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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Tuesday, March 6 2001

Mentors and other teachers

What makes a good teacher? What changes your life, or stays with you most of your life that you get in a classroom, or in a "tutorial"? For our purposes, a "tutorial" may be as informal as a moment when the mechanic shows you how to gap your points. And I'm defining as a mentor any teacher, accredited or not, who imparts information in such a way that it enhances your life. A mentor could concievably be an on-air personality like one of the PBS relationship experts who get trotted out around pledge weeks. It could even be a character in a fictitious presentation who makes a point so well it changes your way of thinking. Robert Young as the father in Father Knows Best was a kind of mentor on being a father, to me, as, a generation later, was Bill Cosby in the Cosby Show. I consciously tried to imitate Cosby's humorous handling of situations with my sons, and most of the time it was effective. And, I realized that not taking myself too seriously made the chore of single-parenting much lighter on myself. (My mother was an excellent role model in that regard, too. Despite her Baptist pietism, she was tolerant and always sympathetic.)

I don't doubt that the most important mentor I ever had was Andrew P. Rogalski, the editor of the Nanty Glo Journal in 1957 who hired me as the teen columnist. In a way that was the opposite of Dave Thompson's approach at the Mountaineer-Herald (whom I was also writing for every week), Andy not only edited my output thoroughly but took pains, when I visited the office, to lecture me on my shortcomings as a writer. After an initial defensive posture, I realized what a valuable gift he was giving me. At that time, my mind was so sharp (or was it "jealousy" over my beloved words?) that I could pick up every "edit" he made on my columns, so I could discuss the changes with him when I next came into town. One of his first lessons, I remember still, was that there is no such word as noone. Anyone, everyone, even nobody, yes; noone, no. That's two words: no one. If you want to be a published writer, you have to know such fine points. (But you don't have to master them before you start.)

Andy plyed me with books, which is a good tipoff that someone is mentoring you. The first was Look Homeward, Angel, by Thomas Wolfe, which he considered the great American novel. I was enthralled by it, though I'm not sure it's the greatest...Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr., may have made an even stronger impression on me (my reading of either one is too long ago for me to be sure). Another was a college textbook on journalism that I read from cover to cover...the only textbook I've ever read so thoroughly (in four years of undergraduate and another four years of post-graduate courses)!

I don't know if Andy was consciously preparing me to succeed him (though I doubt it strongly), but when he decided to take a better job offer at the Windber Era in 1962 he offered me his job and persuaded the paper's owners in the Portage offices to give me a crack at it. I was willing to start at less than one-third the salary he was then making, so they didn't have to be strong-armed to agree (in fairness, I have to stipulate that they allowed me to continue attending college fulltime while being expected to do a fulltime job for the paper.... But the two dovetailed well and I loved every minute of it.)

The last week of his job with Sedloff Publications, Andy had me at his elbow the whole time, teaching me everything from how to schmooze at the County Courthouse to developing sheet film in the paper's darkroom. I never did get the hang of the courthouse thing (and didn't have time to spend a day a week there as he had done), and so far as I know, no successor has ever regained the ground Andy had conquered in covering county news.

Like the majority of men of his time, Andy smoked constantly (at the time, even classrooms at Pitt were "smoking sections"). He also ran on coffee, which I didn't have a taste for at yet. At one of our breaks in the K&B as he sipped his coffee and I my Sun Drop, I said, not even half seriously, "I guess I'll have to take up coffee drinking to do this job." To which he didn't hesitate to reply with gusto that I certainly did not: "Be yourself!" he advised, and it may have been the best bit of advice he gave among the thousands received. It certainly came as the biggest surprise and made the longest-lasting impression.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

The Mooing Sheep

A flock of sheep are grazing in a field, happily going "baa baa" to each other and discussing life as usual when suddenly they hear a "moo, mooooooooooooooooooo!" They look around and see only sheep. They carry on grazing as before.

"Moooooo, mooooooooooo mmmoo!" One sheep can hear it all too clearly next to him. He shuffles away a little from his friend, a worried look on his face, and then asks, "George, why are you mooing. You're a sheep. Sheep go 'baa!'" His friend replies gladly: " I know, I thought I would learn a foreign language!"

Sent by Mike Harrison

Exile

There is such a thing as exile, an irrevocable renunciation of everything in one's familiar surroundings that hinders one from attaining the ideal of holiness. Exile is a disciplined heart, unheralded wisdom, an unpublicized understanding, a hidden life, masked ideals. It is unseen meditation, the striving to be humble, a wish for poverty, the longing for what is divine. It is an outpouring of love, a denial of vainglory, a depth of silence.

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, early seventh century

Sent by John Stamps
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