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Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: My past comes out of the woodwork

Editor’s Notebook: My past comes out of the woodwork

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Given that I’m in the midst of both a home and office move, you can imagine that a lot of items from the past are making their appearance from the nooks and crannies of both places.

Here’s on that popped to the top: The Oct. 4, 1993, edition of the Inter-Mountain newspaper of Elkins, W.Va.

(Fun facts per that edition: Oct. 4 was a Monday; the paper cost 35 cents; and according to front-page coverage that I’m betting not a single Elkins resident cared about, an attempt by Russian hard-liners to oust Boris Yeltsin was in full swing.)

Here’s the back story to how I obtained that newspaper:


At the time, I was toiling at the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Journal newspaper, largely covering the state’s congressional delegation, and a job opening for editor of the Elkins paper came up. Both were owned by the same company.

I applied for the job, not because I had a dream of spending a career in Elkins (no offense…) but figuring that being the editor of a daily newspaper at such a youthful age would help me advance up the ranks more quickly. Oh, the stupidity of youth……

The powers that be of the Martinsburg paper said, “sure, drive on down and interview.” So for more than 2 hours I wriggled through the byways of the Mountain State on a sometimes terrifying roller-coaster ride before arriving at the office of the Inter-Mountain.

I was met warmly by the paper’s general manager, who in the first few minutes of our conversation nonchalantly said, “Aw, thanks for coming, but I’ve already given the job to a friend of mine. Now let’s go have lunch.”

Part of me wanted to storm off in a huff for being put to the trouble of driving down for a non-existent job, but Mama McCaffrey taught me to be nice – and a free lunch is a free lunch, then as now. So I was pleasant for the subsequent hour, then got in the car and did my steaming for the entire drive back to Martinsburg. So much steaming that, had I been a blue crab, I’d have been delicious!

You win some, you lose some; when a door closes, a window opens (although I’m not exactly configured from a physique standpoint to wiggle through a window, am I?). Three months from that experience, I was on the job at what was then the Northern Virginia Sun, and with the exception of 2.5 years away in Myrtle Beach (another unique experience…) have been here ever since.

THE NAME LIVES ON: When the Arlington power structure puts its mind to the job, it can squelch dissent in ways that even North Korea’s leaders have to admire.

But every once in a while, the A-town fall-into-line-or-else effort falls down on the job.

Such is the case with a directional sign – not going to say exactly where, as that would make it too easy – that points to a number of destinations in its vicinity. I came across it over the weekend.

The sign notes “Washington-Lee H.S. – 0.5 Miles.”

Whomever was put in charge of ensuring “Lee” was being expunged from the public consciousness, kinda like Stalin did with his rivals, missed that signage. It’ll be interesting to see if county leaders send staff on a scavenger hunt to find it and remove it for replacement with “Washington-Liberty.”

Time will tell.

– Scott McCaffrey

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