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Opinion: Where has the time gone?

Last week marked the 16th year of writing my op-ed column Gravy by the Slice. Its creation came about when a colleague, Cal Tatum, left our employ for the wilds of Wyoming.

His weekly column was titled “Lookin’ for a Bar.” The name of Tatum’s column came from the expression “I was lookin’ for a bar when I found this job.”

When his space opened up, I asked our late great publisher Chuck Doud if I could give writing a weekly (weakly) column a spin. After all, he wrote a daily column so I thought — once a week — in addition to my other assignments, seemed like something I could do.

I started work at The Madera Tribune on June 12, 1995, leaving the employ of attorney Lester J. Gendron. My first Tribune job had me selling retail advertising.

At that time, the newspaper’s owner, Dean Leasher, had recently passed away and our newspaper chain was bought by U.S. Media, stationed in St. Louis, Mo.

My first publisher was a rascal named Danny Dean. He had served as publisher for several newspapers before coming to Madera.

His first task when taking over the Tribune was to fire a lot of people.

He dismantled the printing press and fired all the pressmen. He paired down the accounting office and fired anyone who dared give him attitude regarding the way he ran the Tribune.

We also lost faith with much of the community at that time. Change is always unsettling.

Never having lived anywhere else, I have been told that Madera is a unique piece of real estate. It is a living breathing organism that didn’t appreciate a pack of out-of-towners changing the way our hometown newspaper was run.

As an example, there were to be no more free advertisements for anyone. The entire newspaper industry was floundering and Dean didn’t help.

During this time, and in the years following, the Tribune seemed to play musical publishers, frequently changing them and the ownership of the newspaper.

Eventually, the McClatchy group, owners of the Fresno Bee and other publications, bought our newspaper chain. That brought about another round of changes the community didn’t appreciate.

There were at least two shutdowns that were almost immediately put into place. The Tribune and the Turlock Journal were first on the chopping block. Since McClatchy owned the Fresno and Modesto bees, they already had a bigger share of our market than we did. So we became quite superfluous.

I said at the time it was a little like being the ugly kid left at the orphanage.

Eventually, our newspaper was purchased by Doud and a group of local investors.

The title for this column I can credit to my late husband Fred. Each year I attempted to serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the two of us. This food-centric holiday has always been very special to us.

We were married on the day after Thanksgiving in 1979. At the time, Fred was employed at the Madera Irrigation District. The policy at that time was to reward an employee getting married with three days off with pay.

Getting married, when we did, gave him a full week off.

His employment at MID was the very reason we got married in the first place. The benefits package at MID included medical insurance for all employees and their spouses.

We had been together almost four years, so marriage was the next logical step. I lived with him because I loved him. I married him for his medical insurance.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a good cook. I can fix food, but what I do can’t really be considered cooking.

So one year, on Thanksgiving, I attempted to replicate the holiday meals of my youth.

I asked him if he would like a slice of gravy with his mashed potatoes. And so, Gravy by the Slice was born.

I had written a few op-ed columns through the years. A group of us attended a rally for former U.S. President Bill Clinton at an elementary school in Fresno.

The only way a person can be a part of their story is to write it as an opinion piece. Danny Dean okayed the publication of that column.

When Paul Bittick was publisher, he okayed the column I wrote when Princess Diana died.

I stepped away for a few weeks away not long after Fred died. The creative part of my personality froze up for a time. I hope our readers enjoy my weekly rants. Thanx so very much for reading The Madera Tribune.

Long days and pleasant nights. Have a blessed weekend.

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


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