Relics and Relocation

The internet expanded from the status of a glorified encyclopedia to the magic one-stop source for almost everything. Amazon offered an alternative to mall and department store shopping and Craigslist became the place to buy or sell furniture and other household goods. Cars and even houses could be viewed with a few keystrokes and just about any question could be “Googled.” The new “smart phones” put all of this convenience in the palm of everyone’s hand. My husband was in hog heaven with all of the technology options. I, on the other hand, found it a little unsettling to carry my entire friend and family base around in my pocket, all free to reach out and touch me at any time with texts and phone calls. I became known as the one who never answers their phone. Another negative for me and other newspaper employees was the fact that dependency on and need for newspapers was plummeting at an exponential rate.

In the early part of the new millennium, the classified department was a large, vibrant group occupying, the entire bottom floor of an office building with the hustle and bustle of booming business. By the end of 2008, what remained of the department was moved to a back corner on the first floor of the main Star-Telegram building. The bleak, windowless, space was about the size equivalent of a large living room and smelled old and musty. In spite of all of that, I loved being back in the old building. The same stairs I traveled down when I was terminated in 1982 were there in the lobby. I climbed them to the mezzanine and looked out over the space once occupied by the Classified Department. There, my mind’s eye could see characters of the past. I could see Gladys, that perpetual look of confusion on her face, going from desk to desk to make sure everyone was on task. I could see nervous, talkative, geriatric Mamie drinking from the plastic bottle that she claimed contained water. I could hear the beeper and feel the robust energy of the past. I walked down the hall to the “ladies lounge;” there stood the same white table with four orange chairs. The mirrors and sinks all the same. But the face in the mirror was very different. Gone was the 20-something fresh-faced girl filled with expectancy and looking forward to marriage, children, and a dream house. In her place was the same curly hair and determined blue eyes but seasoned with well-earned weathering and steeped in the reality of life playing out well, but differently than expected. I was thankful to stand there, on the other side of 55, look back to the beginning and all the jobs and experiences that followed, and say to myself, “It’s all good.”

Call volume was a fraction of what it was in previous years making revenue goals difficult to obtain. Fortunately, commission was measured against volume of upsells as well as raw sales revenue so I still managed to do well. Richard, Debi, and Carla Crow were still hanging in there and we enjoyed the comradery and fun of old friends. The small group in such close proximity set the stage for lively debates, many regarding politics and religion. Richard loved to get a lively conversation going. He and Debi were polar opposites on these subjects and argued loudly with all the freedom of expression of husband and wife, all in a good-natured way. I, of course, could not keep my nose out of it. Richard would say “You need to come to the Mother Church” to which I would reply “But I like being part of the Father’s church.” All was said within the bounds of friendship and, in the end, we had deep respect for each other and each individual’s freedom of opinion and affiliation. We saw and loved each other’s humanity ahead of our differences. However, the nation as a whole was losing sight of that concept as division between the two “sides” began to deepen to a degree I had not witnessed. Social media, another child of the internet, made it possible to post rumors, insulting cartoons, videos edited out of context, and slanted articles, much of which was created not to inform or debate but to enrage the other “side.” Gone was the filter of publication standards or policy enforced by a copy editor in the interest of maintaining integrity, neutrality, and truth. Anything could be said and, a web site could be found to support the most outlandish ideas and theories. I was ashamed of both “sides” and I began to feel a detachment from the new dynamics and a bit like a relic from the past.

In 2011, the building and home to our newspaper for 90 years was sold. In 1920, a dream of Amon Carter Sr. was fulfilled when the four-story building at 400 W. Seventh St. was completed to house his pride and joy, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Now, presses long gone to the suburbs, the remaining activity and energy that come together to publish a newspaper were moved to leased offices at the corner of W. Seventh and Throckmorton. Only one block east on W. Seventh St., but a thousand miles in significance. Those of us who loved the old building and the spirit represented therein found comfort in the fact that the purchaser was energy tycoon, Bob Simpson, who planned to restore the building to its original state.

The last day of occupation, Richard, Debi, and I climbed the old, rickety, metal spiral staircase to the roof to photograph the majestic Star-Telegram logo that is molded into the top border of the building. It was the last day we would be allowed in the building. It was the end of the era.

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