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, October 26, 2012

Some words just bring about a lot of fear

There are some words we never want to hear.

I’m not talking about cuss words. I’m talking about words that bring terror, abject fear and palpitations that make the heart go pitty-pat.

Not sad words, like “It might have been.” No, that’s a cliche. I’m talking about words like these:

“You will just feel a tiny pinch.” Isn’t that what you hear just before you get a shot in the arm — or elsewhere?

Or: “Your water will be shut off in three days.” Never a good way to start the day.

Or: “My name is Elmer Fudd (or some other half-baked politician) and I approve of this message.”

Shouldn’t there be a “disapprove” button on the TV, so we can say, “No, No, No, I do NOT approve of this message.”

TV stations are having a terrible time, trying to work a few programs in between the political ads.

Hasn’t some electronic genius come up with a way to blip out political ads with the push of a button?
Or at least draw long noses on politicians when they are lying.

We hear such a blizzard of lies on TV whenever a politician opens his/her mouth that we honest voters should be able to file a class-action suit whenever one of them tells a whopper.

The lying politician should have to mail a check for $1 to every voter for every lie told. Look at the bank accounts all of us would have!

Hello, Waikiki! We’d all be on the beach with Mike Holmgren and his wife, sipping on those drinks with little umbrellas in them, talking about the Good Old Days, when the Browns won almost every Sunday, and singing, “We’re All-American people, from an All-American town.”

Thanks to Paul Brown and George (Red) Bird for that anthem.

If you don’t know that song, Jimmy Haslam, then I know a lot more about the Browns than you do. And I probably do. And it didn’t cost me a billion dollars to find out.

If you can’t close your eyes, Jimmy, and hear that song and drift back to 1946 and the Browns first game-ever against the Miami Seahawks (as I can) then you’re a rookie. Go back to rookie school.

Leave the Browns to me and my friends, who went to that first-ever game (final score, 44-0) and ask yourself, “Who was the starting quarterback?”

No, it wasn’t Otto Graham, the greatest QB who ever lived. It was Cliff Lewis. You can look it up.

But I am drifting off the subject. We were talking about frightening words — words we never want to hear or read for fear of losing our grip on reality.

I read some of those words just last week, and I felt the beads of perspiration break out on my mesocephalic brow. Do you know what those words were?:

“Your password will expire in five days.”

Panic set in. I had become comfortable with the old password. I had written it down, because there is no way on God’s Green Earth I could ever remember it without having it in writing.

But as I thought about it, I decided to surrender, come up with a new password, and even provide advice to those among you who are facing the task of inventing new passwords.

Often the machine (computer) tells you to make it a combination of letters and numbers and throw in a capital or two (and I’m not talking about the blonde who changed her password to four characters and a capital: “Doc, Dopey, Sleepy, Bashful, Sacramento.”)

Here’s the way I do it. First, come up with a name, for example, “Doak Walker,” or “Jimmy Pearsall,” or “Casey Stengel.”

Then come up with a number, say, “37.” (FYI, all four of them wore 37).

Or, better yet, come up with pi to 20 places. So you won’t have to look it up, it is: 3.14159265358979323846.

That is correct. You don’t have to look it up. Someone once asked me why I know things like that. I don’t know why. I just do.

I also know why roses bloom in December. Because Glenn Miller said so. But I digress.

It is also helpful when devising a password to spell things backward, like my brother’s middle name, and then (here’s one you will never hack into) my Army serial number.

It is top secret. But I did use the last four numbers once to buy a raffle ticket, and I won.

If you really want to know those lucky numbers, I would suggest you find one of my old Army olive drab T-shirts, because it would have stamped on it my laundry mark, which was C (for my last initial) and the last four numbers of my serial number.

I never told you this was going to be easy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Press Club honor a thrill for the ages

Bear with me on this one. I always considered it a venal sin to draw attention to yourself, but if I am going to say anything at all about the Press Club of Cleveland’s event held Oct. 12, it is unavoidable.

I was stunned when Rich Osborne, president of Villa Angela-St.Joseph, called to inform me I had been elected to the Press Club’s Hall of Fame. I knew Rich from his days at The Lorain Journal and Ohio Magazine. I thought he might be kidding.

There are some pretty big names in journalism in that Hall of Fame. It is a thrill just to be mentioned in the same breath with Louis B. Seltzer, Hal Lebovitz and people like that. But I certainly wasn’t about to turn down the honor, even though I was afraid they might have me mixed up with someone else.

But then the thing got publicized, and I began getting congratulatory notes from all over. One of the best was from a reader I have never met. Everyone who writes a column should have a reader like Bud Boylan of Lyndhurst. I have quoted his letters before without having met him. His latest I am going to reprint here — just because I want to, even though it borders on being immodest.

“Dear Mr. Collins,” he wrote. “Congratulations! If you weren’t already a celebrity, you are one now.

All celebrities have admirers. And they should cater to those admirers. Your admirers say it is now time for some kind of nostalgia column. Perhaps ‘The Best of the Big Band Era,’ or ‘A Football Game I’ll Always Remember,’ or ‘Sitting Around the Radio for the Sunday Night Programs.’

“With your creative juices flowing, I know you can come up with something.”

That’s a tall order, Bud. I’ll get to work on it.

But let me tell you about that Hall of Fame dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cleveland. If my good buddy, Mark Tyler, the mayor of Kirtland, and the first lady, Sandy, hadn’t picked up me and the lady of the house, we never would have found the place. Mark has one of those talking ladies in his car who tells you when to make your next turn.

The place was mobbed with well-wishers. The Press Club is a big, friendly bunch. And to think I have a vote next year on who gets honored. Amazing!

Five people were inducted into the Hall of Fame (for future reference may I call it the HOF?) and two of them were guys I have known for generations.

One was Ted Diadiun, who worked side by side with me at The News-Herald for many years. He started as a sports writer, became executive editor, and is now the readers’ representative at The Plain Dealer.

Over the years, he wrote about many things besides sports, had a real knack for turning a phrase, and has lost none of those skills that helped shape his career. As a poker player, he is average.

Another HOF honoree was Vern Henry, and I also know him well, not as a compatriot but as a tough competitor as editor of the Painesville Telegraph.

We were in a daily battle for readers in those days, and we both loved the challenge. If you ever got down and dirty in the newspaper business, you know the exhilaration of getting it first and getting it right.

I used to rib Vern for running anonymous letters to the editor from “Mad in Madison” and “Peeved in Perry.” I told him he sat in the office and wrote those letters himself. He denied it, and of course he was right. But it was fun.

Another honoree, Vivian Goodman, made her name in radio, and I met her many times over the years. A very nice person. The other inductee, Stuart Warner, made his mark at The Plain Dealer, and I met him for the first time at the ceremony. His credentials are also rock-solid.

The printed program was a slick piece of work, and each inductee had a profile written by a colleague. Mine was written by News-Herald veteran Janet Podolak, and it almost brought tears to my eyes. Almost.

I don’t know where she found out all that stuff about me, but a little more and I might start taking myself seriously.

The News-Herald and Lakeland Community College each brought a table of party goers. That not only pleased me immensely, but there were four past or current publishers of the paper there — Joe Cocozzo, Rick Stenger, Steve Roszczyk and Jeff Sudbrook. I was truly honored.

One more thing: Mark Tyler and Jeff Sudbrook are both Lakeland graduates, and I had the extreme pleasure of inducting both of them into the Lakeland HOF. That’s one of the most pleasant aspect of my duties at the college — inducting honorees into the HOF.

And one more: During my turn at the mike, I told the Press Club not to wait too long to induct Tricia Ambrose and Laura Kessel of The News-Herald into the HOF. I want to be there for the occasion, and I’m not getting any younger.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Images of an old friend come back upon his death

Recently (I think I was a sophomore in college) our J-school class was assigned to write a feature story about an unforgettable character we knew. The topic may have been based on the Reader’s Digest series by the same name.

I wrote about Roger McKain. About that time, I was reading a book by Colonel Stoopnagel called, “You Wouldn’t Know Me From Adam.” On the cover were two pictures of the author – mirror images of each other. Under one it said “Me” and under the other, “Adam.”

I titled my essay, “You Would Certainly Know Him From Adam.”

Not overly clever, perhaps, but it made my point. Anyone who ever met Roger would not confuse him with anyone else in the universe. He was unique.

I suppose we are all, by definition, unique. I know that word quite well because I correct a lot of people on its misuse, for example, saying “very unique,” because it does not require a modifier.

Unique simply means “one of a kind.”

And Roger was that — precisely.

I had seen Roger only once in the past few years, when I picked him up in the summer of 2011 to attend the Willoughby Union High reunion, so I was saddened to read his obituary in the paper last Sunday.

Roger was both unique and unforgettable. He was 89 at the time of his death, but when I think back about some of the things he did, mostly in the 1950s, the images come back to mind in as sharp a focus as if they happened yesterday. Or maybe day before yesterday.

He lived on Center Street in Willoughby when he was in high school. His neighbors knew him for his loud whistling as he walked to school.

He was driven by several compulsions, one of them his love of fine automobiles and the other his passion for photography.

By the time I got to know him well, he had already returned from a World War II tour of duty in Europe but was not yet settled down with family obligations, so he was around town much of the time.

A lot of the time was spent in Koster’s Sweet Shop in Downtown Willoughby, where one could always find a friend or 10 any afternoon or evening.

His love for photography was beginning to reach full bloom, as was his attraction to pretty girls.

Roger was very short in stature but his ambitions were tall. The photogenic girls at Koster’s were often the targets of his lens.

He was not hesitant in sharing his favored pictures. I make no promises, but if I were to rummage through basement stuff long enough, I could probably find photos of Marilu Paxman, who later became the Maybelline girl on TV ads, or Marilyn Vohlers, her dear friend, whose married name was Sullivan and who was the mother of the famous Lake Catholic and Ohio State football players.

Marilyn was a sweet girl, one of the nicest persons you could ever hope to meet who passed away much too young, but Buckeye football would never have been the same without the legendary Sullivans.

Roger had a crush on a girl whose father was the custodian at Browning School. But she fell in love with someone else, so Roger contented himself with writing uncomplimentary quatrains about her.

His most noteworthy escapade with a camera came in those early days of the 1950s when he wondered what it would be like taking a picture of a Greyhound Bus bearing down on him. So he jumped — with his 4x5 Speed Graphic camera — from the front of the old Wiloby Theater (now known as the Masonic Building) under the darkness of night directly in front of bus rolling into town and fired off a flashbulb picture.

The bus driver was startled out of his wits and terrified. According to legend, the driver drove to the bus station at Bud Carroll’s, called Greyhound, and asked that a substitute driver be sent out because his nerves were shattered and he was quitting.

Roger worked for a time at The News-Herald and at Willoughby Photo when it was on Second Street. I have seen some of his darkroom work. I will say no more about it other than to say husbands should have been more protective of pictures they took of their wives by leaving negatives to dry where others could find them.

Roger had a shiny green Buick he called “Roger the Lodger’s Heavy Chevy,” which he spent much time polishing at the Sohio station at the corner of Erie Street and Mentor Avenue. His polishing partner was Phil Schaefer, a projector operator at the Wiloby Theater, whose goal also was to have the shinest car in town.

Roger was quite the poet. But if I were to recall some of the epics he wrote while working the night shift at the Ohio Rubber Co., that would require another unique chapter in this scenario.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Traveline's Arline Kneen still on the road after 95 years

If I were a really nosy guy, I would have asked Arline Kneen at her big party about 10 days ago if she ever filed to collect Social Security. But of course, it’s none of my business.

But if she believes, as I do, that one should never act in haste, and if everyone in the country followed our lead, the nation’s deficit would be resolved immediately.

There would be no more dilemma addressing the country’s budgetary woes. They would be gone. Vanished. Poof. Gone with the wind!

Many people start cashing in on Social Security when they are 65. But I never filed for benefits until I was 72. If everyone waited until the age of 72, or even 67 or 70, the easing of the strain on the federal budget would be incredible.

I am not talking here about people who are disabled. They don’t have the choice of waiting. But if everyone who is able-bodied would put off collecting benefits for a few years, say, seven, we would be out of debt. And they would collect a lot more money every month.

The age 65 was once considered magic. If you were 65, you were really old. No longer. That is now young. But Social Security has not kept up with change. Or, at least, the people in Congress who should have the guts to raise the age of retirement have no backbone to do it.

So here we are, in deep financial trouble, with an easy solution in sight and no one willing to take the necessary steps.

But enough of that. I am here today to tell you about Arline Kneen. She started Traveline travel agency in Downtown Willoughby 50 years ago. Now operated by Arline and her son, Rob, it has expanded greatly over the years. They celebrated 50 years in business a little over a week ago by putting up a huge tent behind their magnificent hotel, Lawnfield, in Mentor and inviting a few hundred friends in to help them celebrate.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? They have a fine hotel near the corner of Routes 20 and 615 in Mentor. Part of it is a restaurant, Skye, which we like very much. The lady of the house and I make it a point to have dinner there at least once a week.

There is a large dining room, a comfortable lounge and bar, poolside dining outside, and a large veranda wrapped around the outside of the hotel that is elegant for alfresco dining in nice weather.

If you have misplaced your dictionary, alfresco means outdoors. If you already knew that, I am so proud of you.

But why, you wonder, did I bring up the subject of Arline’s age? It is because she told me at her tent celebration that on Oct. 1 (about a week ago) she would turn 95. And she still goes to work every day. And she drives everywhere in a very nifty car.

She should be an inspiration to everyone — to live to be 95 years old, and not to apply for Social Security unless they really need to. Believe me, if you wait, the monthly check really builds up.

Arline’s business card is a gas. On the front it says, “World’s Oldest Travel Agent.” Below that it says, “Chances are ... I’ve been there.”

Matter of fact, so have Rob and his wife and daughter. That’s why they are so hard to get hold of. They are always somewhere.

As we walked around the huge party tent, picking up travel booklets for everywhere you can imagine, a lady asked me: “Is there anyplace you have always wanted to visit?”

I responded: “I have always wanted to go to Florence.”

She gave me a travel book all about Italy. As we walked away, I told the lady of he house, “I was talking about Florence Kentucky.”

I know about it because it is exactly halfway between Willoughby and Nashville, and although we have been through it many times, we have never stopped for so much as a cup of coffee in Florence. But I digress.

The best trip I ever took I booked through Arline at Traveline. It was around 1976, and it was a seven-day jazz cruise in the Mediterranean, with a final stop in Bermuda, where everyone wore Bermuda shorts. Imagine that!

On the ship was the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by his son, Mercer Ellington, the Stan Getz Trio, pianist Billy Taylor, who conducted a seminar on jazz, and more other luminaries than I am able to remember.

I even asked Billy at the seminar how you could take the chords of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and turn them into a bebop standard, “Hot House.”

I didn’t understand his answer, but that’s OK. I know “Hot House” when I hear it.

Many happy returns, Arline. See you at Skye Restaurant, or in Hobart, Tasmania, or somewhere.