Growing up, I’d get that dreadful back to school angst every year right around this time. Vacation was coming to an end, summer camp with the Scouts was over, and the smell of fall was in the air.
Never was that angst greater for me than going from fourth to fifth grade at Brown Avenue School. Every student back then knew who Mr. Ring was, and every kid who’d never had him as a teacher had heard the rumors and knew of his scary reputation.
A Vietnam veteran and longtime teacher, Mr. Ring’s voice could be heard throughout the school whenever someone in his class got into trouble; it was just so loud. Tales were told that he was a strict disciplinarian that made the life of kids miserable. I dreaded going back to school that year; I just didn’t want to go.
Then I got there, and found that only some of the rumors were true; he was very strict – push in your chair, no talking in class, and we got to hear that famous, booming voice early on to set the tone. But what we soon found out was that his heart was far, far bigger than his voice and that he made learning and being a kid fun.
Mr. Ring would assign weekly compositions, and it was in his class that I discovered that I actually liked to write. I was never the greatest writer, but with his help I improved and built a solid foundation. He challenged us and made us want to be better students.
By the end of the year, I found a new angst in leaving his classroom, which I had grown to love. Because of Mr. Ring’s work and that of teachers like Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Zarrella, the late Mrs. LeMarier and Mr. Mazzie and so many others, you’ve read my writing in the Johnston Sun Rise for going on the last six years.
Now, summer is coming to a close, and I feel that angst once more. Change is in the air, and this edition represents my last as editor of the Sun Rise.
Never did I think that I’d be the editor of my hometown newspaper. It’s an opportunity I will always be grateful for. I’ve reached heights in this position that I’d once thought impossible, like flying with the Blue Angels, and lows that hurt like hell, such as writing about the death of Johnston High School student Rachel Elizabeth Carson. I’ve succeeded and I’ve failed, but there were times it felt as if I was living my fifth grade dream of being Clark Kent.
If my late grandfathers knew that I became an editor, I can imagine that they’d be more than proud. But we no longer live in the world of our grandparents, we live in a world of “fake news,” one in which the media are called the “enemy of the people.” It’s a world far less certain than the one I remember from Brown Avenue School.
So, I feel the time has come for a change. I’m heading back to my roots established in fifth grade with Troop 20 in Johnston, where I went on to become an Eagle Scout. I’ve accepted a position as a district executive with the Scouts in Massachusetts. There, I hope to pay it back and help both boys and now girls learn some of the lessons that got me to where I am today.
There is far more good here than bad, and I’d like to thank the entire community of Johnston for helping me tell our town’s story. Thank you for sharing both the laughs and the tears. Though I no longer live in town, whenever I came back it always felt like I was coming home.
But for now, it’s time to turn the page.