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Monday, January 21, 2013

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING IS NOT SO EASY

Covering the 1955 Buckeye football season afforded me the opportunity of meeting the two sports editors of the Columbus dailies, Kay Kessler of the Citizen and Paul Hornung of the Dispatch. Hornung was not the same guy who later starred at Notre Dame and for the Green Bay Packers. The three of us attended all of Woody Hayes' post game press conferences. We were there for a briefing that announced Howard "Hoppy" Cassady had won the Heisman Trophy. Hoppy, of course, was elated, but Woody was probably more excited. He strutted around the room like a proud papa, whose son had just had his first grandson. The  column I wrote of that occasion was a favorite. Another was an interview of a black waiter at a White House cocktail party in 1975. He had been serving Presidents since FDR's first term. The copies I kept of both pieces have yellowed and crumbled over years as newsprint usually does.We also attended the "Football Appreciation Banquet" on November 21, 1955, celebrating Ohio State University, Champions Western Conference (The Big Ten in those days). I still have the glass with that inscription as a memento of the  happy occasion, which took five straight wins at the end of the season to accomplish that feat..

Having taken the required photography courses as part of the journalism program, I was very expert in handling a Speed Graphic. (For those of you born in the digital age, it was the large camera the press used in the movies of the thirties, forties and the fifties.) It was a heavy camera with a focal plane shutter. You had to load the 4" x 5'' film into holders, which held two pieces of film. During the 1956 baseball season, from my dugout seat, I took some great shots of players sliding into home. Kay Kessler liked them so much he ran several in the Citizen, and I was paid $20 a pop. It cemented our relationship and kept me financially solvent for the next month or so..

The summer quarter in 1956 was a breeze. I had one five credit course in psychology (friends had told me I needed psychological help), and a three credit course in philosophy (Je pense donc je suis, or in English, I think, therefore I am). But thinking about cash to get me through the summer was't quite the answer. I was now running on fumes financially. I had to find a job, and I did. A classified ad in the Dispatch, run by a public relations firm seemed to be the answer. Mr. B (I wasn't there long enough to learn his full name) told me he was looking for someone with a typewriter to work at Hilliard Raceway, a standard bred track for trotters and pacers. All I had to do was record the winners and their payoffs and deliver them to each of the newspapers in Columbus. He asked, "Do you have a car?" I told a white lie, and said, "Yes." The job would pay $75 for five nights at the track. Actually I had t several friends with cars and thought I might be able to manipulate available transportation.

In the meantime I had to find a place to bunk. The fraternity house had about a dozen people staying there, but until I started working I didn't want to pay rent. One of the guys in the same financial shape came up with an idea. His suggested, "They have electricity in the house. What if we buy some extension cords and string them to the Annex next door? We'd have power and could stay there." Five of us joined in the plan. It worked for about a month until my best friend, Jerry Millman, the Master (president) unexpectedly showed up in Columbus for a quick visit. He couldn't miss our jerry rigged (no pun intended) wiring and billed us $90 for the summer.

But back to my transportation dilemma. I had two other friends residing in Columbus that summer. One was Gene Weiss and the other Jim Parker, the all-american gridiron star. Both were on the wrestling team, though Woody Hayes wasn't thrilled with Jim's participation in the heavyweight division. Both were married. I told them I could get them into  the press box and we could possibly get tips from the experienced touts. For two weeks Gene and Jim took me to Hilliard. Then their wives called a halt to their shenanigans. For three night I was able to borrow others'  car. Then I ran out of options. I called Mr. B. and told him I  had lost my rides to the  track. He paid me $195 for the days worked. He also said, "If you can work five days during the Ohio State Fair, I''ll pay you $100." I  quickly said yes, not asking  even what I'd be doing. For the next month or so I spent afternoons at The Citizen as an intern, thanks to Kay Kessler.

The Fair grounds were a long walk from campus, but on opening day I made the trek, and arrived at noon, wearing a sports jacket and tie. Mr. B. gave me my assignment "You'll be working with the horses. When they come out on the track, you'll put their numbers over the saddles. When they've finished the race, you'll take off the numbers." It sounded simple, and I wondered why he'd pay me $100 for such an inane job. When the  horses finished the first race of the day, I knew why. The  horses were sweaty and the numbers were caked with mud. At the end of the day, I took the jacket to the dry cleaners and threw away the tie. The next day I showed up in an old t-shirt and jeans. "You're a fast learner," Mr. B. observed. I couldn't wait for the football season to start in late September and get back to doing something that din't require a whole bar of soap  to get clean..