WHY IS IT YOU NEVER REMEMBER the good things about certain jobs, only the bad—and yet the sweetest times, the days of your life you think you’d rather live over, are those seasons when salaries were lowest, the bosses were cruelest, your fellow workers were the most problematic? I spent them at the Dallas Times Herald, an afternoon paper that bore little resemblance to the current edition except that it was the number two paper in town—that is, it was number two in status. Actually, the Herald’s circulation in Dallas and Dallas County was bigger than that of the Morning News, but it never seemed to make a dent in the other paper’s pride and arrogance, which drove us to all sorts of frenzies.
I went to work at the Times Herald in February 1960. I lost three weeks’ pay because the Times Herald was about to have a guild (union) election and Felix McKnight, then vice president for editorial, heard from my former publisher that I was a union man and, using one excuse or another, kept me off the payroll until the voting eligibility deadline passed. (The truth is, my West Texas publisher, one of the least blessed with brains of any hominid I ever worked for, knew very well I didn’t know the difference between a Newspaper Guild and a gilded lily.)
When the guild election got straightened out, in deep defeat, I went to work on the rewrite desk. This might be a good place to point out that there is no hyphen between Times and Herald. I am proud to have been the one to discover why in the back issues of 1880’s or 90’s: The name symbolizes the “Herald of the Times!”
Well, back to the Times Herald. The first day I went to work I rode the front elevators, now knowing there were slightly smaller, slightly smuttier ones in the rear for printers, typographers, compositors … and reporters, of course. At any rate, on the second floor a mail girl pushing a grocery cart got aboard along with a little friendly-faced older man. As the girl, between floors, leaned over to rearrange the mail, suddenly the little man’s hand shot out and goosed her. It may not have been a record (apparently Guinness failed to take notice), but it was magnificent. I automatically braced myself for several things: (a) the scream of the mail girl, (b) the slap of the mail girl, (c) the possibility that I, not yet even delivered to the city room, would have to save a fair maiden from whatever you call a gooser. But lo and behold, she whipped around with fire in her eyes, then smiled, and said, “Oh, hi.”
I could hardly wait to inform the city desk of what I had seen, but before I could finish my story the associate rewrite man shrugged, “Oh, that. That was our publisher.” I knew then it was going to be my kind of paper. I eventually discovered that our beloved publisher (and I really did love the guy—saved my job once when the Dallas Chamber of Commerce sent a team of heavyweights to get me fired because of a front-page editorial I’d written) was about the most human person in the building. His successor had an engraved plaque on his desk that read “Money Spoken Here,” along with a large woven green wall hanging of a $1 bill.
All in all, it was a fun place to work, and some funny people worked there. Blackie Sherrod had just come over from the Fort Worth Press when I got there, along with Gary “Jap” Cartwright and Edwin “Bud” Shrake. When Bud and Jap left the Times Herald, they were replaced by Dan Jenkins, who later left to take a job with Sports Illustrated