Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

Last weekend was dejá vu all over again for me.

Tom has become an assistant in our grandson Cade’s Boy Scout troop.

There’s the first problem. I’m having trouble accepting that Cade can be old enough to have moved up to Boy Scouts. How can he be that old already? How can he be moving into middle school next fall? In some ways this time around is harder than with my own kids.

This past weekend was Cade’s first camping trip since becoming a Boy Scout. Therein lies the second problem. Tom was asked to go as a troop leader since the Scout Master is on his way to Korea on a work trip – seemed like a good excuse not to have to spend the weekend in a tent.

Tom invited me to go along. Now, if anyone really knows me, he or she would be aware that camping is not my thing. I have often said, “I agree with a friend who has always insisted his idea of ‘roughing it’ is a room at the Holiday Inn with no Magic Fingers on the bed.” (For those who are not of a certain age, once upon a time many motels had beds rigged with a vibrating massage system. You put in a quarter, and the bed would massage your back for a few minutes.)

So when Tom asked (knowing full well what the answer would be), I replied, “I have never slept in a tent in my life. Why would I start now?” Truth be told, Tom served as a youth minister one summer not long after we were married, and I did go on one camping trip. However, we slept in cots located in Conestoga wagons – off the ground. That’s the closest I’ve come to tent life.

You see, growing up I believe my daddy decided that he’d slept on the ground in a tent enough times during World War II to last him a lifetime. When we vacationed, we always stayed in a motel as our “base” for our daily adventures.

Then, when our kids came along, Indian Guides was all the rage. All three of my kids did Indian Guides, and they would camp several times each year. There was one camp out each year that was designated a family weekend. But I figured out quickly that the first weekend in May (when this campout occurred) was the perfect time for me to make dance costumes for Cat and Liz’s recital at the end of May. Tom would take all three on Friday, and I would spend all day Saturday bent over a sewing machine.

So when Tom and Cade were planning the trip to Hamilton Branch, I tried to think of a project I’d been putting off to occupy my “free” weekend. It was easy.

When The Star moved from 106 East Buena Vista Ave. to the spot near Sunrise Grill, we rented a storage unit where we put copies of old Stars through the years. Then, after I retired, Rechelle Dallas called to tell me that the office was moving to the Chamber building, and they were going to close out the storage unit and throw away anything left in it. She and I decided we weren’t ready for all those memories to go in a trash bin. I was particularly concerned because in the early years of my writing “Phragments from Phyllis,” not all of my columns had been saved anywhere except in the printed paper. I always wanted to see if I could some day reprint all of my columns in a format that at least my family might appreciate.

The thought of all those papers being trashed moved me to action. Rechelle and I both went to the storage unit and pulled out a copy of every paper stored there – about 12 years’ worth. For me the copies filled about 12 banker’s boxes.

I brought those boxes home, thinking I’d go through the papers, pull out my column and anything else I might want to save and throw the rest away. That was about 5 years ago. I went through two boxes right away and stashed the rest in the bedroom closet of the room where granddaughter Payton sleeps when she’s at my house. And there they sat for about 4 years. Then last summer, Tom was motivated to put bamboo flooring in that room and moved the remaining boxes out of the closet and put them beside my bed – all 10 of them. And there they’ve rested for the last year – until last weekend. Friday night, after Tom and Cade drove out, I brought a box into the guest room and began the chore of sorting through those old papers.

The only problem is that I keep getting slowed down by nostalgia. Remember that in those years – from 2000 to 2012, I went from part-time reporter to full-time news editor, Sam died, Mim died, the paper went from a tabloid-style newspaper to a broadsheet and from occasional color to color – at least on some pages – every week. During that time, 9/11 happened, Keenan O’Mailia was brutally murdered, his killer was caught and eventually executed, I witnessed an execution of another murderer, Bill Powell was murdered by a still-unknown assailant, we printed about 600 profiles on 600 different and interesting people, the city celebrated its 100th anniversary, The Star celebrated its 50th anniversary and I did multitudes of interviews, wrote countless stories and took thousands of pictures. In fact, my last official story was the introduction of the plans for Project Jackson in December 2012.

So you can see that a walk through 12 years doesn’t go quickly. By the time Tom and Cade got back from their camping trip, I had made it through 4 of the 10 boxes.

It’s a start. The next camping trip is in June. Maybe I can finish then.