TGIF: With 50 years behind us, maybe we can still keep meeting this way
This is not the column I had planned to submit today. The other one was written last summer.
Writing a column has been a part of my professional life for most of my years in journalism, and readers of four different newspapers have been kind to indulge me. Last summer, I thought Jan. 22 would be an appropriate time to call it quits. I wrote a column saying goodbye. However, I’ve changed my mind.
Some may consider this good news; others, not so much. You can’t please everybody.
I’ve always hoped I could control the “when” part of putting this column to pasture. Columnists will sometimes stay past their welcome, so I’m taking a gamble that circumstances beyond my control won’t ultimately dictate those terms. Stopping now of my own volition would prevent that.
Why did I have today circled on the calendar so many months back?
This column, TGIF, was introduced 50 years ago today, Jan. 22, 1971, when I was a junior at Howard Payne College and on staff of the campus newspaper. That weekly publication, “The Yellow Jacket,” was published each Friday during the school year, and somewhere I had heard the expression “Thank goodness it’s Friday.” It was often abbreviated to TGIF, and the restaurant TGI-Fridays also picked it up.
In 1972, I finished college and went to work fulltime for the Bulletin. Some five years later, in July 1977, having been named editor of Brownwood’s daily (at the time) newspaper several months earlier, I revived the column for use in this forum. For almost every week since, through management assignments here, there, and elsewhere (like in Alice and Stephenville), I’ve devoted a corner of each Friday’s edition to these ramblings. It even endured after I went into retirement in November 2012.
Lasting this long was not a given — at least, that is my recollection. I’m grateful that those who made creative decisions after my departure chose to keep the column around — especially in 2012 when it would have been easy for our ties to be cut.
I’ve kept clippings of some of those early articles, but more recent ones are stashed in some inaccessible, online digital server in the “cloud.” At one point, some friends suggested that I choose the best of them and publish a book, assuming that enough columns could actually be described as being “best.” For many reasons, I doubt that will happen. First of all, I’m too lazy. Second, many columns were topical, so they’re no longer meaningful. But most of all, I’m too lazy.
Regardless, it’s my hope that something I wrote through the years gave you as much enjoyment reading as I had creating them. “Enjoyment” might be exaggerating the emotion. Teachers have to teach. Preachers have to preach. Artists have to create. People who fashion themselves as writers have to write, even if talent doesn’t quite match the urge. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make permanent, as a childhood music teacher taught me.
There was a time when I imagined, as many do, that a great American novel was in me somewhere. That wasn’t destined to happen. I finally decided my life wasn’t tragic enough for me to squeeze out something marketable. Indeed, I have been blessed. My biggest regret is that I’ve failed to fully use those blessings to be more of a support to others. That might be first among many shortcomings my Maker will judge me on.
Most of my career, and most of my years on Earth, have been spent working and living in Brownwood, Texas. That little kid with a Southern drawl growing up in North Carolina would have never guessed it. But that youngster did see most, perhaps even all, his dreams come true in the Lone Star State.
Fifty years later, I can say that it’s been one incredible ride. Even so, I’m keeping the saddle on the horse a while longer.
Gene Deason was editor of the Brownwood Bulletin for most years between 1976 and 2012, when he retired as editor emeritus. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org