In The Beginning (Before Ace)
Writing my column for The Independent in the early 1960s was the beginning of what I envisioned as a lucrative journalism career that would span decades. It lasted for 14 years, almost a decade and a half.
I can't say it was lucrative. But it was fun. Also hectic, scary, frustrating and draining. The ten-cents a column inch told me this was no get-rich-quick scheme, but the benefits: I could do the column at home and make one trip a week to town, seven miles, to deliver my copy and since I had to go grocery shopping once a week anyway, the $l.20 I received for my effort in those days paid for the gas. And I didn't have to hire a sitter.
Most important, it gave me a chance to see my name in print. In those days having a by-line (even at ten-cents a column inch) was a big deal in my book.
Chuck Kimble, was my hero at the time. But even more exciting was to have my words published in the same paper as Jack Rogers, the owner-publisher at the time, who also served as a state senator. That was before he was "sent up" to McNeil Island's federal penitentiary to pick apples for a spell, his "crime" having been extreme untidiness concerning his income tax. But that's a whole other story.
Not too many years ago a young woman J-school graduate asked me how I really got started in the news business. I told her, "Start with a clean sheet of paper in a corrupt newsroom." Of course, that was before PCs arrived on the newspaper scene. Computers were just beginning to find their way into the business but hadn't yet become routine.
So I suppose my answer to the young woman today would be, "Start with a clean keyboard," etc.
I sometimes wonder why I never followed my own advice and attempted to peddle my articles to those publications found at supermarket checkstands. Ah, well. My kids (and now grandchildren) would never understand why a nice little old lady like me would even think such thoughts, let alone write them down.
Thinking back I guess I was always destined to write, if not the Great American Novel, at least little columns expressing my innermost thoughts and feelings. My inspiration to put words on paper came from two sources: Ted Ziegler, a friend of my brother's back in Chicago who I dated a couple of times as a junior in high school, and Don Horsley, my high school English teacher.
Mr. Horsley would drag me kicking and screaming through the parts of speech in my senior year, knowledge of which was necessary to get a diploma. God! How I hated English comp! But he was willing to spend the extra time, and he was a really nice man, so I drilled, and I learned--and promptly forgot everything he taught me the day after finals.
Ted was another story. He became an actor and enjoyed some success as a television personality in Chicago and gained a prominent spot on the old Sonny & Cher show. It was when I first came out to Washington State from Chicago that Ted would write me encouraging and sometimes very funny letters. After a few months of correspondence he said I had a talent for putting words on paper. I didn't begin to think seriously about what he said until many years later.