Twenty years goes faster than you think. Trust me.
Amazingly, that is how long I have been coming to work here, putting my name on stories, photos and the occasional column. Taking photos now of the kids of kids I first took pictures of when I got here.
Our staff meetings, where the reporters for our three-paper group of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon and I get together to discuss the week ahead and lay out who is covering what, are each Wednesday morning. This past week, March 20, I realized that Thursday, March 21 was my 20-year anniversary date of making the move to California. My official start date at the paper was March 24, 1993 so Sunday – when I attempted to keep my work schedule light, calling only seven coaches to follow up on sports events – marked two decades with the newspaper group. Much has happened since, including the sale several years ago to a corporate owner, Morris, from the family owned (Stan Cook) operation that it was when I began. My co-workers were (somewhat) enthralled during the March 20 staff meeting as I detailed the circumstances that brought me here and how I had to pass the “Stan test” before being hired. Lunch at The Nutcracker in Oakdale with the publisher and other senior staff members was required prior to a job being offered and, since I had some knowledge of hunting and fishing and had done both, thanks to my upstate NY childhood and young adulthood, I passed the test. Stan must have figured I was OK if I had been out hunting with my brother to bag some rabbits for stew and it seems like we were always fishing, whether it was putting a rowboat on the lake in summer or drilling holes to set up our tip-ups for ice fishing in the winter.
Originally spending most of my time in Riverbank as the editor there, I eventually was moved to Escalon and gradually had additional ‘assistant editor’ duties added in Oakdale as well before taking over as editor for all three papers a few years ago. The move from Riverbank to Escalon came after the birth of my daughter in 1996; they basically switched John Branch and I, giving John a new assignment as editor in Riverbank after he spent many years living and working in Escalon, and sending me to San Joaquin County to cover Escalon and the surrounding communities of Collegeville and Farmington.
With my daughter just turning 17 in February, that’s quite a few issues that I have overseen in the Land of Peaches and Cream. I also enjoy contributing still to The City of Action – Riverbank News and The Cowboy Capital – Oakdale Leader newspapers but everyone knows my heart belongs to Escalon.
My last column dealt with the topic of my husband’s unexpected passing and the tremendous showing of love and support my family and I received. Those cards, flowers, notes of encouragement, and the hugs all helped me to get through each day and came not only from Escalon but also friends in Oakdale, Riverbank and the surrounding areas. Former publisher Stan and his wife Donna brought tears to my eyes, having several trees planted in a national forest in Curt’s memory – as he also worked at the papers for many years. The Escalon Sports Boosters sent a beautiful dish garden, along with their thoughts and hugs.
When I started out on this cross country adventure 20 years ago (still relatively young, mind you) there was no way for me to predict what was going to happen. Getting married, inheriting two children, having one of my own – those thoughts weren’t even in my mind. I just knew it was time to move from being a reporter to an editor, to take on additional responsibilities and make a paper truly ‘mine.’
To that extent, we have to cover the bad news as well as the good, write about both the tragedies and the triumphs and through the years, I have definitely had my share of both to cover.
Since the bulk of my time has been spent in Escalon, that’s where most of my memories stem from – and the community has given me some of the best. Saturday night brought one more for the personal archives. I had the opportunity to attend the Sports Boosters Dinner-Dance and made the decision to go as myself, leaving the camera and notebook at home. (Teachers that hit the dance floor after dinner are probably glad about that.) It was great food, lots of good conservation, a lively auction and, in one of the most touching moments I have ever experienced, a standing ovation from the crowd. Auctioneer (Escalon High School teacher and coach) Rusty Fachner – who has his eye on getting a job here once he retires – took time to issue thanks to many people, myself included, and as he asked me to stand and be recognized, the crowd did likewise, rising to their feet and showering me with applause. It was humbling, and awesome, to be honored so for doing something that, even after all these years, I still love to do. It took everything I had to keep the tears from falling – my concern was once I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
Twenty years, lots of changes, lots of memories and, in the last couple of months, an emotional roller coaster. I am eternally grateful for the love and support I was shown on Saturday night – it means more than you will ever know.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.