Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ol’ Blue Walls reunions are never blue

BJ reunions happen all over the country every year. The latest was Aug. 6 at the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C.

The Ol’ Blue Walls gathering was by former graphic artist Jemal R. Brinson, former reporter and columnist Carl C. Chancellor, former reporter Delano Massey, former reporter Andale Gross and current BJ executive news editor Mark Turner.

Brinson is with the Chicago Tribune, Chancellor with the Center for American Progress in D.C., Massey with Cleveland’s WEWS-Channel 5 and Gross with The Associated Press in Chicago.

Massey had a couple of stays at the Lexington, Kentucky News-Leader, including as Metro editor, after his BJ days.

Chancellor left Ol’ Blue Walls in 2008.

Gross went with the AP in Kansas City, 100 miles from where he grew up in Mobley, Missouri, immediately after leaving the BJ in 2006 along with 14 staff members with 264 years of experience at 44 E. Exchange Street. Later, he migrated to AP in Chicago. He started at the BJ in 1997 and was Guild unit chairman.

For years Siesa Key, adjacent to Sarasota, Florida, was the reunion place for BJ folks. The late printer Bill Gorrell had a rental complex across the street from what annually is on the list of top 10 or 20 beaches in America or the world, so a lot of BJ types, particularly printers, would gather there for poker and golf.

In my 20 years in Florida, I stayed all of February in Sea Castle, a vacation complex across the street from Gorrell’s Poor Bill’s rentals, and had reunions with Dave and Gina White, Terry Dray and Hugh Downing from Composing and Don Bandy and Jane Snow from the newsroom.

Printers Dick Latshaw and Sid Sprague and business department’s late Harold McElroy went even beyond that. They moved into retirement together on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, for a couple of decades. Dick and wife Pat live two blocks from Harold’s widow, Linda McElroy, and Sid wasn’t far away till he moved to Loveland, California with his new bride after Sid’s first wife died.

I guess we had so much fun together at Ol’ Blue Walls that these reunions are like a homecoming.

I’ve been retired from the BJ for 20 years but, when I see Jim Carney in a Summit County park or Joan Rice in a restaurant or former Features Department co-workers at Primo’s Deli, or play golf every week in the winter with retired printer Hugh Downing and former BJ State Desk reporter Bob Page (turned pastor), it’s like I never walked out the door on 44 E. Exchange Street.

The bonding lasts a lifetime.

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