Holiday visit to Britton, over all too soon

Topeka Capital Journal
November 29, 1996

SOUTHLAKE, Tex. – We are spending the holiday with daughter Amy and her husband, Duff Nelson, and three granddaughters who were glad to see their grandma. They spoke to me too, to say 1) I parked in the wrong place, 2) I can’t smoke cigars in the house, and 3) would I pump up their bicycle tires? Continue reading

Doc Snider gets the post office back…in great detail

Oct. 13, 1992
Topeka Capital Journal

In my prime growing up years in Britton, Okla., one of the state’s U.S. senators was a lawyer named Thomas Pryor Gore, known as T. P. Gore, or as “TeePee” when he would use the outline of an Indian tent on his campaign literature.

This symbol and his dark complexion, which seemed even darker because of his white hair, caused most people to assume Gore was part Indian. But he wasn’t. He came from Mississippi, and he was a near-perfect picture of a politician – tall, handsome and solidly built. And, when he spoke, people listened.

He was recognized as one of the great orators of his time. Even as a teenager he was in demand as a speaker, and it was because his fame spread far beyond Mississippi that he wound up in Oklahoma and in the U.S. Senate.

There was one other thing about T.P. Gore. He was blind. Not blind in the political sense, not partially sighted in medical terms, but absolutely, totally blind. The tragic thing about it was that he wasn’t born blind, but lost his sight through two freak accidents before he was 20 years old. Continue reading

Writing the story of Britton would be no “Picnic”

Topeka Capital Journal
July 30, 2001

Recently I enjoyed visiting the past through the musicals “Music Man” and “Oklahoma,” and the drama, “Picnic.” I’ve seen all three so many times, on the Great White Way, the semi-Great White Way, in local theaters and in high school auditoriums, on the big screen and the small screen, that I long ago lost count.

“Music Man,” my favorite, is about a con man who comes to River City, Iowa, and sells the town on starting a boys band, even though he doesn’t know a musical note from a radiator whistle. The mayor smells a rat and says he “better hear some by-God tootin’ out of them horns, “ and he finally does. The hero wins the heart of Marion, the librarian.

“Picnic” is the story of a young man who returns to his hometown in Kansas broke and looking for work, but really hoping to get by on his looks and charm. It also is the story of an aging school teacher looking for a man.

After 27 unexpected turns of events that teacher lucks into a nice, cigar chewing guy, and the young man leaves by hopping a freight – but with the town beauty queen on a bus right behind him. They’re headed for Tulsa, where he can get work as a bellhop at the Mayo Hotel. Continue reading

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