Reminiscing: One for the road; here’s to new beginnings

JIM CARPENTER/Sun-Gazette Lazy days such as this in Murrells Inlet, S.C., in 2010, spending time watching grandchildren grow, is a great reason for a new beginning.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

I recall that early fall day in 1971 that I was in Williamsport to meet up with an old college friend for lunch and a game of tennis.

On a whim, I brought along my sports coat, shirt, tie and good slacks with the thought that I would follow-up in person on a resume I had sent the Sun-Gazette several weeks earlier — only to be told there were no openings.

As it turned out, between the time of my initial “rejection” and that afternoon, a position had come open — in the sports department — and I was in the right place at the right time.

A new beginning.

When you are single and 19, you don’t look too far into the future; but if anyone had told me I still would be here more than 45 years later, I would have said “you’re crazy.”

And yet, here I am.

Earlier in life I had other “new beginnings,” first in Wellsville, New York, and later in Kane, McKean County, and Westfield, Tioga County.

As a kid fresh out of college, having earned a two-year associate degree in journalism from the Williamsport Area Community College, I soon found that I had a lot more to learn “in the real world.” And under the guidance of the late Ray Keyes, Mike Bernardi and later Lloyd Phillips and others at the Sun, I began to find my way.

Through most of the 28 years that I spent in the sports department, 16 as the assistant editor and the last 11 as the editor, I covered high school sports — mainly the old West Branch Conference. And throughout my entire career that now has spanned five decades, I’ve been involved in coverage of the Little League Baseball World Series in one way or another.

I recall covering a local high school basketball team in a state playoff game at the University of Pennsylvania Palestra in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. I never had been inside a building that large before and it took more than a quarter of the game before I settled my nerves so I could concentrate on the game.

That was in the days before computers, faxes, cellphones and all of the technology that we take for granted today. After the game I returned to my hotel room and typed up my story on a portable manual typewriter, so that at 6 a.m. the next day I could phone it into the office and dictate it to another reporter, who then would retype it and send it to the composing room where it would be retyped yet again before finally making it into the newspaper.

We were elated a few years later when we got IBM Selectric typewriters at the office and ecstatic when computers finally came along.

When I was covering sports, I was awed when I met the likes of Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt during Phillies Caravans that used to come to town. I met Muhammad Ali when he made an appearance here during his time away from boxing in the Vietnam War era. Interviewing Little League founder Carl Stotz, covering Penn State football when Joe Paterno was the coach, covering minor league baseball at Bowman Field, covering state high school championship events and writing about events for which there was nothing on the line but bragging rights — they all hold special memories.

Late in 1999, the opportunity came to leave sports and join the news staff as an editor. Although I always have loved sports, I was ready for another new beginning.

On the news side, I went from being a reporter/editor to helping guide both young and seasoned reporters carrying out their daily tasks and being part of a team that tries to bring the best out of everyone each day and give Sun-Gazette readers a hometown product they can trust and be proud of.

In that respect, I think I have been a part of something very special. The Sun-Gazette’s roots go back 216 years and I have been privileged to have been one of the links during that time, helping bridge the past to the future.

Early-on I was the Region News editor and, most recently, the Religion editor. Over the years, I also took on the role as the newsroom senior night editor.

As the Religion editor, I developed a “Homegrown Missions” series that highlighted many of the missionaries who have come from our area. Their stories were amazing. And I had the opportunity to work with one of my correspondents, Nancy Baumgartner, on her series “Glimpses of God?” that focused on supernatural physical healing that people in our area have experienced. They are things that have inspired me and helped me grow in my own faith.

Throughout the years I have had a hand in several big stories and events, but stories about “everyday Joes” are just as enjoyable to me because one thing that this business has taught me is that everyone has a story to tell. That’s life.

And now, it’s time for that curtain call.

My wife and I raised three children here, all of whom have grown and moved away. We now spend much of our “free” time traveling out-of-state to visit with them and seven grandchildren, and it is with them in mind that we now transition into our next new beginning — what we hope will be an exciting future watching our grandchildren grow, sharing our experiences with them and visa-versa.

Over the years I’ve taken up golf and many times I will hear someone on the course say, “A bad day playing golf is better than a good day at work.”

I’ve been fortunate to have had a job that has been fulfilling in every way. Other than family commitments, or rare illness, I’ve never had a day that I wasn’t excited about coming to work and being a part of the process. Now, I’ll have time to find out if what they say about golf really is true.

Here’s to new beginnings.

— Carpenter is the Sun-Gazette Religion editor and may be reached at jdcarpy@msn.com

COMMENTS