Scrawls, Nixon and a Couch

Sam Rawls 4I was rummaging through a box and ran across two cartoons drawn by Scrawls, the Palm Beach Post’s editorial cartoonists in the ’70s.

Sam Rawls is his real name, but we all called him Scrawls. (People who REALLY know him call him Scooter, but I never achieved that level of closeness.)

He left The Post to go to our Big Sister paper in Atlanta, where he stuck around about seven years. I lost track of where he was, and was almost afraid to Google him because I was afraid the trail would lead to an obit.

Fortunately, there’s still some ink left in his pen.

Speaking Southern

Sam Rawls 3Long before Jeff Foxworthy came along with his “You might be a redneck if…” shtick, Post columnist Steve Mitchell wrote a book¬† How to Speak Southern, illustrated by Sam. It was followed by More How to Speak Southern, followed by a combination of the two marketed as The Complete How to Speak Southern. Click on the links to order a copy from Amazon and make both Sam and me a few pennies.

Sam has always cared about the environment. He’s been drawing cartoons to support the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island. Take a look at some of his artwork skewering developers. I’m sure he is more effective at getting the point across than a whole forest of position papers.

Getting back to the cartoons

Sam Rawls Nixon Cartoons 2When Sam was packing up his office to go to the Big Time, I walked in to seeing him ripping up scads of his old cartoons. “What in the world are you doing?” I cried in a horrified tone.

“They’ve already been published, and I don’t want them floating around where somebody will sell them, so I’m tearing them up.”

I managed to convince him to let me make off with these two Nixons from the Watergate era. One one he wrote a flattering message, “To Ken – The best button-pusher I know;” on the other, a more Scrawlsian “To Ken – if you sell it – make sure you get a good price.”

The story of the couch

Sam Rawls Nixon CartoonsNewspapers were a little less politically correct (and a lot more fun) in the old days. They were inhabited by misfits on their way up and on their way down, and characters were the rule instead of the exception.

The photo department had a small room we called the Wire Room. It was used for storage and housed the Associated Press wirephoto transmitter. At one time, before I was hired, it contained an old black couch with an indeterminate covering. It looked like leather, but it was probably some substance not occurring in nature.

Someone told me that a homeless hooker used to walk Dixie Highway in front of the paper, and the photographers, being tenderhearted, offered her the couch as a place to sleep. Management got wind of their largess and said the couch had to go. [Checking the definition of “largess,” I’m not sure that’s exactly the right word: “Something given to someone without expectation of a return,” but, like I said, that all happened before I got to West Palm Beach…]

The couch was exiled to Sam’s office where it was assumed nothing nefarious would ever go on, said my source.

Couch Version II

Sam Rawls 2When I finally tracked Sam down this evening (he had been dodging torrential rain in Conyers, Georgia, where he lives), I had to ask him what happened to the couch. I thought I remembered management shipping it to him as a joke when he left.

“That was my couch. I bought it. I’ve never heard the hooker story.”

We were both appalled that someone made up that story to pull my leg. On the other hand, we agreed that it was too good a story to cut out. If I outlive Sam, it’ll go back to being the Hooker Couch.

What is your favorite cartoon?

Sam RawlsAs soon as I asked what Sam considered his favorite cartoon, I cringed, knowing how I feel when someone asks about my favorite photo. Sam came back with an answer that I’m liable to steal, “I hope it’s the one on my drawing board the day I die.”

Just for the record, I didn’t shoot any of these photos. They came from a box we called “Party Pix,” a collection of staff photos going back to the early or mid-60s. If you doubt my earlier statement about working with characters, you need to take a walk down memory lane with me and that box.

More Missourian Memorabilia

Post delivery problemsThis email came from The Palm Beach Post this afternoon. That’s the place I worked for 35 years and the paper I still subscribe to (although I’m beginning to wonder why).

The Post was letting me know they were sorry that I might be experiencing intermittent delays across their digital products and website. They were working on fixing it, I was assured.

REAL carriers could fix their problem

Missourian collection bookNot long after getting that email, I ran across my old Missourian collection book. That gave me a quick fix to The Post’s digital delivery problems: hire a bunch of 12-year-old kids with memory sticks to go door-to-door updating “breaking news” reports, just like we used to pitch papers in puddles in the Old Days.

This was one of the earlier, and best collection books. It was made of a canvas-covered Masonite material with a heavy spring that clamped the top and bottom of the book over the sheets of yellow receipts you’d tear out and hand your customer. A later version was green and made of far lighter materials. It didn’t hold the receipts securely and would fall apart in a short period of time.

The cover has a number on it. I’m pretty sure my route number was 31 or 31A, so I’m going to guess that’s a 31, even if the number doesn’t look like it is complete.

Newspaper Boys of America, Inc.

Missourian collection book 2Inside the book is a notation that “This is a special Binder No. 9807 (?). Newspaper Boys of America, Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana.”

Dad must have filled in the ID info: it’s pretty much faded away, but I recognize his distinctive handwriting (meaning that you could read it, as opposed to my pitiful scrawl) and his use of green ink.

A quick Google search indicates that the Newspaper Boys of America, Inc, is as gone as paperboys are today. One of the few references I could find was for an N.B.A. Handbook for Newspaper Boys (second edition published in 1932) that was going for $175 in “near fine” condition. I didn’t have one of those, and if I had, my destructive younger brothers would have trashed it like they did my comic books.

I ran a photo of my carrier bag a few days back. The next trick will be to do a video showing the unique way we folded newspapers in the days before rubber bands and rolling.


Gone Girl Filming

Gone Girl movie 10-16-2013Based on what I’ve seen in The Missourian and Facebook, Cape has gone gaga over the Gone Girl movie being filmed there. There were daily postings of the Common Pleas Courthouse terraces being covered with mock snow, the production’s caterers, actors exercising in local gyms, etc., etc., etc.

I was going to do all I could to avoid covering any aspect of it, but I happened to spot a gaggle of what looked like TV satellite trucks in a parking lot on Independence just west of West End Blvd. on my way to the grocery store. Wednesday afternoon, I figured I’d take a run by there to see if anyone was around.

I drove past signs saying “Transportation Parking Only” and “Absolutely No Public Parking.” I mean, my VAN is transportation, right? And if I don’t shut my motor off, I’m not parking, right? Besides, there was nobody around to be offended and parking abounded.

Something is strange here

The truck in the front says KOMO 4 Seattle News. That’s a long way from home. Google confirms that a KOMO 4 exists in Seattle, though.

Miles of wire

Gone Girl movie 10-16-2013

This shot picks up pallets of wire and more news vans. There’s a problem with KBDP: Google can’t find it. The same was true in another photo. WMNB 5 Live, with California tags, comes back as a Russian media group. KPLR 11 Fox 2 looks fake, too. There are Fox 2 stations in St. Louis and Detroit, but neither have the callsign KPLR. I’m going to assume these are prop vehicles.

Seeing all that wire reminded me of a time when I shot production stills for a video company doing a series of commercials. The effects those guys could do with simple lighting was amazing. I never looked at a movie the same way again.

Celebrity stakeouts

Gone Girl movie 10-16-2013I worked for a city editor once who was starstruck. At even a whiff of celebrity, he’d have one of us staking out a house for days.

I hated that kind of thing, so I’d knock on the door and say, “I’m Ken Steinhoff from The Post. I’d really like to have five minutes with Joe Star to take a nice portrait to get the city editor off my back. If he really doesn’t want his picture taken, I’ll respect his privacy and not lurk around peering through hedges. I’ll be the guy sitting in the shade reading a book. If he doesn’t want to be seen, have him go out the back.”

I did manage to shoot some nice portraits of celebs over the years, but not by skulking in the bushes.

So, if I run into a movie shoot, I’ll take a few frames, but I’m not going looking for the action.

Hurricane Frances 2004

Ken Steinhoff Hurricane Frances clean-ip 09-12-2004

I hadn’t forgotten Hurricane Frances, but I HAD forgotten that it was nine years ago that I was hunkered down at the office waiting for it to blow through.

This was a slow mover that was only a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds, but it just sat on top of us and pounded away for hours.

Winn Dixie roof peeled off

Winn Dixie roof Hurricane Frances 09-05-2004I felt secure at work because the windows were designed for 120-mph winds and I designed the telecommunication area to be even stronger. The architect insisted on having laminated glass windows on the exterior of part of the area for esthetic purposes, but behind the glass, he put a gap, a sheet of drywall, a metal lath, another sheet of drywall and another air gap. He made a mockup and challenged my staff to try to penetrate it by throwing concrete blocks against it. We couldn’t, so I withdrew my request for block walls.

The building went to generator power when the winds hit about 45 miles per hour because the power lines were slapping together causing transformers to blow and surges and sags to come down the line. The big diesel was sucking down fuel so fast and the storm was moving so slowly that we were concerned that we were going to run the tank dry. (It was a 10,000-gallon tank, but it hadn’t been topped off.)

The Winn Dixie supermarket next to us didn’t come out so well. We stood in the 4th floor lobby outside my office and watched the wind get beneath the roof covering and peel it off. The repair they did after the storm must not have been done too well, because we got to see the same thing happen during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Neighborhood lost power

Dove after Hurricane Francis 09-05-2004_5290Wife Lila was in Orlando with Son Matt and family and I encouraged her to stay there. We had no power at the house (and wouldn’t for several days), and I was perfectly comfortable sleeping in air-conditioned comfort on air mattress on my office floor. If she came back, I’d have had to fire up the generator I bought after Hurricane Hugo ten years earlier.

The two-mile-drive to check out our house as soon as the winds died down was the longest two miles I think I’ve ever gone. (Until 2005 when we got hit by two more storms). I both wanted to hurry up and yet I wanted to keep from seeing if we still had a house as long as possible.

Trees and limbs down

Hurricane Frances 09-05-2004_5280As it turned out, we had a lot of trees and limbs down, but our house, built in the mid-1930s had stood up to the storm quite well. The apartment building across the street didn’t have our luck: a fairly large tree went through the roof.

Clean-up was NOT fun

Ken Steinhoff Hurricane Frances 09-11-2004 5309Our side of the street had our power restored in a few days. The neighbors on the other side were fed by a different line and were dark for a week or 10 days. We “haves” on the south side stretched heavy-duty extension cords across the street to the “have-nots” so they could at least keep refrigerators and a few lights running.

Fix-a-Flat is your friend

Debris left after Hurricane Frances in 2004I’m glad a had a stock of Fix-a-Flat. The streets were full of debris, nails, screws and other stuff just waiting for you to run over them.

As soon as I could, I gave my 3,000-watt generator to Matt and upgraded to a 7,500-watt one with electric start. The best thing I did was buy a kit to adapt it to run on natural gas, propane or gasoline. I also rewired the electrical panel so we could drop off the commercial grid and run the house off the generator if we were careful with our load balancing. It paid off during the next two storms.

I chased 13 hurricanes as a photographer. Let me tell you, covering somebody else’s hurricane is a lot more fun than having one chase you.