For These Shooters, No Shots, No Hats

Topeka Daily Capital
July 15, 1959

The popular picture of the press photographer comes from the movies, or the poorer television shows. The fellow is a middle-age wise guy, with his hat turned up in front and a press card sticking in the band and – since he works for a newspaper – he naturally drinks too much and talks too much.

I was comparing this “typical” photographer with the Daily Capital’s real life staff the other day and I was a little shaken. Either times have changed or we’re on the wrong track.

Rich Clarkson, the boss, and Gary Settle, are Ivy League-trim, practically hairless and disgustingly young and single. Owen Brewer is so young, he’s Little League. Then there’s Bill Snead, and I guess you would call him National League. He’s young, too, but he’s married and he’s a Cardinals fan.

The four of them don’t own one hat among them. If anything, they talk too little, and I shudder to think what havoc a shaker of martinis could create in their darkroom. I am confident they all take heed of my admonition that bleary eyes cannot focus properly and hands that touched liquor should not touch our shutters.

It’s remarkable, the more I think about it, how these guys get us good pictures when they fail so miserably to measure up to the movie and TV versions of their profession.

None of them has solved a murder with his camera. None has been threatened by mobsters. None has risked his life for a picture, although Snead once lost his camera in flood water. Clarkson flies in jets a lot, and Settle and Brewer probably drive too fast.

They’re too young to remember the good old days, if there ever were any, and even the old press photographer stories that Clarkson has heard are funnier than they are spine-tingling or booze-soaked.

There was the guy who took his first picture with flash powder, before the days of flashbulbs, and blew out a big Bay window. They had forgotten to tell him to open the windows before using powder indoors.

Another was taking a picture of a very valuable dog in a penthouse. When he set off the flash powder the dog jumped, went through a window and fell to 32 stories.

Things are tamer now. Once in a great while somebody gets sore at a photographer, but most of the problems are considerably less violent.

For example, every time one of our four goes to take a picture of the club president, the club insists the other officers and all 23 directors get into the picture. That sort of thing isn’t very exciting.

Our guys don’t live in saloons and chase gangsters and make fun of the cops. They just go along shooting whatever comes up and they must think things are pretty dull when they see one of those movies.

As a matter of fact, when you compare with the movies, the whole newspaper life has deteriorated badly. The only bottles in our place have aspirin in them. Nobody works with his hat on. We haven’t had a berserk gunman in the office in I don’t know how long, and I’ve never heard anybody scream “Stop the presses!”

We don’t have a man who wears an eyeshade. Nobody lets ashes fall all over him while a cigarette hangs from his lips. Some of us have trench coats but none of us ever caught a spy. And honest, we don’t have a man in the place who rushes in, spins a single sheet of paper in the typewriter and types a headline before he starts the story.

We don’t have a bar where we all hang out. Most of us like things the way they are and wouldn’t trade jobs, but –

Things sure ain’t what they used to be. . . . I guess. . . .

Another Birthday to Forget to Remember

(Editor’s Note: The 100th anniversary of Dick Snider’s birth is March 20, 2021)

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 27, 1992

I had a birthday a week ago, on the first day of spring, as usual, but it went largely unnoticed. A few days before the date, I mentioned my birthday on the phone to two of my children, but to no avail. One of them said, “When is it?” and the other said, “When was it?” Neither sent a present.

Five heartless children have caused me to grow old and weary before my time. They make me remember what my mother used to say: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is the sting of an ungrateful child.” Of course, she wasn’t talking about me when she said it.

My wife, who knows me best and obviously thinks of me as a pillar of strength, gave me a card, along with a nice gift. But other than that, the only card I received from anywhere in the family came from my brother, and it wasn’t what you’d call a joyous greeting. Continue reading

A Friend Recalls Alf Landon

Topeka Capital-Journal
October 16, 1987

In 1935, Gerry Barker was a junior at Ottawa University and Alf Landon was governor. On a night when Baker University played at Ottawa for the league basketball championship, Landon was in the stands. Ottawa won in the final seconds, and Barker was the star.

Later, Barker was just coming out of the shower when E. C. “Ernie” Quigley, who had refereed the game, came into the Ottawa dressing room and asked, “Where is that young man Barker?” Gerry stepped forward and Quigley said, “Hurry and get dressed. The governor wants to meet you.”

When they met, Landon congratulated him on the victory and on his efforts. Barker says today it was a high point of his career, and then some. It was the start of a long and enduring relationship.

In 1947, Barker went to work for radio station WREN, which had just been moved over from Lawrence. In 1952, Landon bought the station, and when he met the staff he looked at Gerry and asked, “Are you the Barker who played at Ottawa?”

Continue reading

Rockne, Gipp and Jess Harper: On the Ranch with a Football Legend

(Editor’s Note: In September 1956, Topeka Daily Capital Sports Editor Dick Snider devoted a series of his Capitalizing on Sports columns one week to a sports legend living in southwestern Kansas.)

It’s inspiring to visit some of Kansas’ old-time athletic greats and see how and what they’re doing now. It inspires you to live to a ripe old age and settle down in the peaceful surroundings of beef cattle, oil wells and wheat. Or, the moral might be, you don’t have to be young and in Las Vegas to live it up.

Proof came first from 82-year-old Fred Clarke, who enjoys life amid his 1,300 acres and modest handful of oil wells near Winfield. And now we have Jess Harper.

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Harper’s little empire is located seven and a half miles South of Sitka, which is west of Wichita and south of civilization. He calls it a ranch, probably because it includes some 20,000 acres. He calls it a good ranch, because it has 35 producing oil wells.

“I’ve got the most successful breeding secret ever known on this ranch,“ chuckles Harper, a comparative stripling of 71. “I’ve crossed Hereford cows with oil wells, and you can’t beat that.”

Continue reading

Some Civil War stories better left to books

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 24, 1993

VICKSBURG, Miss. – The Kansas monument in the Civil War battlefield here is different, to say the least. The monuments, in what is now a National Park, were donated by the various states to honor the troops, on both sides, who fought here.

Some are huge, taking up hundreds of square feet or towering far above the scene of another slaughter in the war between the states. Most feature statues of soldiers with guns, or a lady of peace promising this would be the last senseless war. Some cost a million or more to build.

Most are made of marble or native stone and have special touches symbolic of the states they represent. Around every turn in the 16-mile drive through the battlefield there is another one, usually just as impressive as the last one .

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Kansas is a notable exception. Its monument is about 8 feet high and four feet wide, made of wrought iron, and cost $5,000 when it was erected in 1960. It features three circles that have a meaning never made clear to me and my two sons by the guide we hired for $20 to show us through the park.

There were many things that God never made clear to us, like what started the war, and who won. She spent all her time telling us the history books and Civil War scholars are all wet and that to this day very few people understand what happened.

When you hire a personal guide you have no way of knowing what you’ll get. You ask a woman in the reception area to get you one, and she calls the next name on the list. We drew a woman will call Connie, short for Confederate . Continue reading

Kansas Newspapermen Linked by Sports

Topeka Capital-Journal
Dec. 15, 1999

There were a couple of send-off parties earlier this month for Mark Nusbaum and his family, wishing them well in Lubbock, Texas, where he is the new publisher of the uniquely named Avalanche-Journal. I remember it as the only newspaper I ever saw printed blue raindrops on the front page of the weather report.

Nusbaum is a local boy who made good. He started at the Topeka Capital-Journal as a copy boy, almost as low on the totem pole as a local retiree columnist, and he was executive editor when he left.

He became a sportswriter, and as he moved up, he worked on both the news and business sides of the paper. He became a good newspaperman, well qualified to go off at the tender age of 44 and take over a big daily.

When he told his wife he was surprised by how well he got along with the key players on his new team in Lubbock, a West Texas city of 186,000, she said it was because he had enough redneck in him to make it work. It wasn’t the answer he was expecting, but he agrees. Continue reading

Handguns Have Gotten out of Hand

Topeka Capital-Journal
Dec. 2, 1992

It would be great if everyone in the country decided the handgun homicides coast to coast last week, like the double slaying in Lawrence, were the last straw. There would be such a demand for gun control that Congress would get the message and do something about it.

Our representatives in Washington would be hammered so hard by constituents they would become more afraid of them than they are of the National Rifle Association now. They would do what they know to be the morally right thing, and they would pass laws making it very difficult to legally buy a handgun.

True, this would work a hardship on a lot of people, from schoolchildren to career criminals. The young thugs would have to settle grudges and impress peers with mere knives or baseball bats, or something like that. But there would be fewer of them killed.

Dedicated gun-carrying criminals might decide to get out of the business if they one day found themselves without a gun and no easy way to get one. Continue reading

In Memory of Dick Snider

By Peter Hancock
Special to the Topeka Metro News
Nov. 26, 2004

Babe Ruth hit his last home run as a player for the Boston Braves. The last uniform he wore (as a coach) was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Michael Jordan finished his career in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, and Joe Namath threw his last NFL pass for the Los Angeles Rams.

A lot of great people end their careers in places other than the one that made them famous, and so it was with Dick Snider who died this week at age 83, a month after publishing his final column in the Topeka Metro News.

Regardless of where he ended his career, most readers will always remember Snider as a longtime reporter and columnist for the Topeka Capital-Journal. And that’s as it should be, even though his short-lived career at this newspaper should never be forgotten or discounted.

I never had the privilege of knowing Snider personally, but I always admired his work. He had that rare ability to keep both the big world and the small world in their proper perspective – to write with equal eloquence and passion about city politics or a Snider family reunion.

He could be lighthearted and whimsical, or he could be dark and caustic. Either way, he never fell into the trap of taking himself, or his own opinions, too seriously.

Snider came to this newspaper after what can only be described as a less than amicable separation from the Capital-Journal. I don’t presume to know all the reasons for his departure from that paper, nor would I presume to pass them along here even if I did. Continue reading

Never Lost on Midwestern Memory Lane

Topeka Capital-Journal
Nov. 26, 2000

On the weekend before Thanksgiving our son, Steve, who lives in Maryland, with his son, Jake, 11, were here, and Steve insisted we visit the birthplaces of my parents. Being the kind of father I am, I agreed, but the problem was that my dad was born in Miltonvale and my mom and Howe, Neb., and Steve wanted to hit both in one day.

We headed toward Miltonvale and I compounded the problem by stopping in Manhattan to show them the K-State stadium and the new Colbert Hills Golf Course. Then, I figured that since we were so close, we should stop in Wakefield to say hello to former Gov. Bill Avery.

That was fine, except that as we started to turn off US-77 Highway on K-82 we learned it was closed, and we’d have to detour around the bottom end of Milford Lake and approach Wakefield from the south.

Everything seemed to be working, but we ran out of highway signs and were forced to make the reluctant decision that we were lost. Thus began a day of learning anew of the hospitality and innate goodness of rural Kansans. Continue reading

Courtney Joins the Tree

Topeka Capital-Journal
Feb. 10, 1988

A week ago last Monday, our daughter Amy left her home in Arlington, Texas, early. It was her first day off from work on what promise to be a lengthy vacation, if you can call it that, since she was expecting to deliver a baby the following Thursday.

She made her first stop at the mortgage company, where she made a house payment, but then she started feeling some contractions, or whatever it is that expectant mothers feel. So, she drove to her doctor’s office, and was there when he arrived at 9.

He checked her immediately, and told her to get to the hospital. She was there by 9:30, checked in, and called us in Topeka and said things were happening fast. She delivered at 10:40, and her husband, Duff Nelson, got there just in time to welcome a new daughter, their second.

We saw her briefly Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday morning we went to the hospital and picked them up. Barely 48 hours after the big event, she and the baby were home. That’s the way they do these things in this day and age.

This is the modern version of the old tale of Indian women who had to drop off the trail just long enough to have their papoose, then catch up or be left behind. Continue reading