Pre-Thanksgiving Memories and Miscellany

Topeka Capital Journal
Nov. 23, 1988

Random thoughts while waiting for Thanksgiving and wondering if I’ll have what it takes to go easy on the gravy….

*** News stories this week say everyone old enough remembers what he or she was doing when President Kennedy was killed 25 years ago yesterday. I remember. I had just walked into Garfinckel’s, a department store in downtown Washington, DC, to buy an anniversary gift.

(And that reminds me.)

There wasn’t anybody to be seen on the third floor of the store. I could hear a radio or television, but couldn’t make out what was being said. Then a lady came out of a door, crying, and when I asked what was the matter, she said the president had been shot.

So it began. Since then, the man has not been permitted to rest in peace, and it seems his family is doomed to a lifetime of TV specials about his life and death, mostly his death.

*** WhenI think of President Kennedy, I think first of two speeches. I was there for one, A black tie football dinner at the Waldorf in New York City. It came shortly after Notre Dame had won a big game on a very questionable call by the officials. Kennedy noted this, and said:

“Some Republicans have been unkind enough to compare our election to that game. Well, we’re just like Notre Dame – we’re not going to give it back.”

At that point, Bob Hope, who was on the dais next to Kennedy, looked up and said, loud enough for almost everybody to hear. “your writers are better than mine.”

The other speech was at a Yale University commencement where Kennedy was given an honorary degree. He responded by saying, “I now have the best of both worlds – a Harvard education and a Yale degree.”

The bitterness felt by the people in his brief administration over what happened in Dallas probably was best summed up by Kennedy aide Ted Reardon, who said, “we ought to get a bleeping bomber and loaded with bleeping atom bombs and go down there and blow the bleeping state of Texas off the bleeping map.”

*** Shame on you if you don’t make your Thanksgiving dinner entirely from scratch. Food connoisseurs say there should be a fresh-killed turkey, your own stale bread as the basis for the stuffing, fresh vegetables, real mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and jelly from scratch, real pumpkin in the pie and home-made ice cream.

To give the meal real authenticity, cook it over a wood stove and then wash and dry the dishes and the rest of the mess by hand.

Or, If you’re a slob, you can use frozen turkey, canned pumpkin and cranberry and gravy, canned vegetables, ice cream, the old timers call “bought on,” and finally throw everything in the dishwasher and have a brandy.

*** There was a time when the poor were given special attention at this time of year, but thanks to bureaucracy, the poor no longer are with us. They went from poor to needy, to culturally and economically deprived, to underprivileged to disadvantaged.

Forget the government. Remember the poor.

*** Are there any underprivileged or disadvantaged lawyers? Probably not, and one reason is the savings and loan mess. Close to 1,000 savings and loan institutions are in trouble, and it’s going to cost something like $100 billion to bail them out.

*** Presiding over the cleanup is the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, parent agency of the. Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. It has 200 staff attorneys, and this year also will pay out $110 million to outside attorneys.

*** The National Law Journal says the mess is has spurred a. Quote legal frenzy period. End Quote. I call it something else that I can’t print here.

*** A Yuppie, As you know, is a young urban professional. Here are some questions and answers about them:

Why did God create Yuppies?? He had an overrun on button-down shirts.

How many Yuppies does it take to fill a phone booth? Yuppies don’t use phone booths, because they have phones in their cars.

What do Yuppies feed their dogs?? Herringbones.

How do you save a drowning Yuppie?? Call his answering service.

How do you drive a Yuppie to drink? In a BMW.

Why am I writing about Yuppies? Because I ran out of material on lawyers, but some of them are Yuppies.

*** If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, unless the problem is that you think you have a solution and don’t.

*** At Thanksgiving time, it is appropriate to note that Topekan Barney Bayard, the once famous football coach who now is an even more famous insurance man, has lost 23 pounds by following a simple Russian diet. No vodka.

*** Great news! It is reported that a major airline is considering serving Topeka on a regular basis. The only problem is that this is part of a plan whereby Greyhound would buy Eastern Airlines, take the wings off the planes and use them as buses.

Greyhound figures it would be safer and would move passengers about its fast, and that Topeka fits into the plan.

*** When you’re applying for a job, If there is a question on the application form asking for your hobby, write down quote “Fishing.” Most employers figure people who fish are the solid types.

If you write “Golf,” the employer will figure you’re a liar and cheat who will sneak off to play. If you write “Reading” then the employer will figure you’re smarter than he is, and may be dangerous. Fishing’s safe.

A friend of mine named Amy,

Topeka Daily Capital
Oct. 23, 1960.

who is three years old, has as one of her best friends a man who is an inmate in the state penitentiary in Lansing. It is a friendship built on the simplest sort of foundation. It is a friendship between a man who probably needs friends and a little girl who is overwhelmed by unexpected favors.

It’s a rather long story, and it doesn’t get any shorter the way I tell it. . . . Continue reading

When the future was in Topeka

Topeka Capital-Journal
Sept. 25, 1992

There have been times when I would have liked to buy back my introduction to Gene Gregston, times when I wished I’d never seen him. Not many times, but a few. The reason is, he’s the man who, some 40 years ago, got me to move to Kansas and go to work for the old Topeka Daily Capital. Continue reading

Today’s lesson: the wingnut past of Kansas’ education board

Topeka Capital Journal
August 16, 1999

On a roll, after winning the battle to have creationism played up and evolution played down in public schools in Kansas, social conservatives on the Kansas State Board of Education are ready to take the next step. Some observers believe that now, having cast considerable doubt on the theory of evolution, this moral majority will take dead aim at the theory of Copernicus and the solar system.

It will be another epic struggle for these representatives of the social conservative wing of the Republican Party, known as the Wingnuts, but if they can brush aside evolution, they can do the same with the idea that the Earth moves around the sun. Continue reading

The big truth: we just needed 20k votes

Topeka Capital Journal
Aug. 4, 1986

Election Day is at hand again, and what better time to recall, painfully, my only venture into the world of politics: the 1964 campaign by Bud Wilkinson to become a US senator from Oklahoma. It was the first time for both of us and, thank God, the last. Continue reading

Teresa, Nelson and Walter walk into a kennel

(Editor’s Note: For many years, the late Topeka Capital-Journal Outdoor Editor Jim Ramberg and his good friend columnist Dick Snider covered the newspaper’s fiercely competitive “Dog of the Year Contest” with equally competitive annual newsprint faceoffs. Here is the 1990 version.)

Quality canine shines over Topeka … again

By Jim Ramberg
July 8, 1990

Let’s face it. Everyone gets old. Some do it more gracefully than others.

Look at Nolan Ryan, for instance. A class act, still throwing a 90-mph fastball.

George Foreman, that roly-poly fighter, isn’t going around singing “Yesterday.” He’s knocking the stuffing out of fighters half his age.

And Mick Jagger, the little English wimp, is still cavorting around on stage at the age of 50.

Of course, you have people who old age effects in a negative way.

They become mean spirited, cranky, vindictive. What’s worse, they get confused and often get their facts wrong.

Let me give you an example.

There’s this guy who writes a column here at the paper. This columnist. (his name sort of rhymes with Back Slider) lashes out at everyone and everything. He has attacked the legislative pension fund, the Expocentre, even (I’m not kidding) his own family. Continue reading

Memorable leads

Topeka Capital Journal
June 27, 1986.

The other day here, writing about gobbledygook, I quoted an Illinois statute, in which the first sentence was more than 260 words long. A friend remarked that it must not have been written by a newspaper man – or newspaper person, as we are supposed to say now – because they are trained to write short “leads,” or opening sentences.

It doesn’t always work out that way, as the sentence above proves. But it is true that editors like short and simple beginnings, and some of them get nasty about it.

James Thurber had an editor who demanded short leads, and made such an issue of it that one day, covering a news story, Thurber wrote:


“That’s the way they found John Doe today.”

And that brings us to the subject of memorable newspaper leads and headlines, Continue reading

Moses, fan mail, and the long con of the NRA

Topeka Capital Journal
June 7, 2000

On the subject of gun control, here is a sampling of the responses your humble servant receives from unruly readers:

“Your statement in today’s paper about government at any level in this country taking away our guns shows what a misguided imbecile you are. You morons of the media went to court to protect urinating on a statue of Jesus as free speech.”

And, “I am not an NRA member. However, I do feel the organization has value in much the same way that our esteemed Reverend Phelps has value to the case against homosexuality…. You and others of your ilk would have laws against urinating in the woods, while allowing a homosexual to adopt a child…. thanks for reminding me to skip your column.”

And, “There was no peace treaty signed in Korea. Technically, the war isn’t over…. Sorry, but you’re as off base here as you are on gun control. Thought grows less painful with practice. Try it.”

And, “You are a moron. Read the Second Amendment, which guarantees our right to own guns.”

Is this any way to treat a man of peace? Continue reading

When heat tested whittlers, nuns and nearly naked newsmen

Topeka Capital-Journal
June 22, 1987

Often on the golf course, when four or five men are about to suffocate from heat and humidity, they talk about how they would react if they were forced to go out in that weather for four hours and do something equally as senseless as chasing a golf ball.

The other day, one such group followed that brief discussion by talking about what life was like before air conditioning and what it would be like now, if that marvel of marvels hadn’t been invented. Things would be different, that’s for sure. Continue reading

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. Continue reading