A LENS DIMLY
I don't know about other departments at the paper, but the Editorial Department operated on a seniority basis. Which meant that the low man on the totem pole got stuck with the worst shifts, the worst days off and got the last pick of vacations. That didn't bother me. I understood that newspapering was a 24/7 kind of business. So I started my career working 3 PM to 11:30 PM (or later) with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. And, I got my vacations in March or November. I was so happy to have the job that I had dreamed about that I was more than willing to overlook the downside. Of course, this meant considerable sacrifice on the part of my family. Since I worked holidays and weekends, I was unable to attend many family functions. Nobody really seemed to be up for a family barbecue on Tuesday afternoon, or any day during my November vacation. I missed a lot of school plays and recitals and while I try to make up for it now by participating in as many of the things in which my grandchildren are a part, I do have some regrets that I wasn't there for my kids. Thankfully, they have either forgiven me or have forgotten.
For the first few years, being the new man, I worked every holiday. Easter Sunday I was up before dawn to cover sunrise services at one of Long Island's beaches. Then it was up to St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre to photograph one of the morning masses and the Easter finery in front of the Cathedral when it was over.
Being a non too observant Jew, I found that I was in more Christian churches and cathedrals than I was in my own synagogue. Each Christmas Eve, I covered Midnight Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral from the choir loft high above the crowd. My non-Jewish associates at the paper used to joke that Bishop Kellenberg wouldn't begin the mass until he scanned the choir loft and found "the big-nosed Jew from Newsday."
I would like to point out a personal observation, right here. To the unknowledgeable, some of my comments may sound rather crude and could give the impression that I was subjected to considerable bias and anti-Semitism. Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. With one minor exception, I never felt any bias against me because of my religion. And, the editor responsible for that wasn't around long enough to cause me any lingering problems. Newspaper people are a thick-skinned group and we poke fun of one another in strange and crude ways; but never with any malice intended. If you have read my past journals, you will have seen me refer to friends and associates as "The Chinaman" or "The Greek." These people were dear friends and I would never intend them any defamation by using those terms. So, how could I consider it any other way when I was known as "The Big Nosed Jew," or just plain "Big Nose." Hey, that's just the way we were.
Eventually, I was replaced as the junior man when a new photographer was hired. But, for most of my time at the paper, I would continue, voluntarily, to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to allow my goyisha friends to celebrate their holidays with their families. And, they would switch with me to allow me to observe Rosh Hashonna and Yom Kippur.
In those days, each holiday would have its own formulaic routine of coverage. I would make overalls of the crowds attending Midnight Mass from the choir loft each Christmas Eve. Because we had no paper on Christmas Day there was no need for me to go back to the office and soup my film. So, I would go home. The next morning, at 9, I would be the first person in the building. My first duty was to check with the County Police Departments in our two counties, to see if there were any stories from there. Then it was a call to the area hospitals to determine who had the baby born closest to midnight. For some reason, that was always a good candidate for Page One the next day. (We did the same thing on New Years Day, which I also worked for many years.)
came up with the winner, I would ask them to check with the mother
to see if I could come to the hospital to photograph
her, the father and the baby. Most of the time I would have no
problems. However, there were several times when I was given
permission and I would get to the hospital only to find out that
the mother was an unwed teenager. Back in the 60's, this wasn't
as accepted as it is today. Newsday wouldn't run the photo or
story and there would be another Christmas ( or New Year) story
on Page One the next day.
After that, there was usually a stop at a soup kitchen to show the less fortunate feasting on a hot meal. Then, it was back to the darkroom to process last night's Midnight Mass shots, and all of today's holiday features. I would bang out captions for all of this and leave the negatives and captions in the box for the darkroom tekkies to print when they arrived later in the afternoon.
That was the usual routine each year.
Of course, not every holiday was of a religious nature.
President's Birthday week in February found us in shopping malls shooting crowds looking for bargains, and mall security hassling us because no one had tried to get permission from the mall administration for us to make photographs.
Memorial Day meant parades and picnics.
Fourth of July was more parades and picnics and back yard barbecues and then, after dark, trying to get a good fireworks shot.
Labor Day: By golly; more parades and picnics plus political rallies and speeches.
Halloween: Pumpkin picking; jack-o’-lantern carving; trick or treating.
Thanksgiving:The NY City Macy's Parade; Another soup kitchen shot; Mothers cooking; Families eating. Again, trying to come up with a different angle. I once stuck a camera in the back of an oven (before it was lit, of course) along with a small fill-flash, and had a woman leaning in to place a turkey on the rack. It worked.
To my delight, I also had opportunities to witness religious rites of other people. I have covered the solemn and beautiful rites of Ramadan in Islamic Mosques. I have photographed Buddhist and Hindu rituals. I have been blessed to have been given these opportunities, for it has enriched my life and given me hope that in spite of our differences, there is so much of the same in our expressions of hope and spirituality that maybe we can all live together on this planet.
Now I've been retired from all of that for almost three years. Another Christmas and New Years has just passed, only now without my recording it for posterity with my camera. I'm glad. I've done my share. Now it's someone else's turn.
But, y'know? Somehow, I miss it.
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