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

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

Fields of dreams and delusions.

Topeka Metro News
March 25, 2005

Devere Nelson, known to his millions of fans worldwide as Dev, used to sit in a little closet-sized control room, or studio, or whatever they called it, at WIBW and recreate baseball games that Topeka’s professional team was playing on the road. Continue reading

No Contest: Phelps gets his way with Topeka authorities

Topeka Capital Journal
December 20, 1995

You might say the Rev. Fred Phelps is exactly where he wants to be. He is on the front page and the editorial page with some regularity, and also at times on other pages, this one included. He and his followers are free to picket anything and anybody, whenever and wherever they choose. He has the city divided. This newspaper and some concerned citizens have laid the “Phelps problem” on Mayor Butch Felker’s doorstep, but he has responded defiantly, saying it’s not his fault the picketing outrage goes on unchecked. Continue reading

A Full Life for Famous Topeka Author

Topeka Metro News
July 1, 2005

This all started with an email from Charles Crawford of New York City, a KU graduate, a faithful reader and a prolific communicator. He said that with “Nero Wolfe” being resurrected for television, now is the time to write something about Rex Stout, once a Topekan and the author who created the heavyweight detective character.

Crawford also offered some items from Stout’s 1975 obituary in the New York Times, and he ended his message with the comment, “sounds like a dream life to me.” If it wasn’t, it was close, and it bolsters the idea you should keep trying until you get it right.

Stout was famous a couple of times before he gained permanent all-star status by writing 78 detective novels, 46 of them featuring Wolfe, an eccentric, chubby, beer-drinking gourmet sleuth, whose wisecracking aid and companion in crime solving was Archie Goodwin.

In the books, Wolfe weighed 286 pounds and made fat fashionable. I think I read every one of the Wolfe-Goodwin’s stories, in book form or in American Magazine or the Saturday Evening Post. I was addicted to them early in life as I was later to John D McDonald in his Travis McGee.

Rex Todhunter Stout was born in Noblesville IN, in 1886, and a few months later the family moved to Wakarusa. He was like Dwight D. Eisenhower in that he came so close to being born in Kansas the state can claim him as one of its own. Continue reading

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

Assignment Topeka: Great People and the Best Capital in Kansas

Topeka Capital-Journal
February 25 , 1995

The executive editor, who really is a very dear friend of mine, said a special edition was in the works, and he wanted me to write something nice about Topeka.

I gave him my most engaging grin and said, “Isn’t that a isn’t that request a little oxymoronic? You know, like ‘Army intelligence’ and ‘honest government’?

Doesn’t saying nice things about Topeka have the same ring to it?”

The executive editor, who really is as nice a fellow as you’d ever want to meet, wasn’t smiling. “This is not a request,” he said. “It is an order, and I won’t repeat it.”

He was glaring at me now, displaying the same cordiality he did when I referred to the “giant Goodrich plant North of Topeka” in a recent column.

In an ominous tone, he said, “I will only remind you that you are hanging on by the thinnest of threads here, so it behooves you to comply with this order promptly.”

Well, that being the case, plus the fact the executive editor really is one of my all-time favorite people, I will get right to it.

Let me begin by saying that, unlike many Topekans, I am here not by chance, but by choice. I wasn’t born here. I moved here of my own free will not just once, but twice. Continue reading

Pondering Phelps Picketing Probe

Topeka Capital Journal
January 22, 1996

There are two investigations going on that are trying to determine who, if anyone, told city police not to arrest the Fred Phelps picketing gang. Actually, there are more than two probes, because I am conducting one of my own, and there may be other sleuth like me digging for the truth of this dastardly deed.

I have patterned my investigation after that of O.J .Simpson, who was trying to find the “real” murderer of his former wife and her friend, and also after the annual search for the WIBW Santa Claus.

What I am doing is asking people at random if they told the police to lay off Phelps and his troops.

So far, I haven’t turned up anything, but I figured that still leaves me with the two official inquiries.

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

Mantle’s Legend Born in Topeka

Topeka Capital Journal
June 14, 1995

In his second year in professional baseball, Mickey Charles Mantle, at age 19, played the entire season for Joplin, Mo., in the Western Association, a Class C league that included Topeka, Hutchinson and Salina. The year was 1950, and Mantle had the kind of season that left no doubt he was headed for fame and fortune in the majors.

It would be wrong to say he led the league in everything but stolen towels, a popular swift phrase of that day. In fact, he led only in runs, hits and batting average, but that gave you some idea of what he could do with a bat.

In 137 games, he hit .383, scored 141 runs and drove in 136 more. He had 199 hits, 26 of them home runs, and was walked 94 times. Obviously, he was a productive young man, very dangerous at the plate, so why didn’t he lead the league in homers, runs batted in and walks?

Considering the career he had, why didn’t he light up this minor league?

And if he didn’t, who did? Continue reading