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I just was not made to work for somebody else.

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Being fired is the best thing that happened to me

Don Surber

Oct 8


I have been fired 3 times in my life, and not really missed by management at other jobs that I quit. I just was not made to work for somebody else.

My first fulltime job ended with a layoff on Christmas Eve, which was the boss’s way of not shaming a teenage boy. Layoff sounded better to him than firing. I didn’t care.

Frankly, he kept me on longer than he should have. It was a small factory. In fact I was the only employee other than him, his business partner and his son. I really doubt the minimum wage he paid me was breaking him.

Well, OK. I wanted to write. So I wrote. Didn’t make any money. I tried another factory job. I quit after 3 days. I tried sales. That failed. I kept writing. I got published but not paid in a weekly newspaper.

Eventually, I joined the Army with the idea of joining the Stars and Stripes. A pipedream, but you never know. The Army had other plans. It sent me to Fort Stewart, Georgia, a big old post headquartered in Hinesville in Liberty County. It had 1,200 people stationed there at the time as it searched for a post-Vietnam mission.

Today the post has nearly 10,000 soldiers. Hinesville now has more than a Tastee Freez. In fact, the Tastee Freez is gone.

My boss hated me. He was a civilian. I like to think he hated me because I was a good writer but I just was not made to work for somebody else. He wanted to get rid of me so he put me on the excess list. I was designated for assignment in Europe. I am sure he thought he got me good because Germany was not a choice assignment in 1975.

But I had won some Army writing awards and I wrote Mert Procter, the managing editor at Stars and Stripes. He had an opening. I filled it. I did OK but I never fit in with my fellow soldiers. I spent a lot of time at the press club with the civilians who actually put out the paper and a CPO named Brad Durfee. He was a wonderful and charming Irishman who could drink, fight and tell stories.

I returned home in April 1977 with a Good Conduct medal, which still tickles me today. I met my wife, we saw Star Wars and we married. Yesterday was our 45th anniversary. I went to college and worked for the federal government. That bored me to tears. And once again I had a boss who despised me.

He didn’t fire me but I moved on anyway. I tried sales again. I was fired. I took a factory job and that worked out OK. We bought a house.

But writing called again and I quit and went to work part-time for the Cleveland State University PR shop. I also landed a part-time proofreading job at the Wall Street Journal’s satellite printing plant in Cleveland. The best thing about that job was the plant was closing. I was promised (and received) a nice severance paycheck.

I graduated from college days before the plant closed. I landed a job at the Parkersburg News in West Virginia. Again, I won writing awards. This time, I had a boss who liked me. Unfortunately, the mayor did not. After 3 years, I moved on to the Charleston Daily Mail.

The problem I had was I did not like beat reporting. I wanted to write feature stories and columns. That wasn’t my job.

But when opportunities came up to write a column, I did. Eventually I got a bi-weekly column and also was condemned to writing editorials. The bi-weekly column became a weekly one.

Once again, my boss didn’t like me. I am not going to rag on her. The 26 years we worked together were hard on both of us. She tried to fire me in 1999 but failed. We would work together for another 14 years.

Charleston had two newspapers. The Gazette was the liberal morning paper. The Daily Mail was the afternoon paper. They had separate owners who shared a printing press and business offices under a Joint Operating Agreement, which got around antitrust laws. The Clay family owned the Daily Mail. The Chiltons owned the Gazette.

The Clay family cashed in by selling their paper in 1987 to Thomson Newspapers when newspaper prices were at their peak. Thomson later read the tea leaves right and got out of the newspaper business. The Chiltons didn’t. They arranged a straw purchase to get around the JOA. In 2004, they borrowed $56 million to buy and fold the Daily Mail.

Oh boy. I was going to get two years of severance pay. The children were grown. Finally, I could write for myself.

Enter the Department of Justice. It blocked the Chiltons for 11 years. There went my severance pay. I stayed on. I shouldn’t have. I did. It’s on me. In 2014, they finally fired me. I was free. I fired up my blog and haven’t looked back.

The Chiltons would eventually lose everything when the merged Gazette-Mail went bankrupt. A new owner bought the paper dirt cheap. The new owner wanted the state-of-the-art printing press.

My blog is on the Blogger format, which means it is owned by Google. My main ad service is Google’s AdSense.

In the past year, Google has begun canceling ads to posts and Blogger has deleted a few posts. So I am moving on to Substack. I will not only survive but thrive. That’s what I do. I am posting here what they censor there. Browse through the censored ones. The excuse is “Unreliable and harmful claims.” The two most recent flagged posts were based on reporting by the Washington Post and the New York Times.

We know what is going on. Democrats are pressing Google, Twitter and the rest to silence dissidents. My guess is this involves some sort of payoffs with taxpayer money. The pressure is on this election season as Democrats hold a vain hope that the midterms won’t flip Congress.

But I am going to keep my blog for now because the ad money is nice. Eventually I will move on to Substack when I get enough subscribers. It is free now. I want to thank readers for subscribing and so I will offer a weekly column that is exclusive to Substack. This is the first.

Meanwhile, keep reading the blog — — because when it ends, when I am fired for the last time, you will be the first to know because I will announce it here.

I just was not made to work for somebody else.