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The Jaded Eye … Writer Retrospect

There aren’t back issues of Webb Weekly stacked in piles like cordwood around my house like Car and Driver or Road and Track. The auto periodicals stay put. The papers go to the recycling center, as God intended.

That doesn’t mean I don’t remember some past writers that penned their way into your hearts the last decade and a half. Some I took more interest in than others, just as you did. Let’s delve back!

I miss Rosemary Neidig’s material, even though she was much older than myself. She wrote with passion about her high school years, the dances, the dates, and the anguish of a south side gal growing up. She highlighted her marriage and children in many of her stories.

What I cherished most about her memories was her talking about the 1950s and 1960s as if it were yesterday. A simpler time in America. Her ventures into L.L. Stearns department store with her mother reminded me of when I went with my mother to the luncheonette. Good times.

Rosemary also had the strength and fortitude to write a book, something I will probably never find the time or money to do. Her delicate chapters dealt with sexual abuse at a young age in her life by a family member. I did get the chance to read it and had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with her at many Webb holiday parties.

Dave Kagan, from Jersey Shore, PA, wrote about nature and our beautiful area on numerous occasions — and his dismay with the dangers of fracking in the surrounding regions. Dave wasn’t a tough nut to crack; what you read is how he felt. Trust me, he’s the same way in person, as we go way back into tennis playing days. I took his viewpoints seriously.

Melinda Wentzel penned her “Planet Mom” column for issue after issue. Aimed at parents in Lycoming County, most of her stories dealt with the joys (and some grievances) about motherhood and raising her three daughters. And don’t forget about keeping the hubby happy! Melinda confided in me that her time to write was cut short by taking care of an ailing parent. We can all relate — something has to give so something else can take. New priorities. Again, I sat with her at Mr. Webb’s bashes — writers like to compare notes!

Leroy, where are you? That is Leroy Baer (the Baer Facts) I am speaking of. Well, I know for a fact he is busy coaching tennis at Lycoming College, and unlike me, has a wife to attend to. Leroy’s stories were unique to me in the sense that almost all his stories came as a “part one” and a “part two.” Thus, he reeled you in for two weeks of reading for one story! Many of his stories dealt with the prison system, racial injustice, or growing up as a minority in our town.

Footnote: thus far all my written material has been limited to one issue. I am saving the “two-parter” for my obituary! Better yet, 100th birthday.

Mr. Bill Byham? What can I say that hasn’t already been said? His sports column that graced the Webb pages are sorely missed, but the new guys on board are keeping his spirit alive and well. I think he was an inspiration to many of us to keep plugging and providing exciting stuff.

China Neal came way before I started with this paper and had a vast, loyal following. From what I can remember, even though we never met, we shared a common trait: both of us have had to fight cancer’s nasty grip. I think she moved to California at some point but still contributed stories from cross-coast! Her material varied, but the ones I valued most were of personal conquests and inspirational messages. In a calamity-filled world, she offered solace.

There were others. Alison Hoff, from Montoursville, wrote about her college life and how to handle it, such as workload stress, scheduling classes, dorm life and cafeteria etiquette. A senior gal at Loyalsock High School, whose name slips me at the moment, told us, in her adolescent words, what her final year at the school meant to her. And what was beckoning after graduation! It was interesting to read her ramblings, as I attended that same school so many years earlier. Had things changed THAT much? From what I gathered though, the food didn’t. (Ed. Note – I believe Gerry is referring to our Russian intern Rita)

Jonathan Williamson wrote legal perspectives involving our area, including city council doings. Paige Smith (who I recruited) wrote a weekly jingle involving a play on words or familiar slogans. She used analogies to get her point across. She loved anything dealing with animals, helped me with the creative writing sessions at the Brown Library, but has since moved to the Lancaster area.

Lest anyone at any time forget (how can we?) the big Kahuna, Mr. Jim Webb Senior. Founder of the paper and appearing each week on page número dos. If you wanted a supercharged, lit fuse political view (staunch Republican, mind you), you needn’t look any further. His take on Washington, D.C. and how it affected not only the world, but Williamsport, and his doings, were spewed each week. Like his viewpoints or not, he wasn’t shy about sharing them.

His daughter, Morgan, also got some space in his paper to give an opinion. If memory serves, she was a Democrat. I am sure that led to many interesting dinner table conversations! And I bet she looked over her shoulder to prevent any “editing” of material.

It must be said that I am still gracious to Mr. Webb and now his son Jim Jr., to provide the opportunity for me to share thoughts through words. The paper is their domain, and I was invited into their jungle. Mr. Webb never told me what or how to present my take on things. But my mother did — “Keep it upbeat and light. And don’t take yourself too seriously.”

One of these days I may receive a call or text from Jim Webb or Steph Nordstrom that says….”your time is up, your stuff is stale, and last but not least, you’ve really outstayed your welcome.” (One more Ed. Note — no worries Gerry, you are welcome as long as you want!)

Like a canceled TV show, it’s probably available on DVD or in re-run land. In my case, perhaps it may be best to start saving each issue. You never know if it’s going to be your last.

Writers come, and writers go. Hopefully, each one of us has left you something over the years to remember, just as I have remembered them!

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