Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 2, 2014

RAY MOSCOWITZ: No joke: His life changed forever 50 years ago

Journalism career began April Fool's Day, 1964.

MC Weekly

---- — Do you remember the first major turning point in your life?

It’s easy for me: April Fool’s Day, 50 years ago yesterday.

At 8:54 a.m. on April 1, 1964, I parked my ’62 Chevy Impala in front of the Sears store on East Clinton Street in Frankfort, Ind., and thought to myself, "What am I doing here?"

It was no joke. I had driven from teeming Los Angeles to tranquil Frankfort after accepting a job offer. It would be my first job in daily journalism.

For a minute or two, I gazed across the street at the narrow, nondescript, three-story building that needed a good night’s sleep. It housed the Frankfort Morning Times.

I walked into the lobby and was directed to the newsroom, a tiny space on the second floor, where I met my new boss, Vance Sappenfield, from Linton, Ind.

My life would change forever.

After 17 months, I moved on from grassroots journalism to big-city newspapering at the Dayton Journal Herald in Ohio. A big change.

Some four years later, while in Dayton, I would marry the woman who has been my life partner for more than 45 years. A significant change.

And 18 months later, to the day we said our vows, our son would be born — seven weeks early. A major change.

Career opportunities developed, including a return to Frankfort as managing editor of the Morning Times after Nixon Newspapers Inc. bought the newspaper. A huge change.

For the next 30 years there were notable changes — moving four times as my career with NNI developed, major assignments that took me to places in the United States and abroad, technological advancement in the newspaper industry, moving from the news department to the business side as a publisher.

All because of that day a half century ago yesterday.

“Did you have a good trip?” Sappenfield asked after we greeted.

“Yes, fine,” I said, looking up at a lean, bespectacled man dressed in a white shirt, blue tie and friendliness.

He introduced me to Lynn Paddack, the news clerk. She greeted me warmly.

“Lynn clipped out some ads for apartments,” Sappenfield said.

One ad was for a place a long block down the street from the paper. It was a cool, but sunny, spring morning as I walked down Clinton Street. About 50 yards down the block I passed a man strolling in the opposite direction.

“Good morning,” he chirped.

“Good morning,” I chirped.

I quickly realized that I was not in Los Angeles anymore.

The furnished apartment was an upstairs, corner duplex. I took it.

Sappenfield had told me in our phone interview there were three Jewish families in town, two brothers in the scrap metal business and Lou Freedman, who owned a clothing store.

My dad had suggested that I quickly introduce myself.

After paying a month’s rent, I walked back to the Square, where Freedman’s was located on a corner. The store was packed with merchandise for men and women. I weaved my way to the back and was soon greeted by a man with a wide smile.

Lou welcomed me in a lilting voice I can still hear. “A landsman! A nice Jewish boy in Frankfort! You’ll come for dinner.”

There were two banks in town — Clinton County Bank and Trust, which sat catty-corner from Freedman’s, and Farmer’s, which was about a block away. Might as well open a checking account at the closest place, I figured.

I spent the next two hours taking care of various necessities before having lunch at the Woolworth’s counter on the Square, where a young woman greeted me as if we’d known each other for years.

Then I walked back to my new apartment to unpack my belongings — clothes, books, a small record player and about 25 long-playing albums.

I took a short nap, then walked back to the Square for a self-led tour before having dinner at the Combo Restaurant.

I got back to my place around 7:30 and turned on the small black and white TV.

By 9:30, I was in my “new” bed.

As I lay there, I thought, "It has been a life-changing day."

It would turn out to be one for which I am grateful.

Ray Moscowitz of Bloomington is a retired newspaper executive and former publisher of the Peru Tribune. Contact him at r.mosco@comcast.net.