Sometimes I think it would be grand to be back in grade school and just learning why we (used to) observe Feb. 12 and Feb. 22 as special days on the calendar. We don't do that so much today. We observe a Monday in late February as Presidents Day. This year, it was last Monday. But when I was a kid, Feb. 12 (just last week) was the date set aside for President Abraham Lincoln, and Feb. 22 (coming up Friday) was set aside for President George Washington.
Spring semester of my sophomore year, I had a class called ROTC. My family doctor in Chamberlain called it Right Off the Cultivator when I went for a check-up before I left for school and told him I was going to take the program. He also called it Rusty Old Tin Can and probably would have had several other clever phrases using the initials if he'd had more time to sit and hammer away at my knee with a goofy-shaped little implement supposedly designed to determine the level of my reflexes.
Different folks measure fairness in media in different ways, but one of the oddest in my career as a news reporter came when the campaign manager for a political candidate measured it with a yardstick. It happened back in the early 1970s when I worked for the wire service in Pierre.
Until I read John Sears' obituary the other day, I didn't realize he and I were the same age. He seemed more mature back when he was serving in the South Dakota Legislature. Born in 1944, he served 12 years in the House of Representatives. His service spanned a period from the middle of the 1980s through the middle of the 1990s, a fascinating time for legislative actions and political activity. Sears began his elected service just as the late Republican Gov. Bill Janklow was nearing the end of his second term as chief executive.
Now and then, something happens that makes me realize people really do, sometimes, get what they deserve. In this case, I'm talking about me. It started at the South Dakota State University basketball game on Saturday. In all likelihood, I won't see another SDSU basketball game this year, so I was pretty interested in watching this one.
I was 10 years old when Bill Haley and the Comets first recorded "Rock Around the Clock," so I expect no argument when I say I grew up with rock 'n' roll. I did a Google search (so I expect no argument there, either -- people can't put stuff on the Internet unless it's true; no, I'm not really that naïve, but it would be a good rule) on that song the other day as I pondered the birth of rock. I always believed "Rock Around the Clock" was recorded specifically for the movie "Blackboard Jungle," which was released in 1955.
The first time I covered a legislative meeting, I was asked to leave the room just when things were getting good. My boss with the wire service, Jim Wilson, had warned me that might happen when he assigned me to attend the meeting, take notes and write a news story for the wire. The committee was meeting during the interim -- the time between legislative sessions -- and the topic was a master plan for public higher education in South Dakota. Dr. Richard Gibb had been hired to write the plan.
Back when I wrote for the newspaper in Sioux Falls, one of the treats of a Sunday afternoon came when Nancy would answer the telephone, track me down holding the receiver in her outstretched hand and whisper, "It's Jim Marking from Brookings." I used to write a column the paper published in its Sunday edition, and every so often, the topic would tickle the old coach enough for him to pick up the phone and give me a call.
Early in each session of the South Dakota Legislature, members of the House and Senate pause one afternoon to pay respects to former lawmakers who died during the previous year. I'll confess that for my first few years as a legislative reporter, I didn't pay much attention to the ceremony, a 15- or 20-minute gathering in the chamber of the House of Representatives held after the official business of the day was complete in each house.
Forty years ago this month, then-Gov. Dick Kneip introduced Executive Order 73-1, a plan to reorganize the executive branch of state government. I read a copy of the order when it was introduced. Ted Muenster, the governor's top aide at the time (he'd be chief of staff these days, but the governor's office didn't have such a title back then), gave me the copy, along with a pep talk about what a leap forward the reorganization plan was for efficient and effective governing in South Dakota.