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Philip Maramba: Time capsules and long-held memories

PART of the hoopla surrounding the recent National Scout Jamboree near my hometown of Beckley included the burial of a time capsule set to be unearthed in 300 years.

Among the trinkets left for the Scouts of the future were merit badges, uniform patches, a Scout Handbook and a Wall Street Journal article.

Assuming the country hasn't been taken over by apes or zombies when the capsule is reopened, those astroscouts — in their uniforms of breathable laminate and plucking information from the air — may well examine these tokens of woven fiber or ink on paper and chuckle at their quaintness.

Meantime, here in good old 2013, I've been chuckling as I open a time capsule of my own. It's called cleaning out my desk.

After more than 15 years of working as a copy editor at three newspapers — the last eight here at the Daily Mail and the past three as news editor — I was asked to become managing editor.

So I had to leave the cozy enclave of computer stations we affectionately named "the pod" for the place we lower-downs would refer to in our more rueful moments as "the middle office."

It's amazing what you can accumulate in eight years: Photos, notes, condiment packets. (Those last ones don't keep, just so you know. They tend to mostly leak.)

What's more amazing, though, is the story of what some of those accumulated artifacts tell.

There are personal histories.

I've got a stack of business cards that trace the career paths of friends and colleagues.

And there's a series of Post-It Notes from my wife, Kris, who used to work with me as a reporter and later as city editor, from the time before our first child was born.

Sample 1: "First (the baby) wasn't kicking at all. Now it feels like he's kicking so hard my teeth are shaking."

Sample 2: "I hate you." (From the morning sickness months.)

Sorting through stacks and inboxes, I watched the arc of technology evolve from print photos that had to be manually scanned to CD-ROMs that we labeled and catalogued (maddeningly inefficient for retrieval) to images we click with a cursor and download to a hard drive.

Holding up a CD for a colleague, I imagined my own retirement, when my college-aged son would pick a disc out of my box of office effects and wonder at the olden days when information was something you actually had to hold in your hand for retrieval.

The thought of such a future got me kind of jazzed to be here when it was happening.

But here in the present, of course, there was a stack of newspapers to contend with.

A number of them were keepers.

"Obama victory makes history"

"Robert C. Byrd: 1917-2010"

"West Virginia at 150: Always free"

The Byrd edition holds a special place in my heart not only because it marked the day the state lost its biggest benefactor, but because it was also the day that the Daily Mail lost the man who once occupied my office.

After many years away, Bob Kelly returned to the post of managing editor — not long before I left to work in South Carolina in 2004.

I like to call him the last of the real newspapermen. He had a nose for news and a good sense of issues that our readers cared about.

He could also be a hard boss and a brutal editor. And I mean that in the best possible way.

He possessed an instinct born of experience that I did not have. That he ever came to value my opinion gives me hope that I may have a chance to acquire it.

I always like to say Bob died on the same day as Sen. Byrd on purpose, so he wouldn't be put on the front page of our paper.

That's how modest and self-effacing he was.

But being "buried," as it were, deep inside the newspaper, I think he simply ensured that he would make himself a part of it.

I can only hope I make a similar sort of impression when I am through.

Maramba is managing editor of the Daily Mail. His email

address is


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