Remembering the Sunnyside Tribune

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, September 11, 2013

By Frank Roberts

Two years with the Jacksonville (N.C.) Daily News, 20 years with the Virginian-Pilot and, now, happily ensconced with this newspaper. But there was one more journalistic endeavor, before all the others.

Six months with the long-defunct Sunnyside Tribune. I was part-time reporter, and editor — editor because I owned the weird machine (made of some ooky gummy material) that published the thing. Circulation; about 100. It was a freebie and we had advertisers paying the outlandish price of a nickel per ad. They included the neighborhood delicatessen and the drug store.

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Also, we had a slew — well, a small slew — of reporters in the 12-year-old bracket. We all had differing views on what made a news story. We didn’t want to compete with the New York newspapers, so we kept everything local — local being Sunnyside, Long Island, a sort-of middle class neighborhood about a 20-minute ride to Times Square.

Nesbit Garmendia (Armenian — better known as “Nezzie”) was our most ambitious news gatherer. We were never sure whether his contributions were fact or fiction. One of his gems concerned a kid who swiped some bubble gum.

Rudy Horak, a Polish accordionist who later joined the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, contributed one or two stories per issue. Eli Levinson was a Jewish guy who lived his dream, actually joining the Barnum & Bailey circus. My best friend, Johnny Bucher, was gung-ho, delivering about five stories per issue. Jackie O’Brien, the neighborhood bully, was an altar boy at St. Theresa’s Church who, later, recited poetry at a Lower Manhattan club, The Atheist Mother. His older brother, Bart, rightfully thought we were all a bunch of nuts.

Another reporter, whose name will not be mentioned, needed my editorial services. This character actually made up stories, admittedly a great way to fill space.

We were un-salaried and were given one day off, Christmas. The editor later became a radio announcer who, initially, didn’t know what to announce.

My favorite story was about the man who owned an owl, later selling it because he disliked repetition. The bird kept asking “Who?”

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Little known facts about the famed singer-actress, Doris Day. She once co-starred with Ginger Rogers in “Storm Warning,” a drama about the Ku Klux Klan. Soon after its release, Alfred Hitchcock met her and told her he had seen the movie, noting “You can act.” That is how she wound up as star of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” sub-titled, “The Frank Roberts Story.”

She had the reputation of being a sweet person who enjoyed acting and singing, but was not crazy about the spotlight. Some of her biggest hits were those only slightly suggestive movies she made with folks like Rock Hudson and James Garner.

One of her songs became a top 10 hit in England, but was banned in the U.S. The title tune of “Move over Darling” was deemed too suggestive. Nowadays, it would be deemed as too mild.

Miss Day’s big break was as vocalist with Les Brown’s Orchestra but, for a few months before that, she did a brief stint with Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. He was a guest on an interview show I did at KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa. He was a pleasant gent who spent a fair amount of time discussing his famed invention, the Waring Blender.

Ben Alexander was on the same show. He was Jack Webb’s first “Dragnet” partner before Harry Morgan stepped in. I remember, he had the ruddiest complexion.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.