the two hall-of-fame Jacks who helped launch my career
By Ralph Schaefer, 2017 Inductee
Two Jacks—Jack Bickham and Jack Dyer—helped start a nearly 50- year newspaper career. They were newspaper editors in the late 1960s, and they had a lifelong impact on a Central State College journalism student.
I was a junior in 1968 and studying under Dr. Ray Tassin and Stan Hoig, later Dr. Hoig. I had the opportunity to work part-time at The Oklahoma Courier, the Catholic diocese newspaper. Jack Bickham was the editor, and I rewrote items sent to the newspaper for publication.
My “big” assignment came when I was sent to Purcell to write a story about a woman who graduated many years earlier from the now closed Catholic school. Everyone liked the story and wanted more, but the newspaper budget was tight. I completed my agreed-upon two-month time all too quickly.
Bickham called me into his office, reviewed my work and was mostly complimentary.
But he closed his comment to a green reporter with, “Ralph, your copy is too wooden.”
That comment sticks with me today.
Fast forward to October 1969.
I met Jack Dyer at the Oklahoma Press Association office to apply for a reporter-photographer job at the El Reno Daily Tribune.
Dyer looked over my application and work at The Oklahoma Courier. He hesitated to hire me because I had worked with Jack Bickham. I don’t remember the reason for his concern, but I was hired and went to work the next day.
That first day I was given the newspaper’s new camera—a Mamiya C330—and in the afternoon was told that U.S. Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma was driving a combine in a nearby wheat field. I was to take the picture.
I was wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and necktie, the dress standard of the day.
Jack Dyer drove me to the field. I carefully crawled between two strands of barbed wire on a fence and ran to take the photo. When I returned to the car, Dyer was waiting.
He said my effort “scared him.”
“Why?” I asked. “Were you afraid I would get hurt?”
“No,” was the reply. “I was afraid you would break the new camera.”
I wore that camera out before leaving the newspaper in 1973.
I retired from the newspaper business in 2018.