Humorist Erma Bombeck, the author of 12 books and a popular column, “At Wit’s End,” which appeared in more than 900 newspapers, grew up in Dayton.
Here are six things to know about Bombeck, the namesake of the famous Dayton Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop:
A budding writer. As a 15-year-old student at Patterson Vocational High School, Erma asked the managing editor of the Dayton Herald for a job. When told only a full-time position was available, she arranged to share the position, as “copygirl,” with another student.
Sweet sixteen. Her early position didn’t include writing, but she was able to interview Shirley Temple (they were both 16 at the time) for the newspaper. She received the “feature of the week” award from the staff for the story.
Household hints. After graduating from the University of Dayton in 1949, she began working for the women’s section of the Dayton Journal-Herald. Her first columns were headlined “Operation Dustrag” and offered household tips and reviewed new products.
The start of her personal style. Erma and her husband Bill started a family, and she put her career on hold. But in 1964, for $3 a week, she began writing a column for the Kettering Oakwood Times. Eventually, the Dayton Journal-Herald asked her back and paid her $50 a week for two columns.
Turn the channel. Her career later expanded into television. She appeared on “Good Morning America” for 11 years and adapted one of her books, “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank,” as a television movie starring Carol Burnett and James Grodin.
Her legacy continues. The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop is held biannually at the University of Dayton .The 2020 conference will take place April 2-4, 2020.
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