An Earth Day salute that lacked support
At that time, I was living in Lorain, Ohio, the kind of town for which Earth Day was created. The community was located on Lake Erie, west of Cleveland and home to ironworkers, autoworkers, shipbuilders and steelworkers. I haven’t been there for years, so I can’t say if it’s still the gritty kind of place it was in the early 1970s when new Fords were still rolling out of the plant and George Steinbrenner was building ships.
That year, I was a very young, very green reporter at the Lorain, Ohio, Journal. The newsroom was a thrilling, noisy place with wire machines and typewriters clacking and obscenities boomeranging through the smoke-filled air. I loved it.
The tradition was to park the new reporters (especially the females) next to the sports department, which was not the model of sensitivity and political correctness that I enjoy at the Nevada Appeal today.
If you arrived with a college diploma, you apologized for mentioning it and let your real education begin. I would like to say these guys were all softies with hearts of gold. Some were, but the ones who seemed to be having the most fun were drunks, braggarts and liars, so I paid attention. It was like working next door to “Animal House.”
We let the sportswriters, some of whom I was sure had been around since the invention of movable type, call us “honey” and “sweetie.” That way, they didn’t have to remember our names.
Keecie Balogh and I were the newest reporters, so our desks were closest to sports. We were young women on the move, witnesses to a new generation of feminism and change.
On the very first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, Keecie confused her causes, interfacing environmental protection with the fledgling women’s liberation movement.
She showed up at work on Earth Day wearing a see-through blouse. Even the most casual observer could tell she’d left her bra at home.
This was an astonishing development in the newsroom and, for once, the sports department was frightened into slack-jawed silence. When speech at last returned, there was a lot of whispering and debate whether Keecie should be sent home. The sports department deputized me to find out why she did it. I refused.
Nobody was getting any work done that morning, so the city editor finally asked her to put on a sweater. That probably would be actionable today, but, hey, April can be chilly in Lorain, Ohio.
At the end of my shift, my favorite grizzled sports reporter put his arm around my shoulder and said: “Honey, promise me you will never dress like that for work. It’s not lady-like.”
Patronizing, you say? Probably. But that’s the day I realized the sports department looked out for us like they would their daughters and kid sisters. Another great newsroom lesson learned.
The mystery of Keecie Balogh and her salute to Earth Day remains unsolved.
She had quit by the next Earth Day, so I don’t know what form future celebrations took. And I left shortly after that. In case you are curious, I did take that sportswriter’s career advice and, frankly, the earth is better off for it.
If you are looking for ways to celebrate Mother Earth — and in light of Yucca Mountain I think we owe her a big apology this year as well — there are many little things you can do on April 22 or any day of the year.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid advocates turning off the water while you brush your teeth. Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn is on a mission to raise money to stop the nuclear waste plant destined for Yucca Mountain. Any contribution will do.
Pick up trash around your neighborhood. Recycle, reuse and remember, April can be very chilly in Nevada, too.
Sheila Gardner is the night desk editor at the Nevada Appeal.