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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Previous writing sparks memories for 2 readers

 This column appeared in the Aug. 28 edition of The News-Herald.

Some of the mail I get is worth sharing. Here is an example, from Rick Eisenberg of Mayfield Village.
Read your column about Walter Kremm with ironic interest. He was my social studies teacher at Heights High. Was the middle of the last century. Not sure the course is still called social studies or if they even teach history any more.
As you noted, Mr. Kremm was an ardent New Dealer. This was reflected as he taught us “modern” history. You know, recent stuff, like the Depression and World War II.
It was not until I reached college that I learned the majority of the New Deal programs were those that Hoover could not get through his Congress and that unemployment was still 16 percent (officially) at the time Hitler invaded Poland.
He was, as you observed, a brilliant man, and some of us would try to meet him after classes to question him and, on occasion, even debate some of his views.
That said, what I most remember was his answer to a question a couple of us posed. Where did the money go in the Depression? One day people had money and jobs and, seemingly, the next they were broke and unemployed.
He reserved his answer for a couple of days and for the full class. Answer: It never existed.
Our thoughts were that money was what we had in our pocket, what was in the cash drawer at the bank or the neighborhood store cash register. He explained to a group of dismayed teenagers that actual currency was a tiny fraction of the “money” in the world. The rest was on paper and existed only to the extent that individuals, companies and nations trusted one another to honor the paper promises and make them good, generally with more paper and/or someone else’s promises.
He briefly touched on the national banks, such as our Federal Reserve, and their ability to create money. Did not go too deeply or I am sure our tender brains would have short circuited.
So it was ironic to read of your relationship with Mr. Kremm the weekend our leaders were debating the national debt limit, all the while saying to myself, “it doesn’t really exist.”
And here is another letter, from Henryetta Cokor of Jefferson.
Thank you for your kind words about Walter Kremm. You’re right, he was a great citizen.
Before moving to Jefferson, my husband and I lived near Walter. He was a walker, as I was, so during walks on County Line Road sometimes we walked together. My husband wasn’t well and could no longer drive — a necessity on County Line — and I worried that I may have to stop driving. We moved here, where I can “hoof it” to most needed places.
Since then my husband died and I’m 10 miles from grandkids — which is all beside the point. Walter Kremm and I stayed friends and wrote for seven years. We had much in common. He was an absolute gentleman and very accepting of other people’s views and opinions.
He loved animals and never failed to mention his kitty, Sweetie, and a wild one he fed, Pretty Face.
I hoped he would reach 100 years. He had only two months to go. I will also miss the letters written on yellow lined paper.
Thanks again for the article. I will keep it.
And thank you so much, Rick and Henryetta, for your thoughts.
As I pointed out in that recent column, Walter and I had met only through the U.S. Postal Service, and although we agreed on absolutely nothing politically (he was enamored of Franklin D. Roosevelt, my political hero was Robert Alphonso Taft), he was a true gentlemen and a pleasure to share viewpoints with.
I also was saddened he didn’t make it to 100.
Now I have learned something else that I like about him — he loved animals (as we most assuredly do in our household) and he fed feral cats. That is another passion of the lady of the house. Our outdoor kittens are darling creatures, and anyone who would let a starving animal go hungry would probably do the same to a starving child.
If you have a different opinion of feral kittens, you are entitled to it. And we, of course, are entitled to ours — which is the one that prevails in our circle of friends.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Box set a tailor made present

Let’s see. We were talking about birthday presents, right? OK. I’ll refresh your memory.

Last week I wrote about the birthday present the lady of the house got me last year, one which underwent a unique transformation.

It was a TaylorMade "Blazer," a weapon of golf intended to propel the ball a reasonable distance — far enough, at least, so as not to cause embarrassment to the owner.

It was in my bag of clubs at the annual outing of Crossroads at Quail Hollow in Concord Township, and in a moment of a rare transmogrification, or perhaps it was just mischief, it ended up with a Callaway head cover.

I have no idea what happened to its TaylorMade head cover. My TaylorMade head cover. But I want it back — or at least one that is of a like nature.

That was last year’s birthday present. Let me tell you about this year’s. Relax. Nothing is lost, stolen or misplaced.

We were sitting around one day, the pangs of hunger were mounting, and I said, "Let’s go out to the mall and get a Chick-Fil-A sandwich."

She wasn’t overly enthused. Why, she wondered.

"They are the best chicken sandwiches in the world," I said. "And after that I will buy you a butterscotch sundae at Dairy Queen."

That promise sealed the deal. I hadn’t mentioned that I intended to get a large swirl cone, half chocolate and half vanilla, but I had already made the sale and didn’t want to mess it up with too much trivial information.

As we sat there, enjoying our treats, I peered at the store across the concourse. It was what we used to call a record store, although records are now what most of the public officials in Cuyahoga County have.

"I wonder if they have ‘Kill the Irishman,’ " she wondered. It was a movie we talked about a lot, but hadn’t seen yet.

"I don’t know," I volunteered. "Let’s go over and see."

We quickly found the movie about the late Danny Greene and purchased it. That evening we enjoyed watching it immensely. And yes, I knew Danny Greene. He had a reputation as a very tough guy. But he never messed with me. Maybe it was because I never represented any kind of threat to him.

Besides, I liked him. Probably because we’re both Irish.

But something on the "Sale" table caught my eye. It was a rectangular black box, a couple of inches think. In silver letters on the top it said, "SINATRA."

Allow me to inject a personal thought. It is my belief that Frank Sinatra is the greatest individual entertainer who ever lived.

Excluding no one. He was the best. A few others were close, but he was the best.

I examined the package carefully. It contained four CDs and one DVD. The latter was a concert at Carnegie Hall.

I have more Frank Sinatra 78s, LPs and CDs than you can shake a baton at. Not many are "live" performances, though.

One of the best "live" CDs is Frank with Count Basie at the Sands in Las Vegas. I have it with me at all times in the car, in case I need to hear it immediately.

Naturally, the DVD was a "live" performance. What else? But the four CDs, although the songs are mostly Frank’s traditional numbers which I own hundreds of, all seemed to have been recorded under "live" circumstances.

I have all of the Rat Pack DVDs and "live" CDs with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., but what I was looking at appeared to be different versions of songs I already owned.

As I studied the music in my hand, I began to get a little short of breath. It wasn’t the Chick-Fil-A sandwich or the ice cream. It was the prospect of some Sinatra material that was new to me.

"Look at this!" I exclaimed. "It was $100. Marked down to $50."

"This is your birthday present," she said.

"But my birthday isn’t until September," I protested. I didn’t protest too vigorously, however.

She took the Sinatra package over to the clerk, who advised that the next day it would go back to the regular price. Perhaps that is mere salesmanship. Or, in this case, saleswomanship. I don’t know.

At any rate, it was a wonderful birthday present, ranking right up there with the TaylorMade "Blazer" driver.

True confession: I didn’t wait until my birthday to begin enjoying the newly discovered treasure trove of music of the man who had peers but no equals in the world of entertainment.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Case of the misplaced head cover

I hate to lose stuff. Just as passionately, I hate to misplace stuff. I seem to be doing that more and more often since I turned 40.

Because they impose an added burden, I also tend to set things down rather than carry them around.

Later, I can’t remember where the things are that I set down.

I also hate to have things misappropriated from me. You will note I did not use the malodorous word "stolen," because I would never accuse anyone of stealing something from me if that person had merely borrowed the item for temporary use, or intended to use it but didn’t return it in a timely manner.

Here’s the point. Last year in the Crossroads golf outing, I was hitting the ball off the tee with the usual unsatisfactory results. It’s not that my expectations are all that high. It’s just that I would like to hit the ball a little bit farther, thank you very much.

"Here," said Tim Wright, one of my playing partners. "Try my new driver."

It was a TaylorMade "Blazer," one of those oversized deals that virtually hits the ball by itself. All you have to do is swing it in the general direction of the ball, stand back and admire the results.

It worked so well that day that I told the lady of the house about it and she was so kind as to buy me one of my very own for my birthday.

At a subsequent outing, I let Ken Iwashita use the Blazer and he liked it so much that he went out and got one of his own. But I digress.

As you might expect, the TaylorMade clubs have distinctive head covers. That is critical to the rest of the story.

On Monday I drove out to Quail Hollow for the 2011 edition of the Crossroads outing, dropped off my clubs, parked my car and went inside for lunch. On the way in to the clubhouse I stopped and checked my clubs on the cart. They were intact.

Tim and I were playing partners again that day, in the same foursome with Ken Gamiere and his cousin, Ron. I have been playing with Kenny for many years, and met Ron for the first time. He is a native of Wickliffe, is a retired Border Patrol agent, and can really hit the ball.

We came out after lunch about an hour later, I went over to the cart, and something seemed strangely out of place.

I didn’t see the distinctive head cover of my TaylorMade driver. It was inexplicably missing. But there was another club in its place. It had the equally distinctive head over of an oversized Calloway driver.

"What’s going on here?" or words of similar import, I muttered.

I removed the club from the bag, stripped off the cover, and reposing inside was my own TaylorMade driver.

That was really weird! My own club was in place, but someone had taken the head cover from it and replaced it with a Calloway head cover.

Think about it. Screwy things like that don’t just happen. Some living entity had made that switch. I mean, golf clubs, well-intentioned though they may be, don’t just change their own head covers.

There was no way I could figure out what had happened, or even make a reasonable guess at what might have happened.

One theory, put forth by others, was that some golfer wanted to try out my TaylorMade driver, took it over to the driving range, and when he conscientiously returned it, put the wrong head cover on it.

But where would he have gotten the Calloway head cover?

The entire scenario was perplexing and made no sense.

As we drove back after playing the final hole, we stopped at the stand where clubs are dropped off and I inquired if anyone had left a TaylorMade head cover.

As you might guess, no one had.

Following the dinner and the awarding of the vast array of prizes, I made a public service announcement over the microphone explaining my predicament — to no avail.

On Tuesday I called the pro shop to inquire whether my head cover had been returned. You guessed it! It had not.

I called Jennifer Karlstrom, the lady at Crossroads who runs the golf outing (and whose husband, Olle, is the golf pro at Quail Hollow.) She was aware of the problem, and promised to keep a lookout for the cover.

And that is where the matter stands at the moment.

I mean, I could have kept the Calloway cover through the legal device known as adverse possession. But anyone who would play golf with a TaylorMade club zipped out of a Calloway cover might wear socks that don’t match.

I’ll have to check my socks.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Leadership teaches many lessons

Recently (a useful word that encompasses a number of time zones) I was asked to compose a few words of introduction for the printed program to be handed out at the 25th anniversary dinner of Leadership Lake County, reflecting upon my own experience with the organization. And so I did. But not wishing to expend so much energy for so small an audience, I have decided to reproduce those words here in the form of an "Editor’s Notebook." I hope you approve of my decision.

The 25th Anniversary of Leadership Lake County presents a good opportunity to reflect upon the organization, its value to the county, and the spirit of togetherness and "oneness" that is experienced by its graduates.

If I may digress for a moment, Leadership would be a meaningless organization were it not for its own leadership. That may seem like stating the obvious, but think about it — the people who have led Leadership embody the qualities that make the organization a success.

I am speaking of the only two executive directors the organization has known in its 25 years, Jim Capitan and soon-to-be-retiring Ellen Cantor, and the top-flight people who have served as officers and trustees of the Leadership organization over that quarter-century. They are quality people who embody the spirit of Leadership — who make the county move and who give it its identity. But those are observations from outside Leadership. Let me offer some personal observations from inside the organization as a graduate and as one who proudly never missed a Wednesday session during my happy, pleasant and most instructive year as a participant.

Let me first say that I knew each one of the founders of Leadership Lake County, some of them extremely well and many as fellow members of other organizations to which I have belonged.

In 1987, when Leadership began, I had already been editor of The News-Herald for 20 years. As a daily newspaper editor, one learns a lot about one’s community.

Many of those founders consulted with me about the prospect of starting up a Leadership group here. I was flattered, and thought it a great idea. I also thought it would be a great training ground for the county’s future leaders — but of course it was not for me because I was, well, you know, already a leader of sorts.

When Glenn Gilbert, who worked with me at The News-Herald as executive editor, enrolled in Leadership, I thought it was a fine idea for him to experience Leadership training. He was a relative newcomer, from Michigan, of all places, and it would teach him a lot he should know about Lake County — things which I, of course, already knew.

I hate to apply a word like "smug" to myself because the word can be almost pejorative, in a way. But looking back, I guess I was a little smug. Experiencing Leadership taught me how much I didn’t know about Lake County.

I had always been invited to the opening night cocktail party and the graduation ceremony of each new Leadership class, and very much enjoyed attending. And I met a lot of very fine people I had never known, as well as seeing many people I knew very well who were about to enter into the Leadership experience. And then I was enrolled in Leadership myself, thanks to the cajoling of Mary Ann Blakeley, an executive at Lakeland Community College, who assured me I would enjoy it, it would be a worthwhile experience and it would be good for me.

She was right on all three counts. The experience was extremely informative — every time the bus stopped and we got off to visit a new venue. Thus I learned a lot about the county I had never known. Every place we visited was fascinating, in its own way.

Some of my classmates I had known previously and some I met for the first time. They were all "winners" in my book. We continue to enjoy our association, either in prearranged gatherings or chance meetings.

Leadership not only taught me much I didn’t know about Lake County, it also gave me renewed interest in institutions that were "old hat" to me.

I will continue to belong to the Leadership alumni organization, attend functions and play in the Leadership golf outing — one of the highlights of the year.

I will always treasure my experience in Leadership, and will continue to be a strong and vocal advocate whenever the subject of Leadership comes up.

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