Let me introduce myself. I am the new managing editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle. It’s a happy homecoming.
Visitors might look at Denton and see a rather unremarkable Texas town blown sideways by prairie winds and in need of a fresh coat of paint. But Denton is my hometown. I have loved it all my life.
My lineage here dates back to the 1890s when my great-grandparents left northeast Texas to teach school in Denton County. They settled on a farm south of town. A cousin still lives on the property. Many of our relatives are buried at Roselawn Memorial Park.
James R. Parks, my grandfather, joined the U.S. Army and left Denton in 1918 to fight the Germans. Upon his return home, he married my beloved grandmother, Jere Warren Parks. Together, throughout their lives, they remained poor in money but rich in love and family.
James Jr., eldest of their five children, was killed in World War II. His name is etched on a war memorial plaque at UNT’s Student Union building. His younger brother, Harry Craddock Parks, grew up to become my father. Harry earned a journalism degree from North Texas State College in 1948 and went to work for the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Eventually, he got a job offer at the Wichita Falls newspaper for $10 a week more than he was making in Denton. So, he and his new bride, Kathryn, left town for a new adventure. I was born in Wichita Falls in 1950.
Unfortunately, Harry died of leukemia at age 26. Widowed and bereft, Mom scooped me up and we headed back to Denton to live with my paternal grandparents in a ramshackle old rent house on Welch Street. I was 4 years old.
She enrolled at North Texas to get a teaching certificate. To earn a little money, she became secretary to C.E. “Papa” Shuford, a Texas poet and legendary chairman of the North Texas journalism school in the 1950s and ’60s. He was a god in our home.
Coincidentally, Mom met and married another newspaper reporter while working for Mr. Shuford. Joe Davenport became my stepfather in 1956. He, too, worked at the Denton Record-Chronicle.
I attended first grade at Sam Houston Elementary School, a red-brick schoolhouse on the eastern edge of the North Texas campus. It no longer exists. We lived in a tiny rent house on the western edge of campus. It no longer exists. I walked everywhere and spent a lot of time exploring the college grounds.
Those were carefree days for a 6-year-old boy in Denton. After school, I headed straight for where the “big kids” hung out. Even though I hadn’t a red cent, I slid onto a stool at the Student Union’s soda fountain and ordered a “fizz water.” The kindly soda jerks squirted carbonated water into a cup of ice and gave it to me for free.
Then, I sauntered next door to see Mom at the journalism building. If the weather was warm, I swam in the campus pool. Eventually, I ambled home to play hide-and-seek with neighborhood kids until supper time.
Joe got an offer to become East Texas editor for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. He went for a raise of $10 a week. So, we packed up and left Denton.
I liked Tyler, but I eagerly awaited extended summer visits with my grandparents on Welch Street. Dogs chased cats. Chickens scratched dirt in the backyard one minute, got their necks wrung the next and wound up on the dinner table an hour later. Granddad burned trash in a 50-gallon oil drum.
They were country people.
At night, Grandmother and I sat on the front porch, bathed in heavy summer air. Somehow, her sweet singing blended with the rhythmic chirping of crickets to produce a comforting chorus. With one arm around me, she used the other to point out constellations in the night sky.
I reveled in Saturday morning “kiddie shows” at the Campus Theatre and visits to Evers Hardware store on the Square. After lunch, I napped with Granddad. We dozed off while listening to Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese call games on the radio.
With these childhood memories floating in my head, is it any wonder that I wound up attending college at North Texas State University? When I decided to go into journalism, the only advice Joe gave me was this: Any time you can move to a bigger paper for $10 a week more, do it.
After college, just like my dad and stepdad, I landed my first job at the Record-Chronicle.
I left Denton to take a reporting job in Wichita Falls. I went from $125 a week to $135 a week. Yes, it was the same newspaper where my father had worked a generation earlier.
My career took me to reporting and editing jobs in Corpus Christi and Dallas. I worked as a television news director in Columbia, South Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Along the way, two of my sons graduated from UNT. They never thought about going anywhere else.
Now, after four decades in journalism, I circle back to Denton.
My goals are these, and in this order: (1) Serve you, our readers, with the best journalism we can produce every day; (2) help our news staff maximize their talents; and (3) become the best small daily newspaper in the United States.
Come see me sometime. Let’s talk about what’s great about Denton. More importantly, perhaps, let’s figure out what needs to be improved.
SCOTT K. PARKS can be reached at 940-566-6879. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.