If you are reading this column you will soon find out that it is the last column that I plan to write for the Herald Democrat. If my figures are somewhat correct, it looks like I have written well over 2,050 columns since I began writing them regularly in early 2000.
I actually began my newspaper career in the mid-1950s as a proofreader and operator of a teletypesetter machine at The Sherman Democrat. It was a good crew and we worked upstairs on the square in Sherman.
But Denison has always been my home and when Claud Easterly called me to come to work for him at The Denison Herald, a few blocks from where I was living, I jumped at the chance. He wanted me to operate a teletypesetter that was located in a closet upstairs at 331 West Woodard Street. But circumstances changed from the time I agreed to change jobs until I actually went to work. The women’s news assistant that was called the assistant to the society editor quit and he had me fill in until he could hire someone.
It turned out that he hired someone to set type on the machine that punched small holes in tape from which the hot type was made into lines of news type. The job with the society editor became my permanent job before I even started. Then my “boss” left for bigger and better things and as a nervous young woman just out of a year of college took over trying to please the women of Denison. It was very different in those days and I met a lot of really nice women and attended a lot of interesting meetings, luncheons and award banquets. I wore a lot of gloves, hats, hose and high heeled shoes during those days.
That first promotion led me to become City Editor then the first woman to be Editor of The Denison Herald. Actually there were very few women in that position. I was the only woman at a lot of newspaper workshops and conferences.
I tried to remember how many years I actually worked for the Herald, but with two maternity leaves, and a few years to direct the Camp Fire Girls program in Denison, I lost count. My oldest son, now 60 was the first maternity leave so the years piled on pretty good.
There have been some exciting times, some sad times and a lot of fun during those years and I’ve worked with a lot of great people, headed by Easterly, my mentor and good friend.
I’ve been involved in gathering information or have written stories or columns about a lot of interesting people, but the thing I think I remember more vividly is the day that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
I was alone in the newsroom during the lunch hour and the newspaper had been “put to bed” being readied for afternoon delivery. I was sitting at my desk and heard the old Associated Press machine bell ringing continuously. I checked to see the problem and saw the words “DALLAS – President Kennedy was shot at noon today.” Talk about a scared young woman. I ran to the production department upstairs in the back of the building and yelled “Stop everything, the President has just been shot in Dallas.” Then I called Easterly who said he ran red lights getting back to the office. It was a sad day.
I guess the local story that made the biggest impact on me though was when I sent a reporter out to cover an accident and it turned out to be a motorcycle and a car and both young boys on the bike were killed. One happened to be our reporter’s son and I had to identify him.
Back in those days politicians dropped by the newsroom unannounced pretty often and it usually was Publisher Jerry Crenshaw, State Editor John Clift or me who interviewed them. Some were interesting, but I guess Ann Richards was the standout for me. I later went to Austin to attend her inauguration as Governor of Texas.
I received a few threats on my life, was sued a couple of times – not for something I had written – and witnessed a few things I would just as soon have missed such as a couple of airplane crashes with pilots still inside.
One day in 1984 I went to Waco with nearly everyone else in town to watch the Denison Yellow Jackets play Tomball for the state football championship and we came home with the trophy. It was an exciting time for the entire town. On the way home that night I sat in the backseat of the car driven by Ronnie Arthur and wrote an editorial for page one by flashlight. When we stopped near Fort Worth to eat dinner, I called the Herald and sent the editorial by the first computer the Herald had owned.
Another day I noticed that the newsroom staff was moving around with strange looks on their faces. When I left my office to see what was going on, there was a man there with a tiger on a leash. He invited anyone to come pet the and I was the only one brave or dumb enough to go it. The photographer documented that moment.
I witnessed the water at Lake Texoma go over the spillway three times when it was only supposed to have happened once in 100 years.
I shot pictures at a funeral for one of a group of bikers killed in an accident and the next day a biker came into the office and said he wanted to talk to the person who wrote the story about the funeral. All hands in the office pointed at me. I meekly admitted to the unsmiling man that I had written the story. I had said something like “a lot of rope belts, beards – when they were not in style – and chains around their necks” and he laughed and said “I guess we were”, sat down and talked a while.
Most of my writing since I retired in 2000 and went back to the Herald has been about the history of Denison with a little about the entire county. I hope that history is my legacy for the people of Denison and if my plans for all the research material, books and copies of my stories and columns materialize, I think Denison will be proud. I know I will.
I could go on and on, but I believe this is plenty as my farewell column. I’ve enjoyed writing all those million of words and I hope you have enjoyed reading at least some of them.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.