Today marks 19 years of writing this article for The Tallassee Tribune.
The same day I left the “Coffeebreak” TV show that had been on the air 16 years, Jack Venable walked into the Coffeebreak trailer. I was finishing up the last log so I could close everything out. I loved the TV show but the hours were long and grueling and I didn’t feel like I could continue to hold out and do a good job so I thought it best to leave it.
Jack and I sat and talked for a while and, naturally, had some coffee. As we talked, Jack said, “I want you to write a weekly article for me.”
I asked what he wanted me to write about and he said, “Tell the people the same things you did on the TV show. Take them on trips, tell them about this cotton mill town, the street you grew up on, the same things you would talk about on the street corner with a group of your buddies.”
I was a young 66 at the time Jack and I were talking. We agreed and I told him I would write an article or two and if he wasn’t satisfied to let me know. I haven’t missed but two articles since and that was under different editors.
I have enjoyed it. People are always asking how I come up with a different story each week. I don’t write like other writers. Most of them sit down once a week and write an article. I may write four articles this week and nothing for the next few weeks. Someone may say something or I may see something and there is a story. I never look back at old stories hunting something to write. I write what I am thinking; if I am happy you get a happy article and if I am depressed that is the story you get.
I keep a pad in my pocket and keep notes. Most of them are one- or two-word notes, just enough to jog my memory. If my arithmetic is right, 19 years comes to 988 articles without a repeat.
Do I have any favorites among them? At the time every article I write is my favorite. I don’t like to write just for the sake of writing. Years ago, I wrote an article about the pros and cons of going barefoot and a lot of people commented on it. My articles have come under a number of people since the death of Jack Venable and he was always ready to encourage. I’m sure there were times when he wanted to make changes but he never did.
I didn’t see Jack in those days as much as I saw Jane Parker. In the past 19 years, I have worked with and around a lot of people but the crew at the old Tallassee Tribune was tops in my book. The No. 1 thought was harmony and this was headed by Jane Parker. They always greeted me as I entered and had encouraging things to say about my articles. I think anyone works better when they feel they are doing a good job.
How long will I continue? There are three things that will stop me: First, if they fire me and tell me I’m no longer needed; second, if I run out of things interesting to write about; and third, if the Grim Reaper catches up with me.
It has been a good 19 years and I have enjoyed it. Let’s get started on 20.