Memoirs of David Brinkley
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They put out free daily newsletter with various items
they've pulled together. One the other day caught our
attention and thought we'd like to share. First a thanks
to NewScan's John Gehl for letting us share this following
from David Brinkley: A Memoir.
Newsman David Brinkley's first reporting assignment (in the
1930s, while he was a teenage working part-time for the Wilmington
Star-News) was to get the story of a woman who owned a certain
kind of plant said to bloom only every 100 years. The woman
called the newspaper and said the plant was about to bloom on
Tuesday night -- and when Brinkley arrived on the scene that
night he found the street filled with people.
"I asked the woman, 'When your century plant blooms, where will
the bloom be? On top of that stalk?'
"'How would I know? I'm not a hundred years old.'
"'How do you know tonight's the night, the end of a hundred
"'My grandfather bought this plant in Mexico. Before he died,
he was told this plant was about sixty years old and that was
forty years ago.'"
About sixty years old forty years ago? Somewhere around a hundred,
or so it was said by an unknown Mexican long since dead? The
plant could be almost any age. And of its true age the woman
had no idea and neither did anyone else. [Not only that, but
when Brinkley looked the plant up in the dictionary, he found
it was ERRONEOUSLY believed to bloom every hundred years.]
"Here was all this mess and confusion on the first assignment
of my life. I could not see how to get out of it. I was afraid
it would get me fired. As it turned out, I didn't have to produce
anything. Al Dickson [the managing editor] called and said there
was mechanical trouble in the composing room, he had to put
the paper to bed early and he couldn't wait for my plant to
bloom. 'Knock it off and go home.'"
I stayed around anyway. This might be an even more amusing story
than if the plant had bloomed on time, whatever the time was
to be. What would the battalion chief say to his firemen who
had worked overtime to set up the floodlights? Would he tell
them city hall had screwed up again? Actually, when asked, he
said, 'Buncha damned fools in city hall, all of them. What will
I tell my men? Tell them to come back in another hundred years?'
How about the people who kept their children up late to see
a miracle of nature that never happened? They were all furious,
the children screaming. The woman who owned the plant and started
all this? What would she say? She said, 'I'll never trust a
Mexican again.' "
It was Sociology 101 out there -- a small-town street full of
people, including the kind who write angry letters to the editor
signed 'Concerned Citizen' or 'Outraged Transit Rider.'
I found an older man wearing khaki pants, high-top tan shoes,
gray mustache, a shirt with a Prince Albert pipe tobacco can
in its pocket and a green felt hat. I quoted him: 'Look at this
damn mess. Popsicle sticks and Eskimo Pie wrappers all over.
Coca-Cola bottles. Broken glass. Because of that damn fool woman
the taxpayers have to clean this up? What's all this going to
cost us? Don't we pay enough already? And that damned century
plant never even bloomed?' "
So, the next morning all this nonsense made an amusing little
story for the paper, and to everyone's astonishment it was picked
up and carried across the country by the Associated Press, even
getting three column inches in the Los Angeles Times. Al Dickson
could not believe it. Lamont Smith, the editor, called me in
and said when I got out of school I could have a job at the
paper if I wanted it."
by David Brinkley @ Amazon.com
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