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

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

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

Fall and Fair Recollections

Topeka Daily Capital
Sept. 13, 1959

It is fair time again, and that reminds me that I’ve been to a few – and that statement reminds me of one of the oldest sayings in Oklahoma. A long time ago, it was proper to express amazement by saying, “I’ve been to two hawg-callings, a turkey shoot and a county fair but I ain’t never seen nothing like this.”

Actually, it was a long time before I ever got to a real fair, but I had a pretty good buildup to the real thing.

It started in the little town of Oakwood, Oklahoma, were the only thing that brought a carnival atmosphere to this Dust Bowl setting was something called a “Booster Train. At least, I think they were called Booster Trains. Some kind of trains.

They’d whistle into town and whoever was sponsoring the train’s excursion into the sticks would give away candy and goodies, and maybe there’d be some entertainment and a speech or two.

I can vaguely remember my older brothers screaming, “Booster Train” and we’d run for the tracks. At least I think they said “Booster.” I know we ran for the tracks.

Later, in Veteran, Wyoming, there was a rodeo or two and the exhilarating experience of buying a sack of peanuts. There was a trip to Cheyenne, too, for a big rodeo and my first movie, and I remember my mother telling me, “they say that someday we’ll be able to hear them talk on the screen.” Continue reading

Millionaires and Me

Topeka Capital-Journal – 1999

Just looking at me and my possessions, you wouldn’t think I was a millionaire, but it so happens I fit the mold — with one notable exception: I haven’t been close to a million bucks since the last time I shook hands with my doctor. Maybe it could be said I was even closer when he pulled on the rubber glove and gave me the examination guaranteed to cure you of being cross-eyed.

Probably because there were no more groups left to study, such as left-handed piano players or pilots with pacemakers, a Georgia State University professor has been researching the affluent for about 25 years, and his main conclusion is that most millionaires shun the trappings of wealth. 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

When Radio Ruled

Dick Snider
Topeka Capital-Journal

Radio ruled the airwaves for 30 years, just as television has reigned for the last 50, but if you weren’t there at the time it may be difficult for you to imagine a family gathered around a talking box, listening to “One Man’s Family,” Fred Allen, Jack Benny or some other top show. If you were there, you remember this Benny classic:

Holdup man: “Your money or your life?”

Benny: (Silence).

Holdup man: “I said, your money or your life?”

Benny: “I’m thinking it over.” Continue reading

Black History Month perspective

Topeka Capital-Journal

This being black history month, what follows is some black history from a personal viewpoint:

In Oakwood, Okla., where I was born, and in Veteran, Wyo., where I lived for a time as a very young lad, there were no blacks.  But, in Veteran, we learned something about mixing and getting along.  At sugar beet harvest time, many Mexican families came north to work.  They were called “beet toppers” and they brought along young kids my brothers and I played with as both sides overcame the language barrier.

In Britton, Okla., where I did most of my growing up, I remember hearing black people talked about, and always referred to with the “n” word by young and old alike.

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