Thursday, December 30, 2010

H'aint No Such Thing

Nobody could tell a ghost story like my granddad. As children, my sister and I spent several weeks each summer with our grandparents on their farm in Pelzer, SC. Our chief form of
entertainment was sitting on their large porch in the evening and listening to my grandfather tell ghost stories.

The one about the headless horseman always got my goose bumps going. I’ll never forget the time he was looking for his head and…..(there go those goose bumps again)…

Suddenly the story was interrupted when out of the blue, a bolt of lightning struck the
telephone pole about 30 yards from where we were sitting!

Talk about a punch line!

Frankly, after that, I lost all interest in Ghost Stories

However, over the years, there were a few times when “ghost stories” seemed to come
looking for me.

Of course, since there H'aint no such thing as ghosts (or “Haints”) there was almost always a
logical explanation for what at first glance seemed …uh…….supernatural.

Stone House, Manassas,VA circa 2000

Take for example the time I was showing an out of town friend of mine the nearby Manassas Battlefield.

It was very early one winter morning and our first stop was the old “Stone House,” one of only two original structures still standing in that popular National Park.

It was mainly used as a hospital during both battles of Manassas.

I figured we had come a bit too early because the park seemed to be empty. But that’s not
really unusual during the winter months before the Spring tourist season starts. However, what
was unusual that morning was that there didn’t seem to be any park service employees around
either. At least, not anywhere near the Stone House.

Stone House circa 1860
The place looked pretty drab. Very much like I imagine it did during the Civil War.

There still was no sign of anyone else in the park, as far as we could see.

But perhaps someone was inside. We tried the front door……and it was unlocked. 

 Once inside, we announced ourselves, several times, in fact, but got no response.

 The house was totally empty.

So, after a couple more attempts at announcing our presence, we started exploring the place on our own, which is the way I like to do it anyway.

We were getting braver by the minute and with still no sign of anyone in authority telling
us where we could, or could not, go in the house, we went on upstairs to try to locate the
floorboard where I had read that two wounded soldiers had carved their initials in 1862.

About the time we spotted one of the carvings, we heard footsteps downstairs.

I thought it wise to let whoever it was know that we were in the house, so I announced our presence again and noted that we were upstairs.

There was no reply.

View from second floor window

We both came to the conclusion that perhaps we should cut our visit to the Stone House short, because it just didn’t seem right for someone off the street (like us) to be able to just walk into such an historical house in a major National Park and wander around like we were doing.

Heck, I could have carved my initials in the upstairs floorboard, if I had been so inclined.

Besides, we wanted to find out who had joined us in the house, and head off any trouble that
we might find ourselves in since with all the laws Congress passes daily, I’m sure there must be
a number of them relating to unauthorized strangers wandering freely into protected National
historical monuments.

As we descended the stairs, we saw a woman, who rather frantically…it seemed to us…had
started up the stairs just as we were coming down.

“I’ve got to see it again,” she said as she hurried past us.

“I’ve got to see what they’ve done to it.”

When she reached the top of the stairs, she turned to us and said,

“I used to live here.”

(Cue the goose bumps. Up with the Twilight Zone music..and out.)

Now, I don’t want to spoil a perfectly good ghost story, so I’ll let you pick the ending.

This is multiple choice…and only one answer is true.

You decide.

She was:

A) Emily , the young daughter of Henry and Jane Mathews , owners of the Stone House,
who was killed in her bedroom by a stray bullet during the first battle of Bull Run. Every
year on the anniversary of her death, she reappears at the Stone House apparently
looking for the doll she was holding at the time of her death.
B) An actress who is part of a Candid Camera Stunt…….and who any moment will announce
that my friend and I are on Candid Camera.

C) A woman who now lives in Pittsburgh, but was born in Virginia. In the 1950’s, her
father worked for the Park Service and was in charge of the battlefield. As part of his
compensation, he and his family lived, rent free, in the upstairs of the Stone House
which was closed to the public. This was the first time she had seen the house since her

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.” –Rod Serling


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ed Sanders Obituary

Edward Sanders

Mr. Sanders of Charlotte, age 88, died Sunday, December 26, 2010. He was born on May 1, 1922 in McCormick, SC.

Mr. Sanders is survived by his son, Doug Sanders and daughter-in-law, Lynn Sanders from Charlotte, NC; daughter, Sandy Sanders and son-in-law, Rick Gurunian, also from Charlotte, NC; and three grandsons, Sam Sanders, Jeff Sanders and Jimmy Mortimer.

Mr. Sanders served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and then returned to Greenville, SC to complete his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Furman University. He was a lifelong educator and advocate of human rights.

His career began at Central High School in 1951 where he taught history, served as the athletic director and then went on to become principal. It was during this time that he was instrumental in the peaceful and successful integration of Central High School. In the fall of 1959, Mr. Sanders opened Garinger High School and served as principal until 1971.

In 1974, Mr. Sanders played a major part in the successful execution of court-mandated busing requirements after much study and extensive planning. His career then expanded to area superintendent for the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system and then moved on to serve as the superintendent of the Darlington County school system in South Carolina. He and his wife, Jane Sanders were members of Covenant Presbyterian church since 1951 where he taught Sunday school for many years.

Memorial services will be held on Tuesday, January 4, 2010 at 11:00 at Covenant Presbyterian Church with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Charlotte Humane Society, Covenant Presbyterian Church or Southminster Continuing Care Retirement Community.
Condolences may also be extended at

Published in Charlotte Observer from December 27 to December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Final chapter for pioneer principal

Ed Sanders played seminal role in Charlotte school desegregation; Rocky River's library named for him.

By Ann Doss Helms
Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010

As principal of Central High, Sanders enforced peace when the school enrolled its first black student in 1955. Across town at Harding High, desegregation brought dramatic conflict that stuck in the public mind, overshadowing Sanders's success.

But Sanders died knowing his place in history had been recognized.

Almost every day, he would look at a 2007 Observer article that chronicled his courage. Less than two months ago, he attended the dedication of Rocky River High's Ed Sanders Media Center.

Dementia took its toll on Sanders. But his son says he never lost the quiet moral authority that made him a reluctant hero.

Doug Sanders says his father continued to dispense nuggets of wisdom, such as "Every now and then, we need to be inconvenienced; we just get too comfortable."

Ed Sanders was never a civil-rights crusader, his son says. He was the youngest of eight children who grew up in segregated Simpsonville, S.C. They didn't know black people and didn't much question the way things were.

Doug Sanders believes Ed's compassion was forged when his own father, a railway depot agent, died just as Ed was starting college.

To support his mother, Ed worked as a sweeper, then a weaver, in a nearby textile mill. He developed a deep respect for his hardworking co-workers, who didn't have the education or the means that the Sanders family did. When he wasn't working or taking classes at Furman University, he taught mill workers to read, Doug Sanders says.

Jarred into history

Ed Sanders emerged believing that everyone deserves respect and a good education, the vision that guided him when history jarred his comfortable role as a principal.

Until 1957, he was the kind of quiet leader who got respect but not much attention, recalls David McKinnon, a 1955 graduate of the now-defunct Central High.

A Supreme Court ruling that year forced Charlotte's white schools to admit black students.

"I'd rather not have been there; I'm not fooling," Ed Sanders told Observer columnist Mary Curtis in 2007. But he also believed integration was the right thing to do, and he set out to do it right.

He used the respect he'd earned from his students, including the troublemakers and athletes, to make it clear he wouldn't tolerate harassment when the black student arrived.

When white students tried to block 11th-grader Gus Roberts at the front door, Sanders walked him in. The trouble died down, and Roberts graduated from Central two years later.

Moving on

Meanwhile, photos of Dorothy Counts being jeered and spit on at Harding became the iconic image of Charlotte's slow trudge toward racial justice.

In 1959, Sanders became principal of the new Garinger High. He was charged with introducing the first black faculty member. Again, he made it clear that abuse would not be tolerated.

Sanders eventually became a central-office administrator in the merged Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. A Supreme Court order demanding busing for full desegregation "gave him some heartburn," his son recalls. He wasn't sure it made sense to shuffle so many students.

But Ed Sanders swallowed his doubts and helped craft the 1970 busing plan. Again, his son said, he fell back on his belief in the right to a good education and his determination to do his job well.

Ed Sanders ended his career as an educator as superintendent of Darlington County schools in South Carolina, then returned to Charlotte.

To Doug and his sister, Sandy, Ed Sanders was also the dad who loved fishing, frog gigging and the comic strip "Snuffy Smith."

And he was devoted to his wife, Jane, nursing her through a long decline with Alzheimer's disease. She died in 2007 after 62 years of marriage.


In 2005, McKinnon and his Central High classmates held their 50th reunion. They invited Sanders - and to their surprise, he came. When they started meeting monthly in Mint Hill, he was an honorary member of the gang.

They thought of him as a great guy, a man of honor. But they didn't grasp his place in history until the Observer did a 50th-anniversary piece on the desegregation pioneers of 1957.

By that time, Sanders was recently widowed. His own memory was slipping. His son helped him with the interview.

Ed Sanders, who lived at Southminster retirement center, marveled when the article came out.

"His comment was, 'Did I really do that?'" Doug Sanders says.

Central High's Class of 1955 began lobbying to get a statue built or a school named for Sanders. They fell short - the statue would have been expensive, and CMS policy forbids naming schools for living people.

But Mark Nixon, principal of the new Rocky River High that opened in August, made the crusade his own. The library was named for Sanders, with a memorabilia room to help younger generations understand what the name means.

"If people don't acknowledge you publicly, the next generation won't know who you are," McKinnon says. "Heroes are overlooked because of things like this."

Sanders' funeral is set for 11 a.m. Jan. 4 at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

The delay, says Doug Sanders, is so the word can get out and people can get back from holiday trips. Because Ed Sanders no longer belongs to just his family. He belongs to Charlotte.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ed Sanders Passes

 By Jerry Gaudet

Thanks to Joan King Hargett, CHS'55, but with great sadness, we received word that Mr. Ed Sanders passed away the morning of December 26, 2010. The following preliminary obit was in today's Charlotte Observer...

Edward Sanders

Mr. Sanders, 88, of Charlotte, NC, passed away on December 26, 2010 at Southminster. Arrangements are incomplete at this time, but will be announced in the Wednesday edition of the Observer. Harry and Bryant is serving the family.
Published in Charlotte Observer on December 27, 2010

We understand there will be a memorial on Jan. 4, 2011.

You'll remember that the Class of 1955 successfully campaigned for the naming of the Media Center of a new high school to honor Mr. Sanders. He was our Assistant Principal and became Central High Principal the next year. Bless CHS'55 for accomplishing their goal before his passing.  -JG

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Merry!

Little Bubba and the entire almost competent staff of the CHS54.COM website wish you a very Merry Christmas!!

Little Bubba
and if you CLICK HERE you'll hear an oldie, but goodie version of White Christmas.

(Clue: It ain't by Bing Crosby)


Monday, December 20, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

As children, my sister and I were “picky” eaters. It almost drove our parents crazy….trying to get us to eat. Fortunately, we never had that problem with our children OR grandchildren!

Watching my 5 grand kids woof down Thanksgiving dinner was a sight to behold. No doubt, Christmas dinner will be a repeat performance.

I told them I hadn’t seen anyone enjoy food as much as they did since my pre game breakfast with the New York Giants just before a Sunday afternoon game against the Washington Redskins.

“Oh no, Grandad. Not another one of your tall tales! You didn’t play in the NFL,” they said, almost in unison.

“Now be patient, boys," I said,  "and let me finish another one of my amazing, but true stories from the past."

I continued:

"I was having breakfast with Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff and the rest of the New York Giants team in the private dining room of the Saddle Brook Marriott Hotel in New Jersey, not far from the Meadowlands where the team would be playing the Washington Redskins in a few hours. We would be taking the field first…….

(Well….there they go. For some reason my grand kids never stay around for the end of my stories. I’m concerned that they might have SASS. (short attention span syndrome.)

Anyway, Sam and I would be taking the field before the team did…since we eventually had to work our way  up to the press box at the top of the stadium where Sam was going to be broadcasting the game.

Sam Huff broadcasting game for WMAL Radio 1976
This was in October of 1976 and the reason I was there was to snap pictures of Sam for my radio station at the time, WMAL, as well as some promotional pictures for the J.W, Marriott Company. (Sam’s full time job after retiring from football was as a Vice President for Marriott…in charge of arranging for NFL and other major sports teams to stay at Marriott Hotels when traveling.)

I had gotten a pretty good reputation around the station as a photographer, which had been my off and on hobby since Junior High school.. At night our laundry room became a dark room. I don’t think Linda was crazy about that, but, good wife that she is, she didn’t complain.

Marriott Chef
Anyway, back to the breakfast. What a feast! There was the standard fare such as eggs and bacon, which is what I had, but the players all had steak and eggs. Correction: steaks and eggs. Not one of the players I saw had just one steak. They all had at least 2…..and in some cases 3. I have no idea how many eggs it took to fill those hungry athlete’s plates, but my guess is 4, maybe 5.

But even stranger than that was the fact that there was hardly any conversation going on. If it hadn’t been for typical silverware and plate noise……the room would have been deathly silent.

 I asked Sam about that and he said that was not unusual at all. He said that very few words would be spoken until game time. It was their way of concentrating…and psyching themselves up for the game.

And sure enough, later in the locker room, I noticed that the silence continued.

40 players dressing for the game, and not a word was spoken. Sam got the “game time injury report” and then he checked out the condition of the playing field and finally we started making our way up to the press box.

I won’t even try to describe what it was like walking with Sam Huff through a stadium full of New York Giant fans.

But I’ll never forget it.

Nor will I forget the happy celebration in the locker room after the Giants defeated George Allen's Redskins that day with a last minute field goal. ..and all the reporters (half of them women) scrambling to talk to the players as they showered and dressed!

Sam Huff, Marriott Sports Teams VP

I'm all for equal opportunity and all, but  I’m sure glad they didn’t do things that way in 1953." -Ed

A Birthday Bash in Maryland

Twenty women from across the spectrum of Jennie Meador Forehand's life gathered in Annapolis, Maryland to honor her for her 32 years of service to that state.

Each of the women told of their connection to Jennie over the many years and drew a very rich picture of her contributions to Rockville, MD, and the state of Maryland through her 32 years of service in the House and Senate, and, of course, her many loyal friendships.

 Two of them went  all the way back to high school: Ellouise (Diggle) Schoettler and Suzanne (Robinson) Hardy.

Former MD House Delegate Carole Petzold, Jennie's colleague and good friend, presented an official citation honoring Jennie.

Bill Forehand, key member of Jennie's team, completes the picture.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas 1957.......a personal story

Little Bill

My first job was working at Charlotte’s only independent radio station, WGIV in 1951. Independent meant that WGIV didn’t have a network like CBS or NBC to depend on for its programs.

Everything that went on the air at WGIV was locally produced; meaning disc jockies played records all day long. Which, with Television rapidly becoming America’s entertainment King, music was what people wanted to listen to on the radio anyway.

Since I was only 15 years old at the time, and WGIV was way out South Blvd on Toomey Ave… father had to drive me to work each afternoon. The station was located in a tiny little house right next to the Charlotte Dump. The station wasn't much to look at, but it certainly fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, which would never be confused with the Myers Park
section of Charlotte.

In addition there were lots of ragged little kids (urchins) playing around the station
all the time.

They seemed to naturally gravitate to my Dad even before he began bringing them candy from time to time.  He became very fond of those kids, especially Bill, the youngest and probably the smartest of all of them.

My Dad called him “Little Bill.”

Even after I began driving myself to work, my Dad continued to drop by the station on a pretty regular basis. He enjoyed watching the inside operations of the station as well as watching all his little friends playing outside in the big yard next to the tower.

Typical Newsboy circa 1900
Christmas was always a special day for my Dad…but I’m not sure why. I never heard him say a word about what his boyhood Christmases were like, but knowing how much his earnings as a  young newspaper boy meant to the very existence of his family, my guess is that they were pretty bleak.

Anyway, every Christmas eve, beginning in 1951, he would go to Stanley’s Drugstore and buy up most of the toys that had not been sold, and old Doc Stanley would usually throw in an equal number for free. And on Christmas morning, he would bring those toys to the WGIV parking lot and give them to the kids.

He continued doing this even after I had left WGIV and gone on to college.

In fact, It was at UNC when I was called out of class one day in the late fall of 1957 and informed that my father was very ill and the family had requested that I return to Charlotte immediately. He was alive, when I got there, but in a coma, and the doctor had no idea if he would ever come out of it or not.

In the weeks that followed we tried hard to find little signs that perhaps meant that he was improving, but to no avail.

We were having our Christmas Eve dinner when the hospital called with the urgent request that we come over as soon as possible….because my father was dying.

It was too late. By the time we got there, he had passed away.

If any day is worse than any other to deal with grief AND trying to take care of the many details
associated with the death of a loved one…it is Christmas.

I was on the phone almost constantly that morning.

Just before noon it rang again…….and a very small voice at the other end of the line

wanted to know ”…..why Mr. Myers hadn’t come over.”

It was Little Bill.

My heart was broken for the second time in just under 12 hours.

I regret to this day that I didn’t have the foresight and presence of mind to think of those kids and
substitute for my Dad that day.

It would have been a wonderful tribute to a kind and thoughtful man who no doubt, knew first hand the disappointment that Little Bill and his friends were feeling that Christmas morning.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Jennie Wins her 9th Election

Overcoming the "Too Old" slurs by her opponent, Jennie Margaret Forehand  won her Montgomery County Maryland senate race by 78% of the vote!

How did she do it?

Jennie says she did it the old fashioned way.....knocking on doors!

She knocked on so many doors that those of us who knew her at CHS suspect that she oiled up her old blue aid her in knocking on almost every door in the  county.

Too old?

Ha!, she laughed in their faces.

However, she was old enough to have served for 32 years as an elected official in her state.

The jury is still out on whether Jennie employed the "Blue Bike" tactic in her campaign, but she definitely triggered the "Obie Option:"

As she explained to the statewide press:

"Obie, was a high school classmate of mine in Charlotte who made campaign signs for my first election…and that friendship and good luck continues today. We still use the colors and design he chose 32 years ago! He was also the one who came up with our slogan,: “Back a Strong Forehand”

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The Christmas CHS'54 Lunch is TUESDAY!
...and this one is SPECIAL!

 By Jerry Gaudet

We have a Special Project for December... Mary Sue has arranged an opportunity for us to honor the memory of Shirley Maynor. Please bring simple Christmas gifts that we can share with residents of Avanté at Charlotte, the skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center that cared for Shirley.

Following is a list of possible items that we can bring. Other items can always be added. The gifts should NOT be wrapped except for maybe a bow or ribbon (the Avante staff would have to unwrap any gifts to know who should receive each gift).

We hope everyone will want to participate as a way to honor our friend, Shirley, and to bring a little Christmas cheer to some nursing home residents. As Mary Sue expressed, “at Christmas we always think about children, but we tend to forget about those who are older, ill and alone”.

Here’s are some suggestions:

Candy such as jelly beans, gum drops, mints, chocolates

Christmas decorations for the bedside tables or room bulletin boards

Cookies and other snacks

Crossword puzzle books



Hand lotion

Hats, baseball caps

Pens, pencils, paper


Small games


Stuffed animals

Throws or small blankets


In the meantime, Merry Christmas everyone!  -JG

(.....that goes for me too! -Ed)

This month's "LDL" (Let's do lunch) will be held on
Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 11:30 AM
at "Jimmies" in Mint Hill.

Spread the word! Invite other classmates to come! Even better, bring someone with you! Be sure YOU, come!

Plan to join us...there's plenty of room.'ll be glad you did!

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"..... PART TWO

 (This is the second of a two part story about  Frank Capra's ground breaking 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Please read part one (found here) first. The National Press Club sponsored the premier of the film and this is Frank Capra's description of that memorial day...from his autobiography, THE NAME ABOVE THE TITLE copyright 1971)

By Frank Capra

How I wished Papa could have lived to see the day when America’s leaders would honor the work of his youngest son. I grinned and grinned , blew my nose, and took surreptitious handkerchief swipes at my eyes.

There they were…army searchlights; their beams playing tag among the low-scudding clouds. Constitution Hall was a fairy palace of splendor. A marine band belted out the pulse-stirring strains of Halls of Montezuma; huge throungs of oroped off bystanders cheered their favorite government dignitaries as they stepped out of the low-license numbered official cars.

Inside, the great Hall glittered with all the opulence of a new seasons opening at the Met. Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet officers, Senators, Congressmen, generals, pundits . We were introduced to Senator and Mrs. Burton K. Wheeler and their teen-aged daughter. Mr. Smith, in the film, allegedly came from Montana, so it was thought fitting that Montana’s Senator Wheeler should sit in the official box with us.

When the lights dimmed, a spotlight hit our box. There was a thunderous applause. Good Lord. I stood up, took a bow, and sat down Columbia’s Torch Lady flashed on the screen Another thrunderous applause at the title: Frank Capra’s MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. I crossed all my fingers and prayed a little that nothing would go wrong.

I hadn’t prayed enough.

The ominous signs that strike terror into the hearts of filmmakers…whispering and fidgeting…became evident about two thirds of the way into the picture. Walk-outs would confirm the omens. There was the first one..a couple rose, headed for the exit, the man making thumbs down motions with his hand. Another twosome followed suit, then a foursome. The scaffold was being erected…and I had a box seat.

When Jimmy Stewart started filibustering, the whispering swelled into a provoked buzz. Mrs. Wheeler and her daughter withered us with hostile glances, then whispered into Senator Wheelers ear. Arthur Hachten,( President of the National Press Club) chief sponsor of the film, dropped his twisted program, ran a finger around the inside of his wilted collar as he watched his guests move like picket lines toward the exits …flaunting furs instead of placards, Flying words, such as “Outrage,” ” Insult”….must have zinged into him like ice-tipped arrows.

By the time Mr Smith sputtered to the end music, about one-third of Washington’s finest had left. Of those who remained, some applauded, some laughed, but most pressed grimly for the doors. The Wheeler family, having courteously stuck it out, now rose and huffily left our box; but not before Senator Wheeler had thrown me a polite, but curt, over –the- shoulder “Good Evening.” He was not amused.

Later, sitting in the back of one of the Press Club’s restaurant bar booths, with my good wife next to me, I took the worst shellacking of my professional life. Shifts of hopping-mad Washington press correspondents belittled, berated, sconrned, vilified, and ripped me open from stem to stern as a villainous Hollywood traducer.

For much to my surprise..I was accused of double-sinning in Mr Smith. Sin number one was just a mortal sin: showing that graft could raise its ugly head in the august Senate chamber. But sin number two: depicting one of their own Press Club members as being too fond of the juice of the grape…WELL! That was heresy; punishable by being burned at the stake in the fires of their wrath.

It didn’t make sense. The average reporter I knew would have laughed at himself under the circumstances. But these gentlemen were not average reporters. They were demi-gods, “by-liners,” "opinion makers". What they wrote was instantly printed in hundreds of newspapers at home and abroad. Their irrational attack on Mr. Smith was not an attack against entertainment, or against me personally. It was a attack against a new, perhaps superior, power invading their empire… power.

Clearly, they detested Mr. Smith Goes to Washington because it was the first important film to muscle in on their private Washington preserve. So resentful were those Olympian cuff-shooters, that they could take this hypocritical stance: Holding a Martini in angry fingers, they looked me right in the eye and said, “There isn’t one Washington correspondent in the room that drinks on duty, or off duty!!

This crazy scene had to end with an unexpected topper

Our attention was arrested by a clamorous voice, loud enough to be heard over the tumult. It came from the direction of the two-deep bar.

“Where’s that Hollywood jerk!” he snarled, “Where do you get off telling the world that all reporters are drunken bums? He was fighting off restraining hands. “No, the Hell with you. I want to meet the son-of-a bitch that made that goddam picture. Where is he?” Someone pointed to our booth. “Oh there you are you Hollywood jerk, where do you get off telling the world that all reporters are drunken bums? I’m gonna bust you…” He made a wild pass with a hand and sprawled flat on his face on the table sending drinks and flying glass all over us.

In the uproar Lu and I made our way to the elevator; then ran like fugitives to the Willard Hotel.

What a daffy day.

At dinner we had been toasted, honored, and welcomed by the National Press Club. At midnight we had been roasted, dishonored, and given the bum’s rush by the same club.

There’s no dizziness like show dizziness. -FC

Friday, December 03, 2010

"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"....and took me to lunch

I hosted a morning television show  in Washington for about 2 and a half years. It was fairly typical of local interview shows of that time, featuring celebrities, authors, musicians, playboy bunnies, whoever we could book that we thought might be half way interesting.

David French, Lee Shephard, Carol Clark
Just about every station had one. Many of those interviews were pretty lame and believe me, I had my share.

But one big advantage I had was that my show was in Washington DC...and love it or hate it, that’s where the “action” was.

Still, finding interesting guests to interview 5 days a week 52 weeks a year wasn’t easy.

The show had no budget, no staff, just me and a female co-host (Carol Clark) a newsman (David French) who up dated the headlines each morning, and a director plus a couple of floor crew workers....who were members of the “training program”.....young kid TV " wanna be’s".... just out of school who mostly moved furniture and sets around.

One morning after a particularly dull guest, the newest kid on the floor crew, Burt Wheeler was his name. came up to me and suggested that his uncle would make a good guest on the show.
After that morning’s “bomb,” I was willing to listen to any and all suggestions.

I’m glad I did.

After a little research I told Burt to go ahead and invite his uncle on the show.

Uncle Burt” (his nephew was named after him) called me a few days later and accepted the invitation, but insisted on taking me to lunch the day before the discuss his upcoming appearance. I agreed.

When I arrived at 2121 Mass Ave he was waiting for me.

I had a feeling that my next morning's show was going to be an interesting one, when he ushered me into the luxurious COSMOS club and we sat down for lunch.

The Cosmos Club
Since it’s founding in 1878. the COSMOS club has been the undisputed social headquarters fοr Washington’s intellectual elite.

(Every time I find myself in situations like this,  a vuvuzela horn goes off in my brain and I hear a little voice in my head that says, “What the Hell are you doing here?!)

Burton K. Wheeler told me about the time he ran for President In 1924. He and Robert LaFollette were the candidates of the Progressive Party. in that presidential election.

Burton K. Wheeler

 Returning to the Democratic Party, he was elected to the Senate in 1928, 1934 and 1940.

He told me that President Roosevelt asked him to run as his Vice President in 1944, but he turned him down.

But even more interesting than that was the fact that Senator Wheeler was .........Mr.Smith!

You know, the one in the Frank Capra movie.....who went to Washington!

This is what LIFE magazine said about that 1939 movie:

“Mr Smith stemmed from an original short story, The Gentleman from Montana,by Lewis R. Foster.
It was loosely based on the early career of Senator Burton K. Wheeler, who was attacked and falsely indicted when as a freshman Senator in the 1920’s, he fought corruption in the Presidential administration of Warren G. Harding.

The Hays office, mindful of pending Senate bills that would have adversely affected the movie industry, discouraged other studios from going ahead with the film.

But once it fell into Capra’s hands, his clout prevailed.’

The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and is considered one of the best films ever made.

Just about everybody loved it.

Except Congress!

For example Senator Alben Barkley (minority leader 1937-1947, later Vice President under Truman) said, .

"... it showed the Senate as the biggest aggregation of nincompoops on record! At one place the picture shows the Senators walking out on Mr. Smith as a body when he is attacked by a corrupt member. The very idea of the Senate walking out at the behest of that old crook! It was so grotesque it was funny. It showed the Senate made up of crooks, led by crooks, listening to a crook . . ."

Jimmy Stewart as "Mr. Smith"

...and what did Mr.Smith,  I mean Senator Wheeler, (who was sitting next to Frank Capra at the premier showing of the movie,  think about it?.....)..

 He told me that  he walked out in disgust half way through the film.

Meanwhile, back at the Cosmos club. I stayed until after the dessert.

David French, Bunny #1, Lee Shephard, Bunny #2

And the following day, "The Uncle Burt" show was a big hit! It got almost as high ratings as the previous week's Playboy Bunny interviews.  -Ed

Jim Suitt's Daughter in law passes

Jerry Gaudet reports that Jim Suitt's daughter-in-law passed away last Friday at the age of 41.

Those that attended the November "LDL" will remember that Jim (CHS'55) visited with us.

His contact information is:

Jim Suitt
116 Lamplighter Lane
Mooresville, NC 28115


Here's the obit...

Kimberly Wiles Suitt

MOORESVILLE -- Mrs. Suitt, 41, of Mooresville, passed away on Friday, November 26, 2010 at her residence. She was born on August 4, 1969 to Coy R. Wiles and Sue Featherstone Wiles. She was a homemaker and very active in volunteering at her children's school and loved spending quality time with her children and her family. She was a member of Triplett United Methodist Church. She is survived by her husband of 19 years, Joseph L. Suitt; children, Lauren, Lathan and Lannah of the home; sister Donna Bennett and husband, Glenn and children, Jenna and Noah Bennett of Cleveland, NC; brother, Ray Wiles and Ninnette Sanchez of Cleveland, NC; in-laws, June and T.D. Rogers and Jim Suitt of Mooresville.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, November 29 at 2:00 p.m. at Triplett United Methodist Church with the Rev. William W. 'Bill' Roberts officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Visitation for family and friends will be on Sunday, November 28 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Lakeshore Elementary School PTO, 252 Lakeshore School Dr., Mooresville, NC 28117, and/or Triplett United Methodist Church, 838 Mazeppa Rd., Mooresville, NC 28115.
Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, is serving the Suitt family. Condolences may be made online at