Good writers write with verbs, but they write about nouns.
Nouns, as you might recall from Mrs. Slabbersmith’s 4th grade class (or Sister Slabbersmith, if you went to Catholic school), are any person, place, thing, or idea in a sentence.
Well, speaking of nouns and we just were, here is an organized recounting of some of the important people, places, things, and ideas in my life, a personal inventory that I hope may give you added insight into me and my writings. Or even better, convince you to hire me to write a story or 2.
A word of warning, however. My Dad was born in Texas and claimed the status of a Texan for all the 65 years of his life, even though he eventually lived in 2 other states. As a Texan, he could tell a long tale that, while invariably entertaining, didn’t always adhere to a strict standard of 100 percent accuracy.
It’s a trait that was genetically and experientially passed on to me. But in this recounting, as I do with all my writing, I promise to always tell the truth. Except when I embellish, exaggerate, prevaricate, or outright lie for the sake of a better story.
For as Dick Beecroft, the 70+-year-old reporter who sat at the desk behind me at my 1st newspaper job used to say “A good newsman writes from facts, but a great writer never lets the facts get in the way of a good story”.
So, without further fanfare, here is my self-composed accounting of some of the high points of me, my work, and my life.
Personal Life & Family History
- I was born in Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania on March 26, 1952, the only child of Alvin Owen and Mary Louise Ivins Price.
- I was raised and lived for the 1st 59 years of my life in Upper Deerfield Township, a rural/suburban community adjacent to Bridgeton, NJ and the home of the once-thriving frozen food empire of C. F. Seabrook.
- In my childhood, Bridgeton was a bustling, one-factory town of 20,000. But when the Owens-Illinois glass plant, once the largest glass manufacturing site in the world, closed in the 70s, the city began an economic downslide from which it has never really recovered.
- Even though no one who meets me ever believes it, I really did attend Bridgeton Christian School from Kindergarten until 6th grade.
- I went to Seabrook School for 7th and 8th grade. This is where I met Judy Lynn Snyder, whom I will be mentioning later. I also lived for a time on 4th Street in Seabrook Village, where my family was the only family on our block that spoke English, for the true melting pot community was home to many Japanese Americans who had been forced in west coast relocation camps during World War II, as well as war-displaced European families from such places as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, and Communist Russia.
- Because my father and mother operated a large dry cleaning plant in nearby Salem, I spent most of my Saturdays and Summers in that predominantly black city, where I honed my meager skills in baseball, basketball, and playground football. While I never became the great athlete I hoped to be as a youngster, I did help establish the career of Lydell Mitchell, an All-American running back from Penn State University who went on to star for the Baltimore Colts in the NFL. If Lydell were to tell the tale honestly, he developed much of his ability by running around, over, and sometimes even under me in the constant pickup football games we played in the Fall. Lydell also hit a baseball off me in the Summer of 1962 that NASA scientists are still tracking as it makes its way across the Universe.
- In 1969, I graduated with 679 other seniors from Bridgeton High School where I still hold 2 records: (1) most times sent to the principal’s office for violating my school newspaper pass without being suspended and (2) the only sports editor of the Echo, the school student newspaper, ever threatened not once, but twice with long-term suspension for actions undertaken as part of my journalistic duties (A) Writing the headline “Girls Lust After Upper Berths” for a tennis story and (B) improperly touching my short-skirt wearing girlfriend of the time under a long table at the local radio station while both of us were participating in an on-air radio news show.
- In the Fall of that year, I started Villanova University, where I would be a graduate in the Wildcat Class of ’73. I entered college intending to become a lawyer, but left instead with a BA in English, a life-long mentor in English Department Chairman Dr. Robert Wilkinson, and memories that I wouldn’t trade for a seat on the Supreme Court.
- In January of 1973, I married the aforementioned Judy Lynn Snyder at my Mother’s church on a dark, rainy winter night, which was brightened considerably by the candles at our service and the smiles of our family and friends. And what a service it was: Some of my friends spent time in the bathroom smoking illegal substances; others were passing around bottles of Boone’s Farm in brown paper bags; and still others were lasciviously eyeing Judy’s attractive Trenton State roommates, their love ardor fueled not by the Holy Spirit of the Methodist faith, but by spirits of a much more worldly nature.
- Judy and I survived that raucous night, and 6 months later, our only child Michael Keith Price was born. It was, quite simply, the best product our union, which is now in its 43rd year, ever produced
- After years as a perpetual student, Michael obtained a PhD in Economics from the University of Maryland. He married Shannon Sullivan from Boston, a Duke graduate and Maryland Master’s of Economics recipient. That union eventually produced the 2 greatest gifts Judy and I have ever received – our granddaughter Audrey and her 17-month-younger brother, Owen, who is named after my father.
- After stays at the University of Nevada Reno (where Audrey was born) and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (where Owen entered the world), Michael and Shannon moved to Atlanta, where Michael teaches the Fall Semester at the Andrew Young Policy Center at Georgia State University and the Spring Semester at the University of Chicago. In late December of 2015, after retiring from our jobs in New Jersey and a 4-and-a-half-year staycation in Washington, DC, Judy and I moved to an apartment complex in the Atlanta Perimeter section of Dunwoody less than 10 minutes away from our grandchildren’s home.
Me and the World of Work
- My1st job was helping out at my parents’ cleaning plants. I hated it. But I did learn a valuable lesson – my Dad worked way too hard and I decided I never wanted to own my own business. I would always be satisfied to let someone else hand me a paycheck.
- In high school, I discovered what I thought was the greatest way to make money ever invented – playing keyboard in a rock and roll band.
- In college, I continued to play in bands. I also came up with a 2nd way to get some extra spending money. I would write short papers for my friends who asked me to. It was my 1st paid job as a writer. After my sophomore year, when I wasn’t attending classes or playing music in East Coast bars or clubs, I substitute taught in my old high school.
- After graduating Villanova in 1973 and then taking 2 extra education classes and a semester-long student teaching experience at what was then Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), I sought English teaching work anywhere in South Jersey. In the spring of 1974, I received a callback for an interview for an English position at Woodstown High School. It’s been 42 years and I’m still waiting for their answer, so I guess I have to assume they are not going to hire me.
- In the summer of ’74, tired of Judy rightfully pointing out every hour on the hour that it was next to impossible to raise a family on the meager money from my part-time liquor store clerking and infrequent band playing, I should – no make that must – find a full-time job. Angered, I threw a pillow at her and stormed out of the house, only to realize that Judy had the only car and the only set of keys. Undaunted, I set out on foot to find full-time employment. I don’t remember everywhere I went in the city of Bridgeton that day, but I do remember stopping in a hardware store and a small grocery establishment. Finally, I ended up at the Bridgeton Evening News. Since the paper had by then been printed, the Managing Editor Joe Garwood kindly agreed to grant me a few minutes. He asked me 3 questions: (1) Do you have any experience? (2) Do you have a journalism degree? (3) Can you type. Since my answer was no to all 3, I was immediately given the job. No, of course, I wasn’t. Garwood patiently explained to me that while he liked to hire locally, I really had nothing to offer. I left and headed back home. That night, shortly after 7 p.m, Garwood called and said a reporter had just suffered a stroke and he would hire me on a trial basis for a 2-week probationary period, paying me $80 a week. At the end of that successful trial, I was given a permanent reporting position and a $20-a-week raise.
- With that as a beginning, I spent more than 10 years in newspapers. I worked as a police reporter, then an investigative reporter for the Evening News. I was hired by The Press of Atlantic City, where I served at different times as a political reporter, a features writer, and finally Bureau Chief of the Press’ Cumberland County Bureau. I spent a year with The Philadelphia Bulletin covering South Jersey. After Joe Garwood’s successor left the Evening News, I returned as managing editor. At the time of my hiring, I was the youngest managing editor of a daily newspaper in the state of New Jersey.
- Now, while at 1st glance, that managing editor post might seem impressive, my family life, after more than a decade of the crazy style and long hours of 70s/80s journalism, was falling apart. Plus, I had years ago developed an addiction to both drugs and alcohol, a condition that while not affecting my rise in journalism, was playing havoc with my role as a husband and father. I resigned my position as managing editor and entered the Seabrook House Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. After a 34-day stay there, I emerged with no job, but equipped with the skills to keep sober in my recovery. As I type this, I still recall the last day of a drink or smoking, snorting, or swallowing a drug. It was the October Friday prior to Columbus Day. And it was 32 years ago.
- With my contacts in the Bridgeton School system, I relatively quickly obtained a job as a teacher/career counselor for adults in the adult High School program there. After a few months, I interviewed for and obtained a similar position working for high schools in 3 South Jersey counties. During this time, I was again writing, but my focus was on creating proposals and seeking grants for educational programs, including the one that would keep me and my office funded.
- Since every 6 months my job was in funding jeopardy, when offered an English teaching position at my old Bridgeton high school, I took it. For the next 20 years, I taught English to all types of students in all types of programs. I placed my writing skills on hold, but put my proofreading, editing, revising, and, most of all, my writing guidance skills in high overdrive by working with my students and their writing
- After 20 years in that role, I was offered and took a position as Language Arts Instructional Coach/Academic Curriculum and Program Designer with the Talent Development Program out of Johns Hopkins University. Since Bridgeton was a model Talent Development High School, I was able to keep my Bridgeton base, but was also able to work with schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City. One of my duties in that position was to create awareness for all that was going, so I resumed my active writing career by creating a series of educational blogs and articles.
- After 5 years with Talent Development, I had put in 25 years with the state of New Jersey Education system and was eligible for retirement. In 2011, I retired as an educator and my wife retired as the manager of an art gallery and custom frame shop. We decided to move to Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, just 3 Metro stops from Washington DC and all that city has to offer. I didn’t expert to work again, but former colleagues of mine from Johns Hopkins who had left the university and formed an educational consulting company of their own, asked me to join them. I declined a full-time position, but did agree to be an independent, part-time consultant. For the next 4 years, I worked in the DC school system, helping teachers, counselors and administrators of highly at-risk students with management, instructional, and curricular issues. For a brief time, I also shuttled back and forth from National Airport to Syracuse, NY, helping the district there set up special programs for their ask-risk students.
- Although Judy and I loved our years in Washington and all that we were able to do there, when it became apparent that Michael and his family were going to remain located in Atlanta for a period of time, we left DC for Dunwoody. Once I arrived, I decided I was finally finished with education and, in addition to watching my grandkids grow and napping, I wanted to return to writing, but this time as a freelancer. I joined the Atlanta Writer’s Club, which was established in 1914, went to the local Staples to pick up some notebooks and pens, put together 6 new blogs, and prepared for the challenge of being a 64-year-old, 1st time freelance writer. I even came up with a motto for my business card: Have Story, Will Write. So there it is. That’s my personal story, and as they say, I’m sticking to it. And all of it is true. Except, of course, for the parts I made up.