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Working for my Uncle Barney written by Jean Raby Nelson I graduated from Hamlet High in 1962 and was content to settle down and replace Pat Howie at the Hamlet New Messenger for the next 3 years when she left for school. Barney Martin was the most wonderful boss a person could have. His wife, Virginia, was boss too but she was more into the business part of it and Barney just ruled in his little kingdom. I was blessed that he liked me...I think he saw things in me that I had no idea were in there. I was employed there as the proofreader, in charge of doing the addressograph labels to mail the papers out......I did this in the old Hamlet Theater when The Crowded Sky was still playing. My light was what I could get to shine through the door and the little tiny light on the antiquated machine. There were creatures from an unseen world living in the theatre. I could hear them walking around. We did graduate to a better one within my first year there and I also got to do that in the lighted office. It was so loud....pressing metal plates. I was also the receptionist and answered phone calls when I was at my desk and also clerk for the adjoining office supply shop that we had. One of my duties was to go downstairs and take the lead trays of linotype that Harold Brown, JD Snyder, Allen Poytress or one of several other operators has just typed out and ink it and proof it (a very nasty job...ink everywhere), then take them upstairs and proof them. This is how I found out that we were in war in Viet Nam and it is when I read all about the Kennedy assination (I will never forget the bells ringing on the AP wire machine that day) and the news stories about Martin Luther King and the struggles for integration among many other things. I used to hang out (I think I meant to say hide out) in the darkroom with Bert Unger...no doubt I was smoking or doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing. Bert use to develop photographs in an old coke machine...and I ALWAYS pulled the darkroom cover back at the wrong time in the development process. This is when George (A.D. Way) was editor of the paper....Roger Simmons was manning the foxhole when I left in '65. .....My all time favorite though was Catherine Monk. We had a great time working together...On the clock, Barney paid me to read Newsweek and US News and World Report. I had to circle any words I didn't know the meaning of with a red marker and look them up and study them because we were going to have a session at his desk. He would take the magazine and call the circled words out to me. He was trying to expand my mind and I was thinking he was a silly man....to pay me for doing this. He also exposed me to the world of Opera. I didn't care for it but I did listen to it and he would tell me what the stories were all about. The Hamlet News Messenger would run publicity (filler) stories about the summer theater in Charlotte. What a thrill to see these stars that I was familiar with...Kathy Lee Johnson, Tab Hunter, Ferrante and Teicher (this may not be spelled correctly ) are a few who come to mind. In exchange for this free publicity they gave us 4 tickets to see each play or concert. Mr. Martin would give me the company car, the tickets and money to take everyone out to dinner afterwards. All of this was to expand my horizons. We were quite a team. He called me "Jack of all trades and master of None".... He named me editor of The Scottish Chief when I was 19 making me the youngest editor in NC at that time. It was a kick for me (all I did was go to Maxton and get the mail, eat out and talk to the police chief and check out things in the office) and he got his kicks by having a write up...complete with picture of the youngest editor in NC coming out of his newspaper empire. He owned 5 papers during the time I worked for him. I remember once on New Years Day we were working on getting a flyer shipment out for BC Moore Stores and he said "what are we two executives doing working on a day like this?" One year for the Rockingham-Hamlet football game he made me a sports editor so I got in the game free. The joys of youth. Looking back, I am sure I was a sorry worker...I thought my main duty was to go fetch snacks at Mabry's or Birmingham's...not once, but twice a day. He had encouraged me to go to college and I had been accepted at Chowan College and was to be studying photography primarily. It was during this time, that I did 3 end over end flips (fracturing my skull in 3 places) in our 61 Corvair on hwy 74....this happened 10 days before I was to leave for school....well, all my friends took off for college and I stayed on at the paper. They chronicled almost every move about it in the paper. I was bald from the neurosurgery that I had done at Duke University...Once when I had walked to the post office to get the morning mail the wind blew my wig off and it was tumbling up Main Street like a little tumbleweed. I saw looks like I had never seen before that day....put it in the paper...LOL...once we had a super sophisticate from New York down to do business with the BC Moore account and as I walked by I heard her comment that "that girl has a wig on" so I walked to my desk and took the little fuzzy creature off and laid it on the desk and walked back to where they were as if nothing was out of the ordinary....I thought Barney was going to die laughing....He had such a great sense of humor. Virginia and Barney were both very loving and caring for me. I always thought of both of them as more than a boss. My girlfriend, Betty Moore, and I decided to spend a summer working at Seaside Restaurant in Myrtle Beach the summer of 1965. I resigned my lofty position and took off for the beach and that was the end of me and The Hamlet News Company. I started there in 1962 at 44 cents a hour and was all the way up to 1.25 when I left 3 years later. That had more to do with the minimum wage law being in effect than anything else. I was certainly worth my salary. I always went back to visit when I was in town and it was always good to see everyone and Barney would take time out of his schedule to give us a real visit. When I was being hired by United Air Lines in 1966 they needed fast references to get me cleared and on my way to school so they phoned Barney from Washington, DC for a reference. Later, the man in personnel asked me if we were related. He said he had never had a more wonderful character reference. I guess you could say we had a mutual admiration society. He was one of Hamlet's most colorful characters.
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