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 31, 2008

Goodbye and Farewell, Shell Oil Company

We're cutting up our Shell gasoline cards and sending them back to the company even though we have used their gas exclusively for many years. Why? Because when we stopped for a fill-up at the station near home this morning there was a sign reading "Cash customers pay in advance" on every pump. Sometimes we pay cash, sometimes we use the card. Now, unless we use the card at the pump, one of us has to walk to the kiosk and pay before pumping. How, I would like to know, do you figure how much gas it will take to fill the tank before it is pumped?
Sure, just hand them forty bucks and then go back and pump. After that they'll give you your change. But when they don't trust us to pay, why should we trust them with our money? They have people drive off without paying so Shell has decided to penalize those of us who do pay. Stores suffer losses from shoplifting so sometime in the future can we expect to be patted down and searched on our way out or drop off twenty or fifty dollars on our way in?
Those of us old enough to remember back to a better day wish that once again we could drive into a station and have an attendant come out and do the pumping. Then he'd clean the windshield and do anything else you asked: check the oil, check the coolant, check the battery, put air in the tires, give you a map of the state or others nearby, you name it. He also kept the restrooms clean. Restrooms? Yes, service stations used to have them. Many also had a mechanic on duty to help if you were having a problem. That's why they were called service stations. On top of that, the employees at the stations you visited regularly would call you by name when you drove in.
Today they pay someone minimum wage to watch you do all the work while they sit there and collect the money. Some even charge for air you put in the tires yourself. Now they may ask you to pay in advance.
Some young people laugh when anyone mentions the good old days. Many would gladly give up their electronic gadgets if just for a month they could live in a time when service was more than a word in a dictionary. No computer chat room compensates for the face-to-face relationships that once were so commonplace and you didn't need a cell phone stuck to your ear to hear a friendly voice.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spoonerisms are no joke

I had no intention of writing a blog today but in self defense it was forced upon me this morning when Jackie laughed because I made a slight slip of the tongue. I will never understand why women find it so hilarious when a well-intentioned man makes a minor mistake.
In this particular case it was a spoonerism. That, if you are fortunate enough to never have committed one and don't even know what a spoonerism happens to be, is transposing the first letters of two words. Happy day would come out dappy hay.
I have long been afflicted by the problem of uttering an occasional spoonerism. At times entire words are jumbled and transposed and trying to correct the original mistake only leads to something even worse. This morning it was the result of asking Jackie to bring a bag of Mini Snickers for me when she went to the drug store.
I thanked her, naturally, but it came out, "Thanks for getting me the smini nickers," or something to that effect. I immediately corrected the error by saying, "I mean skinny mickers."
Now that's the sort of thing that should be overlooked as if nothing happened. The way, for example, you would pretend not to notice if someone belched or made an even less acceptable sound during a formal, black tie dinner. Greeting such an act - or a spoonerism - with gales of laughter is totally uncalled for and displays a lack of sensitivity for the misfortune of a gracious, well-meaning individual such as myself.
I'm sure everyone will agree with that. So thanks for understanding and have a dice nay.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A new gadget for my belt

I have a new gadget to wear on my belt along with the watch that hangs down from a thong and can be read by merely lifting it up, the carrier for my Zippo pipe light, a holster for carrying a pipe and a pedometer. These are necessary items so I resent it when Jackie says that all I need to add is a bayonet and canteen and I'll be prepared if the Army calls me back to duty. I've often noticed that women have no idea of what a belt is for.
The thing that really rubs me the wrong way is that after making a remark like that it was Jackie herself who bought the new gadget for me. I let it pass without comment when she said she bought it a year ago but forgot to give it to me. I was tempted to say I had observed that when she buys something for the hamsters a year does not go by before she remembers to give it to them, but kept the thought to myself.
After lying on a shelf for 12 months the battery was dead, something I discovered after trying for an hour to get the gadget to work. To be truthful about it, Jackie made the discovery when she grew tired of listening to some of the words I had repeated more times than she cared to hear.
So now this gadget, which doesn't seem to have a name, is working. What it does is count calories. Never having paid a whit of attention to calories, I was corrected after saying I had used so many of them. You do not use calories, Jackie informed me, you burn them. What the gadget does, or so she said, is count the calories you have burned during the day.
So last evening I looked at it and said, "I've burned 259 calories."
Jackie checked for herself and said, "Don't you believe in decimal points? You burned 25.9 calories."
Again I didn't say what I was thinking, which was "so what?" To me that meant not one thing because the gadget didn't tell me if I had started with 50, 500 or 5,000. If you don't know where you began, how can you tell how far you have come?
I decided to check and see how many calories I used or burned or whatever while writing this blog. The answer is 15. That means eleven more and I will have surpassed yesterday's entire input. Or is it output? That sounds pretty good to me as it's only 10 o'clock in the morning. Or did I forget to see if there was a decimal point? Now ask me if I really give a hoot.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Humor and Politics - or is there a difference?

The laugh of the week came when the United States told Egypt to get cracking and seal its border with Gaza because some of those Palestinians crossing over and going back again might be taking weapons with them.
Those folks in government sure do have a sense of humor, you have to give them credit for that. Here's a nation with somewhere between 12 and 20 million illegal aliens, the vast majority of them having slipped across the border from Mexico, and its telling another country to seal its own border. The laughter is ringing out around the world.
In the wonderful world of politics there has been a bit of name calling this week. Republicans or Democrats, what a sorry lot they are. This is the best a country of nearly 300 million people can come up with as candidates for president? Is it any wonder so many Americans are calling for a third party candidate?
Then there is the proposed tax rebate intended to add life to the economy. So tell me, how big an incentive to rush out and spend will $600 be to someone earning $75,000 a year? For married people that's $1,200 if they earn up to $150,000.
Those jokesters in Washington seem to have overlooked the people skimping by on unemployment compensation and the really poor who survive on food stamps. Average people - and I know very few of them earning those previously mentioned figures - seem to be up to their necks in credit card debt and many are saddled with mortgages made by predatory lenders. A good share of them won't be hurrying out to the market place to spend their rebate.
I don't feel sympathy for those who bought houses they knew were beyond their means or anyone owing $10,000 or even $25,000 to credit card companies. Spending more money than you earn or buying something you can't afford has always been a recipe for disaster. No one held a gun to their heads and forced them to act foolishly. It is possible, although some will deny it, to wait until you have the money in your hand before spending it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

His way with words might prove addictive

That distinguished looking gentleman at the left isn't me, although it well could be because our ages seem about the same and he's an old newspaperman who at one time worked for The Evening Press. I'm sure we could have shared some fine tales over a pitcher at Frosty Miller's after the paper had been put to bed - but, alas, my Evening Press was in Muncie, Indiana while Con Houlihan's was in Dublin, Ireland.
When a man such as myself defies all odds and reaches what some call a ripe old age, the last thing he needs is another addiction, yet thanks to Con Houlihan I have acquired one and he is it. Or, to be more precise, his writing is it. If some of my distant relatives in County Cavan - and I'm sure there must still be men with the names of Lynch or Hanley to be found there - do not feel the same it would come as a distinct shock.
His most recent column in The Independent, a fine Irish newspaper available to all online, is headed "My Dublin days of milk and brandy and papers" and includes this passage about the old days:
"Of course many of my happiest hours were in the context of The Evening Press. I loved that paper. Usually I worked the column out in my head during the night - occasionally in some congenial pub - and got up about four in the morning and wrote it.
"By eight o'clock it was in the safe hands of the Sports Editor, Tom O'Shea, and I was in my favorite corner in The White Horse - the corner nearest the quay. There I loved to read The Sporting Life and I sustained myself with a glass of milk mildly tinctured with brandy. So I had something in common with the Queen Mother: at eight o'clock every morning that same paper was brought to her bed accompanied by a large measure of gin and a bottle of tonic water."
He sustained himself. Now who but an Irishman could have written those words? And can anyone not wonder just how mildly that milk was tinctured with brandy? I'm sure, too, that few readers failed to notice that his column was not safely in the hands of Tom O'Shea, but in the man's safe hands. It was little matters such as this that lead Mark Twain to say, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
Yes, this man Con Houlihan has hooked me with his way with words. The same, I feel, might happen to anyone of a certain age so I highly recommend calling up The Irish Independent and reading a bit more of his work. I warn you, though, that not only is it Con Houlihan's writing that may prove addictive but The Independent itself. So fine a newspaper is it that a morning never goes by that I fail to spend some pleasant moments with its many pages. As yet I have not done so with a glass of milk mildly tinctured with brandy at hand, but who knows?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cut those taxes - but then what?

Cutting taxes is all the rage today. Bush wants to do it, Congress wants to do it, the Republican candidates want to do it.
Fine, but then who pays for all the things people want, need, or have to put up with? Americans, at least the majority of them, don't want to pay taxes but they do want all the good stuff provided to them by those tax dollars. Good roads and safe bridges, for example. People who scream the loudest about taxes yell even louder and call a lawyer if they hit a pothole and break an axle, not to mention what they do if the bridge falls out from under them.
Then there's things like the war in Iraq that is costing two billion dollars a week. That's tax money. And what about the huge national debt? Forget that, we'll just stick it on the kids. How about care for veterans? Remember all that talk about supporting the troops, or does that just apply while they're still in uniform?
Don't forget Aunt Tillie and Grandpa Joe. Should they just become rugged individualists and make it on their own even when they're too old or too sick to haul themselves out there and get a job? A hundred years ago people had large families and they pretty much stayed in one place. When Aunt Tillie and Grandpa Joe grew old and infirm, the family was there to take care of them. Today most families are smaller and their members are spread out all over the map. It would be somewhat disturbing, wouldn't it?, to have to pass Tillie and Joe starving in the gutter while on your way to work.
So sure, cutting waste is a great idea and some of it does exist. A little of it probably is inevitable. Still, when I hear talk about cutting taxes left and right I'm reminded of what writer William Campbell Gault said about rewriting: "You have to do it, but be careful because you may be cutting out the good stuff."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Casablanca - The Ultimate Movie

We watched Casablanca again last night. I have no idea how many times I've seen it but it could be counted in the dozens. In so many ways it was the ultimate movie, the classic of classics. It had everything: one of the greatest love stories ever told, acting such as you seldom are privileged to see, suspense, intrigue, corruption, action and a climax that never has and never will be surpassed.
The first time I saw it soon after it was released made me more anxious than ever for the day when I would turn 18 and could enter the Army and fight Germans. That moment came during a nightclub scene when a group of German officers began singing one of their countless marching songs. They quickly were drowned out by French men and women singing le Marseillaise, the most stirring of all anthems.
Little did I realize what a hell it would turn out to be, that job of fighting Germans face to face on the ground. Nor did I ever imagine the dark, overcast afternoon when I stood in the crowded square of a small French town while men and women with tears streaming down their faces sang their national anthem for the first time in more than four years. And while watching Rick (Humphrey Bogart) leave Paris on the grim day in 1940 when the Germans marched into the city I would never have believed that I would be among the first American and French troops who reached the center of Paris the day the Germans were driven out. Yet there I was on the banks of the Seine with the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Place de la Concorde on the far side of the river and the Eiffel Tower rising off in the distance. Amazing, truly amazing.
Still, to me that day in Paris wasn't as moving as that afternoon a few weeks earlier when the men, women and children of Hambye sang le Marseillaise. It was so unexpected because we had moved into the little town expecting Germans to be there. Even as we saw crowds gathering in the street ahead, squad leader Jimmie Hewston and platoon sergeant Bob Everidge began the familiar chant, "Watch the windows, watch the windows, observe to the left and the right, watch the windows." Moments later we couldn't do that, not with little boys and girls dressed in their Sunday best tugging at us to bend down so they could place flowers in the camouflage netting on our helmets.
On days when all is quiet and my mind drifts back in time, I sometimes hear those words from Hewston and Everidge again, the reminder to do what we knew we should do. Jimmie and Bob both died in the coming days so neither made it to Paris. We were all so young, so weary of the seemingly endless days and nights of fighting, yet we kept plodding along as best we could.
What does all that have to do with Casablanca? I'm not sure, but there is a connection somehow. Bright moments during grim and horrible days, something like that. Something like Rick watching the plane that was carrying his one great love fly off forever. Somehow it's all tied together.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's been a while

I've been working, not loafing, but whatever the excuse it has been a week since my last venture into the wonderful world of blogging. That blog seven days ago brought a comment from Stag, who had died some time prior to writing it. If you want to get technical about it he may not really have been dead but after being stung by a bee he was lying there with his heart as quiet as a mouse until the medics arrived.
It made sense that he had faded away like old soldiers are supposed to do because he had been told that a tech sergeant would do just that a year after retiring. He's back among us, though, and quite naturally his story reminded me of something. When you get to be my age everything reminds you of something.
It was just after World War II ended in Europe when a bunch of us were herded into a room where a solemn-faced doctor awaited. He told us everyone who had been in infantry combat for any length of time could deduct 15 years from their life expectancy of 72. Aside from the doc, all of us in the room had been in infantry combat for some length of time. Stress, strain, living under adverse conditions and existing on K-rations were responsible, he said.
I wondered who had come to this ridiculous conclusion, of course, but didn't laugh aloud. Well, just a little, maybe. Anyway, being 19 at the time, 57 seemed a long way off.
I don't believe I ever gave that nonsense another thought until one day when I was 57 and hard at work in the newsroom the wire editor dropped a tearsheet on my desk and said, "This might interest you. I'm not running it."
I doubt if any newspaper in the country ran it because it was a boring story saying the figure had been reduced from 15 years to eight. That meant instead of dropping dead on the spot I was safe until I hit 64.
Time passed until one day it dawned on me that I was a few years past 64. Then a little more time went by and my only view of 72 was in the rearview mirror. Now I'm 10 years past my final sell-by date and I'm still going strong. Well, I'm still going but maybe not too strong.
So what does all this prove? Not a damn thing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Who Wants to Live 14 Extra Years?

When radio was in its infancy in the late 1920s and early 1930s a couple of fellows known as the Happiness Boys were popular. Billy Jones and Ernie Hare lived up to their sobriquet but wouldn't make a hit today because cheerfulness is no longer fashionable on radio. They still sound good to me, though, when I listen to them on audio tape every few months.
One of their numbers included a short skit in which a man asked his doctor if he'd live to a ripe old age. The doctor said something like, "H'mm, do you smoke?"
"Do you drink?"
"Do you eat foods that aren't good for you?"
"Do you chase wild women?"
"Well, then why in the world would you want to live to a ripe old age?"
This came to mind after reading the latest study, this one from the University of Cambridge in England. It claims that if you don't smoke, drink to moderation, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly you will get an extra 14 years of life. Not 15 or 13, they've narrowed it down to 14.
Chances are that sometime in the near future Oxford will release a study refuting the claim of its arch rival. That's the way it always is with these reports that began in the 1960s. First it was bacon, then coffee that would finish you off. Since then one study or another has warned us that eating something, drinking something or doing something would be the death of us all. It seems they have covered everything possible and now are falling back on what to do rather than what not to do.
I've mentioned before that all my friends and acquaintances who gave up everything and took up jogging are now dead. The few who didn't, and I'm among them, are still kicking, and so far not the bucket. That brings to mind a doctor we met in Munich, a cancer specialist,who said he tells patients 55 or over, "Whatever you've done that got you this far, keep doing it."
At the ripe old age of 82 I say amen to that. We're all going to come to the end of the line, some sooner and some later. While we're still around, quality should take precedent over quantity, at least that's the way I've always seen it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Is the White House up for sale?

Is it possible to buy the presidency? It may have been done sometime in the past, perhaps the recent past, but this year the question will be answered for once and for all. If Mitt Romney becomes the next president, the answer is a resounding yes.
What qualifications for the job does Romney possess? He served a term as a governor. He is the son of a former governor of Michigan. He was CEO of the 2002 winter Olympics. Above all, though, he made millions, hundreds of millions apparently, in business. Much of this came from leveraged buyouts that cost many working people their jobs. His fortune came from paper transactions, not from inventing something or building something. He isn't a Harvey Firestone or a Henry Ford so you won't find his name on a car or a tire.
Romney attended a private prep school, Cranbrook, went to Stanford for two years and graduated with honors from Brigham Young. He earned a law degree at Harvard. Obviously he is a highly intelligent man. Does that qualify him to be president? Perhaps, although the country has many highly intelligent men and women.
As governor of Massachusetts Romney flip-flopped on a number of controversial issues. He raised taxes on things that cost average people money. He reduced funds for higher education, forcing state universities to raise tuition by 63 per cent. He signed legislation forcing people to buy health insurance from private companies or face higher income taxes. He left office with an approval rating of 43 per cent.
None of that qualifies or disqualifies him from seeking the presidency. Nor does the fact that his entire life has been spent among the wealthy. It should be a mark against him, though, that he has never been in close contact with working men and women. He doesn't know what it means to face a daily struggle to keep food on the table or make the mortgage payment.
The real rub, however, is that he has already spent $20 million of his own money on his campaign to be the next resident of the White House. If he wins it will prove the presidency goes to the highest bidder, that the old belief that any newborn can grow up to be president no longer is true and the man or woman without a personal fortune is licked before the race begins. Let's hope we have not reached that point.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Finally things are back to normal

HOO-RAH! At last it's over, my least favorite time of the year. People are back to work where they belong, that horrible period called "the holidays" has been laid to rest and January, the best month of all, is underway at last.
December has become little more than one endless commercial urging people to spend recklessly, to go into debt up to their ears to buy gifts that as often as not fall far short of meeting the recipient's desires. Now we are told that anything less than a new Mercedes or Lexus is hardly worth giving. If you are a real cheapskate and settle for a Ford or Dodge your wife will hate you and your kids will hang their heads in shame.
But now it's over. I can go ahead and send out the manuscript I feared would get lost in the shuffle a month ago. No more pretending there is even a glimmer of hope for peace on earth, no more acting like we love people we hate, no more canned Christmas music blaring over loudspeakers, no more hucksters grabbing you by the throat while screaming, "Buy this!"
HOO-RAH, January is here at last!
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My December was dominated by people searching for pictures of dead German soldiers, tiger tanks, and Carentan, France. This was because of something called Google Images that tells where you can find photos of just about anything on earth. My website has numerous pictures relating to the book "Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War." People from no less than 49 countries - 50 if you include the United States - were eager to see those unfortunate fellows who died more than 60 years ago. They came from:
Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chili, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
A counter called Clicky tells you where each hit on the website originated and what it was that attracted the visitor. France, Germany and the UK drew the largest number. Familiar large cities are represented but they also came from such towns as Hrochuv Tynec, Nastved, Njdrand and Ponte Di Plave.
I'm pleased to have every one of them but am a little amazed by the interest in that long-ago war. I'm especially curious as to why so many people want to see dead German soldiers. Tanks I can understand and I'm sure Band of Brothers sparked the interest in Carentan, but the fascination with guys who gave their all for Hitler, well I just don't know.