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

Credit card was part of the family

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 19, 1993

NEW ORLEANS – In the spring of 1961, a Topekan named Daryl Schoonover drove his family to Washington, DC for a sightseeing vacation, and invited me to dinner one night. I was there working in President Kennedy’s physical fitness and sports program, and my family had not yet joined me.

Schoonover charged the meal to an American Express card. I had heard of the card, but this was the first time I had seen one in operation. I asked him about it, because the idea of putting off paying for anything always has appealed to me.

He said all I had to do was apply and prove to American Express I was a person of at least modest means. The next day I found a number to call and told a few lies. 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

Whatever It Does, Legislature is Predictable

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 3, 1999

At approximately the halfway point in this session, the situation is normal in the Kansas Legislature. There is a lot of huffing and puffing going on, there is some name-calling, the Republican religious right-wingers are bent on doing God’s work rather than the state’s work, and whether by design or by accident the lawmakers seem once again to be headed for overtime.

In the midst of all this, Gov. Bill Graves said he will support Texas Gov. George Bush for president in 2000, a move many interpret as a clear indication that Liddy Dole is running for vice president, and that a Bush-Dole ticket is more than just a possibility. If nothing else, Bush-Dole fits well in a headline.

Probably due more to personalities than assessing the needs of the state, most legislators these days are found in one of three camps – the transportation people, the budget cutters and those wanting to fund all the social programs.

The transportation plan, which is the biggest gorilla in the Statehouse zoo, is getting a lot of attention, but that doesn’t mean it will ever make its way out of the place. It started when a task force developed a plan, just as it was asked to do, but then the governor changed it and it became his plan.

Now the House has passed its own version of the plan and sent it to the Senate, but it’s a foregone conclusion that when the Senate gets through with it the House won’t recognize it. This probably is the buildup for passing some kind of plan in the frenzy of the final minutes of double overtime, known as the veto session.

What will come out then is anybody’s guess, but it probably will have amendments in small print calling for a legislative pay raise with automatic pension increases, and stricter abortion laws. Continue reading

John Linville

Topeka Daily Capital
March 28, 1962

We sat under a big tree in a back yard in Burlingame, sipping drinks and watching the storm fade away in soft flashes of lighting. My father-in-law, Mike Linville, talked about bigger, better storms.

Once, he said, he had saddled a horse and ridden 14 miles from the family farm to check stories he’d heard that a storm had drive wheat straws into trees.

“I actually found some,” he said, “driven about a half-inch into trees.”

Another time, he rode out a storm in a ditch with his younger brother and mother. He told of silence and the vacuum that made it difficult to breathe, and then of the “roar of about 400 freight trains” that snapped trees like matchsticks… Continue reading

Among those whose dreams drowned in 1951 flood – Topeka Owls

Topeka Capital-Journal – July 11, 2001

It is not my intent to make light of the events that followed what historians call the worst chapter in Topeka’s history — 50 years ago this week — but there was some humor in that disastrous flood. One piece of it is a story that still makes me laugh, when I probably should weep.

It happened in the old Topeka Daily Capital newsroom at 8th and Jackson, when water 15 to 20 feet deep covered North Topeka, and nobody yet knew how bad it really was.

Some background: When the flood hit here, the Topeka Owls were in first place in the Class C Western Association pennant race and were drawing good crowds. Their ballpark was in North Topeka, near US-24 highway, east of where the China Inn is today.

Owls’ owner Link Norris was a happy man, because he was looking at his best season financially, which would make up for some that hadn’t gone so well. But suddenly, the flood turned his world upside down. Continue reading