John Bennett | Passing On The Fire | Hcolom Press

Passing on the Fire

In 1987 I published a piece of journalism in The Clinton Street Quarterly that won the Darrell Bob Houston Award. That kicked off a sporadic burst of journalistic writing that appeared primarily in the Seattle Weekly and the Ellensburg Daily Record. Passing on the Fire consists of selections from that writing. Below is the introduction to the collection that gives you a little more detail.

Introduction to Passing on the Fire:

Journalism has never been my main bag, although in the distant past I did receive a partial journalism scholarship from The American Legion. The American Legion! I sat through the first half of orientation at the University of Connecticut and on break walked out the door and down the road into real life, where I’ve been knocking around ever since.

What journalism I did wind up writing went down sporadically from 1987 until 2001. What kicked it off was De-euphemizing the Sixties, a piece on a Grateful Dead/Bob Dylan concert published in The Clinton Street Quarterly, now defunct but then coming out of Portland, Oregon. It was my way of easing back into the action after a two-year writing hiatus, and it won the Darrell Bob Houston Award.

Darrell Bob Houston was a renegade journalist who pushed the envelope on what constitutes acceptable journalism. The award was presented at the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle where Tom Robbins handed me a $1,000 check and a trophy of someone slinging a bull over his head by its tail. “Thanks,” I said, “and a round for the house,” an acceptance speech that drew enthusiastic response from the Blue Moon clientele.

A number of people saw the D.B. Houston Award as a door opener into what they referred to as The Big Time, and I was encouraged to “strike while the iron was hot.” The Seattle Weekly was the main sponsor of the Award, and I began peppering them with personal experiences thinly disguised as human-interest articles, most of which they published. But it wasn’t long before I drifted back into the no-holds-barred writing I’d grown accustomed to over the years, and the door to The Big Time quietly closed again.

The second phase of my journalism career began when the Ellensburg Daily Record, my hometown paper, approached me with the idea of doing a weekly column consisting mainly of personality profiles of people living in the community, and this I did on and off from 1992 until 2001. The column was called Air Guitar, and my method was to turn on the tape recorder, clear my throat, and ask: “Where were you born?” From there on out I tried not to interrupt as the interviewee wandered down memory lane. The column was immensely popular, and in 1997 I published a collection of these profiles titled Rodeo Town, now out of print.


About a year ago it occurred to me it might be a good idea to publish a selection of all my journalistic writing, but most of what I wrote for the local paper has a strong local flavor, and I wasn’t sure how well it would be received by a wider audience. So what I’ve done in Passing on the Fire is cull those pieces from the Daily Record that have a more universal appeal and include them with the Seattle Weekly pieces and the Clinton Street Quarterly gem that got the ball rolling.

It is, I hope, an entertaining read.


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