A little of this, a little of that

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, December 22, 2016

By Frank Roberts

A little of this and that:

  • Astronaut Wally Schirra was asked what he was thinking about while looking up at all the toggle switches, dials and buttons before his rocket blasted off: “Good God, just think,” he recalled. “This thing was built by the lowest bidder.”
  • Wanna swim with vicious fishes? You can swim among flesh-eating piranhas at mid-day, when they’re not hungry. But, what if one of them is off his feed?
  • Speaking of ‘vicious,’ Herr Hitler enjoyed certain American movies. He often watched “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” That tale, incidentally, was based on a German fairy story.

A Christmas present the dictator enjoyed one winter? A dozen Mickey Mouse films from Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebels.

  • From time to time I have written about one of the greatest pitchers ever, Jimmy “Catfish” Hunter. (The home folks in Hertford, N.C., never called him ‘Catfish’). I broadcast his high school baseball and football games.

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In 1964, he entered the major leagues. Kansas City was the locale.

Jimmy was once accidentally shot by his brother. It left 30 shotgun pellets in his foot and his baseball career in doubt. A’s owner Charles Finley took a chance, signed him for $75,000, and came up with the “Catfish” nickname.

Jim became an Athletic, eventually signing with the team he always wanted to be a part of, the Yankees.

About that nickname: The story goes that Jim had gone missing, but was found asleep on the bank of a stream — one catfish in hand and one on his fishing line. Jimmy’s reaction? “Whatever you say, Mr. Finley.”

  • The Lord created the world in six days, rested on the seventh and, on the eighth day, started answering complaints.
  • Check these well known gunmen: William Longley, John Wesley Hardin, Frank and Jesse James, Robert “Butch” Cassidy. They all came from good families, later chose dark paths.

Remember Baby Face Nelson? His sis, Julie Gillis said, “I don’t think he ever wanted to hurt our parents. In fact, he was always very considerate, wanting to help around the house. He just couldn’t resist temptation. He figured he didn’t need school, so he went his own way and fell in with a bad crowd.”

And Henry McCarty, best known as “Billy the Kid,” was born in New York, moving out west to get away from the slums. He was described as, “short, buck-toothed, and scrawny.” In 1881 he was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

  • More gangstah stuff: Bank robber Willie “The Actor” Sutton said, “I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, more than any time in my life.” He spent more than half of his life in prison. I wonder how alive he felt in there.

Oh, and John Dillinger: “All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Now that it’s happened I guess I’m just about the best bank robber, and I sure am happy.”

  • The first TV newscast was in September 1952 on NBC. It started as a 10-minute presentation using newsreels originally meant for movie houses. John Cameron Swayze narrated before the feature film. In ’52, the ‘peacock’ network grabbed it. The sponsor was Camel cigarettes.

The network gave Mr. Swayze the boot, and President Eisenhower complained. It worked.

According to movie historian and good friend Jimbo Berkey, subjects of the initial telecast were Richard Nixon (he was a senator then) and John Wayne and Rita Hayworth.

  • I close with this thought from author Arthur C. Clarke: “There are two possibilities — either we are alone in the universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

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.