A lot happens in a year’s time.
That is not just a cliché.
One year ago, I lost my job in journalism after 33 years in the field. It was a dark day. The very next day, my son Sam, started pre-K. In the car on the way to school he said, “Dad, if you are a reporter I am going to be a reporter.” I had no comment.
As an older dad, taking him to school for his very first day, I figured I’d accept the role of looking like granddad, since I was 54 and Sam was 4. And I’d have to say I was retired or something.
On the county road near Sam’s school, the cars with other children for drop-off at Rose Union Elementary School in the Deer Creek Schools district backed up nearly a mile it seemed. I had a cellphone, and I took pictures of the traffic jam. The line did eventually move along and Sam made it through his first day.
There was lots of hope ahead for Sam just starting his path in life. And I found a little hope too. The Edmond Sun editor Mark Codner was interested in coverage of the Deer Creek Schools area, including my cellphone photos! So I was able to keep doing what I had been doing so many years, write stories and take pictures as news and features were still all around me in a changing suburban/rural landscape.
After dropping off Sam for his first day of his school career, I drove home, past the high school where I had learned to type, and by the gymnasium where I had played basketball. The next few months would be full of anxiety, of course. Job search. Career decisions. I signed up as a substitute teacher in local districts.
With much help from family and friends, I kept things stable and Sam sailed through his pre-K year with many accolades for good behavior and good study habits.
On Feb. 14, I was hired at “The Yukon Progress.” I have found community journalism, suburban newspapers can still thrive and be in demand. I could not be happier to return to the full-time work in this field.
Then the pandemic happened. Whether you had 30 years experience or 30 minutes experience, everything became a new world of news, news that no one has covered or faced. Although, there were people who survived the 1918 flu pandemic who are still alive in places around the world, nobody has had this kind of a pandemic to live through, economic downturns, debates over masks, etc. And and to keep working providing news to the public in the world of the internet and social media.
Then Sam’s school buildings were closed and students didn’t go back after spring break. His first day in kindergarten comes up Aug. 19 this year. Nearby, Piedmont Schools will open in-person on Thursday, Aug. 20.
Then people in Edmond have lost their newspaper. The Edmond Sun has closed. Former Sun editor and journalist Mark Codner is writing stories these days about the Edmond City Council developments affecting the community and the Edmond Schools plan for learning from his own Facebook account.
The demand for news has grown like never before. School districts are doing their best to post videos, or news releases with updates. Districts send out multiple emails, text messages, instant messages, or other alerts with information. But my neighbors don’t know what days of the week they are supposed to send their kids back to school. In Yukon Public Schools, meanwhile, the students are not going back for at least nine weeks. Catholic, private schools, such as St. John of Nepomuk opened Wednesday.
In Okarche, the public schools reopened Thursday with masks recommended. Holy Trinity Catholic School has also reopened.
In Okarche on Thursday, Police Chief Forrest Smith stood by as parents dropped off children for their first day of elementary school.
He was near the Okarche Elementary School gymnasium. My mind raced back to 1976. I was on the Deer Creek Antlers basketball team coached by Lewis Rainey. I played basketball in that very gymnasium. No clue how the games there went.
That was back in the old Skyline Conference. In the new Okarche High School gymnasium I met David Sanders. He remembered the schools in the Skyline Conference in the 1960s.
What is amazing is Deer Creek is now a 6A school and Okarche remains Class A.
I played basketball until 11th grade when I decided to quit the team and learn to type. I live to regret each day not being on the 1982 basketball team that played for the 2A state championship and was runner-up under Coach John Branam. I watched the game from the State Fair Arena stands. That was my Marcus Dupree story. The decisions we make in life, even at an early age, can be big ones.
Now I know how to type though, and I’m fortunate that my career, even if it wasn’t basketball, continues in Canadian County. And it won’t be long before Piedmont Schools are as big as Deer Creek Schools today, and I bet that old rivalry will be renewed one day soon.
Randy K. Anderson has kept Yukon and the community abreast of news with “The Yukon Progress.” with print and online coverage of what is important to the city and the county. Conrad Dudderar shares his years of experience reporting on the city and the school district in a time when information is critical for parents, but sometimes confusing or hard to come by. I am thankful for these professionals around me and for the opportunity to be here right now doing this, typing more words.
Local news coverage is more important than ever, and I hope people will remember that and help newspapers and journalism survive. Democracy depends on it.
Robert Medley can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.