It never occurred to me at the ripe age of 12 why I couldn’t write an impressive news story from a simple day-to-day event.
I charged full-steam ahead writing eye-catching headlines, stories with high-interest appeal and added to my vocabulary by leaps and bounds.
That was my introduction to the newspaper business. I became the publisher, editor, reporter, typist and delivery gal for the Lincoln Street Gazette.
The summer after seventh grade I was going through a delicate phase similar to girls of my age group slipping into adolescence. Mom wasn’t going to allow me to hang around moaning and groaning without a purpose for days on end, so she proposed that I start a neighborhood newspaper.
The newspaper idea took off like a rocket in my mind thanks to my wise mother who knew exactly what I needed to keep me writing away, and I never looked back.
I couldn’t wait for high school when I could join the school paper as a reporter. I idolized those older kids confidently carrying their reporter’s pads with them and interviewing teachers and football stars — even the principal in his office.
In the meantime a newspaper might be a way for me to learn all about getting the facts straight, asking the tough questions and staying impartial giving both points of view. That meant taking the heat when things didn’t go right, too.
Mind you, our residential neighborhood was quite removed from crime and more socially connected than anything else, so my news beat wasn’t exactly in a high intensity area for controversial happenings.
I began work laying out a plan while sitting on the porch. My mind visualized all the different neighbors that lived on Lincoln Street, and I put their names down in a column in my notebook. I would go visit them on a weekly basis, collect information about their activities while interviewing them.
Our Lincoln Street neighborhood was made up of older retired people and for most of the time that my family lived there my sister and I were the only kids on the block.
My mother regularly visited one set or the other, and I had tagged along enough all my life to know each person quite well — at least I thought I did. The more I sat down and listened to their stories, the more I realized I was chronicling a period of time that would never be repeated.
Several days later I went into action dressing properly in my plaid skirt, white blouse and saddle shoes. Before I left the house Mom reminded me to be careful about what I was going to put in print because certain information might be private, and that someone might not want the rest of the neighbors in on it. She told me to make sure to copy down a quote exactly as it was said, and not to be afraid to ask someone to repeat.
Gathering the news became more captivating than I had ever anticipated, and I filled up my notebook easily just like Lois Lane of Superman fame.
Once I had the news gathered, I wrote it up copying the style of The New York Times. I studied how the reporters opened their stories, and it took effort to get the hang of it. I worked hard not putting my own slant on the news and I thought that I kept straight to the facts, although mom would come out of the kitchen checking every word once last time before the paper went to press — the typewriter, that is.
The hardest part was getting out the Smith Carona portable typewriter, lining up the carbon paper and hunting- pecking on the keyboard. I went along fine for a sentence or two, and I hit the wrong key. With a few utterances out of the corner of my mouth, out flung the paper, and I started again.
I wouldn’t hit the keys hard enough and upon inspecting the third carbon copy, it couldn’t be read. Back to step one over and over until publishing the paper would become a real chore. Often I would go swimming in the afternoon and decide to abandon the whole crazy newspaper idea.
Surprisingly, not a single friend of mine visited when I was working for fear of being trapped into typing.
I recruited my younger sister, — or should I say coerced her — to sell copies for two cents each. When I added up how much I would make a week, I quickly drew the conclusion that 21 copies wouldn’t put very much change in my pocket. I gave away the issues for free as it wasn’t a moneymaking operation.
By August the glamour had tarnished a bit with the behind-the-scene work keeping me glued to the paper’s deadline instead of soaking up the sunshine.
I constantly fretted if I would have enough news, and always in those situations, out of nowhere at the last minute a hot story would save my neck — Mrs. R. gets a new refrigerator delivered.
When I went around to the neighbors delivering the paper, it was well worth it to see the smiles on my customers’ faces.
The Lincoln Street Gazette kept in print sporadically for several years after I joined the high school paper. Long after I left home to go off to college those neighbors still would tell my parents how much the newspaper meant to them.
This summer I am going to decide if there’s a full-length book waiting to be written about those marvelous people long gone who shared their every day lives with the Lincoln Street Gazette during a tranquil decade in our history.