• The Principal Pye

Origin Story

She was swallowed up by the overstuffed chair facing Mr. Wood, feet unable to reach the floor as she squirmed to find a place in the chair where she could see up over the edge of his desk. The office was small and dark, stacks of papers and books and photographs filled every available surface. Forcing an awkward and fleeting smile, Mr. Wood asked, "So, you want to work for a newspaper? What experience do you have?"

Barely out of high school, with nothing much beyond writing captions for the school newspaper and working on the student yearbook staff in her senior year, she had little to offer, not even a typed resume. She hadn't done particularly well in English classes, and had never even used a typewriter. But she loved cameras, had an affinity for design, and for telling stories. Most of all, she loved the mountains and wanted more than life itself to be a part of it all.

Whatever it was that this scrappy little street urchin shared with Mr. Wood, she made an impression. Or, it could have been that he simply felt sorry for her. After all, she had the courage to show up for this interview, completely unprepared and unqualified, missing most of the long auburn hair on one side of her head, and still sporting Frankenstein stitches behind her right ear and on her left wrist, from the near fatal head-on collision that had occurred some days before. The accident had been reported on by the paper, it was a miracle she and the others involved were still alive.

Over the course of the next 2 years she became part of the newspaper's family. She learned the ropes - layout and paste-up, display advertising design, typography, proofreading, AP style, the darkroom, page layout, proofing, reporting, sales, copy writing and editing. She hung out with the photographers and was sent to journalism conferences. Also during this time, as is the case with most who try to cobble together a life in a resort town, she worked the lift lines at the ski area and became an EMT, always on-call for the local ambulance service and aspiring to get on ski patrol at Snow Summit.

It was a rough but exciting life for a twenty-something in the 1970s. There was never enough income to make it work. Eventually she was offered a full-time job with Mono County as an EMT on the county's paramedic rescue team - seemingly a dream come true. Leaving the newspaper was a difficult decision to make. Without the college degree and credentials, though, there were few options for her if she had stayed. But the experience planted a seed back in the day that has remained with her throughout her professional career, ultimately involving neither journalism nor emergency rescue.

To be continued ...

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