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posted: 6/24/2014 11:53 AM

Taking a step backward isn't always bad

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You could say I've been a news junkie since childhood.

As a curious kid, my nose for news dug up local stories for the sporadic "Rolling Oaks Extra" that I typed and carbon-copied on onionskin paper, then peddled for a penny throughout my neighborhood in Muncie, Ind. Back then, my hometown also supported two daily newspapers, the Muncie Star and the Muncie Evening Press.

Since my teen years, I've also been a night owl. I'd often sneak downstairs to watch 90 minutes of Johnny Carson. One time a stand-up comedian made a wisecrack about daily newspapers.

Just when I finish reading the paper," he quipped, "another one is delivered."

The joke seriously resonated with me, emphasizing why the printed page matters with its presentation of content -- especially now.

Today, TheStarPress is one of the Gannet newspapers and the morning publication also is featured online.

During the glory newspaper days of my youth, I certainly never imagined being wired to electronics most of my waking hours, trying to keep up with human intelligence via news releases, blogs and social media as well as C-SPAN and mainstream media.

Occasionally overloaded these days, I exercised my freedom from all external technological communications when we headed to Muncie for a three-day weekend to celebrate Father's Day. I unplugged.

Mindful that my dad, now 91, and my mother, 86, are loyal newspaper readers, I knew TheStarPress would satiate my appetite for the latest headlines. And first thing Saturday, I went straight to the editorial page, just as I do with the Daily Herald.

At the bottom of the page was a column by Phil Ball, a retired physician and contributing humor writer. Years ago Dr. Ball, now 95, began writing clever commentary that appeared as letters to the editor under the pseudonym "Charles F. Coldwater, MD." At some point, his identity was revealed and he's been a columnist ever since.

In that column, Dr. Ball wrote that spelling words backward was a disease he'd acquired. For his own amusement, he'd look at a word and try to spell it backward in the spirit of vaudevillian comedian "Professor Backwards."

"My favorite word to spell backward is the famous heartburn remedy named Tums. Good source of calcium. Tastes good and soothes the stomach," wrote Dr. Ball.

Seeing Dr. Ball's headshot brought back images of his daughter, Susie, one of my childhood chums -- and I flashed to a faded Polaroid of Susie and me wearing matching gingham "sack" dresses and "t-strap" shoes, saved in an album from junior high school.

Tickled by the backward Tums reference, I've known other writers who play the same game. In fact, until I married, my penname was Einehpets Notskoorc. Einehpets Kcinep doesn't have the same appeal.

Driven by memories

My folks still live in the house my father built 60 years ago. Framed newspaper articles and family photos grace the hallway in the home where many puzzles were pieced together, card games were enjoyed and life's lessons were learned.

During this visit, we played "Up and Down the River" for hours, reminiscing and laughing until it hurt.

My father recounted the last time he went to the DMV for his driving test to renew his license. After he'd introduced himself to the road test examiner, he showed the woman to his car, walking alongside her to the passenger's side.

He said she said, "No, you get in on the other side. You're going to drive."

At which time Dad replied, "I was going to hold the door open for you, ma'am."

And I digressed, wondering when we'd become such a rushed society, often paying little attention to common courtesy, civility and kindness.

This past year, I've been blessed to help my folks record their cherished milestones and collect old photos.

I learned my mother's favorite song is "It Had to Be You."

My father noted two favorites, "Rubenstein's Romance" and "You Are But a Dream."

When my mother asked my favorite song, I answered, "On a Clear Day," and to remind her of the words, I sang, "On a clear day, rise and look around you, and you'll see who you are."

In a world where individuals strive to connect instantly via powerful technology, I'm clearly half backward. My energies are spent forwarding digital messages while sending sentimental stories to this repapswen.

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