I

t started with a simple question.

“Can you type?”

Vickie (Taylor) Earles’ neighbor, Wayne Frantzen, asked her that question one day.

“Yes,” she responded.

“‘Go apply down at the newspaper. They’re always looking for someone to type,’” Vickie recalls Frantzen saying long, long ago.

The 17-year-old Vickie found a part-time, afterschool typing job at the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press. Her simple job put a little jingle in her pocket.

Fifty years later, she’s still typing, among her various other skills and job titles.

My co-worker Vickie hit a milestone Feb. 24 when she celebrated 50 years with the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press. 

That kind of longevity is almost unheard of these days. Many employers here and across the country said they’re experiencing difficulties finding employees who want to work, especially people who will work when assigned, show up on time, show respect, and do the job to the best of their ability.  You know, the soft skills.

Show up on time and do the job?

“I thought that’s just what you’re supposed to do,” Vickie said, laughing at the comparison. “I just showed up and did my job.”

And she still is.

Vickie began typing text of all sorts, pasting up ads, laying out pages, and more. Ask her about it sometime. The Maquoketa native, who married middle school sweetheart Steve Earles in 1971, held numerous positions at the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press and can easily transport you through time to the way newspapers used to be cut and pasted — using scissors and wax. Computers weren’t even a thing back then.

“Back then” was an era of ink and fumes and cigarettes and paste-up. Vickie always talks about the machines with tapes on which she typed ad copy or articles. 

“You had to set the margin size of the story to fit the [empty space saved for the] story,” the 1969 Maquoketa High School graduate said. “And you bet you measured it a lot first or you knew you’d have to retype it.”

There was no copy-and-paste function, no tracking and kerning, no command + Z to undo, and no save function so you didn’t lose everything you did. You practiced precision, she said.

I first met Vickie on Sept. 11, 2001 — yep, that Sept. 11. It was my first day on the job as a feature write for the Sentinel-Press. She and I shared an office in the building; a wall divider separated us. 

As the aftermath of the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings continued to unfold, her husband Steve even delivered an old black-and-white TV to our office so we could stay abreast of the terrorist attacks.

She’s been Mom #2 ever since.  (That’s what I call her, and I’m her adopted daughter.)

I quickly learned that Elvis Presley would forever be the hunka hunka burnin’ love in her life after Steve. (Elvis was born Jan. 8, 1935 and died Aug. 16, 1977. She’s drilled that information into me over our 17.5 years together. And I kindly remind her that Elvis died the year before I was born.) Vickie and Steve finally visited Graceland just last year.

Vickie possesses the work ethic that every employer wants and so many these days say they can’t seem to find. She shows up to work on time. She won’t stop until she gets her job done, done well, done as accurately as possible, and on time.

Remember those old-time shingles doctors and lawyers used to hang outside their doors, the shingles that advertised all their services? Well, Vickie’s job shingles have changed and expanded over the years, and they would take up a lot of room. 

In just my years here, she handles your births, first birthdays, engagements, weddings, birthday candles, and obituaries (yes, we lovingly call her the Reaper around the office). She types up student news and Master Gardener columns and lets you know what’s happening in the area with the Calendar of Events. She’s in charge of the legal notices that come from government entities and attorneys. 

She can scan and copy documents and puts on a friendly, engaging demeanor whenever a customer pops into the office or calls for assistance.

Vickie has sold a classified ad or two and used to design her own family pages for the newspaper.

Oh, and did I mention that she taught clumsy me to crochet? 

Vickie’s skills, and patience, are limitless, even as she switched to part-time work at the newspaper as she raised two sons and a daughter (named Lisa but not Lisa Marie, after Elvis’ daughter, she laughs).

The Sentinel-Press family is no stranger to employees with longevity. Jack Marlowe worked for the newspaper part-time beginning in 1962 and kept right on with full-time work until his retirement in 1998. And even after that, he could be counted on two write a Saturday column read by his many followers.

Deb Taylor is also a jack-of-all-trades now working as our front office manager and handling a myriad of other tasks to keep our business organized and running. She racked up about 44 years between the newspaper and then Maquoketa Web Printing.

And Rosie Morehead has been the face of the MSP advertising department for about 45 years total. Rosie began working at the newspaper office shortly after graduating from Maquoketa High School.

They are a bunch of lifers here at the Sentinel-Press, dedicated to bringing you the news you can use as well as unparalleled customer service.

Vickie remembers as a kindergartner touring the newspaper office when it was still located on North Main Street.

“Who’d a thought …” she said, never guessing she’d return and spend at least 50 years there.

“I never dreamed it would last this long,” she said. “Steve said I was trying to decide if I like the job. I’m still deciding.”

But everyone has faith that Vickie’s commitment to the job will not waiver, even as her three kids and five grandkids continue to occupy her time.

“I think she can do 60,” Steve said.

Vickie playfully punched him in arm.