This Friday I retire. Not just after 31 years here at the St. Joseph News-Press, but from a working life that began at about 12 years old.
Starting from stacking pop bottles at Jake’s Drug store and throwing newspapers, I end my working career as a news reporter and columnist, a job I only dreamed of doing.
In between, I worked a variety of jobs including baker, steel mill worker, railroad worker, vacuum cleaner salesman, herbicide plant worker, grain mill laborer and others I can’t recall at the moment. From all those jobs I gained valuable experience learning about life and people.
It was my years as a newsman that gave me the most rich experiences. I met a lot of people and have seen lot of things in my time here, experiences I’ll treasure forever in my memories.
I’ve interviewed famous people and not-famous people. I’ve written about strange things and places around here, like the Grand Canyon of Kansas.
I’ve listened to old men tell tall tales inside country gas stations and small-town barbershops. I’ve eaten harvest dinners in country churches where pies were made from scratch with fruit picked from the trees, meat came from the farm and everything was blessed in prayer.
I’ve covered hate rallies, such as those headed by the the Rev. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Church clan.
I met John Sigenthaler, press secretary for Robert Kennedy, even dined at his home. I met Marques Haynes, one of the original Harlem Globetrotters, and interviewed other famous athletes like negro baseball legend the late Buck O’Neil.
I’ve won numerous awards for my writing and my work in the community. Former editorial page editor Mark Sheehan and I founded the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival.
I created a journalism workshop for disadvantaged youth.
As I list these accomplishments, I see I’ve had an illustrious career. I never realized those things were that special while I was doing them. Hindsight makes them richer. It was the journey, not the destination, that counts.
I knew I’d have to write this column one day, I just didn’t know when until now.
As a young man I’d walk past the News-Press building and dream of working here. I come from blue-collar folks, I was blue-collar so I never thought I’d get a chance. The Bradley family gave me that in June of 1989, and I vowed I’d work my tail off to stay here.
I enjoyed walking up the steps to the building every morning and into the newsroom, listening to the editor chatter and the TV news. I’ll miss that and the energy of election night in the newsroom.
I’ll miss the phone calls from my readers and the trips to the small towns in the area.
I won’t be completely gone. I plan to take a few weeks off to relax and then return to write my column in a month or so. But my career as a newsman is over. I’ve enjoyed you readers, the experiences and the ride.