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Scraps from an old reporter’s notepad

Here are some scraps from an old reporter’s notepad:

• Retired Blue Grass farmer Bob Bancks said he made a little history on Memorial Day. He became the first non-veteran to lead the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Blue Grass American Legion’s Memorial Day ceremony. Said Bob: “Being a non-veteran doesn’t mean someone is unpatriotic.”

• My wife Sherry and I recently had eye exams, and our pupils were dilated for a while, making seeing difficult. That reminded me of something funny that happened years ago. A fellow I worked with went to the eye doctor. When his appointment had ended, he phoned me at the office and asked for a ride because his pupils were dilated. So I drove to his eye doctor’s office, and he walked out to my car. “Thanks a lot,” he said, then turned to walk toward his pickup truck. “Wait a minute!” I exclaimed. “Aren’t you riding back to the office with me?” “No,” he said with a grin. “They told me I had to call for a ride, and I did.” He then got in his truck and drove away.

• I don’t know about you, but I consider it a good day if Rachel from Cardholder Services has not called me to tell me there is no problem with my credit card, but….

• I appreciate clever signs. And I enjoyed the ones posted outside Animal Care Center in Davenport. They were based on rock ‘n’ roll songs. One said, “I kissed a pug, and I liked it.” The other sign read, “It’s all about the basset.”

• I was out for a walk — an important part of maintaining one’s health, but not my favorite activity — and my wife approached in her car. I put my thumb up like I was hitchhiking. She stopped, rolled down her window, smiled and said, “I don’t pick up strangers, and there’s no one stranger than you.” With that, she drove off. I’m starting to feel a little like Rodney Dangerfield.

• I recently walked by some beautiful red, pink and white peonies in a vase on our dining room table and commented to my wife how nice they looked. “They’re artificial,” she said. “And they’ve been there for two weeks.” Maybe floral stupidity is in the Roberts blood. Years ago, when my mother was in the hospital, my dad watered her flowers in the house religiously. Turned out they were silk flowers.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was printed as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Few regrets

An interviewer on “CBS Sunday Morning” recently asked a celebrity if he had any regrets in life. The celebrity – I don’t remember now who it was – said he didn’t because decisions he’d made in the past were based on the best information he’d had at the time.

That echoed something I’d heard from a speaker many years ago at a convention I attended. She said we shouldn’t look back and kick ourselves for decisions we made that ultimately didn’t work out because we had based them on the facts we’d had at the time.

I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made that were based on careful thought at the time but ultimately turned out to be wrong.

But I do regret some decisions I’ve made in haste without considering all the facts or without fully considering possible repercussions or were based merely on assumptions that I’d made that turned out to be incorrect.

Here are some examples:

* When I was a Cubmaster with my pack on a father-son campout, I prepared a Mexican hamburger dish for the boys and their fathers for supper. My wife had sent along the ingredients: crushed taco chips, ground beef, ketchup and mustard. The mustard was supposed be added to the concoction to taste, but I used the entire jar, incorrectly assuming that’s what the recipe called for. The boys and their fathers were hungry and ate the hamburger dish, which had a yellow tint to it because of the mustard. But it made them all very thirsty. I had never seen so many people drink so much water. That’s one regret.

* When preparing pancakes from scratch one Saturday morning as a surprise to the family, the recipe called for baking powder. I couldn’t find any in the cupboard, but I did find some baking soda and assumed it was about the same thing. It wasn’t. I did, indeed, surprise the family. I regret my assumption.

* When I stored some unused fishing worms in a former oleo margarine container in the basement refrigerator, I regret not labeling the contents. When we ran out of oleo in the kitchen, my wife sent one the kids downstairs to grab that oleo container she’d seen in the basement refrigerator. When she put it on the supper table, pulled the lid off and saw those wriggling worms instead of oleo, I was instantly filled with regret because I was in big trouble.

* Once, when we were out of dishwasher soap, I assumed that using some liquid dish soap instead in our dishwasher would accomplish the same thing. It did not. Much of the kitchen floor ended up covered in a couple inches of suds. I regret the assumption I had made.

* When our chimney froze up in December 1983 during near-blizzard conditions, I told my wife I’d climb up to it and knock the ice off of it. She begged me not to, but I was sure I could do it and persisted. I never made it to the chimney. My trip in that direction was interrupted by a slip, then a fall off of the roof. I then had some painful months to consider and regret my faulty decision.

* When the woman who would become my wife and I were dating and I came across some standing water in a low part of a road following a downpour, I assumed it was only several inches deep. I said I could easily drive my little 1959 Simca through it. The water was actually a couple of feet deep, and the engine stalled about halfway through the standing water. Murky water poured into the car up to the level of the seats, and the car began to float. Luckily a nice guy in a pickup truck came by and pushed us out. Of course, the engine was waterlogged and would not start. I regretted my decision, based on a poor assumption, to try to drive through the standing water.

* We once were in the same car on a date, headed to a movie in downtown Rock Island, when smoke started pouring into the passenger compartment. The temperature gauge did not work, so I had no idea the car was out of water and overheating. I assumed – incorrectly – the smoke was from some insulation burning off a hot wire, and we kept on going. We made it to the movie. As we stood in the concession area on arrival, waiting to buy popcorn and smelling like smoke, the theater staff started checking the popcorn machine because they thought it was burning up. Later, when we were seated watching the movie and still smelling like smoke, the ushers walked the aisles and shined their flashlights on overhead ventilators, thinking one of them might be on fire. Of course when the movie was over, the car would not start. The overheating had caused a warped cylinder head. And I regretted my earlier assumption that the smoke had been from insulation burning off a hot wire.

* At one time I used to smoke an occasional cigar. It was my policy not to smoke in my car. But one time, on the way home from work, I broke my own rule and lit up. Bad decision. I was driving down the interstate when I dropped the lit cigar, and it went between my legs. Thanks to some quick action, I kept the car seat from getting burned, but the cigar burned a hole in my slacks. It also burned my upper thigh. I quickly regretted my decision to break my own rule against smoking in the car.

Those are a few of my regrets. I don’t regret that I can’t think of any more at the moment.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece has been submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Wrong restroom and other true tales

After dining at a Davenport restaurant that I will not be naming, my wife waited in the lobby after we finished our meals while I used the bathroom. She wasn’t watching when I went in. But when I walked out of the restroom, her eyes opened to the size of silver dollars, and her mouth dropped open.
“You just walked out of the women’s restroom!” she exclaimed. “Didn’t you see the big W on the door?”
“No,” I answered. “I didn’t look at the door because I thought I remembered using that particular restroom the last time we were here.”
She made a derogatory comment about my memory.
“But now that you mention it,” I said, “I don’t remember seeing any urinals in there. And there was a bench with a cushion on it for seating. They never put those in men’s restrooms.”
“You are just lucky no women walked in while you were there,” she said.

I am not the worrying type. If I were, I’d be worrying a lot about the development of so-called driverless cars, vehicles operated by computers.
Computers crash now and then. I think driverless cars will do the same thing.

I recently spotted a good parking place at a store and nearly pulled into it. Then I read a sign that said it was reserved for expectant mothers.
My wife suggested, “Shave your beard, and you might get by with it.”

I was planning to attend an upcoming show at the Adler Theatre in Davenport. But I now have decided not to go.
Advertising for the event indicated tickets could be purchased at the theater’s box office or via Ticketmaster. The ad said to make a box office purchase, one had to show up in person, which is not as convenient as buying online or by phone.
(I verified in a phone call to the theater it sells tickets only in person.)
So I decided to order my tickets online via Ticketmaster, even though it would mean paying Ticketmaster’s handling charge.
I chose the seats I wanted and tried to purchase them online. But every time I got to the Ticketmaster page asking how I wanted to pay for them, it flashed on the computer monitor for about two seconds, then disappeared.
I tried making the purchase more than half a dozen times using two different Macintosh computers and one PC. The results were always the same: The payment page showed up for a couple of seconds and was gone before I could enter a credit card number to make the buy.
Not one to give up easily, I called Ticketmaster’s toll-free phone number. The recording that answered said all agents were busy and I should call back later.
I did call back later – several times, in fact – and got the same message. The recording also said I could purchase tickets by pressing a certain button on my phone and be connected with an automated operator (a computer).
Based on the experiences I’d had up to that point, I decided not to take my chances, and I hung up. When the Adler performance takes place, I won’t be there. I expect to be home in my recliner watching a DVD of the performer.
It’s available for roughly $12 at Amazon.com, and I know Amazon will accept my online purchase.

My wife and I recently drove to Minneapolis to visit our grandchildren and their parents.
On the way home, I noticed a bumper sticker on a car a little ahead of mine in the next lane.
“Free the Bean,” I read aloud. “I wonder what that means.”
When I got a little closer, I saw the bumper sticker was promoting presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and actually said Feel the Bern.
It may be time for some stronger lenses in my glasses.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This was submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge Iowa.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Former sports writer’s novel deals with concussions

Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper

The cover of the novel.

The cover of the novel.

Quad-City Times sports writer, 1978-2004. Genesis Health System senior communications specialist, 2004-present. And now Craig Cooper has an additional title – self-published novelist.

Cooper, 62, has written a book called “Convergence of Events.”

The story is about a collegiate hockey player in Minnesota who leaves for home after practice, where he suffered a concussion, becomes disoriented and, said Cooper, “dies unexpectedly and tragically, and they don’t know at first what has happened.”

It happens during the winter, and his body is found in some woods.

Adds Cooper: “They wonder if it was hypothermia – it was very cold that night – but they wonder why he couldn’t figure out how to get home. Why was he out in the middle of the remote woods?

“It turns out that he’d had a sports-related concussion at practice that day and had had numerous concussions throughout the years he’d been playing hockey.”

The central character, Cooper said, is a Denver reporter, who is on assignment in Utah.

“While he’s on assignment he finds out – it’s no surprise to him – that it would be the last edition of the newspaper that day. It’s closing down.”

Cooper, who strongly believes in the importance of community newspapers, said that’s reminiscent of what happened at the Rocky Mountain News.

The reporter in “Convergence of Events” needs a job and is offered one at a community newspaper in northern Minnesota. The hockey player’s death occurs on the second night he’s there.

Cooper said the college in his book doesn’t follow its protocol regarding concussions, leaving the player alone in the locker room. “And he’s still disoriented when he leaves the locker room (to go home) after practice. It’s a very, very cold day. It’s a remote area and heavily timbered. He gets lost on the way home.”

Cooper began writing the novel in January 2015, but he had been thinking about an idea on which he could base his story long before that.

He had written newspaper stories about the danger of concussions 15- some years ago, notes Cooper. A friend of his, a former Mallards hockey player he had covered for the paper, had suffered repeated concussions.

“His career ended that way – because of a concussion in a game. He’s had some very significant issues because of his concussions over the course of his career.”

One of the issues was depression. So sports-related concussions became the central theme for the book.

Cooper, who with his wife Susan has two grown sons and five grandchildren with another on the way, knew little about self-publishing – specifically about designing and uploading a book — in the beginning.

“I knew it could be done, but I didn’t know very much about it.”

A designer of ads, publications, brochures and websites at Genesis, Heather White, who also a senior communications specialist, has a design business of her own and used the appropriate software to format Cooper’s story.

“You can upload your book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble and get it listed,” he said. “It’s not a difficult process, and it doesn’t cost anything to do it.

“They take a portion of the proceeds when you sell a book. It’s not even that much of a percentage. It’s kind of cool to do.”

To those who say they’ve always wanted to write a book, “I say just sit down and do it because it is so easy now” to have it listed.

Cooper also worked with a company called blurb.com. “They will actually take your manuscript and turn it into a soft-cover book. We did that too, and that’s where I order books from.”

Cooper said novels usually range between 60,000 words long on the low end to 200,000 words on the high end. His book is roughly 300 pages or 76,000 words long.

When did Cooper find time to write?

“I sat down and started working on it is what it came down to. I would watch TV while I was writing at night, weekends. Whenever I had spare time I would do it.”

He gets up early each morning, he said, and walks on the treadmill.

“I’ll think of something while I’m down there. Or mowing the yard. I’ll think of something and go back to the computer and add it in. You just come up with ideas in different places, and I go to the computer and put them into the story and see if they work.”

He said one can Google how to write a novel, but “I did everything basically wrong. They tell you to write like it’s your job. I did everything wrong because I work for a living – I have a job. I have to write when I can, so that’s weekends, holidays and early mornings.”

Cooper said he didn’t write “Convergence of Events” to make a lot of money or sell movie rights. If you’re not a best-selling novelist you’re probably not going to sell that many books, he noted. He said there are about 12 million books listed on Amazon.

“I thought I had a story to tell that people might like to read. That was my whole idea,” said Cooper. “It was fun and exciting to just make stuff up. Especially in our business where everything we do has been based on fact. If there is one thing I really enjoy about the process, it’s that.”

You can purchase a soft-cover copy of “Convergence of Events” by Craig Lynn Cooper by sending him a message on Facebook.com. Or you may download a copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Florida memories

Billy Bridger at Snook Inn.

Billy Bridger at Snook Inn.

Ocean view from the condominium.

Ocean view from the condominium.

Phil and Sherry at Naples Botanical Garden next to a gardener made entirely of Legos.

Phil and Sherry at Naples Botanical Garden next to a gardener made entirely of Legos.

Mike and Cindy at Naples Botanical Garden.

Mike and Cindy at Naples Botanical Garden.

The garden was beautiful.

The garden was beautiful.

An eagle at the garden made entirely of Legos.

An eagle at the garden made entirely of Legos.

A praying mantis made entirely of Legos.

A praying mantis made entirely of Legos.

P1010315

The view from our motel room.

The view from our motel room.

And a little closer to the water.

And a little closer to the water.

It was a touching moment. We were in the gate area of the Orlando-Sanford (Florida) Airport on Thursday, Jan. 21, waiting to board a plane for a trip back to the Quad-Cities.

We had flown to Florida on Sunday the 17th to spend some time with my wife’s sister, Cindy, and her husband, Mike, at a condominium they had rented on Marco Island, near Naples on the southwest coast.

Two uniformed airport firefighters approached a young boy near us who was probably 8 or 9 years old and sitting in a wheelchair. I thought perhaps he was having medical problems, but that was not the case.

He was wearing a Make-A-Wish T-shirt and holding a cloth bag that also said Make-A-Wish. The firefighters talked and joked with him for a few minutes. Then, before leaving, they gave him a black, plastic firefighter helmet and a stick-on junior firefighter badge. As they walked away, everyone in the gate area applauded them.

Here are some other recollections from that visit to Florida:
* We flew to Florida and back with Allegiant. It’s a no-frills airline that offers only direct flights, which I think is a real plus. As flying goes, prices are reasonable. And all the Allegiant employees were very polite. Time in the air both ways was less than two and a half hours.

* Bad weather, including some rare January tornadoes, had hit Florida’s west coast hours before our arrival. One of the hard-hit areas was Siesta Key, where Cindy and Mike were staying when we visited them a year ago. On Marco Island, high water levels damaged the beach. And in nearby Naples, a private plane owned by TV’s Judge Judy also suffered storm damage.

* For the few days we were there, Floridians thought it was cold. For them I guess it was. Daytime high temperatures ranged between the upper 50s and lower 60s. But that felt pretty good to my wife and me because it’d been minus 5 degrees and minus 25 degrees wind chill when we’d flown out of Moline.

* We’re used to seeing deer crossing signs in Iowa. But we were surprised to see signs in the Naples Florida area that read, “Panther Traffic.” Signs around ponds and canals also warned of alligators. And I know some parts of Florida also have bears to deal with.

* Although we did not see (thank goodness!) any, southern Florida is being overrun by Burmese python snakes, which are native to southeast Asia. According to the Internet, researchers say there could be from 30,000 to 300,000 of them in Florida. Burmese pythons are frequently found in or near the water, although they are also capable of climbing. Most Burmese pythons in Florida are between 6 and 10 feet long and are larger than almost all native snakes. A government-organized python round-up was taking place while we were in Florida.

* The vegetation in the Sunshine State is lush. The four of us — Cindy, Mike, Sherry and myself — visited the 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden. It was a beautiful setting of cultivated gardens and preservation land. A highlight was a number of varied sculptures all made from Legos.

* The meal that offered the most fun was at a waterfront place on Marco Island called Snook Inn. We ate outdoors in an open-air pavilion that had heaters going to take the chill off. There is live music there every afternoon and evening. A talented Canadian guitarist-singer-comedian named Billy Bridger entertained us.

* Because we had an early flight on the 21st, we stayed the night before in a motel, Monroe’s on the Lake, in Sanford that was only three miles from the airport. It was a quiet, clean place with a beautiful lake view.

* The best meal we had on the trip likely was the seafood combo at St. John’s River Steak and Seafood located next to the hotel. I’d highly recommend it.

* When we arrived back in the Quad-Cities, it was back to reality. The temperature that greeted us was a less-than-toasty 19 degrees. But there were no panthers, alligators, bears or pythons!

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Taking the church to the community

The Rev. Linda Hunsaker from her Facebook page.

The Rev. Linda Hunsaker from her Facebook page.

The pastor of two Davenport churches has a unique way of meeting with church members who want to speak with her in a setting that is less formal than her church office.

The Rev. Linda Hunsaker, pastor of both First Christian Church and Cedar Memorial Christian Church for the last three years, is keeping some office hours at a coffee shop and a restaurant.

Hunsaker is at Starbucks on Middle Road in Bettendorf from 1 to 3 p.m. most Mondays and at the Village Inn on Harrison Street in Davenport from 9 to 11 a.m. most Wednesdays.

She also is holding a Bible study every other Thursday night from 6 to 7:30 in the cafe at the Hy-Vee on West Locust Street in Davenport.

She said the idea to get out of the office and into the community came from a book, “Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back From the Dead, and Yours Can, Too” (The Pilgrim Press), by United Church of Christ pastor Molly Phinney Baskette.

According to advertising for the book, it “offers a look at everything First Church Somerville UCC, a progressive Christian church in the shadow of Harvard, MIT and Tufts Universities, did to reverse their death spiral and become the healthy, stable, spirited and robust community it is today.”

Said Hunsaker: When Baskette was called to minister the aging congregation, church finances were nearly gone and “they literally were a couple of years away closing the doors. She went to them and said, ‘The church can’t be the way it used to be.’

“Not that it isn’t wonderful, and we don’t love church the way it has been,” Hunsaker said, “but we live in a time when folks don’t engage and go to church like they used to because we now live in a seven-day-per-week, 24-hour-per-day society.”

Hunsaker said the question the book poses is, “how can you be more accessible to people and also be more non-threatening? Not that the church is threatening, but I think a lot of people have been harmed by the church,” Hunsaker adds.

“I had never thought about it this way because I love my job, I love being a pastor and I love that God has called me,” she said.

Hunsaker, who grew up in the Des Moines area and came to the Quad-Cities from Ursa, Ill., said she never thought that visiting a pastor in his or her office was a bad thing, and when growing up was very close to the pastor of her congregation. “I never thought somebody might not be comfortable coming in to the church office and talking to me. (But for some) it’s almost like going to the principal’s office.”

Hunsaker said telling someone they can have a cup of coffee with her or breakfast with her or just sit and talk is must less threatening to people.

“It’s more of a friendship,” Hunsaker said. “That’s what I want people to know — that I enjoy sitting and talking and hearing their stories. Where do you do that? You don’t do that in the formal front room. You do that in the kitchen.”

Ministering to two churches leaves little time for visiting on Sundays.

“I have time during the week so people come and do this,” she said recently while seated at a Village Inn booth. “Sunday morning is not the time to sit down and get to know people in the congregation. Often the most time I get to spend with people is when I’m sitting with families in the hospital or at a funeral home. I want to know them before I get to that point.”

She’d also like to better know members of her flock before they’re in their 80s and 90s and perhaps in a nursing home. “People have useful lives that are like a back story.”

Hunsaker began her out-of-office office hours last fall and said the experience “has been wonderful!”

Pastors used to visit people by going to their houses and knocking on their doors. But Hunsaker said, “These days they often are not home or they are home but their house is a mess because they have kids running through it, and they are embarrassed.”

Hunsaker, the married mother of two young, active daughters, understands that.

There is another benefit to getting out of the office and into the community. Hunsaker has experienced some of the “Cheers” mentality. That was the TV show where “everybody knows your name.” She has, for example, become familiar and friendly with the employees at the Village Inn.

A waitress insisted on donating money toward a Thanksgiving meal for the needy she heard Hunsaker was involved in. Another employee asked her to speak with a regular restaurant customer whom he knew was going through tough times.

“You don’t do that if you’re sitting in your office,” Hunsaker said.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Keeping pace and other random thoughts

WOC Club Dec 2015

Some members of the WOC Club at our last meeting held at Riefe’s (which is now closed) in December 2015. Club members are folks who worked at WOC-TV, KWQC-TV, WOC-AM, WOC-FM, KIIK-FM or KUUL-FM.

As of Dec. 22, I now have a pacemaker. It keeps the bottom part of my heart beating at an appropriate rate; it had been on the slow side. A friend of mine who has had a pacemaker for quite a while told me in advance that the implant surgery would be a “piece of cake.” I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but it was done on an outpatient basis, and I got to go home after a couple hours of recuperation time. That’s not bad.
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My wife, Sherry, recently took great delight in purchasing a children’s book to read to our younger grandchildren. It’s called “Hiding Phil,” and Phil is an elephant.
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The Quad-Cities area has many fine restaurants. But in recent months two — Bud’s Skyline Inn in Moline and Riefe’s Restaurant in Davenport — have closed so their owners could retire. It takes a lot of hours each week to run a restaurant, and brothers Dan Riefe, who joined the family business in 1980, and Rick, who joined in 1971, have certainly earned their retirement. My experience with Riefe’s dates back to when it was just a drive-in. My brother and I went there with our parents. Carhops brought our food, and we ate in the car. The drive-in was torn down in 1960 and replaced by a building that seated 45 people inside. It has since been enlarged several times. I remember eating inside as a teenager and ordering a two-piece chicken dinner, call the “chicken snack,” for 95 cents. Most recently some fellow retired broadcasters and I have met one morning each month at Riefe’s for breakfast. We will now have to find another place, and it won’t be the same. I got to know Rick Riefe personally in the 1990s when his son Jess and my son Dane were in Boy Scouts together. “Rick is a nice guy, and he was a good scoutmaster,” Dane, now 34, recalled recently. He also noted that Rick did the cooking on campouts, and that was a real treat.
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The recent death of former Harlem Globetrotters player “Meadowlark” Lemon reminded me of the time I played in an exhibition game against the Globetrotters. It was 1970 or 1971, and I was a college student and a part-time disc jockey and sales rep at the Quad-Cities’ original country music station, KWNT in Davenport. Our hastily thrown together team, called the Friendly Country Giants, played the Globetrotters briefly during halftime at one of their performances at the Wharton Field House in Moline. Of course, they ran circles around us but I did make a basket, scoring 2 points.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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