I’ve never worked on a newspaper. I imagine it to be exciting but stressful. There would be editors barking things into phones, like “Get me rewrites!” and “Stop the presses!” If I went out to cover a story, I’d wear one of those hats with the PRESS card stuck inside the band. Then I’d rush back to write it up, typing furiously to meet a deadline. An interesting way to make a living, I’m sure.
I did have a taste of newspaper writing, just once. It was the spring of 1970, and I was a student at Parker Elementary School in a suburb of Boston. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Fay, had given us the unusual assignment of creating a newspaper.
I probably would have forgotten all about it had I not cleaned out a bookcase this past weekend. As I read the masthead, “Parker Pen Writes Again!” I had to smile. All the other kids and I knew that Parker Pen was the nickname we used for our school, “pen” being short for “penitentiary.” Not that we really felt as if we were in jail. But the old building with its creaky floors had a formal, institutional feel to it. And like many schools, the rules were strict.
Our class had a talented artist named Anne. For the paper’s cover, she drew a feather pen
with a fluffy, voluptuous shape to it, which might be why Mrs. Fay let us use the name. Maybe she was aware of our inside joke and decided to let it go.
We had a meeting to decide who would do what. “I’ll do sports!” said Doug. “I want to do fashions,” said Mary. “Hey, I can do jokes,” piped another kid. We then wrote up the articles, carefully copied them using carbon paper, and gave them to our teacher for mimeographing (now there’s an old-fashioned word!)
The Pen’s table of contents revealed six sections spread across 26 pages: News, Astrology, Sports, Entertainment, Gourmet, and Fashions.
Here’s an example of some earth-shaking News of the Day, complete with missing words and misspellings, by John. “On Wednesday the March 4th there is going to a spaghetti dinner for PTA. This is only for the fathers of Parker and helpers. Believe me, this is good spaghetti.” Mmm. I can taste it now.
Somehow, I’ve never put the same stock in astrology since then.
Sport news was all about the Maple Leafs and Red Wings. Apparently there was a championship that hadn’t been played out by press time. Doug’s analysis: “I figure Johnny MacKinney will win the most goals this year. Michael Sutherland is the Maple Leaf’s goalie, and a great one he is.” A future sportscaster?
The Entertainment section had lots of fill-in-the blanks and other fun games. A joke page, contributed by me, had this gut-buster: Wife to her electrician husband arriving home at 3 a.m.: “Wire you insulate?” Husband: “Watts it to you? I’m ohm, ain’t I?”
I probably don’t need to tell you that stand-up comedy wasn’t in my future.
More joke pages were provided by other kids as well. A different kind of humor page was called Children’s Letters to God, presented by Gabrielle and Kathryn. The one I like best is “Dear God: Please make my sister prettier so she can get married.”
The Gourmet section had great-sounding recipes for Mexican Cookery and Vanilla Creams, although I can’t imagine any ten-year-old preparing them alone. One dish has enough chopping, slicing, and dicing for a kitchen full of Japanese chefs. Yikes!
At the end of our newspaper is an array of 1970 Fashions that even my friend Sally could love. An excerpt from Thigh Boots: “High boots are getting more and more popular by the year. Especially with teen-age girls. The mod, mod ones go up to about your thigh.” The piece concludes with this sage advice: “If you want to go sightseeing for these mod, mod boots, go to Boston.”
The next page contains another fashion tip, by Mary: “Big, groovy rings are in. I think the big ring would weigh my hand down.” More than likely.
The last page displays fashion drawings accompanied by spirited captions. “Maxi skirts are in, man!” “Maxi coats are real in.” “Bell sleeves are REALLY in.” And lastly, a commentary on the male side of things: “Boys have long hair today.” This drawing shows a round boy face with a shaggy rat’s nest of hair scribbled on top. I get the feeling the artist didn’t approve of this trend.