came around the Million Bells and encountered me–standing less than arms length from his hovering pattern as he treaded air for maybe ten seconds before it flew up and away.   Maybe it saw its reflection in my glasses.

This is the first time a bird and I have been in such close proximity, although we do watch them frequently through the glass door.  Too bad the camera was following Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong, it will — and I admit it is the operator and not the camera that are to blame.

©Patricia Dreger, Sometime, 2011

[Thanks to photographer and blogger Karen Chandler, of Visioning, photography and digital scrapbooking, for permission to use her photo of the hummingbird.]

Butterflies and Cameras

 At first I thought it was artificial, a butterfly made of painted wood, with wire legs and antennae.  One of the kids had put it there to fool me, or as a surprise.   I stared at it closely, and one of its legs twitched almost imperceptibly.  Its black body was covered with white polka-dots, close together in horizontal rows.  It appeared almost surreal, its delicate wings black and a cobalt blue, with yellow and white dots.

My cellular phone was in my pocket, and I took three photos before the phone’s camera froze up.   It would not shut down, save, change functions… the light would not go off.

[Here’s where the plot thickens, in maddening illustration of Murphy’s Law of Cameras.]

My trusty Nikon had died, and I had been using my son’s camera.  It works well enough, as long as the packaging tape holding the battery case stays tightly in place.  But there was a problem, I had neglected to replace the batteries…I guess hoping for a break giving  another burst of power .   The power light flickered a couple of times then quit.  OH NO!  Prying off the tape was more difficult than it sounds, but there were four AA batteries in the refrigerator.      They would not work…apparently old batteries that should have been thrown away.

I kept glancing out the window, checking to make sure the butterfly was still there.   I tried to call my camera savvy daughter, who was not answering her phone.  Verizon had a “longer than normal wait” for service.   A small radio in my room had no batteries.  Finally another look into the refrigerator bag miraculously provided four brand new AAs, which worked fine.  The tape worked as it was supposed to and the battery case was in place.   The red light came on.

During my frantic search the butterfly continued to sit in place without moving, for a full twenty minutes.   Once it spread its wings fully and walked up the post a few inches, stretching its legs.  But when I went back outside, the camera ready–the butterfly was no longer there– apparently tired of waiting for me to get my act together.

Well…the photo that I did get turned out, proving that my butterfly was real.   I’m honored to have communicated with the butterfly.   Now if my camera skills, or rather my battery replacing skills improve–maybe I’ll be ready the next time nature leaves me a beautiful gift.

©Patricia Dreger, Sometime, 2011