Evening Sun will be missed
My parakeets will miss your editorial pages. To date they have never missed.
Joseph L. Bishop
I would like to take this opportunity to say farewell to The Evening Sun, a newspaper that has given me much pleasure.
Once again we put another summer season to bed. It's too bad we have to put The Evening Sun to bed too. Too good to be forgotten.
Philip A. Thayer
A letter from H. L. Mencken*
I knew things would go to pot. Things were a mess long before they carted me off to Loudon Park Cemetery and that's been almost 40 years.
Rest easy, they were saying all over again last Saturday, on my birthday (pleasant dreams to you, fellows and girls of the Mencken Society).
But how can a newspaperman, a Baltimorean, a citizen of W. J. Clinton's nation and the black-hole universe (or a ghost, if that's what I am now) have ease in his rest?
I don't want to be unkind to you young people, but must you spend the taxpayers' money hoisting pollution into the starry firmament? Must you encourage Washington to go on being the single most self-deluded, parasitical and overbearing locality in that same universe? Must you tear down the structurally unified and appealing city of my birth and lifelong residence and replace it with a misch-masch of skyline horrors?
Must you kill the newspaper I helped bring into being?
If you will be so kind, one small favor. I should like to put a few words into this, your final issue.
How things do not change. The same low class of officeholders and job-seekers -- the same order of vapid, mindless nonvoters. Also, my opinion of Arkansas is unchanged.
What fun I could have had with that combination: a rube, precious Oxford, the White House.
One thing, I grant you, is different: no more wards, and ward bosses. Instead of party-machine votes, today's specie is money itself, large and soiled.
Oh, and poll-takers. Doesn't anybody remember The Literary Digest and its 1936 poll?
The discourse is somehow tamer, too. The speech-writers have no guts. Like to hear a few toots from the old kazoo? "Americans keep waiting for a wizard, one who will blow away the fog of daily anxieties, who will solve all problems of the sweating body and the trembling soul. The plain people have always sought messiahs, never settling for hard diligence, or plain common sense. They pant for magic.
"But in a democracy there are no such Wonder Men, of vigorous mind and sturdy belief. Both parties (and would-be independents) are run by intellectual jellyfish and frauds. Here, blank cartridges with no convictions; there, mountebanks who blow hot or cold as the polls decree.
"The Free State, starring the Hon. Governor Glendening, the Hon. Mayor Schmoke and their devious, plunderous aides, epitomizes Category One. Nationally, Republicans flood Category Two, the Hon. Senator Dole, the Hon. Governor Wilson and the Hon. Senator Gramm all atwist to reach Fundamentalist Land, and its true-value simpletons."
I used to have such fun. Strange, though; latterly I've been looking askance at the gigantic corporations.
A subsequent generation has, no doubt, some right to its own heroes and deeds, ideas and standards. And if the decadents of ancient Rome would turn pale and shrink back from the glories of today's popular culture, well, I admit to a degree of personal responsibility. Yes, I did broadcast once or twice. That was radio; who could've known that, lurking around the corner, was the monster, television?
All my life, I played piano, venerated composers and symphony orchestras, put up with jazz. But the present continuing assault upon the cochlea and the scala vestibuli is, I have come back to testify, regarded on both levels of the beyond as an offense. You call that music? I seek my spitoon.
As for art, my role is to abstain.
But on language, give heed. Is it English that has changed, somehow becoming just too difficult in its grammar and spelling? Or is it people, too lazy to bother with rules, to study and memorize? Not only in speech, this is; in print as well. Newspapers no longer have proof-readers; do some book publishers even employ editors? The language does evolve; I spent years delving into its progress, to write "The American Language." But in light of today's abusage, there should've been a long entry under "sloven."
How stands Baltimore, culturally? What folly, tearing down Ford's Theater. What good sense, making something of the Basin after the loss of its Bay steamboats. What dubious wisdom, the rush to live off toward Pennsylvania or Washington. If only my decayed remains could resuscitate, I'd skip back, joyfully, to 1524 Hollins St.
In the old days (I do miss that chance to sound off, every Monday for almost 20 years, on this very page in The Evening Sun), I used to animadvert sometimes about the higher learning. Too many young people are going to college, I maintained; more of them should be trained in the useful arts and skills. What then happened, of course, was that more young people than ever went off to college.
More than ever, they seem to be treating college as a social occasion, squandering their parents' money.
I did battle with many of their professors -- savants of pifflery. It disturbs me now, how many reporters' news and feature stories invoke the name of some academic nonentity as source and referee for the lastest nut ideology or fashion fad.
As regards the public grade schools, there are more and more reports of bond loans rejected and budgets trimmed, which to me spells greed and nastiness among adults -- that's right, a democracy's voters.
I was never a classroom teacher myself, but to work on a newspaper or magazine, or to write books, was to have some part in schooling. For three months in 1938, I was this page's editor; daily, the lesson for its readers had to do with the New Deal, which they doltishly failed to overthrow. Please now excuse a valetudinarian attempt to call the roll of the anonymous writers whose title was editorial-page editor, from 1910 onward at The Evening Sun:
J. H. Adams, S. M. Reynolds, J. E. Murphy, J. H. Owens, H. L. Mencken, P. M. Wagner, J. N. Aiken, A. D. Emmart, B. M. Jacobs, D. P. Digges, C. R. Jenkins and, at the end, S. M. Engram. My wife sends special regards to Ms. Engram -- a second Alabama Sara.
Here's to G. F. Owens, M. H. Bowler and M. M. McCraven, since 1979 the successive editors of this fine newspaper's very fine opposite-editorial page. Choosing a cartoonist is risky business and The Evening Sun put it off, I must admit, for 47 years. Once the plunge was taken, Tom Flannery and then Mike Lane gave us some wonderful smiles.
To the end, I called myself a newspaperman. Never was I a journalist; never did I proffer a business card. Every self-respecting city had competing daily papers, each putting out bulldogs, finals, extras -- the works. A man of substance would leave home in mid-morning, buy the Home Edition of The Evening Sun to read on the streetcar going downtown and, at his factory or office, hand it to the elevator operator or his secretary. At day's end, he would buy an All-Star Evening Sun, read its many new stories on the ride home and present it to his family. That was two times 1 cent, 2 cents, later 3.
Tempora mutantur. I managed to get used to automobiles, movies, aeroplanes, air conditioners, though not beer in cans. Every time we had an economic depression, newspapers closed. In Baltimore, earlier, I worked for the Morning Herald, Evening Herald and Evening News; anyone remember any of them, now?
But one large American city after another with only one daily newspaper? And one after another afternoon paper surrendering to a morning rival? Specifically, in the city of Ottmar Mergenthaler and William C Rinehart a major newspaper is killed by one from the city of Clara Bow and Aimee Semple McPherson? Bad stuff. Some veteran of these turgid times, writing his memoirs, may have no use for the light-heartedness I affected in "Newspaper Days."
When I was writing what you youngsters call Analysis or Commentary, I generally tried not to tell other people what to do, or not to do. After they'd had their chance, and fallen on their faces, then I'd point out where they went wrong.
Today, when disorder, nay ruin, are the news of the day not just about the globe but here in my own ancestral streets, I voice no dismay, no rebuke. But later, one to another, we ghosts will be exchanging some melancholy words.
* Dictated to Mike Bowler, Jim Bready, Pete Kumpa and Gwinn Owens.
THE EVENING SUN SETS AT 85