Radish Story #2
When I graduated from college with my journalism degree in 1975 so did a billion other people who wanted the same jobs I did. It was a freaking jungle out there and time passed, I quit another job that was sort-of a writing job (more on that later), and I ended up in Utah.
Worried about how to feed, clothe, and house myself I decided to pop into the state employment office. They really had those, maybe still do, and they posted jobs and it was a wonderful thing. I was doubtful that I would find something like a newspaper job but I was having writing DT’s and in my world of words you try everything and anything to live in your passion.
So, there I was in Mormon territory, a place as foreign to me as Bora Bora or the Yukon, reading little notices on a bulletin board for jobs. Dishwasher, secretary, waitress, gardener…newspaper reporter, Lehi Free Press. WHAT? I ripped the little card off the board and stood there reading it about 15 times and then hid it in my armpit in case someone else wanted a job that I already felt was mine.
Here’s what happened next.
First, I had to figure out what in the living hell the Lehi Free Press was so I drove to the little town of Lehi and found the paper. It was a cute thing, a weekly, lots of local-yokel stuff like five-thousand church suppers, someone was speeding, a dog died…you get it. IT WAS A NEWSPAPER and I could have cared less what they printed at that point so I slipped into something called a phone booth and called the office.
The woman who answered the phone, later to be known as the owner’s daughter, was any unfriendly human who told me a ton of people had applied and interviewed but whatever, if I wanted to come in and try, good luck, honey.
Holy shit! They had no idea who I was so I immediately started to talk to people…Who owns the paper? What’s he like? Who else applied for the job? I was a wild dog on the main street of Lehi, Utah and I hit pay dirt when someone told me the owner was a Jack Mormon.
A Jack Mormon is someone who goes to church and tells people he or she is Mormon but also someone who likes to secretly drink booze, possibly smoke, swear a bit…all naughty and unapproved behaviors if you are card carrying member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, aka the Mormons. (Yes, I was clearly a tall, liberal, blonde in a sea of conservativeness…but what fun I had!)
When I saddled up to the little Free Press office for the interview and met my future boss, Russ, I asked to see the back room where some of the printing magic happened. Russ was shorter than I was, always an advantage, and obviously a tough nails kinda newspaperman who may have eaten black ink for lunch. During the interview, with the smell of some kind of cigarette smoke hanging on the walls, I asked him where I could get a beer in town and I threw in a few swear words.
He knew I had him figured out and he somehow knew I would never spill the beans and I got the job because I also lied and said of course I knew how to use a camera that he handed me that weighed about 50 lbs. and looked as if it had survived the first world war. The daughter at the front desk looked about as pissed as a possum backed up to an oak tree when I walked past and said, “I got the job. See you tomorrow.”
Oh my God, what a job this was! I was a reporter, a janitor, answered phones, was the photographer, wrote letters, had a column, helped lay out the newspaper, delivered some of them…I did everything but I never told on Russ.
The pay was so horrid I also worked as a waitress/bartender and then once in a fit of desperation I lied once again and told Russ he had to go to a special lunch with me. How I loved it when he grumbled but he was in for a surprise.
I drove onto the freeway in my old Datsun and started driving as fast as that piece of shit could go. When he asked me where we were going this is what happened.
“Radish, where is this lunch?”
“Russ, there is no lunch.”
“What the hell do you mean?”
“I have been working my ass off for you and you have never given me a raise and I am not stopping this car until you give me a raise.”
Russ was quiet for a minute as I sped past another exit and then he finally smiled and said, “Ok. Now let me out of this damn car.”
Numerous high school graduation, lost dog, loose cattle, car accident and obituary stories later I eventually moved on to a bigger paper, yes, that will be another story.
And how I loved almost every second of those months and months. It was a real press with a typesetter named George, and ink everywhere, and my name in every paper, and the joy of living a dream I’d had since I was 13 years-old.
On the wall near my office now I have a framed Sept. 12, 1901 original copy of the Lehi Free Banner, the mother of the Lehi Free Press. I walk by it numerous times a day, always smile, and am flooded with memories of a young woman who thought she was Lois Lane and charged through life certain that she was right where she was supposed to be.
And now you have a Radish story and a little piece of my life.