People identify each other by their jobs

Recent events brought home how much what we do for a living tends to label us.

For me, writing about and photographing sports tends to put an invisible placard on me – the guy who takes photos or writes for the newspaper.

What started as drudgery working long hours in a darkroom steeped in the odors of fixer and activator turned to love of my work and community.

I don’t know how many countless times I was feeling down and someone said hi, or mentioned how they liked something I did in the paper.

That always turned my day and attitude around.

For instance, I was getting some late-night chicken for dinner after a long Monday.

A young man behind the counter first said, “You are Doug’s dad!”

Doug is my son, a music teacher who also is a musician in a couple metal bands in the Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., areas. (Yes, I am pretty proud of him.)

Then the worker said I’d gotten some awesome photos of him, 10 years earlier.

You start working at a paper hoping to touch people’s lives, but when it happens you can find yourself very surprised.

All these years, and for me I am working on No. 41, you sometimes wonder if anyone is paying attention.

My experience is that once someone leaves something they’ve done for many years, only then do people tell you anything.

Bill Sproule, who’s been working to maintain the Okanogan Valley Golf Club for 47 years, recently announced he was stepping aside.

I suspect once he’s retired, lots and lots of people will be telling him how much they miss him.

More about Bill will be in the Wednesday edition of The Chronicle.

But let’s just say Bill has overseen the course going through a lot of changes.

Work can bring validation to our lives, and a paycheck that allows us security and a bit of freedom.

Seems like once we get recognition in our work, and get paid as a professional, the freedom to do what we want surely must come next.

I worked for Wes Calvert, who managed Student Publications at Washington State University. One of his desires once retired was to develop film he took in the early 1950s. (As an aside, his son, Don Calvert, taught at Liberty Bell High School, where he also was the baseball coach.)

My dream job when I joined The Chronicle in 1979, if I had the means to pursue it, was to photograph for Sports Illustrated.

(I also thought I’d like to own a newspaper, but that silly notion went away fast watching John E. Andrist do the dirty, behind-the-scenes work needed to keep a paper afloat.)

I used to kid my wife, Dee, who has been on the same journey at the paper, that someday SI would call.

The joke is that they did call, but only asking for me to subscribe.

So my mantra became: You should be able to take great photos anywhere, not just the championships like the Super Bowl or World Series.

I’ve had to modify or add: You can’t get a great photo if the athletes are not trying, but you can if they are working as hard as they can.

I photographed some first- and second-grade athletes playing flag football on Wednesday.

The game was back and forth when suddenly (I love that segue) a small boy broke around a corner, chased by a taller player.

The young runner was Titan Taylor, whose initials are TNT. The chaser was Rowdy Pfitzer.

I can tell you both will be great athletes further along in school, simply because they both have realized you have to give it your all even at their young stage of life.

I’ve seen it before many times. The best illustration is of a seventh-grader playing basketball years ago in Omak’s Stevens Gym.

Althought barely four feet tall, he was taking on the six-footers, knocking the ball away and being an all-around pest before fouling out.

Shad James would never reach the minimum wrestling weight of 101 pounds, but would win the state title his senior year. He also won the state cross country championship and finished second in the 3,200-meter run in track.

The work, the effort, changes us even if we don’t think so. You don’t suddenly become a starter as a senior if you didn’t put in the work, the love of the work, when younger.

The work does change over time.

I promised my dad, who had me cleaning ovens at a young age at his work, that I would get an easy job.

I’ve always wanted to ask Dad — long since dead – what he thought  of my pressing an index finger to make images with a camera. Or using 10 fingers to type out stories.

Having a desk with good light to type my stories, to work photos with PhotoShop away from stinky, irritating chemicals is great.

Sure beats pounding out school assignments on a Remington manual typewriter.

Dive into whatever you want to do — sports, everyday work — with enthusiasm. Trust the process to bring  love of the work, and success!

Al Camp is the sports editor at The Chronicle. Email him at

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