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

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.

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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.

Continue reading

A Trip to Oakwood

Topeka Capital Journal
April 14, 1999

When my brother Al and I planned our trip to western Oklahoma, we knew we’d see the place where we were born, and places where a lot of our ancestors are buried. What we didn’t know is that we’d also see Rollin Shaw, our next door neighbor more than 70 years ago in Oakwood, our birthplace.

We hadn’t seen him since the Sniders moved from Oakwood in the mid 1920s, but shortly before we headed back down memory Lane, Al’s daughter Claire, found him on the Internet, listed him as a resident of Dewey County and giving a phone number.

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From left: Dick Snider, Al Snider, Rollin Shaw, Dan Snider circa 1925

We called him and he remembered us, and after he recovered from the shock we arranged to meet next day at the Phillips 66 station in Oakwood. We had lunch, he took us on a tour of what’s left of the town, and then we went to the farm home where he has lived for the past 57 years. Continue reading

Soaring Memories of Britton, Okla.

Topeka Capital-Journal
October 28, 1994

Please bear with me this morning while I shed a tear over the passing of one of the great landmarks of my youth. They’re going to tear down the hangar at the abandoned airport two miles west of my old hometown of Britton, Okla. With it will go a lot of memories.

It was the workplace of many of my early heroes. It was the original headquarters for the airline founded by Paul and Tom Braniff of Oklahoma City, and Braniff pilots who lived in Britain would come into my dad’s drug store. They would be in uniform, and they would speak to me, and I’d be walking on air.

My uncle, Bill Garthoeffner, learned to fly there in 1930. I saw him take his first lesson in a Waco biplane, and after he got his license and bought a tiny Viele Monocoupe, I was one of his first passengers. I held the control stick while he said, “keep the wings level in the nose on the horizon.”

My brother Al work there before he went away to become a Navy pilot. He flew in World War II, flew for United and Pan-American after the war, and then went back to the Navy and made it a career.

Wiley Post used the hanger to prepare his Lockheed Vega, named Winnie Mae, for his historic solo round-the-world flight in 1933. He was visited at the field by Will Rogers, and they would die together in 1935 when the plane Post was piloting crashed on take-off near Point Barrow, Alaska. Continue reading

Courtney Joins the Tree

Topeka Capital-Journal
Feb. 10, 1988

A week ago last Monday, our daughter Amy left her home in Arlington, Texas, early. It was her first day off from work on what promise to be a lengthy vacation, if you can call it that, since she was expecting to deliver a baby the following Thursday.

She made her first stop at the mortgage company, where she made a house payment, but then she started feeling some contractions, or whatever it is that expectant mothers feel. So, she drove to her doctor’s office, and was there when he arrived at 9.

He checked her immediately, and told her to get to the hospital. She was there by 9:30, checked in, and called us in Topeka and said things were happening fast. She delivered at 10:40, and her husband, Duff Nelson, got there just in time to welcome a new daughter, their second.

We saw her briefly Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday morning we went to the hospital and picked them up. Barely 48 hours after the big event, she and the baby were home. That’s the way they do these things in this day and age.

This is the modern version of the old tale of Indian women who had to drop off the trail just long enough to have their papoose, then catch up or be left behind. Continue reading

Family Money: Carving the Oklahoma Pie

Topeka Capital-Journal
April 28, 1997

You’ve heard this before: put some relatives and family members around a table, and in the center put some money or valuables to be divided among them, and you’ll see some greed, resentment and even some skullduggery. I am speaking as a victim when I say I’ve been there.

I was done in by my own blood brother, who lives in Dallas. Like most highbinders, he says now it was all a mistake, and he even places the blame on an Oklahoma lawyer, one of the worst kind, who is now deceased, making him one of the best kind.

I’d like to believe him, but his mistake – if you want to call it that – was so enormous, and the stakes were so high, that it is difficult for me to do. I’ll tell you the sordid story, and you be the judge.

As you read this, consider the possibility of a conspiracy among all the relatives involved in this, and try to think of a reliable lawyer who might represent me. I realize “reliable lawyer” is oxymoronic, and I may have to settle for considerably less. Continue reading

Alfred Courtney Snider

Alfred Courtney Snider with his niece, Amy Nelson

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 25, 1998

My brother, Alfred Courtney Snider, is a retired naval aviator, and also is retired from Texas Instruments, the semi-conductor giant. I call him A.C., a compromise between Al, as he was known in the Navy and in the corporate world, and Courtney, as the family calls him. He calls me Wretched Ass, close to Richard S.

He has lived in Dallas 24 years, and when I visit my daughter Amy in nearby Southlake we usually get together for a private lunch, no matter what else is going on. The most recent one was last Friday, which happened to be my birthday, and that may be the reason he paid.

Naturally, we toasted this latest milestone in my life’s journey, and other Sniders of note. We were down to third cousins before the gears in his brain loosened up, and, as I had hoped, he told me a war story. Continue reading

Grandpa was a Kansan

Dick Snider

One of my brothers, Alfred Courtney Snider of Dallas, became interested in the life and times of our grandfather, Alfred Snider, and particularly in his Civil War record.  He asked the National Archives for help, and what he has turned up so far gives me a Kansas background I never realized I had.

After reading the material, it is obvious I should have run for state office, citing my deep Kansas roots. My ancestors were Jayhawkers long before they were Okies. Continue reading

Growing Up in Britton, Okla.

Postcard from Britton

Topeka Capital-Journal

In these times of economic turmoil, stock market calamities and energy crises, I enjoy calling a time-out to remember the simple life in Britton, Okla., where I grew up.  Sometimes I think the only person in Britton who ever worried was my mother, who always was worrying about something.

Maybe she had a right to worry.  We moved to Britton in the late 1920s when my dad bought a drug store there.  His timing wasn’t exactly ideal.  Before he could get established in the town of about 2,000, there was the “Crash of ’29,” when the market collapsed, followed by the Great Depression.

Britton survived both.  There were some unemployed men in town, but pretty soon President Roosevelt’s WPA “made work” programs came along, and everyone who wanted to work could, and had a little money to spend. Continue reading