Uncle Bill, Mr. Braniff and the aviation bug

Topeka Capital Journal
July 10, 1987

Judge Roy Bulkley showed up at the Loafers lunch the other day wearing a new pair of suspenders. He said he’d gone to the Alco store in North Topeka to buy them, and they were such a bargain he bought two pairs.

The pair he had on were wide, and gaudy. But they were doing an admirable job of doing what they were designed to do, which is hold up his pants. He had such confidence in them, he wasn’t wearing a belt.

Still, some smart aleck at the table looked at them and asked, “if you bought two pairs, why are you wearing those?” He was implying, of course, that the other pair had to be better looking.

All this brought on a general discussion of suspenders, and some of the elderly in attendance recalled they once were called galluses. The dictionary says the word comes from gallows, and I suppose the idea there is that pants hang from the end of your suspenders.

Only a couple of us real experts, however, Remember that they also were known as braces. I qualify as an expert because my uncle, Bill Garthoeffner spent much of his life selling them. Continue reading

Fast food isn’t the part that changed

Topeka Capital Journal.
July 9, 1986

There is a popular notion that the great wide world of grease and salt, known as fast foods is something relatively new, But that is not so. Fast foods have been around a long, long time.

There are more of them now, and they are served in a variety of more attractive places, particularly if you like glitz, But most of them offer basically the same old fare. Fast foods have been around as long as I can remember. 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

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

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

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

Doc Snider gets the post office back…in great detail

Oct. 13, 1992
Topeka Capital Journal

In my prime growing up years in Britton, Okla., one of the state’s U.S. senators was a lawyer named Thomas Pryor Gore, known as T. P. Gore, or as “TeePee” when he would use the outline of an Indian tent on his campaign literature.

This symbol and his dark complexion, which seemed even darker because of his white hair, caused most people to assume Gore was part Indian. But he wasn’t. He came from Mississippi, and he was a near-perfect picture of a politician – tall, handsome and solidly built. And, when he spoke, people listened.

He was recognized as one of the great orators of his time. Even as a teenager he was in demand as a speaker, and it was because his fame spread far beyond Mississippi that he wound up in Oklahoma and in the U.S. Senate.

There was one other thing about T.P. Gore. He was blind. Not blind in the political sense, not partially sighted in medical terms, but absolutely, totally blind. The tragic thing about it was that he wasn’t born blind, but lost his sight through two freak accidents before he was 20 years old. Continue reading

Writing the story of Britton would be no “Picnic”

Topeka Capital Journal
July 30, 2001

Recently I enjoyed visiting the past through the musicals “Music Man” and “Oklahoma,” and the drama, “Picnic.” I’ve seen all three so many times, on the Great White Way, the semi-Great White Way, in local theaters and in high school auditoriums, on the big screen and the small screen, that I long ago lost count.

“Music Man,” my favorite, is about a con man who comes to River City, Iowa, and sells the town on starting a boys band, even though he doesn’t know a musical note from a radiator whistle. The mayor smells a rat and says he “better hear some by-God tootin’ out of them horns, “ and he finally does. The hero wins the heart of Marion, the librarian.

“Picnic” is the story of a young man who returns to his hometown in Kansas broke and looking for work, but really hoping to get by on his looks and charm. It also is the story of an aging school teacher looking for a man.

After 27 unexpected turns of events that teacher lucks into a nice, cigar chewing guy, and the young man leaves by hopping a freight – but with the town beauty queen on a bus right behind him. They’re headed for Tulsa, where he can get work as a bellhop at the Mayo Hotel. Continue reading

Ending Tulsa Silence, Better Late Than Never

Topeka Capital Journal
March 6, 2000

The state of Oklahoma was the site of one of the worst race riots in history in 1921, but for almost 75 years the chances are you wouldn’t have heard about it, even if you lived there, studied state history in its schools, or read newspapers and periodicals in its libraries. Oklahoma covered it up and treated it like it never happened.

On June 1, 1921, the riot erupted in Tulsa and resulted in 40 blocks of an upper class black neighborhood being looted and burned. The Oklahoma National Guard said 26 blacks and 10 whites died and 370 were injured, but eyewitnesses said at least 100 blacks were killed, and the correct figure probably was more than 300.

For 75 years, no memorial of any kind was erected, no city sponsored commemorative services were ever held, and not a single person ever was charged with the killings or the fires. In the library’s, every mention of the riot, the fires and the organized white lynch mob was deleted from the Tulsa newspapers.

I was one of the know-nothing’s in the riot’s aftermath, despite having taken two courses in Oklahoma history, one in high school in the late 1930s, and a forced repeat in college in the 1940s.

If there ever was a mention of the Tulsa riot in either course, I don’t remember it. In fact, from kindergarten to college diploma, all of it in Oklahoma, I don’t remember hearing a single word about it. I believe I would remember, because I like history, even down to taking an elective course called, “U.S. relations in the South Pacific,” or as I called it, “An Okie in Bora Bora.”

And, if I can remember Bob Wills doing “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” couldn’t I remember a riot?

I’m not alone in not hearing anything about the riot until recently. When Tulsa finally got around to remembering it, in 1996, the New York Times carried a couple of lengthy stories about it, and Susan Schaefer of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library resurrected them for me.

Tulsa mayor Susan Savage told the Times she grew up in Tulsa, but it was not until she was an adult that she learned about the riot. She said, “it just wasn’t something people discussed.”

The Tulsa County District Attorney in 1996 was Bill LaFortune, who said, “I’m 39 years old, born and raised in Tulsa, and I never really learned about the race riots until the last several years.”

The riot was sparked by a mistake. A 19-year-old black shoeshine man was arrested for supposedly assaulting a white teenage elevator operator. Police later would determine he stumbled into the girl accidentally, committing no crime, and charges were dropped.

But before that happened the afternoon newspaper headlines screamed, “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator,” and the story said angry whites were gathering in the courthouse to lynch the man. More whites joined the mob, blacks armed themselves, and the riot was on.

The Greenwood section of Tulsa was known as the as the “Negro Wall Street of America” because blacks who lived and worked there enjoyed a higher than average measure of prosperity. But many lost homes and businesses, and the city never paid a dime of reparations.

The final tally was 23 churches and more than 1,000 homes and businesses leveled. When it was over, witnesses said, trucks loaded bodies of black victims and took them to two local potter’s fields and common graves. Hundreds of black families fled Tulsa, never to return


One who survived was J.B. Stradford, who owned a hotel in a rooming house in the doomed area. When he heard that armed men, black and white, were heading for the courthouse, he went there to try to talk the blacks into returning to their homes. But shooting started, and Stradford was charged later with inciting the riot.

He jumped bail in Tulsa and went to Chicago, where he became a successful lawyer. His descendants include a lawyer who is a former U.S. ambassador, a Circuit Court judge, and a college professor.

When the judge, Cornelius E. Toole, Stradford’s great-grandson, heard Tulsa had decided to remember the riot, he contacted an Oklahoma legislator, Don Ross, and asked about clearing Stradford’s name. Lafortune took care of that, and in all, 62 blacks indicted by an inflamed white grand jury in 1921 were cleared.

So, 75 years late, in a ceremony in the Greenwood Cultural Center, across the street from the spot where Stradford’s hotel was burned down, he received an honorary executive pardon from the governor of Oklahoma. His descendants said, better late than never.


(Editor’s Note: This column is posted as written 20 years ago. In 2018, Tulsa World Managing Editor Mike Strain wrote: “In our newsroom, we have begun using the term massacre. We also will use the term riot, but it often will be in the context of explaining that the events of 1921 had commonly been known as the Tulsa race riot.”)

Remembering mom

Topeka Capital-Journal
May 11, 1986

The nuns who taught us in the grade school saw to it that we learned early and well the importance of Mother’s Day. Like we always did at Christmas and Easter, we hauled out the crayons and drew a special card for mom.


Leona Frances Shively

We spent so much time with the crayons, doing those cards, that it’s a wonder we learned to read and write and do our ciphering. But we did, and the cards were, in our minds, works of art.

I remember sister Mary Chrysostom best. She was my teacher in the 4th or 5th grade. She would draw a sample card on the blackboard and we would copy it as best we could.

She would come around and help the less gifted, and that’s one of the reasons I liked her. She spent a lot of time with me, so my card always came out looking pretty good.

The cover would have maybe a hill or two, some birds, a tree and a flower, and above it or below it or across it would be the word, “mother.” I was best at drawing hills and the sun. I was fair with the birds, terrible with trees and flowers.

Inside were two things. One was the message, expressing our love for mom. The other was called a “spiritual bouquet.” It was a list of prayers we had offered – or we were promising to offer – in mom’s behalf.

Even way back then I was into deficits. I’m afraid I padded my bouquet.

We would fasten these crayon-covered sheets together with colored string, or brass paper fasteners and then, at the proper time, present the card to mom.

She would express genuine pleasure at the total effort, an equally genuine surprise at the numbers button being promised. She never said anything, but I probably wasn’t fooling her.

I probably never did fool her. I know I didn’t the day a couple of other foolhardy adventurers and I skipped school to go downtown and hang out for awhile, and then go to a special high-noon baseball shootout between the Oklahoma City Indians and the Tulsa Oilers. Continue reading