Strangers, I have always heard, are friends you haven't met before. Please let me introduce the Wampus Cat Report. And myself as its originator.
(Reprinted on the occasion of Veterans Day)
By EUGENE PRICE
For some people things never work out. Take D.J. Jenkins. His father died when he was three. Nine years later, he lost his mother. And D.J. died, too – at the age of 41.
He was the man two little boys found dead under a warehouse. The brief newspaper account mentioned something about an empty bottle…
Another derelict had checked out. That was the impression left by the understandable detachment with which a reporter handled a “routine story.”
But had the reporter looked beyond the shadows that surrounded all that was left of D.J. Jenkins, he might have found for his story a human being instead of a just another cadaver.
D.J. was one of those men for whom World War II did not end with the flag-waving and snake-dancing and church bell ringing that warm day in August of 1945.
He was among the riotous young men who lined the decks of the returning troop ships.
But not all of him quite made it.
There had been too many days and nights smashing holes in Hitler’s Fortress Europe at Normandy; and too many weeks and months slugging across France and into Germany.
The newspaper maps showing a wide black invasion arrow looked far different up close – over the parapet of a fox hole or through the tangle of a hedgerow.
To 22-year-old D.J. Jenkins it was pock-marked with the bodies of friends as it stretched out behind all the way to the English Channel.
For D.J., for whom the war did not end soon enough, the terrifying echoes of splintering shells never stopped ringing. The smell of death and the taste of fear stayed on through the years.
Even before the shooting stopped and the shouting started, it was becoming apparent to D.J. that life, for him, could never be serene again.
They talked of sending him home after he was wounded the second time. And again after his feet froze during the bleak episode history calls “The Bulge.” He had far more “points” needed to warrant his rotation. But D.J. insisted on going back to the front to be with those of his friends who were left.
For one man, possibly living somewhere in the world today, it was good that D.J. didn’t buy a ticket home with his Silver Star and his Purple Hearts. That man lay wounded 100 yards from the American lines. His agonized cries competed with the crack of rifles and the staccato of machine gun fire that defied anyone to come to his assistance.
But that night, D.J. did. He crawled all the way. Whoever and wherever he is, that man will remember D.J. Jenkins as a tough, nerveless fellow soldier who saved his life.
Back home, friends remember him as an orphan who had just grown into early manhood when the war came – and as a man who came back aged far beyond his years, his chances of finding peace blotted out by heartbreaking and terrifying memories.
Perhaps in time only the two little boys who discovered the body will remember only as the man they found dead under the warehouse.
(This story and many others are found in Gene Price’s book, Folks Around Here.)
Don’t pay the ransom! Wampus has “escaped.”
Actually, my son Charles (Chuck) out in California bailed me out. I had let my “contract” with the computer folks lapse. But Chuck arranged to have me reinstated. My heartfelt thanks to him. And here goes!
Election season is approaching and that time brings some old stories to mind. Like the Wayne County fellow who ran for a local office and found himself wiped out at the polls.
He showed up the day after the election packing a pistol on each hip.
“Why the guns?” a fellow citizen asked.
Responded the unsuccessful candidate:
“A man with no more friends than I have can’t afford to go around without protection.”
He could have been the same fellow who received only one vote. All the folks he met assured him that theirs was the vote cast for him.
The fellow fired back: “You’re lying. I received only one vote and it was mine. Not even my wife voted for me.”
But perhaps the most surprised and disappointed candidate in history was the fellow in Seven Springs many years ago. He ran unopposed. And was defeated by a write-in candidate.
He reportedly wagged his head and commented: “It’d be tough to be beaten by anybody. But to be beaten by nobody is something else again.”
By Eugene Price
According to my favorite afternoon newspaper, there is a question about where to put that F-86 fighter plane that has graced courthouse property since 1970.
The F-86 Sabre was the U.S. response to the Russian-built MIGs during the Korean war. Among ‘86 pilots was my long-time friend and neighbor Phil Kemp.
If the present location of the Sabre poses some problem demanding an answer, please let the city of Goldsboro not use the one imposed under the reign of former City Manager Page Benton.
In those days, Herman Park boasted a P-47 of World War II fame. It was an impressive, powerful-looking aircraft. Our highly respected veterinarian Dr. Bill Plummer had flown it during “The War.”
Visitors to the park – and especially their children – always looked with awe over the great old aircraft.
Then, one day, it was gone.
Apparently to the junkyard –either ours or the Air Force’s.
In my view, that was the most memorable action that city
manager made during his tenure in Goldsboro.
Hopefully, our present city manager will leave a more appreciated legacy when it comes to the great old aircraft now resting proudly on in our midst..
Joyce Price Johnson, 69, of Goldsboro died Monday at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
For many years she served as executive assistant to Weil Enterprises managing hotel properties in Goldsboro, Raleigh, Wilmington and Beaufort. She was a former member of the Wayne County Social Services Board and the Goldsboro Planning Department.
Ms. Johnson is survived by her parents, Eugene and Gloria Price of the Sleepy Creek community, two sisters, Susan Johnson of Raleigh and Bonnie West of Charlotte, and two brothers, Charles Price of San Jose, California and John Price of Raleigh.
Funeral services will be held…
The family requests that instead of flowers, contributions might be made to the Joyce Price Johnson Scholarship Fund at Wayne Community College.
Wampus has long been a Fox fan. This not to agree entirely with its claim to be “fair and balanced.” But Fox at least balances off the consistently liberal other networks.
Among my favorites on Fox has Neil Cavuto. He seems always to sincerely do his best to be fair to everyone and on all issues. Our family feels comfortable listening to him.
But no one can be perfect. Hence this notation:
A few moments ago, I cut off my TV in the midst of a Cavuto program.
He had asked a guest – a woman, as it were – a question.
The lady was beginning what seemed to be a sincere response. Then, in her midsentence, Cavuto interrupted with a challenging comment. And without allowing her to continue, he then dominated the program with his own observations.
It was unfair. It was rude. It was ungentlemanly.
It was far from what we had come to expect from Neil Cavuto.
“Poiticians.” Far too often the word conjures up a negative reaction: One of scheming elected officials looking after their own or special interests.
It is an unfair and unwarranted impression.
There are, of course, a few who end up with their hands in the till or feathering their own nests or those of special interest groups.
But by and large those who run for public office – and especially those who are elected – are people of integrity and goodwill.
Consider for a moment people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan – and all those in between and after them. And bring it down to the local level.
Not only do we elect good people but we usually return them to office as long as they are wiling to serve.
And they all are “politicians.”
Almost invariably newcomers to the arena will insist “I am not a politician.” That’s because over the years, in the minds of many, “politician” has an unfavorable connotation. But, of course, the moment an individual puts his or her name on the nomination form, he or she forfeits the claim of not being a politician.
Thank goodness for those courageous enough and sacrificial enough to offer themselves for public service. And that gratitude should go for those who win elections and those who “fail to make the cut.” The latter also make a contribution: They make voters take stock, to examine the records and qualifications of those running – and make informed decisions.
Politicians? Quite frequently they come from the best among us. It is a mantle that may be worn proudly.
Many years ago the “brothers” were sitting around in the lounge of the Elks Lodge talking about things the brothers talk about while sitting around at the Elks Lodge.
We were working our way through the various “sins” and had come to Lying,
One senior member from Snow Hill sipped his “soda” and declared: “I don’t think a person should tell a lie unless it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!”
That generated some thoughtful silence.
Finally, a younger member of the lodge asked: “Under what conditions might you consider it ‘absolutely necessary’ to lie?”
The senior member responded with, “If I were to see you at the beach with a woman other than your wife and later ran into your wife and she asked if I had seen you at the beach, I would feel it absolutely necessary to tell her that I had not.”
To which the younger member said: “Thank you, my good friend!”
Call your next case…
Captain Vince Ward for many years ran a party boat out of Swansboro. He took folks out for inshore bottom fishing as well as offshore trolling. Capt. Vince was father of Goldsboro’s highly respected automobile repair shop operator Dan Ward – and grandfather of today’s boat motor repairman Craig Ward.
At a time when Captain Vince and his boat, the “Jean Ann,” both were getting along in years, the captain put the vessel in for overhaul.
A few weeks later, after rather extensive hull and engine repairs, the boat was ready to go.
Captain Vince looked the craft over and asked the repairman:
“How long do you think she’s good for?”
The response was: “Vince, she’ll last as long as you do – if you die when you ‘orter.”
And as I recall, they both made their last voyage at about the same time – many years later…
It was during the Hall of Fame induction in Chapel Hill. A former associate who had moved on to greater things asked: “What in your half a century-plus in journalism stands out most in your memory?”
My first “newspaper” - one pencil-printed page on lined notebook paper - was “published” when I was around 12. I don’t even recall its name. But I’ll never forget the streamer headline: “MIGHT SNOW TONIGHT!”
That was based more on wishful thinking than any meteorological insights. But my proudest contribution to weather forecasting was the one we ran in virtually every edition of the old Elizabeth City Independent: “Partly cloudy, possible showers, Rain in the mountains.” (We had no AP or UPI to provide us authentic forecasts.)
No one ever complained, perhaps because our “forecast” could apply to any day of the year locally. And nobody thereabouts ever went to the mountains – where, obviously, it rained all the time.
But there have been more serious experiences as a journalist. Shortly after becoming editor of the Goldsboro News-Argus, I adopted a policy of not using the names of rape victims. My feeling was that many victims failed to report the crimes for fear of embarrassment. And why further punish these poor individuals by subjecting them to public humiliation?
To my knowledge, I was the first editor in the state to adopt such a policy. And today I am pleased to read in newspapers, wire services and other publications across the country: “It is the policy of this publication not to print the names of rape victims.”
And long before it was a state law, I refused to print the names of youngsters charged with crimes.
When I came to the News-Argus, the paper routinely reported in detail the estates of deceased citizens. Then editor, the widely revered Henry Belk, justified this because estates had to be recorded in the court house and hence became “public records.” My subsequent decision not to print them was based on my view that a person’s wealth and possessions were his private business and his death should not strip him of that privacy in the interest of some people’s morbid curiosity.
Our exposure of the misconduct of high public officials sometimes led to state and national attention and even changes in laws to protect the public. We did not always rejoice in the attention. There were times when the perpetrators were friends.
We once ran a campaign to reduce highway fatalities. It included publishing on page one the names of anyone charged with a moving violation. It worked. Perhaps contributing to its success was the word widely spread among ladies of the community: “Don’t get a ticket – they’ll put your AGE on the front page of the News-Argus!” The News-Argus was nationally recognized for the campaign.
Then there was a story that resulted in the release of an innocent man from prison. And many stories that raised money for worthwhile causes. For years I secretly maintained a personal account I called the “Good Guys Fund.” It was used to help people in situations for which there were no other resources available.
My policy as an editor was to encourage letters – especially from those who might disagree. For those rebutting editorials, I allowed equal space plus 10 percent. And didn’t quibble even if they went over 25 percent or more. The only letters I refused were those considered libelous which could be costly to the paper as well as the letter writer.
Things change over the years. When I came to town, the News-Argus was regarded as a respected voice of liberalism in the east. During my tenure our point of view shifted more to the conservative. And so did the state and county. In the early days, one had to be a Democrat to enjoy the freedom of franchise. Today, our people predominantly case votes for Republican candidates from the local to the state level.
Have the changes been for the good or bad? That’s up to our fellow citizens to decide.
Thank goodness we live in a nation, state and local community where we can make such decisions. And one in which we are big enough to live with – and respect and enjoy – those with whom we disagree.
The job mortality rate for city and county managers probably is second only to that of point men in combat infantry companies.
The managers serve at the pleasure of the boards that appoint them. They can be fired for any reason – or for no reason. Fortunately, it takes a majority vote of the appointing bodies.
Wayne County Manager Lee Smith recently survived such an effort by an impressive margin.
Commissioner Joe Daughtery – “out of the blue” – moved that Smith’s services be terminated. Forthwith!
Although no reason was required, Daughtery accused Smith of lying, dishonesty and misleading commissioners and the public.
When asked for specific instances of such behavior, Daughtery was unable to do so. Instead he said this information would be provided later.
Daughtery was slapped down with a six to one vote against his motion.
As well he should have been.
If he had any reasons to justify his actions, he should have shared them with fellow commissioners in executive session or private conversations prior to the meeting.
There was some suggestion that Daughtery had mentioned getting rid of the county manager during his campaign for office. Daughtery denounced this as an unfounded rumor.
That notwithstanding, the “rumor” was out there during the campaign season and this is the first time it has been publicly refuted.
Perhaps the commissioner has some substance to back up his allegations of untrustworthiness on the part of Lee Smith. If so, he should share this with his fellow members and possibly the public.
If not, he should limit his comments to apologizing to the county manager and the people of Wayne County.