When I opened the LA Times last July 10 and saw an obituary for Bob Sklar, my heart simply sank. I know people my age die unexpectedly, but I thought to myself, “Not Bob!”
But it was Bob.
I had not seen him since I graduated from high school in 1953. But because my focus at Long Beach Poly was journalism, I had the pleasure of knowing and working with both Bob and his older brother Marty. Marty was a year ahead of me, a good editor of the newspaper and a good role model for me. And it was mostly his mentoring and a tiny bit of critiquing that gave me courage to put myself in the line for becoming editor of the Poly weekly newspaper during the first semester of my senior year. When I was elected editor, I appointed Bob as my Sports page editor, and he went on after I graduated to become the editor in chief.
To be honest, I simply loved Bob. He was SO smart, so conscientious, so dependable – traits that his brother had too, but frankly the value of MY editorship was far more dependent of Bob’s work, and he was always there to be counted ready to go. Whatever he wrote was printed “as is.” It was there on time, and he himself was a good role model to those coming behind him.
But having said all this, it really doesn’t tell the whole story. Bob was one of the happiest and funniest kids I’ve ever known. The room lit up when he came in. It was the smile, always the smile! He said funny things, he regaled us with funny ideas about stories. If he ever had “his moments” we certainly never saw them. I cannot to this day think of Bob without thinking of his big grin.
Some people who are funny drive you nuts. But that wasn’t Bob’s style. He had an outlook and an approach to things that made being around him such fun. My managing editor, Jerry Russom, and I used to talk about how lucky we were to have Bob Sklar taking over for us after we left Poly. We knew the school would have a treat!
Because I lived my adult life near Disneyland, I knew what Marty was doing through the years and the success he brought to everything he touched. But I had no clue as to where Bob went, so it was bittersweet for me, after all this time, to need an obituary to bring me up to date. Obviously in his life he also had the success he deserved. I think back to those two smart Sklar kids I knew at Poly and still feel a real connectedness to them.
I’ve dug out a couple of pictures of Bob from that time and share them here with you. It’s just my way of saying “good bye” to Bob and telling the world that I knew him “when.”
And I’d hope Bob is laughing that I’d keep old copies of his Sports Editor column in my personal “Archives” for what….almost 60 years?
-30-, my friend.