My mother told me not to go into journalism. She made herself crystal clear. I remember when I told her I thought I wanted to study journalism in college. She fixed me with the kind of look teenagers usually get for breaking the news they are gay, and she said something like, “You don’t want to do that. You’ll never have any money.” She was a divorced mother of two boys, working for the Arizona Republic, so she knew her subject matter well.
She started her career at the Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal, where in 1961 her job as society editor took her to cover an “Officers’ Wives” luncheon at Lockbourne Air Force Base, and during her visit she was given a tour of the restricted area where all the planes were kept, and she got the idea to ask for a ride in one of the planes — a supersonic F-101B. Her account of her exchange with Lt. Don Fullerton, the assistant information officer at the base, sums up her life:
“Ha,” said Fullerton, “you’d faint on takeoff.”
That did it. I just had to get that flight.
She got the flight, becoming the first woman to fly in an F-101 and the fifth woman to break the sound barrier. The experience so exhilarated her that she kept damn near everything about it — from her typed draft, covered with edit marks, to copies of the three first-person stories she wrote about the experience (bearing the two-column logo, featuring fancy cursive-style type, of “Women’s Features”) — in a folder the rest of her life.
She interrupted her career to raise two boys. One had the sense to go into sales and other business-oriented pursuits. The other liked to write and felt the same sort of exhilaration that led to that folder of yellowing paper, so when she said, “You don’t want to do that,” he thought, “Yes I do.” He has second thoughts nowadays, but when it comes down to it, he still hasn’t been able to follow her advice.