Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Times Newspapers were a hoot. The Editor and Publisher, Don Davidson, frequently walked around the office in a suit and a tie and bare feet. The Managing Director was a beautiful woman who always wore high heels. You could always hear her coming down the hall, click, clack, click. Employees put a dime in the pot every time they wanted a cup of coffee from the urn that was kept in a room beside the office, and the Managing Director had a habit of "borrowing" it monthly.

One time, I wrote a story and the subject of it was so appreciative she brought me a large bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. I knew that the bottle wouldn't survive sitting around in my office, so I hid it in a closet under a pile of papers and made it even more unaccessible by piling old magazines on top of it.

A few days later, I decided to sample my Bailey's Irish Cream. I moved the magazines and the pile of papers and found the bottle, completely empty. I never did identify the culprit, although I put Wanted Posters all over my office.

One time, a lady I had written a story about brought me up a dress. It was quite a dress, made by a noted New York designer. It was my size and the note pinned to it told me that she had worn it to the Inauguration Ball given in honor of Ronald Reagan. I wore the dress to the Republican Convention, feeling that I shouldn't really expose it to Democrats.

We would work vigorously on some days, getting the work done early. On other days, we abandoned work to have a party. We would gather in the office, have a few drinks, sing and dance and have a ball.

One time, the receptionist, Juanita and I, went to lunch. We enjoyed our lunch so much that we decided to spend the afternoon shopping. Juanita was a little worried about missing work, but I wasn't worried at all, because I spent so much time chasing down stories anyway. When we went to work the next day, no one said a word to Juanita. Evidently not one person had missed us or even noticed our absence.

We always had visitors, city officials, Congressmen, ordinary citizens and people with legal problems. It always seemed strange to me that people with legal problems would visit a newspaper to tell their side of things, when it was obvious they needed the advice of lawyers, but we listened and helped when we could.

Jim Dunn, a Congressman, made an appointment to talk with me and was chagrined from that moment onward. "You kept me waiting for ten minutes," he said. "I never keep anyone waiting for ten minutes."

"Well, Jim," I said. "People have been waiting for years for Congress to accomplish something and haven't made any progress yet, so ten minutes isn't really so long!"

From that moment, he laughed and shelved his irritation and I met with him several times, discussing his duties as a Congressman and the fact that he was a self-made millionaire, buying up houses in the Lansing area from the time he was a college student. Rentals there are highly lucrative, because one can rent a house to several students while they all share expenses.

Pictures can be so deceiving. I went to a luncheon meeting where Sophia Loren was pushing her new fragrance, whose name escapes me. I expected this lusty, busty Italian woman we see in all of her photographs. Instead, she was a delicately-built, fragile-looking beauty with a beautiful smile and teeth that were bigger and brighter than the rest of her body. She was charmingly at ease and smiled constantly. It was impossible not to be impressed by her, but there was no sign of the big Italian gal that graced the movie screens.

I met Presidents Reagan and Ford, and I swear on a Bible that President Ford tripped over an electrical wire in the room where he was giving a speech. He was noted for his clumsiness and was constantly tripping and occasionally falling down. What a nice man he was, looking just like an ordinary person, a neighbor, or a clerk behind a counter in a store! There was nothing Presidential about Gerald Ford. I guess we saved that quality up for Bill Clinton, who looks so very, very Presidential. That silver hair always looms over the shorter man at foreign meetings and he has that star quality that makes him stand out in a crowd.

When I think of President Kennedy, I always think of my mother. Kennedy was not president at the time, but was a Senator for the State of Massachusetts and rumor had already forecast his Candidacy in the upcoming election.

I lived in Las Vegas at that time. We had moved there for my husband's work and so we rented an apartment in a large collection of stucco buildings in Henderson, Nevada, which is a few miles from downtown Vegas and a few miles from the Hoover Dam.

My mother came to visit and I was very glad to see her, since I missed the family so much I could have walked through the heat back to Michigan with pleasure. I had heard that Ocean's Eleven was being filmed at the Sands Casino, so I took Mom down to see the movie crew. We were so lucky, because there they were....Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and others. I told Mom their names and we joined the large groups of people that had gathered around, watching the filming procedures.

Then I spotted a golden head in the crowd. "There's our next President, Mom!"

She followed my pointing finger and snorted with derision. "He sure don't look like so much to me, no better'n my boys!"

Kennedy was a Golden Boy. He was very handsome and his hair fell over his forehead in a little boyish curl. He looked as though he had just stepped in out of the sun and brought the shine with him. I don't want to harp on smiles, but he was another person with a bright, engaging smile. He had that rather stooped posture and a habit of holding his shoulders slightly inward, but it didn't detract from that attractive package, the tanned skin, the shining hair and that smile.

He began to work the crowd, shaking hands and pausing to talk to the people gathered around. Years later, I thought of this many times, for Las Vegas seems to be a gathering place for drifters and drunks and others who wander in to try their luck. Kennedy was seemingly unafraid and chatted and laughed with those people with a sense of easy camaraderie.

When he reached us, his eyes immediately lit on my mother and he shook her hand, this little, bent-over lady with the gray hair tucked behind her ears and the lines of some seventy years of living on her face. They chatted and I couldn't hear much of what they were saying, but I did hear him say, "I come from a big family, too!"

When we left that day, my mother was still beaming like a woman touched by a magic wand. "What a fine fellow he is!" she declared. "He'll make a fine president!"

With just a few words, this political charmer had turned skepticism into devotion. Kennedy remained a favored figure in my mother's mind until the day she died.

Thinking back at my life, at the sojourn to Nevada, the hectic days at the paper, I yearn sometimes for a chance to step back in the years. Of course, I yearn for those years with my young children, now grown, still loved, but years away from the plump little fellows who kept my days so busy! But sometimes I can hear the clicking and clacking of those high heels in the hallway and the laughter coming from the Comp room at the paper. The Times was not the New York variety, that's for sure, but it fought the good fight and took up some worthy causes, some of which I will write about later.

Blogs are wonderful in that a person can unload their thoughts and dreams, as well as their aggravations. It's like the question...if a tree falls in a desert with no one around, does it make a sound? So, if a Blog talks about memories and events and no one else shares them, does it make a heart ache? I think it does!