Stuff you never knew zilch about

Published 10:35 am Thursday, September 1, 2016

Today, a pot of pourri, i.e. a few things you probably knew zilch about.

For instance, a little known painting by Vincent Van Gogh called, “Gachet” was sold to a Japanese art collector for a not-too-paltry $82 million. It shows a blue-eyed doctor. Go, Van, Go.

Who says Gen. Douglas MacArthur never went down in defeat? Wrong-o. When his wife-to-be was growing up in Leavenworth, KS, he ‘woo-ed’ her. MacA – as was done in those days – asked for her hand, but her granddaddy put him down as a “dirty old man,” who was too old for her. The Japanese weren’t too thrilled with him either.

Political stuff: As television viewership has increased, voting participation has decreased. Remember the Kennedy-Nixon debates? Kennedy looked good, Nixon looked gloomy. Rumor had it that a CBS makeup artist had – er – something to do with that.

One more piece of politic. Walter Cronkite said, “of all the presidents I have known since Hoover, the best brain was possessed by Jimmy Carter. That proves, I suppose, that peanuts are brain food. Today, Hillary eats cashews, and Trump chomps walnuts.

Pool politics. When FDR was president a swimming pool was built – exercise for his polio problem. Later, Jn. F. Kennedy used it for his back problems. He was injured during WW2 in his PT Boat 109. Nixon filled it in and, since then, it has been used as the Washington Press Room.

Strange showbiz bit: If you are a senior citizen you will remember “What’s My Line?” and panelist regular Dorothy Kilgallen. Later, she was the only reporter to interview Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassin. Shortly afterwards, she died of mysterious circumstances. Personal note: Miss K and her producer husband, Richard Kollmar, used to have a radio talk show, broadcasting from their NYC apartment, which my father listened to faithfully.

Roughly, on that rough subject, General Electric engineers perfected the electric chair; Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N. Y. was the scene of many such executions. That chair is now in Jarrett, VA in a state prison. Warden Lewis E. Lawes, the most famous warden of that prison, was against capital punishment.

In the Way Back When Department: In ‘66, Sinatra had a hit, “That’s Life.” For years before, and after, Life Mag was THE most popular publication so, for the sheer heck of it, I decided to go thru some old editions of the mag – memory jogging from the days when ‘Ga-Ga’ was an infant expression.

To begin – in 1930 we traipsed the yellow brick road, en-route to Oz. MGM wanted Shirley Temple to star, but she was busy saving 20th Century Fox which wouldn’t let her outta site. Judy Garland was too old for Dorothy, but one problem was settled – taping of the breasts. Incidentally, the pic was initially banned in Britain. Witch Margaret Hamilton (a former kindergarten teacher) would scare the Brit tots. Singer’s Midgets portrayed the Munchkins and, off-screen they were busy drinking and making merry.

An interesting shot of Pres. Reagan, in uniform, was in the same edition. According to the caption, “America’s future Commander in Chief” was inducted in 1942. He made training films, but other actors saw action; for instance Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable dropped bombs on Germany.”

Roughly on the subject of ‘’ye-olde’ I came across some interesting publications I’d forgotten I had. The headline in the Dec. 8, 1941 edition of the St. Louis Star Times declared, boldly, of course – “War Declared.” The sub-head read, “Congress Acts In 33 Minutes.”

Don’t know how I got that paper – never been to St. Loo. I spent about 50 years with the Virginian-Pilot, but the edition I have came out when I was a year old. There were five sections – the only one I have is the last part which carried a romance story. Ads were plentiful and, according to one of them you can get a Ford Touring Car for $440 — the price of a tire today. If you were rolling in dough you could have bought a Touring Car with a starter for $510.


Frank Roberts, who is 87, spent 60 years writing and talking. He and his wife, Valeria, have three children, five grandchildren, and three great-granddaughters. He loves to write.