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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 • Posted January 26, 2011

Feather Duster Alert…

Chances are strong that public hallway photographs of prominent people—previously given "once over lightly" cleaning swipes—warrant "twice over heavily" treatment in recent days.

When a faux pas of grand scale occurs in the city hall of America’s ninth largest city, red alerts reverberate in corridors of statehouses, courthouses, museums, schools, libraries and such. Others want to make sure their photographic displays pass muster.

If it can happen in Dallas, everywhere else is fair game. So, vaunted officials everywhere are busy "tidying up" for up-close scrutiny—even white-glove inspections. Should photographic mix-ups grow, pictures could plummet from their current 1,000-word value….

* * * * *

Let’s set the stage. A decade ago, Dallas officials decided to display pictures of past mayors in a hallway adjacent to the council chamber. They’ve had a passel of mayors—59 of ‘em—dating back to 1856.

Among them is the late Woodall Rodgers, a mayor whose memory is perpetuated with a freeway and park named in his honor. Dallas’ 46th mayor, he served from 1939-1947.

However, he’s had a "stand in" (or maybe "framed in") until recent days. For nearly a decade, a photo of the late Dallas construction magnate Henry C. Beck, Jr., has been hanging in Rodgers’ space….

* * * * *

City Hall visitors have paraded past the photos with nary a suggestion that anything was amiss.

A few days ago, 82-year-old George P. "Buddy" Macatee III, a retiree who had caddied as a youth for Mayor Rodgers, browsed the photos.

Macatee didn’t know who was pictured. He knew, though, that it wasn’t Rodgers, the only other Dallas mayor to serve for eight years. (For those keeping score, the other was the late R. L. Thornton, who also is remembered by a named freeway.)…

* * * * *

Much scurrying has resulted. It turns out that the photo, ordered in 1992, was the result of a photo studio serial number mix-up. Amazement rippled throughout the chambers that the mistake was not detected earlier.

Beck was president of the firm which constructed more than 30 Dallas landmarks, including the Cotton Bowl, Apparel Mart, NorthPark Center, Thanks-Giving Square and Reunion Tower.

He died four years ago at age 89, but his surviving widow responded to news of the mix-up with high humor. She said her husband would have gotten a big laugh out of it, sharing a photo line-up with mayoral royalty….

* * * * *

With multi-tasking at center stage in our workaday world, it is little wonder that the error went unnoticed. We should be grateful, I suppose, if folks take notice of traffic lights, railroad crossing arms and emergency vehicles.

As a youngster, I marveled at hallway photo displays, wondering how men grew beards so long. I was taken, too, by the round wire-rimmed glasses, stiff-necked figures wearing monocles over one eye, like the one worn by Mr. Peanut. Others wore pince-nez numbers held in place by nose-gripping springs. Most were "spiffed out" in double-starched suits with tails to match, with stern expressions that dared anyone to cross them. There were many "look-alikes" that could have been—and may have been—switched without anyone ever noticing.

In our school auditorium was a solemn portrait of George Washington. He had funny-looking hair, and his eyes seemed fixed upon us, whether we were standing to his left or his right…

* * * * *

Tom Leppert, current Dallas mayor who has decided not to run for re-election, stands a good chance of being properly identified in the gallery of photos. As both a mayor and construction company CEO, one of his photo studio serial numbers is bound to be right!

A long-ago mayor story comes to mind. A young radio announcer in a small town could never pronounce the mayor’s name correctly. It was "Sorrobbovitch." He was extremely active in the community—kissing babies, cutting ribbons, reading proclamations, and consequently often in the news. The young announcer bungled his name every time. One day, Mayor Sorrobbovitch dropped dead at a political convention. The youngster interrupted programming to say: "Our mayor has died suddenly at a political convention. His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin."

Ah, human frailty. It is with us always. In New Orleans the other day, a mortuary committed a colossal goof. They cremated the wrong body. Now that’s a grave error….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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