I wormed my way into The Hennessey Clipper newspaper business after 30 years in the classroom, and it saved my life. In the course of seven years, I covered what passed for a drug bust, the excavation scene where the rumored body of a woman wasn’t found, a tragic murder/suicide, a tornado east of town and the infamous ice storm of 2001.

I also took maybe a million bad photos over which co-publisher Bill Walter worked his magic until one of them actually gained public acclaim. State level, I think. Maybe national. A bunch of black birds on a telephone line out back, where a co-worker held the ladder while I crawled onto the roof to get the perfect shot.

I’d learned to know Bill’s wife Barbara, the other co-publisher, first through her son when he was my student and then through a writing group — “The Hennessey Word Weavers” and its splinter group, “The Write Sisters.” Members of writing groups get to know each other well, and she could see that I needed to get back to work.

Bill and Barb wanted someone at the front desk who could make change at the cash register; someone who could type ads on Page Maker; someone who could fill out her own time sheet; someone who hadn’t been in total control of her work environment for the past three decades.

For awhile it looked like I wasn’t it, but then Barb suggested I try a couple of feature stories, maybe a column, and what did I think about starting a Newspaper in Education program for the school kids?

I knew the Walters had decided to keep me the day Bill unboxed a wide, two-drawer file cabinet and shoved it up beside the desk I’d resurrected in the paste-up room between the FAX machine and the printer.

I did it all, and it all made me happy. The Walters equipped me with a cell phone once they realized how directionally challenged I was. I’d head out on country roads knowing they were only a phone call away when I got lost, and the only price I’d pay was having to listen to their ribbing.

Lunch was a hurried 2 o’clock meal across the street at Gayle’s Grill, and deadline-Tuesday-night meals were at whichever cafe was still open. I’d never received a Christmas bonus until my first year with the Clipper, and I about tear up remembering it.

None of my newspaper career was remotely close to my original profession, but I grew to enjoy being a newspaper flunky as much as I’d enjoyed presiding over a classroom. The writing I’d taught most of my life was far different from what was required of an aspiring journalist — a distinction I never reached, but the journey was a hoot.

Before I left there, I was defensive of the sinkhole out back where I parked, had established a kinship with the door I opened with my own key and the tiny but immaculate bathroom near the dark room where Bill developed film before the digital age.

The huge back room is still lined with the heavy machinery Bill’s dad and his family used to get out the paper at the turn of the 19th century. In the middle is the pool table where we labeled and stacked papers Wednesday mornings.

Barb and Bill Walter were inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame earlier this month — the only husband/wife team ever to receive that honor. They earned it with their blood, sweat and tears. I know. I was there. I saw it happen.



MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.

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