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The Years Were Good: The Autobiography of Louis B. Seltzer

Chapter 10

WHEN I WAS fifteen I was fired from The Leader. It was the hardest blow I had ever received.

Sam Anson, the City Editor, called me in.

"I don't like to say this to you, Louie," Mr. Anson said, "but we have to let you go. You are just not cut out for the newspaper business. You are young and you should look for some other kind of job. You could walk through news knee deep in rubber boots and not see it, even if it was all around you. You don't have the nose for it. I used to think you did, and Chester Hope thought so, but we're convinced you don't. I am sorry, Louie, but that's it."

I turned my badge, No. 26, over to Mr. Anson, with a numb sensation. I couldn't reconcile this decision with

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the fact that for so long a time I had faithfully written the Luee, The Offis Boy column, had covered other assignments as well, and had handled to the best of my ability a police reporter's job. Somewhere I had fallen down on the job, and I didn't even know where.

I had always liked Sam Anson and I didn't feel bitter toward him now. He had taken away my first job, but he was the one who had given it to me.

He was one of the greatest newspapermen I have ever known, a man of extraordinary gifts, and a great and legendary figure in our business. He used to send a man clear out to the periphery of the town as soon as a report of fire or disaster or murder came in, not waiting until the exact location was discovered.

"Get out there, and then call me," he would say.

By this tactic he invariably had a time-beat of minutes on the opposition.

I am sure Sam Anson was honest when he told me that he thought I would do better in some other field, but his words had exactly the opposite effect. I was determined to prove him wrong. I made up my mind that I would be a newspaperman -- or I would break myself in the process. I would show them. I would go to another newspaper and get a job.

I tried The Press first, only to be told they were filled up. I tried the other papers, and there were no jobs there, either. Then I began to look elsewhere. I had to get a job. Father was doing well now, and it was no longer a question of helping the family. It was altogether a question of myself. My pride was badly hurt and I had to get a job. I began to look everywhere.

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I went to the House of Hubbell on a downtown street in Cleveland. This was an advertising agency which also published house organs for industrial firms and stores.

"If you can write, I have a job for you," said O. S. Hubbell, the head of the company. "We need someone to write small items for a couple of house organs -- someone who can write advertising also."

I took the job, at $6 a week. The hours were regular, which was something new in my experience. On a newspaper, the hours were long and irregular, stretching sometimes to sixteen or eighteen a day if a big story was breaking.

Everything was different here. The office was quiet and orderly. People talked in low voices. There was no hurry, no litter around the desks, no smell of ink and paper. After several years of working against the roar of the presses, I felt as if I were surrounded by the unearthly quiet of a cemetery.

For over a year I worked faithfully for the House of Hubbell. Everything I was asked to do I did, but my heart was not in my work.

One day I went to my boss. "I am sorry, Mr. Hubbell," I said. "You have been good to me here, but I am in the wrong place. I have to try to get a job on a newspaper. That's the only place I'll be happy." I left the House of Hubbell with no job, and not knowing whether I could get one.

I had always thought The Cleveland Press was the best paper in town -- ever since at the age of eight I had delivered its home edition from porch to porch in our West Side neighborhood. That was where I had always

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wanted to work. So once again I went to the office of The Press.

The Editor's office was in a cupola on top of the building, reached by a circular iron stairway. I climbed up. Victor Morgan, the Editor, sat behind a huge desk. He was a big, blond man with a stern face -- a powerful and positive man. He wasted no words.

"What is it?" he asked.

"I would like a job, Mr. Morgan," I said. Before he could answer, I went on. "I'll make a bargain with you, Mr. Morgan. Let me go out on my own for a week, and write for The Press each day. I will get my own stories, write them, and turn them in to you. I want more than anything in the world to be on The Press. I have always wanted to be here. I would appreciate it very much if you gave me this chance."

Victor Morgan had listened. He looked sharply at me. I was seventeen, and I suppose I looked younger.

"All right," he said, "it's a bargain. It's your risk. You asked for it. Now it's up to you to deliver."

Never did I work so hard. Never did I walk so much or to so many places. Each day I came back to The Press office, sat at a typewriter, and wrote out my stories.

My hope began to rise on the second day when the paper rolled off the presses and I saw one of my stories, printed just as I had written it. Others were printed. Before the week was up, Victor Morgan stopped at the desk where I was pounding away with my index fingers at a typewriter and said, "Come to work, tomorrow. You've got a job."

I almost let out an Indian war whoop the way my

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mother had years before when Father sold his first short story. For me the event was equally significant. I was back in my beloved newspaper business, with the paper I'd always wanted to be on, and I intended to stay there -- all of my life.