News From Terre Haute, Indiana


January 27, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Building a career tapping a keyboard

I wish I had a dollar for every time an adult asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I certainly sampled enough jobs in enough places, but essentially, I just wasn’t interested in growing up.

My “career” as a paid employee began when I sat with a half-dozen of my classmates stripping the dirty layer on young green onions and tying them into bunches. I think it paid one penny per bunch. No career prospects there.

I toiled away as a waitress when I was in high school. Apart from the fact that food was rationed so we were not allowed to eat much beyond cheese sandwiches or egg salad and the fact that too many of our customers treated us like medieval “serving wenches”, it was fun, but held little prospect of my life’s work.

All kids of a certain age worked during the war years. My brother, Ed, worked after school at a war plant and stuck with that until he was old enough to enter the Navy. My job was as a typist for the DeKalb Hybrid Seed Co. The job paid 36-cents an hour. I was able to save enough from that princely sum to pay for my first year of college. Of course, I lived at home, had to read the textbooks in the college library and each of three quarters that first year of study cost only $15.25.

It was about this time that my friend, Alice, and I consulted a fortune teller about our futures. She told me to stick with typing — hardly what I wanted to hear after scraping to earn enough for college.

But I worked there, too. I typed lessons and exams for four professors — except those exams which I was to be taking. I was still typing as the seer advised, but I wanted to type stories. I wanted to be a reporter — preferably a foreign correspondent so I could combine travel and writing.

Between stints as a teacher — six months and an ulcer — and as a librarian, I never could keep silent. I aspired to report.

I eventually became a reporter. I was lucky. At first I wrote news for the society page, the only desk available at the time and hardly one of my burning interests. I finished as a reporter on the education desk and was asked to do my own column.

It only took about 50 years to get that far and I’m still behind a typewriter — only they call it a computer keyboard now.

I guess there is something to that fortune teller’s second sight.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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