I first met Brian Abbott when I was 17 years old. I was working as a stock boy at the Village Market across from Ramsey Junior High School in Fort Smith, which was the Jenny Lind Market before that and currently serves as a Bingo Hall.
I was delighted to learn his name as I was a big Abbott and Costello fan and yelled his name at every opportunity, never calling him Brian.
While I was trying to perfect the art of make cat noises without moving my lips, in an attempt to drive the cashiers slowly insane, Abbott always seemed to be carrying a clipboard and doing more important things. I wore the bare minimum as far as the uniform was concerned while Abbott not only wore his apron, a tie and name tag, but a Village Market hat as well. I was never offered a hat and I never inquired. Our paths rarely crossed and we only knew one another casually. I went on to have several more jobs and did not see Abbott again until I started college when, to my surprise, he was joining the newspaper staff at the same time. We became fast friends and competitors trying to grab as much print space as possible for our photographs. Abbott and I spent way more time than required in the darkroom learning an outdated and already dying craft but we love it.
Brian eventually went off to another school to study chemistry and I pursued photography and journalism. I had not seen Abbott in nearly 20 years when I visited the campus a couple of weeks ago. I went into the old Ballman-Speer building where the newsroom was located and while it smell exactly as it had so many years ago it was different. With the journalism department all but eliminated and the art department relocated the hustle and bustle of the building was gone. It sat dark and empty with the exception of a few staff offices and the room where the school paper, The Lion’s Pride, was once published. However, that door was locked. I decided to Google my old friend and was happy to find that he was now a chemistry professor at UAFS and after a few emails we met to walk through the newsroom once more. Long gone were the bank of computers where we worked (mostly) on the paper, gone was the darkroom with its revolving door. It had all been replaced with some sort of lab, which looked abandoned.
20 years had taken its toll on the newsroom, Abbott and I. We spent an hour remembering our hijinks as campus photographers. He showed me around at all the new things the school was investing in, such as the rock wall in the new gym and all of the new buildings. We walked across campus and looked on as young kids scurried to their classes making memories of their own.