The Summer Wind of 1942

Topeka Capital Journal
May 8, 1998

I saw Frank Sinatra perform live with the Tommy Dorsey band on the stage of a Washington DC theater in 1942. I stood in line with hundreds of others to get tickets to an early matinee, and when the show was over I was a fan of his, and I’ve been one ever since.

When he died this month I thought about that day, and before long I was drifting through memories of the years before and after it and reliving the chain of events that got me to Washington in the first place.


Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, 1942

By the time I saw Sinatra, I had been there more than a year, and had seen the Glenn Miller Band on the same stage. I thought at the time that nothing ever would top that, but I suppose Sinatra did. He was one man, and maybe there never has been another single performer who could move an audience like he did.

I was in Washington working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I was there because the FBI, expanding rapidly to handle the problems of impending World War 2, had gone all over the country interviewing candidates for clerical jobs. Salary: $1,440 per year, or $120.00 per month.

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Snider’s Special Introductory Offer

Topeka Daily Capital
March 4th, 1959

My friend Tom Kiene, who administers the lash at The State Journal, is preparing to introduce me formally to a civic club. It’s my personal feeling that these affairs seemed pleasant only when compared to receiving a sentence in court, but that’s not the subject of this epistle. That will keep. . . .

What upsets me is the fact that when I glanced at the notes Tom was preparing for the introduction, I noticed he overlooked one of the most significant and interesting parts of my life.

Would you believe that, just before I went out and won the war, I played a major role in shoring up our internal security? Well. . . .

It started one day in 1940 in Oklahoma City when a friend of mine commented: “Say, did you know the FBI is interviewing people for jobs in Washington?”

“So what,” I said, using one of the sharpest retorts of the day.

“Why don’t we apply?” he asked.

“Why should we?”

“Have you heard,” he grinned slyly, “that there are eight women to every man in Washington?”

“Where do we apply?” I asked. . . . 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

Hole in One, Holes in Stories

Topeka Capital-Journal
Sept. 18, 1985

You probably aren’t going to believe a word of this, but it is all true:

It was in World War II, and I was taking the physical examination that led to the Navy. It happened that one of the guys in line with me was a friend named John McGraw. Not the baseball immortal, just a friend.

When the time came to give a urine sample, I was having a problem, but John obviously wasn’t. I asked him to take my little jar and fill it. He obliged. An hour later I was in the Navy.

A month later, I was at a naval training base and was called to the hospital. I was told to give a urine sample and to wait while they checked it. Later came the questions.

Did I have a family history of kidney trouble? Was I ever treated for blood in the urine? Sugar? Wet the bed? I played dumb because the doctor didn’t seem the type who would appreciate the truth. “I don’t understand this,” he said. “Come back in a week.” Continue reading

They Also Serve…War Years in the Norman (Okla.) Navy

(From the Memoir posted on this site)

At boot camp, I was named the company mailman, and suddenly everyone looked up to me. The job allowed me to skip a few marching and running drills, and I kept telling our CO, a high school football coach from Texas, that I had to see to it that the mail got through, on time, rain or shine.

And when the eight-week boot camp was over, the Navy was nice enough to send me home to Oklahoma. Comedian George Gobel, stationed at Altus, Okla., Army Air Base, later bragged that not a single Japanese plane got past Amarillo.

He had nothing on me. In my years at the Naval Air Technical Training Command base in Norman, no Japanese vessel ever was sighted on the south Canadian River… Continue reading

Kansas Connection on D-Day

Topeka Capital-Journal
June 4, 1999

This morning I wanted to write a D-Day column about the late Sherman Oyler, a paratrooper from Topeka who jumped into Normandy and helped get the Allied invasion of Europe started. He did it just a few hours after he had a memorable, and embarrassing, meeting with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, another Kansan and the man running the whole show.

My trouble was, the story I wanted to tell came to me from the book “D-Day” by Stephen E. Ambrose, and I couldn’t get permission from the publisher to use it. Not that I didn’t try. Continue reading