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HOLLENBECK: Early newspapers set the stage for the rest of my life

February 13, 2012

Knowing of my passion for animals, someone recently asked me if in my formative years I ever thought about becoming a veterinarian.
I'm not sure why that never made it to my "wanna be when I'm grown up" list, but it didn't.
It might have had something to do with the fact that even as a youngster I knew a vet had to be proficient in science and chemistry and lots of stuff like that, none of which was my forte.
I was born and reared to deal with words and music and the like. Throw in a little drama and literature also. But nothing of the scientific for me.
I have a good friend who, like me, also has had a lifetime dedication to animals. She did indeed want to be a vet, but let that ambition die when her sister told her that "only men are veterinarians." She accepted the words of her "wiser" older sibling and that was that.
There also was a time when I wanted to be a professional singer, but that dream also went up in smoke.
Professions have changed a lot. It's true that the veterinary profession once was a male-dominated occupation. Thankfully, that's no longer true.
Actually, when you think about it, how many children actually become whatever they set their sights on in elementary school?
Usually they'll tell you they want to be firefighters or police officers or maybe doctors and nurses. My third-in-line granddaughter, for a time, wanted to be a vet, and I was thrilled.
Unfortunately, she's switched her aspirations to the human market and I'm disappointed.
"Why don't you want to still be a veterinarian, Molly?" I've said.
"Because I couldn't put a dog to sleep," she said.
That's about as good a reason as I can think of.
This calls to mind a moment out of my own childhood — third grade, in particular — when Miss Erma Trice assigned us to write a paper on our ambitions.
At that juncture my heroine was Esther Williams, the movie star/Olympic swimmer that thrilled me with the water ballets I watched on the big screen at James Theatre in Cotton Plant.
I saw one recently on Turner Classic Movies and was reminded again of how fascinated I was with her amazing talent.
As a kid, there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I could be the next in line to claim her spot in stardom. In the paper for Miss Erma, I wrote about my desire to "grow up and be just like Esther Williams."
There's more than a little irony here. It borders on hysteria since I can't swim a stroke. I did learn to dance, but only on dry land.
A little later on, after realizing I never would become the swimming star of my third-grade fantasy, I set my sights on a career as an airline stewardess. (That's what we used to call flight attendants.)
Again, irony comes to the forefront. I'm terrified to fly. I have done it a few times — but only a very few — and I don't like it even a little bit. I know of no adjective adequate to describe how I would feel about doing this on a regular basis.
Lifetime friend Rosemary was a flight attendant for many years and has shared lots of interesting incidents from that profession, particularly her encounters with the rich and famous. I'm content to listen.
I always liked newspapers, so maybe that was a natural calling for me.
I grew up in a household where three newspapers were delivered every day, so there certainly was early exposure to the printed happenings.
In those days, the Arkansas Democrat was an afternoon paper and the Arkansas Gazette was a morning paper. We took both, along with the Memphis Commercial Appeal because my mother liked it.
Memphis was her shopping mecca and she had to keep up with the sales at Goldsmith's and Lowenstein's and other stores that are now part of Memphis and Mid-South history.
I grew up reading all three, but the Gazette was the paper that served as my example for good reporting and writing as a teenager.
It also was a good reference point even after I was working in the newspaper business here at the Courier.
This has nothing to do with children and ambitions and ultimate professions, but I'll add that I still think it's sad that during the newspaper war that caused the Gazette to be swallowed up by the Democrat, the old remaining Gazette crew wasn't allowed to put out its final edition.
Life isn't always fair.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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