Remembrances from ‘Town Talk’

“Town Talk” was a regular feature of The News for many years. Snippets of local gossip and informal coverage of community issues were its normal fare. Here is a sampling of 1950s Town Talk topics contrasted with more current issues; a comparison that shows an evolution has occurred, one whose nature is evident in the following Town Talk segment.

“There is a white Mallard duckling on Island Park at the wildfowl sanctuary. Veteran sportsmen, still rubbing their eyes in disbelief, tell us that this is like the sun and the moon changing places in the heavens — it just doesn’t happen! Garnet Murphy, retired barber and lifelong observer of the sporting scene says, “It’s the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen.'”

Wouldn’t it be great if Garnet was still cutting hair? I’d hustle on down to his shop whether I needed a trim or not, just to get an innocence fix. I’d hope to obtain a slice of perspective from his field of vision for use as an antidote to a whole flock of things now considered usual.

We can’t get Garnet back, so we’ll have to cherish the thought that once upon a time a white, baby Mallard duck, was the most unusual of unusual things.

And there’s this:

“WATZ carried the story of the local fishermen who caught a fish so large he couldn’t find a scale big enough to weight it so he took its picture. The negative alone weighted 15 pounds.”

Now that’s a real fish story. But when it comes to fish, isn’t that what we expect?

Today, whopping exaggerations are no longer fish based. Rather, they emanate from special interest money. Thanks to The Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, money is now able to buy the illusion of both substance and size. The converse can also be purchased. Contrary to established rules of physics, greater mass can now be transformed so as to exert lesser not greater pull. Unlike in Garnet’s time, we may be witnessing a cosmic reversal — but not heavenly based.

The amount of special interest money placed on societies’ scales serves to aggrandize dubious assertions beyond what any fish story ever could. Contrast their overweight to the underweighting of integrity and veracity; each, no longer able to scale its actual heft. One need no longer watch who’s doing the weighing, only observe who’s doing the paying.

Little League Baseball’s first year in Alpena was 1954. There was a parade from the old ballfield at “Market Square” to the new Little League diamond where the city sewer treatment plant is now.

John Doyle, a childhood friend of mine, hit our area’s first Little League home run, creating such a memorable impression he was presented with the ball and mentioned in Town Talk.

But no longer do home runs make such memorable impressions. AR-15 fire does that as is regularly demonstrated in this, “Age of the shooter.” Some memorable day a rabid shooting mind could send that fire ripping through a school bus.

How best to train a bus driver to return such fire — at times over his or her soldier — while trying to drive an evasive course, activate the flashers, and send out an emergency call? What cowboy movie should we have those drivers look to for guidance? What school bus drill should we have the kids practice so as to minimize the body count? What politician should we look to for their protection?

As a former juvenile judge I found the following Town Talk report interesting:

Chief Walker reported to council that he was recently made aware of studies by juvenile delinquency experts. These experts had concluded that delinquent behavior was caused by parents being too concerned with their kids’ entertainment.

I can’t help wonder what public safety insights Chief Walker would have for council today.

Doug Pugh’s Vignettes runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached via email at