Please permit me this chance for some personal reflection — I wrote these thoughts several days in advance of Wednesday which is the first day in almost 139 years this town hasn’t had the ‘Nashville News.’
I also admit that I’ve had very conflicted feelings as this day approached.
One of my first newspaper memories is the day brother Jim and I took off on our first paper route. One of the covey of paperboys had quit, and Jimmy and I only had about a week to learn his route. We were young — I think I was 9 and that would have made him 7 — and we split the route because it was so big. I have a very clear memory of us pedaling up Shepherd Street; him on one side and me on the other. Dad had bought us baskets for the handlebars, and we loaded them with newspapers. In those days, each newspaper was labeled with the subscriber’s name. I guess it meant we were supposed to learn the names. Eventually, we did, but in the beginning probably no one got ‘their’ paper. Soon, the ‘News’ stopped using the labels.
Somewhere along the route he and I would split up. My part of the route took me past Frances Bacon’s beauty parlor on Sixth Street. On hot summer days when I delivered her paper, she’d invite me inside and give me an ice cold Coke. I was grateful, but I usually drank it fast because I couldn’t stand the smell of whatever it was that stylists put on women’s hair in those days. Also, I was uncomfortable sitting around a half-dozen ladies who had their heads stuck up in a hair dryer.
All the way through high school Jimmy and I were also janitors at the ‘News’ office. Clean up was hell on the day after print day. It was still dark when we got there on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and there would be a ton of waste newsprint to be swept out. The first time I ever drove the family station wagon without an adult was on one cold, dark, wet winter morning. Swampy tossed me the keys and warned me to be careful.
Over the years I did just about everything at the South and North Main ‘Nashville News’ locations. I was a genuine Printer’s Devil.
I wrote my first news story when I was a junior in high school.
Every time I came home on leave from the Navy, or on holiday from college, Swampy put me to work at the paper. All of my siblings worked there, too.
Our county’s first casualty in the Vietnam War was a young airman named Jacklin Boatwright. He was married to an NHS classmate of mine. When we learned of his death, Dad sent me out to talk to the widow to get a story. I was only about a year out of Vietnam, myself. At that time he was listed as Missing in Action. I lied to her and said I was sure he would be found okay. She’s gone now, too.
When I started covering the Nashville City Council for the ‘News,’ the City Attorney was a veteran of World War I.
I remember how nervous I was when Swampy and Wilton and my siblings left on a vacation, and I was ‘alone’ with the responsibility of getting the paper out. I was editor and publisher of the ‘News’ from 1975-2003. In my years at the ‘News’ I wrote about some great events and some bad ones.
Only halfway joking, I still tell young journalists that I wrote the all-time greatest lead (or lede) sentence for a sports story. Nashville somehow got tricked into playing Fayetteville in football one year. The Bulldogs were three classifications above the Scrappers. They were unbeaten and ranked in the top three or four teams overall in the state.
It was a miracle, but Nashville won.
I really wanted my sports story to be as great as that Scrapper victory, so I fooled around for the whole weekend before our next issue trying to write a lede that was good enough.
Finally it came to me. My lede sentence didn’t mention a score, or football, or Scrappers or Bulldogs.
It was this: “Behind the flaming gates of Hell there is one perfect snowball.”
An old buddy with the Associated Press used to tell me each year it was still the greatest.
I also wrote the other kind of news stories, including obituaries for my father and my wife. Well, I still can’t even think about that for long.
Since the summer of 2003 I’ve been most occupied with ‘The Leader’ and I am still so happy to be associated with John R, Pam, Tracy Jo, John and Mickey. We’re only a couple of months away from our 14th birthday, and we’re looking forward to many more. Thanks to you.
THINGS I LEARNED from reading e-mail: You can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
HE SAID: “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” Sam Walton, businessman
SHE SAID: “Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.” — Princess Diana
SWEET DREAMS, Baby