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The Lessons Of Summers Past
Marg-Ins 7-15-20

We had a staff meeting here at the newspaper office recently.

So what, you ask? Big deal? What makes that so special?

Well, what makes that so special is that I actually had staff members with whom to have a meeting.

The newsroom has been pretty deserted these past few months, courtesy of COVID-19, staff members rehabbing from long-ago injuries and a variety of other issues.

We recently got back sports reporter Dennis D. Cruz, cleared for takeoff but still hobbling a bit as he continues to mend from the broken leg suffered back in mid-September while covering Oakdale football. Just as Dennis was returning, reporter Teresa Hammond was going on leave. Reporter Virginia Still has been coming in once a week during the pandemic but working mostly from home.

Joining the crew were longtime returning summer intern (OK, after this many years she’s not really an intern anymore) Autumn Neal and newcomer, true summer intern Brooke Chau. Part-timers Autumn and Brooke have combined to take up the Oakdale slack left in Teresa’s absence while Dennis is working on both news and sports, Virginia continues to handle Riverbank and all of them are pitching in as necessary in lots of areas.

So this past week, there was a day when every desk in the newsroom had a person sitting at it. Oh, what joy! So many people, so much noise! Who would have thought that would be something to make us all smile?

During our meeting, Brooke asked if I was going to have another column soon because she liked reading them. Typically, I told her, the ‘Marg-Ins’ comes out once a month, the first week. But, when there are five Wednesdays I give myself permission to do another one during the month and, honestly, I could do one whenever I feel like it.

Since July has five Wednesdays, you are all in luck; here’s column number two for the month. And seeing as how Brooke brought up the column, I will draw some inspiration from her for the topic.

Summer jobs.

I think they can be a great way to shape you as a person, maybe even get you started on a career path. Who among us older folks haven’t had an array of summer jobs that – hopefully – we can look back on fondly?

One of my favorites was a job where I didn’t even get paid. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school; I was 14 and a ‘counselor in training’ at a local summer camp. I assisted the head counselor for our group of kids with all the daily activities. Like a typical summer camp, we rotated through such activities as arts and crafts, nature, swimming, music, outdoor games and more. Campers were divided up into age groups and you stayed with your group for the entire two-week camp experience. There were three or four sessions during the summer, running for most of July and August. What I didn’t get in pay, I received in great work experience and developing some people skills, plus it was just a lot of fun.

Then there was the summer I worked as a cook at a horse ranch in the Catskill Mountains because I loved horses. Didn’t know much about cooking in bulk for a dozen folks who led the trail rides or, much less, cooking for 50 that went on overnight horseback riding campouts but somehow I pulled it off. They also clamored for my cookies and cakes and I loved to bake so that worked out just fine.

But by far the best was the summer I hooked up with the radio station that was just opening in the small upstate county where I lived in New York. They brought me on as a ‘stringer’ and sent me off to stories, everything from the county fair and town council meetings to accidents and fires. Then they let me start recording my own stories to put on the air instead of just writing them for someone else to broadcast. Then they decided to throw me on the air live and let me learn it as I went. Best summer ever. Radio later led me to newspapers so my journalism career literally began as a summer internship … just saying, Autumn and Brooke, it could happen.


Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.