Broadcaster Paul Harvey would sometimes veer from his news commentaries to discuss other matters with the catch phrase, “partly personal.” Here’s your warning. What follows is totally personal — even more so than usual.
My first “tgif” column appeared on January 22, 1971, in the Yellow Jacket, the campus newspaper of then Howard Payne College. “Tgif” stands for “thank goodness it’s Friday,” appropriate because the weekly campus publication was published on Fridays. It ran during school semesters until I graduated in May 1972. I assumed “tgif” was over and done when I began working fulltime for the Bulletin. In November 1976, I was named managing editor. Another staff member, Bill Stovall, was by far more qualified for the job, but he was entrenched in covering local sports. With his support and mentorship, I accepted the challenge.
After a few months, I decided that perhaps my old “tgif” column might be resurrected. And it was, in July 1977.
With gaps of only a few weeks while I was between jobs that took me to Alice and Stephenville and finally back to Brownwood, this Friday column has been with me — and with readers of the newspapers where I’ve worked — ever since. I’ve been blessed that the management of the Bulletin, and its readers, have allowed it to continue since I retired in 2012.
I’d like to think, unless circumstances beyond my control dictate otherwise, that I will be able to write weekly until the column’s 50th anniversary in the Bulletin. But July 2027 seems like quite a long time off. However, time can be deceptive. That milestone, if it happens, is seven years and six months away. It’s been seven years and two months since I retired, and wow! Those years have flown by quickly.
In the meantime, while waiting to see what the future may bring, I’ll hang onto this older anniversary — the first one, going back to college when the idea of writing a weekly column was first hatched. My “tgif” first appeared 49 years ago on Wednesday next week. Hopefully, 50 is attainable.
I think a copy of that newspaper is stored somewhere in a box of memorabilia, at least I hope it is, but the Portal to Texas History at the University of North Texas has it preserved digitally, along with hundreds of other issues of the Yellow Jacket.
The topic of that 1971 column is unimportant now. It was simply a rambling series of observations specifically directly to college life. I do recall that the format was inspired by a community-interest column published in the daily newspaper serving the city where my parents lived. I read it when I was home over Christmas and summer. Nothing in that column about people in a North Carolina city could transfer to a college campus in Texas, assuming I was even inclined to plagiarize, but I did attempt to emulate its tone and spirit.
In retrospect, I’m surprised I managed to get away with some of the things I wrote. I did, however, inject enough compliments on administrative expertise, professorial insights, and cafeteria food to offset any occasional barbs presented.
That issue of the Yellow Jacket is personally memorable for one other reason. On the same page was a photograph of eight Howard Payne coeds who were helping to plan a back to school “hobo hunt” beginning downtown that evening. The scavenger hunt was to start at the Brownwood Coliseum, and then conclude with a midnight movie at the Bowie Theater, the one remaining movie theater open downtown. Local historians will recall than during World War II, downtown Brownwood was home to eight indoor theaters, including the Bowie.
Among those students pictured was my future wife, among seven good friends. That same group remains quite close half a century later, and they’ve made plans to gather this spring over a long weekend.
The anniversary of this column? OK, it means something, if only to me. But a celebration of those longtime friends? Now, that’s something special.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.