In the spring of 1979 I was toiling away on the business desk of the Morning Advocate when the editors called me in to ask if I was interested in an experiment.

They wanted to try a daily items column featuring stories by readers, light humor, nostalgia, local color and anything else I could come up with.

It was also to have a lot of readers’ names in it. As one editor put it, “We’d like for people to be able to get their names in the paper without having to die or hold up a convenience store.”

I told them I’d take a shot at it, after they assured me that if it flopped I could go back to covering business news.

It kicked off on June 4, 1979, and its readers have been writing it ever since.

They write it, I get paid for it. Works for me…

As always, I’m grateful to all of you who have kept this thing going for 36 years — the old hands who read the Baton Rouge and Acadiana editions, and the slew of new readers of the New Orleans Advocate. It’s great to have contributors from Hammond to Harahan, Mandeville to Metairie, that we hadn’t reached before.

Thanks to the talented, although sometimes weird, contributors who over the years have helped me avoid having to get a real job ... I love y’all...

On the air

And now, it’s time for a shameless plug:

I’ll be talking about this column’s 36th anniversary on Jim Engster’s radio show, which airs Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

You can catch it in Baton Rouge on WBRP-FM (107.3); New Orleans/Slidell on WSLA-AM (1560); Thibodaux on KTIB-AM (640); Lafayette/Abbeville at TalkRadio 960 AM, and on some north Louisiana stations, where folks probably don’t get The Advocate and will have no idea what we’re talking about.

Jim has promised to suspend his slogan, “Intelligent Talk for Louisiana,” so I can be on the show...

Long distance call

Bennie Zahn, of New Orleans, says when her husband, Carl, was having computer problems, he made the mistake of calling an 800 number that supposedly got him in touch with some high-tech computer wizards.

What he actually got in touch with was a gent in another country who was evidently the most persistent salesman in the world.

He kept calling offering his services, even after Carl went in the hospital and Bennie told the salesman the computer in question was now resting in the dump.

Says Bennie, “Some time after Carl died, ‘Mr. 800’ called to speak with him, and did not want to speak with me.

“When I told him, ‘Carl isn’t here,’ he asked if Carl had a cell phone. I told him I did not know.

“‘Mr. 800’ said, ‘He’s your husband and you don’t know if he has a cell phone?’

“My reply was, ‘Sir, do you?’ and he answered, ‘Yes.’

“Then I said to him, ‘I hope you have a good satellite, as he’s now in heaven.’

“It was his turn to hang up.”

Redundant redundancies

Continuing our discussion of unneeded words, Francis Celino, the Metairie Miscreant, says, “At the now-closed Public Health Service Hospital, we used ‘Common Accounting Numbers’ in coding payments. They were referred to as ‘CAN numbers.’

“Remember the news readers who referred to the ‘Strategic Arms Limitation Talks’ as the ‘SALT talks?’”

Marching music

Thanks to Billy Carroll, of Denham Springs, who tells the reader who asked that “the music Buckskin Bill Black (WAFB-TV’s kid’s show star) used for many years as ‘The Monday Morning March’ was a recording of ‘Spirit of Freedom March,’ performed by the famous Cities Service Band of America, conducted by Paul Lavalle. It was released by RCA Victor in the 1950s on the ‘Paul Lavalle’s Concert in the Park’ LP.”

Special People Dept.

Frank and Myrt Husband, of Baton Rouge, celebrate 60 years of marriage on Thursday, June 4.

What muscles?

Dickie Rembert comments on the notice about attire for the July 9 North Baton Rouge Reunion, for folks who grew up there in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s:

“Regarding the order not allowing muscle shirts: Why would anyone our age even think about it? Of course, some of us are ‘Lost In The Fifties,’ and don’t think sometime.”

Meet Mr. Velcro

Ernie Gremillion says our story about the lady leaving her cane in a shopping cart “reminds me one a similar one.

“I left my cane in the cart in the parking lot of a Sam’s Club on one occasion.

“Being a senior with bending problems, I usually wear shoes with straps on them.

“When I returned to Sam’s to get my cane, the greeter had it in her hand, offering it to me at the front door.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘How did you know the cane belonged to me?’

“Her response was that the cart attendant who recovered it said the man who left it had ‘Paw-Paw shoes’ on.”

Contacting Smiley

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.