Editor’s note: From a column Sandy Grady wrote in 1985 on the closing of The Charlotte News. Grady died Tuesday at age 87 at his home in Reston, Va.
On frosty mornings as a teenager, I’d ride my bike to the old News building at 4th and Church streets and write high school sports. Summers I’d work on the city desk, writing obits, sometimes getting the names right. The summer I was 17, while all the first-stringers were away at World War II, I was the paper’s $35-a-week sports editor.
To be young and working in that second-floor city room with its brass spittoons and rattling Underwood typewriters and the smell of newsprint and the sound of clacking Linotype machines drifting from the composing room was a sort of Eden.
Back in the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s, and maybe to the end, The News was known around the South as a Writer’s Paper. This meant that the pay was low but you could have some fun and freedom of putting things down on paper with flair.
There were guys like Burke Davis, Ray Howe, Furman Bisher and Bob Quincy writing sports … and a kid star named Charles Kuralt in the city room.
Anybody who hung around that crowd and didn’t grow up knowing that newspapering was the most magic business in the world had to be a fool.
I wrote sports for the News in 1950-57, which meant you worked frantically from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., shot a little pool at Rex’s Pool Hall, came back to work on the next day’s stuff, then spent the nights and weekends at ball games. I was paid $125 a week, and it was glorious.
The old News lit that sort of daffy fire in us. In the mid-’50s Ronald Green, Julian Scheer and I drove my ’48 Ford 150 miles to do a story on a strange swamp animal that was scaring folks witless. We came back with a dead rabbit as evidence and a story headlined, “Beast of Bladenboro Terrorizes Sandhills Town.”
If my house were burning, the AP award that story won would be the first thing I’d save. You did goofy things like that because The Charlotte News was a place where people cared about craft – one of the few papers I’ve ever worked for that had a kind of raffish soul.
They can shut the doors, turn off the lights, but The News is where I’ll always hang my heart.