In my column this Sunday, I wrote about a couple of minor transgressions I committed as a young reporter. A story I wanted to tell, but couldn’t squeeze into the column, came from “Newspaper Days,” the second volume in H.L. Mencken’s three-volume memoirs.
Writing about his days on the Baltimore Sun, Mencken said that when he was appointed Sunday editor back in 1901, he soon discovered , “as every young city editor must find, that Sunday night brings the zero hour of the week. There is, ordinarily, very little news stirring, and that little tends to be a great deal less than exhilarating.”
He spoke of one “red-letter Sunday” when “a wild man was reported loose in the woods over Baltimore’s northern city-line, with every dog barking for miles around, and all women and children locked up.” He said the police responded zealously, rounding up “at least a dozen poor bums” who were “put through very stiff workouts in the back room.”
Though the wild man was never found and soon forgotten, Mencken said, “I got special delight out of the wild man, for I had invented him myself.”
Now you know why I consider my little caper a minor one. It was a bad thing Mencken did, but I’ve worked a lot of slow Sundays myself, as both and editor and reporter, and I almost regret not having followed his lead.