Commentary

Snow: Student newspaper’s finest hour, and books

April 15, 2012 

A feature on the 40th anniversary of the John Caldwell scholarships at N.C. State University revived the memory of my 10 years of moonlighting as advisor to the campus newspaper, (no The, according to its website) Technician.

Three afternoons per week I’d leave my job at The Raleigh Times and drive to the campus, teach the rudiments of journalism to the staff and offer advice on putting the newspaper together.

Just being with this group of young, imaginative and, yes, sometimes impulsive youths was pure pleasure – most of the time.

One exception was the “Thud Urine” incident.

One evening, after I had departed for home, the staff put together its annual April Fools issue, a spoof of state government and the General Assembly, which happened to be in town.

A front page article profiled the revered Secretary of State Thad Eure, who was referred to throughout the article as Thud Urine.

The honorables were not amused. Word went out to Chancellor John Caldwell that an abject and immediate apology would be expected in the next issue.

Caldwell, perhaps the university’s most popular chancellor, summoned the editor to his office.

The editor was a shy, likable student. She was engaged to and under the influence of the sports editor, the plot’s ringleader, who urged her to stand firm.

According to Banks Talley, then-dean of student affairs, who accompanied her to the meeting, it was a touching scene.

The chancellor gently explained the necessity of the apology. The editor explained about freedom of speech and the First Amendment.

As the chancellor became more insistent, the editor dissolved into tears.

The chancellor walked around his desk, sat down beside her, patted her hand and said, “No need to cry, no need at all. You don’t have to apologize.”

The staff regaled in what may have been its finest hour. I still hear from some of them.

Fairground books

I’m sorry I didn’t get out to the Fairgrounds for the Wake County library’s annual discard book sales. Not that I wanted or needed more books, I just wanted to see 450,000 books in one room and a milling crowd picking out books for a few farthings.

Dale Cousins, the library’s senior communications manager, said that after giving 130,650 books to the public schools, the library still took in $183,000 from sales to the public. Five hundred volunteers assisted with the event.

A friend, Dr. Gene Puckett, retired editor of the Biblical Recorder, was preaching at one of his first pastorates in Dunedin, Fla., when he became friends with the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church there.

The minister, 30 years older, was retiring and giving away his books. He invited Gene to come by and pick out some for himself.

“As I began to scan the shelves of his study, Dr. Johnson said, ‘Now Gene, I cannot give these books to you. If I do, you won’t appreciate them. I am asking you to pay 25 cents per book.”

Not a bad policy.

Ouch!

Speaking of books, Moses Hadas, American scholar, teacher and author, once wrote, “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I’ll waste no time in reading it.”

The critics

When casting about on the internet for a motel in the Thomasville area, I found one that seemed suitable. Then I read the reviews from previous occupants:

• Room clean, restaurant lousy.

• Awful. But you get what you get for $60 a night.

• Never again!

• Bulldoze it, PLEASE!

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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