Feb 23

Just 83 years ago …

I have next to nothing today, but there’s always the weather! Before I woke up, some rodent had doomed us to more winter. The high here today was 39 degrees. The low was 19. It was sunny.

Why is it that some creature elsewhere determines my weather? Don’t I have any agency here? Of course, I don’t. The weather is a part of a global meteorological system barely within our understanding, and certainly beyond my control. But, really, the lack of agency is galling. Not me, but some critter that’d just as soon stay in his hole, honestly.

I know how he feels. As soon as I read about the shadow, I wanted to climb into a hole, or at least back into the blankets.

Groundhogs. What a silly, successful bit of marketing. We persist in this because it is fun, right?

And also tourism.

We haven’t looked back at the old college paper in a month. When last we had a look, we poked around in 1929. We’re jumping forward a bit today, to 1940. On this day, 82 years ago, there was a new committee that was formed to think about cheating. I wonder what they thought.

Oddly enough, this guy was on the same front page. R. Temple Greystoke was a man named Ray Price.

He started in the magic business in 1921, and can’t you imagine that was a challenging lifestyle. It begain with kids shows, a dog act and he eventually developed what is called a Spook Show, and became a famous and popular act through the 1930s. Soon after he played at Auburn he returned to a more conventional stage show. He moved home to Alabama when his health began to fail him in 1955. He passed away in 1973.

Dawson Mullen here, he was a BMOC. He was an electrical engineering manager, honor society member, he was on the mysterious leadership council of his time, president of something called the engineer’s council, colonel in the ROTC, captain of the rifle team. And, in this same issue, we learned he was on that cheating committee.

I’ll have to look ahead and see what, if anything, that august panel resolved. Anyway, Mullen, I believe, found his way to Georgia. If I have the right one, he died in 2001. There’s not a lot on him, however.

This bit of copy is a hoot.

The building being referenced here is, I assume, the Auburn Sports Arena. We called it The Barn. It housed basketball starting in 1946. Likely a project put on hold during the war?) The basketball team moved one block over in 1968. The Barn was right across the street from the football stadium. It housed the gymnastics team, it was old and scheduled for demolition. And then it burned to the ground during the LSU football game in 1996. (A different, better, story.) There’s a parking deck in that spot now.

We like to think of the 1940s as being a fully modern time and, in many respects, it was. They were still trying to get driveways paved and sidewalks pour on campus. The depression, in-state politics, and subsequent decades of inattention were just starting to be remedied.

Scandal! Bottom of page one! Oh … never mind.

Grady Young graduated from Georgia and then studied to be a vet, like his father before him. He had three kids and seven grandchildren, and he ran Young’s Veterinary Clinic in Georgia for 42 years before his retirement. He died in 2021, at 82.

Here’s a man that made an impression, and you get the feeling the multi-sport coach (they all coached more than one thing back then) was well liked and would be missed.

Dell Morgan died in a car accident, in Texas, in 1962. He’d spent the day watching his Rice players practice, and was headed out to go fishing with a buddy when another car crossed the center line. Four people were killed.

(I wonder if that tweed jacket ever turned up. That’s one of those mysteries that will stick with you the rest of the week.)

I love the old phone numbers. Dial 611 for flowers. Cracks me up. I don’t know anything about the florist. This isn’t the sort of history anyone on the Plains is good at making readily available, and contemporary florists using SEO has basically ruined any searches of this sort. H. L. Welsted, based on the ads, was around for at least four years, but, again, he falls in the analog canyon, but he is interred in Virgina. He passed away in 1961. The Welsteds had two children, Harry Lee, junior, and Mittie, who had just graduated from AU the year before. Harry the younger became a chemical engineer, and worked in New York and Charlotte. He passed away in 2010. Mittie studied dietetics, got married and died in 2002.

Here are the Welsted kids, from the 1939 Glom. They had long, and hopefully, full and complete lives.

Their parents ran a boarding house. Moved to Auburn and set that up, specifically, so the kids could get an education. That’s what Harry Lee Welsted’s obituary said. And while I learned one or two more things about the Welsteds, but not many, it is important that we don’t stray too far afield. Because that image above is really about the Grille.

I remember the Grille. Dined in it, frequently. One night a week they did a spaghetti plate dinner. If you finished it, they’d give you a second plate free. You could get in there, stuff yourself with two plates of spaghetti, a soft drink and a brownie for about five bucks, and that was one of the better, cheap meals in town. The walls were covered in local lore and history. And in that one particular booth is where the legendary football coach sat.

And then the rent got too high, and the Grille closed in the late 1990s and it still feels like one of the saddest things that could possibly happen in a place like that. We kicked ourselves that we didn’t eat there more — maybe we could have helped save it — but we are all starving and broke college kids and downtown was changing. Downtown was always changing, every so often.

My time was more than a half-century latter, of course, but I don’t have any knowledge of these places, either. Ball’s Bakery was in the neighboring town, but clearly everyone knew of it.

They stayed in business through the mid-1950s. Reed’s? Absolutely no idea. But with a “stay out of the cold” you have to think they had their moments. Winter moments.

The Martin Theatre was still relatively new. It opened in Opelika in 1938, with 1,600 seats, and lasted until 1970 or so. Martin replaced it with one in the strip mall. That joint was the barely-hanging-on dollar theater a quarter century later. I remember watching a few movies there.

The movie they were showing? Wonderful pre-war propaganda. The film highlights the real (and dramatized) exploits of a New York unit during World War 1. Also, the picture was just released the week before. In a time when movies weren’t in theaters everywhere simultaneously, it is amazing that this was on a screen in little Opelika, Alabama, six days later.

The Martin must have truly been the place to go.

Olin Hill? The man with the tape? He’s buried in nearby Notasulga. The headline in the (Mobile) Press-Register obituary was “Auburn clothier Hill dies.” Imagine all the things he saw from 1907 until 2003.

Jan 23

Filled with 1929 history

Feeling better today, thanks. Dinner, sleep, a light snack for breakfast and some lunch made it everything better. Still a bit fatigued, for some reason I can’t explain, but that’s made the decision for me. Taking it easy today, going to bed early.

The highlight, then, was … laundry. Wow. Can someone punch that up in re-write? (No. — ed.)

We haven’t looked at an old newspaper in a while. (OK, it has been almost a month.) Let’s go back to campus and read the alma mater’s classic rag.

This is from 94 years ago, January, 6, 1929. (I wrote for this same publication many decades later.) These guys have no ideas what’s coming for them the next fall, and I don’t mean the 1929 football season, which would prove dreadful in its own right.

The lead story is to the right, and it goes with this art, though you wouldn’t know it to look at the page, “Thousands greet opening new radio station WAPI.”

I worked at WAPI after college. I was proud to be on that air. It is the direct descendant of WMAV, which is the fourth oldest radio station in Alabama. (Alabama Power launched it, when they got out of the entertainment business, well, that time, they donated the gear to Auburn, which was Alabama Polytechnic Institute, hence WAPI. When it went back up to Birmingham in 1929 the station was co-owned by Auburn, the University of Alabama and the Alabama College for Women — now the University of Alabama. New owners bought it in the 1930s, and they launched the state’s first television station, the modern NBC affiliate in Birmingham, in 1949. Soon after, the company that owns the newspaper, another company I worked for, purchased the broadcast properties.) Today, WAPI is still the most powerful transmitter in that state, and it started right here.

Auburn’s new, powerful radio station WAPI went on the air New Year’s Eve from the studios in Birmingham with its formal opening program, which was heard by thousands of listeners throughout Alabama and the nation. Telegrams and telephone calls from 21 states began to pour in immediately after the new station took the air at eight o’clock, with a magnificent program lasting until four o’clock the next morning. The number of calls and messages amounted to over 900 before the station’s second program was presented.

Promptly at 7:55 KVOO at Tulsa, the station with which WAPI divides time on the same wave length, made an announcement that the air was being turned over to WAPI, and promptly at 8 p. m. the Boy’s Industrial Band of Birmingham opened the program with bugle calls and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Addresses were made by Gov. Bibb Graves, J. M. Jones, president of the Birmingham city commission; President Bradford Knapp; Dr. L. N. Duncan, director of the extension service, Victor H. Hanson, publisher of the Birmingham News and Age-Herald; Sam F. Claxbaugh, president of the Protective Life Insurance Company; P. O. Davis, director Department of Public Information, and H. C. Smith of the Department of Agriculture at Montgomery.

Three guest radio announcers assisted Walter N. Campbell, manager, and W .A. “Bill” Young, assistant manager, in staging the huge opening program. The visiting announcers were George Dewey Hay, “the solemn old judge” from WSM, of Nashville; G. C. Arnoux, “the man with the musical voice,” of KTHS, Hot Springs, Ark.; Luke Lee Roberts, of WLAC, Nashville, and J. C. “Dud” Connelly of WBRC, Birmingham.

Through the new station, which is among the most powerful of any in the South, Auburn’s influence and instruction may be carried to thousands upon thousands of homes in every section of the State and the South. Reception reports from programs already broadcast indicate that WAPI may be heard clearly in every portion of Alabama. No college in the land has more desirable facilities.

With the abundance of talent available in the city of Birmingham, programs of the highest type will be given over WAPI.

The installation job complete is said to be one of the best and most modern. The power is 5,000 watts. With recent improvements in broadcasting apparatus the actual signal strength is said to be at least ten times as powerful as the old 1,000-watt station at Auburn which was discontinued and sold.

The new station occupies the entire 14th floor of the Protective Life Insurance Company building. Three studios, a control room, reception room, and office space are included. The outlay is ideal and up-to-date for radio purposes.

The transmitter—or broadcasting apparatus—is located seven miles from the downtown district of Birmingham. It is on a mountain overlooking the village of Sandusky, which is on the Bankhead highway between Birmingham and Jasper. A building 32 by 48 feet houses the transmitter and other apparatus. Only the input equipment is located at the studios in the Protective Life Building. At an early date regular broadcasting from Montgomery and Auburn will begin. It will be done by remote control. Modern studios and modern input equipment, are being installed at the state capital in Montgomery. It is in the building occupied by the department of agricultural industries. At Auburn the old studio in Comer Hall will be used.

Comer Hall, home of the College of Agriculture, was one of my main buildings in undergrad. I was on WAPI’s air for about a year, and later worked for the newspaper company that (from 1953 to 1981) owned the station. One of the hosts on the debut programming was from WBRC, which is where The Yankee worked when we met. I’ve been on the air in all of the other markets mentioned here, I think. Broadcasting is full of small world callbacks.

If you look at that photo again, the round microphones were an innovation just a year or so before. The shape and the innards did a lot to remove vocal disruption and clean up the transmitted signal. It looks old to us, of course, but this stuff was top-end.

Similarly, this little story puts the lie to the black-and-white images we sometimes get of history. Or maybe that’s just me.

Blakey was from Birmingham, he was senior, studying architecture. Marty was a junior, and he was also studying architecture. Renneker would become a named partner in an architectural firm, and there’s a scholarship in his name today.

Bill Streit lettered in three sports in college. Made sense that he’d work in athletics professionally, and he made a great career of it.

Streit also officiated track and field meets, managed the U.S. Olympic track team in Paris (1924), Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin (1936). In ’24 he was also the chairman U.S. Olympic wrestling committee — they won four golds. He also did a bunch of other big time things, maybe the Rose Bowl was just for fun. He became a member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Olympics from 1948 to 1952. He’s a 1971 inductee into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Here’s that Rose Bowl, which is famous for a guy returning a fumble the wrong direction. Streit is in here, somewhere.

And in the 1950s, Streit was the subject of a nice little speech in Congress.

Back on campus, there had been another flu endemic. The local government briefly shut things down as a precautionary measure.

After that small stretch, when the numbers seemed to be easing up, life got back to 1929 normal.

There was this column inside the paper, filled with some prosaic advice. But the remarkable thing is the tone. It is written so matter-of-factly: wash your hands; well, obviously masks work; oh, and stay away from others if you are sick. They knew this back then. Why is some of it contentious for their great-great-great grandchildren?

I know the answer, and you do, too.

Again, 1929. People seeing the first talkie had a better grasp of common understandings of medicine than some of our peers do today. Weird.

Back then, the college kids had to drive across the state line, to Columbus, to see this picture. You can watch it, right now, on your computer or phone.

So glad they resolved all of this in 1929, so it wouldn’t crop up every few years as a silly political debate. This saved us so much time and energy, when you think about it.

No idea what becomes of Benjamin Provost. I halfway suspect it is a nom de plume.

This cartoon is supposed to be funny. Maybe the joke gets lost down through the generations.

I get to the “dog with the plush ears” line and get distracted, thinking of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s dogs playing poker (1894) painting.

One more radio tidbit. If you look at that WAPI copy again, you see where the station was sharing 1140 on the AM dial with KVOO. (That persisted until 1942.) Both sets of call letters are on the FM dial today. WAPI is talk. KVOO, the Tulsa, Oklahoma station, is today a country heritage format. And their morning show is co-hosted by Tige Daniel. I did a morning show with him in college.

Dec 22

Start in ’22, end in ’23 … 1923, that is

So we got new phones. The Yankee’s phone was starting to show signs, and mine wasn’t too far behind. Makes sense, as she bought her old one before I did. But we got five-and-a-half years out of the old ones, and we were quite pleased with the deal she found for this go around.

She scoured the Internet, see, and now we have a wireless provider from Denmark. Sure, we have to pay our bills in Danish Krones, but that’s the price we’ve paid. Quite literally.

Anyway, they were supposed to arrive on Sunday or Monday. They showed up on Friday. I spent that evening backing up my old phone — no small trick! Many websites were consulted, because I was trying to back up my phone to an external drive. I was trying to do this because my computer doesn’t have enough room. After a long while I remembered I have this wonderful program called AnyTrans. Problem solved. Backup … backed … up.

So Saturday morning I turned the new phone on. It is bigger than what I’m accustomed to. And it doesn’t yet have a case. So use carefully, carefully, and use it only over soft surfaces.

We were supposed to receive charging blocks. Phones need juice. And, of course, Apple, sells those separately now. For environmental purposes. So consider this: Sunday afternoon we had a portion of our carbon footprint spent on computer-based messaging, and then a half-hour long phone call all wondering why those charging blocks didn’t arrive. The disinterested voice on the other side of the call had a simple solution. Proceed to your local cell phone provider store. They’ll just … give you some, or something.

Maybe something got lost in the original Danish.

Yesterday, we extended our carbon footprint when we drove to the cell phone store, donned masks and went inside demanding they give us those charging blocks, or else.

The else was implied. The implication was that if they didn’t give us those charging blocks … we still wouldn’t have charging blocks.

We still don’t have charging blocks. I think it was because we merely wore Covid masks, and didn’t lean into that implied no “Or else.”

“George” was impressed by his phone colleague’s tactics. (This is his real name, because he was cool.) He had us go through the story a few times. (I know, he couldn’t believe it either!) He talked to the boss. I think he called someone. We all shared a quality eye-roll and some good customer “service” jokes. He suggested we call the phone people once again.

So we further extended the carbon footprint — remember, these are sold separately now “for the environment.” Today, The Yankee spent more time on the phone trying to get phone charging blocks. And, apparently, the phone company will now send the phone charging blocks. Separately.

Thank goodness we’ve saved the environment.

Got my oil changed today. First time this year, so I’m a little overdue. But only in terms of mileage, and only just. Living in a pandemic and other realities have substantially depressed my driving. So I went to the oil place at the end of the day.

I think I was the last car they serviced today, and I’m not sure if that was a good idea. It’ll be some time before I feel comfortable about this because, while they did, in fact, vacuum the floorboards, they were done in about as much time as it took me to write these two paragraphs.

Also, the guy told me my right blinker was out, but my right blinker is not out. It’s possible he got the wrong note on the wrong car. End of a long day, and all. But what does that mean for, say, my oil pan?

You worry about these things. And you worry for a lot longer than it takes to change your oil these days, apparently.

I visited a nearby dollar store after that. Just thought I’d look for some gag gifts. You could hear people at the counter complaining about the prices of things. And it is true! Things have prices. And many of them are going up. “They” are trying to break us, it seems. Or make us go broke. These terms were used interchangeably.

I was mystified by how much Tupperware and plastic bins this dollar store was offering. I passed on the $8 LED lights. I was not convinced that they’d last more than a set of batteries, or even as long as that oil change took.

We haven’t looked at an old newspaper in a while. (OK, it has been almost a month.) Let’s go back to campus and read the alma mater’s classic rag.

This is from 99 years ago. I wrote for this same publication just … 73 years later. In the interim, design changed somewhat. But, in 1923, you sat down with this over breakfast, and maybe lunch, if you were a slow reader.

This is a four-page edition. Let’s pick out a few topics of interest.

Here’s a front-page story that’s telling. Record enrollment! Remember, this is 1923. So you’re in the middle of a still-poor South. An article in a story from the previous year explained they’d had a record graduation of 200-some students. So retention was clearly an issue, too. But electrical engineering was the biggest department on campus, agriculture was third and there weren’t nearly enough women on campus.

Speaking of what is today the College of Agriculture, this was the beginning of a boom period. The campus-proper is 16-square blocks, but of course there are things all over the state, and the acreage mentioned here now make up the test units spread across town. I spent a bit of time in these fields and barns.

Ag journalism major, ya dig?

The rest of that story is full of process, none of which matters anymore, but at the time, the gist was “patience is a virtue” and “hurry up and wait” and “your younger brothers, or your kids, will reap the benefits.”

The university itself, you see, was in some financially dire straits at the time. It took a long time for them to rise up to meet their peers. This period, in fact, was the beginning of that achievement. The effort continues to this very day, despite the current endowment being … $1.05 billion dollars.

Arthur and Mary did OK. They are buried in Birmingham. She died in her early 70s in 1979. Arthur lived until 1989. He was the yearbook business manager the previous year, so ink was in his blood and I have some of his work. His dad was a prominent newspaper editor in the state capitol. He had a brother who was a small town editor, a wildly successful humorist and a state lawmaker. That guy, Earl, is in the Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor. For their part, Arthur and Mary raised a doctor.

Bruce and Ethel Jones went back to Birmingham. He died in 1965, I don’t know when his wife passed away. They had a son, Claude Jones, who died just a few years ago, and that man had a full and interesting life. They have a daughter who still lives in the Birmingham area.

Which brings us to Posey Oliver Davis. He started without much at all, really. He was surrounded by subsistence farms and postbellum cotton, which burrowed deep into the red lands, as it was called at the time.

He became a school teacher, went away to college in his early 20s, and graduated seven years before this was published. For a short while he was at Progressive Farmer, then went back to campus in 1920 to become agricultural editor for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and the Alabama Extension Service. (I interned there.)

In our last look at the 1920s, WAMV came up. Davis begrudgingly took on a role there, struggled, moved the old gear and the new gear into Comer Hall (where I studied, seven decades later) and started WAPI (a station where I worked in my mid-20s). He became a pioneer of the medium.

He rose through the ranks at Extension and would become the longest-serving director in Alabama Extension history, viewed as a regional and national leader in agriculture during the Great Depression. Put it this way, when people talked about Extension’s mission of outreach, it would have been easy to think that’s what the O stood for in the man’s name. Frustrated by farmers that didn’t take the good scientific advice that Extension agents could offer, he doubled down. It would have been easy, one supposes, to ignore those that ignore your good works, but that wasn’t P.O. Davis’ style. “We must reach more people,” he famously preached in 1939. It’s a clinical, dry, passionate editorial — a catalog of what was being down, which illustrated what more needed to take place. Much of what Extension became in the second half of the 20th century, and beyond, started right there.

This piece that the paper is referring to? The one 16 years earlier? It got a lot right, hits hard on Davis’ recurring theme of crop diversification and misses a bit of the point and impacts of the Great Migration.

Not that the man could see into the future.

And, finally, here’s a little column filler. True today, as it was then.

I’ve looked ahead. Of the surviving issues of “The Plainsman” that are available, we’re going to jump ahead a bit further into the 1920s in our next irregular visit to the old paper, sometime early next year. But something interesting is coming. Just you wait.

There will be other interesting things in this same space tomorrow, so come back and for that.

Nov 22

We only go back a century in this post

We have rapidly moved straight on into holiday mode. It was a sneaky and sudden shift this year. I was wondering how these Dickensian commercials made it into the breaks of football games, and then looked at the calendar. That was surprising. Well, time means nothing anymore, and the weather has, until just last week, been unseasonable.

But I receive a monthly email from the thermostat people. This is our one publicly acknowledged concession to having a smart home, connecting a remotely programmable thermostat to our domicile. It is useful when traveling. But the downside is the emails. The upside to the email is that, once a month, we receive a basic summary of our heat and A/C use. For instance, the heat was up a little bit in October, compared to last year, but the air conditioning was drastically lower.

Also, and this may just be copy holder for all I know, I haven’t consulted the National Weather Service here, the email says our average temperatures in October 2022 were 6° cooler than October 2021. The average high three degrees lower, the average low 44 in 2022, compared to 54 in 2021. So much for the late warmth confusing my knowledge of the seasons.

Enjoy, then, this brand new conspiracy theory that I’m hatching with every keystroke before your eyes: Something about vaccines and wearing masks are altering my perceptions of days.

There aren’t a lot of mask wearers around anymore, are there? Despite, well, you know.

Holiday mode is upon us. We are having guests next week and trying to put a thing or two into an itinerary, such as can be had. I am setting the over-under on trips to the grocery store, from next Sunday to the following Saturday at four.

This means I’m also counting the hours until a few days off work. And, judging by my inbox, everyone else is, too. It’s a delightful thing, the unacknowledged and entirely unified feeling of we’re all just waiting … until … And there’s some solidarity involved in that too. Everyone is looking at different dates. My Thanksgiving begins tomorrow. Some people will push through a few days next week. I’ll be thinking of you while I’m doing my level best to not think of work.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I canceled some things. I reminded some people of something two weeks out. I scheduled a few programs for two and three weeks away. I found myself in a series of tedious emails that will be resolved next week, when I won’t be here. (And saying they were tedious is not a criticism. The tedium was mostly my doing.)

This evening I donned long pants and a long shirt and gloves and ear muffs and a headlamp and ran two miles in the brisk cold and snow flurries. It wasn’t a personal best, but I wasted little time getting that down. Then I sat in the garage and sanded wood for almost three hours. A few more hours of sanding and the longest running project in the history of woodworking will be ready for a dry fit. Saturday, then. I had dinner at 10 p.m., and am planning on reading myself to sleep.

But only after this.

Some unsung hero(es) at the university library has collected and preserved and digitized some ancient newsprint. It makes for a fun few minutes and, now and again, we’re going to dive into some old random stuff from the alma mater. Why should these bits of history exist in only one corner of the internet? If I can’t be there, I may as well bring imagine something now generations past. This is The Plainsman, 100 years ago today.

Remember last year! Centre is Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. It was already 100 years old by this point, and that previous year, 1921, the Colonels whipped up on a young Auburn team, 21-0. No one had forgotten. They all remembered.

Frank McLean Stewart, college student.

Stewart, having gained hard-earned insight from that choice, shared his wisdom with others before graduating with the class of 1923 with a degree in agricultural science.

He became a field rep for the American Cotton Association, then worked for Belle Meade Butter Company before becoming a dairy farmer. He spent a decade as the executive secretary of the Alabama State Milk Control Board and left there to work for the War Food Administration late and just after World War II. In the 1950s he became the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

I wonder how many times he told that story when he was a younger man.

I’m always struck by how ads in smaller parts of the country, for the longest time, didn’t even bother with addresses. Just get to our town. Ask around, someone will tell you how to find The Cricketeria. (I see references online to the Cricket Tea Room through at least the 1930s, but that’s where the trail stops. Similarly, I found William Abbott, born during the Civil War, died, next door in Opelika, just before World War II. He came from a family of photographers.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever run across anything about this ice cream parlor. But everyone knows Toomer’s. Back then, of course, it was an actual drug store. Today, many owners later, it’s a busy gift shop. Same name, same corner.

This was another drug store. At one time, in a walk of two or three blocks you could hit five drug stores. Sign of the times, one supposes.

What do you suppose they’re implying with these quote marks?

Remember, this is 1922. The technology was ascendant. It would have been farther along, but the government stepped in during the Great War and took over the airwaves as a matter of national security. You could study radio, the engineering and broadcasting elements of it, that is, and it was understood to be a military endeavor at the time. Radio at Auburn has a big history. I’ve written about it a bit here, you’ll see a bit more on the subject … right now.

This is the next issue of the paper next one in the collection is from about two weeks later, Nov. 29, 1922. Since we’re here we may as well breeze through it. (Oh, and, yes, Auburn avenged the loss to Center. It was a 6-0 game, the Tigers mauled ’em. Every bit of overwriting possible was used to describe the game. We’ll skip most of that here.)

It’s about time radio did it’s part! Remember, this is 1922, so all of this is an incredible step into the modern age.

On page 4 — it’s a four-page newspaper — there’s a long column that turns this into a process story. They’d just gone through some upgrades and expansions. Now 5XA and WMAV boasted four radio telegraph sets. More technology was coming, but by the time you read this in the paper they were already at 500 watts. Not so much these days, but that was a huge range considering there was less interference in the atmosphere. The paper in Birmingham — the publisher was on the university’s Board — had donated a radio phone, so they had the strongest setup in the South. They would soon be able to get weather reports directly from Washington. All of this led to WAPI, which was a station I had the great honor to broadcast on for a year or so.

The more things change …

It’s easy to take water out of the faucet for granted, if you have it. It’s easy to laugh at a time when you couldn’t take it for granted. It must have been some kind of experience to have lived in that time in between. I assume this is part of that time.

The guy that wrote the above, Reid Boylston Barnes, Itchy to his college friends, was born in 1903, went to law school, and eventually entered the U.S. Army as a captain during World War II, serving in the military judicial system.

He mustered out a lieutenant colonel and continued on his path of becoming something of a legal giant. He died in 1984. He saw some changes in his life. Including …

I was not aware that this was a thing … nice to see some humor in an old newspaper ad, though.

Speaking of literary societies … I wonder how popular they are these days.

This really takes you back.

Maybe I should keep that one. It could be recycled every term, for any generation of college student!

Nov 22

Twelve hundred more rambly words

Do you have a case of the Mondays? Well, we’ve got a solution to that: the workweek is 20 percent over! You’ve built momentum! You’re going to spend Tuesday around the water cooler exchanging voting booth stories, anyway. And Wednesday doesn’t matter because you’ll be thinking, all day, about how you can wrap up your week on Thursday. And then Friday, well, that’s Friday, plus you need to devote a few minutes to how you’re planning to burn the rest of your vacation time before the end of the year because you didn’t use it all, again, because This work-life balance thing is a nice concept, but who has the time? Did you see how this week flew by?

So we’ve got that going for us.

And if that isn’t enough, we have our regular weekly feature, the most popular and talked about feature from this site, and this corner of the web, if not the western world’s entire Internet, the Monday check in with the kitties.

I have to carry my phone around at all times on the off chance that I catch one of them doing something quirky or, even better, some way to get the rare composition that features both of them. This is my tether to the modern world, and that’s the story I’m sticking with, but, sometimes, the photos are worth it.

Poseidon has had enough of this week already. And if you think you’ve had a Monday, he made this decision on Saturday night.

Phoebe spent part of the weekend helping me read.

Which gives us a an easy transition.

I used the extra hour Saturday night to finish Andrew Ritchie‘s 1988 biography, Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer. Major Taylor was a turn-of-the-century bike racer, and was regarded as the fastest man in the world. The thousands that came to see him race in the U.S., Europe and Australia understood speed with a different perspective than you do, perhaps, it was a time before people knew what an airplane was, or understood what cars would become. Taylor, his bike, and his rivals, were the high performance machines of their day. And also, of course, he was the victim of the racism of the time. Despite those challenges, Ritchie has him well regarded by fans, hailed as a hero abroad, and on par with, or easily superior to, everyone who got on a bike opposite him. The term world champion was perhaps a bit looser back then compared to what you might see from the official UCI World Championships today, but he established seven world records, and beat all the prime racers, all of ’em, the world had to offer. Mayor Taylor was a world champion, and that was his place in the world as a young man, and in a time when George Dixon (Canada) was the only other world champion of any sport (boxing). Taylor was an almost singular star.

It’s a great shame that he’s only nominally known by modern audiences. There are bike clubs across this country bearing his name, today, and his adopted hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts celebrates him and there’s a velodrome in his hometown of Indianapolis named in his honor, but he doesn’t seem to enjoy the household, iconic name status many early superlative athletes have. You’ll say, “He was a cyclist,” but consider: he was a star at the peak of the cycling boom in this country, when college basketball was an infant, the NBA was decades away, football looked more like rugby and baseball was just exiting its juvenile delinquent stage. Bike racing was a spectacle and he was the most famous athlete in the world. Thousands would come see him. People paid to watch him do practice laps. It was a phenomenon. He was a phenomenon.

He retired in his early 30s, had some failed business dealings trying to cash in on the early days of automobile innovation, and then a series of other failures. And we’ll let Ritchie share the next few paragraphs.

Ritchie interviewed Taylor’s daughter, an elderly woman by then. The family had fallen apart in a sad way, but this is an amazing bit of character study. It’s clear she’s spent a lot of time thinking of how to explain her late estranged father. Reading this, I am equally interested in what she had to say, but also in the art of Ritchie’s interview with her.

After he and his wife separated, she moved away with their daughter. He left Massachusetts, a proud, determined man. He’d lived there for 25 years, but had to sell his large house. So he was trying, hat-in-hand, to sell his autobiography. (Ritchie, while even-handed and, at times glowing, about Major Taylor, is fairly critical of his autobiography.) He took a room at a YMCA in Chicago, stayed there for a time, had a heart attack in 1932 and died just a few months later, close to penniless and essentially alone.

I noticed that Ritchie stopped updating his WordPress site in 2014. There is another famous Andrew Ritchie in the cycling world, and so I did a bit more searching to see what had become of him, until I found this memorial, of sorts. He’d had heart trouble for years, and some financial difficulties of his own. But this is the part I want to remember.

On the night of Thursday 12th August (2021) he went out into the Cornish countryside to observe the Perseid meteor shower: probably his last moments were spent gazing at the heavens.

Sometimes it is important for the innocuous assumption to stick.

Also, I started Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming. Atkinson has won three Pulitzers and a few shelves full of other prominent literary and historical awards over the course of his prolific career. His trilogy on World War II was an incredible experience. I expect the same for this series. Volume one came out in 2020, no idea when the next ones are out, but I’m through the 30-page prologue, and I’m hooked.

I love when Atkinson writes like this.

That’s four paragraphs on two pages and it paints a rich portrait of, in this case, what was unknown. I bet it took weeks to pull those facts together, shape them into this order and edit them to that level of concision and in his typical narrative style.

I have 530 more pages of this to enjoy here.

It was an amazing day, yesterday. Here we are, November, and 67 degrees. You could do a lot of things with an opportunity like that. I, of course, went for a bike ride.

This was a lovely 32-miler. Maybe I can get one or two more in this week, before the weather turns. Already I’ve been outdoors longer this year than last, so I have that going for me. The question is how many more open-road miles I can add because, soon, all of my miles will be trainer miles. That yields to the more pressing question will become how close I can get to setting a new personal best in annual mileage.

So come back for that! And other things! Like books! And music! And come back tomorrow tomorrow! I’ll write about a run and election day fun!