Research shows we once left our desks

The other day, three of us old-timers at the newspaper reminisced about what it took to research stories before Google.

We did a lot more reporting in person and on the phone, conversations that sometimes stretched for hours. And then if the article required in-depth research, we’d pop over to the downtown Spokane library in search of books on the topic, and we’d search (sometimes for hours) for magazine and journal articles summarized in large, heavy index books.

Then, we’d write the names of the magazines on slips of paper, hand them to a reference librarian who would send the slips down to the basement where library staffers found the magazines, placed them on a “magazine elevator” and sent them back up.

This basement searching often took 30 minutes or longer and sometimes the magazines needed were missing or unavailable.

I realized these “how we reported stories before Google” tales are our generation of journalists’ version of our parents’ stories about walking five miles in the snow to school.

I thought our parents told those stories out of nostalgia. Now I realize there was a lot of relief in those stories – for school buses and cars that made it much easier for us to get to school. We tell the life-before-Google stories with the same mixture of nostalgia and relief.

SPEAKING OF GOOGLE: Faithful Boomer U reader Mike Storms wrote me an email describing the people in the pews at the funeral of an elderly aunt. He wrote: “As I looked over the people there, it looked to me like a box of Q-tips.”

A very clever way to describe all that white hair popping up in the pews. I asked Storms if this was a description he thought of himself, or had he found it somewhere else? He told me it was his. I believed him, but Googled it, of course, and didn’t find the simile anywhere.

So in the future, if crowds of graying boomers are described as looking like “a box of Q-tips,” credit Mike Storms. In the old days, it would have taken me all day to search for the phrase in various magazines.

TAKE A TOUR: Spokane’s senior centers, as well as its youth centers, are important gathering places that provide socialization, learning and a sense of belonging. They all face challenges of funding, as well as the challenges of educating community members about their existence.

Wednesday, from 3-8 p.m., the centers are opening their doors for tours and some fun.

“Tours can start at any center, where visitors pick up their ‘passport’ brochure and a map of all the centers, then visit as many as they can during the free event,” according to the press release about the event. “At each center, visitors may earn chances to win door prizes and a grand prize.”

The hosting centers include: Corbin Senior Activity Center, 827 W. Cleveland St., (509) 327-1584; East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone St., (509) 625-6699; Hillyard Senior Center, 4001 N. Cook Street, (509) 482-0803; Mid-City Concerns Senior Center, 1222 W. Second Ave., (509) 747-3257; Northeast Youth Center, 3004 E. Queen Ave., (509) 482-0708; Peaceful Valley Community Center, 214 N. Cedar St., (509) 624-8634; Project Joy, 3151 E. 27th Ave., (509) 535-0584; Sinto Senior Activity Center, 1124 W. Sinto Ave., (509) 327-2861; Southside Senior and Community Center, 3151 E. 27th Ave., (509) 535-0803; and West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St., (509) 326-9540.

VIBRANT BLUE COLLARS: In our growing-up years in the 1960s in Spokane, we knew lots of dads who worked in manufacturing jobs, most at Kaiser Aluminum. The men were proud of their jobs and earned solid, middle-class salaries.

The conventional wisdom holds that manufacturing jobs have disappeared from our culture. So a recent U.S. Census report was a pleasant surprise. Manufacturing jobs are still out there – for dads and moms. To wit:

• Manufacturing was the fourth largest employer in the U.S. in 2011, behind only health care, retail trade and food services.

• $52,330 – the average annual compensation for an employee in the manufacturing industry in 2011, including salaries, wages, bonuses, vacation allowances, sick-leave pay and employee contributions to qualified pension plans.

• 11 million – the number of people employed by the manufacturing industry in the U.S. in 2011.

THIS WEEK, A SAMPLING:

• Affordable Care Act – a session explaining the act and how to enroll, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Post Falls Library, 821 S. Spokane St., (208) 773-1506.

• “Darwin Goes to the Movies: A Naturalistic View of Filmic Imagination” – talk by Gonzaga University philosophy professor Richard McClelland, Wolff Auditorium in the Jepson Center, 502 E. Boone Ave., (509) 592-0377.

For more events, go to Spokane7.com.


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