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, May 29, 2014

'Outsiders' invited to join us for Willoughby Union High reunion

When I was a freshman in college (don’t hold me to that, I might have been a sophomore) I read an essay by Santha Rama Rau titled “I Return Home to India at Age 16.”

It was a story of how much she had learned about the world, and how much our horizons are expanded when we get away from our own little areas and experience life on a larger scale.

Her essay must have made an impression on me, because I have never forgotten it – or the lesson it teaches.

The lesson: The world does not revolve around a point on the globe.

Let us now fast-forward some seven decades. For sure, the world does not revolve about a point on the globe for any of us. As we mellow, our focal points on the globe keep changing.

Before college, I went to Willoughby Union High School. At that time, the world revolved around that school experience – for me, at least.

The school doesn’t exist any longer. The building is still there, and it was home to many of us for years. But it has not produced a class of high school graduates since 1957.

No matter. We keep having our marvelous dinner-dance reunion every year.

Those never-ending reunions are still being held, thanks to the persistence and dedication of Ed Glavac, who graduated a year before I did. He was a 1945 graduate of Union High, and he keeps on relentlessly holding reunion parties.

He has another one scheduled this year for Aug. 2 at the Patrician Party Center at 33150 Lakeland Blvd., Eastlake. It will be the 18th such reunion.

But we are running out of graduates. So in order to have a really nice reunion, we have to open the doors to non-graduates. Were it not for those “outsiders,” we could hold the “reunion” in a phone booth.

No. Cancel that. I don’t think they have phone booths any more.

At any rate, in order to keep holding our annual reunions, we must, as Ed says, allow them to be open “to anyone interested in our community activities.”

That could include, if you give it some thought, you. I presume you are interested in our community activities.

Otherwise, why would you be so interested in anything I have to say? (You don’t have to answer that).

Thus since we have now established that you are interested in our community activities, here is what you must know, and do, to attend the Aug. 2 gala event. And by the way, bring some friends.

The festivities begin at 4 p.m. and conclude at 7 p.m. The lady of the house and I won’t be there that early because we don’t feed the puppies until 5:30. But we will be there. I hope they save us a plate of food.

The cost is super-reasonable – $25 per person. That includes a delicious, family-style dinner, an open bar (that means free), door prizes, a 50-50 raffle and dancing to the very popular Joey Tomsick Orchestra.

When Joey isn’t playing the accordion he is executive director of the Lake County Council on Aging. So he does have a real job, and it is a pretty impressive one at that.

The dress code is casual. Special seating requests will be honored until July 22. No tickets will be sold at the door. You (all of us) must pay in advance.

For reservations, mail your check payable to WUH Reunion to:
Ed Glavac
7465 Harding St.
Mentor, OH 44060

The ticket sales deadline is July 25. And this is very important: You must include a self-addressed and stamped envelope. Also, if you call Ed at 440-953-0510, he will tell you how you can put an ad in the reunion program. If you attended Union High, please note your class year. If there are maiden names you would like the committee to know about, please let that be known with your entry fee.

One more thing: The event cannot function without financial help. So if you would like to include a few extra bucks with your reservation, Ed assures me it would be appreciated.

Also on Aug. 2, which is a Saturday, the school building in Downtown Willoughby will be open from 10 a.m. until noon, so that Ed can lead a tour of memories that includes a visit to the Sports Hall of Fame. He may also have one of his old “59” football jerseys on hand to show you.

If you peek around the corner into the hall, you may find a very flattering plaque with my picture on it. It has nothing to do with football.

When I went out for the team, our coach, the legendary Humbert F. “Pat” Pasini, wouldn’t give me a uniform. He said I was too small and might get hurt.

That is why I went to college and took up typing. The full story is much too long to tell here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Manziel has a long way to go to prove himself

I am not one to get caught up in frenzies.
Life is much too short to get involved in hysteria. So I am content to sit on the sidelines and watch the frothing-at-the mouth mob as it passes by. I may waive and say “Hi,” but then I will return to my reading, my music-listening or my consternation in trying to figure out what Jack Bauer is up to in the latest incarnation of “24.”
My loyalty to the program knows no bounds, but those people whisper so much and so softly that I can’t follow the dialog, let alone understand the finer points of the plot.
But I digress.
The latest local hysteria, Cleveland style, is the Johnny Football Mania. That is the name of the quarterback from Texas A&M that the Browns drafted – Johnny Mania. I’m sorry. It’s Johnny Manziel.
Much more than a football player, he is a public relations freak. He knows how to create a spectacle, with himself in the center, of course.
I have never seen anything like it. He has yet to take a snap from the center, yet he has the otherwise normal people of Cleveland going ga-ga over him
I could be the only person in town who doesn’t take him seriously, but maybe that’s just me.
This I will tell you – I will begin to take him seriously and compare him with Otto Graham the day he plays in 10 championship games in 10 years and wins seven of them.
That is what Otto did. But of course, there was only one Otto Graham. And he didn’t go to A&M, he went to Northwestern. What? You say that isn’t a football powerhouse? Tell that to Otto’s mother and to anyone who was a close follower of the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1955.
I was, and I do not expect Johnny Football to live up to any of the standards set by Automatic Otto. No other quarterback ever has, why should such a level of excellence be expected of Johnny Football?
I’ll tell you, Johnny Football isn’t even a clever nickname. I was in the Army with a football player who had a much better name, and it was his REAL name.
He was Johnny Champion. He played for the Fort Hood Tankers, and he was an outstanding running back. And his birth name was Champion, not Football.
Johnny Champion went to either Southern Methodist or Midwestern University, I forget which, and he said he played for a year with the Washington Redskins. I can’t find his name in my all-time NFL directory, so I will have to take his word for it.
But let me tell you one thing about Johnny Football’s alma mater. The guys in the barracks used to sing a little ditty about it.
Of course, you would have to know the guys in my barracks. It was Headquarters Company for the division, so it was home for a bunch of athletes and night club comedians, other Special Services guys, lawyers and would-be lawyers, and guys like that.
One of the guys told me one day, “It’s such a nice day I decided to put the top down on my car. It took me more than three hours.”
Why was that, I asked.
“Because,” he replied, “I don’t have a convertible.”
I told him he should take his show on the road, but of course he couldn’t do that without going AWOL, and who wants to spend the rest of his life in the DB, as the disciplinary barracks was known.
I hope the Browns’ quarterback-in-waiting (he’s waiting for Brian Hoyer to mess up, and I hope that never happens, I hope he goes 16-0 and leaves Johnny F. sitting on the bench) never hears the ditty that was sung at Fort Hood, because the guys there had a certain disdain for some of the local college football teams.
They used to sing:
“Don’t sent my boy to Texas,
“The dying mother said.
“Don’t sent my boy to A&M,
“I’d rather see him dead.”
I am not making this up. That it what they sang. And that is what they thought of Texas A&M.
Not me. I thought it was a great school. It, as well as Virginia Military Institute, produced more officers for the U.S. Army in World War II than did the United States Military Academy at West Point, commonly known as Army.
Here is what puzzles me. A&M is basically a military school. If you go there, you become a second lieutenant in the Army.
So why isn’t Johnny Football in the Army?
Oh, I forgot. He went there for only a year before he dropped out to be drafted by the Browns.
Too bad he’s lacking the military experience. I’ll bet he can’t even keep a tight bunk.
That was our standard of excellence at Fort Hood.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Song titles not intended as insult any more than team nicknames

 In my never-ending quest to augment my available stash of great music for above-the-ground enjoyment, I often go on subterranean spelunking missions, emerging with an arm-load of CDs I haven’t heard for some time.

Last week I came upstairs with five four-packs of CDs (that would amount to 20 discs) by Anita O’Day, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Lee Konitz and Charlie Barnet.

It is the latter disc to which I would like to draw your attention. The Barnet recordings were made before the American Left made its presence known in the area of what we now recognize as Political Correctness.

The furor over our beloved Chief Wahoo, symbol of the Cleveland Indians, is a manifestation of PC. Don’t dispute me on this. If it is now considered Politically Incorrect to approve of the chief, let alone carry on a love affair with the lovable little rascal, you can thank the American Left.

It is they who picket baseball games with their pathetically small band of sign bearers. Mostly they are ignored. They are no longer even considered annoying. Their point, that naming a baseball team after a group of Native Americans, is shared by a few, but as Winston Churchill would have said, only a very few.

But what, you ask, does all of this have to do with Charlie Barnet? Well, in my youth, when the college football teams at Stanford and Miami (O.) had not yet succumbed to PC and bore nicknames that honored American Indians, The Mad Mab, as Barnet was known, recorded song after song with Indian names.

No one cared. No one complained. No one protested.

The best known example was Barnet’s recording of “Cherokee.” It was written, as I recall, by Ray Noble. It was not intended as an insult to real Indians, any more than the naming of nearly a dozen streets in North Willoughby was meant to insult anyone or any group of people.

They were just considered to be pretty names, as “Cherokee” is a pretty song.

Anyone who knows the first thing about popular American music is familiar with the song, and can probably hum it, or even sing the first few lines of it, as I am able to do when driving alone.

But how many other Barnet recordings are you familiar with – songs that have their roots in American culture?

How about “Redskin Rumba?” You may have heard of that. How about Ogoun Badagris (the Voodoo War God?”) Betcha I got you on that one.

Then there is “Pow Wow.” We all know what a pow wow is. You may not have known it is a song in the Charlie Barnet portfolio.

You may not be familiar with “Comanche War Dance.” That’s because you were not with me in the car the other day when I was playing it.

Others on the CD are “By the Waters of Minnetonka” and “Iroquois.”

We are also treated to “Indian Love Call” (also recorded by Artie Shaw with a well-known vocal by Tony Pastor), “Indian Summer,” recorded by many bands and vocalists and especially by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, and “Wahoo’s Lament.”

That one was new to me.

We also hear “Seminole,” “Redskin Mambo,” “From the Land of the Sky Waters” and “Pale Moon,” which may or may not be a reference to anything Indian in nature.

Now, if it were “Pale Face,” that would be a different story. That is an old Bob Hope movie, which might be a funny film depending on your sense of humor.

The lady of the house and I don’t think he is all that funny. That is why we stopped watching “Road to Zanzibar” after about 15 minutes. But I digress.

My point is, none of these songs, nor team nicknames, is intended to be insulting, any more than Chief
Wahoo expresses anything other than the love of Cleveland baseball fans.

Nor was Betty Hutton intending to insult anyone when she sang, “Send your Injun Chief and his tomahawk back to Little Rain in the Face.” She was just having fun – at nobody’s expense.

Please remember what I told you at the beginning – the only ones who take up the cause of Political Correctness on behalf of Native Americans are those of the American Left and a handful of actual Indians who are being exploited by the Left.

So if you disagree, don’t bother contacting me. I already know who you are. You are from the Left, now known as Progressives, and I have heard your arguments before. They are getting old.
Remember, Charlie Barnet never meant to hurt or insult anyone. And neither did I.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Can't even give this boat away

I’ve been thinking about writing a column about the joys of owning a boat.

I’ve been thinking about it for 50 years. I have concluded that there aren’t any.

It’s not that I don’t come from a family of sailors who would make Popeye look like a wimp. Perish the thought.

My father always thought, for some reason, that it was important to own a boat. But not one with a motor.

Oh no. That was not for him. It had to be driven by the wind.

He had two sailboats that I recall. One was called “Puffin” and the other was “Saturn.” It was the latter, a steel-hulled boat, that almost got an entire family killed – our family!

Many years ago we went sailing on a peaceful – or so we thought – Sunday afternoon on serene Lake Erie, when suddenly a terrible storm came up.

It rained so hard we couldn’t see where we were going. That big wooden thing that holds the bottom of the mast swung around so violently that it knocked my mother’s watch right off her wrist. It is still at the bottom of the lake.

We had no idea where were headed. It was like flying blind – except we were sailing. Somehow my father got us back to the Chagrin River. I took my two little girls ashore and kissed the ground. True story.

My mom and dad used to take the boat on Saturday night to McGarvey’s on the Grand River for dinner.

When the wind was blowing real good it took them about 15 minutes to get there from Eastlake and about five hours to get home. Sailboats are like that.

My brother’s experience with a boat has left him totally disgusted, frustrated and without hope. Here’s the story:

In 1951 my aunt and uncle, Wreathe and Ethel Sherman, went on vacation in Northern Michigan with their best friends, Roger and Fran Davis of the funeral home in Willoughby.

Someone asked my uncle if he wanted to buy a $1 raffle ticket for chance on a 16-foot Lyman boat with a trailer. Sure, he said. When they got home he got a call saying he had won the boat. They had to drive back to Michigan to get it.

My uncle loved that boat. They joined Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club and went for a boat ride every Sunday, weather permitting. But my uncle succumbed to the boating disease. Everyone who gets a boat wants a bigger one. Which he did. But he couldn’t part with the Lyman.

It remained in the family – forever.

You may think forever is a long time – and it is. Much too long.

Wreathe and Ethel never had any kids. But they had the Lyman boat. For some reason, my brother ended up with it.

Here is where the story gets really complicated. My brother took in a partner, a fellow surveyor, in the boat.

They co-owned it. The partner had a wife and three kids. The man died and the wife died. My brother now co-owned the boat with the man’s kids.

For many years, the boat never went into the water. It was stored in one side of David’s two-car garage. His pickup was in one side and the boat was in the other.

We had three cars in my family. I have a car, Mary has a car, and I had a very nice Sebring convertible which
I did not want to have sitting outside in the winter.

To make a long story short, we asked my daughter Kim and her husband, Dan, if we could park the boat, on its trailer, in their back yard.

It has been there now for four or five years.

Kim and Dan want us to get it out of there. We are willing. But we can’t.

The boat has a title. It consists of five numbers. Ohio has a new boat numbering system – 12 numbers. The title can’t be transferred unless it has 12 numbers. There is no legal way Dave can get 12 numbers. So it sits there – with five numbers.

My brother’s one remaining partner agrees: “Get rid of the boat.” Ha! He can’t sell it and he can’t even give it away. Not with five numbers. The Ohio Department of Waterways, or whatever it is called, is populated with bureaucrats. They tell him he can’t sell it and he can’t give it away unless it has 12 numbers.

This is a perfect example of the government working against decent, law-abiding citizens. Some friends have suggested we insure the boat, set fire to it and collect the insurance. This solution has a problem: You can’t get insurance without a title and you can’t get a title without 12 numbers.

There is one other small problem. It is called arson, which, as far as I know, is a felony.

I have suggested cutting the boat apart, one board at a time, and taking it out to the street, one board at a time, on trash night. This would take months, maybe years, and I know exactly what would happen.

There are scavengers who come around every night and pick through trash for “valuables.” They would re-construct every one of those boards and rebuild them into a boat.

I say, let them get the 12 numbers to get rid of it.

The boat is still sitting there. You can see it by appointment. If you want it, it’s yours – free. Let’s see you try to get the 12 numbers.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Learn about Lakeland Community College's rich history

I’d like to invite you to a free breakfast.

Now that I have your attention, let us move on. I will get back to that offer later.

Lakeland is unique among community colleges in Ohio, and as far as I know, among all two-year colleges in the country.

PHOTOS: Lakeland Community College through the years

Of the 23 such colleges in the state, 22 of them were chartered by a vote of the county commissioners. Only Lakeland was chartered by a vote of the citizens.

There must be a reason. If you are not already aware of it, I will share it with you.

Back in the middle 1960s, there was a gentleman by the name of Erwin Maus III who was editor of The
News-Herald. His friends called him “Little Erv” because his father, Erwin Maus Jr., was the general manager of the paper, and he was known as “Big Erv.”

They were both short in stature, but that doesn’t matter in the context of what I am about to tell you.

Little Erv was very aware of what was going in Lorain County because our company also owns the newspaper there – now known as The Morning Journal.

Erv knew a lot about Lorain County Community College, which was already in existence, and he insisted that a similar institution would be good for Lake County.

He not only insisted on it. He practically demanded it. He traipsed the county, from Wickliffe to Madison and every place in between, telling anyone who would listen that Lake County should have its own community college similar to Lorain’s.

He spoke at chambers of commerce, service clubs and to anyone who would listen. He was most persuasive.

The entire story is too long to retell in a few paragraphs, but the word finally got to the county commissioners. Don’t forget, county commissioners had chartered every other such college in the state.

One of our three commissioners moved to charter a college. The motion was never seconded.

My recollection is that it was Howard Beebe who offered the motion to start the college. I am certain the two who opposed it were Jack Hadden and Bob Fulton.

(I ran into Fulton a few years ago and asked him what he had in mind, opposing the formation of a college here. His reply was that Lakeland should never have been built, that what was really needed was a branch campus of Ohio State. I told him in rather precise terms and somewhat colorful language what I thought of that idea. I dismissed it as nutty. But I digress.)

Well, after the two commissioners shot down the idea, a number of good citizens took the matter into their own hands. The negativism of two elected officials was not about to stop them in pursuit of what they believed was a great idea.

I knew many people who worked hard in the trenches to bring a community college here. Nobody worked harder than the League of Women Voters. There were, in fact, four such leagues in the county at the time. I don’t know the mechanics of how all this worked out, but the league members armed themselves with petitions and accumulated some 4,000-plus names.

Good things happened. The question found its way to the ballot and passed — barely. So did a subsequent question to help finance the college — barely.

Some unexpected opposition surfaced, which made the vote close. But the college was chartered in 1967. It is now a bustling institution with an enrollment approaching 10,000, and the wonder now is how anyone could have not been 100 percent behind it.

Many beloved names are attached to the startup of Lakeland, among them, Art Holden, Lillian Luthanen Robinson, Nel Speros, Ruth Densmore and others too numerous to mention.

But let’s get back to that breakfast offer. It will be at 9 a.m. May 15 in the Holden University Center on
Route 306 across from the Lakeland campus. It will not be fancy — a cup of coffee or tea and perhaps a bagel or a sweet roll.

I will be conducting an hour-long interview with three or four ladies from the league who worked in connection with the petition drive. It will be recorded for showing on Lakeland’s TV channel. The audience will be composed of people like yourself. We will allow time at the end for questions.

My main liaison with the league is Gale Bromelmeier, its treasurer. I couldn’t do it without her.

I am hoping to have with me at the interview table Joyce Grady, Clara Maurus, Barbara Vinson and Ellen Chamberlain. I hope it all works out.

Space is limited, so if you’d like to be there, don’t wait to call. The number is 440-525-7419. The deadline is May 8.

We will learn a lot of Lakeland history on May 15. Let’s learn it together.