Monday, April 27, 2009

My Fascination With Newspapers

By: Harold Michael Harvey

It was Easter Sunday morning. I had just broken a 47-day fast. It is my habit to fast during Lent each year. I began this practice in 1975. Some years have been harder than others. Usually the current year is always the hardest. With the family gathered around the breakfast table, we took the bread and when it had been broken we ate it in remembrance of the body which was broken for us. Then likewise, we took the cup, and we drank it in remembrance of the blood that was shed for many.

Following breakfast, it was time to drive down to Macon, Georgia where we would share an Easter meal with my mother and brother. We stopped at the market to pick up a copy of the Atlanta Journal & Constitution (AJC). After all these years, they still publish the AJC. Its pages are not as many as a decade ago. She is a stately old lady, respected as always, yet slowly being passed over as boomers join Generations X and Y in seeking news from the internet. But I am an old newspaperman. I’ve written a novel, Paper Puzzle (soon to be published), about two newspapermen who work for competing newspapers in Macon, Georgia.

Also, I like to get black ink on my hands at least once a week. Sunday is usually the day I reserve for this ritual. I will hold the front pages of my newspaper in my hands, while the other sections are in my lap smearing my pants with black ink.

I developed a fascination with newspapers around ten years of age. I’d be the first one up everyday. I’d run outside and retrieved the Macon Telegraph & News and quickly flipped to the Sports section. I particularly found interesting the exploits of the athletes from Willingham and Lanier Senior High Schools. Oh, how much I wanted to go to Willingham Senior High School. I day dreamed of running touchdowns for the Willingham Rams. My eyes raced across the pages of the Macon Telegraph & News.

There were two players I particularly liked, a kid named Allgood, I think. I can’t remember his first name. He was a running back. I read where he scored most of the touchdowns each Friday night.

Then there was perhaps my favorite, a kid named Brad Henderson. He was the quarterback. His father was the head coach. Brad Henderson was a gamer, but suddenly he was killed in a car crash. My first brush with my own mortality. His dad, Billy Henderson, grieved and moved the family to Athens. Coach Henderson was later named to entered the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. They built a stadium in Macon and named it after Brad.

I developed an interest in Bobby Bryant. He was small like me. He was flat out fast. He received a scholarship to play collegiate football at the University of South Carolina. And four years later he was covering wide receivers in the National Football League for the Minnesota Vikings.

These were my peers, my heroes. Yet they never knew me or knew how much I enjoyed reading about them. Our worlds were separated by the color line. They were white. I was Negro. In 1960, I could not enter a class room or step foot on the football practice field at old Willingham Senior High School.

What brought these memories back to the forefront of my mind was running into my neighbor and congressman, John Lewis, Easter Sunday morning as I picked up my copy of the AJC. He had stopped by to pick up ice. His family was preparing for their Easter dinner. We embraced and remarked how good it was to see each other. We’ve not seen each other in several years. Since leaving my law practice, I don’t get out much anymore.

When we first met, I was a twenty-something idealist. Mr. Lewis was the head of the Georgia Voters Education Project and I had driven up to Atlanta from Macon seeking information on voter education and registration. He was kind. He entertained me for half an hour.

Seeing him brought back memories of reading a newspaper article 47 years ago in the Baltimore Afro-American, about Mr. Lewis being punched in the face by a white man in a South Carolina bus station when Mr. Lewis attempted to enter a rest room marked "White Only."

“That was [will be] 47 years ago next month,” the congressman said. “It’s hard to believe it has been that long ago.”

I applauded him for the manner in which he handled himself that day and earlier this year when the man who hit him wanted to meet and publicly apologize for the punch. “We’ve got to learn to forgive,” he said.

“What can we expect out of congress this Spring,” I hastened to ask? “We’ve got to get the budget worked out, fix social security and get behind our president. The people seem to think that he created this mess. He didn’t and it will take all of us pulling together to get us out of this mess.”

Within an hour I was cuddled up with my second love - baseball being the first - the Macon Telegraph & News. It is smaller these days as well. They no longer print it in Macon. Cost saving efforts have forced management to ship it off to Columbus, Georgia each day by truck and back again in time for the carriers to dropped them on the doorsteps of a shrinking market.

I felt comfortable with the Macon Telegraph & News in my hands and lap. I had an added treat this year. Not only was I reading my favorite sports page in the comfort of my mom’s home, I could read a sports column written by my son, Coley Harvey. Oh my, how times have changed.

© April 27, 2009


Anonymous said...

Hi Harold, I really enjoyed your writing today,especially the Bible verse . Will send to some of my friends. Have a great day.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

You are welcomed. Thanks for sending this to some of your friends.

Paper Puzzle