40 Years in America

Maureen Spagnolo

The Times ... now, how was it started? Ahh, yes! We were in the same ballroom where we had been matched. It was around Godís Day. Father asked who wanted to write for the new Washington newspaper. Many people raised their hands. Father picked me, amongst others.

Shortly after, we began our "training." There were hundreds of us crowded together in a room at the News World building, New York. George Archibald and several seasoned newsmen spoke to us about journalism and related topics. Then, we went out on "assignment." We could write on any relevant topic we choose. I decided to do an op-ed piece on recidivism. I spent days and nights in the library. There was a wealth of information on the topic, and, of course, I gathered too much to be whittled down easily into an op-ed article. But I did it, somehow.

Still too long. From there, a smaller group were selected as "reporters." We were all taken to the Washington, D.C. church. The basement had been equipped with bunk beds, lined up about 18 inches apart. Space was a premium. Hot shower water even more so. How we ever went out on the job looking "professional" is one of lifeís mysteries. A team was selected to find housing for us. It took a while, but, eventually, we all ended up in group homes, mostly in Maryland, but some on The Hill. It was decided that I should cover the society beat. I will never forget one of my first assignments. I had to cover a big event at the American Organization of Latin America building. It was lavish: the entranceway was filled with gigantic displays of flowers. Formally dressed musicians played Chopin, and the buffet table was replete with eye-popping delights: lobster, salmon, sushi, piles of fresh strawberries and raspberries (in the middle of winter) and such.

Writing up our stories was another challenge. We typed them on typewriters (yes, indeed) and "cut and pasted" till the paper was as thick as cardboard. And while we worked, so did the workmen! They were literally dismantling and rebuilding the building around us! The noise was often deafening, and there was dust and debris all over the place. Ahhh, those were the days.

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