I’ve always written for this paper, but they now pay me

In a way, I got my first byline in the Bee & Herald back in December 1979.

I was 3.

Arguably, I’ve only improved marginally as a writer.

A few years ago, while still living in Ohio — completely unaware that I would one day be called back home to become editor of the Bee & Herald — my parents visited from Jefferson with a big Rubbermaid bin in tow.

“Here,” my mom unceremoniously announced, “this is a bunch of your stuff. Now that you have a house, you can find a place for it.”

I popped off the lid and found bits and pieces of my childhood from Jefferson inside.

Old school crafts.

A random baby shoe.

All kinds of drawings that a psychologist might have interpreted as the work of a future serial killer.

Then there was a book with the words, “Our baby,” embossed in gold.

My baby book.

I always sort of assumed I’d find that well-worn book in my parents’ house at some distant future date, at the inevitable conclusion of their twilight years.

But, seeing as how my folks don’t seem to be anywhere close to kicking the bucket, I see where my baby book now rates on their scale of importance.

The real revelation, however, was seeing the kind of detailed notes my mom took on me as I grew from a newborn to a kindergartner.

According to the book — make that a detailed schematic of my mouth on Page 72 — my left upper lateral incisors developed at 7 months, 19 days, followed by my right lower cuspids at 14 months, 4 days.

That attention to detail was apparently the benefit of having a stay-at-home parent/amateur zoologist as a mother.

But of real interest to me in the book — as a longtime newspaper reporter — were all the clippings from the Bee & Herald.

Luckily, the book ends before I was old enough to appear in the magistrate report.

Now that I’m back as the paper’s editor, though, I find these clippings to be even more special — especially the ones I wrote.

And when I say “the ones I wrote,” I actually mean my letters to Santa that were published annually in the Bee & Herald.

Back then, I guess it never dawned on me that Fred and Rick Morain were committing a federal offense by opening Santa’s mail.

But, I’m now glad they did, printing each kid’s letter at that time under the heading “Santa’s mailbox.”
We published a new generation’s letters to Santa in Tuesday’s Bee.

One kid this year asked for an iPad.

My own requests were never too extravagant, but they also clearly represent a certain period in time.
In 1980, I asked for “a tauntaun from Star Wars.”

Santa fortunately was a big enough geek to know that tauntauns were actually featured in “The Empire Strikes Back” (or, more specifically, “Episode V”).

He came through for me that Christmas.

It probably didn’t hurt that I ended the letter by gushing, “I love you, the elves and Rudolph.”

By age 6, I was asking for an E.T. coloring book and Castle Grayskull.

I promised to leave a carrot for “Rudolfe.”

My very first typo.

The following Christmas, I went for broke, writing, “I would like Mr. T, Trap Jaw, Talon Fighter, Panther, Jabba the Hut (sic), tie fighter, (and) a Pac-Man mini-game.”

Not a Mr. T doll or a box of that Mr. T cereal.

No, I wanted Mr. T outright, apparently.

And I think I really meant “Panthor,” the giant, man-eating cat that Skeletor kept at bay in the He-Man cartoon. (Hey, I’m a geek; I still remember all this stuff.)

I unsuccessfully tried to persuade my own son, age 5, to write a letter to Santa this year — his first Christmas in Jefferson — knowing it would run in the Bee.

“Your dad never passed up an opportunity to write to Santa,” my mom informed him.

He was totally unimpressed, though, by the notion of his letter appearing in the local paper.

Then again, when your dad doubles as a newspaper columnist, it’s already old hat by age 5 to have your name or an anecdote about you in print.

On Jan. 4, 1982, also at the age of 5, I provided Fred Morain’s “Cogitations of an Old Codger” column in the Bee with an anecdote of my own, which I found taped to a page in that baby book.

So, I leave you with this trip down memory lane courtesy of Fred’s column:

“Andy McGinn, 5-year-old son of Marc and Debbie McGinn, watched the communion service at the United Methodist Church with great interest one Sunday morning.

“On the way home, he showed his appreciation. ‘Boy,’ he observed, ‘they had some nice treats, didn’t they?’ ”

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161