Labor Day lesson….roll with the tide

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, September 3, 2013

As I sit at my office desk for yet another Labor Day, perhaps I shouldn’t complain of having to work on a holiday.

Even though this particular day is set aside annually to pay tribute to those of us who are gainfully employed, it doesn’t prevent my mind, and heart, from thinking about those who have a burning desire to work, but cannot find a job.

Growing up on a farm in NorthamptonCounty meant there was always something to do. You learned to work, how to accept responsibility, at an early age. That has paid dividends for me along the way.

I grew up in a household where both parents worked. My dad held two jobs – a Soil Conservation Technician from 8 ‘til 5 and a farmer the rest of the time. My mom was a bookkeeper, spending most of her career working for Hill Chevrolet in Murfreesboro.

Outside of farming, I scored my first, full-time job at age 16….that of being a carpenter’s helper when my home church, Ashley’s Grove Baptist, was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire. My father and I later became the custodians of the newly opened church, a job I held until my first year of college.

I worked briefly as a sales associate in the men’s department at Belk-Tylers in Murfreesboro; leaving to take a summer job at Fram Filters in the same town. That was a long, hot, nasty summer….all for the whopping salary of $1.80 per hour.

My newspaper career began in the fall of 1972, just as I was beginning my sophomore year at Chowan College. The News-Herald (the production side of the business) hired me part-time to work in the offset camera room. Back then, if you ran out of work in your department, you didn’t sit around; you went looking for something to do in another department. Learning the business from the ground up has proven beneficial to my career today.

I searched for greener pasture in 1974, landing a job with Colbert Howell, a professional photographer (and Ashley’s Grove native) in Raleigh. What I learned from Colbert still serves me well today.

Returning home, I scored a job with the North Carolina Forest Service, working out of the Northampton office on Firetower Road. I was a glorified gopher…the bottom man on the totem pole, but I enjoyed the work and learned a lot from the late, great Leroy Wheeler as well as from Mike Bennett.

I returned to the News-Herald (still in a production capacity) in 1977. One year later I began to write sports stories on the side, thus beginning my journalistic career.

In 1979, Deborah finally caught me, knocking me in the head and hauling my carcass to the alter. We were both working at the News-Herald at that time. After tying the knot, we took jobs with the Daily Southerner in Tarboro.

From Tarboro, we moved to Garner where I worked as Production Manager for the Garner News. We moved back home (back to the News-Herald) in 1983 and I’ve been here ever since.

My writing career led to the Sports Editor’s job here in 1988. Twelve years later I moved to the News Editor’s desk and was named Editor in 2005.

It’s been a rewarding career, even though I work way too many holidays. That’s just the nature of our business….news never sleeps nor does it recognize holidays.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of friends/co-workers fall by the employment wayside. Some of that was due to technological advances (machines replacing workers) while others were victims of an ailing economy. This business, like most, does more today with less employees.

Along the way I’ve found the key to remain gainfully employed is to keep my head above water with the ever changing tide. I do not shy away from added work or responsibility….you tackle it with 100 percent effort and then you move to the next project.

It’s those early lessons in life – taught to me by people such as my dad, Ray Bryant, my cousin, Glenn “Stumpy” Johnson, my first two bosses here – John Powell and Gilbert Vaughan – and the best Editor, Ramona Goode, and Publisher, Jeff Findley, I ever worked with that have allowed me to have a reason to celebrate another Labor Day.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.   

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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