When I was in high school, I was one of the student managers for the high school basketball team. As a senior, I had rank and privilege, and that meant that after the games, instead of cleaning up the locker room and making sure the towels got to the laundry and the orange peels got to the trash, I got to call the area newspapers and report the game results. That’s how I came to know Ray Saul and Rudy Bednar, both of whom died earlier this year. Both were 82.
This was 1960-61 and I would call Rudy at the Lansford office of the Allentown Morning Call. For Ray, I would call the Hazleton Speaker’s office, although I didn’t always speak to Ray. Their newspapers were both regional morning papers and, in my world, exotic creatures. All I knew was the afternoon Evening Courier, which is where I ultimately began my professional journalism career (see One Man’s Newspaper History in the February section of this blog).
In my two years as the sportswriter at the Courier, I got to know Rudy and Ray much better. Both men were good mentors for me and willing to help me as needed. In fact, Ray hired me to take boxscores over the phone in 1967-68 when I was a freshman at the Hazleton campus of Penn State. It was the other side of my job as the high school senior basketball manager.
I don’t remember the last time I saw Rudy. I joined the Navy in September 1963 and I am pretty sure I never saw him after I was discharged and went to college. I was surprised to read in his obituary that he was not only a Navy veteran, but, like me, a radioman. So we would have had much to discuss.
His obituary reminded me that he not only wrote, but also took photographs. Today more and more editors expect reporters not only to take notes and write stories, but do the photography as well. With digital, that’s a lot easier than it used to be. Rudy’s work was more complicated because he was shooting in the days of bulky speed graphics with flashbulbs.
But I never heard him complain once about work. He loved it, which is what made him such a good mentor. He spent his entire career at the Morning Call, moving to Lehighton when the Lansford office was closed. His obituary said he worked at the Call for 40 years.
Ray Saul also loved his job and spent his entire career at one newspaper, which eventually merged with its afternoon sister, the Plain Speaker, and became the Standard-Speaker. Ray went from sports editor to editor and I was pleased to be able to attend his retirement fete at the Conyngham Valley Country Club.
One of the best stories I can tell about Ray is the time we were covering a Tamaqua-Hazleton High game at Hazleton and the mosquitoes were so bad he gave each one of us in the pressbox a cigar, urged us to light up and smoke the annoyances into oblivion. I don’t recall if it worked, but I do remember that it was a pretty good cigar. Ray liked good cigars, as you can see in the photo above, which is Ray on his last day of work. (Well, his last day as editor; he kept writing for the paper and his last column was published after he died.)
Ray also served in the Navy and the Naval Reserve as an officer. He was also a Penn State journalism graduate and very loyal to the university. Every time we met during my tenure as a faculty member, the conversation covered the Navy and Penn State. He used to joke that people could never figure out his ethnicity because his first name was Spanish (Ramon) and his surname was Jewish. But he was really Italian and Albanian, my Hazleton-based fact-checker tells me.
One of the things that jumped out at me in the obituaries of both of these men was their devotion to their church and their community. Even after they retired, they were active, and frequently worked in activities that helped young people. They understood giving back and serving as mentors.
I am a freelance writer and photographer and retired journalism professor. In my first newspaper job more than 50 years ago I wrote a sports column titled The Spectator (Caslon typeface). I thought I'd resurrect the title, which was and is in honor of Addison and Steele.
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