Wick Communications

All hail, Leon Hale

In Writing on 17 Jun 2011 at 8:42 am

A guy named Leon Hale turned 90 last month, and, if you live in parts of Texas, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you who he is. If you live somewhere other than the Lone Star State, let me tell you that Hale has been a working newspaperman in that state since the Houston Post hired him in 1947. He outlived that newspaper, joining the Houston Chronicle in 1984.

He continues to write to this day, and he does so with a humanity that is the cornerstone of so much great writing. He touches on universal themes of love, family, work and he does it with heart.

Take a look at how he starts this one:

The job I have now, if you want to talk about jobs, is the best I ever had, but I had one in 1937 that I liked almost as much.

That was the year I rode a bicycle around the streets of my old hometown and delivered telegrams for Western Union. …

We all have a first-job story. We can remember riding our bicycles in the streets of our own hometowns and, if we are of a certain age, we can even remember how important it felt to get a telegram. In short, we can relate. And, if we like a good yarn, we’re likely to lean back and read Mr. Hale.

Here’s how he ends the same column:

The most valuable thing I learned in that job came from watching the operator help customers compose the messages they wanted to send. Sometimes laborers out of the oil fields or off poor thin-soiled farms would come in, frowning and worried, needing to communicate with families concerning some emergency.

But they wouldn’t reach for a pencil and a message pad because they were illiterate, and the operator would talk to them about what they needed to say, and he would compose a cryptic message and try to get it into 10 words or less. I remember the pain on the faces of those men who looked at the operator’s words.

Maybe no other words would ever be as important to them in all their lives, and they didn’t know what they meant.

That would have been a valuable job to have, even if I’d worked for no pay

He’s never snide. He doesn’t make fun of people. He is one of them. Belated happy birthday, Mr. Hale. Long may you write.



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