How the rookie copy boy learned his lesson: ‘The newspaper is not a toy!’

Live and learn!

Zoo Lou of St. Paul reports: “Subject: ‘The newspaper is not a toy!’

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I remember putting out these one-page papers (Opie did the same thing in an episode of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’) that dished the dirt and spread rumors like a Hedda Hopper or the National Enquirer.

“At Hill High School, I wrote movie and TV reviews for the school paper, which was much more interesting than covering the elections for hall monitor. Journalism advisor Brother Marcel liked my initiative, and when he heard about an opening for a copy boy at the St. Paul Dispatch, he took me for an interview with managing editor Harry Burnham. I got the job.

“A few days after graduation in 1966, there I was in the bustling Dispatch/Pioneer Press newsroom, meeting such luminaries as Don Riley, Bill Diehl, and ‘Oliver Towne’ columnist Gareth Hiebert. Harry Burnham, whom the late reporter/columnist Don Boxmeyer dubbed ‘the Errol Flynn of the newsroom,’ said one of my duties was writing short weather reports, When I asked if I would get a byline, Harry deadpanned: ‘Oh sure. You might even win a Pulitzer Prize!’

“This was truly my dream job. I was learning, getting compliments on my work, and forging close friendships.

“Then I made one of the worst decisions of my life. Each day, I picked up the list of marriage license applications at the courthouse for the vital statistics page. My close pals and I impulsively hatched this ‘brilliant’ scheme where I would add the names of unsuspecting friends Mike and Peggy to the list before turning it in to the copy desk.

“When their names appeared in the paper a few days latter, it became a big sensation in the neighborhood, and Mike and Peggy got teased to no end. We naively thought no one else would notice the names among all those dry, boring vital stats, and the whole thing would be forgotten. Wrong! Mike’s dad called me that night in a panic, saying he was getting call after call, including one from San Francisco, congratulating him on the joyous news. He said he was immediately notifying the newspaper.

“The next morning, Harry Burnham and executive editor Fred Heaberlin were waiting with looks that could kill. Harry said he really thought I had some smarts, and Fred raged that the newspaper is not a toy that you can play with. I was never more embarrassed or ashamed. It was a miracle I wasn’t fired.

“So the paper had to print a retraction, and I worked hard to make amends for my lapse in judgment. The staff was surprisingly supportive. Don Riley told me to ‘Hang in there, tiger,’ and photographer Hi Paul, a very funny man who taught me a lot about taking pictures, quipped: ‘At least you didn’t put their names in the obituaries!’

“To this day, I can’t believe I actually went through with such a childish prank. But it sure taught me to always be accurate and honest, especially when I worked as a reporter/photographer for the weekly Sun newspaper, and never again to underestimate the power of the press.

“Yes, Virginia, people really do read the ‘dry, boring’ vital statistics page.”

Everyone’s a copy editor

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Really? I don’t think so.

“In the ‘MLB’ section on Page C11 of the Sports section in Sunday’s STrib, there is a continuation of an article about Josh Donaldson, the Twins’ latest acquisition. The caption beneath a photo of Donaldson tagging out a baserunner reads: ‘Donaldson’s defensive talent likely means more than a few runs saved, and his arrival means the Twins can shift Miguel Sano across the diamond to third base.’

“No, no . . . and HEAVEN HELP US NO!

“Donaldson will play third, and Sano will move ‘across the diamond’ to first base.”

The highfalutin amusements
Plus: The great comebacks — and: Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?

Three stories (at least two with booze) from Rusty of St. Paul: (1) “Our daughter was in town for the holidays. We were driving down Jefferson Avenue and saw a half-life-sized crèche in the front porch of a home. It was very well displayed. ‘Look!’ said my daughter, ‘it’s a . . . a . . . um, maternity scene!’ After my wife and I were done laughing, I had to tell my daughter that she was mostly right.

“I think my wife topped my daughter tonight when she told her she was having surgery tomorrow for a skin cancer on her face. Her biopsy had come back positive for basal cell carcinoma. Our daughter thought the biopsy had been the definitive surgery: ‘I thought you already had that done,’ she said.

“‘No,’ my wife said, ‘that was only the autopsy.'”

(2) “The other day I was dumb-trying to get my smartphone to direct me to Morelli’s liquor and meat store on the East Side.

“Decades ago, I lived in Boston and used to shop for liquor at Martinelli’s. I don’t go to Morelli’s all that often and wasn’t positive on the name, so I must have typed in Martinelli’s. I’m pretty sure my maps app was set to how long it would take for driving, but it may have been set to walking. Either way, it is 1,400 miles from St. Paul to Boston.

“The machine gave me the destination and a mapped-out route of how to get there cross-country, but also warned me: ‘Your location may be closed by the time you arrive.’

“All I know is I’d be awfully thirsty by the time I reached my destination.”

(3) “My friend and I went to a watering hole on West Seventh this afternoon for an après-ski after a cross-country ski at a county park. This place looked more used to serving up beer and pull-tabs, as opposed to engineered drinks. I explained my drink of choice, and the barkeep said: ‘Oh, well, you mean a martini, then.’ She mixed it up, and it was divine.

“I told her it was the best martini I’ve had all week. She reminded me that it is Monday. Sigh.”

Could be verse!
Whisky Division

The Astronomer of Nininger: “It has been a number of years since I studied poetry in high school, but the names of great poets and their works still ring loud and clear through my mind. Sometimes I find myself reciting rhymes I’ve not read for more than 60 years.

“We all have our favorites, but the lovers of Robert Burns go so far as to celebrate his birthday with a very formally structured party, called Burns Night. It is held annually on January 25th — or, for the sake of convenience, the nearest Saturday to the actual birthday.

“Robert Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire, was known as the national poet of Scotland. He wrote so many lovely pieces, including ‘A Red, Red Rose,’ ‘To a Louse,’ ‘To a Mouse,’ and the probably most well-known, ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ He wrote so many of them, especially in Scottish Gaelic.



“This year, the Good Wife and I host the Burns Night Dinner with Scotch Tasting for graduates of the Air Force Academy. We’ve invited those from West Point and Annapolis, as well. We recite many of Burns’s works during the Burns Dinner, beginning with the Selkirk Grace.

“Scots know that a Bonnie Lassie is a pretty girl, and I am privileged to lead a toast to the Bonnie Lassies; the Good Wife replies with a toast to the Bonnie Lads present. We banter back and forth for a while and proceed with the tasting of five single-malt whiskies, with food pairings. Probably the favorite food is the haggis. The ‘Address to a Haggis‘ is read: ‘Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, / Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!’. . . and the haggis is presented, whereupon the reader thrusts a knife into it: ‘Trenching your gushing entrails bright, / Like onie ditch.’

“The evening is full of fun, bagpipes, lively discussion and tasting of Scotch: the aroma, the taste, the finish. We try to sense the vanilla or fruit or the caramel and maybe a strong peat scent that whisks us away to the region of Scotland where it was distilled. The water and various minerals dissolved therein, the temperatures, and storage in typically used American oak casks all affect the final product.

“We end the evening by singing together ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ And we look forward to next year.”

The verbing of America

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “This appeared in Aaron Blake’s column in Wednesday’s online version of the Washington Post: ‘Clarity on Democrats’ foreign policy: With tensions with Iran and controversy over President Trump’s decision to kill Qasem Soleimani big in the news, Democrats had a chance to define their party on the issue. And the debate began on that subject, with the candidates talking at some length. What we got instead was a lot of general talk about taking out combat troops but leaving in other troops who would be tasked with other missions. They criticized Trump as not having authorization to attack Iran. It seemed like a moment in which the Democratic Party could define itself on this issue, but there wasn’t much of that on Tuesday night. Instead, it was a lot of Goldilocks-ing of troop numbers — each one assuring that he or she would keep just the right number in the Middle East.’”

The Permanent Brotherly Record
Till Death Us Do Part Division

Mogie of Stillwater: “There were 12 boys, no girls, in our family. We grew up in a two-bedroom expansion bungalow. We had a saying among us brothers: ‘None of us knew what it was like to sleep alone . . . until we got married!’

“So true!”

Know thyself!

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: The Honey-do supremacy.

“I have a number of handyman skills, but I refuse to do plumbing, and I’m terrible at caulking. It’s one of those things that a do-it-yourselfer doesn’t do often enough to become good at.

“I was reminded of my ineptness with the gooey gun this morning. The shower-door-threshold caulk needed refreshing — and, according to the Runabout, I was well past procrastination. I prepared for the task by mentally walking my way through the dreaded repair. I assembled the tools and a number of precautionary accoutrements. The list was long and complete: tub-and-tile caulk, caulking gun, caulking nozzle plugger-upper, razor knife, masking tape, rounded plastic Popsicle-stick-like smoother-outer, fresh roll of paper towels, rolled-up rug for kneeling comfort, vacuum for old-caulking-material-removal mess, alcohol to clean the area and insure good adhesion, 0000 steel-wool pad to remove aluminum corrosion, headband LED light, and a short stool to help me get down and back up off the floor.

“The stage was set.

“On my first attempt to begin, I slowly lowered myself into position, only to have the back of my thighs cramp up almost to the point of not being able to return to vertical and walk it off. I persevered. Now on my knees again, I was able to scrape away the old sealant in about half an hour. It was only a strip of 33 inches or so, but it came off in snappy little angleworms. That done, I polished the aluminum frame, cleansed it with alcohol, masked it up as best I could, drew my silicone spewing pistol and a deep breath. It went on pretty well, but wasn’t perfect, so I messed it up several more times before getting it almost back to square one, awkwardly gripped the stool with the three fingers that weren’t covered with frosting, and mightily righted myself. I picked up about half a roll of crumpled and sticky paper towels, along with spirals of coated masking tape that reminded me of the old fly-catcher streamers that used to hang from the ceilings of my 1950s hangouts.

“A well-deserved feeling of accomplishment (or maybe dizziness) rewarded me. Nothing compares to facing your fears and overcoming them. Except maybe a nice afternoon nap.”

Then & Now (responsorial)

Semi-Legend: “Subject: Dum spiro . . .


The Spiro Agnew ‘collectible wristwatch’ reminded me of a remark Gloria Steinem made about Agnew, during a TV interview, when he was vice president: ‘Like a stopped clock, he’s right twice a day.’

“First time I had heard that.”

Not exactly what he had in mind

Deuce of Eagan writes: “A few years ago, I drove to Menomonie, Wisconsin, to view a quilting show in which my sister-in-law had a couple of entries, and also with the intent of seeing an 1889 theater that was the venue for the quilting exhibit.

“I toured the various quilts on display in an upstairs space. An impressive collection of creativity and skill. This type of exhibit was a first for me, and I was glad my sister-in-law Sally made me aware of it. I recalled Sally also mentioning that if there was a tour of the theater available, I should be sure to take it. She knew of my strong interest in history and architecture.

“Disappointingly, the theater was dark that day and no tours were scheduled. I met up with a staff member in the hallway and asked if it was OK if I took a look at the theater on my own. She encouraged it, but mentioned that most of the lights were off.

“I began by reading the history of the Tainter Theater, posted in the lobby. Named after Mabel Tainter, this 261-seat beauty was built for live theater performances, and was still active to this day. It has been ranked as one of the ‘Fifteen Most Spectacular Theaters in the World.’

“I entered at the uppermost seating area and stood motionless until my eyes adjusted to the partial darkness. I scanned the large space in the dim light, noting the hand-carved ornamental décor, hand-stenciled walls and ceiling, and magnificent pipe organ, all manifesting an old Victorian theater that appeared to be a beautifully preserved ‘crown jewel.’

“Then, I began to hear some unidentifiable sounds emanating from somewhere within the theater: faint intermittent clinking sounds followed by a tapping noise, and an occasional dull flicker of light. I could see no obvious source of this phenomenon, and admittedly I felt somewhat mystified. Then I spoke up and inquired loudly: ‘Are you the ghost of the theater?’ I recall feeling a bit silly after my inquiry. Then came the unexpected: ‘Yes, I am. Who is asking?’ I went on to say I was ‘from St. Paul and am looking the theater over.’ The ghostly voice spoke: ‘Saint Paul died many centuries ago, and even so, why would he send you here to look my theater over?’ My first conversation with a ghost was now bordering on the whimsical. I asked: ‘Are you able to become visible?’ The ghost’s quick reply was: ‘Sure.’ Then could I make out a figure rising slowly among the middle rows of seats. He lifted one arm, and a beam of light penetrated the darkness.

“Clarity of thought activated, I realized a man was standing there with a flashlight in one hand. I told him he had me going for a couple of minutes. We both snickered. He went on to tell me he was performing maintenance by crawling along the rows of seats and snugging up the bolts that held them secure to the floor. When he heard my inquiry about a ghost, he thought it was a chance to have some fun. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and thanked one another for the amusement. I didn’t ask, but I’ll bet this fellow did some live performances at the Tainter — and if he didn’t, he should.

“What a wonderfully entertaining day it was!”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Two-Letter Division

Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “Several weeks ago I submitted to the Bulletin Board asking for some replies from the BB readers to submit what they could remember about the old phone number prefixes from back in the ’50s and ’60s. Some readers did reply with some forgotten prefixes that they could remember from way back when. (Oh, the good ol’ days!)

“Yesterday my wife was looking through some of the old books that her mother had from the ’30s , ’40s and ’50s when she found this piece of paper stuck in between some pages of one of the books.


“On the back side of this, it said that it was for the Minneapolis (January 1957) directory. This should spark some forgotten prefix numbers from way back in the ‘good ol’ days.'”

The vision thing

KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: What will they think of next?

“Throughout the summer and fall, I saw a crew working on this water tower. I wasn’t sure what they were doing. Now I think I know.


“Apparently they installed a high-tech device to pre-heat the frigid winter water before distributing it to the city residents. I‘m guessing it will lower water-heating costs for homes and businesses, and reduce the risk of frozen pipes.”

Our theater of seasons

A trio of dispatches from Mounds View Swede: (1) “I noticed some tracks in our back yard after a recent snowfall, and I wonder what made them.

“The prints are very close together in this first photo. What walks like this?


“Farther over in the yard were these longer disturbances. They aren’t quite like a human would make.


“A ‘track crossing’ was also in the back yard.


“And a whole bunch of things must have fallen after the wind picked up.


“I enjoy the variety of the snow presentation I get to see from day to day.”

(2) “A clear night and full moon caught my attention. Unfortunately I did not think to see if there were moon shadows on the snow to see, too.


“When I opened the front door to fetch the morning newspaper, enough moist air came out to the storm-door window to create some frost patterns — the first I had seen this winter. Cold weather helps with this. I suspect the lines on which the frost formed are wipe marks from washing the window this fall.



“This is very different from two years ago, when the patterns were much more random and the frost crystals much more interesting in their shapes and delicacy.”


(3) “While shoveling the light snow off of the driveway on this sunny Monday, I noticed how pretty the fresh snow looked when it was covered with sparkles — some small, some large and everywhere.



“I also noticed these twigs sticking up through the snow. A fallen branch, I am sure.


“The moonlight and the sunlight make the snow so much more interesting to contemplate, creating shadows and sparkles. If we have to have snow, it might as well be pretty in places.”

Our birds, ourselves

Photos and captions by Al B of Hartland: “Maybe this look is why a junco is called a snowbird.


“A male red-bellied woodpecker has red from his nape to his bill and lacks the gray crown of this female.”


Today’s “helpful” hint

From Tim Torkildson: “Household tip #13: When your living-room carpet starts to feel gritty under your bare feet, just put on a pair of socks.”

Out of the mouths of babes

Friendly Bob of Fridley: “I have a niece who lives in western Minnesota and works with young Sunday School kids. Naturally, some of them love to disrupt things with their rascally antics.

“One week, a 4-year-old was being particularly problematic, so my niece banished him (I think it was a him) to the hallway outside the room until his mom came to pick him up. He seemed to be repentant for his acts, but the punishment had been set.

“The following week, he arrived at Sunday School and, looking rather sheepish, told my niece: ‘I wore my good today.’

“I think many of us could do better to ‘wear our good’ more often.”

Band Name of the Day: The Gooey Guns

Website of the Day: What the Color ‘Haint Blue’ Means to the Descendants of Enslaved Africans


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