Coming home for Christmas break as a freshman in college, my loving mother, Bonita, told me I needed to check in with (the late) Rick Simmons at The Jackson Herald.
Working for the City of Ripley Police Department, my mom was in contact with Rick on virtually a daily basis.
I was majoring in communications in school and Rick, who had covered my days as an athlete at Ripley High, wanted to see if there was any interest from me in doing part-time work for the newspaper.
Was there ever. Talk about a nice Christmas gift.
My first story was about the late Walter McCrady, who at the time was 83 years old.
Stationed at Camp Lee in Virginia, McCrady was granted the chance to play for a baseball team there. And low and behold his team faced off with the Cincinnati Reds in an exhibition game.
McCrady was tabbed as the starting pitcher.
Not only did he pitch, but McCrady won the game on the mound against the Reds.
The interview with McCrady and subsequent writing of the story took place in December of 1979.
Thus, the true start to my days as a writer was launched in the school year of 1979-80.
And now, here we are 40 years later.
I’m still writing with the same burning desire that was within my soul at the young age of 18.
The late Dave Diles, a nationally-known sportscaster and book author from nearby Meigs County, who became a dear friend, once told me about his days starting out in newspapers.
“I had the ink in my veins.”
Without question, so did I. And to this day, I still do.
The McCrady story led to more and more work.
For the next couple of years I filled the sports pages of The Jackson Herald under Rick’s guidance with game stories and features. I’m still amazed at how quickly Rick could take notes and crank out stories on yellow legal pads.
I moved over to what was then The Ravenswood News in the summer of 1982 and had the great fortune of working for another outstanding newspaper man in the late Phil Fourney.
While with The Ravenswood News, I teamed up with the late Bob Staats to produce two full pages (and often times more) of sports twice a week.
Later, The Ravenswood News became The Jackson Star News and the crafting of stories continued.
As most know, today The Jackson Herald and The Jackson Star News are owned by the same company.
Each week I contribute as much as possible.
After graduating from college, I entered the circles of broadcasting. First in radio and later television.
Working for these two aspects of the media has been very rewarding. I’ve gotten to see and be a part of some great events through the years on the high school, collegiate and professional sports scenes.
But regardless of all the work that has taken place as a broadcaster, I’ve still managed to find time, and more importantly, be granted the opportunity by an array of leaders for these papers to write stories.
From legal pads to the computer age, tons of game stories, sports columns, sports features, human interest features and news stories have been written along the way by yours truly.
I love having the chance to write the stories about the many teams, athletes and coaches gracing our presence in Jackson County over the course of time. The friendships made have come by the truckload.
Whether it is Little League results or a mammoth Year in Review piece, I’ve tackled all the stories the same way – with passion.
Not only has the writing been enjoyable, but also very therapeutic. It’s neat helping to record history on a local level.
Besides the current building on Race Street, a true Ravenswood staple and the current home of both newspapers, I’ve written at four other venues in Jackson County (the old Herald Building on Court Street, the newspaper office for the Herald in the Ripley Plaza, the Herald office on Church Street and the Star News newspaper office for a brief time on Washington Street).
I’m truly grateful to General Manager Frank Adkins, a great athlete in his day as a Ripley Viking, and Barbara Layton, who is as versatile as they come at reporting, photography and layout, for allowing me to keep on doing what I love.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research for future stories by going through the bound volumes of The Jackson Herald, The Ravenswood News and The Jackson Star News.
Any trip to the building has the memory bank overflowing and even more while sifting through page after page of newspapers produced through the years.
With the writing came plenty of laughter, starting with Rick, Phil and Bob. The late Shelby Young, who knew the newspaper business inside and out, was always ready for a good laugh.
Throw in the likes of Greg Matics, Doug Skeen, Mike Ruben, the late Hank Gibson and the late Greg Carter, all talents in their own right, and it was a case of “Let the laughter begin” anytime we all got together.
The aforementioned are just the start of all the great folks I’ve had the chance to work with in some form or fashion since that start in December of 1979.
The memories are plentiful.
They keep me going.
It is my mission to continue writing.
It’s a way of life.
I love writing about sports and food, but most of all I love writing about people. On many occasions I have said how great it would be to do a story on every single person living here. After all, everyone’s life has a great story.
With 40 years under my belt, the goal is perhaps 40 more.
That would put me right at age 100.
It’s worth a shot.
For I am so thankful to all of those who have given me a shot to write all these years about so many wonderful men, women, young adults and children.
People who have helped make Jackson County such a special place.