Friday, May 27, 2016


I heard an amazing thing today on TV today while watching the Cubs defeat the Phillies, 6-2,  at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Hand-Operated Scoreboard

And it had nothing to do with the three Cubs who hit home runs during the game.

Cubs TV announcer Len Kasper said a  member of the grounds crew for the team is the guy who operates the old hand-operated scoreboard in centerfield.

Fred Washington, 64, operates the old-fashioned scoreboard  in first-class fashion, and he's also been a member of the ballpark's grounds crew for a quarter-century.

I was reminded of the Wrigley Field grounds crew during today's game, which featured two long rain delays that required members of the crew to quickly spread a tarpaulin across the field during downpours.

Washington once told the Chicago Tribune that he has worked every job on the grounds crew, but now focuses on hosing down the dugouts and warning track aside from his scoreboard duties. 

Washington also raises the "W" and "L" flags after games.


Just like the Cubs this season.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Old Porcupine


Every once in a while, I like to watch western movies from the 1940s and 1950s on TV.

As a kid, I saw a lot of those films  at the Iowa, Rialto, State and Strand when those theaters were flourishing in Cedar Rapids.

For all I know, a few of Gabby's movies might have even made it to the much classier Paramount theater on Third Avenue in those years.

If they did, I probably paid my dime or 16 cents at the box office to see 'em.

Gabby Hayes

Whatever, it's fun to see the films again on the small screen, where they're just as good as they were before I knew what TV was.

I turned on the Turner Classic Movies channel for a few minutes this morning, and the first guy I heard talking on the film that was showing was Gabby Hayes.

Great timing.

Ol' Gabby was never a John Wayne type in the westerns, even though he appeared in 15 Wayne movies throughout his career.

Gabby was the sidekick, the guy who made people laugh, the butt of the jokes  in Wyoming or Kansas or Montana or wherever the shooting and cattle rustling was going on.

George Francis "Gabby" Hayes' voice was very recognizable in any movie in which he appeared.

So was his face.

Clark Gable he wasn't.

But you didn't have to see his face to know it was Gabby when he talked.

On this morning's western, the name of which was Trail Street, Gabby's film name was Billy.

And Billy was quite the cowboy.

Someone in the movie called him "Old Coyote."

He called someone "Horned Toad."

Later, someone called him "Old Porcupine."

It turned out that the 1947 film Trail Street came near the end of Gabby's movie career. 

I hope my friend Bob Modersohn reads this.

He and I used to occasionally laugh about Gabby Hayes if we weren't eating buckwheat pancakes at Boswell's on the way to doing a helluva Sunday feature in northeast Iowa, or shooting baskets at some schoolyard along Highway 6 on our way back from finding a story at the Ak-Sar-Ben horse track in Omaha.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Putting a New Shine On An Old Occupation


A long time ago, in my years at Lincoln elementary school in Cedar Rapids, I had a classmate who made money shining peoples' shoes.

I know because he sometimes brought his shoeshine kit to school with him.

His name was James Foster.  

James was the kid with whom I attended my first Hawkeye basketball game at Iowa Fieldhouse. 

But I've written that column before.

Maybe a version of it will appear here again sometime.

Now back to shoeshining.

I never talked to James Foster about it, but evidently he brought his shoe polish, rag, brush and whatever else he needed with him to Lincoln for his after-school job in some other area of Cedar Rapids.

I thought it was strange then and, as I look back, I think it's even stranger now that he carried his shoeshine kit to Lincoln.

However, that was in an era when shoeshining was a somewhat popular and, I guess, somewhat profitable occupation.

I just didn't know that fourth- and fifth-graders were doing it.

 I'd see adult shoeshiners at various locations around town, especially in bus stations and airports.

When I was older and in various airports around the nation I'd see shoeshine stands in men's restrooms.

Most times the shoeshiners [most of whom were African American men] would keep up a steady flow of conversation with their customers, much like the barbers of then and now, while doing their jobs.

Then shoeshiners seemed to disappear.

I don't get to as many places these days as I once did, but I figured shoeshining had gone the way of men wearing ties to church, women wearing hats anywhere, and of Studebaker, Nash and DeSoto automobiles.

I was thinking that the art of shoe-shining would never be seen again.


I was in the Denver, Colo., airport a few days ago, and noticed two shoeshine stands there.

The shoeshiners, both of whom were caucasian men, were busy. 

One was shining a man's dress shoes, the other was shining a woman's western boots.

Another man was waiting patiently to have his shoes shined.

The man and the woman whose shoes and boots were being shined were sitting in elevated chairs, just like in the old days.

If I'd had more time, I would've had my shoes shined.

Indeed, I'm glad shoeshiners are still around.

Now I'm wondering whatever happened to James Foster.

[Cartoon  of shoeshine stand courtesy of Google].

A Very Sad Story

This is a very difficult story to read and to write about.
Photo courtesy of St. Augustin School, KCCI

KCCI reports that a 13-year-old Des Moines girl died Saturday after a brick pillar collapsed onto a hammock.

The accident happened at 11:43 a.m. at a home in the 3500 block of Lincoln Place Drive.

The TV station said a police report shows the hammock was on the east side of the home.  It had one end attached to a tree and other to a brick column with a light post. The column was about 5 feet high and made of bricks.

Eren Sagun told authorities that she was in the hammock when her sister, Peri, jumped into it causing the column to collapse. The bricks collapsed onto Peri Sagun's head.

The girls' father attempted CPR and first aid until medics arrived. Peri was taken to Mercy Medical Center but died a short time later.

Peri was 13 years of age and in 8th-grade honor student. She was scheduled to graduate next Wednesday from St. Augustin Catholic School, where she has been a student since kindergarten.

A statement from the school read: "She dreamed about sunshine, college, and a career as an interior designer. The glow from Peri was felt when she entered a room, even to those who didn't know her. But anyone who knew her did and will always love her. Her energy, smile, and caring for those close to her will be what is most remembered,"

Grief counselors were on hand today at St. Augustin for students and staff to help them cope with the sudden death of the beloved student.

Police reported that the column was only in the ground a couple of inches and was not reinforced.

The Des Moines Register published a story, written by Charly Haley, on the death this morning, but for some unknown reason didn't list Peri's name or her family's name. 

Among my prayers today are those for Peri and her family.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cubs Have Baseball's Best Record, Craziest Outfits

The Chicago Cubs have a damn good team this season [their 17-6 record is the best in major league baseball] , and they also know how to have fun off the field. The Cubs are shown today wearing their "zany" traveling suits as they prepared for a three-game road trip  to Pittsburgh. The outfits were the idea of manager Joe Maddon, who knows how to keep a team loose. Photo courtesy of Anthony Rizzo on Twitter.

Globe-Trotting Granddaughter Keeps Her Grandpa's Coffee Mug Full With Java From Costa Rica And the African Nation Of Rwanda


As I told Shelby today, it's not every grandpa who can tell people that his world-traveling granddaughter brought him coffee from both Costa Rica and the African nation of Rwanda.

Now grandpa wonders where Shelby will be going next, and where his next mug of java will come from.