Payday was Tuesday. In the old building, you lined up at the cashier's cage to get your wages -- in cash, loose change and all, inside a brown envelope.
After picking up his weekly pittance one day, a veteran reporter began to brood about this tangible expression of his value. He fed his anger with a few stiff ones at the bar across the street, The Chicken Hut, and then marched back to the newsroom and sat down directly across from one of the owners, then doing his apprenticeship as an editor.
While his newsroom colleagues watched, the reporter silently held up his pay envelope for all to see. Then, slowly, he began to pour out the contents, vigorously shaking the envelope to make sure everything had emerged. When he finished, a small mound of peanuts lay on the editor's desk.
Then there was the day when the crime reporter, Miriam Ottenberg, who thought well of herself and had every right to, and was one of the first to call herself an investigative reporter, heard about a brutal double murder during lunch. When she came back to the newsroom, she walked up to the city editor. In a loud voice heard across the room, said said: "Okay. Do you want me to solve it, or do you just want color?"
And she meant it. The Star was like that.
The Star could be infuriating and endearing. Unlike The Post, which increasingly poured more and more money and manpower into covering the news, at The Star you made do with less and less.
For some years I served as something of a fireman for the paper. It seemed I was always being hurtled off in the night to cover some distant crisis around the globe -- a war in Asia, a riot in Watts, a revolution in the Caribbean, a disaster when the lights went out in New York, an earthquake, whether in North or South America. Invariably, merely obtaining sufficient cash to get on a plane touched off a mad scramble. The devastating Good Friday earthquake of 1964 in Alaska was a case in point.
The Star kept a cash box in the managing editor's office, but it never had enough money to meet the emergency at hand. Nor did it late that night when Charlie Seib, the self-effacing and splendid managing editor, called me and told me to go to Alaska. Typically, at 2 o'clock in the morning we emptied our collective wallets in his office, and borrowed from everyone on duty, singles, fives, and tens, before getting enough to race off on another assignment.
It wasn't exactly first class, and my colleagues and I grumbled loudly about it. But we loved what we were doing and where we worked nonetheless -- as you can tell from these stories.