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By PHYLLIS McLAUGHLIN
It’s the end of an era at The Trimble Banner, as office manager Hilda Parrish heads off into retirement on Jan. 1.
Parrish started working at the Banner on June 30, 1997, after working 10 years at the nursing home in Bedford. Since then, she has worked alongside five editors [including this writer], helping to put out the weekly newspaper that covers Trimble County.
Born in Bagdad, Ky., and raised in Shelbyville, her first job was right out of high school. She was hired by a friend of the family to be a caregiver for his wife, who was recovering after being in the hospital. That job was supposed to be for two weeks, but the couple kept her on as a nanny to take care of their three small children.
“I took care of the babies, the house, did the laundry – the whole nine yards,” Parrish recalled.
The family also helped her prepare for a ”real” job, by insisting that she practice her typing skills so she could go to work for the state government.
“Every night, after we put the kids to bed, they would get out the portable typewriter and I would practice typing,” she said. “I went up and took the test. I did real well on the written, but I didn’t pass the typing test.”
Applicants could retake the test every six weeks, and Parrish would ride to Frankfort with a friend who was working there, which meant she would have to stay all day until the end of the workday.
On those days, she would accompany her friend to her job, which was in data entry. The workers there would let Parrish practice using a key-punch machine if one was not being used, to get a feel for what the work was like. When they discovered she was good at it, they started giving her work to do on the days she was there.
The office manager finally hired her, even though she still hadn’t passed the typing test. During her six-month probationary period, she continued trying to pass the typing test. The week before her probation was to end, she took the test again.
At the end of that week, “I got a raise and I was put on permanent. … I asked several times, but to this day, I don’t know whether I passed the typing test or not. [The office manager] said it didn’t make any difference, because I was on permanent full time, and they couldn’t fire me.”
She continued working for the state for more than 14 years. “They were good to me,” she said, adding that she took 1,500 hours of computer programming classes while a state employee. She worked in eight different agencies, because the best way to get promotions and pay raises was to transfer. “So, I would transfer to build my way up.”
Her longest stint in Frankfort was three-and-a-half years with mental health department, before it was consolidated into human services, she said.
She later married, and she and her then-husband and two sons went to live in Wyoming for a time. She later returned to Kentucky with her boys as a single mother. She came to Trimble County to work on a farm for the widowed husband of a dear friend, and also worked for some local tobacco farmers, including the Ralstons and the Goodes.
After a short stint at the Shell station in Bedford, she was hired at the nursing home.
Regarding the longevity of her last two jobs, she said she found that “Trimble County is so laid back, that you just got that job and just stuck to it.”
Parrish said she “never dreamed I could work for a newspaper, because I didn’t have a college degree. I had college courses, nothing that related to literature, journalism or anything like that,” she admitted. “But I thought life is only for one time, and you might as well take a chance. … You never know until you try something.
“I’ve missed a lot of chances in my life, but I don’t regret any choices that I’ve made,” she continued, adding, “I think if I’d made the wrong choice, there would have been a roadblock and I would have had to gone another way.”
Over the years, she adopted Trimble County as her home. And, during her time with the Banner, one of her main duties was putting together the “Looking Back” column, which is a review of happenings reported in the newspaper throughout the various decades.
She became a history and genealogy buff, developing a deep passion for her adopted county’s past. She is very involved with the Trimble County Historical Society, and said she plans to continue with that group into her retirement.
Her goal is “to try to improve getting the word out about Trimble County, that it is a good place to visit, that it’s got a lot to offer – maybe not in industry, but in recreation and travel,” she said. Her goal is to get more tourism here to help boost the economy.
“It’s a good place to visit; it has a lot of good things to offer,” she said.
And she wants to get more people involved in the county’s history and heritage. “I want to try to get descendants of the first settlers of Trimble County to realize how important it is to keep the history. ... Because if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going. And you need to preserve that, and not have it taken away.”
In between, she plans to spend time crocheting and keeping up with her friends on Facebook.
But she will miss the people whom she’s gotten to know while manning the Banner office. She said she’s mostly enjoyed publishing the news about Trimble students, particularly the honor rolls.
“A lot of the kids that are in school now, I watched their parents grow up,” she said. “That’s made me proud, to be able to watch them grow to adulthood and have children.”
Jeff Moore, publisher of the Banner and The News-Democrat, said Parrish, with whom he’s worked for nine years, will “truly be missed, but she’ll never be forgotten.”
Moore said it’s Parrish’s love for the county and dedication that will be missed, along with everything she’s done for the paper.
“She’s always had the community at heart in everything she does. Clearly, she loves the community and the people she deals with,” he said, adding he believes Parrish is very talented, as well. “She’s taken care of the office manager duties, sold advertising, written stories and taken pictures. She’s done a little bit of everything, and truly represents the heart of what a community newspaper is.”