Ex-Marine recalls the California blackboard jungle.

Topeka Capital-Journal
May 25, 1988.

My brother-in-law, Dr. Warren Linville, was in town last week on a rare visit. He is a native, but presently his shingle reads that he is the Superintendent of schools at Umatilla, Ore., and claims that outside his back door the Columbia River is a mile wide.

I use his “Dr.” title for several reasons: I think he likes it, he worked pretty hard to get it, and, more importantly, He took a bunch of us to the North Star for those famous steaks, and potatoes and gravy, and picked up the check.

We had a slight problem getting into the place. Included in the group was our daughter, Anne, who was in from Redondo Beach, Calif., for the weekend.

She was wearing a California ensemble, a one-piece whatever that, on the bottom, looked like a pair of shorts. The management took one look and said, “No way.” But, they said, they could loan her a wraparound skirt. So, we got in.

Thus, her effort to bring the wanton ways of the wicked West to pious Kansas was thwarted, and it’s a good thing. No telling how many souls avoided temptation by not seeing her legs.

It reminded my wife and me of one of the most ridiculous dress codes we ever ran into. Several years ago, we were at opposite ends of the country, and we planned to meet at the TWA Ambassadors Club at the Kansas City airport.

She got there first, all dolled up in a pantsuit, which was a hot item at the time period. But the people running the club said she couldn’t enter in pants, and no amount of arguing would budge them.

One of the club people noticed, however, that the coat to the pantsuit was long enough to reach mid-thigh, so she offered a possible solution. Micro miniskirts were popular at the time, so she told my wife if she’d take off her slacks and just wear the coat, she could enter.

She declined. It was one time everything wasn’t up to date in Kansas City.

Warren Linville – Dr. Linville, if you will – is retiring this year after 45 years in public school administration. His first job was in Kansas, at County Line school, near Elmont, before World War Two. He also spent a year at Wanamaker as teacher-principal before entering the service.

After the war, he was in the Palm Springs, California school system for 14 years. He had just arrived there when he received a rude introduction to the California way of life.

“I saw two guys hanging around a high school,” he said, “and ask them what they wanted. They said they wanted to pick up a girl, and I told them to go to the office and ask for her. Then they told me they weren’t after any particular girl, that just any girl would do

“I told them to beat it, and they said no. So I put an armlock on one and started marching him away. The other one slashed at me with a knife and got the side of my neck and throat. I got mad then, and decked both of them.

“I was standing there, bleeding all over both of them, when the police car arrived. I never had another problem at that school.”

Maybe I forgot to mention that Warren was a combat Marine, has muscles and a short fuse. He believes in giving an order just once. He also believes in corporal punishment.

“There was a high school girl in Palm Springs,” he said, “who weighed at least 190 pounds, and who liked to walk down the hall and throw an elbow into the face or neck of any other girl who got in her way.

“The first time I saw her do it I told her to stop it. The next time I caught her, I took her to the office, had two women PE teachers hold her over the desk, and gave her six hard swats with a paddle. I told her the next time it would be 12. She never did it again.”

Warren was Superintendent at Barstow, Calif., the largest district in the country with 9,500 square miles, when he ran into drugs. “I went to a seminar on marijuana,” he said, “and just a week later smelled it in the stadium at a football game. I looked around and found four men smoking it. I told them to get out or I’d throw them off the top of the stadium.

“Three left, but one long haired guy wanted to argue. I grabbed him and started toward the top row, and he said he’d leave. A few days later. I was in the police station, and he came up and introduced himself. He was an undercover cop, And he said he was afraid I really was going to throw him off the top.”

Warren’s last, and worst, superintendents post in California was a district in East Los Angeles that included Pico Rivera, Bell Gardens, and other areas that posted gangs like the Cobras, Hardins and Surfers.

“One night,” he said, “I had a confrontation with some guys in cars with the rear ends jacked up. One had a tire iron in his hand and threatened me. I told him if he got out of the car, he was a dead man.

“The police heard about it and called me down to the station. The chief asked me what would have happened if the kid had had a gun. I said I’d be the dead man. So the chief checked me out on a .38, got me a permit. And for the rest of the five years I was there, I carried a gun.

“These were tough kids.  One night, one of them was caught on the wrong turf. They tied him under a car and dragged him around the area until he was dead.

“This was at a time when a Superintendent in Oakland was killed by cyanide bullets. It was scary.”

Small wonder that for the last 10 years he has opted to run a quiet district in Oregon, where the big concern is whether the fish are biting.

How about, “Proving journalism is the last refuge of the vaguely talented?”

(Editor’s note: During the 1990s, Snider was identified at the end of his twice-weekly column in a blurb that called him simply “a local retired newsman.”)

Topeka Capital Journal
April 30, 1990

It has been ordained that I be identified at the end of these columns, that there be some line there explaining who I am, in case somebody might be wondering. It is a good idea. You have every right to know who is responsible for what goes on here. Continue reading

One evening with Willie Nelson

Topeka Capital-Journal.
April 23, 1997

Willie Nelson was on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, having a lot of fun with the fact he has finished paying the settlement for the $32 million he owed the IRS in back taxes, interest and penalties. He got into that mess because, for one thing, he was a little naive earlier in his singing career, and this column is here to tell you I don’t know him now, but I knew him then, slightly, and briefly. Continue reading

Generation passes one birthday at a time

Topeka Capital-Journal.
March 21, 1997

Yesterday, March 20, was the first day of spring, and you remembered. It also was my birthday, and you forgot. At least you didn’t send me a present, or even a card, which is nothing new. Even my family, especially my children, make it a point to forget my birthday because they have built up this myth that I never remembered theirs. Continue reading

Fields of dreams and delusions.

Topeka Metro News
March 25, 2005

Devere Nelson, known to his millions of fans worldwide as Dev, used to sit in a little closet-sized control room, or studio, or whatever they called it, at WIBW and recreate baseball games that Topeka’s professional team was playing on the road. Continue reading

The Olympic trials nobody saw.

Topeka Capital-Journal.
Feb. 8, 2002

In the fall of 1979, Vickers Petroleum Corp. of Wichita needed crude oil and decided to use the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY, to help get it. Vickers would entertain some of the world’s top crude oil suppliers in an effort to win friends and influence them to do business with us. Continue reading

You call THIS a snow storm?

Topeka Daily Capital
Feb. 24, 1960

I guess this is as good a time as any to tell my blizzard stories. I’ll warn you in advance. My conclusion will be that, shucks, this little dab of snow we’re having now is nothing. Let me tell you about Wyoming and Texas… Continue reading

Conversations with kids: The artist at work

Topeka Daily Capital
January 17, 1960

The thing about talking to children is that you almost always learn something interesting. If you’re new at it, you may get a shock now and then, but the old timers are virtually shock-proof. They haven’t necessarily heard everything, but they’ve heard enough to expect anything. Continue reading

No Contest: Phelps gets his way with Topeka authorities

Topeka Capital Journal
December 20, 1995

You might say the Rev. Fred Phelps is exactly where he wants to be. He is on the front page and the editorial page with some regularity, and also at times on other pages, this one included. He and his followers are free to picket anything and anybody, whenever and wherever they choose. He has the city divided. This newspaper and some concerned citizens have laid the “Phelps problem” on Mayor Butch Felker’s doorstep, but he has responded defiantly, saying it’s not his fault the picketing outrage goes on unchecked. Continue reading

Holiday visit to Britton, over all too soon

Topeka Capital Journal
November 29, 1996

SOUTHLAKE, Tex. – We are spending the holiday with daughter Amy and her husband, Duff Nelson, and three granddaughters who were glad to see their grandma. They spoke to me too, to say 1) I parked in the wrong place, 2) I can’t smoke cigars in the house, and 3) would I pump up their bicycle tires? Continue reading