There’s a first time for everything

Published 10:40 am Friday, March 17, 2017

It’s probably fair to say that life is a series of firsts. Your first steps, your first day of school, your first date. As you go through life and try something new, you remember it whether it turned out good or bad.

We love to commemorate the firsts. Nobody really pays much attention to the second, third, or fourth time something happens. But the beginning of something new is special.

Some firsts are routine. The first meal of the day is marked as breakfast, the name referring to the first food you eat after fasting all night long, any late-night snacks notwithstanding. The New Year’s holiday marks the first day of the year by celebrating everything that happened during the previous one. The first day of spring is fast approaching as it does every year, signaling the return of warmer weather, budding flowers, and a tidal wave of pollen.

Other firsts are remembered because of how uncommon or unusual the event is. The first student protest in the US was conducted in 1766 by Asa Dunbar, of Harvard University, who complained about the quality of the campus food, particularly the supposedly rancid butter. His fervor encouraged the students to go eat somewhere else instead.

Jean Francois Gravelet, better known as Charles Blondin, held the distinction of being the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1859. The rope he used stretched on for 1300 feet but was only two inches wide.

People are often recognized for being the first to achieve something, noting all the hard work it took to accomplish the feat. The first woman to serve a US presidential cabinet position was Frances Perkins, beginning in 1933 as the secretary of labor during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. She remained in that position until 1945.

The first man to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong in 1969, with his now-famous quote “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In 1972, Bernice Gera became the first female umpire in pro baseball. She was initially rejected by the National Association of Baseball Leagues but persisted until she finally received a contract to work.

Aretha Franklin was the first female artist in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when she was inducted in 1987. Aretha’s prolific career has spanned several decades and included 18 Grammy awards.

Bob Dylan made headlines in 2016 for being the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The decision to include his lyrics in the literature category was at first considered a surprising choice.

Firsts are inescapable in life. Everything starts with a beginning: a year, a conversation, a season, a story. Sometimes it’s celebrated and sometimes it just quietly passes by. As the old saying goes, there’s a first time for everything.

And the words you read until this point represent my first column as a writer for this newspaper.


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.