Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Detroit News

Six Minutes that Changed my Life

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The Windsor Star was considered one of the best — if not the best — Canadian newspaper outside of Toronto at the time. Our downtown office overlooked the mile-wide Detroit River separating us from downtown Detroit.

I had been there less than a year when I bashed out some words to show the city editor what a waste of time it had been to assign a photographer and me to cover a God-knows-what-it-was-about conference on a topic no one gave a lick about at a local college. My chore was to write down the names, addresses, titles, etc. of photographed subjects. While we corralled them, I got conversation going by asking what the heck these people did and who wrote the bafflegab in the pile of papers shoved at me as we entered the conference hall.

While waiting for photos to be developed back at the office, I spun a sheet of copy paper into my typewriter and pounded out a piece on how stupid the whole thing sounded as I copied titles I didn’t understand taken at random from that bundle of papers I hauled back to the office. I flipped the copy onto the city editor’s desk on my way to the can and to get a cup of coffee, in that order. The writing exercise took almost six minutes.

As I ambled by the city editor on the way back to my desk, I heard him snicker. He never chuckled or laughed or guffawed – he snickered. He said, “Scag, this is pretty good,” and tucked it into the pneumatic tube that whooshed it up to the composing room to be set in type. The story ran word-for-word just as it was bashed out, wrapped around a small box explaining there was this strange conference in town. For some reason, we never ran a photo.

Several months later, the city editor called me to his desk and said he’d just learned the essay had won a major Canadian journalism award for humorous writing. It took a bit of time for both of us to recover from being pleasantly agape. That win vaulted me to the top tier of newspaper, magazine, radio and television news gatherers and writers on both sides of the river. Job offers began fluttering in by phone, letter, telegram and impromptu conversation. Those six minutes enabled me to pick the spots I wanted from then on where and when I wanted them. My first hop was to the Detroit News – the largest afternoon daily in the U.S. at the time.

This is the Windsor Star piece that opened that door.



Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 14, 2018 at 6:16 am

My Brief Military Career

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GI_cartoonThe U.S. draft did not affect me because, fortunately for both the military and me, I was born, raised and worked in Canada until I acquired a  Social Security card and joined the Detroit News in my early 30s before moving to California a half-dozen years later.

But I did have a fleeting turn with the military in my 20s. A handful of us reporters at a southern Ontario daily — K-W Record — responded to a call to donate two years of our time to serve as reservists. After Press Club conversations with local military poohbahs, we drew straws to see which company we would approach. I wound up with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. They told me I was a second lieutenant, the company’s PIO  and signed me up for an intro training weekend.

I got the Friday off and drove to Camp Borden about an hour north of Toronto. A light rain began as we assembled in the mess hall where we were assigned to small squads according to numbers handed us as we entered the building. Each unit comprised three or four regular enlisted men and three or four reservists. My sergeant (enlisted) had a map marked into squares. It was announced that each squad would search the square marked with its number on the map. And, we were told, “There’s a case of beer out there and it’s marked on the map.” The first thing I looked for after the sergeant unfolded our map was the X marking the beer. Then I hunted for the grid with our number. We were nowhere near.

So I asked the sergeant to give me one of his regulars and, while he and the rest of the men searched our grid, we would get the beer.

That’s when I learned I was not compatible with the military. He gave me a flat stare and, pressing his forefinger on the square with our number on it, said, “Sir, we can’t do that, we’re assigned to this area.” I agreed and pointed out that he and the rest of the unit would complete our task while the two of us – I wasn’t going to carry a case of beer all by myself and I needed a regular who was familiar with the camp’s terrain – would get the beer and meet them back at our bunks. He was unable to translate that thought and repeated to this civilian reservist, “Sir, our orders are to search this area.” For once in my life, I was thinking clearly. I scanned the group and recognized that his regular-enlisted 2-IC liked the logic of my approach, so I said, “Corporal, come with me.”

We got the beer (and let the sergeant share) but that obliterated any thought of further military service. The next morning, I claimed a family emergency and drove out of camp.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 9, 2016 at 8:26 am