AC Snow: Remembering a sad day in November

November 30, 2013 

This has been the season and the year of remembering the martyred president.

I remember the teletype bell’s constant clanging in The Raleigh Times newsroom as the machine clacked out the dreadful bulletins from Dallas.

I remember how we hustled to get out the extra edition, the only extra I remember The Raleigh Times ever printing.

I remember seeing tears discreetly brushed away by male staffers, and the grief expressed more openly by the women in the newsroom.

I also remember, to my surprise, the dry eyes among many people I encountered during that day.

And, yes, sadly, I remember the anger of sports fans because the football game scheduled for the next day between archrivals Duke and Carolina was postponed.

My wife, then a senior English teacher at Broughton High, remembers how, when the news was announced over the intercom, her students sat in stunned silence.

She instantly reached for the volume of poetry containing British poet A.E. Housman’s poignant poem “To An Athlete Dying Young” and read it to the students. These stanzas stay with me:

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose. ...

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.

Finlator wit

One of my all-time favorite people was the Rev. W.W. Finlator, longtime pastor of Pullen Baptist Church in Raleigh and an outspoken champion of the poor, downtrodden and a host of free thinkers.

During the local ACLU’s recent W.W. Finlator Awards ceremony, one of the speakers recalled that when asked what the W.W. stood for, the reverend replied, “Certainly not wishy-washy.”

His son Wallace remembers a favorite anecdote from childhood:

“I had read somewhere that Mormons will not consecrate and worship in a church until it has been fully paid for. I told Dad about that and asked, ‘Baptists are not like that. Right, Dad?’

“Dad thought for a minute and then said, ‘No, son. Baptists will pay 10 percent down on a church, consecrate it, worship in it and then sing ‘Jesus Paid It All.’”

Giving a goat

Ten days before Thanksgiving the mall resounded with “But we need a little Christmas, right this very minute!”

The mailbox is clogged with Christmas catalogs, and the telephone calls from solicitors seeking to take advantage of the Christmas spirit are peaking.

Weeks ago, Heifer International, a favorite charity, called.

“Mr. Snow,” the caller said pleasantly, “will you be giving bees again this year?”

She referred to my usual gift of two hives of bees for some destitute Third World citizen who will turn them into a home industry.

“Or would you like to give a part of a goat?” she added.

I had considered giving a goat, but with all the other holiday demands, two hives of bees best fit my budget.

Speaking of goats, a Surry County friend once recalled the time he impetuously bought a goat at a stock sale and had to drive home with it in the cab of his pickup.

“It was awful,” he said. “The unhappy beast was all over the cab and me. When one end of it wasn’t butting me, the other end was kicking the daylights out of me.

“Imagine trying to drive with a goat in your lap. I was lucky to get home alive.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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