The Best of Marj
Favorite Third and Main Columns 1962

THE BEST OF MARJ

 

Favorite "Third and Main" Columns

by

MARJ HEYDUCK

 

Art and Calligraphy by William J. Leyes

1 962

Dayton Journal Herald

Dayton Ohio

Copyright 1962 by Dayton Newspapers, Inc.



CONTENTS

Preface

Chapter l-"A Bruised Red Sky Over Waikiki"

Chapter 2-"When in Rome"

Chapter 3-"Kid Heyduck Rides Again"

Chapter 4-"Mother's Day-and Christmas"

Chapter 5-"That Heel in the Grate.”

Chapter 6-"My Friend Buff"

Chapter 7-"Favorite Places"

Chapter 8-"Storm at Sea"

Chapter 9-"Thanksgiving”

A Sketch of the Author

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

 

To MY DESK one day last spring there came a carbon copy of a note the editor, Glenn Thompson, had sent to Wayne Jerdon, the promotion director.

The note read: "Wayne - Would you be good enough to investigate the possibility of our putting together a little book entitled something like 'The Best of Marj'. .. "

I never got to the end of that note.

My heart began to pound and my ears to ring. The "possibility of putting together a little book" was heady enough to contemplate. But what really had me reeling was the reference to the "best of Marj."

One minute before the memo arrived, I could have listed enough "best columns" to fill anybody's five-foot-shelf. One minute after-and I was positive there wasn't one single sentence in the last 18 years of columning that would be worth putting between permanent paperback covers.

The agony was heart-rending. Here the top boss was offering the opportunity of a lifetime-and, instead of soaring with joy, I was lead-footed with personal doubts.

My friends had to take over. The columns reprinted here represent samples of what they liked best.

After checking over their selections, I find they're the ones I like best, too.

 

MARJ HEYDUCK

August 1, 1962

 

“A Bruised Red Sky Over Waikiki

 

A FEW HOURS before my plane was scheduled to take off from Honolulu where I'd spent 10 days of my 1962 vacation, the "go" signal was given for the testing of a hydrogen bomb over Johnston island in the Pacific Ocean.

            At 11 p.m. the bomb exploded 400 miles high in the air and, 800 miles away, on Waikiki beach the soft night was instantly changed to harsh day.

            The sight was a memorable one. Even as the dark red stained the cloudy sky, I automatically picked up notebook and pencil and wrote quickly, stopping neither to grope for words nor for their spelling.

            The unearthly light faded-and my pencil was still. I was filled with a sense of horror that lingered long after the six-minute burst of light over the Hawaiian islands.

Then, suddenly, a sense born of long years of training in newspapering pierced my meditations. What time was it in Dayton now? When would the paper go to press? Did I have time to make the deadline with a personal account of the nuclear test as seen in Honolulu? Would the paper think such a story worth the cable costs?

I decided to cable a query to the assistant managing editor, R. Marshall Stross, directed both to the office and to his home so as not to miss him should my time calculations be wrong:

"Have 350 words description nuclear test seen at Honolulu. Wire instructions immediately. Leaving noon here for San Francisco."

As I snapped the lock on my suitcase after having paid my hotel bill, the reply cable arrived: "Will take 350 up 600 test description. Thanks."

Moving somewhat like a character in a comedy film in which the action is speeded up, I raced around the Moano hotel lobby checking cable connections with the mainland-some trans-Pacific communications had been temporarily blacked out by the nuclear test-borrowing a typewriter (with green ink!) from a tourist-tour desk in the lobby, running the copy to the cable desk ... and then running out to catch the limousine for the Honolulu airport.

Meanwhile, back at The Journal Herald office, the other half of the episode was unfolding. Glenn Thompson, editor, had just directed his secretary, Dorothea White, to check my Honolulu address and to phone Stross to come into his office immediately-purpose: to discuss cabling Marj to send a story on the nuclear blast.

At this instant, Stross walked into Thompson's office bearing the cabled query from Honolulu. Better luck than this is rare but most ego-satisfying for a reporter.

Here's the story as it appeared on the front page of The Journal Herald July 10:

HONOLULU-The moon was a pale slice of white melon in the Hawaiian sky at 11 p.m. Sunday.

Rain a few hours earlier had forced the traditional Sunday night luau, held on the beach at Waikiki, to be taken indoors at the Royal Hawaiian hotel.

Clouds still blocked out the stars. Band music from the beach hotels blended with the sound of the surf and the sound of native drums from a Polynesian festival. The red and green lights of a jet winked at the moon.

Then it happened.

A sudden burst of white light filled all corners of Waikiki beach and outlined Diamond Head like a black ghost.

The flaming torches that make the beach at Waikiki a romantic, glamorous spot after dark flickered like kitchen matches stuck in the sand.

In the second it takes your heart to pound and your breath to catch in your throat, the unearthly white light flared up and out, leaving a greenish glow behind.

Then the clouds burned a deep, dark red.

Not the red of a rose, nor the red of a traffic light. This was the painful dark red of a bruise under the skin.

The small piece of white moon floated in blood red clouds over Hawaii, 800 miles from Johnston island, site of nuclear testing.

The drums and music quieted momentarily. People stood up on the beach and stared upwards. The whole bruised red sky looked like a still life by a wretched painter.

The red smears covered the night sky over Pearl Harbor where the hulk of the Arizona-with a thousand and more men-lies deep in the water, over Hickam field where the buildings are pock-marked with shrapnel, over the ukuleles and the flower leis of the tired tourist of Waikiki.

It seemed as if that moment would never end. Your heart beat out the seconds with agonizing slowness. You wanted to cry out, stop it, stop it.

Then the dark red color drained away. In a half dozen more heartbeats, it was gone.

The sky darkened. The fourth-quarter moon glowed in a white mist and then disappeared. Another twinkling jet took off from Honolulu airport. Somebody on the beach struck a few tentative chords on a ukulele.

 

“When In Rome…”

 

ONE OF THE most interesting assignments I ever had put me in Rome, Italy, during the Olympic Games in the summer of 1960.

I can't speak Italian, or understand more than a word or two if you don't talk too fast and all Italians do. I'm not what you could call a sportsbuff just because I've covered an opening game of the Cincinnati Reds or spent seven years doing tongue-in-cheek coverage of weekly wrestling matches.

Besides that, I didn't have the proper credentials. Let's be accurate-I didn't have ANY credentials.

So I went to the Olympic Games anyway and wrote about what happened!

This is the way the Roman stadium looked to me on the day of the opening ceremonies:

ROME-The gray-whiskered Oriental, in the starched tan cotton kimono with the blue cotton culottes tied around his waist like an apron, solemnly stood up in his seat midway in the enormous Olympic stadium. He adjusted his American felt hat. From his wide sleeves, he removed a white paper fan. Slowly he opened the fan with its bright red sun in the center. Slowly he waved the fan, back and forth, back and forth.

Dotted here and there around the entire stadium came answering waves of Japanese fans, with one large Japanese Rag suddenly blooming near the vast enclosure where thousands of humans stood shoulder to shoulder, belly to backbone, unable to buy seats in the sun-scorched tiers.

The kimonoed Japanese then folded his fan, tucked it into his sleeve again, searched the other sleeve, brought up a hundred lira coin which he traded for a Coca-Cola in a paper cup, and sat down to await the trumpets heralding the opening ceremony of the Giochi Della XVII Olimpiade, Roma MCMLX.

Next to him a bare brown Italian in sandals, shorts and straw hat, surveyed the green velvet infield with the red clay tracks through heavy binoculars. Then came a chubby, black-gowned priest who removed his wide-brimmed black hat to peer through his glasses tagged "Deutchland." Two voluble, sweating women, who gargled a mixture of English, Italian and German dialects, jumped up every minute or so to shout at other voluble, sweating people in the crush of hot humans who everywhere overflowed the Roman amphitheater.

 

*

Next to a Britisher, in a tweed jacket with proper tie and moustache,

who kept mopping his brow with a folded handkerchief, crouched sariwrapped Indian women eating ice cream cones. An Italian fashion model disdainfully picked her way up the stadium steps, around the whitegloved fully uniformed police. A stiff copper necklace was tight around her throat and, on her feet, mere soles held on by toe-rings.

A little crippled boy, carried in by a solicitous Hawaiian-shirred man, was perched on a cement railing where his white sailor cap with "U, S. Constitution" stood out among the constantly shifting field of straw hats, berets, turbans, military caps, bright scarves and paper eyeshades advertising Italy's soft drink.

A Siamese woman, in a transparent pink nylon jacket over a green flowered sari, raised a fancy little umbrella (straight out of 'The King and I") and an American in a baseball cap nudged his companion, miserably hunched in his shadow trying to escape the searing blast of glaring sunshine, to give a look.

In the midst of these colorful creatures from every corner of the world, multiplied thousands of times over in the stadium where the Olympic torch once again kindled a flame to burn continuously until Sept. 11, sat a native Oaytonian with a 100-lira Coke in her hand and a 100-lira (16 cents American) straw hat on her head.

The souvenir hat vendors, selling the straw hats from stacks piled six feet high in farm carts by the bridge over the Tiber, were sold out an hour before the opening ceremony began. The artificial orange drinks, lifted from tubs of sawdust and ice balanced on motorbikes, were as quickly sold out to the thirsty people who trudged a half-mile from the traffic barricades to the park of trees and grass surrounding the stadium.

 

*

People withour tickets milled around the gates making people with tickets run an obstacle course to reach the coolness of the steps beneath the concrete. The comfort was momentary. Once within the open-air bowl, the sweating crush of human flesh in oven-heat overlaid with stereophonic sound and myriad colors created a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

While helicopters flapped overhead, swooping very low so a cameraman could get close-ups, an unexpected bit of daring captivated the crowd. From the stands jumped a young man, in trunks, who loped at an even trot around the clay track making the complete circle. As he dived back into the stands, the crowds realized he was a nobody becoming a somebody-the man who raced ahead of the champions at the 1960 Olympics. They cheered lustily-and then booed the two officials who jogged across the field after the culprit.

Hearts lifted-and applause greeted-the parade of athletes, alphabetically by countries marching behind their national flags. It was a thrilling sight. The 50-star American flag waved at the head of the United States squad and all Americans cheered. Listed according to the Italian alphabet as "Srati Uniti D'Arnerica," this group marched between "Spagna" (Spain) and "Sudan."

The guns roared, the doves flew, the bells rang-and circling all the green, green hills of Rome.

 

*

Rome, the Eternal City, is many things to many people it is the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican ... or the coliseum by moonlight it is the sidewalk cafes, the fountains, the bargains for tourists, and the American Bar on the Via Veneto ...

Rome at night shows still another side ... romantic and hauntingly sad. This is the Rome I saw on a hot summer's night from a roof garden. restaurant in the heart of the city:

ROME - It is 9 p.m. - the hour to dine. (In Ohio, it is 4 p.m. – but Ohio is 10 air hours away from this ancient city where there's a fountain in every square, and a square around every corner.)

On a roof that overlooks a square with a splashing fountain centered by a giant Triton blowing water from a conch shell, a garden restaurant glows in the dusk that holds back the dark ... pink tables and flowers, attentive waiters and rolling carts of wines, salads and sweets beneath the canopy of night ...

Looking down over the square where pedestrians stroll, and wheeled traffic buzzes around making its own rules, the panorama is like a toy with moving miniatures. Like spokes from the hub, the streets leading off from the square are strung in rhinestone lights with only a few neon rubies and emeralds.

The sky turns from a deep blue overhead with a thin sliver of moon, to a rosy hue at the horizon. As the dark deepens, the outline of St. Peter's dome is black against the sky. Somewhere off to the right, lights are turned on in a penthouse terrace making it appear to hang suspended, a bauble on a black velvet bosom.

The waiter bows ... and the consommé is sprinkled with cheese over thin, thin strips of vegetables ... the fettuccine is mouth-watering, those tender noodles dripping with melted butter and cheese ... the baked tomatoes stuffed with rice the eggplant ... the prosciutto melon with a transparent slice of ham the waiter bows ... the wine pours ... this is but the beginning of dining ...

 

*

Somewhere off to the left, in the soft dark of night, a woman opens the shutters on the window of a tile-roofed house of ancient days, across the way from the less old air-conditioned building with the five-piece orchestra playing softly on the roof garden. Silhouetted there-a dim light behind her-she looks across roofs with broken tiles and stubby chimneys to the well-fed, monied people sampling rich foods at the pink tables.

Arms outflung on the shutters, she looks a long moment. Then she reels in a clothesline and plucks from it various garments and diapers. The shutters are pulled tight now, darkening another window in the sky.

The moon sliver moves over and downward. Down in the square people are pointing far upwards, seeking with their fingers the aluminum ball rotating the earth. The waiter bows ... an assortment of jellied fishes rolls by ... the music is a sad song ...

The eyes seek out a faraway oasis of light over the black jumble of rooftops-the "fountain of the three coins" where one must remember to toss a few lira--or even a dime-to insure one's return to the Eternal City.

The petti tacchino has a heavenly taste-one forgets that it can be duplicated at home with turkey breasts breaded and cooked in butter ... the waiter bows, remembering the Americana habit of drinking the iced water with meals ... he whispers to one of the three bus-boys who hover attentively near him for his every command that the preparation for Americana coffee must be begun-THIS table will not want the heavy Italian brew ...

 

*

In one corner of the roof garden, an Italian beauty-so young with eyes fashionably outlined in black which appear to have a magic effect on her romantic companion-answers his pleadings with her mouth full of fettuccine, a noodle dangling for a long while from her lips. He continues to plead. She shakes her head again and again, then nods quickly. He calls the waiter and says in English: 'The lady will have the eggplant."

Two lady tourists-are they American or English? They have the dominant air of teachers-hesitate at the entrance. They're wearing their mussed "best dresses" which have been in the suitcase too long, they've changed their shoes (the guidebooks recommend changing the shoes) and they're carrying their bulging travel handbags. The head waiter bows as if they were fairy princesses alighting from their coach. He seats them beneath a garden umbrella where they can see the view and the desserts at the same time. The ladies brighten and whisper delightedly across the table to each other.

The music soothes ... the sliver of moon darkens as it begins to slip away behind black masses of hills ...

It's the dinner hour in Rome, from a roof garden.

 

“Kid Heyduck Rides Again.”

 

            “Kid Heyduck” is now a legend.

            "One man in his time plays many parts"-and that includes lady reporters, too!

When certain friends got the word that a collection of columns might be in the works, they insisted, "You simply MUST include some of those wrestling stories by Kid Heyduck ... "

But how to choose one from among seven years' worth-because that's how long "Kid Heyduck" wrote for the sports pages with one hand while the other hand wrote properly sedate accounts of the mundane world.

It would take hours to tell all those funny stories about the lady rassIers. I was in at the beginning of their participation in this rowdy activity ... and spent many hours in their dressing rooms watching them prepare for combat.

Annie, ex-wife of Elmer, the hillbilly wrestler, was one of the first women to climb through the ropes. She wore her hair skinned back, black bloomers, a sweat shirt and men's gym shoes-and she looked like nothin' going nowhere to happen.

For purposes of whipping up some business for an annual charity match, the sports editor told me to get Annie glamorized. She got henna on her hair and stuffed herself into a skin-tight, baby-blue satin bathing suit and she sure got the whistles and cat-calls then when she entered the ring.

I was embarrassed to tears to think I'd placed a friend in the position of being booed and yelled at so publicly. Annie didn't see it that way at all. She loved it. She believed me to be the greatest friend a rassler ever had and she let everybody within earshot of her booming voice in on her opinion.

I tell you when you've got a lady rassler for a friend, you don't need any enemies!

The day Annie and four other lady rasslers went to lunch with me at Rike's "tea-room" is a day I shall never forget. In those days, Rike's "tearoom" with an organist, soft lights, sophisticated fashion modeling and fancy menus was the most elegant place to entertain women friends at luncheon.

Annie and her gang met me at the office and we walked down the street at high noon-six abreast-and it's a good thing Dayton has wide downtown sidewalks. Everybody else stepped aside to let us go by and they turned to watch the parade. Annie loved the attention. "Marj," she said, in a voice that could be heard a half-block away, as she draped her arm across my shoulder, "if'n you see anybody you don't like, lemme know!"

Fortunately I liked everybody I saw and, believe me, I saw everybody I knew.

Our table was at the back of the tea-room, necessitating a long walk from the entrance. People stopped eating, they stopped talking, they just looked as we went by. I was a little nettled by this rime, wondering why people had to stare so-and then I glanced over Annie and her gang again, and I knew why.

All the girls were hefty, sturdy types, walking flat-footed and swinging their arms as if on a hike. But it was Annie who starred. Her hair was a brilliant orange. Her dress was a skin-tight purple linen, sleeveless to show her tattoos!

The girls ate well. They had the soup luncheon. Then the salad luncheon. And three desserts each. Plus glasses of milk-and the rolls disappeared like magic.

They also eyed the models who, in those days, were skinny, matchstick types in rhe popular mode to show off the dresses not the girl inside.

Annie was the overseer of her group having already cautioned them:

"Don't nobody embarriss Marj--or I'll give 'em an Old Country!" with chopping gestures. So she felt herself appointed to comment on the styles.

One skinny little thing sidled by, sighing in a skinny little voice about the fabric, the color, the style of her frock. Annie listened, nodded, and waited until the model had walked fully 20 feet away. Then she crooked a finger at her and beckoned. The model was hypnotized. She came on a straight line directly to Annie and stood by the table.

Annie fingered the fabric of her skirt, nodded again and then, as she whacked her a friendly whack on her fanny, said, "Pretty good goods, honey, but you need a little more meat on them bones!"

That friendly whack sent the model sailing up the aisle between the tea-tables as if she were shot out of a gun. I doubt that her feet hit the carpet once in every four steps.

And then we hit the peak as far as I was concerned. The waitress whispered in my ear, "I have to ask you, Marj, because those women are looking at me."

"Go ahead and ask," I invited.

"Well," she said, "see those two little old ladies sitting over there at the table next to the wall?"

I looked. There they were with their hats on straight, sitting there with their gloves on, ready to go-but obviously waiting for the answer to the question they had sent the waitress over to ask.

"Yes .. "

"They want to know, . " She hesitated. “Want to know what?"

She grinned. "They want to know which one of the women at this table ISN'T a wrestler!"

__________

 

"KID HEYDUCK," however, DID ride once again ....

This is the column that appeared June 3, 1960:

TEN YEARS is a long time. , .

It's been almost 10 years since last I covered the wrestling matches, writing regularly in the sports pages of the old Dayton Herald under the by-line of Kid Heyduck.

And it was back in 1944 when I saw my first professional wrestling match on assignment from Al Clark, a sports editor playing a Joke on a female cub reporter who didn't know a hammerlock from a full nelson.

The real sports writers snickered as AI, thinking I was out of earshot, described with gestures how a "dumb woman" would report the dramatically 'humorous and basically physical sport of hand-to-hand combat.

"It'll read like a pink tea," the editor's satellites agreed with male guffaws.

OK, said Marj to herself, hitching up her suspenders-if THAT's what they think will happen, THAT's what they're gonna get! So I went to those matches, and I didn't know a referee from a timekeeper, but I asked questions-and the story I put on the sports editor's desk the next morning is still engraved, word for word, in my memory.

Using the age-old technique of the wedding story, it went like this:

"At half after eight o'clock in the wooded glen of Forest Park, Frankie Talaber and Speed LaRance were united in wrestling with Referee Don DeWitt officiating at the ceremony ... "

I described what the boys wore ("Speed wore long red drawers patched on one knee") and ended with these traditional phrases: "The boys will be at home to their friends after a short convalescence."

I figured this would serve them right, those sports guys making fun of a cub!

AI Clark printed that story in the next edition, penciling across the copy that first "Kid Heyduck," putting still another reverse twist on our "inside" joke.

The next week the matches came and went, but I didn't. Then phones rang in the sports department. "Hey," said men readers, "what was the matter with Kid Heyduck last night! Didn't he like them matches???"

The NEXT week, AI Clark pushed his hat to the back of his bald head, took a long swig of Irish coffee from the half-pint cream bottle on his desk, and said with great show of boredom, "Look, I know you can't do it again and YOU know you can't do it again but the READERS don't know you can't do it again so go to the matches tonight, bring back a damn good story and keep it short!"

So began a seven-year hitch in foreign fields ...

 

*

Couple of weeks ago, I heard that three Greenville men were going to

back a series of four professional wrestling matches at the Darke county fairgrounds.

I glanced at the first card. Frankie Talaber matched with Magnificent Maurice! HIM I didn't know from Ballyache-but Frankie! HE was on the very first show I ever covered. This was too good to miss, especially since the shows were only six miles up the road from my house ...

That's how, 10 years later, I sat at wrestling ringside again Wednesday night-and noted how very much alike, and yet how very different is wrestling in Anno Domini 1960.

The ring's still square, the roars spontaneous, and the dress casual. In fact, most of the spectators looked as if they'd just come home to supper after a hard day's work, washed up and come right on over to the matches.

Bill Sink, excited because it was the first time he'd ever announced a wrestling bout, forgot the bell-so after a hasty consultation, somebody crawled under the ring, retrieved a mallet and Bill socked the iron ringpost with a hefty swing. There was a dead THUNK! And the matches were on ...

*

Two lady rasslers, obviously 'way below the standards set by the first women's champion, Mildred Burke, pushed each other around to cheers and boos. Elaine Ellis, a bottle-blond wearing a white suit with red bows and silver shoes, got her hair mussed up by Mary Hillis, a pony-tailed female in a tucked white suit that hasn't been really white since it was new.

They fooled around enough with full nelsons, baby bouncers and Boston crabs to warm up the crowd for Johnny Barend, villainous in top hat, superman cape and cane, who wrestled Leon Graham, so earnest you just KNEW he was the hero.

While this tomfoolery was going on, I slipped away to talk with Frankie Talaber who has wrestled the calendar and won. He still looks the same.

What's been happening to wrestling in the last 10 years, Frankie? "Rock 'n' roll, Marj. Razzle-dazzle. Gimmicks." He shook his head.

"The audience is tuned up for that razzle-dazzle these days-it's not like it used to be when we could get a good hold and keep it a while. One thing, though-the boys are in better shape now. They HAVE to be, to go an hour of razzle-dazzle!"

Another friend from the "old days" joined us then, lighting his pipe, as always: Mike McGee, wrestler turned referee. "You wrote the story of my wedding, Marj, in 1945, remember?" said Mike. "My wife says it's the first time she ever got as much space as I did in the papers."

Mike, didn't you wrestle as Pat McGee, too?

"Only in Dayton. It was an error in the billing one night and we just stuck with it."

In a few minutes we all went back to work. Mike kept the peace between Maurice and Talaber for the space of three falls of razzle-dazzle, underlined by basic wrestling overlooked by the crowd.

It was a pleasure to watch a pro like Talaber at work. When he suffers, he has no equal. He does it with a finesse and skill bred of experience and the knowledge of crowd psychology.

Maurice took the first fall in four minutes, body press ... Frankie the second in five, another press ... audience participation in both sets.

Frankie then shook Magnificent Maurice with a magnificent maneuver ending in a shoulder stand that won him fall and match.

Earlier, Maurice had warmed up by strutting back and forth in the coliseum basement as Talaber, McGee and Marj talked. Every so often, he'd shoulder his way into our little group, beat his bare chest and state, "Look a ME! Don't you think I'm the sexiest thing you ever saw?"

I looked. No, I answered-and turned back to the boys in time to catch remnants of grins hasily erased.

When we, old friends, parted-Mike and Frankie remained below and I went up the stairs to the arena. Darke county deputy sheriffs guarded the portal against the horde of enthusiastic youngsters with autograph books.

As Deputy Sheriff Bob Howard parted the waves for me, a youngster asked another: "Hey, who's that?"

'That's his mother," said the child-which will explain to strangers why I came up out of the basement laughing my fool head off!

Ten years IS a long time. It seems like yesterday-but it wasn't…

 

“Mother’s Day… Christmas”

 

COLUMNISTS who have been in the business more than a few calendar years face the annual mentions of traditional observances. It isn't enough to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Mother's Day" at the proper times. The columnist feels obligated to produce more-and puts in weary hours at the typewriter trying to avoid cliches.

Every once in a while, however, the thoughts appear unbidden and then the columns fairly write themselves. Here are two that did just that:

TOMORROW'S Mother's Day - and I ought to say something nice about my mother.

I can, you know. But I hesitate to rhapsodize because she'd just as soon whop me a good one with her book, or the tea towel, or the back of a floured hand. She's been known to do that if she considers that I've gotten out of line.

Once when I was a sassy teenager, she threw a bar of soap that landed on the side of my head and I went to the school-dance with a black eye.

In those days, "being sassy" was about the most disobedient thing a child could be to her parents. Later, the same thing was known as "talking back" and then it became "honest discussion in a parent-child relationship." Not in OUR family, it wasn't called "honest discussion." The word was "sassy" and that's what I was if I argued about wanting to stay up later, or didn't want to run an errand when Mother wanted it run. And disobedience was corrected right then and there, and never waited until father got home.

For every time my mother said no, she said yes three times. But I doubt that she'd appreciate knowing now that I caught on to her years ago. She doesn't fool me any more with her scow lings and scoldings.

"I can take a hint!" she storms, sending father over to my house with a bowl of browned beef stew after reading a recent column in which I mentioned I was hungry for it. If you didn't know that woman, you'd think she'd had to stop something important, change her whole program, schedule and menu for the day and run right out to the kitchen to take care of an unhappy chore. If you DO know that woman, you KNOW she stopped whatever she was doing, changed her whole menu and DID run right out to the kitchen because she wanted to ... and if it isn't browned beef stew, it's homemade bread or strawberry jam or homemade applebutter or that pimiento cheese that father can't tell from her thousand island dressing!

 

*

When I insisted upon harvesting my own crop of leaf lettuce in my own garden that I had planted with my own hands the summer I was nine, mother let me trot down to Buvinger's grocery and sell my fresh leaf lettuce in a businesslike, cash transaction. Then she went down to Buvinger's and bought leaf lettuce for our supper that night.

When I was heartbroken because somebody was having a birthday party and everybody except me was invited, mother didn't have any comment to make either way about the situation. But she didn't let me sit on the front porch swing eating my heart out, either, when all the little girls in their party dresses waltzed down the street swinging their tissue-wrapped presents.

Father just happened to come home that noon with two tickets to the Lyric for that very Saturday afternoon's matinee-and, since he had to work, I'D have to go with my mother to see "Abie's Irish Rose"!

Today, I can't even remember who gave the party-but I'll NEVER forget my first vision of live theater and how mother and I shook with laughter at those comic accents, and wept real tears in the sad parts.

When my heart was about to be broken at another, later time-(I was a college freshman and the man of my dreams couldn't see me for looking) , mother said there was nothing a lady could do if a young man did not appear to be interested in her.

"But," said mother, dusting powdered sugar over a layer of fragrantsmelling "tea cake" hot from the oven (a favorite supper dessert she made for father), "when you come home from school at Thanksgiving, you MAY give a party. You can roll back the rugs in the living room and use the victrola, and I'll make a big bowl of punch, and you may invite HIM to be your partner. Beyond that, Sister," she said, sternly, "there is NOTHING a lady can do!"

(PS: I married that partner, a few years later, in that same living room. This time, besides the punch, mother made homemade ice cream and cake!)

 

*

This year-as in every other year and before every other gift exchanging-we went through the same ritual.

What would you like for Mother's Day? I asked. "Nothing, Sister," said mother.

I know. Now. What would you like for Mother's Day?

"Honestly, Sister, there isn't a thing I can think of. That nice stole you got me in London-I don't need any more of those, and don't get me any gloves-I've got the black ones you got in Rome, and the white kid ones are just like new ... "

You can think of something ...

"No, there isn't a THING. Honestly. Is there, Dad? Tell her there isn't a thing I need this year."

"Don't get ME into this," muttered father, checking his fishing line

at the workbench in the garage.

"No, Sister, not a thing," said mother with emphasis. Summer pocketbook?

"No."

Veil? Stockings? Nightgown?

"No, Sister. I can't think of a thing. Not a thing."

OK, then, I said, hooking the gate and getting into my car. Just as I started to pull away, Mother said,

"Well, if you WANT to, Sister, there ought to be four red geraniums in the windowbox, and one in each of grandma's urns ... "

OK, I nodded, starting up the road.

"And," mother yelled as I drove out of sight, "when you call Bowers, have Ray put in 12 double petunias and none of that baby's breath, it always gets caught in your father's lawnmower!"

 

Tomorrow's Mother's Day-and I guess I ought to write some kind of a tribute. But, heck, I know what SHE'D do-she'd throw the cupcake pan at me and make another dent in the pantry door like the last time ...

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

To all the nice people in this world ...

Like the neighbor dad and his sons who arrived unexpectedly before 7 the morning of a big snow-appearing like magic in my yard with snow scoops and shovels and happily digging my car and me out of the drifts. "Merry Christmas," they called out, breathing clouds of mist, engulfing a laborious chore with the rich gift of sharing ...

And the man who rode a tractor at midnight to clear my driveway ... in fact, ALL the men who left their warm homes to clear highways and byways with salt and plow, and the women who fortified those men with hot coffee and cheery words when they returned.

To the telephone operators who are so patient and the mailmen so cheerful ... and the radio voices so calm and helpful when traffic is delayed or power blacks out ...

To the waitresses who serve coffee in the cup and not in the saucer ... the service station men who uncomplainingly clean windshields and unclog windshield wipers and scrape snow off the back window even when the tank is full and I haven't spent a cent with them on this particular stop ...

To the fuel-oil man who fills the tank before I remember to call ... to the roofers who swung into action on the only fair, warm days of recent memory (even though it meant working on a Saturday!) so I'd be snug and dry even with a roof-full of snow ... to the carpenter who understood my feminine directions and created a chopping block that fits perfectly into one of my double sinks and doesn't slip under any carving situation ... and to the men who dreamed up those spectacular, mirrored, glass-fronted ovens that put fun and excitement back into cooking ...

To all the people who write things you want to read and savor again, from Henry Van Dyke and his "Other Wise Man" to the strangers who add a few lines of thanks in their holiday greetings ... to the motorists who don't splash gutter water on pedestrians ... to the men who keep my typewriters working. " to the people standing in line at the bank the other day who didn't shriek out loud when the teller interrupted her regular work to exchange my old bills for new ... to the genius who invented indoor plumbing ...

 

*

Merry Christmas ...

To all who smile when their hearts are heavy ... to those who forgive my trespasses more than I remember to forgive theirs ... to those who hold doors open and offer the right-of-way at crossroads and answer wrong numbers pleasantly ... to those who recognize and enjoy the nuances of daily columning that are so unsung yet so gratifying to a columnist's soul ...

To all who think Christmas is "Bah humbug" ... and to those whose feet hurt ... and especially to those facing a week of "returns" ...

To those who do so much for me, whom I can never thank publicly because that would break the spell ... and to people I never heard of in my whole life but what kind of a reason is that NOT to wish them a Merry Christmas!

 

*

Merry Christmas ...

Particularly to all who annoy me, irk, displease and irritate me because, without them to remind me how far I stray from the real meaning of life as exemplified at Christmastime, I'd grow smug and pompous -and, after a while, never be able to laugh and, without laughter, who'd want to write, nay-even to live .. .?

Merry Christmas! Or have I said that already?

 

 

“That Heel in the Grate!”

HUMOR that registers true-and humiliates no one in the telling-is much sought after by the columnist who enjoys making people laugh.

For every 50 stories I've unearthed, stories purporting to be the "funniest you ever heard," an average of 48 didn't meet the criteria of humor to laugh "with," not "at" ... the 49th was passable but contained an element that could possibly hurt someone needlessly ... and the 50th was a gem.

Readers are quick to recognize a funny story with the basic elements of true humor. If ever I doubted my own instincts, the readers' comments of approval indicated in short order that here was a funny one, no foolin'!

This story not only produced outbursts of laughter in The Journal Herald's circulation area ... but was reprinted in dozens of church publications in the United States and Canada ... in Reader's Digest it produced a sequel that has given me a sure-fire ending to any speech and, a sure sign of humor, it's a story that bubbles up again and again as a new audience grows up to hear it ...

It's the story about an incident that happened in the Hanover Presbyterian church in Hanover, Ind. At this particular church, it was the custom for the choir to sing the recessional. The choir members would leave the choir loft, singing, and march up the center aisle to the rear of the church where they'd conclude the anthem. The minister would give the benediction, the choir would sing the "Amen" and that was the end of the church service.

On this Sunday morning, the choir followed its usual routine, singing and swaying as they went up the aisle. The soprano was wearing new shoes with very slender, needle heels and as she stepped upon the grating over the hot air register, her heel caught in the grating. It wouldn't come loose. She tugged but it did no good-so she did the only thing possible under the circumstances, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and went on up the aisle, singing, leaving her shoe still stuck in the grating.

Behind her came the baritone. Peering over his hymnal, he saw what had happened and, as he got even with the shoe, he stooped down to pick it up for the soprano. The grating came with the shoe-leaving a gaping hole in the aisle.

And here came the bass, the hymnal hiding his face. He didn't see the open hot air register. Down he went!

Now this was the end of the original story which skittered like wildfire from one publication to another until, at last, I read it in Reader's Digest five months later. By this time, having passed through so many republishings, the original source had long been discarded-and, momentarily, I doubted my own creation. Then, recognizing certain key words and phrases to be peculiarly my own, I got annoyed at myself for getting caught on one of those "oldies" that pass from one person to another with never a basis in fact.

I returned to my original source, Woody Jones in Greenville, and started to lace him down proper for steering me wrong. A newspaperman himself, he knew the value of accuracy and to prove that the story had, indeed, been an original, he gave me names and addresses, all of which I checked out thoroughly-thereby turning up a sequel which, to me, was funnier than the original.

The man singing bass who had fallen into the open register in the aisle was now a minister in northern Ohio. He had been a student in the days of this choir incident, and he substantiated the details.

"OK, we've got you down in the register-now what did you do?" I asked.

"Well," he said, ruefully, "I climbed out the best I could, picked up the hymnal which had skidded under a pew and caught up with the rest of the choir. As you can imagine, there was a kind of disturbance running over the congregation. They didn't know whether to laugh or not, but most of them smiled, anyway. The singing was pretty ragged, I will admit, but we all made it to the back of the church.

"The minister, waiting back there with the choir director, had seen the whole thing, and he didn't look too upset about it. But the choir director was fit to be tied. We'd rehearsed all week for that recessional and here it was-a shambles, according to the director. He really wanted to chew us out but he settled for glaring at us and scolding us under his breath.

"Well, we settled down and when the director was satisfied, he turned to the minister and nodded. That was the minister's cue to give the benediction. And the minister forgot what he was going to say. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. You could see his mind had gone blank. Then, he said the first thing that came to him.

"He said, 'And now unto Him who will keep us from falling .. .' And he couldn't go on. He realized what he had said and he started to laugh. So did the choir. So did the congregation. And it was getting to be a happy day all around-except for the choir director. He was simply furious. His eyes blazed and smoke came out of his ears!

"He said-and loud enough for some of the congregation to hear that we were going to settle down and finish the service with dignity or he'd know the reason why. He said he was going to hold us there until we wiped the smiles off our faces if we stayed past noon.

"It was the longest minute I've ever experienced. Even the congregation quieted.

"The choir director gave the downbeat and the choir began a firm 'Amen' but before we could complete it, that 'Amen' turned into 'Ahha-ha-ha-ha-men!' …

 

 

“My Friend Buff.”

 

UNTIL one has been loved wholeheartedly and unashamed by a dog, one misses a facet of life that enriches the character of the whole ...

There was a time when cats were my favorite domestic animals. The old gray mother cats were always having kittens at one grandmother's house or the other. There were cats to purr contentedly beside you while you read, or mischievously chase wads of paper if you felt playful. Dogs were all right, of course-but they were mostly all feet and muddy, and they liked to tease cats.

And then Buff, a cocker spaniel, came into my life which was never the same from that moment on ....

We'd discussed acquiring a pet, my husband and I, and were agreed that it would have to be well-behaved, but I held out for a cat and Duck said cats were OK but he'd rather have a dog.

Since we were both away at work all day, there wasn't much point in taking on the responsibilities of an animal. So we postponed the idea until, we said, one or the other of us would be home all day and then that one would get his choice of a pet. It was generally understood that I'd be the first one to give up my job as a reporter since I was only working temporarily until the real newspapermen returned from service in World War II.

Then, unexpectedly, Duck had a foot amputation and faced a certain period of convalescence before he could be fitted with a wooden leg. An active, energetic man who loves to play tennis and golf adjusts reluctantly to an enforced leisure. I cast about for an idea that would speed the days and lighten the hours for Duck when he returned home from the hospital.

A dog! A puppy who would have to be cared for and trained properly.

Besides, it meshed with our agreement.

After much animated discussion of breeds and prices, I learned at the office that Brainard Platt, then sports editor of the old Dayton Journal, had a litter of cocker spaniels from his female dog bred to a blond champion owned by Ed Beaver. All the dogs had been sold but two males when a friend, John Thomas, drove Duck to the Platt home to see the pups.

Duck sat down on the dining room floor and let the pups play around him. One seemed just a little more everything than the other-so that's the dog who came home in Duck's arms. Cost: $35.

And we lived in a four-family apartment on Far Hills avenue that barred pets!

A kind landlord and three understanding tenants who were our neighbors voted unanimously to waive the ruling in this particular instance. And one of the neighbors, Dr. Charles Higley, a veterinarian, stepped across rhe hall and checked over this young, scared, non-housebroken pup, gave him his shots and me the instructions for his diet and exercise.

I looked at that woebegone, big-eyed handful of light brown fur who had just been encouraged to piddle on a newspaper and nor on the carpet. "Well," I sighed, "I promise I won't mistreat him and I'll rake him for his morning walks but don't ask me to love him."

He got his name when I turned around to the desk and began to read aloud the official papers that came with him. I read the names of his champion forebears, and the date of his whelping, and the color of his fur - buff.

"Say that again!" Duck said, quickly. "Read it all, in the same tone of voice."

I went through the names, the dates and the color: buff.

'That's it!" said Duck. "Every time you said the word buff, he perked up his ears and paid attention. If that's the word he responds to, that will be his name. Buff."

Buff wagged his tail with enthusiasm and my reserve went up in smoke.

The things I learned with that dog!

I was scared to death of lightning then-but when Duck said if I didn't mind, would I just as soon pretend I wasn't scared so that Buff wouldn't decide to get scared, too, because if there was one thing he didn't want, it was a dog who was scared of every little noise.

So in noisy summer thunderstorms, Buff and I would look out the window at the raging rain and when the lightning flashed, I'd pretend it was a game and I'd say, "See? Isn't this fun, Buff?"-and that pup would wag his tail to please me and the next thing you know neither one of us was ever afraid of lightning again.

And the obedience I learned at obedience school! For 10 weeks, every Monday night at the auditorium on East Fifth street behind the high school sweet shop, I learned how to heel, to stay, to come. Buff and his master knew it all in two lessons-I had to take the full course.

Sometimes when Buff wasn't with his master either at his office or in the car or at home in the little red house in the country, he'd come to work with me. He loved posing for pictures in the photographic department and, in the women's department, he'd act as messenger. I'd give him a piece of paper and say, 'Take it to Margaret Ann" and, proud as a peacock, that dog would deliver the paper directly to Margaret Ann.

Then he'd scamper right back to my side again for his pat of approval -and his tail would wag a mile a minute.

The household revolved around Buff. There was a small window cut in the bottom of the back door so he could see outside. New furniture was chosen with an eye to dog-hairs. Our schedules revolved around whether or not we would get home in time for his walk. The bedspreads were washable corduroy so that if a man and his dog wanted to take a quick nap, or indulge in rough-housing, there would be no harm done to a woman's decorating schemes.

Buff became so much a part of our lives and of 'Third and Main" that readers sent him birthday cards and Christmas cards and, if they thought the intervals between stories were too long, they'd write in asking for more Buff stories.

All of this is preliminary to the day, Aug. 3, 1956, when I had to sit down and record the following ...

My FRIEND, BUFF, is dead.

That white wisp of a tail is finally still. The rubber ball with the bell inside it lies quiet in the grass. That extra little window at the bottom of the back door is just another oddly-placed window with no brown-eyed cocker spaniel with floppy long ears waiting there with a welcome home.

And the house is very quiet, very empty.

Wrapped in one of grandma's quilts, with his favorite toys about him, the softly-furred little body was laid to rest by gentle hands in the early, early morning that he loved so well. It was one of his special times early morning with the dew still on the grass, and the squirrels boldly running across in front of him, and the birds trying tentative melodies in the fresh, promising, beginning day. Buff would step carefully about, stopping to listen, his head cocked to one side. He'd check the fence line to see that all was well, listen another motionless minute, then, satisfied at the state of his world, he would come trotting back to the door, up the steps, in the kitchen and straight to his pink bowl of milk without missing a beat.

 

*

He really wasn't my dog at all. He belonged to his master. For six years, the two were inseparable. As a puppy that first cold winter, Buff rode from house to car inside his master's zippered jacket with his head and one paw sticking outside. He slept beside his bed and when he cried little puppy cries in the night, his master's hand was there to sooth him.

Buff walked beside him, rode in the car with his head on his master's knee, learned obedience as if it were his one desire to please, and gave such unashamed devotion that it shone in his eyes.

When his master died, Buff was close, snuggling his head against his master's hand. He slept beside the empty bed, curled up on his master's wool shirt for comfort. And then, one day, as I sat looking at the lake, remembering, and maybe crying a little, a cold nose pushed into my hand. I looked down. Buff laid his muzzle on my knee, looked straight into my eyes, and accepted me for better or worse.

A dog? To some, yes. To me, a friend.

He wouldn't let me mourn or brood ... we had to play ball. He coaxed me outdoors in the snow, in the rain. I bundled up like an Eskimo and walked in zero weather because he thought it was fun. He nudged me awake to watch thunderstorms, and the lightning over the lake. He taught me how wonderful are the early morning hours for contemplation, medi tat ion and getting work done besides. He had no use for slug-a-beds so I got up early on days when I didn't have to and, once he had me stirring about with the washer washing and the drier drying and the vacuum humming, he'd curl up for a nap, HIS task accomplished.

When I felt depressed, he'd clown with his faded rubber frog, pummeling it in mock combat until it croaked in a loud bass and I had to laugh in spite of myself. How can I forget his wild skids on the linoleum, his making himself comfortable in a hot car by lying down on the cool earth of the petunias I'd just bought at a florist's-and his playing 'possum and pretending he was so sound asleep that he couldn't be budged until I said, "Let's take a walk" and then he'd bounce awake in an instant with, I swear, a sly grin ...

 

*

Buff was nine and a half, and his death untimely. What matters it now

the cause of his passing at a time when he was so eager, so happy, so loving and sweet?

There is only the echo of his bark. His milk bowl is washed and dried and laid on the shelf. When I reach out to turn off the light and then reach down to give one last tender pat to a sleepy-headed little friend stretched out beside my bed, there is only the empty carpet beneath my hand.

And the house is very quiet, very empty.

 

 

“Favorite Places”

 

EVERYBODY has a favorite place. It may be near, it may be far. But it has a special little air about it because of special and personal reasons.

When I can persuade myself to leave my very favorite spot-that small red house beside that teacup of a lake in Darke county, my favorite places are Carmel-By-The-Sea, California - and San Francisco.

Here's why:

WHY IT IS that a foggy little seacoast village like Carmel, Calif., should throw such a spell over me I cannot answer.

It has a pounding surf-bur so do other seacoast towns. The beach has an undertow, it's no good for swimming, the sand gets in your shoes and the rocky shores serve only as picture-postcard backgrounds for Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

For convenience-living, you'd hardly pick a village without street lights so that you stumble in the dark because there are no sidewalks once you get off the few main streets ... there are no house numbers so addressing a letter gets rather quaint when you tell the postman that it's the "fourth cottage from the corner with the tree that blooms with buckets of geraniums" ... there are no neon signs, no jail, no traffic lights, little to do after dark if you've seen the movie, and if you want to rent a room, sell a casserole or a motorbike, get a part-time job or ask for any kind of help, you write a little note and stick it on the village bulletin board ...

Why it is that I like this cantankerous little village that screams to high heaven when I. Magnin builds a sophisticated high-fashion shop at the top end of the main street because it is two stories high ... that prides itself on its quaint fairy tale style of architecture so that even the service stations are thatch-roofed and the motels disguised with old-world facades ... why-I cannot tell.

But it draws me with a magic that never fails. "There are getting to be too many people around," is a favorite complaint. I'm not aware of it --only of the soft, caressing fog that creeps in from the sea, washing all the glossy leaves clean, dripping a bit from the fence behind coffeetables -a fence on which local artists have hung a few pictures.

"It's getting too commercial," complains an old-timer. I smell only the wood-burning fires in the little arcade-galleries where you can sit for hours talking or listening and no one bothers you except to ask if you'd like a little more to munch or sip.

"It's too foggy and cold," complain the tourists who drive through from southern California where shorts and sleeveless blouses are standard. I revel in the suit-weather and sniff big draughts of the heady fog and do not take kindly to invitations to drive a few miles farther inland to Carmel Valley where the sun is hot and the grass brown.

I don't even question any more why I am drawn to Carmel. I just visit there when I can and come away refreshed ...

 

*

Without knowing a soul in Carmel, I made my first visit there many

years ago. I looked up the listing of hotels in the auto club's directory and asked at a San Francisco gas station for a map of California.

There were two hotels listed then in Carmel: the Pine Inn and the Cypress West. From San Francisco I telephoned the first one on the list and a kindly voice advised me the Pine Inn (a Victorian red-plush, walnut and marble-topped table inn), was completely full but why didn't I try the Cypress West just a block away, across from the Church of the Wayfarer, that "marryin'" chapel with the Biblical garden ...

"Is it a nice place?" I inquired. "I mean for a woman staying alone?" "Oh, my, yes," was the reply. "It has 30 rooms and 29 baths."

That answer right there so delighted me that I made an immediate reservation. And, through the years, I have never ceased to be tickled when I think of it. I never could figure out who went without a bath!

For several weeks I mosied around the village ... in the little shops, the library, the craft corners and tiny restaurants ... listened to the sounds of the sea, and the wind in the pines ... walked and rested, listened and looked, walked some more ... saw the old missions and the new paintings ... the absurd bits of souveniria and the sublime sunsets when the sun appears to turn into a Japanese lantern just before it dips below the horizon to shine in Japan ...

When I left then, I knew I would be back.

 

*

Upon reflection, I guess I am drawn to that foggy village by the sea not for its studied quaintness but for its air of creativity which one breathes as naturally as one feels the damp fog against the cheek. Here are gathered people who are creating because they have a compulsion to do so, H what they create is found acceptable ... if it sells and makes money - fine! But if they don't get rich, it doesn't make any difference. They must keep on experimenting in the arts and in the crafts and in the written word.

Here is the place where, if one makes Swedish pancakes, one creates only the thinnest, laciest, most delectable pancakes served the instant they're ready with the tastiest of homemade lingenberry jam ... the place where, if one designs leather gloves or carves in stone, paints in oils or water colors, polishes beach pebbles for paperweights or makes funny little dolls from kelp, one designs or carves, paints or polishes only the very best one knows how ... for a personal satisfaction in the creating, not for the cleverest tax deduction.

Here is the place where Frank Lloyd Wright's early architectural experiments that combine sea, earth and sky belong, clinging to the rocks and breasting the spray, Here is the place where Robinson Jeffers, poet, and Henry Miller, defiant prose-maker, could live and work on Big Sur.

Here is the place where sea and rock, fog and sunset and cypress lift the creative spirit out of the shell of daily existence-and give it wings.

 

__________

 

AND THEN San Francisco ...

Upon returning to visit there a few weeks ago, I knew how my little cocker spaniel, Buff, must have felt when he came back to our house after being away in the car.

Bouncing with excitement, he could scarcely wait until we had the key in the door. Then, swiftly, he'd dart all over the entire house, checking to see that all was well. He'd rush in and nose his old rubber ball from under the footstool, sending it rolling along the hearth. He didn't want to play-it was enough to know the ball was still there and available for playing. He'd make a quick turn in the bedroom to see that nobody was ,napping and would have to be roused ... he'd dash out to the porch and take a quick look-around the front yard through the glass of the door and then wheel and head for instant check-ups in the bathroom (the shower wasn't dripping!) and the office (the typewriter was still), scattering scatter rugs in his wake ...

Once he had satisfied himself that all was well in his domain, he'd park next to his pink bowl on the kitchen floor and look significantly at the refrigerator.

I know how he felt.

 

*

Once the key was in the door at San Francisco, I could scarcely wait to check around to see that everything was as it should be.

The jet, coming in non-stop from Chicago, had circled over the bay in a descending arc which unrolled the whole panorama of the waterfront in breathtaking beauty. From the Golden Gate to the Bay bridge with Alcatraz solidly in the middle ... from the long fingers of piers sticking out from shore to the freighters plodding and the sailboats perking and the white cruise ships trailing colored streamers in the shimmering waters ... everything, from that height, looked serene and normal and fantastic.

I had to run catch a cable car and hang on around the corners as we went clanging down those steep hills ... I had to have lunch at Fisherman's Wharf at a table overlooking the fishing boats as they came in, unloaded and went out again ... I had to drive down Lombard street which is so unbelievable that you are hard pressed to acknowledge that people DO live there and like it and the street IS as crooked as a dog's hind leg ...

I had to walk around Union Square, that downtown parking garage with the park on top and the unnumbered pigeons that everybody hates and nearly everybody feeds ... I had to shop in I. Magnin's where you can spend your money in such luxurious elegance, and walk down Market street where the sailors and the neon, the morning matinee girly shows and the dog-and-suds sidewalk cafes provide a remarkable contrast ...

I had to gape at the display of "IN" luggage that is sweeping the West Coast: the zippered wig cases in flowered brocade ... and spend a couple hours in a barn of a bookstore that has nearly everything readable on practically any subject under the sun ... and stroll down Maiden Lane which has such a fascinatingly wicked history but is so sedately modest today ...

 

*

Then, and only then, after I had satisfied myself that everything was the way it ought to be in San Francisco, I indulged in my favorite of all elegances in this city.

I had luncheon in the Garden Court of the Sheraton-Palace hotel. This, to me, typifies the elegance and charm of the San Francisco that existed long before I was born.

The Garden Court is in the center of the fine old hotel where Caruso sang, kings and presidents have died, and recipes have been born. Once the carriage rum-around, it is now roofed in domed green glass, ornamented with gold leaf and enormous crystal chandeliers. When the sun shines through that vaulted dome, four stories high, on the china and silver and crystal and white linen of the tables, on the ladies and gentlemen dining in expensive leisure, on the muted musicians and the brilliant buffet of desserts, pyramided in colorful display in the center of the room-ah, then I can imagine what it must have been like back in the days of gaslight and livery.

I realize it is my imagination that burnishes the Garden Court with a luster that someone else might think was only an expensive place to order a steak.

But I could no more think of visiting San Francisco, even briefly, without standing for a moment at the doorway of the Garden Court and breathing in the richness of its atmosphere than I could dream of ordering anything else than the Garden Court salad for the first luncheon there.

About some things I can be efficiently capable. About the Garden Court at the Palace in San Francisco I am hopelessly romantic ...

 

 

“Storm at Sea.”

 

FOR YEARS, all I knew about an ocean voyage was what I read in "Moby Dick" and "Kon Tiki" ... a storm at sea was only words to me.

And then, in March of 1962, members and friends of the Dayton Woman's club went off on a Mediterranean cruise. My assignment from The Journal Herald was: go along and write about what you see.

The first thing I saw, after leaving the New York pier on a chilly day in March, was the Statue of Liberty ... and the next? The floor of my stateroom which, somehow, seemed to be on the ceiling or else I was upside-down and didn't much care because, for the first time in my life, I got seasick.

The "worst storm the eastern seaboard had suffered in years" was churning the Atlantic ocean like the water in an automatic washer - and the 5.5. Independence was in it.

Here's what it's like to be seasick two hours after you leave home port ... and then how the Dayton group got tossed around the next morning at the height of a real storm at sea:

ABOARD SS Independence--Today's topic is how to survive though seasick.

If you want the honest truth from anyone who has ever suffered from motion-at-sea sickness, you'll get only one answer from the depths of their misery: "Who wants to survive? Drown and be done with it!"

I can write with authority.

It didn't last long but--oh, brother! It taught me one thing: compassion for others in the same boat, literally and actually.

The nasty winter storm that strangled the Midwest, bombarded the eastern seaboard and broke a freighter in two off the Cape of Hatteras was high-tailing it across the Atlantic about the same time the Independence put out to sea. By sailing south out of New York down to about the Carolinas and then turning east toward the Canary Islands, the captain said (later) that he hoped to avoid the storm. However, it covered a larger area than anticipated and there was nothing to do but batten down the hatches and sail through it.

While the ship went about its business, the passengers began their little nesting motions, turning staterooms into "homes away from home," looking at all the bon voyage flowers and baskets, reading the telegrams and cards, and unpacking for a long stay.

The ship, without warning, began a pitch and shudder routine that had landlubbers stumbling and stewards scrambling from room to room to secure heavy objects and breakables. Seamen strung safety ropes across large inside deck areas, and safety bulletins were issued: "A void holding on to frames of open doors-the ship's motion can cause the door to close on your hand or fingers."

The number of bandaged hands that appeared later was mute testimony that, bulletin or no, a landlubber WILL reach out for the nearest thing to clutch-and doors WILL close on hands and fingers.

 

*

I settled cozily into my stateroom, bags unpacked and sent to the hold, a nosegay of violets on the dresser-desk beside a pot of azaleas with pussy-willows, a beribboned basket of fancy goodies waiting to be investigated. The ship continued to pitch and roll and, outside in the corridors, I could hear frantic appeals for help from suddenly seasick passengers.

Stewards and stewardesses hastened at a steady trot from call to call, administering first aid and comfort. There were groans and sounds of retching everywhere where, only a few hours before, all had been champagne and laughter and gay paper streamers.

Some telegrams were pushed under my door and I bent to pick them up. That was the wrong thing to do. At that instant, the ship and the sea had a few differences to settle-and I had a second or two of weightlessness, like the kind described by the astronauts. It was as if a giant eggbeater were stirring up everything in the room. Books flew one way, shoes another, the chair fell over, the closet door banged back and forth-and when I straightened up, I was seasick!

 

*

During the night, the ship hit a couple big chuckholes and I never saw anything like it before. My telephone hurtled right off the desk, flew straight across the room at chest level, crashed against the wall and dropped. Right after it came the pot of azaleas, the clay pot splitting in a dozen pieces with flowers-azaleas and violets-spraying the room. The pussy-willows landed in my hair.

Next door I heard Molly Monroe's bathroom cabinet crash open and the sounds of glass splintering on tile floor. Somewhere a woman screamed, and screamed. Thuds and crashes came from everywhere, above and below. Then it was quiet.

I don't know why I decided the telephone ought to be back on the desk but that's the only item I salvaged from the wreck that was my room. One minute later, another giant wave hit the ship and the phone hurtled like a bullet along the same path-chest-high, straight across the room to the end of its cord, crashed against the wall then dropped with a bang. I ducked.

"OK, then stay there," I said to the phone, now lying in a heap of azalea roots, shoes, broken glass, crumpled violets and a Perry Mason paperback mystery, all mixed together like a tossed salad. I climbed back in my bunk, covered up my head, went sound asleep.

THE NEXT DAY:

There are as many ways of looking at a storm at sea as there are persons experiencing it.

The ship's bulletin reported "sea condition: very high to mountainous" and "wind: 10 on the Beaufort wind scale" which means "whole galeS 5 to 63 miles per hour."

The Beaufort wind scale begins with 0 (calm) and goes to 12 (hurricane). So, just between you and me, 10 (whole gale) is a mite stronger than I care to have around.

The staff captain (who looks like Nelson Eddy) commented (later), "It was a hell of a storm."

The second officer mentioned, off-hand, "It may have appeared bad to passengers but, on the bridge, everything was under control."

Mrs. Harold James asked the staff chief engineer how he controlled the 55 Independence during the height of the storm. "Did you slow down? It felt almost as if you stopped still. What did you do?"

"I slept," he said, registering 0 (calm).

Which is not what the passengers registered at mid-morning about 300 miles out from New York.

Every Daytonian aboard has conversation for years to come about what happened at the instant an "extraordinarily severe series of waves" (that's official from the captain's bridge and not just a landlubber talking) slapped the 29,000-ton ship around like a polar bear cuffing a kitten.

 

*

Mrs. George Rehling, standing in her stateroom, was thrown backwards across the room, lit in a chair which continued to slide backwards.

Her head hit a lampshade, and the force of the chair hitting the lamp (screwed into the table) tore loose the lamp and broke it in three pieces.

George fell against a desk and the doctor said the contusions on his left side would be troublesome for about 10 days.

Jim Yonts was quietly reading in his room when the ship suddenly tilted. "It was like a slapstick comedy scene," he said.

"The door of the cupboard opened and out flew Virginia's travel iron, traveling in a straight line like it was shot out of a gun, followed by a box of four decks of cards, followed by the Gideon Bible, one right after the other-you never saw anything like it in your life!"

Jeannette Wagner got her hand caught in a door jam in her room and, in pain, turned to her doctor-husband for aid. At that moment, he was so woozy from seasickness that all he could do was raise his head from the pillow and groan: "Run cold water on it."

*

Jim O'Donnell was thrown clear our of his bed across the room and smacked headlong into the other wall, getting a nasty bump. Herbert Bahl, reading in his room, hit his side against a table when he was thrown from his chair.

Dr. Harold James, on the open deck with his pipe clenched between his teeth, said he held his movie camera against the stanchion for a full two minutes to prove to the homefolks that there was a 33-degree roll and mountainous waves.

Ken and Liza Allen, still at breakfast in the dining room, said that area was a shambles of broken dishes, sprawling waiters and chairs, all rolling uncontrolled on the floor.

They watched helplessly as Mrs. James Z. Sutphen fell backwards in her chair and slid, chair and all, the full width of the dining room miraculously escaping injury from objects falling all around her.

The waiter had just placed a platter of scrambled eggs and bacon before Mrs. R. M. Shields when the big wave hit. She flew off her chair and slid down the tilting floor, with the scrambled eggs and bacon flying off the plate and falling all over her.

As all the passengers fled the scrambled dining room, Ken Allen jokingly remarked to Charles Masson, the maitre d'hotel, "This is a hell of a way to run a restaurant," and received a wan smile in reply.

I was sitting in the promenade lounge in a position to see out window-walls on both sides of the ship. I found myself looking directly into a wall of black water coming pellmell at Promenade Deck level which is six decks above the ship's water line.

It smacked the ship so hard, the Independence rolled over until the back of my couch was nearly parallel to the ocean.

 

*

A woman, sitting in the middle of the salon, started to skid on her chair and her husband stood up to help her. When the wave hit, the man was thrown like a battering ram, more than 15 feet, directly into the back of the bolted-to-the-floor couch on which I sat.

He cracked his head, blood gushed, women screamed, the ship rolled back and the man rolled with it across the floor, rolling over four times in his own blood reddening the carpet. Everyone was helpless to help him, since it was all anyone could do to hang on to something solid.

Two women instantly slipped to the floor and wrapped their arms and legs around the legs of a bolted-to-the-floor table.

A minute before the wave struck, a father had brought his son, about five, in from the open deck and had directed the boy to sit down on the floor and wrap his legs around a table. The boy obeyed without question and escaped unhurt, while his father bear-hugged a heavy pillar unable to reach the man on the floor, now rolling back a second time across the blood-stained carpet.

 

*

A woman screamed uncontrollably: "Get a DOCta, get a DOCta, get a DOCta!!!"  Ann Dickson, social director, who had been standing near the ship's library shelves (the books behind locked doors made a thundering racket as the ship shuddered), crawled to the phone and alerted the ship's doctor.

The ship rolled again, and another man pitched out of his chair and slid on his stomach across the carpet, spraining a thumb as he grabbed for a table leg.

Through the window-wall, I could see an elderly man on his knees, hanging to a guardrail on deck, blood running from a gash on his head.

His wife, frozen into immobility, was a study in fright 10 feet away from him. A little farther down, a steward began inching his way along the guardrail to help the injured, dazed man.

A plastic surgeon (in a mink-trimmed suede jacket) and an obstetrician (with his wife, a hospital chemist, at his elbow) all passengers, unsteadily but surely crawled and staggered to the aid of the unconscious man on the floor in the lounge. They stayed with him until hospital aides could bring a stretcher.

A half hour later, passengers munched crackers and apples and "stayed put" on orders since all social events were cancelled for the day. Crewmen used an electric scrubber to erase the blood stains from the carpet. The injured had been treated--one concussion, one fractured wrist, uncounted gashes and bruises.

The Dayton crowd looked about, counted its blessings and looked forward to the next excitement of the Dayton Woman's club Mediterranean cruise!

 

 

“Thanksgiving”…

 

COLUMNISTS are thrice-blessed ...

When something wells up inside them that must be said, they find their fingers cannot travel fast enough over the keys to get on paper every word that comes tumbling out, unbidden ...

When the words are finally on paper, there is the un encompassed joy of seeing those thoughts transported through skilled mechanical means and the unrestraining assistance of editors and publishers to newsprint that, swiftly, goes abroad in the land ...

When those words then are read by someone, somewhere, unknown yet knowing, unseen yet comprehending ...

Then is a columnist truly thrice-blessed because his thoughts must be shared to enrich him, must be given freely to be held close, forever ...

 

THANKSGIVING, 1961 ...

The house is very still in the early hour before the day begins. All the modernisms geared to electricity are barely humming-as if mechanical miracles need sleep, too. The television screen is dark, the radio silent, the telephone mute. There is a breathless quiet everywhere-not a dead thing but a silence that is alive ... waiting ... waiting ...

Last night's log, still glowing in the fireplace, suddenly crumples into a rash of sparks that burn brightly for an instant then, cooling, blend into the bed of gray ash. One spark arches against the firescreen. Denied escape, it drops to darkness.

From somewhere above and outside, a solitary fruit from the flowering crab tree loosens its hold on a branch, drops to the sloping roof and slowly rolls down, down, down into a backwash of fallen leaves mounded against the house's foundation.

The gentle sound of the little red crab-apple plopping into the dry leaves-followed by small scurry sounds as if some little woodland creature had been momentarily disturbed--bring forth a kind of low-throated response from a bird somewhere nearby. It is too soon to herald the dawn. The creatures of sky and field settle back into their quietness.

It is when the quiet is the deepest, the night at its ebb that always I am suddenly wide awake. As if someone had touched my cheek and said, "Awake, thou that sleepest."

For long moments I stand looking toward the lake, without moving, without thinking, absorbing the quietness which seeps into my bones, my flesh, my soul. The fragrance of a wood fire softly fading away is a present comfort. The night sounds are companionable. And, as my eyes grow accustomed to the dark, the outlines of the little lake-sometimes silver and shining with the reflection of a morning star, sometimes dark and brooding-take form beyond the gate. A breeze seems to spring up out of nowhere, stirring a few November branches against each other. And then it is gone.

Whether it be a black March with the crackle of ice-buds singing on the wire fence--{)r the lushness of an August dawn rising from the earth --or a November morning, it is always a time of thanksgiving when I am suddenly awakened from an untroubled sleep for reasons unknown to me at the moment.

No more do I fret and tell myself, "Go back to sleep! It's going to be a long day too soon." No more do I feel obliged to rake advantage of the extra time by flitting around the house on needful chores, gaining time now for - for what, later?

Mine not to reason why. I gather my robe tightly around, curl up against the pillows on the double chaise and settle the warmth of the wool afghan around my shoulders and knees. The silence without becomes the silence within.

It is in moments like this that thanksgiving wells up and overflows.

I am grateful for things unspoken. If I weep a little, it is not so much for things as they were or as they might have been but gratitude for things as they are ...

Thanksgiving, 1961.

 

(A Sketch of the Author)

 

MARJ HEYDUCK, women's editor of The Dayton Journal Herald since 1949, has been writing a daily column, "Third and Main," since Nov. 20, 1944.

She is a native Daytonian who graduated from Stivers high school and received her journalistic training at Ohio State University.

Since 1943, Mrs. Heyduck has won more than 70 prizes in Ohio Newspaper Women's Association annual contests; won Headliners' silver medal in national competition in 1946.

She is a guest discussion-leader on problems of women's pages for annual seminars conducted by the American Press Institute, Columbia University, and has conducted similar seminars for the Tennessee Press Association, the Ottoway papers of New England, and the California Newspaper Publishers' Association.