This column started 41 years ago on this date. Here's how it happened, more or less:
I was a youthful reporter when The Editor called me to his office:
"We need you to start a six days a week items column, Smitty."
"But sir, I only know enough for about a week of columns."
"That's the beauty of it; you don't write it, your readers do."
"But what will it be about, sir?"
"Anything; bad jokes, nostalgia, cute-grandkid stories, milestone events, whatever they think of."
"In other words, a column about nothing."
"You got it, Sandy."
"Yeah, right. Now get to work. I want the first one June 4."
"All right, sir, but do I get a raise for doing this?"
"Uhh, we'll talk about that later, Sleepy."
"Oh yeah, I knew it was one of the Seven Dwarfs…"
As always, my heartfelt thanks to the folks who keep this "column about nothing" going…
On the air
I'll be discussing the 41st anniversary of the column Thursday between 9 and 10 a.m. with Jim Engster on his "Talk Louisiana" show on Baton Rouge public radio station WRKF, 89.3-FM. It's also available on WRKF.org or the WRKF app. Call-in number are (877) 217-5757 or (225) 297-5633.
Where's the beef?
Brent St. Blanc says, "Discussions about eating habits due to COVID-19 reminds me of a diet change grandson Brayden recently explored.
"At 13, with aspirations to play major league baseball one day, he watched a film, 'Game Changers,' about the athletic advantages of a plant-based diet. He told his mom he needed to convert over to a plant-based diet to help him on the playing field.
"So my wife offered to make a plant-based meatloaf for him she had found on the Game Changers website.
"Coming over for dinner for the debut of his plant-based diet, she served him the new Game Changer meatloaf. He took one bite, looked up, and in four words summed up his opinion — 'More like Game Over!'"
Speed demon Dale
John Hu tells this story about Dale Nyman, the oldest active member of the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus at 89:
"He was driving on I-95 in Florida back when he was 85. He was trying to pass an 18-wheeler, but as he pulled out into the passing lane he realized that there were several of them. So he sped up to pass them all.
"A cop stopped him, checked his driver's license, and said, 'Mr. Nyman, please don't drive your age next time!'
"He let him go, no ticket."
Our mention of hot dogs in the Wednesday column reminds me of this:
When I got a note from Freddie "One-Bite" Heidbrink, of Metairie, I of course asked about the origin of that nickname:
"Back in 1962 or 1963 I was with a group of friends at the Fairgrounds racetrack. I went to the concession stand and bought three 30-cent hot dogs and gave the lady the silver dime change for a tip.
"I put two in my trench coat pocket and took a bite of the other one. I bet my friend 'The Bear' that I could eat a hot dog in one bite."
He took out the shorter already-bitten dog, and, as he says, "the rest is history."
Otis was here
Mention of an old, old Baton Rouge nightclub on North Boulevard brought this recollection from Bill Huey:
"I once saw Otis Redding at the Golden Slipper. I was too young to be there, but I was there. And man, was it packed!"
Special People Dept.
Joan Harrison Herbert, of River Ridge, celebrates her 90th birthday Thursday, June 4.
Bettie Kernion, of Metairie, says, "Your story about the little girl who thought her new sister would be a baby nun reminded me of another story.
"My husband was the treasurer of a college in Kansas staffed with many St. Joseph nuns. Our 4-year-old daughter had been introduced to many of them.
"So when she was helping my husband and he said, 'We need to do this systematically,' she said very innocently, 'Dad, I don’t think I have met Sister Matically.'"