A Word From Rose
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know you can’t just write a newspaper column about your own friends and family, so once again I became the neighborhood pest, but I needed to whack out something to measure up to 12 inches a week.
It was getting through to me that the column I turned in each Tuesday carried the same folks doing the same old things week after dreary week. So I went back to making up what I thought people should be doing, using fictitious names of course.
The editor soon caught on when for a month straight he read about a Mr. and Mrs. Rosenburg doing some very unusual and sometimes bizarre things at their house. He called me in to find out what was going on and it was then I had to confess that there was no Mr. and Mrs. Rosenburg and that I'd been making it all up. "How come", he asked?
"Because my neighbors won't speak to me anymore! They just hang up when I call!"
The “neighborhood” gossip column continued and the editor let me invent some more neighbors, as long as I qualified all persons and situations as fictitious. Writing a humor column just sort of evolved. I was certainly enjoying the ride but was becoming restless and really needed a job-job. I went down to the Independent office one day to ask the editor if there were any openings at all. I had experience as a secretary, having worked for a title insurance company and other offices for many years. He said there was nothing but that he’d keep me in mind if something came up.
Soon after I went to work for a local insurance agency and continued to write the column in my spare time.
Spare Time...did I mention we had six kids? There they were, growing up straight and tall (much taller than me eventually) in the little beach house we bought in Harper just months before our youngest was born.
Tommy was two years old when I started driving to Port Orchard once a week trotting off, with "A Word From Rose", which my editor thought was a great column heading. (He made it up).
I never liked being called "Rose". A name like that suggests a sweet smelling flower. In those days I smelled like diaper rash cream and peanut butter.
When I began my stint at the insurance agency I made up my mind that it would only be temporary, that my constant nagging as I swung by the paper with my column each week would eventually wear them down.
That didn't happen. What did happen was the editor left for a better job at the daily paper across the bay. A new editor was hired and I looked forward to meeting the new guy when I turned in my column the following week. He wasn’t there but Madonna, the office manager at The Independent, stopped me before I went out the door and said I could come to work as her assistant if I wanted to give that a try. Wow! That was unexpected! She said she already ran it by the publisher-owner, Jack Rogers, and he said it was okay. So I gave my notice at the insurance office and started wrapping up things there.
Quite unexpectedly Ace Comstock, the new editor, burst through the door a day or so later, fit to be tied. He introduced himself and said, "I understand Madonna has told you about a job opening at the paper." I said, "Yes, she did...” and then wondered if he was there to say they wouldn’t be needing me, the opening was filled by somebody else...
He continued his wheezing narrative (Ace was a chain smoker as were many folks in those days) while I stood there with what I thought was my best poker face. I was so sure that the job offered me a few days earlier by Madonna had evaporated that I was barely paying attention to this banty rooster with the attitude of a bulldozer that I almost missed the part about ..."Madonna is not the boss, I am… and I am here to say you have the job! From now on you take orders from me, not the office manager!"
With that he whirled about and was out the door while I stood there, wide-eyed, mouth open, wondering if I'd missed something....
That was it. That was the beginning of my career in the newspaper business. Up to that time I felt as though I would always be on the fringes, and never really be accepted into that glorified inner circle of editorial news rooms. I still wasn’t, being hired as an office assistant, but that’s beside the point.
I didn't have to tell the boss at the insurance agency that I would be leaving a tad earlier than I had announced earlier. He heard the whole conversation from the time Ace walked through the door. I cleaned out my personal stuff and said I'd be back on Friday to get my last check. I followed the bald spot with the short legs the three blocks up the street to the Independent office.
So that was the beginning. I was now officially a member of a weekly newspaper staff, even though the job was strictly clerk status and nothing more. There was no way, Madonna said, that Ace would have me do any reporting and I was not to get any ideas about making the switch from general office duties to the news department. I figured it was better than nothing and, since the pay was about the same as I was getting at the insurance office, I was eager to get started in my new “career”.