I’m thankful on Thanksgiving

By John Toth

The Bulletin


The Bulletin Headquarters is buzzing with activity this time of the year, but I feel a need to slow things down and give thanks for all the good things that have happened to me over the years.


First of all, I’m thankful that I’m even here. The chances of us escaping from the Eastern Block was next to zero, but my mother and I pulled it off in March, 1966. I was 10 years old and was just along for the ride. Mom did all the risky work.


I have written about this several times, but it seems appropriate to bring it up again on Thanksgiving.


Without her heroics, I would not have made it to the United States.


We escaped from communist Hungary (controlled at the time by the Soviet Union) with forged papers and an altered passport. It took more than a year to take care of all the details. Then we bought a round-trip train ticket to Vienna, Austria, half of which we wasted.


A year and a half later, we received political asylum from the United States, and we landed at Kennedy Airport in New York City with two suitcases. That’s how I got here, and I am very grateful for that.


I was placed in school right away after our arrival and began to learn my third language. I couldn’t understand anything at first, and Sister Mercedes, the principal of the Catholic school I attended, placed me a grade up, expecting me to fail.


This wasn’t my first rodeo, though, and as soon as I learned enough English, I managed to talk her into not failing me. Thank you, Sister Mercedes.


My mother wanted me to go to college, so I did, and I studied electrical engineering. Two years into it, I changed my mind, and I decided that I really wanted a degree in communications. I wanted to write. I am very thankful for a guidance counselor at the college for weaving his way through my records and managing to convert all my engineering courses into electives. It took some doing.


I may be the only graduate who got a degree in communications and chose to take all engineering classes as electives. It looked crazy on paper, but it worked.


Then I started looking for a newspaper job, which was far and few in between. I found one in Bay City at The Daily Tribune. I am very thankful that managing editor Jay Jacobs hired me after a dare.


He interviewed me in his car on the way to a photo shoot of a horse that won some kind of an award. I can’t remember what it was, but I do remember his words.


“If you ride that horse once around the yard, you’re hired.”


I did, and I had a job. After four years of college, it boiled down to this. I am tremendously grateful that the horse was very patient with me. Two weeks later I started working at the paper. Thank you, Jay.


Then I decided to move to Victoria and work for a bigger paper, and I am very grateful that I did.


While I didn’t really enjoy that job as much as the one at the Tribune, that’s where I met up with the beautiful Sharon Lee Allen. That part of working in Victoria turned out very well.


I am, of course, grateful for all the good health I lucked into over the decades, the wonderful family we raised and that I can still do to this day what I love doing.


Thank you metro editor Mary Moody for hiring me as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in 1983, even though I botched your grammar and spelling tests. And, thank you, Danny Grothaus, the reporter I replaced, for botching the test even more than I did.


Thank you, dear readers, for welcoming The Bulletin in 1994. We decided to take a leap of faith with a mortgage and three kids to start this weekly community paper.


We have had other businesses over the decades, but The Bulletin has always been our top priority. We gave it birth and nursed it along. We could not have done it without our great readers and advertisers.


I’m living my dream, and I am grateful.


I am forever thankful that my business partner, the former Sharon Lee Allen, and I could raise a family and run businesses, working together, often long hours side by side. If we didn’t have that special chemistry, this never would have happened.


And, this dream would have remained just a dream.


Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.