MacArthur’s defeat and Carter’s edge

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, August 11, 2016

By Frank Roberts

Today, a potpourri of (semi-) political pondering:

Who says Gen. Douglas MacArthur never went down in defeat? Wrong-o. When his wife-to-be was growing up in Leavenworth, Kan., he wooed her. MacArthur — as was done in those days — asked for her hand, but her granddaddy put him down as a “dirty old man” who was too old for her.

Email newsletter signup

The Japanese weren’t too thrilled with him either.

As television viewership has increased, voting participation has decreased.

Remember the Kennedy-Nixon debates? Kennedy looked good, Nixon looked gloomy. Rumor had it that a CBS makeup artist had something to do with that.

While we’re on the topic of television and politics, Walter Cronkite said, “Of all the presidents I have known since Hoover, the best brain was possessed by Jimmy Carter.”

That proves, I suppose, that peanuts are brain food. Today, Hillary eats cashews, and Trump chomps walnuts.

Pool politics. When FDR was president, a swimming pool was built so he could exercise for his polio problem. Later, John F. Kennedy used it for his back problems. He was injured during World War II in his PT boat.

Nixon filled the pool in, and, since then, it has been used as the White House Press Room.

In 1966, Frank Sinatra had a hit, “That’s Life.” For years before, and after, Life Mag was the most popular publication so, for the heck of it, I decided to go through some old editions of the mag.

In 1930, we traipsed the yellow brick road, en route to Oz. MGM wanted Shirley Temple to star, but she was busy saving 20th Century Fox, which wouldn’t let her out of sight. Judy Garland was too old for Dorothy, but the problem was settled with creative costume trickery.

One of my editions of the magazine carried a reprint of a photo from 1938 showing Ty Power and then wife, Annabella, filling out their marriage form on an Underwood.

An interesting shot of President Ronald Reagan, in uniform, was in the same edition. According to the caption, America’s future commander in chief was inducted into the military in 1942. He made training films, but other actors saw action; for instance Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable dropped bombs on Germany.

I came across some other interesting publications I’d forgotten I had. The headline in the Dec. 8, 1941, edition of the St. Louis Star Times shouted, “WAR DECLARED.” The sub-head read, “Congress Acts In 33 Minutes.”

On the lighter side, comics included “Dixie Dugan,” “Smitty,” “Smilin’ Jack,” “Terry & Pirates,” and, of course, “Dick Tracy.” People still went to the movies and, on that day, appropriately, the big hit was “Sgt. York,” with Gary Cooper.

Don’t know how I got that paper — never been to St. Loo. I spent about 50 years with the Virginian-Pilot, but the edition I have came out when I was a year old.

There were five sections — the only one I have is the last part, which carried a romance story. Ads were plentiful, and, according to one of them you could get a Ford Touring Car for $440, the price of a tire today. If you were rolling in dough you could have bought a Touring Car with a starter for $510.

I have a 1954 copy of Life with lovely Anna Maria Alberghettii on the cover. It’s sentimental for me, since I introduced her to a crowd in Franklin that year. Interestingly, there were huge meetings of Protestant denominations working hard for “Christian unity.”

About 125,000 people showed up for the Protestant Reformation at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox representatives didn’t show up, a spokesperson explaining, “We’ve got to think through our barriers before we can tear them down.”

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