Sometimes you just never know


I do not remember it well, but for some reason there is a scene from that very first day that is burned into my memory. It was my first day working for what was then The Press Gazette, the forerunner of the publication you are reading right now. I could not have been more than 10.

I was exiting the front entrance to the newspaper office located on South High Street at the time and my buddy was telling me a story about how his German shepherd would sometimes bang his head into the clear glass that was located on the front door and to each side of it, unable, apparently, to distinguish between the glass from the great outdoors as they tried to exit the building.

Yes, I was a paperboy for The Press Gazette – twice. And, as the tides of life have rolled, I am now on my third turn as a full-time employee of this newspaper.

That first day 45 years or so ago I was actually helping a friend with his paper route. I helped a few more times, then when my friend grew tired of the route my brother and I took it over.

We had a few businesses we delivered to in uptown Hillsboro, then our route ran east from North High Street to Key Street. When we delivered our papers we rode our bicycles, with those old bags that held the papers draped over the bikes somehow, kind of like you see in old movies. But we did not chuck our papers into a yard or driveway. We delivered them to the front door or the mailbox.

Some people had regular subscriptions to the paper, and we made almost nothing for delivering those papers. But others paid us directly and we made a fair amount for that. Some people would leave our money in a cup or in some other hidden location, and I don’t recall anyone ever bothering it.

I do not remember how long we had the route, but I know we quit once, then took it back over again. And I know we had the route on two different Christmases, because that’s when we really hauled in some loot – baseball bats (courtesy of the late Dick Shaffer), big tips, and lots of boxes of chocolate covered cherries, which I never touched.

Here’s another memory. I don’t why these kind of things stick in my head, but I distinctly remember riding my bike down Walnut Street, delivering papers, and singing the words to the Three Dog Night song “Black & White.” Weird, huh?

I have another memory. This one was repeated over and over. It would be summer. My brother and I would be in the backyard in the middle of a big ball game. Then our mother’s voice would break the serenity. She’d step out the back door and yell, “Boys, it’s time for the paper route.”

We’d moan, try to sneak in another inning or at least finish the one we were in, then hang our heads and tell our friends we had to go.

I’m sure that’s why we quit the first time.

But, no doubt missing the spare change in our pocket, we decided to give it another go. I believe that one ended when junior high sports rolled around and I started having daily football practices.

I’m sure I was certain that was the end of my newspapers days. Little did I know…

About 10 years later I was reading The Press Gazette when I saw an ad in the paper for a sports editor. I had dropped out of my fourth year of college because I missed the woman that is now my wife, was working for The 7 Caves, and considering that I had a dual major in college of physical education and journalism, the ad piqued my interest. So I went in for an interview.

It was a Monday. They told me to go home and watch Monday Night Football that evening, write a story and headline about it, then bring them back to the newspaper office. As was my routine in those days, I went to a friend’s house that evening and socialized while I took notes on the game. I took my story back to the newspaper and shortly thereafter received a job offer. Needing a job pretty bad, I accepted.

I had decent amount of writing experience at the time, but knew little to nothing about a camera. My crash course lesson lasted about 30 seconds.

I don’t remember if it was my first assignment for the paper, but if it wasn’t, it was my first assignment with a camera. There had been what sounded like a bad wreck on SR 73 south Hillsboro. Someone handed me a camera, told me to do this, and that, and this, and pointed me toward the crash. When I arrived at the scene it was bad. I found a place that looked like a good angle to take a photo from, tossed my clipboard down on the road, backed up, and snapped off a few frames.

It wasn’t until I went to retrieve my clipboard that I noticed a human hand sticking out from under a sheet laying beside the car I’d just took a picture of. So, my first assignment, at least with a camera, as the new sports editor turned out to be covering a fatal crash.

Not long thereafter I was asked to take a picture out on Clear Creek Road where some repairs had been made to stop erosion of the creek bed. I snapped off a few photos of the dignitaries on hand, set the camera on top of my car, chatted with the officials for a bit, then jumped in my car and went on my way.

I went around several curves, across a bridge, then started up a hill. All of a sudden I heard crashing noises that sounded like they were right behind me. When I looked in my rear view mirror I saw the camera I had laid on top of my car rolling and doing flips down the middle of the road while pieces of it went this way and that.

I was petrified. I gathered the pieces and went back to the office, expecting the worst. I told them what had happened, took a deep breath, and awaited the expected response. But it didn’t come. Pretty much all they said was something like, “Don’t worry about it too much. It was an old camera and we needed a new one anyway.”

And now, here I am, all these years later. Sometimes you just never know.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist

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