Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Things I Have Learned . . .

. . .Just Lately and Long Ago

That stray or abandoned dogs seem to know exactly where to come for consolation when wandering around lost.

I now know - and probably did then - why the captain of the ship carrying a bunch of soldiers to Scotland in World War II zigzagged for days on his long and scary trip.

I might have become a rich guy, or nearly rich anyway, if I had taken, after World War II, the advice of an old newspaper publisher to go to college and study to be a lawyer instead of a newspaperman.

That I never would have been a success as a wine and liquor inspector after taking a course in that field that included taste testing - hated the taste and still do.

That if I had been like my great-great-grandfather on the French side in the 1800s and fathered 23 children, I could have far outdistanced the lady in California who's mom now to 14.

That I could illustrate my blogs with pictures if I could remember the instructions Yarntangler had given me.

That in England back in World War II I could have done my traveling to visit hometown GIs in hospitals by driving a locomotive -yeah, a locomotive which was included on my British driving license.

Way back in the blizzards of New England I found out that using my snowblower was a wonderful way of clearing a driveway if I didn't blow the snow into the wind.

That I can spend at least five minutes in the cereal aisle of the local grocery store trying to find my favorite eats among 74 boxes on display with all sorts of names and pictures.

That I can occasionally teach some of the experts in certain manual labor fields tricks to move heavy items easily in ways from back in the last century when modern day equipment was still unknown.

That if I don't know now how to do something, I can probably find out how with a few clicks on the Internet.

- 30 -

Old Newsie

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Isn't This Romantic ? . . .

. . . A Tale From The Colony

It seems to me that here are two people who were being very frugal when it came time to join each other in marriage, foregoing the very expensive wedding gown and bridesmaids get-ups, blooms from a florist shop and an expensive catered banquet.

Here's another newspaper days story and conincidently one also tied to Randy the photographer, whom I wrote about inthe blog about the sewage field. Before I get into this yarn, a little bit about the wonderful relationship Randy and I had as a team for most of our seventeen years together.

As a team we covered hundreds of events, fires, murders and horrible accidents, he calling me in the middle of night oftentimes with news tips and vice versa. Our phone conversations were always brief:

His voice: Fatal, Curran Highway and Hodges Crossroad. Murder, next to the hotel. Richmond Hotel, general alarm fire,

From my end: Randy, house fire, Savoy Road. Gasoline tanker overturned on Columbia Street. Explosion at the high school.

In a few minutes we'd be on the scene almost simultaneously. We did a lot feature stories together. He'd have an idea, get the city desk's approval and ask the city editor to have me go with him.

That all said, here's tonight's recollection:

Onr day he said to me "we're going to cover a wedding this afternoon, you'll like this one." Now, weddings usually fall into the baliwick of the society reporter but I didn't argue with him, I could do a wedding story as well as anybody.

Ww drove up Notch Road, a hilly, bumpy ride toward the top of Mount Greylock, tallest mountain in Massachusetts. "What are we doing up here, Randy? There's no church up here." No answer.

Presently he nosed the Jeep into the words and said abruptly "we'll probably have to take off all our clothes here."

I did a double take when I heard that and suddenly saw a rudely printed sign on a tree reading "nudist colony"realizing then that Randy was taking me to an "au natural" wedding. I had no idea there was such a place so close to my home just down the mountain. Randy had a knack of ferreting out secrets like that.

To say the least, this assignment was a revealing experience. The bride and groom exchanged their wedding vows amid hordes of guests in their birthday suits, exluding the minster, Randy and me. (Thought you wre going to read more about us, didn't you?)

While Randy had posted in his darkroom many Playboy and Penthouse photos and even a few of local gals in scanty to no attire, his front page photos of the wedding the next day's paper were discreet. A bush covered the law and the bride's bouquet of roses spread in the right places on her attractive chest.

Most of the guests earned dull to bright sunburns that afternoon and after the potluck banquet, but nobody was redder than me. Randy, if he was stilll alive today would no doubt be remeinding me of my color every year on that couple's anniversary.

Down the line a bit I''ll have a story about Dolly the darkroom assistant and sometimes aviator, a petite woman who soon followed Randy's unfortunate demise to cancer, herself becoming a cancer victim at an age when she was too young to die.

- 30 -

Old Newsie

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Was "a POWER" . . .

. . . Said The Newspaper

Once one gets into politics - no matter how small a post - the sky's the limit it is said. Look at our new president's rise to power!

In mid 1962 I began MY rise to power. It didn't take long to fizzle and die.

My rise to power began in Adams, Massachusetts, where I was the bureau manager for the North Adams Transcript. (You better get used to reading stories from my newspaper days).

A bunch of just-made friends, tired of an old and longtime member of the town's Planning Board, (just as today hordes are tired of old and long-serving congressmen) conned me into becoming a write-in candidate for the Planning Board.

They pulled that off by presenting me at a very busy time with a falsely-described "petition" which I signed without reading. They filed the "petition" with the town clerk. It was really a request for my name to be placed on the election ballot.

Don't stop reading yet, the fun is coming up. When the votes were in I was elected to the Planning Board by 23 votes over the incumbent. As a reporter and a board member I immediately felt I was in conflict of interest but the paper's publisher did not feel that way -until early Autum when all getout broke loose.

There was a old and cantankerous Selectman in the town, a lovable Polish guy named Fred. He demanded of reporters that every word he said at meetings be printed. I got into hot water early with him by not following the rule.

One night the Board of Selemen and the Planning Board were having a joint meeting and voted mid-way to go into executive session. Old Fred found a wonderful way to get at me for breaking the rule, trimuphantly exclaiming "he can't go into the meeting 'cause he's a newsman and he's not very good 'cause he won't print everything I say."

I was the Planning Board's recording secretary and the other members declared I had to be there to record the board's minutes. Fred said no, that "he'll get all the news and Billy (a rival reporter) won't get any." Somehow Fred got me banned.

Right after the meeting from which I was barred along with Billy, Fred found still another way to stab me in the back. He fed Billy everything that happened in the executive session. The next morning on the front page of The Springfield Union, a headline blared out "Board Member Barred From Executive Session." And Billy did have all the news.

A second story in that paper, about a Selelctmen's meeting, the following week , bore the headline"Reporter Depicted As Fourth Selectman" and a "drop" headline declared "Newsman, Caught Passing Note, Is Said Power Behind Freshman Selectman."

I felt elated when I saw the paper. A POWER, no less!. I was on my way! That story and headline came about when Fred jumped to his feet in rage when he saw me hand something to a new selectman. It was a clipping of the previous board meeting story pasted a a sheet of white paper.

Fred and another Selectman claimed it was a note telling the new man how to vote on an upcoming street project. The other Selectman, named Lauio, shouted "this man is acting like a fourth selectman."

Immediately Fred and Lauio made and passed a motion moving the reporters, me, Billy and Barry, a TV reporter, behind a line they chalked on the floor. That made a fine story for Billy, resulting in the "Fourth Selectman" headline.

Alhough I was just in the first year of a five -year board term, I resigned later in the year when my boss thought maybe I'd not get in hot water again if I was just a reporter. Those few months on the planning board proved to be an adventure.

I liked old Fred. He was a typical farmer, growing all sorts of stuff in his garden and always giving away everything he grew to people he thought needed food.

He loved to make horseradish and had a special recipe. Ya'll stand by for a fiery horseradish yarn somewhere down the line.

- 30 -

Old Newsie

Monday, February 2, 2009

"My Friend" Was Incognito . . .

. . . But Everyone Knew

Another blogger using the words "my friend" in a farewell to southern California this week, inspired a story for me as I sat before the computer with a blank stare - writer's block they call it.

I am taken back to sometime late in 1991. My spouse of 45 years had been taken from me earlier that year after a series of heart attacks.

She had been close to another member of the local genealogical society and of course I also was acquainted with this person.

Perhaps not a popular decision with my children at the time, I dated my deceased spouse's friend for companionship, dancing and occasional traveling.

I had already retired from my fulltime employment as a newspaper reporter and editor but I was still producing a "column"
for the same newspaper.

I am not sure when it first happened but one column referred to "my friend." Another column used the same identification and then still another. By then the reference was, I think, somewhat annoying to my friend .

I was considering that a continuance of the refeerences would end the friendship I was enjoying but for some reason I carried on. My friend eventually got used to being identified as such and I felt better about it.

My friend let it be known to me somewhere along the line that it didn't matter much anymore because "everyone knows who you are talking about anyway." I assume that by now you've guessed my friend was a she.

Some readers of the column asked me who my friend was but I never gave a name. Then came the time when my friend reached the age where she was eligible for the government program called social security.

I decided to surprise her with a happy birthday greeting ad in the newspaper. I went into the composing room at the paper and chatted with my friend Pepper about composing an appropriate greeting.

By the way, ironically, Pepper is a lady who as a young girl lived across the street from me in my Massachusetts hometown, and who had settled in Hobbs after meeting and marrying an oil firm executive while serving as an airline attendent. She's still here, president of the local Community Players Theater.

Pepper offered a few ideas and one hit me as "the best" - a framed picture. But this frame would not contain a picture but instead a greeting which brought the loud exclamation from Pepper "You're gonna get killed" when I dictated what was to be put into the frame:


Within hours of the newspaper's publication, "my friend's" phone was ringing off the hook with happy birthday greetings from her former schoolteaccher associates, church members, friends of her deceased husband of 43 years and lots of others who had guessed her identity even if they didn't know her.

"My friend" didn't get upset with me. She later married me. We're in love.

- 30 -

Old Newsie

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Randy Was a Fun Guy . . .

. . . Do That Again !

Some wet sludge, an unsuspecting reporter and a cameraman who missed the picture. That's makes up one of the funny stories for this blog provided some 35 years ago with a renowned New England photographer.

The cast of characters in this very true and very stinky yarn includes Old Newsie, a deceased cameraman named Randy, and officials in a Massachusetts town where I was employed.

That town had completed construction of a new wastewater treatment plant which was operating successfully but with one hitch. The architects of the plant had forgotten to provide for the end product of the plant, the sludge that remained after MOST of the water was gone.

However, a quick solution was found - a deep land depression near the sewage plant ,land which was unusable but which might be someday turned into a park or a playing field. The immediate plan was to dry the stuff and then allow area farmers to truck it away again for use as fertilizer on their hay fields.

Wet residue - sludge - was trucked to the site and dumped. The theory was that the sun would work its magic and dry the sludge. Eventually the sun, mixed with loads of sand did the job.

But here's where the fun comes in. On the first day of the sludge dumping, the site was "dedicated" in front of a horde of officials and members of the press. Randy and I were two of the latter group.

The wastewater plant superintendent was explaining the planned use while Randy was snapping a few photos. Curious me did a dumb thing. Not even thinking of the fact the dump trucks had just brought in WET sludge, this blogger took a few steps up a pile of the stuff .

One official yelled "don't go up there, you'll sink" but before the word "sink" came out, I was in the STINK up to my hips. Randy and others reached for me and pulled on my arms trying to get me out of the goo. Didn't work.

But help was at hand as Randy, equipped with a lot of emergency gear in his Jeep, quickly got a heavy rope and tossed one end to me. I tied it around my waist ad held onto it as Randy

tied the other end to the rear of his Jeep.

Moving slowly the Jeep pulled me out of the morass as the gathered officials and onlookers howled with glee. Randy untied the rope from my waist and then in true photographer's language exclaimed @$#@^% then "hell, I didn't get a picture of that,' do it again."

Then it was time to go back to the office but the sh--- ah, the effluent was drying on my clothes and the essence was not that of Chanel No. 5. Says Randy "I can't take you back to the office smelling like that."

"So take me to my house and I'll get changed," I replied and Randy countered "Oh hell, you can''t ride in my Jeep that way, you'll mess everything up and it'll smell for months."

With a quick reach I grabbed his keys from the ignition and faked a heave into the sludge pile saying" if I can't ride in your Jeep, nobody can."

When we reached my nearby home, he tried to extort a complete wash job for the Jeep but no soap, I didn't want to wash that stuff off in MY yard.

Later when one of my playful daughters, yeah, Yarntangler, heard the story, she found and framed an advertisement from a popular fragrance of the time , went to the newspaper office and stood it on my desk. (It remained there quite a long time.)

- 30 -

Old Newsie