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In late 1967, I was still stationed at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, near Clovis, the “Cattle Capitol of the Southwest.” I was a 1st Lt. and Commander of the Supply Squadron, and I had moved off-base to an apartment in Clovis (where, incidentally, I met my future wife Deanna).

Here are some of my journal entries from those days. In them, you will meet:

Col. Frank Shepard, Base Commander
Col. George Doerr, Deputy Base Commander
Capt. John Thornton, Base Legal Officer and my roommate
Capt. Ted Mayo, Base Legal Officer

———

3 NOV 67

Well, I’m in trouble for sure. This morning, I testified in Airman Key’s administrative discharge hearing. Key is a bad apple, and Col. Shepard (the Rococo Toad) is hell-bent on kicking him out of the service. The pressure from the Toad to get it done has been intense. Ill-advised, if not illegal.

Thornton kept me on the stand for 45 minutes, and I said my piece. In the end, the board voted to retain Key in the Air Force. Shepard will go ballistic when he reads the transcript.

Originally, Mayo was appointed as Key’s counsel, but Key insisted on Thornton. Ted was livid. After the hearing, John being John, he sent a telegram to Ted in Ft. Worth, where he and Judy are attending a country club gala. The telegram read, KEY RETAINED STOP MAY HE COME TO THE BALL STOP

5 NOV 67

A few months ago, the City of Clovis installed a marble tablet of the 10 Commandments on the courthouse lawn. Yes, for real. Thornton and I went down there this afternoon to take photos.

And get this: the Clovis tablet has 11 (eleven!) Commandments. The line about not coveting thy neighbor’s house is presented as Commandment 10, and the rest of the shalt-not-covets are Commandment 11. You can’t make this stuff up.

I’m pretty sure the 10th Commandment is supposed to be something like this: “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s House, Nor his Wife, Nor His Manservant, Nor His Maidservant, Nor His Ox, Nor his Ass, Nor Any Thing That Is Thy Neighbor’s.”

The Clovis version also skips the “Nor His Ox” part, and “Nor His Ass” was changed to “Nor His Cattle.”

Maybe the cattle part is appropriate. Clovis has stockyards as far as the eye can see and the nose can smell.

10 Cs

6 NOV 67

I got a call this morning from SSgt Hinkle, who came home early from a TDY assignment to find an airman from my squadron living with his wife. Hink wants to confront the airman in my presence. The villainous airman is on leave for a few days, so I have that to look forward to.

Mayo got John’s telegram Friday night in Ft. Worth. It arrived while they were searching for a pearl and diamond bracelet Judy lost. They didn’t find it. Poor Ted.

7 NOV 67

Thornton got permission from 12th AF to release a summarized transcript of Airman Key’s board hearing. Thank God. I was really worried about how Col. Toad would react to my testimony, honest and accurate though it was.

John said he did it to save his own skin, not mine. In his closing argument, he called Shepard two-faced and a dupe. Why, Shep would kick John off the bowling team for that.

8 NOV 67

Hinkle came to my office today and said he changed his mind, he doesn’t want a come-to-Jesus meeting with the cuckolding airman. He just wants the guy transferred as far away from Cannon as possible, ASAP. If not, he will call his congressman and every officer at Cannon from the rank of bird colonel on up.

When I informed Col. Shepard, he summoned me to his office, where he was waiting with Col. Doerr (Commissioner Gordon). Doerr is a decent guy, but nobody considers him a mental giant. He had little to contribute.

Shepard finally decided it would be best to get the offending airman reassigned. He left to go talk to Personnel about it.

9 NOV 67

The Squadron Fire Marshals met today at 1400 hours. I had to meet with Col. Shepard and Hinkle at 1500, so at 1445, I got up and quietly excused myself.

Col. Stitt, always a favorite among the junior officers, said, “Where do you think you’re going?” I explained where. “Sit down, Lieutenant,” he said. Sir yes sir.

The meeting ran until 1530 hours. When I got to the Toad’s office, he chewed me out for being late. I apologized for being such a slug.

Col. Shepard told Sgt. Hinkle that the Casanova airman will get a fast assignment to somewhere else. Personnel is already working on it.

He then gave Hinkle a lecture on how to keep your family together. Ha. Last spring, the Toad’s wife threw him out for two weeks for some mysterious transgression. To our collective chagrin, we never found out what it was.

10 NOV 67

When I got back from lunch, Capt. Bryan from Civil Engineering was waiting in my office. Some major told him that the CE barracks is a disgrace and Bryan’s men are filthy pigs, which is true. The major said Bryan could learn something from Supply Squadron.

That was flattering. I wanted to ask which major it was, but Bryan wasn’t in a happy place, so I refrained.

In spite of being angry and insulted, Bryan was curious. And there he was, asking to see my barracks. I gave him the pass keys and sent him down the hall with a pat on the rump.

13 NOV 67

This morning, MSgt Smith popped in and said he couldn’t find the pass keys. Did I have them? Crap. That moron Bryan didn’t return them.

Smith asked what we should do. I said either pick up the phone and call Bryan or go over to CE and find him, your choice.

I’m amazed that Smith got to be a first sergeant. He always needs help or permission.

I’m beginning to think the Air Force is a haven for incompetents and loafers who can’t make it in the civilian world. Maybe the entire military is that way. I try to maintain my sense of humor about it. You could go mad if you let the daily nonsense and stupidity and petty dramas wear you down.

Now if I can just laugh my way through the next 264 days, I’ll have my DD 214.

DD 214

———

The Rocky Smith of those days honestly believed, I can attest, that the Air Force was a sanctuary for incompetents and loafers incapable of handling civilian life. To him, the evidence was clear.

On the other hand, he was still a young lieutenant, not long out of college, whose work experience was, in fact, limited to the Air Force. Not until he left the military and widened his experience would he learn the truth: all workplaces are the same, whether military, government, academic, privately-held, or whatever.

In reality, the world of Dilbert is the universal norm. Only the people change. And you might as well laugh as cry.

 

When I got my Bachelor’s degree in 1964, I wanted to follow up with a Master’s in Journalism and Law. But there was a complication. I took ROTC as an undergraduate, and at some point, the Air Force would call me up to serve four years on active duty.

In reality, months could pass, even a year or more, before your orders arrived. Starting grad school in the meantime was not unreasonable.

But it didn’t happen. My orders arrived immediately. I graduated in early June and became 2nd Lt. Smith by the end of July. Indeed, life is like a box of chocolates.

My assignment was to Cannon AFB in eastern New Mexico. I lived in the Bachelor Officers Quarters and worked as an Administrative Officer, a deputy to one of the squadron commanders. Later, when the C.O. went to Vietnam, I moved up to his job.

Being a Journalism major and predisposed to writing, I quickly fell into the habit of keeping a journal about my life at Cannon.

Here are some entries from late 1965. All the names below are real except “Billy Joe Brown.” For him, a pseudonym seemed prudent.

———

3 DEC 65

The legal office called this morning and said to come running. They needed me on standby until we got a verdict in the court-martial of one of my airmen, Billy Joe Brown, alleged bad check artist, deserter, and car thief.

Billy Joe and I played double solitaire for an hour, and then the verdict arrived: a Bad Conduct Discharge, forfeiture of all pay, and six months confinement. I signed Billy Joe over to the APs and headed out to find some lunch.

6 DEC 65

Groan. 1st Lt. Jelley from Operations Support called. He said he had reason to believe that one of my men, A1C Wika, had stolen two parachutes while on the night shift and may have hidden them in his room in the barracks.

“You’re kidding,” I said. Jelley said no, he wasn’t kidding. With a sigh, I went up to Wika’s room and woke him up. I said, “Do you know your rights under Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice?” Nope.

I couldn’t ask questions until he acknowledged his rights, so I went back down to my office, got a copy of Article 31, and read it to him. He said he understood.

So I said, “Wika, don’t laugh, but did you swipe two parachutes while you were working last night, and if so, are they hidden in this room?” The room is barely large enough for me, Wika, and the bed.

“Yeah, Lieutenant,” he snorted. “I stuffed them in the pillowcase.”

7 DEC 65

I got to my office this morning to find 2nd Lt. Harkrider and MSgt Childress from Base Fuels waiting for me. Harkrider, who looks about 14, is trying to grow a mustache. It’s sort of a wispy blond thing. He said someone stole a parka, and he needed my advice on how to open an investigation.

That’s easy, I said. You don’t open an investigation. You call the Air Police, stand back, and watch them open it. Childress, who is twice as big as Harkrider and twice his age, never spoke.

8 DEC 65

MSgt Stricklan is a crackerjack first sergeant. I’m lucky to have him. Everyone at Cannon respects him, from the top brass to the latrine orderlies.

Strick and I have an unofficial arrangement: I don’t do anything without his tacit approval. That way, the squadron runs smoothly, and I get credit for having the sense to listen to my first sergeant. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

Usually, Strick is stoic and cool-headed, but this week he nearly blew a fuse. It happened during the barracks inspection when he discovered that Airman Lloyd hadn’t changed the sheets on his bed for about a year.

Apparently, Lloyd was out boozing the night before and was still sawing logs when Strick reached his room. Lloyd usually has the bed made and the room ready for inspection, but this time, he was sprawled out on the bed zonked, and the linens were exposed for all to see.

Something about it hit a nerve with Strick. He was appalled. Indignant. He said the sheets were brown, Lieutenant! Literally brown! He reamed Lloyd out and told him to (1) change the bed, (2) prepare for a re-inspection, and then (3) report to my office.

An hour later, a half-hung-over Lloyd knocked on my office door. He admitted he hadn’t changed the sheets since he arrived at Cannon this time last year, but he didn’t see what the big deal was. It was easier just to make the bed and be done with it.

I patiently made a hygiene case. Lloyd wasn’t impressed. No matter, I told him. I suspect you’re about to be put on a laundry schedule that will be personally monitored by the First Sergeant.

10 DEC 65

Maj. Colvard from Operations Support called. He wanted to know if I had reported the theft of the two parachutes to the APs. I said no, they aren’t my parachutes.

Maybe not, he said, but Col. Shepard wants you to handle it. And while you’re at it, report the loss of six aircraft tires. I have the paperwork. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.

———

In my next post, some journal entries from 1967.

Stricklan & Smith

MSgt Stricklan and 2nd Lt. Smith in the Orderly Room, December 1965. Note the many decorations Lt. Smith had earned at that stage of his military career.

 

Poems That Don’t Suck

More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

———

A Time to Talk

By Robert Frost

Frost-3

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

———

You Fit Into Me

By Margaret Atwood

Atwood M

Margaret Eleanor Atwood (b. 1939)

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

———

The People Upstairs

By Ogden Nash

Nash O

Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

The people upstairs all practise ballet
Their living room is a bowling alley
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.
Their radio is louder than yours,
They celebrate week-ends all the week.
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,
And when their fun at last abates,
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I would love the people upstairs wondrous
If instead of above us, they just lived under us.

———

Grown-Up

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Was it for this I uttered prayers
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

———

Another

By Robert Herrick

Herrick R-2

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Here a pretty baby lies
Sung asleep with lullabies:
Pray be silent, and not stir
Th’ easy earth that covers her.

 

 

Tune o’ the Day

“Mad World,” one of the early hits by the British duo Tears for Fears, has remained a popular song over the years. It’s a pleasant tune, and, in fact, tells a compelling story. Not that people pay much attention to song lyrics.

Consider the line “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” Roland Orzabal, who wrote the song, said it was inspired by psychologist Arthur Janov, who believed that intense dreams (e.g., threats of death) are the best at relieving tension.

Bonus fact: Janov also inspired the name “Tears for Fears,” which refers to Janov’s concept of using “primal therapy” to relieve the repressed pain of childhood trauma.

Bonus fact two: Orzabal initially tried to sing Mad World’s vocals himself, but the results were lacking. He finally asked bandmate Curt Smith to try. “Suddenly,” said Orzabal, “it sounded fabulous.”

FYI, “Mad World” reflects the thoughts of a disillusioned teenager looking in despair at life around him. He feels hopeless and insignificant, deciding that life and people have neither meaning nor purpose.

He’s probably right, but that’s a weighty concept for some poor teen to handle.

Tears for Fears

Smith (top) and Orzabal.

Mad World

By Tears for Fears, 1982
Written by Roland Orzabal

All around me are familiar faces,
Worn out places, worn out faces.
Bright and early for their daily races,
Going nowhere, going nowhere.

Their tears are filling up their glasses.
No expression, no expression.
Hide my head, I want to drown my sorrow.
No tomorrow, no tomorrow.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles, it’s a very, very
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.

Children waiting for the day they feel good.
Happy birthday, happy birthday.
Made to feel the way that every child should.
Sit and listen, sit and listen.

Went to school, and I was very nervous.
No one knew me, no one knew me.
Hello, teacher. tell me what’s my lesson.
Look right through me, look right through me.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.

I find it hard to tell you ’cause I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world.
Mad world.

Halargian* world.
Mad world.

* Curt Smith wrote, “‘Halarge’ was an imaginary planet invented … during the recording of “The Hurting.” I added it as a joke during the lead vocal session, and we kept it.”

The Hurting

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

The chocolate chip cookie was invented in 1938 by Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Wakefield used an ice pick to break up bars of Nestlé’s chocolate and sprinkled the pieces onto cookie dough. She named her creation Toll House cookies.

In 1939, Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to print her recipe on its packaging. Nestlé hired her as a “recipe consultant,” her compensation being one dollar and free chocolate for life.

● British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was half American. His mother was Brooklyn socialite Jennie Jerome, who married Lord Randolph Churchill and thus transitioned to being a British socialite.

● Planned Parenthood has twice as many members as the National Rifle Association.

● Grass was cut with a scythe until the lawnmower came along. It was patented in 1830 by British mechanic Edwin Budding. His device was a push mower with blades in a rotating cylinder.

In 1914, auto industry pioneer Ransom Olds patented a gasoline-powered version of the rotary mower. The self-propelled, walk-behind power mower we use today appeared in the late 1920s.

Lawnmower

Speaking of Ransom Olds, his 1901 Oldsmobile was the first vehicle to be mass-produced on an assembly line. Henry Ford made the auto assembly line famous, but Olds invented the concept.

● Sweden has developed a highly efficient system that combines serious recycling with a national network of incinerators that burn garbage and trash to generate electricity. Today, less than one percent of Sweden’s refuse ends up in landfills. In fact, to keep up with its energy needs, Sweden imports refuse from neighboring countries.

● American painter James Whistler’s is famous for the iconic 1871 painting popularly known as “Whistler’s Mother.” The actual name of the painting is “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1.”

● In 1931, Alfred M. Butts invented Lexiko, a modestly successful game in which players made words out of letter tiles drawn at random. In 1948, Butts sold the game’s rights to James Brunot, who changed the name to Scrabble. Sales were miserable.

Brunot gave up in 1952 and sold out to Selchow and Righter, an established game manufacturer. Sales promptly soared.

Today, the Scrabble trademark is owned by Hasbro in the U.S. and Canada and by Mattel in the rest of the world. In all, about 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold.

Scrabble

In 1792, a small Spanish settlement was established on San Francisco Bay to serve arriving ships. In 1835, English homesteader William Richardson expanded the settlement and named it Yerba Buena after a common plant in the area. In 1847, one year after the Mexican-American War, the U.S. laid claim to California, and Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco.

An acersecomic is someone whose hair has never been cut. The word comes from the Latin acersecomes, which means a youth with long hair. In ancient Greece and Rome, a boy’s hair often remained uncut until he reached adulthood.

In 2009, for the first time, state-run TV in North Korea aired a feature film made in the decadent West. It was the 2002 soccer film “Bend It Like Beckham.” The film was shown in honor of the 10th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Great Britain.

● Jordan almonds have been a staple at weddings for centuries. The Greeks served them in groups of five (a number that is indivisible, as everyone hoped the marriage would be). In Italy, five almonds represent five wishes for the happy couple: health, happiness, fertility, financial success, and longevity.

In some cultures, the combination of the bittersweet almond and the sugar coating is a symbol of the good times/challenging times ahead. In the Middle East, Jordans are associated with fertility and are considered an aphrodisiac.

In 1502, at the marriage of Italian noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia (daughter of Pope Alexander VI) and her third husband Duke Alfonso d’Este, the wedding guests reportedly consumed 260 pounds of Jordan almonds.

Jordan almonds

 

(My report on The Village Idiot, a short-lived humor magazine at the University of Georgia in 1964, continues herewith.)

In 1956, Patti Carruthers graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Education. (I looked it up on the Google.) After teaching for a time in Missouri, she moved to Hollywood, where she worked as a substitute at a junior high school. Her salary was $550 per month.

In 1959, at age 24, Patti Carruthers accepted an offer of $1,000 a week to become a stripper at Hollywood’s Moulin Rouge. She took the stage name Patti White.

“I miss teaching because I love boys and girls,” she said in an interview at the time. “But this is a great switch, getting up late and sleeping late.”

Miss White, who measured 37-22-36, said she was glad she made the career change because “the traveling involved is so educational.” But, she added, stripping was just a stepping stone. She aspired to be an actress.

“Now I can afford acting lessons, singing lessons, and dancing lessons,” she said.

By 1961, due to circumstances I was unable to ascertain, Patti White was working as a stripper at the Domino Lounge in Atlanta.

VI-6

Promo flyer from the Domino Lounge, 1961.

And it was there that the editorial staff of the Athens magazine The Village Idiot (see my previous post) interviewed her…

———

Q & A

An Interview With Miss Patti White in Which She Exposes All

NOTE: This story was so important to our first issue that we decided not to entrust it to one reporter. Miss White’s tale, we reasoned, required the attention of our whole staff. So off we went to Atlanta and THE DOMINO, where the following conversation occurred.

Q. (By the staff) May we buy you a drink, Miss White?

A. No, thanks, boys. I don’t drink. Well, maybe just… you know. But, please be my guests. I feel I owe you a great deal, you know.

Q. Aw, you don’t owe us nothing, Patti. (Double scotch, waitress.) (A double CC, ginger chaser, doll.) (I’d just like a whiskey sour, please.)

A. But I do owe you something. Anything I can do, please ask.

Q. Well, now… (Shut up!)

A. I mean, really. After all, it’s not every day a girl gets to be the Village Idiot. I mean, I’ve just never been an idiot before, you know?

Q. Great sense of humor there, Patti. Great, just great. (Another Scotch, please.)

A. Now, boys, tell me about your publication. I’ve always been interested in books and things like that. You know, I’ve been thinking that someday I might go back to teaching again. Or maybe I’ll open a string of Patti White clubs. I mean, after all, why not? Playboy has its rabbits springing up everywhere, so why not me?

Q. Do you mean you’ll have white rabbits? Ha-ha. (Write that down.) (Yeah, we may have to use it.) All right to order another round, Patti?

A. Sure, boys. I get a discount. But let me tell you my idea. See, the Patti White clubs would have all these darling little waitresses — all young and beautiful and eager to serve, and guess what they’d be wearing!

Q. A happy face? (Scotch on the rocks.)

A. No, silly. You’re pulling my leg.

Q. (Pregnant pause while the Idiot staff grins.)

A. Now, in my club, the girls would be first class. They’d wear mortar boards and cute little shorty gowns. Wouldn’t that be clever?

Q. Sure it would. (Yeah, they could take orders on cute little blackboards.) (In chalk.)

A. Oh, that’s a wonderful idea. I ought to have you boys help me, you’re so clever.

Q. That calls for a drink, right Patti?

A. Right! And I’m buying. After all, a person in my position shouldn’t risk getting on the wrong side of the press.

Q. Speaking of blackboards and chalk, Patti, how did you happen to quit teaching and become a stripper?

A. Oh, I’m not really a stripper. I mean, well, I take off my clothes and all, but when I’m up there, I still feel like a teacher, you know?

Q. We’ll have to admit, it’s a revelation.

A. You see, I was really a dedicated teacher. I tried everything I knew to get across to my students, and I think, I mean I really do, that I must have been pretty popular with the boys at Sun Valley School. I mean, I could tell. hey would watch me very carefully, no matter what I was doing. But then, the administration began to watch, too.

Q. And what did they think?

A. Well, I think they looked pretty hard at me, too. But it wasn’t my fault I was a healthy girl. Why, ever since I was 14, I could pass for a… well, you know what I mean.

Q. Yes, ma’am, we know. (I can understand how you’d have trouble with the administration.) (Another Scotch, please.)

A. Well, the whole trouble was in the way I dressed. Do you see anything wrong with the way I’m dressed?

Q. No, ma’am.

A. So, either my clothes had to go, or I had to go.

Q. So, both of you went, huh? (Tragic loss to Sun Valley.) (Another example of inept administration.)

A. I keep hoping that someday, I’ll find a principal who’d like to have me.

Q. Well, now, I’m sure there must be many. (That brings up the big question, Patti.) (Anybody want another drink?)

A. Order up, boys. I have to perform in a minute. Say, you boys are pretty clever. I wish you’d tell me what you think of the act.

Q. I’d be glad to tell you. (Uh, the big question, remember?) Oh, yes. Patti, do you think a college degree is a liability or an asset?

A. Well, in my case…

Q. Thank you, Miss White.

A. I didn’t finish. You see, after college, I went into teaching. Now, the California system doesn’t pay too badly, but teaching doesn’t pay enough for what the administration wants you to do. Sometimes, I could hardly make out. But what was a liability in teaching turned out to be an asset in show business, and now I make up to a thousand a week.

Q. A thousand a week?

A. Oh, yes. I mean, well, I work very hard. Twice a night, six times a week.

Q. Wow! Miss White, we of the staff salute you. Now, gentlemen, let us quaff a final toast — one more, Patti? — to Patti White, the Idiot’s Delight.

VI-7

VI-8

———

The Patti White interview no doubt was the pride of The Village Idiot staff. They probably thought the story would make The VI an overnight sensation.

For all I know, it did. I didn’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of Athens in those days.

In truth, I was just an anonymous 20-year-old, no car, chronically broke, a guy with Buddy Holly glasses and a flat-top haircut. My chief interests, beyond keeping my grades respectable, were observing females and conspiring to get alcohol.

In other words, The Village Idiot easily could have been the toast of Athens that year without my knowledge.

Anyway, that’s the story of The Village Idiot. If you know what became of the magazine, the people who created it, or, for that matter, the lovely Patti White, fill me in.

 

In January 1964, during my senior year at the University of Georgia, a “provocative variety magazine for University students” made its debut in Athens. It was The Village Idiot.

VI-1

An editorial said it would be a monthly publication similar in concept to such college humor magazines as The Harvard Lampoon and The Florida Orange Peel. To set the tone, the VI featured this depiction of the Idiot himself.

VI-2

Note his lapel button, which is a slap at The Red & Black, the longtime University-approved student newspaper.

Volume One, Number One of the VI consisted of 32 mostly black-and-white pages plus a two-color cover. Inside was a mixture of articles, cartoons, and short fiction. Much of the content, if you’ll permit me to be frank, was forgettable. Still, several things stood out.

First, no Volume One, Number Two ever materialized, to my knowledge. And I don’t think I simply missed it. More likely, the people who conceived The VI (students, I assume) simply walked away. The Dublin musicians in the movie The Commitments come to mind.

Second, for a modest startup, the staff did a good job of selling ads. Scattered through the publication are two dozen display ads by respectable Athens businesses of the day — restaurants, clothing stores, drug stores, news stands. Making those sales took some skills.

VI-3

Third, even though the writing isn’t as funny/thoughtful/compelling as the staff probably thought it was, some of the stories have their moments.

There is, for example, “Requiem,” a nice remembrance of the Old South Tavern, a beloved Athens beer joint. The Old South was a local institution for two decades until, over the 1963 Christmas holidays, it abruptly closed, causing widespread anguish.

I was among the anguishees. I wrote about the Old South, its mystique, and what it meant to the students of UGA in this post in 2016.

Here is the story from The VI.

———

Requiem

By William Straightarrow

VI-4

There was no epitaph, no word of explanation: there was only a crude sign, “CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS.” I sat on the curb outside and watched the line of students step up to the door. A rattle of the glass and a long perplexed stare at the marker provided the prelude for a chain of oaths.

The Old South was dead. Athens’ most famous beer hall has passed into history without even the fading scent of magnolias. There were no street demonstrations by the D.A.R. The Athens Historical Society had not even proposed a marker. The local temperance league commemorated the event with a wild party that ended with everyone getting stoned on the communion wine.

But the Old South Tavern was just as much one of Athens’ institutions as Henry Grady’s home, the first garden club, Crawford Long’s ether-filled handkerchief, and Effie’s.

(Ed. note: Effie’s was an Athens brothel that operated for nearly 50 years before the law finally shut it down in 1974.)

“Closed for Christmas,” locked tighter than the lace on a preacher’s daughter.

Why so much concern for a beer joint? The question is unanswerable. It’s like standing on the corner and gazing at girls, or shooting pool for a round of beer, water-battling on a warm spring afternoon, listening to a forgotten tune on a raspy radio late at night. Nostalgia is a cheap and childish emotion, but we are all guilty.

The history of the Old South is linked directly to Athens and the University. Stories of its past reek with the distinct, often offensive odor of the brew it dispensed. At the same time, the Old South was not offensive.

“They were perfect gentlemen… drunk or sober,” recalls Miss Lula Blakey, who worked in the Old South from its beginning in 1946. She had been everything to the establishment: busboy, barmaid, waitress, cashier and occasionally ex-officio manager.

“I just can’t sleep since they closed this place,” she says when recalling the happy hours she spent in the tavern. Reaching back into the foamy past, she recalls the many Homecoming Weekends which always meant “elbow room only at the horseshoe bar and rickety booths. The boys brought in such pretty girls with such pretty flowers… and they’d just be so drunk.”

Miss Lula had an added role at the Old South — confessor for the myriad characters who needed someone to listen to their woes. She’s probably patched up more engagements than anyone around.

Few people in school now can remember when the tavern gained a wide reputation as some sort of fairyland without frills. A few fraternity men would still come in for a quick beer and a hamburger, but public opinion had indicted the clientele, thus the reputation of the Old South.

The well-known haven of hops was dominated in those days by limp-wristed leftovers from Greenwich Village. Such sensual sipping and intellectual intercourse had long since found another haven before we first learned to chug-a-lug and eat hard-boiled eggs.

University alumni always used to come back to the old malt emporium as if it were some fraternity lodge. Miss Lula seldom forgot a name of a former regular customer. She could spot them in spite of physical changes. Some were broader; some lacked hair; all were older.

“Everyone would come back on football weekends — already drunk — and stay up all night raising all kinds of hell.”

“The brotherhood” had its peculiar “grip” — a hand extended to receive a frosty mug or some luscious little lass.

“Nobody ever drank us dry,” said Mangleburg, the Old South’s third owner since it opened. Customers would drain about 10 kegs of beer a week, but the draught just never really caught on. “We sold about 3,000 mugs a week, but four times as many cans.”

A good weekend would put $800 or $900 into the till. The personality of the dim hall kept the taps flowing. Nowhere in Athens could you find the same kind of atmosphere that hovered in the Old South.

Stories about the Old South are as numerous as the names carved in the booths. Most of the tales are attributed to Miss Lula and Chuck Cain, who managed the tavern for several years.

One afternoon, a strapling jock-type lumbered into the door carrying an overloaded armful of mugs. “I’m graduating next week, and I thought maybe you might like your glasses back,” he explained.

Chuck’s face was stern as he raised hell with the boy for stealing the mugs. “Well, if you’re gonna be so damn mean, I ain’t gonna bring the rest of ’em back,” was the embarrassing reply.

An unusually busy evening resulted in a shortage of mugs and soon a complete lack of them. Chuck bristled his feathers and steamed. He watched several fellows return from the head without their mugs. He found his entire stock of mugs stacked neatly in a closet which stored other items more directly associated with rest rooms.

Chuck fathered the Old South inspiration and furthered its relations with the students. Just as Miss Lula played housemother, Chuck was a natural big-brother type. He had a glibness about him which was excelled only by his knack of knowing when to use it. After closing, Chuck often bought a case of beer and went out “drinking with the boys.”

Chuck made the Old South hamburgers famous, preparing them with an undisclosed technique of his own. Miss Lula says the hot dogs have kept many boys in school. A few of the regulars used to be able to get credit on food bills.

One of the most famous (and popular) features of the Old South was its bathroom. Its decor was early American outhouse, but necessity overlooks much. Drunks found pleasure in knocking holes in the wall, ripping off plaster, and generally contributing to its character. The commode was busted, and the floor received its share of punishment… not always with city water.

Ah, but the art work. Sheer genius. Not including a local female directory, there are the complete works of Kilroy, Zorro, Melvin Ford, Anonymous. The proper poems for an occasion, the profound thoughts of deep meditation were constantly being replenished. Outstanding revelations of our time startled the wandering eye. Best known is the inscription, “God picks his nose.”

So another tradition falls without a protest. No mention of the death in the newspapers, no Society for the Restoration and Preservation of the Old South, no SOS movement. No one seems to want to save the Old South.

Mangleburg says he is trying to find someone to operate the place. Rent is very high for the location, high overhead, various notes on equipment are discouraging for operators. Perhaps our favorite oracle is doomed. We can only hope that the South will Rise Again!

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“Requiem” celebrated a colorful local joint that was remembered fondly by multitudes of UGA students. Considering the abrupt closing of the Old South, the story probably was a last-minute addition to the magazine. The article is a bit rough, a bit lacking in places, but still a solid effort.

In my next post, another noteworthy article from the first and perhaps only edition of The Village Idiot: an interview with Miss Patti White, an exotic dancer at the Domino Lounge in Atlanta.

VI-5