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, December 20, 2012

Looking up some ideas sparked by good writing

I’m a dreamer. (As the old song goes, “Aren’t we all?”)

I seldom read without dreaming. And whatever I happen to be reading brings on instant reverie, during which I roll back my eyes, gaze at the ceiling, and allow my thoughts to permeate my dreaming.

One thing leads to another, naturally, and before long my thoughts are interlocked with my reading material, causing the thoughts to run even deeper.

Three recent examples obtain:

Sports Editor Mark Podolski wrote a column a couple weeks ago about Bo Jackson, a great football player and also a great baseball player who graduated from Auburn University.

I gazed at the ceiling. And I asked myself a question: What girl who graduated from Willoughby Union High School in 1947 had a son who was a college roommate of Bo Jackson’s at Auburn?

A hint: They said the girl’s father was a nice man. Actually, he was an ice man. He was Dutch Wachs, owner of Wachs Ice and Fuel in Willoughby.

And his daughter was Margie Wachs, who grew up, got married, moved south, raised a family, and one of her sons was indeed a roommate of Bo Jackson.

Next example: Browns beat writer Jeff Schudel recently wrote a column extolling the talents of several Browns rookies, including receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little.

Someday, Jeff mused, the pair might even attain the stature of two other Browns receivers of note — Reggie Langhorne and Webster Slaughter.

I gazed at the ceiling. Yes, Langhorne and Slaughter were mighty good, all right. I have seen each of them snag some pretty passes for the Browns when the team was capturing the attention of fans everywhere.

But surely there are even better examples of Browns receivers who were paired on the field of play and who made life unbearable for defending players.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I’m thinking of Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie. “Gluefingers” Lavelli is in the NFL Hall of Fame. I’m not sure if Speedie is, but he should be.

The case could be made that they are as good a pair as ever performed in the league.

But let’s fast forward, to 1964 and the championship game against the Baltimore Colts. The starting receivers were Paul Warfield and Gary Collins.

They were, as they say, as good as they get. Collins said before the game the Browns were going to win, because, “there’s no way they can cover both Paul and me.”

Guess what? He was right. After a scoreless first half, Collins caught three touchdown passes in the second half and the Browns won, 27-0, simply because the Don Shula-coached Colts couldn’t cover both of them.

Warfield is in the Hall of Fame, and by all rights Collins should be. He was not only an outstanding receiver, he was also a great punter who led the league one year in punting.

So, in response to the Slaughter-Langhorne suggestion, I submit to you Lavelli-Speedie and Warfield-Collins.

Third example: The second best columnist in Northern Ohio is Morris Beverage, president of Lakeland Community College, who writes a piece every Monday called “Morris’ Musings.” It is a finely crafted piece of work. He calls it a “musing.” I call it a “column.”

(In case you’re wondering, the best columnist in the area is Mike Roberts, a regular contributor and one-time editor of Cleveland Magazine.)

Morris recently wrote of a special friend, Jerry McNellis, who contracted polio in 1946. His battle for survival was inspiring. Morris chronicled it well.

But the mere mention of the subject caused my gaze to lift upwards.

To me, polio and 1950 will forever be entwined. I started as a reporter at The News-Herald in June 1950, and my first assignment every morning was to call the contagion ward at Metro Hospital in Cleveland and check on the condition of Lake County’s polio patients.

As I recall, there were usually 29 or 30 on any given day.

Those were the days before Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin, who took two different approaches to eradicating polio from the face of the Earth.

Thanks to the advances of medical research, and to the support of Rotary International, polio is now virtually a disease of the past.

But in the 1950 epidemic, Lake County was second only behind Paulding County in numbers of polio cases in Ohio.

Around here, parents were afraid of letting their children go to the new Vine Theater in Willoughby, or go swimming in Lake Erie, for fear they might catch polio.

Those fears are gone now. And so, for the moment, is my gazing at the ceiling.


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