My first editorial for my college newspaper, Youngtown Edition, was written to encourage students to visit residents in nursing homes.
My First Editorial
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Why is it that we remember the things that we do? What makes an event so memorable that it is written in our minds with indelible ink? And, sometimes these events are not necessarily the high points of graduations, weddings and special anniversary parties. At times, it is the seemingly mundane, the ordinary moments of life that remain deeply etched in our minds and hearts.
Such a single moment in time, is the memory of getting my first editorial published on the Editorial Page of the award-winning Youngtown Edition. The purpose of my first editorial was rather simple: to inspire the students at CCM to visit residents of nursing homes. The editorial itself had no razzamatazz about it. It was a simple, straight forward message that the elderly folks in nursing homes are lonely and would love to have visitors.
It was in the middle of April of 1972, toward the end of my freshman year of college, that my first editorial was published in Youngtown Edition. Youngtown Edition was the official student newspaper of County College of Morris. For me, it was a milestone in my writing career.
Youngtown Edition came out every Wednesday. It usually ran anywhere from 12 to 18 pages long. It was put out in display racks throughout all of dear old CCM. And the great thing about Youngtown Edition, was that it was completely free.
The twelfth of April of 1972, that’s the day my first editorial was published. I was elated. I was so happy. My editor had told me that my editorial was going to appear on the Editorial Page, the week before it came out. I was walking on air. This was a big deal for me. A really big deal. And, I just could not wait to tell my old girlfriend, Penny, about my major accomplishment.
At first I was going to call her on the phone, when my editor first told me that my editorial was going to be published. But then I thought to myself, “no, I’ll show it to her that Wednesday, when I pick her up from Eastside High School.”
Penny and I had a standing date every Wednesday afternoon, for my entire freshman year of college. I purposely set up my classes, so that I would be done with all of my classes by lunch time. That way, I could drive my old 1961 Ford Falcon down Route 80 to Eastside High School in Paterson, to meet Penny as she walked out of school.
Well, the best laid plans of mice and men! I remember this so well. I called Penny on the telephone the Tuesday evening, the night before the very Wednesday that my editorial was going to be published. Sadly, it was one of the most unusual phone conversations that I had ever had with Penny.
When her mother answered the phone and I asked her if I could talk with Penny, her mom simply told me that Penny had a lot of homework to do. Well, I pleaded with Penny’s mom to talk to Penny for even a few minutes. I told Mrs. L. that I had something very important to tell Penny. Well, in the background I heard Penny tell her mother, “oh, I’ll talk to him.” Needless to say, my heart sank.
When Penny got on the phone, she didn’t greet me with a song in her voice. Normally, Penny would say something to me like, “Hello Richard, how are you doing?” It wasn’t so much what she said, but how she said it. Penny would have this flirtatious thing going for her in her voice. It drove me crazy.
But, this time, Penny got on the phone and simply said, “yea, what’s up?” She didn’t say my name. There was no song in her voice. In fact there was a hint of anger in her voice. It all threw me off.
I remember telling Penny that I had a special surprise for her, to show her, when I picked her up after school the next day. Then Penny simply replied that she had swimming practice and couldn’t make it. There was no apology for not being able to make our long-standing “Wednesday afternoon date.” It was all cut and dry.
I remember asking Penny how she was doing. She cut me short and said in a bit of a stern voice, “look Richard, I’ve got a lot of homework to do.” Then came the clincher, the curve ball I was not expecting. With a bit of joy and excitement in my voice, I let the cat out of the bag and told Penny that I had made the editorial page. Her response, still brings a chill to my heart. As best as I can honestly remember this is what Penny said to me when I told her the news that I had made the Editorial Page.
“That’s nice. Look, Richard, I gotta go. Bye.” And she hung up the phone. And then my heart sank. It was the beginning of the end.
Even at 18, a man knows when he’s gotten the cold shoulder. Basically, this was the beginning of the end.
Over 44 years have come and gone since that fateful cold shoulder telephone conversation. To this day, I shudder when I think about it. Strange how that is.
That Saturday that followed, Penny and I did go to the movies. But, somehow, something wasn’t the same. I remember, the two of us sitting in my old Ford Falcon, parked just outside of Penny’s house, before driving off to the movie theater. I showed Penny my copy of Youngtown Edition, with my first editorial on the Editorial Page. Penny simply read it quickly and handed it back to me and said, “that’s nice.”
Life is strange. It is so unpredictable at times. At times, I think that we are governed by a destiny that is well out of our hands. At times, I think that there are certain things that are just not meant to be. Still, even at 62, a man wonders what could have been.