Favorite

Old Gray Lady rides again 

There was a reunion of Arkansas Gazette employees last Saturday night, nearly 25 years to the day the Old Gray Lady was shut down, its assets sold by the Gannett Corp. to its competitor the Arkansas Democrat. There was a DVD of news coverage Oct. 18, 1991, the day the Democrat pulled the plug so the Gazette would not be allowed to publish a final edition, as if it were never a separate, very different paper from the winners of the newspaper war. The DVD also included video shot the final day in the newsroom, with booze, speeches, laughter, tears. Since that was sort of a downer (especially considering what 25 years will do to your neck, waist and hairline), reunion organizer Ernie Dumas, editorialist for the real Gazette and now the Arkansas Times, wisely tucked the television and DVD player out of the main line of traffic. Instead of mourning, Dumas delivered several funny stories, including one about a stringer named David Pryor.

Pryor, who'd been turned down for a job at the Gazette by managing editor A.R. Nelson, strung for the paper instead, first from Camden and later from Fayetteville, where he was in law school and the legislature at the same time. The UA had invited psychotherapist Albert Ellis, author of "Sex and the Single Man," to campus to speak, and Pryor covered the packed event for the Gazette.

Pryor called in his story to Dumas on the state desk, with this lede: "Any man who has not had sex by the time he is 30 is in for a lifetime of mental health problems."

"Do you have to put my byline on that?" Pryor asked Dumas. "Gazette Press Services" appeared instead.

That was a good thing, since "all hell broke loose," Dumas said, when the story ran the next day on page one. Gov. Orval Faubus condemned it and the president of the university apologized for the speech.

After he earned his law degree, Pryor went on to serve three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, two terms as governor of Arkansas and three terms in the U.S. Senate. Had Dumas not taken care of Pryor, he told the reunion crowd, it would have changed the course of Arkansas history.

Coming back from seeing the sausage made up at the State Capitol the other day, The Observer stopped by the Arkansas Fallen Firefighter's Memorial, which stands just west of the domed ediface. It's a handsome thing, all shining brass, stone and trickling water, cast figures standing majestically in their gear, seemingly ready to spring to the rescue or rush through flames, surrounded by black granite tablets inscribed with names and dates. It's a quiet place, and the morning was pretty, so we lingered there for a minute, among the names of the dead.

As you know if you've watched this space awhile, The Observer's favorite writer is Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt was a hell of a guy, the only celebrity whose death Yours Truly ever cried over other than Fred Rogers. Kurt was one of those people who figured out that life is so full of heartbreak and mystery that it's either laugh or cry. He preferred to laugh.

In his 1959 novel, "The Sirens of Titan" — not his best, but a humdinger — one character tells another: "I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine." The Observer never fails to recall that line when we hear a siren. Like a lot of Vonnegut, it's a line that says more than, by all rights, it should be able to in 17 little words. At the risk of being that boor who corners you at parties and explains all the jokes: A fire engine exists, in every nut, bolt and screw, for no other reason than to convey its passengers as quickly as possible to a place where they might risk their very lives for the lives and property of strangers, helping them force their way through fire and smoke. If there is any greater symbol of selfless love, The Observer can't name it. And so we took a moment to stand there before the memorial, in a cool and shady place, and say one of our faithless prayers for the fallen.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Addendum

    he Observer has our regrets, just like everybody else. For example: last week, Yours Truly published a cover story on the increasingly ugly fight over Eureka Springs' Ordinance 2223, which is designed to protect a bunch of groups — including LGBTQ people — from discrimination in housing, employment, accommodations, cake buying, browsing, drinking, gut stuffery, knickknack purchasing, general cavorting, funny postcard mailing and all the other stuff one tends to get up to in the weirdest, friendliest, most magical little town in the Ozarks.
    • Apr 30, 2015
  • Snake stories

    The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
    • Aug 27, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in The Observer

  • Writers blocked

    OK, back to basics, Observer. Get hold of yourself. Give the people what they want, which is escapism! If you don't, this column is eventually just going to devolve into The Prophecies of Hickstradamus at some point in the next four years: "The Orange Vulture perches in the fig tree. The great snake eats Moonpies and Royal Crown Cola by starlight ..." That kind of thing. Nobody likes that. Too much deciphering and such.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Cassandra

    The Observer's grandfather on our mother's side was a crackerjack fella. Grew up in the sandy hills north of Conway. County boy, through and through. During hog-killing time in December 1941, the story in our family goes, when word of Pearl Harbor reached his little community, he and his friends loaded into his T-model truck and made the rough journey to the first speck of civilization that included an Army recruiting office, where they all enlisted.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation