My good friend and Highland County Press columnist Jim Thompson opened his latest column with this: "Having a career that has spanned 50 years thus far, I have seen a number of seismic shifts in employment practices, educational recognition and so forth. For perspective, understand that when I started to work, there was no Environmental Protection Agency and there was no Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Most other safeguards we take for granted in employment and education did not exist then, either."

I can relate. And if you will indulge me, I shall.

After reading Jim's lede this week, it occurred to me that this is also my 50th year in gainful employment. It has been quite the journey, this half-century of work. Looking back, I am forever grateful to some of my previous employers and coworkers. I hope that I have done something to help a few former coworkers along the way.

Let us begin with the summer of 1970 in Highland County. That was the summer of my ninth birthday and third summer season of either Knothole Baseball and/or Little League Baseball. As the school year ended in the spring of 1970, I was told by my dad and the owner of Ryan Surveying and Mapping that I would be working 40 hours (or more, if necessary) on his surveying crew. I would work through the day, grab something to eat, and then get ready for our baseball games, first coached by Don Edgington and soon after by Jim "Dandy" Cumberland, Raymond Burns and several other wonderful coaches.

I loved every minute of it. Great memories, to this day.

Let us move from 1970 to 1980.

I was seemingly going nowhere in my second year at the University of Cincinnati. Money was tight, both personally and familial. In 1980, having applied for work at every factory in Hillsboro and at the former DPL plants along the Ohio River in Adams and Brown counties, I had zero prospects of current and future gainful employment.

Two men changed that. Ernie Blankenship and Clifford Reffitt. Cliff was a great friend of our family, plus he was a great friend of Ernie. During one of our frequent early morning conversations, I explained that I had applied at several places and not one had called for an interview.

From what I was later told, Cliff spoke up for me. Ernie called. I had my first and only interview at Rotary Forms Press, Inc. I took their test. I passed. I started a 10-year career the following Monday.

I will always be grateful to the Cassner family. RFP could be tough and demanding, but if you worked hard and did your job, it was a rewarding work experience. Thanks to so many good people (from Ernie B. to Hanson Duncan to Larry Newman to Richard Morris, Bill Bushelman, Tim Rhodes, David Heaton and more), I earned my master's printer journeyman status.

In 1990, my wife read an ad in a newspaper that was looking for a sports editor. She encouraged me to apply and leave factory work. I did. Phil Roberts hired me.

Thanks to Phil and former Congressman Clarence J. "Bud" Brown, from 1980-2020, I have worked 40 consecutive years in printing. From unloading trucks, to running paper slitters and printing presses, I've done it. It was all good.

Those previous 10 years from 1970-80 were even better. There's nothing like working with your father and best friend when you are ranging in age from 9 to 19.

Today, I counted my years of employment. The addition was not what I thought.

From 1970-89, I worked for Ryan Surveying and Mapping: 19 years;

From 1980-90, I worked for Rotary Forms Press, Inc.: 10 years;

From 1990-2009, I worked for two different newspaper companies and multiple publications: 19 years;

From 2009-2020, I have worked at The Highland County Press: 11 years.

If my math is accurate, 19+10+19+11 = 59 years.

I am 59.

Thanks, Jim, for making me even more tired on this otherwise fine day.

I learned the essence of work from a very early age. Everyone should.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.