Opinion: Honoring 15 years

As I write this, I am celebrating 15 years of bringing to you, our supportive readership, my little column Gravy by the Slice. While I know my musings will never be the most important article in The Madera Tribune, I can only hope in any given edition it might be the funniest or most thought-provoking item in that day’s paper.


Many things have changed in the last 15 years not only in my little world but in the whole wide world around me.


When I began writing my weekly (weakly) column I shared the paper with the daily column of what my friend Cal Tatum calls the “Great and Powerful Doud.” How he banged out an op-ed column every day has always placed me in awe of his prowess as a journalist.


I got my column’s spot when Tatum left our employ for the whiles of Wyoming. His column, “Looking for a Bar,” relied on the premise of the punchline, “I was looking for a bar when I found this job.” A phrase born when someone he knew got fired and that was his irreverent reply.


Tatum is now in Alaska and we still keep in touch. His days as a journalist are over as he has had a couple of heart-attacks that have sidelined him permanently.


When I started the column, we were still uptown at our building on South E Street. That property was sold and has since been remodeled into office and warehouse suites. Every time I drive by it, the ghosts of Tribune staffers past brings a smile to my face and an ache to my heart.


In 2006 a woman from Taft, named June Woods served as our managing editor. My all-time favorite movie, “The Best of Times,” was filmed in Taft and we laughed about the location shots filmed there. Dear June has since died and I’m sure she is in a better place, as she left our employ due to illness.


You may remember how great things looked in 2006. Then came the 2008 housing market meltdown and many new upstart businesses lost their livelihoods because of it. After a couple years recovery with great optimism the E Street building sold in 2010, we moved our tribe and belongings into a larger facility on Falcon Avenue near the Madera Airport.


We set up our printing presses and published our work from our new home.


I remember thinking that when that area became the business center it is destined to become, we were going to look like the smartest newspaper in the Valley. We had a prime spot in the center of all that and we got there in its growth infancy.


That area was fairly unpopulated with the Florestone factory, the CHP station, Steve Saqouspe’s real estate office and a few others as our new neighbors.


This part of Madera continues to grow in that direction and is where Sheriff Tyson Pogue and his band of deputies enjoy the finest quarters the department has ever occupied. After years of inhabiting various county hand-me-down properties, they now reside in a state-of-the-art building that didn’t have to be retrofitted to accommodates its dispatch center and other electronic equipment.


A chain built a multi-story hotel and another one put in a giant mini mart with rows of gas pumps and a couple of smaller offices for a popular sandwich shop with room to expand, on the corner of Avenue 17 and Airport Drive.


When operating our own second-hand (or maybe third or fourth) presses became less and less viable, the presses were sold as was the plant, offices and fixtures.


We then moved to rented quarters on Mitchell Court. Where is Mitchell Court, many asked. Then we say its off Granada next door to Peter’s Brothers Nursery. Ah, they say, everybody knows the full-service nursery that grew from kids Kurt and Kevin Peters mowing lawns after school and on weekends.


When we moved into Jonnie Basila’s building it came with many beautiful granite-top work stations so we needed to find homes for most of the office furniture we owned.


I am sitting at the desk I wrote at for most of the 26 years I have worked for The Madera Tribune. If I ever get time, I intend to have it refinished to its glory days as a fine wooden office desk. It hasn’t been abused, there are no initials or other words carved into it. It has just been used for many, many years. There is a knob missing from a file drawer that should have two knobs. The lock on the pencil drawer has no key, but it is sturdy and majestic. It was a gift to me from Chuck, despite its worth if he sold it.


Getting it refinished, I would like to add a sheet of glass to the top of it. Even without the glass I could buy a nice new office desk for less than it would cost me to refinish it. But, doing so remains on my list of “get-her-dones,” for the future.


Many things have changed in the 15 years I have attempted to inform and entertain you in this spot.


We’ve gone from a six-day daily to a five day a week paper to the twice weekly publication you are now reading.


When we cutback to twice a week, I asked Chuck if he wished we’d gone bi-weekly when we stopped putting out the Tribune on Mondays. He replied he wished he’d gone to a twice a week when he bought the newspaper.


One thing that hasn’t changed is the way some readers favorably acknowledge my efforts. It puts a spring in my tired old step.

I enjoy hearing “I like reading your stuff even if I don’t always agree with you!”


When my colleague and friend Leon Emo died, we all mourned his passing. We also missed the copy he would turn in, missing a deadline only while waiting for a breaking news story. Out in the community working at his real job in Parks and Recreation, he heard about stuff we’d never have known.


We’ve lost our company patriarch Chuck Doud. We are still trying to find our way during these times of uncertainty.


We are blessed to have our resident Madera historian, Bill Coate. His words are responsible for the deeper understanding locals have about where Madera came from and the people who made it thrive.


We’ve seen other members of our family die or go on to do other things. Most of the people we employ are younger journalist on their way up to bigger markets or more seasoned newspaper people looking to leave the grinds of a daily paper and spend the last years of their careers slowing down before retirement.


While I hope to still be writing to you from this spot on the op-ed page for another 15 years, tomorrow is promised to no one!


Long days and pleasant nights, have a blessed weekend.


• • •


Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing tamijonix@gmail.com or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.