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.

It also is a good idea that we get to know each other better, so this column will be devoted to a little personal background. You may want to stick it on the refrigerator, or pin it to the kitchen wall, so you have it for handy reference every time you ask yourself, Who IS this jerk?”

I will start at the beginning. I was born in Oakwood, Okla., in Doc Gossom’s kitchen. I’m not sure why it happened in his kitchen. I suppose my mother interrupted his dinner or, or supper, as they say in Oakwood.

Oakwood, as you probably know, is in western Oklahoma, near Taloga, Putnam, Fay and Thomas. If you’ve never been there, it’s too late now, because most of the town is gone.

I was pretty young when we moved to Veteran, Wyo., where we had relatives and where my dad took over a store that sold everything – drugs, sundries (whatever they are), groceries, feed, seed, coal, harness, baby chicks, hardware and work clothes. It also was the post office and my dad was postmaster.

Veteran, as you probably know, is in eastern Wyoming near Torrington, Yoder and Hawk Springs. If you’ve never been there, it’s too late now, because the town has vanished. The only things standing are the store, still in operation, and the old sugar beet mill.

My dad was a triple dipper in Veteran. In addition to running the store and being postmaster, he farmed 60 acres of sugar beets in the evenings and on Sunday, when the store was closed. He and my mom, and my two brothers and I lived in a one room house on the farm.

Since we obviously had it made in Veteran, it may surprise you to learn that after about three years we moved to Britton, Okla., where we had relatives and where my dad bought a drug store that also had the post office in it. He wasn’t the postmaster, but he was a self-taught pharmacist.

If you’ve never been to Britton, forget it. It now is part of Oklahoma City, totally surrounded by civilization. But when I lived there, it was a small place, five miles north of Oklahoma City and about 10 miles south of Edmond.

A lot of things happen to me in Britton. I was introduced to indoor plumbing, golf, girls, nuns, boarding school, working all day for a dollar and blowing it that night, cars, white lightning, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

I suppose it was in these small towns that I developed the sterling character, integrity and courage that I would display so often in later life. I also stored up the memories that would serve me so well in writing columns many years into the future.

An example is my recent column about the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Okies in the depression years. No sooner had the column appeared than William H. Frank of Topeka wrote me. He said he was 74 and was in the CCC, and he added:

“So I say to you, Dick Snider, you do not know what in the hell you are talking about, and I resent it.”

Actually, he resented my comparing CCC men to Kansas legislators, and I don’t blame him. He went on to say, “I can’t believe you’re from Oklahoma. Will Rogers apparently never met you.”

You can see that I have a close relationship with my readers, and that undoubtedly is the result of my upbringing in small towns, where I developed a passion for the truth, and for the idea that if you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything.

It was in Britton, too, that I became hooked on the printed word. I read everything handy, including the pulp magazines at my dad’s store. In the back of every one of them was an ad about “Charles Atlas the 97-pound weakling who became the world’s most perfectly developed man.” His secret was “Dynamic Tension.”

I was living in Britton when I went to boarding (high) school and got some advice from the priest in charge, Fr. Sylvester Harter, that I never forgot. He told me to stay out of the business world, with its bottom line, profit and loss, and numbers that have to add up. He told me to try journalism and kindred fields of endeavor.

“Stay out of any kind of game,” he said, “where they keep score.”

So it came to pass that before and after the Navy in World War Two, I attended five colleges and eventually got a journalism degree. It has served me well. Even when trapped in the corporate world, I stuck with things like public relations, advertising, and government affairs. No scorekeeping.

Since becoming educated, I’ve lived in 14 cities, counting the Washington, D.C. area. DC, area three times and Topeka twice, looking for steady work. Obviously, I never found it, but I’ve had a little fun and played a lot of golf.

Along the way, I met my wife at the old Topeka Capital. We have five children and five grandchildren, and the end is not in sight. Fortunately, three of the children live in Germany, Maryland and California. Only two of them are too close, in Des Moines and Dallas.

So that’s my story and it doesn’t seem right to have it summed up at the bottom here as “local retired newsman.” If they’re going to say it all in one sentence, it seems they could do better, like “Dick Snider has been there,” or maybe, “Dick Snider is a well-traveled failure.”

Your suggestions will be appreciated.

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