Eighteen years ago today (Aug. 28, 1995) was the most important day of my adult working career. It was my first day at The Evening Sun, I strode into the office on Hale Street, turned left at reception, and walked into the rectangular space that housed this newspaper's editorial and writing staff. All five of us!
It wasn't pretty, and the smells were a bouquet of ink, old newspapers, and flat-out dirt. Knowing the fastidious, tidy nature of our former managing editor, Jeff Genung, I have yet to figure out how he dealt with the abundance of filth that surrounded his work area.
Maybe Jeff was assuaged by the fact that Hale St. was home, and for five years, Jeff knew nothing else. In subsequent years, I remember Jeff often waxing nostalgic of those early days when page design process was archaic and tedious. Fortunately, I came on board in the age of computer-based desktop publishing.
Before day one, I went through the interview process with Jeff and publisher Dick Snyder, and aside from a quick introduction to assistant editor Karen Bergamo, I had had no formal introductions to the newspaper staff.
I walked to my desk area, and was greeted by the watchful, curious eyes of reporters Mike Hamilton, Kathy O'Hara, and David Warren. Karen was also there, but she was sitting at the head of the class – Jeff's desk – as the fill-in editor while Jeff was on vacation.
The only person I knew on staff – barely – and the person who hired me would be out for the next week?. Panic crept in slowly, then rose like water in the Hoover Dam when I had no damn idea how to turn on this blasted MacIntosh computer.
Where was the on/off button in the back like the IBM computer I was using at my previous job?
Not an auspicious start to a new career, one that was a complete departure from my work at Preferred Mutual Insurance Company, and close to a 180-degree turn from my college degrees in business and accounting.
But hey, I looked good in my dress slacks, dress shirt, coat, and tie. For about six months I maintained the sharp dress code that was required at the insurance company. After I while, I had the mindset that I was writing sports for a community newspaper, and a polo shirt and smart khakis would be enough to maintain a professional, yet approachable look. Eventually, any stylish tendencies fell by the wayside, and I began to wear "comfortable" clothes to work every day, and have now for about 17 years and two months.
To Jeff's chagrin, my work area also became quite "comfortable." It was a perfect example of the Odd Couple with Jeff as Felix, and yours truly as Oscar. Jeff was great about purging his work area of any unnecessary paperwork; I still haven't learned that lesson, and maybe I never will.
Earlier today, as I was driving to Greene to get some season preview information and photos of the field hockey team, I started to break down some of the key aspects of those 18 years. On a personal front, my son Elijah, now 18, was just two months old when I took the job. As I said in a previous article, Elijah is now a recent high school graduate, and is enlisted in the United States Air Force.
My daughter Miah came along two years later – Aug. 26, 1997. Monday, Miah celebrated her 16th birthday, and she promptly went to the DMV to get her driving permit. After driving her mom's Jeep earlier in the day, she took a turn driving my Nissan Altima. It was a trial by fire on her first day as I had her driving with me at night – and in Monday night's downpour. She did fantastic, although she warned her younger sister Arielle how difficult and challenging it is to drive a car.
Professionally, I have been blessed to work with a tremendous lot of local coaches. Most of those who were with me on day one are now retired from coaching or have moved on. The originals still with me are Bob Branham, Norwich golf; Sheila Cooman, field hockey coach at Sherburne-Earlville; Dave Loomis, boys' basketball coach at Otselic Valley; Jim Johnson, G-MU and Bob Conway, B-G, girls' basketball coaches; John Stewart, Norwich tennis, and George Williams, B-G tennis.
Not many left, especially knowing that I work with 100 to 110 varsity coaches per school year. I know my originals' time is short, and I selfishly hope they decide to stick around a few more years - I know I plan to!
Really, who would have expected a college business major who didn't know how to turn on his computer to last 18 years at a daily newspaper? As I always say, anything can happen in sports.
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