Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Missing meeting a great citizen

I wish I had met Walter Kremm.

Let me rephrase that. I wish I had gotten to know Walter Kremm.

I met him only through the U.S. Mail. But I thought that by way of those multiple encounters I knew him fairly well.

We lived in different worlds politically. When he first started writing letters to the editor a couple of decades ago, I didn’t care much for his views.

But his version of free speech was just as valid as mine, so I printed his letters — and winced a little bit every time one arrived in the mail.

Walter lived in Chesterland, and he must have been approaching 80 when he began writing. He was a confirmed New Dealer, a great fan of FDR. But so was my father. And every time I received a communication from Walter I thought about those long-ago dinner table conversations, when dad blamed the Republicans for everything that was wrong with the country.

Mainly he blamed Ike’s secretary of the treasury, George M. Humphrey. My dad owned a small company that made garage doors. If I had said "he owned a small garage door company," you might have gotten the impression that his company made small doors for garages, but that would have been incorrect. You see how important the placement of a modifier can be? But I digress.

In 1958, dad often quoted Humphrey in which he said, in a speech "we are going to have a recession that will curl your hair."

Well, we had a recession that curled everyone’s hair. Dad couldn’t collect any of the debts that were owed him. He closed the business. It was Humphrey’s fault. Naturally.

Walter was born before World War I, about the time Woodrow Wilson was running for president. Walter would have loved Wilson. They were both "progressives."

He also loved Jimmy Carter. Not me. Even though I once had lunch with him at the White House, I think he is the second worst president in our history.

Walter disliked Ronald Reagan as much as I admired him. But Walter’s views represented those of a large segment of the country and the community, so I respected his right to have them published.

I don’t recall a letter directed at me personally until I wrote something unflattering about Howard Metzenbaum, the guy who had the chutzpah to say that John Glenn, a war hero and an astronaut, "never held a real job."

I wrote back to Walter, he wrote back to me (on yellow-lined paper), and it went on. And over the years I gained a great deal of respect for him.

He was just another human being who led a productive and good life whose views happened to be different from mine. So what’s the big deal about that? A lot of decent people’s views are different from mine.

I learned from our correspondence that he lived for many years in Willoughby Hills before moving to Chester Township. That would have been 52 years ago.

He was a well-educated man, holding degrees from Ohio University, Western Reserve and a Ph.D. from North Carolina.

He taught with distinction at Cleveland Heights High for 30 years. He also left his mark as a student at Shore High in Euclid, where he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the Euclid Alumni Association.

In his letters he often mentioned his age, and as he progressed through his 90s, I fervently hoped he would make it to 100. As the years went on, our communications became warmer and warmer. I wish I had saved his letters. But I can’t save everything. I save enough stuff now. You should see my basement.

Then, a few days ago, I opened the paper to the obituaries and saw the headline: Walter P. Kremm Sr. And I read that he had passed away July 18 at age 99.

And I was saddened. The world had lost a fine citizen.

The picture with the obit was not of a 99-year-old man. It was of a young, vibrant, muscular-looking veteran of the U.S. Army who looked as if he had just finished a 100-yard-dash, or stepped off the baseball diamond after hitting the winning home run.

I shall miss his letters. And I remain saddened at his passing. And I still regret never having met him. But do you know what? If I had met him, I wish my dad could have been there.

Now that would have been an interesting conversation, even though I would have been an outsider looking in.

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Click here to read Walter P. Kremm Sr.'s obituary.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Some murder the king's English

I’d like to have a word with Bud Boylan.

Actually, I’d like to have several words with Bud. But remember, he started it.

His square name is Leo J. Boylan Jr., he is a faithful reader who lives in Lyndhurst and is retired from General Electric.

His name has been in this space several times over the past few decades because of topics he brought up for discussion, many of them involving high school sports teams and heroes.

I will say this for Bud — he lets little escape his detection. And some things seem to rile him up. That is a good thing. I like it when people get riled up. I am riled up about many things at the moment, one of which is the conflict between the Willoughby Chamber of Commerce and some downtown Willoughby merchants over the recent Arts Festival. I have been privy to some of the emails that have been exchanged and will say no more about it at this point.

Except that I will carry some of the vituperative missives around in my pocket, in case anyone wants to review them. And I will express my opinion on the accompanying brouhaha between the chamber and the Fine Arts Association, where I have been a trustee for some 42 years. I know shabby treatment when I see it, but since there are two (or more) sides to every story, I will say no more until all sides of this one have been aired.

I would ask the City of Willoughby, however, to revisit the advisability of blocking off U.S. Route 20 for an entire Saturday until the problems have been resolved.

But I digress.

Bud’s most recent communication excoriated me for some recent columns which he typifies as "highly localized."

"How about," he asked, "a column a bit more widespread, such as ‘Things that bug me?’ "

OK, Bud, so what’s bugging you?

"Here are some of mine, for starters," he wrote.

"I’ve heard TV anchors mispronounce the following:

"Renumeration for remuneration.

"Nuculer for nuclear.

"Momento for memento.

"Eckcetera for etcetera.

"Febuary for February."

Yes, Bud, I notice those also. And they grate on me, too. Nobody pronounces February as if it had an "r" in the middle.

And George Bush was guilty of the "nuculer" gaffe.

Bud continued with criticism of sports announcers who say, "He has a great future ahead of him."

Well, very few have their futures behind them.

"And finally," he concluded, "those insane interviews when field reporters stop football and basketball coaches at halftime. Nothing of interest is ever revealed, and the coaches are obviously itching to get to their teams’ locker rooms."

Here’s one thing you’ll have to understand, Bud. Mispronunciation is the American way. I have dear friend with a doctorate degree who says, "heliocopter."

How about, "When I was a "southmore" in high school?

Here’s a word practically no one pronounces properly: Prerogative. You can look it up. It’s not "perogative."

I once had a secretary who was a dear person and a very efficient office manager, but who lived in her own world when it came to pronouncing the king’s English.

One morning she was staring at a communication in her hand. She seemed to be mildly distraught.

"What’s the matter?" I inquired.

"The insurance company is raising the premium on our house," she said, "because it’s more than 1,000 feet to the nearest fire hydrogen."

I knew she meant hydrant, but I didn’t say anything.

She routinely pronounced Wickliffe as if it had a "d" in the middle, as if it were "Widcliffe."

But the one I’ll never forget came on a long ago Saturday night, when several couples were going to Geneva-on-the-Lake and decided to stop at a roadhouse along the way. I believe it was called "The Castaways."

Over the doorway was a huge torch, fed by oil, with flames shooting skyward amid lots of smoke.

The secretary tugged at her husband’s sleeve and pointed at the torch.

"Gee," he exclaimed, "it looks like Kennedy’s grave."

"Yeah," she replied, "the internal flame."

Eternal, internal, what’s the big deal?

See, Bud, you don’t have to be on television to mess with the language.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Readers, good deeds are all global

Now that my readership is building around the hemisphere (you probably think I am making this up), thanks in part to the inclusion of these words in blog form (I still don’t know what that means), I’d like to bring you up-to-date with the latest bulletin from Argentina.

I never expected to hear from anyone in Argentina, but after receiving an email from Mexico, as reported here recently, who really knew what to expect next? Next, apparently, is Argentina.

The Argentina bureau reports success in curing people of addictions.

Specifically, a man who was hopelessly addicted to heroin was cured of his habit after six months of intense treatments.

Not only that, our bureau chief in Argentina, Kim Advent, is spreading the word far and wide in South America about how much inspiration and enjoyment she receives from reading this column.

So far, most of the readers she has converted into becoming followers of the "Editor’s Notebook" are Argentinians, which is OK because a reader is a reader, but there is no way of knowing where this epidemic of South American readers will end.

I hope Bob Smith, to whom I introduced you in this space recently, is working as tirelessly to gain readers in Mexico. The problem is, we can’t count them as paid circulation. If we could, we’d have a gold mine on our hands. Advertising rates would be going up. People would be driving more new cars. But this stuff takes time.

I haven’t seen Kim for many years, at least five, maybe seven. And she really is doing great humanitarian work in Argentina, where she is a regular reader who looks forward with wild anticipation to devouring these weekly messages. At least, she said so.

When I knew her, her name was Kim Modzeleski. I mentioned two weeks ago I would tell you more about what she is up to now that she is in Argentina heading up our news bureau there. I also told you her name has a familiar ring because there was a relationship to one of the famous brothers, "Big Mo" and "Little Mo," who played for the Cleveland Browns.

Dick Modzeleski, who not only played tackle for the Browns but also coached the team for one game at the end of a season, is her former father-in-law.

After Kim and her husband divorced, she went back to her maiden name, Advent. Now living in Argentina, she is totally wrapped up in her work with doctors in curing substance abuse addicts. It is an inspiring experience for her.

One heroin addict who was cured had been involved in no fewer than 15 different treatment programs, none of which worked.

Now he has a new life.

Meanwhile, she keeps adding new readers in Argentina. The problem is, they read this column on a blog, and when they respond to me, I never know what they are thinking because I don’t read blogs.

I read emails, and 99 percent of the time I respond to them. But blogs are not my preferred source for acquiring literary information or inspiration. I do not indulge myself in them. But I digress.

Kim is president of Avanti Wellness, which represents CMI Abasto in Buenos Aires. CMI is a medical and philosophical center for well-being, which is solely dedicated to improving quality of life.

Her work is more complicated than I am able to convey in this limited space, but suffice it to say that she deals in identifying physical and philosophical issues that she says exist in every person.

Seven days of testing and assessments identify why physical problems exist. Treatments that follow alter habits and bring transformation resulting in changes that can cure addictions, among other ailments.

She is serious about wanting to help others. She can even arrange travel arrangements for anyone truly interested in curing an addiction. If you or anyone you know is interested, I can supply her phone number. It might even be toll free for a cell phone because it appears to be a Miami area code. But don’t ask me for the number unless you are serious about an addiction.

And one further word about Bob Smith of Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico, who is home for a visit. He was born in Painesville and graduated from Harvey High and Western Reserve University. I saw him and his wife at the Holden Arboretum gala a week ago last night (met them for the first time, as a matter of fact) and they bring greetings from South of the Border. And yes, they are regular N-H readers in Old Mexico. Funny how the Internet works.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Jury delivers a surprising vedict

The computer on which I type this column is located in the newsroom, just south of the city desk in an area once known as "the rim." I haven’t heard it called that in years.

I still have the same comfy (and conspicuously cluttered) office I have occupied since we moved into the "new" News-Herald building on Dec. 16, 1993.

It is also inordinately dusty. It’s not my fault. Offices get dusty. Several years ago Gayle Shaw Cramer, a legend in Mentor and daughter of revered N-H columnist Julian Griffin, came and in tried to rearrange the dust. All she managed to do was minimize the dust on a statue of Bob Hope and a picture of Audie Murphy.

I type in the newsroom because there is no computer in my office. Nor should there be. Being sole possessor of a computer that is utilized only once a week could never be justified by anyone who is even minimally cost-conscious, let alone an accomplished practitioner of the art.

I usually do my typing on Monday afternoon, but as you are aware, last Monday was Independence Day, and I am not about to do anything more serious than cut the hedges on a national holiday.

So I came in on Tuesday afternoon. I had something in mind for a column. Actually, I had three things in mind. They will have to wait.

My timing Tuesday was perfect. After lunch with the boys of the Vicious Circle at Helen’s Sunrise Cafe and a full report from Bob Riggin on Bob Meil’s health (I hope he recovers quickly from that perforated colon. We need good citizens like Bob Meil in this sometimes ugly world) I made my weekly stop at the Cleveland Trust Bank to withdraw my weekly allowance.

(I know it is now called U.S. Bank. But I am a traditionalist).

By the time I arrived at The News-Herald, it was just after 2 p.m. The timing couldn’t have been better.

What I didn’t tell you was that directly behind my back in the newsroom is a television set that is always on. I have become oblivious to it. I don’t hear it any more than Jack Nicklaus ever heard crowd noise as he was standing over a putt. Jack and I have unequalled powers of concentration. That is the fairest comparison I can make between our golf games.

But I digress.

As I commenced to gather my thoughts for an essay, a modest crowd began to assemble behind me. They were not there to watch me type. An event of national significance was about to take place. The jury was about to come in.

I describe the crowd as modest because it was not nearly as large as those attracted in the past by other news of great import, including space shots and various riots.

But it was an attentive crowd. Newspaper people are notoriously curious. They want to know what is happening. They aren’t interested in soap operas. They don’t care about talk shows. They want the news, and they want it now.

"So, is the office pool still open?" I asked.

Nobody responded.

"If it is," I said, "my money says, no death sentence. She will get life without chance for parole."

Even viewing the Florida trial from as far away as Northeast Ohio, I knew Casey Anthony was an unmitigated liar. I mean, she said the baby was kidnaped by a baby sitter who never existed. There was so much more bilge that it strained one’s credulity to believe anything she said. The tales she told about her father were especially noxious.

I figured the jury would conclude she was responsible for the baby’s death, but would spare her life and make her sit in the slammer forever — or whatever passes for forever in Orlando. Boy, was I surprised! What a shocker! Not guilty on all three murder counts! Guilty only on four counts of lying to the cops.

I know a little bit about how juries work. I have viewed both criminal and civil juries up close for 60 years. I have sat on a couple of juries (before they found out who I was and tossed me off) and was pleased to serve as foreman of the Lake County Grand Jury four or five years ago thanks to an appointment by Common Pleas Judge Vince Culotta.

And I have never seen anything as shocking as the verdicts returned in the Anthony murder trial.

If you say it was exactly what you anticipated, I would like to place you under oath and have you say it again.

But this is the greatest country in the world. The jury system works. I don’t care what Geraldo Rivera says.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Join us in celebrating Union High

Time flies!

But you already knew that.

The time that has been flying by began a year ago, when I reminded you that the annual reunion of my former high school was at hand. It is now time for this year’s reminder.

The event will take place a little over one month from today, which should be sufficient time for even the most dilatory of procrastinators to begin looking ahead and planning to attend the 15th Willoughby Union High School dinner dance.

You may think you are not invited because you are not a graduate of Union High, but that is not the case.

Yes, there was a time when the party was limited to Union grads, but we have not had a graduation since 1957, so we are running out of graduates. We seem to lose few a people every year. I don’t keep a tally, but one of my 1946 classmates, Phil Granger, passed away just a few weeks ago, and it was not long ago that we lost Alva Brichford at the age of 102. If I am correct, he was at last year’s reunion, and he looked to be in pretty good shape.

Our fearless leader, Ed Glavac, puts on the reunion pretty much by himself these days, aided and abetted by his wife, LaVerne. Because of the diminishing herd of Union graduates, Ed has thrown open the doors to just about anyone who defines himself, or herself, as a "Friend of Union High."

That means that you can go, as long as you are decent person and behave yourself in public. I would presume that would apply to anyone reading this essay.

Now, if you are a faraway reader, for example, Wimp Moyer in Florida, Bob Smith in Mexico or Kim Advent in Argentina, you probably will not be able to make it. But, of course, you are welcome should you be in the area Aug. 6.

You may know Kim Advent as Kim Modzeleski, and if the name sounds familiar, it should. Yes, there is a Cleveland Browns connection. I recently appointed her head of our Argentina bureau. She reads this column on The News-Herald’s blog, as do the others listed above.

But I digress.

I will tell you more about what Kim is up to in a future essay, but right now I have to tell you what Ed Glavac is planing for this year’s reunion.

The 15th WUHS reunion will be Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Patrician Party Center, 33150 Lakeland Blvd., Eastlake. It is a place favored by the graduates because the food is good, the price is right and it is easily accessible.

The price is definitely right: $30 per person includes a fine family-style dinner, open bar (meaning free), a great lineup of door prizes and dancing to the popular Joey Tomsick Orchestra until the bewitching hour of 9 p.m.

Yes, WUHS graduates are early birds. The party begins at 4 p.m. and ends promptly at 9 p.m. so some of these folks can get home and get their sleep. I always hope it’s on a night when the Indians are playing a late ball game so I can go home and watch it from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. But that’s just me.

The lady of the house is fast asleep by then. I just wake her up to give her scoring bulletins.

You get a lot for your money at this party. I always send Ed a check for $100 to cover the two of us plus a little extra for the expenses, so he won’t have to cover any losses himself. But of course that is optional.

Checks should be mailed to Ed Glavac, 7465 Harding St., Mentor OH 44060. The ticket sale deadline is July 30. Casual dress is encouraged.

Special seating requests will be honored until July 22. Tickets will be available for random seating until July 30. All tickets must be paid for in advance. None will be sold at the door.

And here is another important item: You must enclose with your check a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Also, add your class if you attended Union High and all names and maiden names of attendees.

One more thing: the Union High Sports Hall of Fame, Room 107 in the former school that is now the Willoughby-Eastlake Tech Center in Downtown Willoughby, will be open Friday, Aug. 5 and Saturday, Aug. 6 from 10 a.m. until noon.

Last year’s party was one of the best ever. I got enough lessons that night from golf pro Bobby Shave to last me until this year.

I hope he makes the trip from Florida again. I could use a couple more lessons.

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