Trading Stamps and Blessings

While we were rooting around down in a basement cupboard for the cigar box Dad always used to pick out pecans, we found another one that had these trading stamps in it. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

The 1968 City Directory lists the Top Value Redemption Store at 2146 William Street. I don’t know who gave out Triple-S Blue Stamps. Here’s a link to more than you ever wanted to know about trading stamps.

The Star Gas stamps came from the Star Service Station at Broadway and Frederick. A book containing 90 stamps would earn you $1.50 worth of gas when the price was about 36.9 cents per gallon. I took a photo of a perky blonde who looked like she might have been promoting Plaid Stamps in what I thought was a Cape store, but it turned out to  be in Jackson. She was dressed like the dancing silhouette at the middle right.

I wouldn’t wish that on anybody

Lew was a photographer on the Ohio University Post. He was a nice guy with curly red hair and a pale complexion. He and a beautiful black reporter became an item. You could tell they were getting serious by the sparks that flew between them, and I don’t mean the static electricity kind you get by shuffling your feet on the carpet.

One day they came over and said, “We going to get married and we’d like for you to be Lew’s best man.”

I gave them a long lookover, then, in my most southern of Swampeast Missouri tones drawled, sorrowfully, “You know I like you two, but I’m sorry, but I can’t give you my blessing. There are some things that are just wrong. Wrong. I’m sorry.”

They were crestfallen. They hadn’t taken me to be One of Those People.

“Lew, your last name is Stamp.”

Looking at his bride-to-be, I continued, “Your first name is Plaid. There is no way in the world that I want to be a part of making you Plaid Stamp until death do you part.”

Of course, I relented. I tried to recruit Lew to work with me at The Gastonia Gazette, but he had the good sense to turn me down. He still pops up on Facebook from time to time.

Elephantiasis and The Kid

“KID!!!” bellowed the burned-out copy editor who had come to The Jackson Pioneer from The Kansas City Star. I was “KID!” until I was about 25, but in this case, I really WAS a kid. It was the summer of my junior year of high school.

He was editing my “exclusive” interview with Gary Rust, a Goldwater supporter and a delegate to the 1964 GOP National Convention.

My lead was “One week out of the year, once every four years, the nation is stricken by elephantiasis.

“Kid,” he continued, in a quieter tone, “either you don’t know that elephantiasis is an African venereal disease that causes your nuts to swell up so big you have to carry them in a wheelbarrow, or you DO know and you are the most astute political writer for your age in the country.” After a pause, he said with a sly grin, “Either way, I’m not going to change it.”

[This isn’t the grizzled copy editor, by the way. It is Gary Friedrich. Gary played a role in the SEMO Fair investigation.]

Cow Palace Conclave

I’ve been telling that tale for years, but, truth be told, I wasn’t absolutely, positively sure that it was true. HAD the story actually run?

When I came home this time, Brother Mark gave me a huge, wax-coated cardboard box that had once contained chicken pieces. In it was a stack of clips from the paying-my-dues days at The Jackson Pioneer, The Central High School Tiger, The Ohio University Post and a smattering of other things.

For better or worse, near the middle of the stack was my June 24, 1964, story as I had remembered it. (Like always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.)

How to get a newspaper job

Rust had gotten me the job in the first place. I was a Barry Goldwater fanatic; had worked on a political campaign a year or so before; Friend Shari’s grandmother was a big poobah in the Republican party, and The Pioneer was a Republican paper. The Pioneer’s publisher, John Hoffman III, had been injured in a car wreck that had killed his wife. Rust thought Hoffman could use some help, so he introduced us. [That’s Hoffman in a wheelchair covering a high school football game.]

Hoffman said, “We’re not making much money; we can only afford to pay you $75 or $100 every two weeks.”

Not completely understanding how this negotiating game was played, I promptly said, “I’m just getting started out. I’ll take $75.”

Wall to wall people

Rust described the convention as “wall to wall people.” Always a sucker for numbers, I shared that the event was linked to the world with 30 TV cameras, 325 teletypewriter lines, 264 radio circuits and over 3,000 telephones.

He said the convention was basically a “fight between the liberals and the conservatives of the Republican Party. By the end of the week everyone was trying to outdo the other in being a conservative. About 80% of those attending the powwow were behind Goldwater.

Counting hand claps

I never watched one of those political events afterward without thinking about an observation he made. It was reported that immediately after Goldwater spoke, there was a brief silence before the applause.

It wasn’t the type speech you clap or applaud. It was more an outline of his principles and philosophies, and it was a shame to have to applaud, but we were all politically-minded enough to know there was probably someone in the back of the room marking down ’26 hand claps for Nixon – hmmmm, only 22 hand claps for Goldwater…’

Could have torn them up

Rust told the group, including candidates Jean Ann Bradshaw, Truman Farrow, Robert Hemperley and Harold Kuehle, that most of the Goldwater people there were “most generous and decent. At any time during the convention, they could have torn them (the Scranton people) up on any vote.”

Goldwater’s success came as a shock to many people. Rust said, “We found ourselves with a winner and we didn’t even know how to celebrate.

I’ll tell you later about another paper in the stack: my story of covering Ronald Reagan stumping for Goldwater and how I got to meet the new Linotype operator.

You can see photos of Goldwater campaigning in Cairo here. There was some talk about The Pioneer’s staff throwing yellow food coloring in the Jackson Courthouse fountain so Jacksonians would wake up to real gold water, but I don’t know if that got beyond the talking stage. I doubt that they could have scraped together enough money to buy the food coloring.

Gary Rust went on to become a newspaper publishing magnate in the region. I don’t know if he ever saw my story.

 

 

Smokey Robinson at Ohio University

I covered a lot of concerts and music groups without really knowing (or caring) who they were. I didn’t even bother to label the negative envelope in many cases, so I don’t know if the group went on to become famous or they were were just a garage band that somebody wanted to review.

These photos WERE labeled and dated, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember the concert. It said “Smokey Robinson 2/17/68.” I did some research and found that Smokey Robinson & The Miracles DID perform at Ohio University on that date. I must have covered this for The Ohio University Post.

Is he still alive?

Compounding my embarrassment, I asked Wife Lila, “Is he still alive?” she said that he was not only alive, but she had gone with a friend to see him perform in West Palm Beach not long ago. “He still puts on a fantastic show.”

When I went to the official Smokey Robinson website, I saw that a “legendary Rolling Stones photographer” was selling prints of Smokey on stage in 1968. Too bad I’m not legendary. These pix might be worth something.

Photo gallery of Smokey Robinson concert

Since I don’t have anything to add, I’ll just post the photos and let them speak for themselves. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or ride side of the image to move through the gallery.

Martin Luther King National Day of Mourning

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed Sunday, April 7, 1968, as a national day of mourning for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wrote back in January about a class project at Ohio University that put me in an ideal position to cover the event in front of the John Calhoun Baker University Center as both a student and photo editor of The Ohio University Post.

Next weekend is the 100th anniversary of The OU Post and some of these photos have my colleagues in the background. I won’t be able to make it to Athens for the reunion, so this is my contribution to being there in spirit.

Students filled the street

Hundreds, if not thousands, of students filled the street in front of the student union and spilled out onto the Main Green.

OU President Vernon Alden spoke

The Kennedyesque OU President Vernon Alden, center, wearing a black armband, spoke.

Religious leaders were present

All of the local faiths were represented.

Crowd was solemn

I was struck by how seriously everyone took the ceremony.

A salt and pepper group

The front ranks were heavily represented by black students, many wearing signs that said “In Mourning.”

Not your normal gathering

Most of the white students in the back were dressed more casually, but this wasn’t your normal student gathering.

The mood was solemn and there was no laughing or calling across the group.

I had been to many protests, concerts and gatherings on the Main Green, but this one had a feeling of dignity about it.

It brought to mind the spontaneous gathering the day of the Kent State shootings.

Instead of being your normal batch of campus radicals, you had a mixture of jocks, sorority girls, frat boys, professors and townspeople all coming together to try to make sense of what had happened.

The racial mix on this day was probably proportional to the school’s makeup.

The ceremony ended

After the formal ceremony ended, the crowd started to disperse. Many of them walked a block north to Court and Union, the main intersection in town.

A small group of students sit down

A small group of students sat down in the middle of the intersection.

The crowd grows

More and more students joined the sit-in. Again, uncharacteristically, this wasn’t your normal group of rowdy drunk students who block this intersection on the first warm spring night after a cold winter. You can tell from the expressions that this is a serious occasion.

All of downtown is blocked

Finally, the whole intersection for at least a half-block in all directions was full of students.

James Steele addresses crowd

James Steele, who was one of the speakers at the formal ceremony, addresses the crowd.

I should explain something before we get to the part where things turn ugly. Ohio University was founded in 1804, so the local police have a lot of experience in dealing with unruly students.

Usual procedure was to see if they’d break up on their own. If not, a half-dozen cops would show up in “bats and hats,” somebody would read the riot act over a bullhorn, then there would be some pushing and shoving, followed by everybody heading back on campus.

Rarely were any arrests made. Some bricks and bottles might get thrown and a few windows could get broken, but I never heard of any looting of the downtown stores. The police didn’t even use teargas at any event I covered until the spring of 1970.

Captain Charlie Cochran didn’t follow script

Athens Police Captain Charlie Cochran, always a hothead, didn’t follow the script. Instead of giving the normal order to disperse and having enough officers present to enforce it, he waded into the demonstrators and literally threw them off “my street.”

Seriously misread crowd

Charlie didn’t realize this wasn’t your normal unfocused mob of kids out for a good time. These folks had seen their national leader gunned down. They were hurting and looking for a place to direct their anger. They didn’t take kindly to being manhandled on a day of mourning.

Cooler head prevails

A friend grabbed the fellow who had been thrown to the ground just before he could retaliate. If the two had tangled, I’m convinced the whole crowd would have joined in and someone would have been seriously hurt.

Chief, James Walen works out compromise

Before things could get out of hand, Police Chief Fred James, left, and James Walen, university vice president for administrative affairs, right, worked out a compromise.

The chief agreed to allow the students to continue the demonstration for a “reasonable amount of time” and the students agreed to leave peacefully after that.

Charlie didn’t look happy to have me part of this confab, but this isn’t the first nor the last time that we’d have an awkward moment together. I’m not sure who the concerned citizen in the middle was.

Before long, intersection open

The bulk of the crowd retreated to the corners, then, after a “reasonable time,” everyone else moved on.

“Where do we go from here?”

A writer in The Athena, the university yearbook, penned, “The King is Dead! It echoed in microphones; and hearts were horrified throughout the campus, country, and world. Martin Luther King Jr. started a dream, but a bullet couldn’t shatter it. Now, where will his dream go?

“We talk about the coup d’etats of South America and the street riots in Europe, but when will we stop destroying our Kennedys and Luthers? Let us not scatter after the black arm bands have been put away.”

Well, that’s not exactly deathless prose, but it – and the scraps of posters in the middle of the street – raise an important question: “Where do we go from here?” Based on the headlines I worked on later, it doesn’t look like we learned a lot from 1968.

Photo gallery of King Memorial Day

I’ve included a wide variety of photos. If you were there that day, you might want to share them with your grandkids. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Post and Athena folks, I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Clarence Page, Joyce Halasa, Ed Pieratt, Todd Schofer and Tom Price. (Now that I think of it, I think this is a class I flunked because I didn’t turn in an assignment. Wonder if I could submit this for extra credit 43 years late.)