Smiley: Whistle-stop memory

This was told to me years ago by Joe F. Cannon, but it’s worth repeating:

“My favorite train story happened in September 1948, when President Harry Truman was making an election campaign aboard a special train.

“The train would stop at various locations and he would greet the crowd from the rear platform.

“I was a cub reporter for the McAlester, Okla., News Capital, and was invited on board into his office on wheels.

“We had talked a short time when the engineer gave a blast on the steam whistle, indicating departure time had arrived.

“I rose from my chair across from the president’s desk, and he said, ‘Wait a minute, keep your seat, we aren’t through talking yet. Stay on board and when we are through talking, I will stop the train and have the Highway Patrol bring you back to your office.’

“That’s exactly what happened. About 20 miles north of McAlester on the Katy Railroad, the president pulled the cord.

“The train stopped at a nondescript rural crossing. Awaiting there was a black and white Oklahoma Highway Patrol cruiser, which whisked me back to the newspaper office in time for me to write my story for the afternoon paper.”

Nailing it

Earl C. Johnson, this column’s unpaid economic adviser, has this observation:

“In Baton Rouge there is a nail salon in virtually every strip mall.

“An often-overlooked economic trait of the nail shops is that they are fueled by almost strictly discretionary spending.

“That is, the service provided is not something the customer absolutely has to purchase.

“While university economists design intricate computer models to predict our economy, the average Joe need watch only the nail places.

“If the nail salons should begin to close their doors, we amateur investors would know that it’s time to pull back from the market.”

Divine drink

Our recent discussion of tequila brought this bit of information from Francisco Lomas:

“In the state of Jalisco, Mexico, is the small pueblo of Tequila.

“Several years ago I had the pleasure of touring the town and its tequila distillery, which produces Tequila Sauza, the first tequila imported into the United States.

“Neatly planted rows of blue agave plants, used in tequila, grow along the hillsides around the distillery.

“In the town square there is a statue of a female saint — Santa Margarita.”

Casual Sunday?

“Regular Reader” tells of going to a nice restaurant on Mother’s Day for dinner with her daughter and granddaughter:

“The women there, for the most part, had on their Sunday best. The men accompanying them, for the most part, did not do them the courtesy of wearing a jacket.”

(I’ve pretty much given up expecting guys to wear jackets in upscale Baton Rouge restaurants. I’m just happy when they don’t wear baseball caps …)

Worthy causes

The third annual 5K “Run, Walk & Roll” benefiting McMains Children’s Developmental Center is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at North Boulevard Town Square in downtown Baton Rouge. The “Kids Fun Run” is at 8 a.m.

Contact Eunice McCarney at or (225) 923-3420.

“Nolapalooza 2” on Saturday at Chelsea’s Cafe on Perkins Road benefits The Barefoot Pedals Foundation, honoring the legacy of the late Jeff Nola, a teacher and campus minister at Catholic High. Music and dancing start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door. Visit

Family tradition

Dwight Cason’s story reminded me of my dad, Smiley Sr., a joker who loved to tease the kids in the family and tell them tall tales.

Dwight says that at a family gathering, he was reminded of the time his cousin, L’il Joe, asked his Aunt Maggie how he could catch a bird for a pet.

She gave him some salt and told him if he put it on the bird’s tail, he could catch it.

An hour later he returned and said, “Aunt Maggie, if I could put salt on his tail, I could catch him.”

Says Dwight, “Last week I pulled that on one of my little cousins, and two hours later he had the same response.

“My grandmother also pulled that one on me. She couldn’t read, but she figured that one out a long time ago.”

Thought for the Day

Algie Petrere says, “My friend JoAnne shared this bit of wisdom with me.”

There are two rules for success: 1. Don’t tell everything you know.

Getting their attention

Tom Toddy says, “I read with interest your shrewd practice of putting mistakes in your column to see if your readers are paying attention.

“In my school days, I used your system with papers I submitted to my teachers.

“The grades they gave me indicated that they were VERY attentive!”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.