EDITOR’S NOTE: The Daily Gazette’s “Back in Time” feature — in which writers assigned to the newspaper’s history division revisit a story from the past — does not appear today. Instead, the history division reporter — Jeff Wilkin — writes the one-time-only feature “Out of Time.” Wilkin, who has worked in newspapers for the past 42 years, on Wednesday will retire as a full-time Daily Gazette reporter.
On Thursday, March 9, 1978, I drove a fully loaded 1973 AMC Gremlin from my native Rochester to Glens Falls.
In this case, “fully loaded” meant clothes, stereo, baseball glove, black-and-white television, blankets and pillows. I had landed a job at my new city’s newspaper, The Post-Star, and Managing Editor Irv Dean Jr. expected me at 2 p.m.
I pulled into the parking lot at 1:45 p.m., so I made my first deadline. I was anxious to show off my degree in journalism from stately St. Bonaventure University and begin collecting a $140 weekly salary. It might have been $145.
Mr. Dean first assigned his 22-year-old rookie to political beats in Moreau and later Queensbury. I transferred to sports in 1979, and moved to the Schenectady Gazette in February of 1981. Gazette Editor John E.N. Hume III had offered me the chance to cover Rotterdam.
The municipal coverage ended that fall, when The Gazette needed a new police reporter. I took over the beat and covered crime, fires, traffic accidents, explosions and everything else that came with flashing lights and sirens until 1989.
I spent a short time as a reporter for my hometown newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle, in 1989. Preferring the job in Schenectady, I returned in 1990.
Most of my career in newspapers has been spent in features, and I typed for about 25 years in The Gazette’s Life & Arts department. Some reporters thrive on hard hard news and politics. I was better with features, where imagination and innovation can be better employed on a regular basis.
I’ve talked to police officers, politicians, war veterans, musicians, ballet dancers, nudists, cosplayers, high school students, Adirondack adventurers, martial artists, race track fans, chefs, fireworks experts, fortune tellers, senior citizens, pro wrestlers, farmers, ghost whisperers, UFO hunters, zombies and antique collectors. I’ve taken photographs. I’ve carved out a specialty in Facebook Live videos.
I believe many stories live on, tucked into scrapbooks or zip drives and stored for future generations. I tell my journalism students at the University at Albany that writing ensures a little bit of immortality — our names and stories will last decades, even centuries.
I’m not going to drop many names here. I’m grateful to Irv Dean Jr., who later joined The Gazette as night city editor and passed away too early and too young in 2013. Every March 9, I used to remind Irv about my first day on the job and his role in beginning my career. “Can you ever forgive me?” he used to joke.
Also thanks to John E.N. Hume III for taking a chance on me 39 years ago. And a salute to The Gazette’s current ownership team, Betsie Hume Lind, Bill Hume and Henry Lind, for letting me stick around.
My last day as a full-time reporter will be Wednesday. I will leave on the 47th anniversary of my graduation from Rochester’s noble Aquinas Institute, when I cruised out of the school’s auditorium anxious to begin studies in journalism.
I’ll walk out The Gazette’s front doors at 1:45 p.m. — and make my last deadline.