Monday, April 29, 2019

#nostalgia Was news “newsier” back in the day?

Clockwise from top right. Pioneer TV anchors Peter Jennings,
Chet Huntley & David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite.

In an earlier post, I recounted my memory of Lowell Thomas’s evening news radio show. To maintain bias neutrality between media types, today’s focus is television news anchors of the 1950s and 60s. I will apologize up front. This good intention lasted until I wrote this phrase: I’ll admit to being biased toward the newscasts of the past.
Keep reading. You’ll see what I mean.

Outside the local television’s kid programming, I remember two distinct television events in the 1960s. The first was John Glenn’s successful orbiting of the earth. That happened on my birthday in 1962. The second was almost exactly 21-months after Glenn’s flight. President Kennedy’s death and funeral was the first time I remember evening network programming preempted. I was not happy. They kept playing the same footage over and over and over and… 


That sounds like several cable news networks today, doesn’t it?

Our television didn't look exactly like this... but it was awfully close!
There were only three nation-wide television networks in the time period of focus (of the first part of) this post. Remember the apology above.

ABC, although it broadcast the first regular newscast, used a merry-go-round model for anchors for their first thirty years. Only two anchors lasted over two years. Peter Jennings was anchor or co-anchor three times. The third time for him was a charm. He occupied the anchor seat from 1983 to 2005. I don’t know if it was the lack of continuity or us not getting equal quality signals for all stations on our TV antenna that created the lack of memory for ABC news while I lived at home.

NBC News was the first to have a successful regularly scheduled evening news program. I don’t remember the earliest anchors. I remember Chet Huntley & David Brinkley. They were co-anchors from 1956 to 1970.

CBS was the most watched news program in my home. Walter Cronkite is the CBS anchor I most remember. While researching this post, I learned there is good evidence that the term anchor was first used to describe the job Cronkite was doing. 
“Walter Cronkite was a lifelong newsman who became the voice of the truth for America as a nighttime anchorman,” is the first sentence of Cronkite’s bio on hope he saw that before his death. I’ll be proud to have that said of me after I die.
I remember Cronkite’s closing catchphrase, “And that’s the way it is.” Or not… keep reading.
He was also famous outside the hard news arena. CBS ran a regular television program titled, You Are There. This television program ran 147 episodes. It was a series of “news reports” by Walter Cronkite. Although Walter sat in a then modern television studio, he reported historical events as live newscasts.
I remember Walter Cronkite for acting human in his broadcasts. I watched him mourn John F. Kennedy’s death. I remember his indignant reaction to the death of Kennedy’s suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald. I watched him choke up when Neil Armstrong uttered his famous first step on the moon line.
I’ll admit to being biased toward the newscasts of the past.
Much of what I see on network television newscasts and essentially all of what I see on cable news channels isn’t news.
Was it “the way it was” when 
Walter Cronkite signed off?
Probably not. 
It’s almost impossible to be unbiased in reporting of events. If you don’t believe that, take the time to watch this 6-minute and 20-seconds video. Be sure you have a pencil and paper. The clip is a news broadcast of an exercise in the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.
So, all news is biased and always has been. And, bias is not restricted to electronic news venues—think William Randolph Hurst and Yellow Journalism.
yel·low jour·nal·ism
noun: yellow journalism; plural noun: yellow journalisms
1.   journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.
"equating murder and dismemberment with smoking pot is the worst yellow journalism"
1895: from the appearance in an issue of the New York World of a cartoon in which a child in a yellow dress (‘The Yellow Kid’) was the central figure. The color printing was an experiment designed to attract customers.

Yellow journalism, the use of lurid features and sensationalized news in newspaper publishing to attract readers and increase circulation. The phrase was coined in the 1890s to describe the tactics employed in furious competition between two New York City newspapers, the World and the Journal

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
My problem with the way most news is presented today is the unabashed bias shown too often—almost all the time on certain cable news giants, and still too often in other venues. I’ve even seen “breaking news” described, “John Doe about to announce if he thought about giving the media his opinion of Current Situation in World Area.” 
When did thinking about doing something become reportable news?
And what value is anyone's opinion of a situation they are not meaningfully connected to?
Enough venting. I close with this
I’m convinced that when Walter Cronkite said, 
“And that’s the way it is,” 
he was much closer to the truth than the vast majority of news outlets today. 

"Was news "newsier" back in the day?

My answer is a resounding YES!
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Monday, April 22, 2019

#Nostalgia What's for dinner in the 1950s

Last week I described my family’s nightly dinner ritual. If you missed that, you can catch up at 
An important part of the dinner ritual was . . . dinner!

We were never hungry after dinner.

That’s not quite accurate. No one but my sister was hungry after dinner, and then, not every night. 

Sis, not her given name because I want to keep her as my sister, did not like certain food items. She made it very clear which food items those were. Two examples:
  • She picked beans out of Indiana Chili (keep reading) and deposited them on her napkin.
  • She refused to eat peas altogether. In her late teens, they tested her for allergies. Peas were one food item that tested positive.

My dad loved liver and onions. At least every other Friday we had liver and onions. No one else was fond of that combination. I ate some. My mom ate more. Sis ate none.

Mom cooked only enough food for each meal with no leftovers. The reason? Refrigerators were small. 
On the left is like the one we had in the 1950s. The freezer held an icecube tray with enough room for one half-gallon of imitation ice milk, and that's about all! On the right is the upgrade we got in the early 1960s. Still only one door, but the freezer as DOUBLE the size of the old one. Oh, our refrigerator was white, not red.
We ate fresh fruit and vegetables in season, but lots of our food came from cans. I suspect the high salt content in canned food added to my mom’s hypertension. On the other hand, my dad’s normal blood pressure was just enough to keep someone alive. That didn’t bother him. He was a natural athlete and a tireless worker.

Recurring food items were:

Creamed tuna and/or creamed peas. Mom heated both tuna and peas in a creamy white sauce. If it was tuna alone, or tuna and peas together, they were almost always served ladled onto slices of toast. Creamed peas alone were a side dish. They were almost always served with . . .

Salmon Patties. They would appear whenever Mom was in the mood. The salmon was always from a can. The link to a recipe for Salmon Patties is the photo's caption.
I guarantee that there was never any onion, exotic spice, or anything red or green in Mom’s version. Think “Sis.” It was common to crunch on relatively soft salmon vertebrae while eating. And don’t forget to pour creamed peas on the patties before eating!

Chipped beef on toast is the last creamed item on today’s menu. My dad had a love/hate relationship with this combination. During his twenty-two years in the Navy, he consumed more than his share of what I think is a delightful dish. Usually called by a “salty” nickname, that I will not provide, by those in the military was another monthly staple. I often wonder why I don’t eat more of this and Spam today.


Indiana Chili is more soup than chili. It contains browned hamburger, tomato juice, and kidney beans. Seasonings vary. Mom put elbow macaroni in hers. I thought it was a family dish until I was visiting my son in Northern Wisconsin. We were at an off-road race where he was pitting for a car he worked on. The owner of the car invited us into his massive motor home for lunch.

I grabbed a bowl and dumped a ladle full of the contents of a crock-pot into it. Staring back at me was . . . Indiana Chili, complete with elbow macaroni! Talk about menu shock.

Grilled cheese and Campbell’s Tomato Soup was a treat. Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches rallied kids in our neighborhood. People knew her for a LOT of different foods, so that’s no surprise. Thinking back, I don’t know what made Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches special. She normally used white bread with butter on the side to be down in the skillet and plastic-wrapped American cheese slices. Reputation is a powerful advocate!

Accompanying the sandwiches was Campbell’s Tomato Soup. She usually served the soup in mugs. For kids between seven and eleven years old, drinking soup from mugs is an adventure.

When I went to some of my friend’s houses I was often disappointed if we had tomato soup. First, those moms didn't serve it in a mug. Second, it was thin. That’s when I learned that my mom always used all milk or no less than a 50/50 mix of milk and water in her tomato soup.

Speaking of milk, we drank whole milk and lots of it. The Navy commissary sold boxes with four half-gallons of milk in them. Mom always came home with a boxed set of half-gallons. It’s almost all I drank all the way through high school. Soda was a “walk to down the street to the gas station and buy a bottle” treat.

Mom shopped for everything but ice cream at the commissary. She went every other week. It was an experience. We kept large reusable cardboard “commissary boxes” in the carport. Mom lugged them to the commissary, grabbed a cart in the parking lot, and carted them into the building. At checkout, box boys placed food items in those boxes and assisted patrons to their cars. They expected a tip for each box. I suspect Mom always tipped them.


The commissary was at least a half-hour drive from our house. That’s why Mom never bought ice cream there. We got our frozen dessert items from the Valley Farm Market. It opened only two years before we moved into the neighborhood. They’re still there because they are nice people, are convenient, and sell some of the best meats in San Diego. Their homemade pollo asada and corn beef are magnifique! 

What I didn’t pay attention to until I was in Junior High School to what frozen confection we were eating. It wasn’t ice cream. It wasn’t even ice milk. We ate imitation ice milk! It couldn’t have been too bad. Either that or my palate was more Philistine than I thought.

Note the emphasis on IMITATION.
What made the imitation ice milk easier to swallow were my mom’s homemade cookies. She made some of the best Snicker Doodles ever. Visitors to her Sunday lunches always commented on the crispy outside and soft inside of those delights. Essentially, the best of both Snicker Doodle worlds.

Other favorite cookies were Ranger Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies using milk chocolate chips. At Christmas, she made eight or ten dozen Christmas Butter Cookies using her mother’s recipe. The whole family and assorted neighborhood kids helped ice and sprinkle those.

None of those desert cookies are my favorites. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t remember turning any of them down, ever. However, my favorite cookie isn’t really a cookie. It’s my mom’s Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats

Neither white nor sticky in a marshmallow way, Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats are best served chilled!

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#Nostalgia Dinner with Lowell Thomas

My family home from 1957 (year of the photo) until 2017, when my mom moved to a board-and-care house. It's 3-bedrooms/1 bath and about 1100 sq.ft. Over time, the garage became a "master suite" and they squared off the front where the bougainvillea (red flowers) is. This is the site of the dinners and other events in this post.

My dad was a career Navy man. He retired in 1960 after 22-years as a Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate. Gunner’s Mates don’t have (m)any civilian options, so he became a Driver’s Training Teacher. 

But that’s for another blog post.

While stationed on the USS Kidd and the USS Dixie when they homeported in San Diego, he was on a set schedule. When his ship was in port, he was always home by 5:00 p.m. Our family sat down at the kitchen table to eat at 5:00 p.m.

Monday through Friday of each week, our family had a dinner guest. Although he never set foot in our house, Lowell Thomas greeted us right after we said grace. He began visiting in the mid-1950s and continued until at least 1962. 

I remember his daily introduction as, “And now, here’s Lowell Thomas and the news.”

“He started every newscast with ‘Good evening, everybody,’ and signed off with ‘So long until tomorrow’ — which established the practice of newscasters having a trademark opening and closing line.” 

I can’t remember one event Lowell reported. I don’t think that’s important.

What I can remember is the family gathering around our kitchen table, complete with chrome and a Formica top. I suspect we called that meal supper. Im not writing about food items in this post. That too is for another day’s blog post.

The closest example I could find that looks like what I remember. I know the chairs had the back pads held onto the supports with screws because once the cardboard inside the chair back got stripped, there was no way to tighten the back to the support.
The radio was big. Not a console, but a substantial piece of equipment that sat on the tabletop. 

AM only radio. I do know our radio had a tuning dial like this one.

Since Lowell Thomas wasn’t tied to a specific network, so I don’t know for certain what station he was on. This clip of him in an interview somewhere in this time frame 

Flash forward thirty years.
My wife and didn’t have to try much to have family meals. We lived close enough to my mom and dad that most Sunday dinners were there. They were whole family meals and more. Now that I’m a grandparent, I have no regrets for allowing my kids' grandparents be as much a part of their lives as I could. I wish I could spend more time with my grandchildren.

I know that conversation was abundant at my parent’s home during meals. If you’ve never seen the movie “While You Were Sleeping,” rent, download, borrow, or whatever it takes to see the family dinner scene. That very close to the reality my family lived every week. 

The amount and volume of conversation were magnified on holidays. It was common for Thanksgiving dinner to be a potluck affair with between 20 and 40 attendees. Christmas and Easter were also “ya’ll come“ affairs. Many were close family friends. Others were what my mom lovingly called “strays.” Those were the people in church or the neighborhood without an extended family group to gather with. Now that my mom is in a board and care facility, there are few family dinners with or without strays. 

As my wife and I eat dinner at the counter in the kitchen with our swivel chairs arranged so we can see the TV, I appreciate even more the time and effort my parents went through to foster love and fellowship in my life.

So long until next week when I investigate some menu items at those meals.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

#Writers Page 1 of your book: “Open,” say’s me! – Part 2b. Another sample opening

On Tuesday I posted Part 2a of a two post series. This is part 2b.

I gave you a chance to write your own opening. Remember?
(If you didn't do Part 1a, I recommend you close this post and open and read the one immediately preceding it before you continue here.)

  1. Select any of the following versions of the prompt below. All versions have the same focus. There is a difference in degree.
  2. Write the rest of the opening to a story.
  3. Any genre.
  4. Write 150-750 words.

The front door wasn’t latched.
The front door was open.
The front door wasn’t closed tight.
The front door was ajar.
The front door’s open.

Italicized font indicates the thoughts of a character that only the character and the reader are aware of.

First line: The front door’s open.

·               What’s next?

You write the action. My opening is 354 words. I use italicized text to define verbiage as a THOUGHT by a character.

I wrote the following opening. 

Jerrod Lynch smiled as the thought floated through his brain. His children knew better than to leave the door unlocked, let alone open, when he was at work.
I’ll have a little fun.
He stepped off the porch and moved behind the Hibiscus to the left of the door. He took less than a minute to phone a friend and set his plan in motion. He checked his watch. 5:30 p.m.
By 6:30, Jerrod’s twins, Alison and Alexander, would learn a lesson. As a bonus, he’d enjoy every minute. He stepped back on the porch and pushed the door open just enough to get inside. 
With a smile so big is almost split his face into almost equal top and bottom halves, he collected a backpack from the floor to the right of the door and a loose notebook labeled “ESS” from the “table” just beyond.
He retreated to the porch, pulling the door closed as he exited. He took three steps off the porch and into the landscaped area of the front yard.
Come on, Ed.
As though on cue, Ed Long, his high school buddy and neighbor two doors down emerged from the side of his house and tip-toed comedically across the lawn.
“Har, Matey. Does this be my booty?” Ed asked in his best pirate voice.
“Aye, Cap’n.”
Jerrod handed Ed the backpack and the notebook. After a brief explanation of the rest of his role, he shooed his friend back in the direction he’d come.
“Honey, I’m home,” he called as he burst through the front door. That wasn’t an uncommon action for him upon arriving home from work.
“There’s no honey here,” two early adolescent voices responded. Jerrod’s wife refused to be called “by any food nickname,” so it fell to Alison and Alexander to answer.
They’re home. That’s excellent!
Alex barreled down the stairs. Ali glided through the large opening between the kitchen and the living area.
“Hi, Dad!” called in perfect unison.

The twins often spoke and acted as though they transmitted thoughts telepathically. They called it their wonder twin power. They called it twinning.

Point of View:
Content of text:.
Genre: Science Fiction
Is there any place where the reader is confused?

Is there an information dump?

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Monday, April 8, 2019

#Writers Page 1 of your book: “Open,” say’s me! – Part 2a

This post stands alone in its content. However, last week I focused on the importance of a hook at the beginning of your stories. If you missed that, I suggest you read it before you read this post.

Also, last week, I posted one of my starts to a story using the boldfaced version of this opening line.
Visible to all characters
The front door wasn’t latched.
The front door was open.
The front door wasn’t closed tight.
The front door was ajar.
Thoughts of one character
The front door’s open.

I invite you to read it before continuing this post. It will enhance your experience. 

Part 2
Writers can open their story with:
  • startling, dramatic action
  • a powerful or moving description
  • an intriguing opening sentence or paragraph
  • a short, surprising passage discussing an important event in the life of a character
  • an opening scene that drops readers into an emotionally riveting moment
  • a shocking piece of information (works for fiction and nonfiction)
  • exquisite, mesmerizing word craft

For this week's book bubble prompt, I encourage you to use your author insight to write about your narrative hook. How do you "hook" readers? What techniques do you use to draw in readers? Does writing a hook come naturally to you or is it a struggle? Which is your favorite type of hook? Alternatively, you could write about the best hook you've read in someone else's book.

The above list and commentary are from a subscription email from 

The bold text in the paragraph at the end of the bullet points inspired the idea for this 2-post series.

I work with Sherry Frazier of Frazier Public Relations the launch of a detective/mystery novel now titled Betrayal in Blue. We’ve been working on this project for what is approaching two years. Most of the extended timeline is because of my reluctance to accept some of her advice in a timely matter.

The short version is
  1. I wrote the base story nearly thirty years ago.
  2. I edited/revised it based on comments by Jeanne Stein, New York Times Best Selling offer, again after dragging my feet at some of her suggestions.
  3. I sent what I thought was a completed story to Sherry.
  4. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about why it wasn’t complete. I’ve blogged about parts of that pathway before.

This post is not about writing the bulk of your story. The focus here is the opening to your story.

Use the list above to categorize each of the following openings to Betrayal in Blue. Each sample contains about 250 words—one page in most books.

#1. Original Opening from the 1980s
“Itell you, these are good—real good."
"They better be, Anthony," Gene Marcotti growled. "Considerin' the price we paid for 'em."
"Take a look for yourself," Anthony Garmel retorted. He thrust several official-looking pages toward his associate. "Same paper. Same typewriter element style. Even the edges of them are beat-up a little so they look like they're the same age as the rest of the file."
"Hmmph," Marcotti growled again as his huge hands mauled the pages. 
Growling was a habitual form of speech for Gene Marcotti. He was a large, hairy man, with broad shoulders and a shock of black hair on his head. Even though he saw a stylist weekly and wore only custom-tailored suits, he always looked unkempt. His physical demeanor added to the image of a beastly man that his voice projected.
"Yeah, these oughta fool just about anybody," he grudgingly conceded after several minutes of scrutinizing the papers.
"They'll fool any jerkwater cop who checks them out," Anthony declared with confidence. He took the papers back and, as he turned to put them down on the large oak desk behind him, added, "I'll stake my life on that."
"We may be doin' just that," Marcotti muttered.
"Nuthin'. Say what about the courier? These perfect forgeriesof yours ain't no good without the courier bein' in our pocket."
"There's no problem there," Anthony assured him. "His son has leukemia. He needs money for medical bills."
End of Sample      

Look at the list from Bublish. 
Where does this opening fall in their hierarchy?

Why Editors Focus on Page One” ( is a blog post dealing with book openings. Darcy Pattison posted the following on June 10, 2013

The list of things to look for is from that post. I used it three times in last week’s post. It’s used only once in this one. 

Fill in the information for Opening #1.
What do you know about the story from just this much text?
Content of text: 
Is there any place where the reader is confused?
Is there an information dump?

#2. Opening after the first major revision (2009)
In spite of his bubble of euphoria, Garmel merely nodded to his driver as he stepped out the back door of his limo into the already warm St. Louis morning. The sun played hide and seek behind the cumulus clouds—all that remained of the fast-moving low-pressure system that was on its way out of town, leaving behind a hangover of humidity that brought beads of sweat to his upper lip. 
As he walked up the sidewalk towards the door to the remodeled industrial suite the local branch of the drug syndicate he oversaw called home, Garmel was glad he’d had the foresight of bringing a second shirt with him. He could already feel the trailblazing drops of sweat traveling down the sides of his trim body.
As he reached the suite, before he could knock, the door swung open. A bear of a man stepped aside, allowing the boss full access to the doorway.
“Gene, right?” Garmel asked as he passed the man-mountain.
“Yes, Sir, Mr. Garmel,” rumbled from the depths of the greeter’s chest.
Copper! This whole room smells like copper. There has to be blood somewhere, shot through the boss’s mind. A cursory glance around the room explained the odor.
Ten pairs of handcuffs were secured to rods in one wall. Each hung with one cuff open.
At least they wiped up enough blood so there are no puddles left below the cuffs, flashed through Garmel’s mind before he asked, “What do you call this place?”
“The Confessional, Mr. Garmel.”
“What happens if someone’s reluctant to confess?” 
End of Sample      

Look at the list from Bublish that opened this post. 
Where does this opening fall in their hierarchy?

Fill in the information for Opening #2.
What changed about what you think about the story and/or storyline?

#3. Opening of the current iteration
I hate airplanes. Even these first-class seats are too small and too close together. I should take the train for trips to cities this close to Chicago. At least then I could get up and walk to a real chair at a real table and eat real food.
“How much longer?” Anthony Garmel asked the stewardess in a tone of voice that reflected only a small part of his negative feelings for his mode of transport.
“Not long, Sir. We should be beginning out descent momentarily.”
Garmel sighed as the shapely female entered the galley. Not long. That could be another half an hour. I’m glad the taxiing time from the runway to the gate at Lambert isn’t nearly as long as O’Hare.
He looked at the Estate Rolex Daytona Cosmograph that adorned his left wrist. With three dials and two push buttons, the bulky timepiece was more show than go for the drug lord. He hadn’t pushed either of the buttons since the day he’d picked up the watch at the high-end jewelry store in Downtown Chicago. As he rotated his wrist and admired the reflected light coming off the synthetic sapphire crystal, he knew those around him were covetous of his $25,000 adornment.
Once on the ground, Garmel gave a cursory wave to the man he knew was his driver. He didn’t know the man’s name—and didn’t care. Minutes later, he slid across the back seat in the Lincoln limousine. Instinct took over. He reached for a glass and a bottle of wine.
“I have the address of one of our properties in the industrial district as your drop point, Mr. Garmel. Is that correct?” the driver asked.
“Sounds like what I remember. Let’s just get there… Quickly.”
End of Sample      

Look at the list from Bublish that opened this post. 
Where does this opening fall in their hierarchy?
Fill in the information for Opening #3.
What changed about what you think about the story and/or storyline?

Compare all three openings
Which of the three samples, did the best job of piquing your interest (drawing you into the story)?

This is a real-life example of how parts of stories can (should?) change over the course of editing. I hope you feel better about your current project and will consider the importance of a strong opening if you haven’t already!

In this post you evaluated three openings to the same story. It’s your turn to write your own opening. 

Select any of the following versions of the prompt below. All versions have the same focus. There is a difference in degree.
Write the rest of the opening to a story.
Any genre.
Write 150-750 words.

Visible to all characters
The front door wasn’t latched.
The front door was open.
The front door wasn’t closed tight.
The front door was ajar.
Thoughts of one character 
The front door’s open.

I wrote an opening to the italicized prompt. I’ll post it in a blog post on Saturday, April 13.

First line: The front door’s open.

What’s next?

You write the action. My opening is 354 words. I use italicized text to define verbiage as a THOUGHT by a character.

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