It's been almost 40 years – 39 to be exact on Oct. 9 – since I walked into a newsroom and sat down at my own desk for the first time. I nervously waited for Managing Editor Richard Milton to hand me my first assignment.

It's been almost 40 years – 39 to be exact on Oct. 9 – since I walked into a newsroom and sat down at my own desk for the first time. I nervously waited for Managing Editor Richard Milton to hand me my first assignment.

Officially I had been hired two weeks before but I gave by employer at American Greetings my two weeks notice. I already knew that one of my assignments was going to be covering the Osceola Seminoles – the local high school football team. After almost three years of loading and unloading trucks on a shipping dock covering a football game was going to be paradise.

Just after 8 a.m., Richard assigned me to talk to the administrator of the local hospital about a career fair in medicine to be held in the near future. Jim Richter treated me like a veteran newsgatherer and gave me the lowdown.

I promptly returned to the office and typed out the story on an ancient (even by 1978 standards) typewriter. After going over and over my copy including retyping it, I finally got brave enough to hand my copy to Richard for his final approval.

I truly expected to see him slash my copy from top to bottom with red ink. Instead, he marked a couple of items, offered a couple of suggestions, put my byline on it and flagged it page 1. I was in disbelief. I nearly leaped for joy.

When I went home for lunch I told Mom and Dad the exciting news.

“Front page on the first day on the job, wow!” Exclaimed my dad.

Little did I know I was going to bump myself from the front page.

Before the end of that fateful first day of work, Richard told me that I needed to cover the city council meeting that evening. I went home grabbed a bite to eat and headed for city hall. Much to surprise not a single light was on in the building and it was just five minutes before the session was to begin. So, I began to panic.

I waited and waited and waited some more but no one showed up. Finally, I gave up and drove home. I told my parents about the situation. Frankly, I was afraid I went to the wrong location or they had switched locations. Mom finally decided she would call one of the council members that she knew personally. They informed her that it was not scheduled until the following Monday evening – the first Monday following the 10th of the month.

There was a huge sigh of relief. Still, I found myself dreading going in the following morning and informing Richard that I could not complete my assignment.

The next morning Richard was bringing in the mail as I arrived for work. I promptly advised him of the situation. He quickly informed me that was no problem but added that a major fire occurred overnight which destroyed almost a city block.

Grabbing a notebook, I headed on foot directly to the scene. Several buildings had been gutted by fire. One of the business establishments that had been destroyed by the blaze was where one of my best friends worked. Ricky, Richard's son and pressman and photographer at the Osceola Times, handed me a 35 mm camera and told me to start shooting away.

When my first edition hit the streets, my story about the medical fair had been relegated to an inside page. However, my fire story and the photos that I took stood firmly as the lead story on the page.

That all occurred within the first 10 to 12 hours on the job. I had many more memorable experiences during my early years with The Times. I particularly enjoyed going to the schools and taking photos of the children. On one occasion, I took a group photo and was gathering some information about the project from the teacher. One little boy kept looking at me. After I was finished quizzing the teacher, I asked him if I could help him. He replied, “No, I'm just waiting for the picture to come out.”

I enjoyed meeting new people. Though technically I met my future bride at church, I did encounter her on one of my photo assignments at West Elementary School. We've been best of friends now going on 37 years – the rewards of the job. That was back when journalism was more than just a job, it was a calling and on a lot of occasions, it was actually fun.