Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The End of the Trail: 1 or Synchronicity and Syracuse Herald Journal

On a morning in the mid-December just past, I was putting together the biography a minor character, the editor of the New York Vision, in my latest rewrite of BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE when I decided to look up Alexander (Casey) Jones, who was the decidedly larger than life editor of the Syracuse Herald Journal when I worked there as a reporter from late 1959 to early 1963.
In the course of my Googling, I found a story by Dick Long, an old friend from Syracuse, written in November, 2010 about the passing of Howard Carroll, another colleague in my Syracuse days.
I decided to contact Dick—and much to my dismay I learned he had died the week before. Looking a little further, the name of another Herald Journal colleague, Jane Vadeboncoeur, was added to my list of the dead along with Bill Stevens.
And then, the synchronicity: later in the afternoon of my Googling, a Christmas card from Jerry Cooley, my favorite editor in my Syracuse days, arrived with a note telling me that Dick Long and Joan Vadeboncoeur had died.
All five are held in treasured corners of my memory:
Casey Jones, who had been the managing editor of the Washington Post before coming to Syracuse, was so commanding a writer and so dominant a figure that everyone in Syracuse, glanced at the front page of the Herald Journal then immediately turned to the editorial page to read his by-lined editorial of the day.
Dick Long taught me my beginning skills as an investigative reporter: how to look up real estate deals, how to shove aside those blocking the way to dig into public records.
Howard Carroll was my model as a journalist. He was crusty, he was a master of reporting, he was generous. The one incident that I have never forgotten was a day on which we all repaired, as we often did, to a local seedy bar for an after deadline drink. Beer was ten cents a glass. The reporters were joking and laughing and talking about the stories just written when a man in a very nice suit sitting along the bar leaned over to say to Howard, “I used to be a newspaperman.”
“What do you do now?” Howard asked.
“Public relations for xxxx Corporation.”
“You were never a newspaperman,” Howard said, each word dripping with contempt, turning his back on the very nice suit.
Not many years later, Howard became director of media relations for the National Education Association, which sounds like a PRman to me. I often wondered if Howard remembered that unforgettable (for me) scene in that seedy bar.
The early 1960s was still an era of black and brown sports jackets and white shirts; in other words clothing was generally dull. Even our ties were dull. One day, Joan Vadeboncoeur, walked into the office in a “shocking pink” suit. That was so startling as fashion moment in that grey city room that over the years I have recalled it in many a conversation.
Bill Stevens was a terrific reporter and writer and all-round nice guy, who in an act of generosity gave me a piece of free lance business writing for an appliance magazine. We weren’t paid much at the Syracuse Herald Journal so the money was very welcome. I would sit down one weekend a month and earn more money from this free lance assignment than I did in a week or two as a newspaper reporter.
Bill, who also worked for the AP and UPI, died in November.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

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