Recollections of a renegade reporter

Tom Camfield
Blogger
Posted 5/24/19

This is a continuation of my May 17 blog, in which I mentioned both of the occasions pictured here. The era was 1964-65, and as best I can recall it was sort of “cat’s away the mice will …

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Recollections of a renegade reporter

Posted

This is a continuation of my May 17 blog, in which I mentioned both of the occasions pictured here. The era was 1964-65, and as best I can recall it was sort of “cat’s away the mice will play” time and I was still filling in on an extended pro-tem basis for absent publisher Dick McCurdy. He and his wife Eleanor had undertaken in late 1960 a multi-year residence on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean—a sort of prelude to his all-out retirement, as he had returned, then sold the Leader by late 1967. Or perhaps Dick had returned by 1965 and I was just continuing to romp unleashed; I’d have to check the paper’s old mastheads to say for sure.

Am I sorry for the carefree manner in which I dealt with the journalistic profession back in the day? Not really. The man (and woman) in the street back in my hey-day was really one with the Leader. And there are still old former student athletes around—back to the day Phil Harvey was running fullback on the PTHS football team and Tom Delaney was amazing basketball fans about 1960—who have fond memories of the Leader coverage from that era. I had an editorial-page column, and my invisible byline was on such things as city government. My camera was ever on the passing scene. I was available by phone 24-7, had an immediate-call arrangement with the wife of the fire department chief, never ignored a request to cover youth affairs of any sort. Et very-long cetera.

The individuals above include ANN (or ANNA) O’ROURKE, daughter of Charles Gunderson, strong-arm man for the sailors’ boarding house of Sims & Levy back around 1900, the closest thing the city had to outright shanghaiing. She lived in an apartment above Delmonico in her elder years and I would occasionally buy her a beer and listen to her memories of her father’s activities. I still have his old liquor cabinet that she gave to me. TOM HOLMES was sort of an elder bon vivant and man around town who lived in an apartment on the top floor of the historic former Palace Hotel. I never did get his personal history in detail. EARL STURROCK was a star Northwest track athlete back in school and later around 1900 and 1901. He even traveled as far away as Canada to run stake races.

Earl later was the local Seattle Post-Intelligence distributor, operated a small music store, was the town’s official weather observer. I drew on him for much local history, and he gave me a number of historic photos. BOB (SCRATCH) HIGDON was a crew member on the Whidbey Island ferry “Defiance” and an everyday friend. He is mentioned in one of my local history books as having gone though a downtown apartment building alerting residents during a fire that destroyed the building. Scratch and his wife Jan still live here in town; he just turned 82.

So on one occasion back when fun and frolic might lurk around any corner, the paper published on Thursdays and April Fools’ Day coincided in 1965. Scratch with fish above is part of what I concocted for the front page of the Leader—way back before the niceties of digital computing, for which I was born way too soon. Scratch, who actually had just caught a mere 17-pound fish, was game for the spoof and I posed him beside the telephone pole at Washington & Taylor Sts., the old-fashioned type with climbing hooks jutting out of it. I had a nice print made, then turned to carefully trimming a normal-sized fish out of a close-up photo I’d taken earlier of a lucky fisherman and his catch. I then pasted the out-of-proportion image onto the photo of Scratch and the pole, attempting to make it appear to be hanging from one of the climbing hooks. I mailed the result to Olympic Engravers in Bremerton, where all of our mounted photo-engravings were made and quickly returned for our Wednesday press day, in this case for page one.

In the story, I only alluded to April Fools’ Day in referring to the legendary Norse fisherman Loof Lirpa, mentioned that the Defiance had been beached during its crossing to allow Higdon to battle and land this leviathan, etc.

The banana-harvest photo was done in early February of 1964 during my ongoing in-print feud with the woman who was postmaster in Sequim over which community had the better weather. I mentioned this in a blog last week, as well as the photo with Scratch and the fish. The stalk of bananas was borrowed from George Gunn’s grocery (a cramped establishment half a block east of the main intersection, south side of Water Street). For the photo, it was hung on the fig tree at the home of John Coopersmith and Grace DeLeo at Monroe & Lawrence Sts. Sunglasses, cool drinks and a blooming rose held by Ann helped suggest mid-winter tropic conditions.

Similar opportunities for humor became rare for me as the years passed, and I also quit writing my editorial column as workplace ambiance deteriorated. But as evidenced here, I am not quite dead yet.

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