Radio Blessings on the Road to Austin

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 26, 1993

AUSTIN, Tex. – You will be pleased, I am sure, to learn the Snider family father-and-sons safari is over. It ended where it began, in the New Orleans airport. I delivered Steve and Kurt for dawn flights home, and we had a final cup of coffee, resisting the feeling the occasion called for a farewell milk punch or Ramos gin fizz.

We spent our last two nights together in New Orleans, after visiting Natchez and Vicksburg. We finally got our fill of oysters and blackened this and blackened that, better known as napalm cooking. No wonder the natives are called Ragin’ Cajuns.

While Steve and Kurt flew home, I headed for Texas to join my annual golf outing. I left the Deep South the same way I entered, motoring along in my elegant Edsel II and listening to radio evangelists.

It wasn’t that after a spell in New Orleans I felt the need to repent. It’s simply the fact I like to listen to radio preachers, and in the South you can find them all over the dial, day or night. They are entertaining, and a few have a sense of humor. 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 .

KansasVicksburg

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

Big Muddy Golf, Gambling, Blockheads

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 22, 1993

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The problem with traveling is that there are too many tourists in the places tourists like to go. This city, for example, is a popular tourist spot, but it should not be confused with New Orleans, which is a tourist trap.

New Orleans relies on gluttony, a capital sin of which we are all guilty to some degree. Natchez, on the other hand, is a long-running contest over which will last the longest – the antebellum homes that abound here, or the hordes of old folks who flock in here to see them.

The homes always win. In fact, most of them look better today than when they were built, and they all have weathered far better than the visitors.

So, you may ask, what is an old weather-beaten Okie, who wouldn’t know an antebellum home from a new Holiday Inn, doing in Natchez? Simple. I am playing daddy to two heartless offspring who sometimes seem to think I’m Daddy Warbucks. 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

Lessons in Family and Basketball

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 17, 1993

For weeks, our two sons, Steve in Maryland and Kurt in California, have taken turns calling me to make sure I know the game plan. I have it down pat. I am to pick them up at the New Orleans airport today. It is Saint Patrick’s Day, but that has no bearing, since the Snider family is about as Irish as Paddy’s bratwurst.

It was decided weeks ago it was time for another reunion, and the two of them, without consulting me, chose New Orleans as the meeting place. They explained it was “convenient” for all three of us.

That’s easy for them to say. They fly a few hours nonstop to get there and back, while I drive a few days to get there and back. That’s their idea of a square deal, and it gets even worse. In the four days we’ll be together, I will provide the transportation and who knows what else.

The plan calls for us to explore New Orleans, visit Natchez, Miss., the Civil War battlefield at Vicksburg, play a little golf along the way, and seek out food and spirits sufficient to maintain our stamina and morale. My stomach churns at the thought. Continue reading

Once More with a Bunch of Bums

Topeka Capital Journal
August 8, 1989

Harold McGraw called from Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago and said he was inviting a few guys for a weekend at his place on Lake Eufaula, in eastern Oklahoma. He said Joe Trosper and Pat Horan would be there, and I told him to count me in.

The four of us have been friends for what seems like forever. In our last joint venture, in the years right after World War II, we were on the same softball team, and we were as hooked on the game then as we are on golf now.

This was fast pitch, long before slow pitch was invented, and we played with and against some hot shots like the late Clyde “Little Abner” Woods, Greenie Malone, and Hollywood actor-to-be Dale Robertson, who was as good as softballer as he is an actor. Maybe better.

So, last Friday I drove to Oklahoma. When I saw a sign that said “Henryetta” I laughed, remembering the time I covered a football game there when I was a fledgling. The public address announcer had blasted me out of my seat in the tiny press box that night when he screamed, “And here come the HENS, now!” Continue reading

Remembering Ralph Cowell: Solid as a Rock

Topeka Capital-Journal – August 1999

In the parking lot, before we went into the Penwell-Gabel chapel in Highland Park for Ralph Cowell’s funeral, Tommy Tompkins was saying, “Ralph has a good tee time today, 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning in nice weather.” That was another way of saying he already was on that great golf course in the sky.

Inside, the Rev. Jerry Vaughn, of Berryton, told a story that linked Ralph’s lifelong occupation, professional window cleaning, with his lifelong passion, amateur golf.

There is artistry in using the squeegee, the main tool in window cleaning, just as there is with a golf club, and Ralph once explained the use of them by saying, “The object with both is to finish with the fewest possible strokes.” Not bad for funeral parlor humor.

Ralph was better than just pretty good with both. If he wasn’t the best window cleaner in town, he was close, and it’s a fact I never have heard anyone argue that he wasn’t. It’s also a fact I never have heard anyone argue that, in his day, he wasn’t one of the best golfers in town, too. Or one of the best on the AT&SF main line, for that matter.

When he could play, he really could play. He won some tournaments, and came close to winning some more. At the peak of his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, it was rare that someone hit the ball farther than he did. It was of his competitive faults that he often forgot the match to make the point he could hit the ball farther than you could. Continue reading

Augusta has mastered the art of making a buck on golf

Shawnee hatTopeka Capital Jornal – 1998

LITCHFIELD, S.C. — Our route to South Carolina took us through Augusta, Ga., scene of this weeks’ Masters golf tournament and probably the greatest financial bonanza of all the country’s sports events. Signs are up all over the place directing “golf traffic,” and to say they’re needed is like saying the Masters is just another tournament.

Fans flock in and they spend great wads of money. Corporations pay up to $15,000 to rent a house for a week while the owners leave town, and there are about 2,000 such homes available. Hotel rooms that go for $70 on the average jump to $300 and more during the tournament week.

The visitors like to play golf as well as watch it, and local courses other than Augusta National, where the Masters is played, welcome them, sort of. Greens fees that normally are in the $30 to $50 range soar to as much as $500 per round, and tee times are hard to get.

Restaurants put away their regular menus and use special Masters menus that have fewer items and Paris prices. Souvenir prices are out of sight, but few leave without some of them.

The Augusta convention bureau says that during this week there will be 10,400 visitors in the city’s hotels and motels, another 8,000 in private homes, and about 25,000 driving into town each day. They will pump $109 million into the Augusta economy. Continue reading

On Not Becoming a Gas Magnate

Dick Snider
May 2001

We were rolling along on a Texas highway, when Wendy Herman of Wichita, at the wheel, suddenly shouted, “Wyatt.” I had to think only a few seconds before I realized what brought on this outburst.  “You’re right,” I said.  “It’s Wyatt — Oscar Wyatt.”

The day before, we had been pursuing our favorite subject, the gasoline marketing business and the people in it we knew.  We were trying to think of the name of the creator of the Coastal Corp., and we couldn’t get past “Oscar.”

Herman obviously had been churning the question long after I had given up on it, and when he remembered he gave me a smug look that said he still had all his marbles, and I obviously didn’t. Continue reading