I had a book signing at the Winn Parish Library in Winnfield Thursday (May 19). It was arranged by Tom Kelly (right), Publisher of The Piney Woods Journal.
It was fifty years ago this year and with zero experience that I walked into The Ruston Daily Leader to apply for a job opening as advertising salesperson. I was sick of climbing telephone poles for what was then Southern Bell (a little too much like work for my taste—plus I was a lousy telephone repairman).
Tom Kelly was publisher of The Leader then and he hired me at $65 per week—a $5 per week cut from what I was making for the phone company. It took him about a day and a half to realize he’d made a terrible mistake. I couldn’t sell so he made me sports editor where my crowning achievement was taking a trip with Tech assistant coach George Doherty to Shreveport where he signed Terry Bradshaw to a scholarship in the Bradshaw living room. (I wish I still had the photo—Terry had hair back then.)
But this man took me under his wing and taught me that all news is about people and the three most important times in a person’s life is when he is born, when he marries and when he dies. Everything else is just filler, he used to drill into my brain.
I would eventually leave for larger dailies but I always returned—at a higher position: news reporter, city editor and finally managing editor. Somewhere in between, I did manage to return to Louisiana Tech and obtain my degree. If he had not had the patience and a steady hand to provide the guidance that my meager skills demanded, there would be no books, no LouisianaVoice, and I would likely would have been permanently maimed in a fall from a telephone pole. (Safety was not my strong suit in my younger days.)
But most important was a lifelong friendship that developed over those years (some of them admittedly tumultuous because we were both hard-headed) and an undying respect and admiration for tk, as we knew him from the signatures on his scathing memos admonishing us for sloppy reporting or a badly posed photograph. “Never take just one photo; take several and then pick the best one,” he would say. “We have lots of film.” (Who remembers film?)
(Photos courtesy of Brian Salvatore, Ph.D.)