After a 25-year affiliation with The Tribune, I get five weeks of vacation a year. Truthfully, newspapering is so much fun that vacation time is just icing. I mean, really, what other job allows you free rein of curiosity, fettered only by a lack of imagination, while getting to tell people’s stories?
I actually get a bonus of an additional month’s worth of vacation; that’s when The Cambrian’s editor, Bert Etling, takes his vacation and I get to pinch hit for him while he’s out of town, which is what I’ve been doing for the past 10 days.
I’ve always loved the town, going back to the ’50s when my folks would drive up from San Luis and spend the day at Moonstone Beach or Shamel Park. Later, from 1978 to 1981, I edited The Cambrian for Ralph “Scoop” Morgan, and then again from 1995 through 1999.
My wife, The Lovely Sharita, and I owned property on Lodge Hill for something like 15 years and finally sold it when our daughter was old enough to enroll in school and it looked like another two years of sitting on the water list before we could build.
As noted, I love the setting. Who couldn’t revel in its pine-next-to-sea beauty? But it’s the people of Cambria who give the community its warmth and soul. It seems that almost everyone in the town is well educated, whether they be retired executives or those wanting to live off the grid.
A good deal of that intelligence is homegrown in the form of students who are either attending, or have graduated, from Cambria’s school system, which has been recognized as one of the best in the state. And then there’s 9-year-old home-schooled Maggie Duffy, who, if I was to lay odds, will be a journalist one day.
One of the finest pleasures of working at a small-town weekly is that the paper’s readers will drop in to chat about any and assorted issues or story ideas. And that was the case when Maggie and her mother stopped by to tell me that a couple guys carrying American flags were walking down Highway 1 near San Simeon.
When they asked if I knew what they were doing, I admitted I didn’t, but seeing as how I was on deadline for last week’s paper, why didn’t they go ask them. And to sweeten the deal, I gave Maggie a digital camera and asked if she’d take a shot. And here, why not take a note pad and pencil and get some particulars?
As they were leaving the office, I said to Maggie, “Good luck. Maybe you’ll be the next Lois Lane.” To which she looked at me with an expression that she’d obviously never heard of Lois Lane, but she grinned anyway.
In journalism’s finest tradition, Maggie got the who, what, where, why and when of the flag-toting guys — as well as a nice photo of the group of men who were also involved in the project.
According to Lois, er, Maggie, the men were off-duty Marines out of Camp Pendleton. They were part of an outfit called American Spartan Inc. from San Clemente that raises money for wounded troops and veterans (www.americanspartaninc.com).
The team was walking in two-man relays. They had started their walk in South San Francisco on Feb. 12 and planned to hoof it to San Clemente by Saturday, where they’ll hold a memorial ceremony.
There you have it. The 5 W’s neatly explaining what many people had probably been wondering as they drove by: What’s going on here?
And now you know, thanks to a 9-year-old girl with a healthy sense of curiosity who told these soldiers’ story.
Bill Morem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 781-7852.