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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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Novel Way to Write a Novel

My late friend Ross Spencer wrote five books without using any punctuation other than periods at the end of sentences and an occasional question mark. If you say it can't be done you'll have to take that up with the major New York publisher that released them all.
Should anyone think of trying to do the same be warned that Spence was a master of wry humor and had few peers in writing one liners. He also wrote a number of more conventional books.
The stories about a dumb private eye named Chance Purdue got a bit raunchy in places but only a true bluenose could be offended. I'm sure Spence would be pleased if a brief excerpt is included here so the way he did it is revealed:

Candi Yakozi swept into the room.
She embraced me.
She kissed me.
She looked into my eyes.
She said you are my hero.
She said love me and the world is mine.
I shrugged.

Each episode is separated by a quote from Monroe D. Underwood, a dirty old man. Fictitious, of course. One example: ". . . women takes longer to say less than practically anybody . . ."
A collection of the five Chance Purdue books was released as "The Compleat Chance Purdue." It's available for $10.19 on Amazon, as are many of Spence's other books at bargain prices.
The last thing Spence wrote in the series was a poem by the infamous Monroe D. Underwood:

Of all the great wonders God gave us to see
The greatest by far you will surely agree
Is the mystical magical alibi tree.
Its succulent fruit tumbles sweet to the tooth
A tonic for age and a blessing for youth
It renders the eater immune to the truth.
And rogue becomes saint as by Holy Decree
And wrong becomes right with God's firm guarantee
In the shade of the wonderful alibi tree.
Here in hypocrisy man may abide
Here he self-justifies - here he may hide
From the sins he has sinned and the lies he has lied.
Oh Lord take the lion the lamb and the flea
Level the mountain and dry up the sea
But spare if you will Lord the alibi tree.

Spence sent me a copy of "The Compleat Chance Purdue" inscribed: To Dick - a bird of my own feather (a sitting duck, probably). You called it, Spence.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Discriminated Against For Being Veterans Lacking Money

Shortly after the Second World War a couple of veterans started a taxicab company in Akron. Called it G.I. Cab. All the drivers, mechanics, office workers and even the guys that pumped gas were veterans.
Broke as usual, I applied for a job in 1949 and was hired as a driver. Kept at it a couple of years and learned a lot about people and politicians. I'm not sure most politicians qualify as people.
It would have been hard to find anything bad to say about G.I. Cab Company. The cabs - pale gray with red roofs and blue lettering - were immaculate. Washed twice a day, thoroughly cleaned both inside and out. The drivers were lean, neat, clean and courteous.
But we weren't popular. Why? Because the owners didn't have money to slip under the table to politicians or hand out to businessmen. Yellow Cab did.
Yellow cabs were equipped with two-way radios. When the G.I. owners asked for radios the Akron City Council had two words for them: Absolutely not! The owners hadn't approached council with money in hand. Not having radios when the competition did was a severe handicap.
So we had call boxes scattered around the city. When you dropped off a fare you would drive to the nearest call box and talk to the dispatcher. Sometimes he had a fare for you to pick up, sometimes he told you to wait where you were, sometimes he said to come back downtown. He ended every message with, "Call me."
One day I picked up a man at Iacomini's, the best restaurant in town at the time. "They really don't like you guys in this town, do they?" he said, then went on to explain, "I asked the people inside to call a G.I. cab for me but they said no, they only call Yellow cabs. They told me that if I wanted a G.I. I'd have to go outside and use a pay phone. So I did."
But a Yellow pulled in just behind me. There were no other people waiting so obviously the management of the restaurant had called Yellow as soon as the man stepped outside.
We were young and tough, though, so we had ways of evening the score. The main cab stand downtown was at an intersection that had Akron's best hotel and the two leading department stores on three of its corners. To get in line there you had to get in another line around the corner. A dispatcher there would wave to the first cab when he got a call saying a spot had opened up. If a Yellow was at the front of the line a G.I. would pull up beside the first G.I. behind it. As soon as the dispatcher's phone rang the G.I. on the outside would shoot ahead and beat the Yellow, who then had to drive around the block and fall in at the rear of the line.
If you saw a Yellow cruising a downtown street you would pull along side, then speed up and cut him off when you saw a potential fare ahead. If there were two G.I.s on the street we sometimes boxed a Yellow in so he couldn't go anywhere. We helped each other out in beating the Yellows at the bus and train stations, too.
We drove twelve hours a day, six days a week and averaged about $35, including tips. The longer you drove, the fewer tips you got because you learned how people stiff you if you provide them with extra help.
One day I picked up a man at a hotel and was told he wanted me to find his car. After checking in the night before he had made the rounds of the bars. At the last one he was too drunk to drive so they sent him back to the hotel in a cab. He didn't know the name or location of the bar. It was a chance to run up a big bill just driving from one bar to the next but I pumped him for information. He finally said he remembered a bar named Jessie's or something like that. There wasn't a bar by that name in Akron but there was a Jesser's on Thornton Street. I drove him there and found his car. I had saved the guy a lot of money. He tipped me a dime.
When the big snowstorm hit on Thanksgiving night in 1950 no cabs were on the street for a week. Although operating on a shoestring, G.I. gave each of its drivers $35. I doubt that Yellow did the same. Yes, you learned a lot about people driving a G.I. cab.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Discriminated Against For Being Poor

Middlebury was a separate town when Kent School was built on South Arlington Street in 1888. When I was a pupil there in the sixth through eighth grades Middlebury was just a neighborhood on Akron's industrial east side.
The old, three story building with floors and stairs of wood was a firetrap. It was condemned after our eighth grade class graduated in the spring of 1940. The girls made little programs with pictures they had drawn on the cover. The names of the graduates were mimeographed in purple ink.
From the rear windows of the building located on high ground you could see Goodyear Plant One and the Mohawk Rubber Company factory.
There were forty-four kids in our class. Half of them lived at the nearby Childrens Home. We were a rather unruly bunch, but for the most part quite happy and blissfully unaware that we were on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. A boy named Dewitt Russell received an American Legion award for being the outstanding member of the class. A week earlier he had punched out the teacher, breaking her glasses. I guess having Dewitt receive the award said something about the rest of us.
I was a schoolboy patrolman at a miserable intersection along a street where prostitutes and predators roamed and you could find the only theater in town showing dirty movies. A railroad track ran along the cross street so you had to watch out for both cars and trains. The captain, Arthur St. Claire, accompanied me the first day to show me the ropes. Two boys shoved him out of the way and ran across the street. "Catch those guys!" he cried, so I caught them. The lesson I learned was never catch two guys in an alley when you're alone.
One morning I held the little kids back as a train approached. A sweet-faced little girl of six shoved me in front of the locomotive. Fortunately it was a hard shove that propelled me beyond certain death. After the train had passed she gave me a cute smile.
In eighth grade the principal told us we could have a basketball team. No basketball, no uniforms, just a team. We could practice one afternoon a week at another school that had a gym. Kent school didn't. To get to the other school meant crossing dangerous clay pits where one slip meant drowning.
We had no coach. One day a man showed us how to do the most simple of all drills. Every week we hoped he'd come back. He never did.
Ohio high schools could play 18 games at that time. We played 28 because everyone knew that playing us meant certain victory. The fat principal would come into our classroom shortly after lunch and in her singsong voice would say, "You boys have a game at David Hill School so you can leave at two-thirty." Leaving meant walking to David Hill or wherever the game was to be played. All but one of the other schools were miles away. It rained and snowed a lot that winter.
Our opponents had gyms, coaches, uniforms, cheerleaders, cheering sections. We played in our street clothes and were the subject of great ridicule.
We lost 27 of those 28 games. We beat Hotchkiss by one point and it was purely coincidental that the only game we won was the only one in which I couldn't play because of a sprained ankle.
So who were the winners? We were, of course. We learned to cope on the mean streets of a mean and dirty town. We learned to be tough because we had to be. That's the way it is when you're hanging onto the bottom of the rope. I've always been thankful that I was among the lucky ones.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Horrible Effects of Y2K

Remember when everyone was all sweaty about what might happen when the new millenium arrived? The world as we knew it would come to an end when Y2K arrived, or so we were warned. People were rushing around buying generators and gargantuan supplies of bottled water in hope of survival.
Then we woke up on New Year's Day and nothing had happened. At least nothing most of us could see. The power was still on, the computers still worked, the gas pumps continued to pump gas. So all the worrying was for nothing, right?
Wrong. It took awhile for the realization to set in, but the coming of the 21st century brought an end to common sense. It destroyed what little was left of civilized behavior. It made rudeness expected and acceptable.
Take common sense. Have you encountered much of it recently? Or how about civilized behavior. Where on earth can it be found today? And rudeness, isn't it just about everywhere now?
I visit a message board for writers nearly every day. Some of the nicest people you could hope to meet post messages there. They are, however, overwhelmed by a clique of three who hurl insults, are over-achievers in the art of put downs and think they are entitled to dominate the mere mortals who have the temerity to post an original thought of their own. They are the products of Y2K. Rude, arrogant creatures of the new century totally lacking in civility. I get in hot water for fighting back and yet I continue to do so because it's the right thing to do.
But back to common sense. It dictates that we carefully guard our freedoms, yet one by one they are slipping away because our attention is focused on the celebrities we have come to worship and their abominable behavior. Common sense tells us that the wealthiest Americans should pay more taxes than the rest of us, but they don't. Do you hear people discussing it? No, they are too busy thinking about which celebrity is going into rehab or who might win an Oscar or should a professional athlete who tests positive for drugs be punished. The list could fill up ten computer screens.
Oh, well, why not just go with the flow? Why be concerned about the abandonment of common sense, the loss of civility, the acceptance of rude behavior? After all it's just the way our Y2K world is so why fight it?
Because some of us should, that's why.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It Isn't Laziness

This old blogger denies all charges of being lazy just because he's taking a few days away from here. The fact is, the roof feel in on him Friday. Not literally, and that's fortunate, but in the space of three hours he had three short stories and a book accepted by different publishers. That's good, but it would be better if everyone didn't want fresh copies of manuscripts, worksheets and such immediately. Plus seven photos with cutlines to go along with the book. And hard copies plus everything on a CD as well. Oh yes, and as e-mail attachments, too.
Why so many different ways? Don't ask me. That's just life, I guess. And acceptance beats rejection. So when that's all taken care of this blog will once again receive the attention it probably doesn't deserve.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lou Dobbs - the Watchdog Exposing Infamous Events

Are you outraged by the granting of immunity to a Mexican drug smuggler so he would testify against two Border Patrol agents? I sure am. Or maybe outraged should be replaced by dumbfounded. I mean come on, did you ever think you would see the day when a United States prosecutor would do something like that? And obviously with the approval of the attorney general and apparently the White House.
The story just gets worse all the time. A couple of Homeland Security spokesmen admitted lying to Congress about the case. Three jurors say they were coerced into voting for a guilty verdict. The federal judge denied bail while the case is being appealed although this is done routinely. The two agents are in prison with men they helped send there. One was severely beaten by other inmates.
No, outraged was the correct word. Watch Lou Dobbs on CNN at 6 p.m. EST. He seems to be the only one speaking out on this travesty of justice.
Then there is the Bank of America's program granting credit cards to illegal aliens. When it comes to grubbing for money can you top that? Only Lou Dobbs seems interested in talking about it.
Or how about the National Football League, the revered NFL, refusing to accept a Border Patrol ad for its Super Bowl program. The Border Patrol is trying to recruit agents. The NBA and the NCAA have accepted the ads, the latter for its Final Four program next month.
The NFL says it doesn't want to get involved in controversial issues. Why is it controversial other than that the NFL is trying to increase revenue by attracting Mexican fans? The NFL did not object, however, to having federal agencies involved in the security for the Super Bowl nor did it object to having U.S. military jets stage a flyover at the game. Hypocrisy gone wild. Only Lou Dobbs seems to care.
And then there are the hush-hush proceedings in which the Bush Gang is attempting to have open borders with Canada and Mexico. Who would benefit from that? Not the United States. Not Canada. No one seems interested in talking about it except Lou Dobbs.
The list goes on and on. I don't agree with Dobbs on every issue but I sure do on most of them. If you don't already watch his show, tune in and find out what's really going on right under our noses. I'd suggest having a supply of nails to chew on while you see what's being done in this country and to this country.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Sound of Distant Drums

Have you noticed that they're at it again? Can you hear the sound of distant drums? Drums stirring us up to accept yet another war.
Yes, I stole that title from a song by the late Jim Reeves. It told the story of a young man asking a girl to marry him because the drums of war were sounding and he soon would have to go off somewhere and be a part of it.
This time it's Iran that is causing those drums to beat. The Iranians seem to be a little upset because in recent years the United States has invaded two countries bordering their own. Big surprise.
The intelligence reports say they are supplying weapons to one of the groups raising hell in Iraq. I have no doubt that is true. You might say they have a vested interest in the outcome. Then, too, for centuries the people of the Middle East have been fighting with anyone and everyone that disagrees with their religious beliefs. It's an inbred part of their culture and nothing is going to change that.
For some reason, though, many Americans aren't buying the latest intelligence reports. Now why do you suppose that's true? Could it have anything to do with earlier reports of weapons of mass destruction? Or might it be that having faith in any intelligence reports can get you into a heap of trouble?
I am reminded of the intelligence report that said a squad-strength pocket of German soldiers was in a valley. Squad strength - nine men in the German army. So we sent about fifteen men to handle the problem. Turned out there were 15,000 Germans in that valley. Bad news for those fifteen men who walked into that valley believing the intelligence report.
Then there was my old friend Roy Bigger. He was a member of the reconnaissance unit of the 106th Infantry Division back in December, 1944. His group went out on patrol and reported a huge build-up of German tanks and infantry in front of their position. The intelligence people laughed at them, said it was merely the imaginary figment of minds inexperienced with war. Their report was not passed along to higher authority. The next day the fighting began. It became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 106th Division had 9,000 or 11,000 men taken prisioner depending upon which report you believe.
So for one reason or another a great many Americans are skeptical of intelligence reports even when they probably are accurate. "Probably" just isn't good enough.
So what is this tough talk about Iran really all about? It's about George W. Bush's desperation to establish a favorable legacy. Get into another war and maybe the majority of Americans who think he's made a mess of things will change their minds.
Will that hope become reality? Forget about it, George. We've had enough of your misadventures. The cowboys have lost, we want some people with good sense to take charge and nothing's going to change that.

www.dickstodghill. com Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Sacrifices Are We Asked to Make in This War?

Aside from the men and women in service, their families and friends, exactly what sacrifices have Americans made or been asked to make for the war in Iraq? Or the one in Afghanistan?
The question arose after Jackie listened to an old "Lum and Abner" audio tape. If you don't recall, that was a popular 15-minute radio show before, during and after World War II. They were a pair of humorous, downhome gents who operated the "Jot 'em Down Store."
In a wartime broadcast they asked listeners to contribute all sort of things found around most houses. A copper kettle, for example, would make 84 rounds of ammunition for an automatic rifle. They went on to name other household articles and a great many people did contribute items to the war effort. Then there were the contributions that were demanded.
What about today? By comparison, consider some of those WWII contributions.
Are we told we can have only four gallons of gasoline per week? NO.
Have we been told that tires will not be available for the duration? NO.
Has a national 35-mile-per-hour speed limit been imposed to save gas? NO.
Has auto racing been outlawed for the above reasons? NO.
Are many articles of clothing rationed for the duration? NO.
Are numerous foods rationed, if you can even find them? NO.
Have we been asked to observe Meatless Tuesday? NO.
Are we asked to buy War Bonds to help finance the cost of war? NO.
Have millions of men been drafted so that the burden is somewhat shared? NO.
Do we even have a draft for this war or wars? NO.
So what exactly are we asked to do or ordered to do? NOTHING.
Oh, some people place magnetic yellow ribbons on the back of their cars. Some fly a flag in front of their house. Some talk a good war - they call themselves hawks but rarely do any of them pick up a rifle.
And some . . . well, I can't think of anything else. So the entire burden falls on those who have enlisted, their families and friends. There doesn't seem to be enough of them so quite a few get their tours extended in war zones. Not enough men are visiting recruiting offices so they are thinking about allowing convicted felons to enlist. They are considering allowing foreigners to join the U.S. military so the rest of us can go on our merry way.
Sacrifice? Who, us? Maybe that's why so few people seem to give a hoot.
To me it seems like a helluva way to fight a war.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How Quickly We Forget

It never ceases to amaze me how easily people forget and how quickly they grow soft. From one season to the next they forget how to drive on snowy and icy roads so there is a rash of accidents the first time snow falls in late autumn. It has been cold this week in Northeast Ohio, but not extremely cold. The high temperature has been in the single digits, but it's winter so you expect that and go on about your business. At least that's the way it used to be, but no more. Now people moan and groan and they even shut down the schools.
It's all because of global warming. Where we once had cold spells like that every winter, this particular one was the first since the year 2000. Granted that's a long time, but you wouldn't think people had forgotten what winter is all about.
Some people, those who believe they know more than 90 per cent of the scientists, contend there is no such thing as global warming. They point to cold spells such as this one in the belief it proves their point. They forget there is still snow and extreme cold in the arctic even though it is getting warmer up there, snow and ice is melting and the polar bears are in danger. So when the jet stream dips far enough south it provides a clear path for that cold air to sweep down from the north.
But maybe we don't really have it so bad. For ten months after the end of World War II in Europe I spent a great deal of time with former German soldiers who had fought in various places including the Russian Front. Just thinking about it made them turn pale. They told stories about various events and often mentioned how they sometimes would spit or urinate and have it freeze with a cracking sound before it reached the ground. How any of them survived is beyond me. Some said they didn't even want to, it was that miserable.
I recently read a story about horses on the Russian Front, where both armies used a great many of them to haul wagons and artillery guns. It said that German horses were capable of withstanding cold up to 24 degrees below zero, Russian horses up to 60 below. The Germans lost a lot more horses.
Those German soldiers said Americans who thought it was cold during the Battle of the Bulge had no idea what it was like to be really cold. I was more than content to take their word for it. I like cold weather, but there's cold weather as we know it, then there's cold weather as the Russians know it. While I enjoy our kind, I never want to experience the Russian variety. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Filth By the Barrelful

From the beginning of time there have been gossips and filth mongers, but it seems to have become a national pastime in recent years. Those on the far right of the political spectrum seem to enjoy it and indulge in it more than those with a less fanatical outlook. This is puzzling as they are the very ones who present themselves as being wiser and cleaner and more wholesome than the rest of the population.
This came to mind after someone sent an e-mail to me that consisted of a scurrilous attack on an entire nation. At the end it referred those who read it to a site called NewsMax. I called it up expecting the worse and was not disappointed. NewsMax features such scandal mongers and twisters-of-the-truth as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter.
At the bottom of the home page was a large ad by Gov-Records, an outfit that for a price will let you snoop around various sources of information. As it spends money advertising on NewsMax it obviously feels the visitors to that site are just the kind of people who would find the following message appealing:
Just think of all the dirt & secrets you could get on your friends, family, co-workers, and even your neighbors with Gov-Records by joining right now...
Plus, Do It All Legally and Without Anyone Ever Finding Out!

Ah, yes - without anyone ever finding out. So when stuff smearing your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors shows up in various places they will never guess you were responsible. Not only can you be a gossip and filth monger, you can be a cowardly gossip and filth monger.
I'll never understand or respect the sort of person who would do something like that any more than I can respect the man or woman who writes something critical but lacks the courage to sign their name at the end. Even Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Coulter don't stoop to that level.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bore Sunday is Here Again

Hey, I just realized this is Super Bore Sunday. I know that because it was mentioned in the Muncie newspaper I was reading this morning. As a result I even know one of the teams that will be playing because it's from Indianapolis, a town just down the road a piece from Muncie.
Now don't get the idea I know nothing about the Super Bore because I do. I even watched one once. I believe it was 1969 and I had seen a news show in which Joe Namath said his team would win even though everybody else said his team would lose.
So I tuned in and watched and Joe was right. His team, whose name I forget, beat the other team, whose name I also forget, so all the experts were wrong. Now how could that be?
I wrote about all that once before. I know time flies but can it really have been a year ago?
But that story I read in the Muncie paper really wasn't about the Super Bore game itself. It was about people who watch just to see the commercials. Now what kind of a person would do that even though a 30-second Super Bore commercial costs $2.6 million? Do these people tune into Law & Order reruns merely to see an AARP or Head-On commercial for the thousandth time? Can't they get enough of the Aflack duck or the Geico gecko or whatever that little guy's name is?
So some people turn on the TV to watch the Super Bore game and others just so they can see the commercials. Either way they are gluttons for punishment - three hours or so to watch a sixty minute football game plus a lot of ads. Score a touchdown, run a bunch of commercials. Kick off, run a bunch of commercials. Run three plays, punt and run a bunch of commercials.
I just can't understand it. Well, I guess it's their business if they want to waste a few hours of their lives that way. Myself, if I decide to watch something this evening it will be Law & Order reruns. Surely I can't be the only one.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hamsters Behaving Badly

Well, Mr. Zip-Zip is in big trouble. That's why Hamster Ralph, who can be found on Hallmark greeting cards, looks so concerned. Ralph's picture is one of about two dozen on my screen saver but it seems that he appears far more often than any of the others. I am convinced that's because he knows two hamsters live with us and he wants to be reassured that they are OK. So I reassure him.
Jackie says it is really weird that I talk to the picture of a hamster on my computer screen but I don't find it weird at all. Any normal person with a bit more compassion than a serial killer would want to comfort such a cute little guy as Ralph. So I let him know that everything is OK and he has nothing to worry about. Then he goes away and one of the other pictures appears. I never talk to any of them. Well not often, anyway.
But back to Mr. Zip-Zip, who looks exactly like Hamster Ralph. He and his mortal enemy, Joey, were rolling around from room to room and up and down the hall in their plastic balls, which they do every morning, when Mr. Zip-Zip got into deep doo-doo right up to his little ears. When he got tired, Mr. Zip-Zip, also known as Zippy, decided to rest in the bedroom. He found a nice dark spot right beside the bed and, as it turned out, right beside one of Jackie's socks.
Anyone familiar with the plastic balls for hamsters and other little critters knows they have tiny slits so whoever is inside can breathe. These slits are less than an eighth of an inch wide. And anyone familiar with hamsters and other little critters knows they are always on the lookout for nesting material. Like wool socks.
So, although it seems impossible, Mr. Zip-Zip managed to pull about one-third of that sock inside his plastic ball through one of those tiny slits. Then he chewed it up so it could be tucked away in one of his pouches. He might have pulled all of it inside the ball had he not been caught in the act. This, by the way, was not some ordinary sock but one of the special kind that Jackie wears under her boots when she goes outside in cold weather.
Poor Mr. Zip-Zip was chastized. "OK," said Jackie, "that does it. Out on the balcony you go."
No one believed she really meant it, of course.
Except Hamster Ralph. He believes it. That's obvious from the worried look on his face. I've tried to reassure him that everything is OK and Mr. Zip-Zip is sleeping soundly in the little house inside his cage. But somehow I can't convince Ralph of that. You can tell he isn't convinced by that concerned look on his face. Guess I'll just have to keep on trying. Posted by Picasa