Over the Hill

Thank-yous are better late than never

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, so I’ve been thinking of some of the people I never properly thanked.

One was my high school history teacher. During my senior year, he caught me smoking on the school grounds. How stupid could I be? I could have been expelled.

He spoke to me sternly but didn’t report me. Thank you wherever you are Mr. Warner. (Teachers didn’t have first names in those days.)

I’m also sure I never properly thanked Miss Miller. She was the teacher in the one-room, rural, grammar school I attended. It was her first year there. I was in the third grade and still couldn’t read.

She assigned the story “Donkey John” for us to read to ourselves. Then she called on me to tell what it was about. I tried to fake it. I said it was about a boy named John who owned a donkey. It was actually about a boy in a family of Swiss woodcarvers. His job was carving donkeys.

Thank you, Miss Miller for teaching me to read, and not putting me back into first grade.

I also never properly thanked Ray Bryant and his wife, Nancy. From 1966 to 1981 they owned KPRL Radio and KPRA Radio in Paso Robles. In 1967, Ray asked me if I’d like to be his stations’ news director. I was surprised and thrilled.

I knew Ray. Most of us Paso Roblans knew each other. The town was still that small. But I’d hardly ever been to his radio station. And I’d never talked about a job.

I was manager of the Paso Robles office of a finance company. I’d worked for the company about 12 years. Once a year, I was an announcer for the Pioneer Day Parade. I’d also won some Toastmasters club speech contests and I’d given a few other talks. But I had never worked for a radio station or newspaper.

Ray, himself, had gone from the auto parts business into radio. I guess he figured I’d be able to switch too. And I was glad to change. I was tired of the loan business.

Ray opened a door, and I walked through it to find joy and satisfaction in telling North County people what they were doing. I’ve done it ever since.

I did, however, take a break in 1980 to run for county supervisor. I lost in the general election by 56 votes. Still hanging on my office wall is a metal printing plate of a full page newspaper ad that says, “Over 1,000 endorse DIRKX.” It lists all their names. I still feel deeply indebted to them all.

I also must thank two other people, and so should you if you’re older than 65. They are President Franklin Roosevelt, who signed the Social Security Act in 1935, and President Lyndon Johnson who signed the Medicare law in 1965.