This week marks 28 years since I became owner of The Community News.
We’ve seen a lot of changes over those years, from a one-elementary-school district to six, and number seven on the way.
We have seen magic moments, and we have seen tragic moments.
Our original mission statement was “to provide the best newspaper possible for the residents of east Parker County” — we have changed that now to the best news organization because, as you may have noticed, life is getting more digital all the time.
The paper product isn’t going away, at least anytime soon. I’ve heard from enough of you who have told me you’re still analog — you like to hold it in your hands. Still, we have more “room” on the website, so I invite you to check out what we are doing there.
The first actual event I covered upon buying the paper was Aledo High School graduation, which was held in the MPC at what is now Aledo Middle School. We had halftones shot of all 130 or so seniors and cut each one out by hand with a pair of scissors, and pasted them all down to paste-up sheets for the next issue of the paper.
This year, due to technology, we will be able to lay out all of the Aledo High School and Trinity Christian Academy headshots in less time than we pasted up those 130 photos in 1995.
Doing a little math, I have determined that the “kids” who graduated that year are now on the downside of 45 — technically if not practically old enough to be grandparents.
But that graduation has stuck with me — it was the year Willard Stuard retired as superintendent — and the words of then-principal Lynn McKinney have stayed with me ever since. She told the graduates that when life throws obstacles at you, just “get over it and get on with it!”
The first photo of Tim Buchanan appeared in these pages on Aug. 31, 1995, during a team workout. And the first Bearcat football game I covered was at Kennedale on Sept. 8, 1995. The Bearcats won that game 14-6. Quarterback Dustin Proctor connected with Robert Ray for the first touchdown of the season, and Ray again hauled in a catch for the second touchdown.
A couple of things stand out in my mind about that game. First was the ease with which people could come on the sidelines — no media credentials needed in those days. In fact, I was the only media on either side of the field at that game.
The Bearcats finished that year with a 6-3-1 record (identical to the 1994 season, which was Buc’s first season to have more wins than losses).
Three short years later we were in the Astrodome, where Aledo won its first state championship in football! They played against the Cuero Gobblers, and I knew the publisher of the Cuero newspaper and was able to gloat occasionally when I ran into him.
I never dreamed, during that time, that one day we would be jockeying for position with the likes of the Dallas Morning News, Sports Illustrated, television cameras, and Max Preps to get photos at football games.
One of the things I have always said that sets us apart from most of the other outlets is that, even in the unlikely event the Bearcats would have a bad season, The Community News would still have someone covering and photographing the games.
The point of all this reminiscing is that it is a difficult closure to this year of newspapering for me. With the departure of Tim Buchanan and Lynn McKinney, especially, it leaves a void for me that goes back to those early days when we did things the hard way.
They have just always been there — and somehow I came to believe they would be permanent fixtures in the school system.
The school district and the football program going forward are in good hands, but they will never be the same for me. It has brought into sharp focus that if you hang around anywhere long enough, the things you used to hang your hat on go away.
If my memory serves me correctly, and at this age who knows, I think Joey Paul is the only person left who was in the school district when I got here. Just to be clear, Joey started young! But it is interesting to note that Jake Albin was in that 1995 graduating class that I covered.
A person I ran into at the retirement gathering for coaches Buchanan and Wood asked if I was retiring. While I am technically retirement age, I feel like I have a few more good years of doing what I’m doing, although I might start scaling back a bit. I used to write these columns at 3 a.m. but these days I’m usually in bed by 10 at the latest!
So Buc, Lynn, Steve — I wish you happy retirements. You will always occupy a special place in my heart, and in the heart of this community we all so dearly love.
Randy Keck is owner and publisher of The Community News, now entering his 29th year.
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