Saturday Single No. 713

I’ve mentioned before how some dates resonate with me, how I’ll look to the calendar and see, for example, January 25 and remember in vivid detail a long-ago (and unhappy) January 25. I doubt if I’m alone in that; I assume the same thing happens to other folks.

Today, November 28, is one of those days. It was forty-three years ago today that I – twenty-four years old and not at all sure of myself – walked into the offices of the Monticello Times and took up desk space as a reporter. My beats, to start, would be sports at Monticello High School and at the high school in the nearby city of Big Lake; school news from the high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools in the two cities, and features.

In a very short time, I’d add to my plate coverage of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department (which provided police service to the city of Monticello), and of the Big Lake Police Department and of the sheriff’s department in Sherburne County.

The following spring, I’d add coverage of city government to my duties, attending meetings of the city councils in both Monticello and Big Lake, and covering through phone interviews the board meetings in Monticello and Big Lake townships. I’d do fewer features.

My first day at the Times included an interview with the owners of the new Milky Whey cheese shop in the hamlet of Hasty, introductions and lunch at Monticello High School, and – if I recall things rightly – coverage of a girls basketball game that evening. Sometime during the day, I posed at the typewriter at my boss’ desk so readers could get a look at the new guy who’d end up hanging around for almost six years. (My desk was backlit, said the photographer.)

GPE, 11-28-77I think back to that slender young man as he entered the world of professional journalism. His earliest plan – no more than a vague idea, to be honest – had been to become a television sports reporter and play-by-play guy. Then he spent more time writing in college than he did learning how to shoot film, and after some initial resistance, he embraced print reporting. (He realized he liked to write long pieces, and the byword of broadcast reporting is brevity, so . . .)

As I walked into the Times office that morning in November 1977, I was still unformed (although I would have been horribly insulted had anyone told me that). I had an immense amount to learn about journalism, about small-town living, about life in general. A lot of those lessons came my way during the nearly six years I spent at the Times, lessons for which I am – more than forty years later – grateful.

After those nearly six years, I moved on to grad school, to teaching, to reporting at other papers. I took with me a box full of plaques, a clutch of skills, and a cluster of friendships that remain strong to this day. That’s a pretty good haul for a first job.

There’s nothing that speaks to me in the two Billboard Hot 100s that bracket that long-ago November 28, so I’m going to turn to one of the three LPs I bought later that week. Thursdays – the day after we went to press – were light days at the newspaper, so I drove the thirty miles to St. Cloud that afternoon, did some shopping and had dinner with my folks, handing them as I arrived copies of that week’s newspaper, including – I’m pretty sure – a piece with my byline on the front page.

That evening, back in my rented mobile home just outside of Monticello, I no doubt played the records I’d bought in St. Cloud that day, and it’s pretty likely that I went to sleep with the Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed on the turntable. So here’s what was probably the last thing I heard on that long-ago Thursday, my first day as a published journalist: It’s “Nights In White Satin” from 1967, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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