Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ol' CBS and a Magical Birthday Present

Well, I put my foot in it this time and led people to think Wednesday was my birthday. It wasn't, but I appreciated all the good wishes. Thinking about birthdays reminded me that I can recall very few of them. The one that always leaps to mind my was sixth. I woke up that morning elated because now I was all grown up. Not completely, maybe, but being six certainly meant I was a man, not just a kid anymore.
That was in 1931, about as bad a year as you can get unless . . . well, 1932.
We had been going from town to town as Ol' CBS pursued a fruitless search for work. So were millions of other men and they weren't having any better luck than he was. If you weren't there to remember it you can't begin to imagine how bad it was during those early years of what has become known as the Great Depression.
So we were in Lansing, a place like all the rest had been, meaning we stayed until the rent came due. A few days before my birthday I was sent to the corner grocery for a quart of milk in a glass bottle. I tripped on the outside wooden stairs leading to our second floor furnished apartment. The bottle broke, of course, and my mother came out on the landing to see what happened. Her words remain fresh in my mind: "Oh, Dick, that was the last dime."
There was a little park not far away where I spent most of my days. A pond seemed to divide the haves from the have nots. On the far side - and it wasn't very far at all - kids there with their mothers or nannys had little boats they'd pull along the water with a string. On our side there were no mothers and no boats and that's what I wanted for my birthday - a boat.
Obviously there was no money for one, but Ol' CBS came home one day with the bottom half of a cigarette tin he had found. At that time you could buy Lucky Strike and Head Play smokes in either a pack or a flat tin about eight inches wide and ten inches long. The sides rose only as high as a cigarette, a little under half an inch. Ol' CBS managed to fasten a stick to the tin and that was the mast. He used a piece of an old rag for a sail. Finally, he punched a small hole in one end and tied a long piece of string to it.
That was my birthday present. I headed down the street to the park, proud as could be, and launched my boat in the pond. On the other side those kids with their store-bought boats watched what was going on, then one by one they came over to the "poor" side of the pond to admire my boat. Yes, it was a proud day indeed for me.
I suppose there is a moral to the story but for the life of me I can't think what it would be. We soon left Lansing behind and after another town or two Ol' CBS lost his ability to talk landlords into believing the check really was in the mail and we had a new home for thirty days. After that for a while "home" was the back seat of an open-sided Model-T Ford. And by then winter had set in and somewhere along the way that magical boat disappeared. It was great while it lasted, though.


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