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Horace Cayton, Sr., “Embarrassing Moments”

Horace R. Cayton, Sr., Story #17 from Richard S. Hobbs, ed. Autobiographical Writings of Horace R. Cayton, Sr. Published in Cayton's Weekly, 1917–1920 (Manama, Bahrain: Delmon Press, 1987), 45-46.

In the year of our Lord 1893 I was employed by Richard Winsor of Seattle as city editor of the Evening Call, a small daily that advocated Populism as the panacea for the political aches and ills of the citizens of this country. Judge Winsor is a blue bellied yankee from Michigan and was for a number of years connected with the “under ground rail road” that aided escaped slaves to Canada, so his ideals as to the rights of colored folks were very pronounced in their favor. On Monday morning I showed up at the Call’s offices and a few minutes later Judge Winsor walked in and told his former city editor to turn over his keys to me, whom he had employed to take his place on the paper. Mr. Carpenter, the former city editor, showed no signs of disappointment, and after congratulating me shook hands and walked out. In the composing and press rooms there were twelve workmen. The change of city editors soon drifted back to them and the new city editors soon drifted back to them and the new city editor was pointed out. I went to work at once as things had to be rushed along to get the paper out on time. An hour later as I sat at my desk writing away and Judge Winsor sat writing at another desk in the same room, in walked the entire mechanical force and addressing Judge Winsor, said, “we have come to inform you that we will not take copy from a colored man.” At that moment to me my job did not seem to be worth a pinch of salt, and jobs were jobs in Seattle at that time. My embarrassment was so great that it was truly painful. Judge Winsor’s reply was “everyman of you go back to the work rooms, get your belongings, go to the office and get your money and then leave my place of business at once. You run my work room, but you will not run my editorial room.” His remarks were intersprised with forcible ejaculations that would not be proper for a Sunday school. A long story short the men did not walk out and I worked harmoniously with them for almost a year and they accepted me as one of the boys and I still claim them as warm personal friends, some of whom still live in Seattle and are taking copy.

Why report on a Populist paper? interrogated Will H. Parry, then city editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Because I could not get work on a Republican paper,” was my reply. “That’s so, I do remember of you applying to me for a place on the paper and I turned you down.” I had done no such thing and his words were irony, and as I listened to him I must confess that, I was very much embarrassed. But after talking things over he promised to give me the first opening he had. A short time thereafter the Call went to the wall, but a new evening Republican daily was organized, in which Mr. Parry was interested and he named me as one of the news gatherers. I reported for duty Monday morning, but the managing editor informed me he had nothing for me to do. When Parry was told about it he read the riot act to some one and I was told to report for duty Tuesday morning which I did. There were nine other reporters besides myself and I listened to each of them receive assignments from the city editor and yet not a word was said to me. The other fellows looked at me and I looked at all of them, but did not meet a sympathetic eye. Can you imagine a more embarrassing moment? After all the reporters had gone out the city editor told me to take the exchanges and write something from them. I did as commanded and wrote as I had never before. I wrote a political story that made my chief's hair stand up like the quills of a porcupine and he published it verbatim. I was told to do the same thing the next day and before the week was out I was assigned the hotels to get interviews from “big politicians” visiting the city.

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