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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting another taste of some good dental care

I hate surprises.

People who say things like that are talking about bad surprises, not good surprises.

For example, winning the lottery would be a good surprise. But finding out you have a flat tire, a leaky toilet that is adding $100 to your water bill or liver for dinner would not be good news.
Those would be examples of bad surprises.

I once worked for a publisher who told me he had an aversion to surprises. He explained what he meant by that.

If you are ever going to write an editorial that is guaranteed to rile up a lot of subscribers, he confided to me, let me know in advance so I can be prepared for the phone calls and I can defend you. He didn’t like surprises.

That was awfully decent of him. He didn’t want to censor any of my high octane rants. He just wanted advance warning so he wouldn’t get any surprises on the phone.

I got a surprise of my own the other day, and it was not the good kind. I was eating lunch with the boys and I chewed on something that was not meant to be ingested.

I took it out of my mouth and inspected it. It looked very much like part of a tooth.

It was actually part of a crown that had cracked and broken off a tooth. A hasty probing with my tongue determined precisely from whence it had come.

And my thoughts went rushing back to about 1937.

Some of you probably can’t remember that far back, but when I explain what happened you will understand why the memory is cemented in my mind.

We were playing football (tackle, not touch) at recess at Chester School.

We were in the fourth grade, perhaps the fifth. Harlow Whiting was running with the football. He was one of the best players in the class, along with Clay Eddy and Raymond Mansfield.

I tried to stop Harlow with a diving tackle. What I received in return was the heel of his shoe — squarely in the mouth.

The impact broke a V-shaped notch in two of my bottom teeth. My mother took me to Dr. Blackmer in Wickliffe and he installed a couple of gold jackets on the broken teeth.

Those gold teeth stayed with me for a long time. They were on the bottom, so they weren’t too prominent, but I never cared for them.

I’ll tell you how long I had those gold caps. I was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, in 1954 and one day I went to the dentist for a check-up. Don’t let anyone hand you any negative stories about Army dentists. This guy was fresh out of dental school at the University of Tennessee and he was great.

I told him I didn’t like gold teeth, and asked him if he could replace them with white crowns.

He said he wasn’t allowed to do that unless the gold caps were damaged. Well, I came up with a plan. Why don’t you drill through the gold caps, I suggested. Then they will be damaged and you can replace them with white caps.

He liked the idea. Said he could use some experience in that area. So he proceeded with the white caps, and they served me very well. Until 1991, actually, when my good friend, the late Dr. Jim McCann, replaced them with brand new white crowns.

It was one of them that I cracked the other day. I was playing in the Leadership Lake County golf outing last Monday, and on the way stopped at my dentist’s office to check the tooth damage. Dr. Bill Nelson is within walking distance of the golf course. Before Jim’s retirement, he and Bill were partners in Mentor. Then Bill built his new building in Concord.

Bill looked the tooth over, ordered an X-ray and checked my records. “It looks like Dr. McCann installed this crown in 1991,” he said. I said that sounded about right.

I played golf with the fractured crown, returned next day to the dentist’s for a temporary crown, and in less that three weeks I will be back for the permanent crown. The temporary looks so nice and feels so natural that I swear it could last forever, but I will nevertheless give it up when the real crown arrives in town.

Dentistry is one of those fields of endeavor in which I admire perfection, and I will tell you without the slightest hesitation that Jim McCann was a perfectionist and Bill Nelson is also a perfectionist.

So I am not concerned what my new tooth jacket is going to look like. It will without question be beautiful. I only wish Harlow Whiting could see it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

To get things done here, (I) talk to the right people

There’s nothing like an advertising man with a sense of humor. Absolutely nothing.

Back in the days of yore (I’m talking about the 1950s) when The News-Herald was in the Old Apple Barn on Mentor Avenue in Willoughby...

Hold it for a minute. I’d better explain that. The apple barn was across from the former airport, which became a golf course, which became a housing development.

We built the new News-Herald building on the same lot as the old building, except it is just a few feet to the east. So the new building is in Mentor, while the old building is still in Willoughby.

It’s not really that confusing, because that is where the municipal lines are located — right between the two buildings.

But back in those golden days of yore, as I was telling you, advertising men were capable of coming up with funny lines. My problem is, I don’t remember whether it was Ray Ferguson or Dick Schoenbeck who said it.

But one of them answered the phone (yes, we had telephones in those days) and a very irate lady with a problem said, “I’d like to talk to someone there who has a little authority.”

Ray (or Dick) replied, “Go ahead, lady. I’ve got as little authority around here as anybody.”

Fast forward 60 years. It is now 2012. I officially retired from here seven years ago. They still have me writing a Sunday column, which has been going on since Sept. 23, 1973, but that is all I do.

I used to have a little authority. Now I have none. Zero. I write the column and go home.

But because my picture is in the paper every Sunday, some people think I can do things which I cannot.

Things like: “Can you keep my son’s name out of the paper?” or, “Can you put my daughter’s name in the paper?” or “Can you get my nephew an internship?”

I cannot do any of those things. But I am leading up to something here.

The red light was flashing on my phone last Monday, meaning someone had left a message. I did not know how long ago it was left, but when I checked the voice mail it turned out to be from an old friend, Bob Gain, former star defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns who, by all rights, should be in the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton.

Bob still lives in Timberlake. I called immediately to see what was on his mind. Guess what? He didn’t get his paper Monday.

He expected I could do something about it. I told him I couldn’t. He wondered how I could work here 62 years and be the editor for 38 years and not be able to get somebody’s paper delivered.

I told him that was then and this is now — or something like that.

We had a long, pleasant conversation, in which he said he and Kitty were going to Kentucky so he could be installed in yet another hall of fame and probably get yet another diamond ring as a souvenir and get back in time for him and Kitty to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on June 16.

So I wished him a happy anniversary and asked him to pass my best wishes along to Kitty, who is a sweet lady, although he likes to tease her a bit.

“If I go first,” he said to her, “when I get up there I’m going to hide behind a cloud so you can’t find me.”

To which she responded (according to Bob): “There’s not a cloud in Heaven big enough to hide you.”

No sooner had we hung up than Jeff Sudbrook, the publisher, walked by. He asked how things are going.

“Bob Gain didn’t get his paper this morning,” I replied.

Jeff made a phone call. One phone call. Then he came back to where I had just begun to type this column.

“It’s taken care of,” Jeff said. “The Gains’ paper is on its way.”

Now that is authority.

If you want to look at it one way, I still have some authority but it is once removed.

I will probably get the credit, because Bob probably thinks I was the one who got his paper delivered. As the old saying goes, it doesn’t matter what you accomplish, it’s who gets the credit that counts.

Wait! That can’t be right.

Anyway, they got their paper, Jeff got the job done and I will probably get the credit — and I’m not going to tell anyone.

Happy 60th, Bob and Kitty. I hope you don’t read this column.