The old-fashioned newspaperman

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2007

This beginning is not how I intended this column to start, but on learning that Roger Pride passed away Friday morning, I felt like I needed to write something about him.

I first met Mr. Pride at my first high school football game as a reporter. I wasn't sure if I could get a picture from the game or not and at some point I broke my film. Those were days before we went digital.

In those days when we still used film and the darkroom, we would buy our film in bulk rolls and in the dark we'd roll our own canisters of film. You had to be careful when you were shooting as not to pull the film completely out of the tube.

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So there I was on the sidelines in Georgiana, worrying about the fact that I couldn't take pictures. Roger walked up and introduced himself. He had a very old-fashioned camera with him and also a newer one. I told him what I had done and he laughed at me.

Then he did the most remarkable thing, he reached into his pocket and pulled out two rolls of film and handed them to me. He said I could return the favor one day.

As the years went by, I had many opportunities to visit with him. He might be at some event I was covering or he might just be hanging out. He was always good for telling a tale or two about the good ole days and I always enjoyed my visit.

A few years ago, when a new steeple was going on First Baptist in Georgiana, I arrived with my big, fancy digital camera. He was there with his old one. We sat at his car and watched as the steeple went up and finally I said something about finding a cooler spot. I even mentioned his age and that he needed to find a cooler spot too.

&#8220Nah, you go ahead,” he said. &#8220You're the one that's sweating.”

To know a newspaper man like Roger Pride, you have to understand the mentality of growing up in a newspaper family. I was amazed Friday afternoon as I fielded calls from people all over the state who heard about his passing. I heard, &#8220Well my family owned this newspaper..or that newspaper” and from what I gathered, when they all got together, it was always old homeweek.

Having worked a few years at a family paper in Evergreen, I came to understand the close-knit relationships these families shared. They were there for each other.

Now, I'm considered the editor of the Butler County News. I will never say that I replaced, succeeded or followed Roger Pride. I don't have that kind of experience. It takes decades to turn out his caliber of a newspaperman and I just don't know if I have that kind of stamina.

Although I have not seen him since that day with the steeple, I mourn his passing. I mourn the idea that I'll never see his grin again. I mourn that I'll never hear him tell another tale. And I mourn the fact that I'll never hear him say to me again, &#8220In the good ole days.”

My heartfelt sympathies to his family, bur I know we will all see him again.

Rest in peace, Mr. Pride.

t Earlier this week, I visited The Chef's Table for the first time and was simply amazed at the place. I kept telling owner Jan Newton how beautiful the renovation of the building went and what a great place she had.

I've always been a fan of renovating old buildings and making them useful again, so seeing the finished product was a treat.

I caught Jan in between the breakfast and lunch service and got to spend a few minutes chatting with her about what she plans for the future. I envision this becoming one of the favorite eateries in town. I could not help but buy a few cookies although I'm not supposed to have them. I took what I purchased back here to the office where I shared with the others, so the guilt I felt for buying the cookies passed pretty quickly.

Since I was there early in the day I didn't get to have lunch at The Chef's Table, but I can't wait to go back and try it.

Something I think is important is supporting our locally-owned hometown businesses so I would encourage you to stop by and visit Jan and her staff and try some of those delicious dishes.

It's funny now when I remember back to the days when Greenville had four places to eat. There was McDonald's, Hardees, Bates House of Turkey and the restaurant where Krystal now stands. That was yesterday. Today we have such an assortment, it's amazing. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be able to have Mexican, Chinese, Italian and just an assortment of other foods, I would have said you were crazy. Progress sometimes comes slow but man, looking around Greenville today, it's obvious progress is here.

t I was reading through Fort

Dale Academy's website the other day and saw that Mrs. Nonie Taylor continues to teach at the school. It does a heart good to see that she is still at it. Mrs. Taylor was my English teacher in Highland Home before I transferred to Greenville.

Looking back, as age brings about wisdom, I remember her classes fondly. She was probably one of my two favorite teachers at Highland Home

School and her classes were tough.  However, I always enjoyed her classes because unlike others, she believed in making her classes read some of the classics. When I went to college, I believe the foundation I had formed through her classes made my advancement through required literature classes easier.

So to her incoming students and for her future students, when you think she is being tough on you, work harder. She knows her stuff and if you pay attention, it will pay off in the long run.

t Speaking of teachers, Don Yancey, who was my math teacher at Greenville High, was our guest minister last Sunday while our pastor held revival at a neighboring church. I had never heard Rev. Yancey preach before, and let me tell you, I sat amazed at his ability. I enjoyed it immensely and hope to hear him preach again in the future.

I joked with him afterwards about when he was a teacher and he said he often thought about giving quizzes when he visited different churches. I thought that was funny.

He is the new director of missions for Crenshaw County and while he always seemed to have a love of teaching, his passion for preaching was also quite obvious.

t I know I've written in this space in the past about how I welcome your letters to the editor. This page is designed not only for various writers to share their thoughts with you, but I believe it is important that everyone who has something on her chest to write it down. So if you see something you like, or you hear about something you want to comment on, and then write a letter to the editor. Just be sure to include your name and address and phone number. We won't publish the address and phone number, but would love to publish your thoughts.

t Finally, I had an opportunity to visit Buckaloo Holiness Church last Sunday night for the close of their Vacation Bible School. Luann Schofield invited me to speak to those in attendance after their closing program. I cannot tell you how friendly and welcoming everyone at the church was to me. 

I told them that I am amazed at how different Bible school is today to when I last attended one back in 1985. Everyone seemed to have a good time and I appreciate the invitation to be there and their hospitality.

t One more thing and I'm done. I met with Superintendent Mike Looney on Thursday to discuss plans for the renovation of W.O. Parmer Elementary and also the construction of the new school in Georgiana. When I first met Mike he was a candidate for the superintendent's job. I found him to be enthusiastic about the possibilities he saw in Butler County and after talking to him again, I was happy to see that the enthusiasm he had three years ago is not only still there, but it has quadrupled.

I'm excited about the future of the local public school system and something that he said stayed with me. Simply put, he and the Board understand that the decisions they make not only impacts the immediate future, but they will impact the lives of children who aren't even born yet. Now that's what I call having a plan for the future.


Jay Thomas is group managing editor of Greenville Newspapers. He can be reached at 334-382-3111, ext. 136 or via email at jay.thomas@greenvilleadvocate. com.