— Jorge Luis Borges
Argentine poet & essayist
“A New Refutation of Time”
Somebody once said “... time plays tricks on you,” to which I might add, “... and most of them are dirty.”
It’s yet another example of “somebody” and “they” doing all the talking. But this time they’re right. Time does play tricks, but sometimes it’s downright funny.
Last week an old friend dropped by the office late one morning. She felt guilty because she understands the ways of newspapers and that most likely we were still feverishly trying to beat another deadline. On this day and at that hour, the newsroom was still watching the clock. But my own little role in chaos was a wrap; at least, for the day. So I invited her into the office.
“Hey Aggie!” I exclaimed. I prepared for a handshake, but she preferred the Southern style greeting of a big hug. When it comes to hugs, I’m a gamer. They don’t come often so you’d better enjoy the few you get.
“Rick!” she offered in her thick German accent. “I hope I’m not disturbing you! I was afraid you might still be on deadline!”
“Not to worry,” I assured. “The worst part’s over. How are you doin’, Aggie?”
For the few who don’t know her, my welcomed visitor was Aggie Scott, a vibrant lady who many will remember as the marketing and merchant head honcho (or honchette) at the old Village Mall which is the current site of The Village Green at the corner of Keith and First streets. Aggie also spent several years at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
I came to know Aggie eons ago during my first tour at this newspaper. As a young staff writer, I worked with her regularly either from her Village or Chamber roles. She always was a bundle of smiles and filled with energy.
Time has not changed her vim, nor her vigor. Like the rest of us, she’s showing a little grey and her list of memories is getting longer and longer. And that’s why she showed up at the office.
While perusing through a set of old boxes at home, Aggie came across some old, yellowed copies of the Banner. One was the memento 125th Anniversary Edition dated Friday, May 25, 1979. By this date, I had been a real-world reporter for almost two years.
Fresh out of college from across the way in West Tennessee and beaming with pride, exuding enthusiasm and trumpeting the ideals of young journalism, I joined the paper in June 1977. I was only 22 years old.
With hidden smirk, Aggie spread the aged newspaper across my cluttered desk, exposing pages 36 and 37.
“I found something here that might interest you,” she giggled. Pointing to a black-and-white photograph, she asked fiendishly, “Who’s that?”
Bending over the desk and peering — with age comes challenge in vision — my jaw dropped, perhaps all the way to the surface of the desk had it not been attached to my face by bone and wrinkled flesh.
I had not seen this photograph, nor this edition of the newspaper, for ... well, dare I say ... 33 years? The picture was me. Or at least, what used to be me. In the section, the editor (Beecher Hunter) and publisher (Goldie Wattenbarger) wanted to feature all the employees. So photos with captions were published of each. The photo of me was taken at my desk ... at about where current staff writer Delaney Walker sits now more than three decades later ... and I was pecking away on an old Selectric III electric typewriter.
This truly was a “Wow!” moment.
Aggie could feel it, if not see it altogether in the expression on my shocked face. In typical Aggie fashion, she added to the moment.
“The first thing I noticed was your hair!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Where’d it go?”
“I thought you might tell me!” she laughed.
Yes, there I was in full glory. Youthful. Lots of hair. It even hung over my ears. Long sideburns, heavy gold-rimmed glasses and a double-chin. My sweater vest did little to conceal the former me. Back in those days, I was about 80 pounds heavier than now.
Like I said. Time changes.
The moment led to further laughter between Aggie and me. The newsroom staff outside was probably confused by all the levity. They’re unaccustomed to friendly sounds coming from this office. Most visitors are ranting, raving and questioning my ethics as a journalist, and my value as a man. Some have even questioned my humanity. Sometimes I do as well.
As much fun as it was to relive those old days in that old photo, it also sparked many pleasant memories of past friends and former co-workers. Their names might not ring a bell to a lot of folks these days, but I still remember them like we just talked yesterday — Matt Cole, a sports writer; Sheila Valcarcel and Pat Matson, news writers; Linda Chaney, a receptionist; Hazel Bradley, Jim Hogue and Ron Kosemund, three classics in advertising; Geneva Rush, a sweet lady in composing; and Roy Barkalow, a custodian.
A young version of Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis was even pictured back when he worked here as an ad salesman. Other familiar faces and many endearing names captured the special moment compliments of Aggie’s visit. A different memory came with each. Regrettably, some I could not remember.
But that’s just what time does.
It steals a little of yesterday, but it gives back ten-fold in precious memories that we cherish today and will share for a lifetime over a world of tomorrows.
Thanks for the laughs, Aggie.
Drop by any time ... because time stops for no one.
And that’s OK.