With today’s entry, my published blog posts have reached the century mark. Wow!! Well, I told myself in the beginning I’d write a blog post for every day I walked. Sometimes, I’d have errands and squeak in a small walk just so I could post something. Other times, inclement weather for days on end, kept me on the inside looking out. I racked up alot of posts in June and July when I walked a total of 100 miles since I was not out watering the gardens thanks to all the rain. Well, I’ve still got plenty of tread on my walking shoes, plus a spare pair, and I am not out of blog post ideas either. On my walks, I always see items worthy of a comment, reflection or just to ponder on. Some incidents are funny, some are sad and many times I am reminded of people, places or things from my past. Memories are nice to drag out and reflect on sometimes.
I often come home from a walk, my head brimming with thoughts for that day’s blog. Sometimes I have to write down some of the ideas as I may not hop online for awhile. I jot my thoughts in a wide-ruled composition notebook, or a “scribbler” as my mom would call it. My mom faithfully kept the household books for years in a well-worn black-and-white marbled composition book, she referred to as her “scribbler”. I just Googled the definition of “scribbler” and all I could find was “a messy writer” or “a person who writes as a hobby”. Hmmmmm. Well both of those could classify this blogger. I shall continue to use and call it a “scribbler”. The fodder for future blog posts is endless as far as I can tell. That’s a good thing because last week I climbed aboard the Heritage Newspapers Community Blog train and now I am a blogging partner there. How exciting!!!! I’ve not written anything in nearly 35 years – it’s like re-inventing myself. I must say that I share the recently deceased Helen Thomas’ exhilaration about being hooked on writing (after receiving her first byline). She said:
“seeing my byline for the first time was an ego-swelling event, and soon afterward I joined the staff of the paper,” …. “I became dedicated to the proposition that this was the life for me.”
I heard that remark several times right after her death a few weeks ago. I always admired Helen Thomas and her tenacity as she pressed for the facts behind each story. We also share the same alma mater – Wayne State University.
I got my first byline in the Henry Ford Community College newspaper, The Ford Estate. With my fellow students in Journalism 31, under the direction of our teacher Louise Schlaff, we published a weekly newspaper. We got class credits of course, but the class was so much more than mere credits. It was a wonderful learning experience. I bonded with my fellow newspaper cronies and we became inseparable the two years we lived, worked and breathed everything about The Ford Estate. This dozen of guys and gals became the new group of inseparable friends and colleagues, quickly supplanting my high school girlfriends. We lived in the newspaper office between our respective classes and never ate in the school cafeteria; it was merely the place to purchase coffee, pop or food. We had breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner and drank gallons of coffee in the “newsroom” while pounding out our stories on a handful of rickety Royal manual typewriters on flimsy foolscap paper. There was no automatic correcting tape or White-Out, just those chalky little strips that you held behind the ribbon and white flakes came off everywhere. It was best to avoid the mess of correcting your errors and try to type for speed and accuracy whenever possible. Most younger people probably have never used a typewriter, let alone a non-correcting, non-electric model. We gathered the campus news and views, checked our facts (in the library of course – no Google or FactCheck.org for us), we honed our stories to perfection, submitted them for roundtable discussion and our editor Frank Merriam and Mrs. Schlaff would say “yay” or “nay”. We could have used word processing in those days as each rewrite had to be retyped from scratch. Once finalized, we then laid out the paper in skinny columns, intermingled with pictures and then affixed glue to the back of everything to do paste-ups of the newspaper. It smelled to high heaven of glue in the “newsroom” during paste-ups. Often we arranged and re-arranged to get the galley proof, then finally, one of us would scurry off to the local print shop on the way home so we met our Thursday publishing date timely. We did every step through putting the newspaper to bed and it was a tedious process – you have to remember this was eons before Desktop Publishing.
As soon as the paper went to the printer, work began on the next week’s edition. Assignments were handed out and divvied up. The roundtable sessions were the only time we all met together as a group. Then and when we went every Friday night to Bimbos in Dearborn to have some of their pizza and a mug of beer and sing along to the Red Garter Band and follow the red dancing ball on the wall. We’d also re-group in the Summer, when school was out and if work schedules would permit, to go to series shows at the old Pine Knob where we saw Beach Boys, Chicago and others annually. Those were fun times. We were all single, not seeing anyone and our mutual goal was getting leads, following leads to stories, taking pictures and putting the paper to bed. How proud we felt to see our bylines and our stories or to pass through the cafeteria or Student Center, and seeing fellow students flipping through the newspaper … our newspaper.
There were exciting moments: I wrote a story about a woman student, blind since birth, who was undergoing some medical procedures to try to give her partial sight. I interviewed her a couple of times to get the story. The second interview was conducted in the sunny Cafeteria. Sun was streaming through the windows and all of a sudden Doris stood up and said “praise be – I can see” – tears were streaming down her face and my face as well as I watched her. She kept shaking her head back-and-forth and we hugged, and after an emotional fifteen-minute respite, we sat down and resumed, then completed the interview. My story “We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight” appeared in that week’s paper. A fellow reporter and I did a tandem interview with HFCC President, Dr. Stuart Bundy. We went to the interview with trepidation. Mrs. Schlaff told us he rarely granted interviews and it was liking pulling teeth to get a story. But Joyce and I did not meet him in his office to query about school policies or budgets or some boring or mundane subject. We were there to quiz him about his brand-new baby boy. He opened up and joyously told us about this firstborn and believe me the interview was not like pulling teeth – he was so overcome with joy that he fairly hovered in his big chair. He pulled out pictures and laid them out, almost as if he was playing Solitaire. all across his huge desk. Our title of the story ended up being “Bouncing Baby Boy for Bundy” – he loved it! We also did a funny piece about streaking when it was all the rage. One of the male reporters and our photographer got to campus very, very, very early on a Sunday morning and Dennis photographed Gary in the buff from behind streaking in front of the Liberal Arts Building….shhhhh, no one ever knew it was a staged picture, and we all vowed to never tell. One of our male reporters went on to become the long-time editor of the Dearborn Press and Guide and now is Wayne County Commissioner. I don’t know if anyone else in our group is or was as renowned as Gary Woronchak. We all came from diverse backgrounds and various high schools around the Wayne County area – we studied hard, produced a good newspaper and even played football against Student Government to raise money for charity. What is odd is that as close-knit as we were for two years, each of us in this group of inseparable peers and friends, moved on to four-year institutions and never saw one another again.
University was a hard reality after community college – trimesters sped you from start to finish of class in 12 short weeks…you barely knew the name of the person who sat next to you in a large lecture hall. It was impersonal, not fun and a means to an end – graduating with a B.A. in Mass Communications. My print journalism internship was spent writing wire shorts at the Detroit office of Carl Byoir & Associates, a public relations service. They published a few blurbs with my byline, but it was hardly exciting or memorable. They only took me on, reluctantly as a favor to Wayne State University, because WSU required an internship during senior year and the market was flooded with journalism students and there were only so many local newspapers willing to take on non-paid interns.
So that was then, and this is now, some 35 years later. I only started this blog at the insistence of my neighbor, Marge Aubin, who enjoyed my daily “quote of the day” that I did for years and suspended in late 2010. She egged me on and said “write something already” and so the idea of a blog was born – a simple record of who, what, when, where and why walking and to document how many miles I walked. It means much more to me some one hundred blog posts later … and today as I post this 100th blog in 2013, I have 166 miles walked under my belt. I shall keep on stridin’ toward my next goal of 200 miles.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson