I got my start in the newspaper business long, long ago. I peddled my shiny, red, balloon-tired Schwinn up and down the streets of town each and every Wednesday afternoon delivering the weekly newspaper. I loved having a job (just like I do now) and I saved up that $1.46 per week (probably with better success than I do now) to buy all sorts of cool stuff. My first wooden Tad Davis tennis racquet and Meet the Beatles LP were purchased with that hard-earned money.
In junior high school, I moved on to bigger, better ventures. Even more dangerous than riding my bike through the Chicago suburbs, I started writing to express my thoughts and opinions. My first epic essay, “A Minor Crime of Everyday Life,” was an exposé about teachers cutting in line in front of students at the school cafeteria. It was wildly successful with my fellow classmates who were victimized—not so much with the teachers. Much to my surprise, my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, never encouraged me to go into journalism. Nevertheless, that brief brush with fame was some pretty heady stuff for a 12-year-old.
Our first high school English class assignment was to write an essay about the lyrics of our favorite song. Every student in my freshman English class wrote about Born Free. Yawn. I expounded upon the symbolism in For What It’s Worth, quickly setting the tone for a torturous four years with my English professors, who remained steadfast in their commitment to discourage me from expressing my immature teen angst and rebellion.
Regardless, I went on to pen (literally) everything from commentaries about high school social values to critiques of the Vietnam War. All of my high school English teachers—Miss Carlson, Mr. Bauman, Mr. Mayer and Mrs. Peterson—discouraged me from continuing to engage in “that kind of behavior,” and instead urged me to “live up to my full potential.”
Conveniently fast-forwarding a decade or so, my first real, but still unpaid, writing job was for a Wyoming underground paper called The Paper. Was there a reason we were so clever in the ’70s? Although I remember it as a pleasant and rewarding experience, I haven’t a clue what I wrote about….
Since I couldn’t make a living via my free, unmemorable writing gig, I decided to go to college, where my battle with English professors continued. Not owning a typewriter, and since computers weren’t invented yet, at least for home use, Mr. Saner apparently was unable to decipher my penmanship, and commented as such with a big fat red pen (the predecessor of the type I use now) on each and every paper I wrote.
To date, I have worked in various capacities in the publishing industry for about 30 years and feel very fortunate to have a job in journalism on a beautiful island filled with people who I love.
My only hope is that Mrs. Johnson, Miss Carlson, Mr. Bauman, Mr. Mayer, Mrs. Peterson and Mr. Saner are alive and well and hooked up to the Internet.