The Paw Paw River Journal
My last column
When I started writing my column, I knew it would have to end sometime. And I’m a little surprised it has lasted this long! Robert Frost said in a poem, “…as dawn goes down today, so nothing gold can stay.” He means that everything in this world is finite. My Webster’s says finite means not being permanent, not lasting forever.
I’ve told this story before, but for one last time I’d like to say when I retired from teaching I had no notion that I would ever be writing a newspaper column. We moved back to our home in Hartford, and I called The Tri-City Record to get a subscription. We wanted to keep up on the local news.
Annie Bayer answered the phone. She was doing all that front office stuff for Karl back then. We talked and in the process of ordering a subscription she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was a newly retired English teacher. She said, “What are you doing now, Mr. Davis?”
I said, “Oh, I keep a journal and I’m writing a couple of books.”
Annie said, “I think my husband would like to talk. Could he come over to see you?”
He did, and we had a most enjoyable conversation. He was looking for someone to write a newspaper column with a local Hartford slant. He said he didn’t want some fly-by-night who would do it for a while and then get tired. But he would like to find someone who could write.
We talked and I agreed to give it a try. I said there were just two things I was worried about. One was that I didn’t want anyone correcting my work… after all, I was an English teacher and should know what I was doing. The other was that I didn’t ever want one of my stories to be shortened to fit in a space. Karl had no problem with that, so I became an employee of the newspaper. And that was all those long years ago!
So what’s it been like? At first I had some trouble with the parameters… guess I tended to be a little long-winded. But I finally settled on an approximate length of about a page and a half, typed and single spaced. Over the years now that’s been about it. And I’ve always worried someday I’d run out of words… like the little kid who just stopped talking. When someone asked him why he was so silent, he said, “I just don’t have any more words in my mouth!”
Fortunately my fears so far have been unfounded. I was a little worried when we had lost all the old-timers to whom I used to go for stories. I have come to realize now we are the old-timers. Still a little scary!
When I was but a wee nipper I used to read The Hartford Day Spring. Editor Don Cochrane had a feature column every week called Around Town & Elsewhere. Guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve been doing this… I admired his off-the-wall humor and stories about local celebrities and people who were not noteworthy other places.
I have been so worried we would lose all of our small-town newspapers. And they are dropping out at an alarming rate. Somewhere along in there I decided I would do what I could to reverse that trend. I told Karl I would not ask him for a raise. I wanted to keep the newspaper going… I feel all of the local weekly papers are a necessary part of Americana! What I never told him was how much I enjoy doing just what I’m doing here.
I know I have been an integral part of The Record. Karl is an excellent news man, just as Annie has loyally backed him up. For years she gathered ads and wrote things for the paper. Daughter Amy does the front desk duties now, and she does them well. The Bayers over the years have attracted some excellent people to work on the paper. Had it not been for the foregoing, this newspaper would have been just another statistic in the gathering twilight of small-town America.
I have been writing about darkness settling on small towns like Hartford. And I hope to do some more before I’m finished. People seem to enjoy it when I dip into the past. Well, the past is solid. It’s fixed for all time and can never be changed now. I believe we should do all we can to preserve the way of life we all love. I know, I know, it’s a futile task!