Mitch and Me: A Divergence

Tom Mooradian at the editorial desk circa 1970

After we would put the newspaper to bed and, if I didn’t have a council meeting or a basketball game or a swimming meet to cover, Mitch and I would sit in the newsroom and discuss our favorite subjects – the old times, national and world news, and politics.

And, yes, we were really fortunate on Sundays when Rose, his lovely wife, would stop by around noon with chicken, pilaf, salad, and baklava, and join in the discussion.

Often times on Sundays, an unusual scholar and philosopher from the East, Jack Warren, would also come by.

I got to know Jack under very unusual circumstances. When the newspaper was a weekly, he dropped by the office one Sunday and asked if he could help out by covering the high school wrestling meets for me.

I told him that I would “really appreciate the help” but I didn’t have the authority to hire anyone. I was the sports editor and employment was handled by the publisher and the publisher alone. Jack nodded his head showing he understood, but continued that he wasn’t interested in employment.

“No problem,” Jack said, “I work at the airport. I’m volunteering my time and services to you. I enjoy your columns, and I love wrestling.  He also mentioned that he was an avid Wayne Memorial High school coach and team fan. “I attend all of their meets and tournaments and, if you want, I will cover them and other teams in your newspapers’ circulation area. I know most of the coaches in the area, and they know me and I will give you the results so you can write the stories.”

What sports editor wouldn’t accept such an offer?

So I did. And to show my appreciation I offered to buy him lunch anytime he was available. Our relationship, respect, and friendship grew during the days, month, and years that followed.

And I believe he is the one who saved my job. I will get back to Mitch and Me next week; this week I need to answer those who asked how I lost my job…

It came to pass that Mitch returned to The Macomb Daily, and we would have not only a new managing editor, but a new general manager as well. On one particular stormy and wintry evening, after the paper was put to bed, I was summoned to the office of General Manager…“Voldemort”. He waved his powerful wand and said, “Be gone, Tom.” And off I went, wondering why he hatred my guts. I had devoted more than a decade to this chain of newspapers and I believed I was doing a pretty good job. But, alas, it was what it was and I headed home to try to explain it to my dear wife.

Voldemort not only made me disappear, but also abolished the sports section. According to union contract, although I had more seniority than most of the staff reporters and could easily handle any assignment, because the evil Voldemort had abolished the Sports Section, nothing could be done to reinstate me.

Friday night passed, as did Saturday, then on Sunday, Jack Warren called me at home and said, “Hey, I hope you’re not sick. I was at the newspaper office, knocked on the door, and no answer…Aren’t you coming in? I hope you’re all right.”

“Jack, I’m not with the newspaper – they’ve laid me off.”

“What? What did you say?”

“I said, they laid me off – I’m not with the newspaper.”

“The hell you aren’t!” And the phone went silent.

I spent the rest of the day enjoying time with my family, as I had done so rarely because of my job, which I no longer had.

Monday afternoon, the general manager’s secretary called me at home, “Mr. Mooradian, please return to the office – the managing editor would like to talk to you…”

“I’m sorry, but I have been laid off …”

“Please, Mr. Mooradian, I’ve been asked to tell you that they want you back…”

After returning the phone to its cradle I told my wife about the call. She smiled and said, “Better go and see what they want.”

I opened the office door and glanced at the receptionist. There wasn’t that usual eye-contact or “Hi, Tom, how are Jan and the kids?” The editorial staff also looked at me with a sense of awe. My managing editor quickly smiled from his office.

On my empty desk was an unsigned note, “What the F— did you do?!”

The events of the day were revealed over time. Starting early that morning hundreds of phone calls to the circulation department had started pouring in, demanding subscription cancellations unless I was reinstated immediately. In addition there were threats by businesses that ads would be canceled unless the sports section and Tom Mooradian were returned to the paper.

To this day I do not know for certain who or what the catalyst was that began the telephone barrage, but my suspicion is that Jack Warren hatched the plan and organized the Booster Clubs to take charge. However, he never admitted any involvement.

Ironically, if Voldemort had waited until summer he just may have succeeded in his odious deed. It was obvious that the general manager knew little about newspapering. If he did, he would never have “laid off” any sports’ staff during the late winter when high school basketball teams are preparing for the state playoffs and championships, wrestling districts are underway, and swimming and volleyball games are being staged.

“March Madness” was just a flip of a calendar page away. One Sunday morning I arrived at the newspaper office and didn’t find Jack waiting for me. I went into the office and phoned his apartment. There was no answer. After an hour or two, I phoned again, again no answer.

I jumped in the car, drove to the apartment, and knocked at the door – no answer. I called the local police chief, a close friend of mine, and he immediately dispatched a patrol car. The officers met me at the door then one of them left to find the apartment manager. Together we entered the apartment. Jack was on the floor of his bedroom…he had suffered a fatal heart attack.

Read the full “Mitch and Me” series:

Mitch and Me: A Posthumous Tribute to a Childhood Friend
Mitch and Me: The Years of the Great Depression
Mitch and Me: Iconic Moments of Friendship
Mitch and Me: Challenges in a New World
Mitch and Me: Explaining the Inexplicable
Mitch and Me: A Divergence
Mitch and Me: The Final Chapter to an Epic Life
Mitch and Me: The “Contract” is Null & Void

2 responses to “Mitch and Me: A Divergence”

  1. Enjoyed your column. Jack was a gift and you were a gift to him…bet he was the impetus for saving your job.

    • Thank you Kathleen! People always cross our paths for a reason, and I’m very lucky to have had so many wonderful people in my life. Stay safe and well!

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