Monthly Archives: May 2015

Commencement speeches — I don’t remember most of them

Do this. Don’t do that.

This is the time of year for commencement speeches. A time when speakers pass out tips to graduates who may or may not take them.

I’ve heard many commencement speeches over the years, but I don’t remember most of them. One that did stand out was a speech by Dr. A. Lynn Bryant, president of Marycrest College from 1981-1986.

He offered three rules for achieving success:

1. Don’t give up.

2. Don’t ever give up.

3. Don’t ever ever give up.

Greg Gutfeld of Fox News, one of five commentators on a talk show called “The Five,” recently used the program to offer some advice to graduates.

But he prefaced it by saying that college commencement addresses are usually garbage.

“They’re for colleges seeking publicity,” he said. “So you end up with a star hawking platitudes to an audience suckled on baby formula called ‘The Daily Show.’”

That, of course, is a generalization and not always the case.

Here are Gutfeld’s tips for grads, edited for length:

• “Take any job, any job you can find. Work your butt off for one solid decade — that will put you 10 years up on any pothead backpacking to Europe (or) videogame-playing drone….”

• “Also, ask dumb questions and listen quietly for the answers.”

• “Steer clear of pot. It’s an ambition zapper.”

• “Move somewhere with decent public transit so you don’t drive drunk and hit somebody.”

• “Scalpel your online footprint to a fly’s toe. Twitter is the contrail of life. When I’m hiring I don’t need to see your naked butt. … Real experience beats web activity. Everything is being filmed. So any public rant you do to a clerk at a shoe store — that scars you eternally.”

• “If you’re the person doing the hiring, forgive a scar or two. Remember that when we were young, we were also idiots. There were just no cameras there to catch it.”


My wife, Sherry, has an iPod, an iPad and an iPhone. I don’t have any of those. It’s my choice. I’m really quite happy with the technology of the 1980s — or prior.

A recent headline on the cover of Consumer Reports spoke of “smart technology.”

So I jokingly asked Sherry if one of my cassette recorders/players would qualify as smart technology.

“Do you know how to operate it?” she asked.

“Yes,” I proudly replied.

“Then no, it’s not,” she said wryly.

Copyright 2015 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 May 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


Out of the blue: World War II photos of my dad

Philip Ingraham.

Philip Ingraham.


The platoon.

The platoon. I believe my dad is kneeling in the back row in front of the man without a helmet.

Philip Ingraham?

Philip Ingraham?

Philip Ingraham, left, and his men.

Philip Ingraham, left, and his men.

My dad, Ray Roberts.

My dad, Ray Roberts.

That may be Ray Roberts on the left in the back row next to Philip Ingraham.

That may be Ray Roberts on the left in the back row next to Philip Ingraham.

The man who is second from the left appears to be Ray Roberts.

The man who is second from the left appears to be Ray Roberts.

79thphoto3 79thphoto579thphoto6

“You’ve got a message on the answering machine,” my wife told me (on May 8). The call had come in while I was at lunch with some retired broadcaster friends.

I pressed the play button on the answering machine. A man from Connecticut who identified himself as Paul Gould said in the recorded message that he had acquired some photographs of soldiers from my father’s unit in World War II.

He said one of the men pictured was Capt. Philip Ingraham, for whom I was named, and he said he probably had photos of my dad as well. He left his phone number and asked me to call him.

I was stunned. I soon picked up the phone and dialed his number. Before I get into the conversation we had, let me give you some background.

My dad, H. Raymond Roberts, who died in 2004, was born and raised in Hannibal, Mo. Stirred into action by the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army infantry in 1942.

In his World War II memoirs, written in 1999, Dad noted that the 79th Infantry Division was just being formed when he enlisted. “So I went straight to Company C, 315th Infantry of the 79th Division….”

His commanding officer and soon to be his good friend was First Lt. (and later Capt.) Philip Ingraham.

He “took care of his guys,” Dad wrote, and “that endeared him to his boys of Company C.”

But Ingraham lost his life in 1944.

“On July 4, we formed a line and advanced across a wheat field for maybe 200 yards to get to the hedge rows on the other side,” wrote Dad, who ended up a first sergeant. “We had no problem until we got to the hedge rows. There they were. The Germans were waiting for us. Capt. Ingraham told me to take a couple runners and go to our left behind the hedge row, as we were out in the open. I didn’t know how far he wanted us to go, so I stopped and waved to him to see if we had gone far enough.

“He raised his hand, and I saw him go down. I believe that was when he was shot. … The next day we had to advance over the same field we had lost the day before. That is bad because you know every place that a German could be and the possibility of finding bodies of guys you lost the day before.

“The Germans had moved out at night, so that was good. But we did find Capt. Ingraham’s body. He had been shot in the head. There were other bodies.

“I will never forget July 4, l944, and will never celebrate the Fourth of July,” my dad wrote. “You know, this is a good time to write about Capt. Philip Ingraham. He was a second lieutenant when he joined Company C in the states. He was with us for a long time. I worked very close with him as company clerk and communications sergeant.

“In combat I was always by his side and available when he needed me. He was the best officer under which I served. He always looked after his men in his company. He always told us to solve our own problems in our area but, if we got into trouble in town, he would do what he could. Conflicts within our company confines would not be reported but instead handled as a private matter in Company C.

“I had seen many guys killed but, when he went down, it really hit me very hard. He was so close that my son, Phil, was named after Capt. Ingraham.”

In a November 2011 posting in my blog, I wished my late father a happy Veterans Day and mentioned briefly how I got my first name. I also posted my father’s picture and one of Capt. Ingraham. It was that posting in my blog on the Internet that led to the phone call from Paul Gould.

He had purchased at a flea market some items, including the Army photos, that had belonged to a Philip Ingraham.

“I was trying to find out more about him,” Paul said. “There’s a whole bunch of photos in there I was picking through.”

An Internet search took him to my blog. He compared the photos of my dad and Ingraham to the soldiers pictured in the flea market photos. He then read about Ingraham’s death. “My heart sank when I read that,” he said. “After I read it, I felt this need to call you and tell you about it.”

Since that phone call, Paul has scanned and emailed to me a number of photographs, some of which do include my father and my namesake, Philip Ingraham.

I am thankful that Paul Gould bothered to do an Internet search. And I’m grateful that he cared enough to pick up the phone and call me.

“I felt like I had to,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as a column to the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.


Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Oran Pape is being remembered

Oran Pape. ISP PhotoThe first Iowa state trooper killed in the line of duty has not been forgotten.

Late last month on its Facebook page, the Iowa State Patrol remembered the April
 29, 1936, death of Patrolman Oran “Nanny” Pape (pictured in the Iowa State Patrol photo), who died in Muscatine County.

Pape was traveling around 5 p.m. on April 28 on former Highway 61 near Fairport when he stopped a car he believed to have been stolen. As he approached the car, the driver, Roscoe Barton, a 23-year-old parolee from Davenport, pointed a gun at Pape and ordered him into the car.

As they traveled down the highway, Pape grabbed Barton and the two men struggled. Two shots were fired.

One bullet struck Barton in the head, and he died instantly. The other went into Pape’s abdomen and groin, seriously wounding him. But he was able to stagger out of the car and hail a passing vehicle for help.

He was rushed to Hershey Hospital in Muscatine, where doctors tried in vain to save him. But he died early the next day, the first member of the patrol to die in the line of duty and the only officer murdered.

Pape’s death made national news. One reason was his past success as a star football player at Dubuque High School and the University of Iowa. He also had played football for the Green Bay Packers and was a part of the 1930 NFL championship team.

In a page one story with a headline that read “Former Grid Star Killed,” the April 30, 1936, edition of the Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle- Gazette said, “State Highway Patrolman Oran H. Pape — former University of Iowa football star who has proved as heroic in a gun battle as he was on the gridiron — succumbed early today to a wound inflicted by a bandit he killed.

“The ‘climax runner’ of the Hawkeye eleven died after an emergency operation and a blood transfusion a few hours after he slew Roscoe R. Barton, 23, in a hand to hand fight yesterday.”

Iowans donated money to Pape’s widow after his death.

“Mrs. Oran Pape, widow of the first Iowa highway patrolman to be killed while on duty, will receive over $1,000 from citizens of Iowa as a token of their sympathy,” said a wire service article that appeared in the June 19, 1936, Alton (Iowa) Democrat and other newspapers. “The fund has been collected by a Des Moines newspaper and made up of donations from hundreds of Iowa persons.”

The Iowa Highway Patrol, now known as the Iowa State Patrol, was a relatively new organization when Pape served. Pape, who had badge no. 40, was one of the 50 original troopers.

An article in the October 18, 1936, Cedar Rapids Gazette noted that the patrol first started to function Aug. 1, 1935, and that its future was up to the next Legislature.

“It is not a question of whether the patrol shall be retained—that
has been pretty thoroughly settled by the first year’s record — but concerns the problem of expanding the organization.

“Advocates of the highway patrol, persons who have watched it function during the first year of life and noticed the decrease in Iowa traffic accidents, are demanding that the present force be at least doubled.”

In 2012, the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) and elected officials honored the legacy of Patrolman Oran “Nanny” Pape by renaming the DPS Building the Oran Pape State Office Building.
Also named in Pape’s honor that year was the westbound Iowa 80 bridge over the Cedar River at mile marker 265.

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was submitted as a news story to the North Scott Press, Eldridge. Iowa, and the Advocate News, Wilton, Iowa.


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Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there

In April, my wife Sherry and I cleared a week’s obligations from our calendars and drove to Cheshire, Conn., to visit our oldest son, Brendan, and our grandson, Cade. They moved there last August from the St. Louis area.

Our visit was during Cade’s week-long spring break from high school, where he’s a freshman. The purpose of our being there was twofold: we wanted to see both of them and their new home, and Brendan wanted us to chauffeur Cade to his daytime baseball practices and games while he was at work.

We spent two days, April 12 and 13, driving to Connecticut. We visited the 14th through the 17th, then drove back April 18 and 19.

Gasoline prices through the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut ranged roughly from $2.29 to $2.69 per gallon. We drove my wife’s 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid because of the mileage it gets. We logged a total of 2,200 miles and averaged 50 miles per gallon.

Our journey was uneventful with one exception. We took turns driving, and I soon discovered there was sometimes a problem on toll roads when I was behind the wheel.

One sits low in the Prius, and my arms are relatively short. Taking a ticket from an attendant when entering a toll road or paying the fee to an attendant when leaving a toll road was not a problem. But we found many of the tollbooths automated. They have no live bodies at work and are monitored by surveillance cameras.

A machine spits out a ticket when you drive up to enter the toll road. Then, when you leave, a machine requires the driver to put his ticket into a slot so it can be read. Numbers pop up in a window to tell you how much money you owe, and you pay by inserting cash or swiping your credit card in the machine.

That sounds like a great system, but I had one problem. The automated machines are fairly high so semi drivers are able to use them as easily as those in passenger cars. But a fellow like me, with short arms and seated in a low car, can’t reach the machines very easily.

So I came up with a plan. When I drove up to one of those automated machines, Sherry would climb out of the passenger seat, walk in front of the car to the machine and handle the transaction.

When the crossing gate (similar to those you see at railroad crossings) went up, I’d scoot through with the car and wait on the other side for her to rejoin me.

The first time we put my plan into effect didn’t go so well. We were in Indiana, and at first all was going according to plan. But when Sherry completed the transaction and swiveled to return to the car, the crossing gate dropped quickly right in front of her. She had no time to stop and ran into it. It broke off and fell to the pavement.

There was a line of vehicles behind us, and she was in no position to make repairs. So when I looked in the rearview mirror, she was picking up the crossing gate and nonchalantly placing it alongside the lane, like this was something she did every day.

When she got back into the car, I remembered and began singing a 1970s rock song by R. Dean Taylor. It’s about a man wanted by the law, and its lyrics go, “Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there.”

We never heard anything from the “crossing gate police.” So I’m guessing we’re not the first people this has happened to.

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.