Lawyer bashing? Blame the lawyers

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 27, 1998

As you well know, it is not my style to cast aspersions on any person or profession. I don’t resort to detraction, mock, invective, or vituperation. I avoid taking cheap shots at bureaucrats and politicians, and government at any level. I believe in the golden rule, so if I can’t say something nice about someone, I try to say something not too nasty.

I’ll admit that once in a while I point out, as gently as possible, blunders by governing bodies that are made, no doubt, because they work long hours under intense pressure. It also is my habit to chide, in a friendly manner, officials who have strayed from the fundamental principle that everything should be kept as simple as possible.

I see myself as a man burdened by the problems of parenting and grandparenting, barely able to take the time to look for wrongs and try to right them. But whatever I do, I do without rancor and in the spirit of making the world a better place. As anyone who knows me will tell you, there is not a bitter or hostile bone in my body.

Since all that is true beyond question, how does it happen that I suddenly find myself in the middle of a lawsuit?? Why is my name used in legal papers filed in the District Court of Shawnee County? (the honorable Richard M Smith, assigned.) Continue reading

The family Cushing: great neighbors and friends, no fences

(Editor’s Note: Marie Donnelly Cushing passed away peacefully this month at the age of 98. She and Dr. Vincent Cushing were married 73 years when Dr. Cushing passed in 2018. This is a tribute to the couple and their family, written for the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.)

Congratulations from Barbara and Dick Snider

Barbara and I met Marie and Vin in 1961 when we moved to Maryland from Kansas. We rented a house on East Bexhill Drive, and our backyard was separated from the Cushing’s backyard only by a hedge. It took our four children only about an hour to discover the hedge, and the Cushing kids on the other side. Before the day was over, we met Marie and Vin.

We moved away in 1964, but returned a year later, and we were determined to buy a house in the neighborhood. Luckily, we found one on Old Spring Road just two blocks from the Cushings.

It took us — particularly me — some time to learn exactly how many children they had. It seemed to me that every time I was in their home, I would see a child I was sure I hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t until they had a family portrait taken in their living room and gave us a copy that I began to get them straightened out in my mind. The portrait is the only time I have ever seen them all together, sitting still.

We had some great times with the Cushings, and some perilous times, too. One evening in their backyard, Vin couldn’t get the charcoal to light. He left for a moment and then returned carrying a small bucket. He told me to get ready, and after he tossed the contents of the bucket on the charcoal, I was to light a match and throw it on.

He did, and I did, and there was a small explosion, and flames shot about 20 feet into the air, singeing my eyebrows on the way.

“Man,” I said, “That’s some kind of lighter fluid.”

“That wasn’t lighter fluid,” he said, “that was gasoline.”

Later, he said the hamburgers tasted a little funny, and that maybe he should have used premium rather than regular.

One day he took me and one of his boys sailing on the South River in Annapolis. With Vin at the helm, we literally flew down the river and into Chesapeake Bay, and had no problems. But then, it came time to start home, upriver and against the wind.

If it hadn’t been for the powerboats that day, we’d still be there. Most of the boat owners are members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and they get some kind of brownie points for rescuing sailboats that have run aground. About six of them must have made Admiral that afternoon, taking turns pulling us off sandbars.

It was my introduction to sailing, and the main reason I am today still a confirmed drylander.

One thing Vin and I had in common was the amount of enthusiasm we had for the neighborhood Christmas lighting contest. Shortly after we met, we got together on that issue, and decided we’d let Si McNeely win it every year. It was understood in the neighborhood that Si would win, and Vin and I saw no reason to upset that tradition.

The longer we knew the Cushings, the more we admired them. We learned of their long association with Notre Dame, and we visited there with them one football weekend. We enjoyed meeting their friends and relatives, particularly Marie’s father and Vin’s mother. We have enjoyed and admired their children, every one of them top drawer.

The Cushings have enriched our lives, and the lives of our children. This may be a poor choice of words, but we say to all of them that they are one helluva great family, and we send our greetings and congratulations to Marie and Vin on their 50th.

Cocktails and tales with Jack Dempsey

Topeka Capital Journal
Jan. 10, 1959

It was at a cocktail party, and Jack Dempsey was sitting at a table, surrounded by a wide variety of boxing “fans.” Some, I am sure, we’re trying to remember when Dempsey was champion, if he ever was. They asked the questions he must have heard a million times.

“Could you have whipped Joe Lewis?”

“Did you dislike Tunney?”

“What was your toughest fight?”

“Were you ever scared?”

Dempsey said he was scared at least once, when he got into the ring with a huge Kansan named Jess Willard. Continue reading

One Man’s Kansas

Topeka Capital Journal
Jan. 24, 1986.

Since Kansas Day is upon us again, since the state is 125 years old, and since it was many years ago that we offered our last review of Kansas history, it is time we went over it again and updated it where possible.

Needless to say, the Kansas native sons and daughters of, of whom I am not one, have not endorsed this account of the state’s history. But what do they know?

To begin at the beginning, Continue reading

Colliers, Brilliantine and Floyd: barbershop memories.

Topeka Capital-Journal
Nov. 3, 1986

One day recently I had a late-afternoon haircut and was the only customer in the place. I also was the only man in the place. My barber (barberess, beautician, hair stylist, coiffeuse, friseur, cosmetologist, clipper, cropper or whatever) was a woman.

Two or three more of the above were sitting around, waiting for the place to close. There also was a child – a little girl, naturally. I was at their mercy, but they didn’t take advantage of it. Maybe it was because the little girl was present.

Driving home, I thought about how times have changed. I remembered some of my first haircuts and the barbershop back in Britton, Okla., where I grew up. You don’t see anything like it these days. Continue reading

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.) Continue reading

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