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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Working the Streets…
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 • Posted October 15, 2008

The masses yearn to flip back the calendar to simpler days.

Those of us with tickets punched for geezer status work overtime in the cobwebs of selective memory. With world economies bobbing like yo-yo’s on the string of life, we are awash in words, wishing for bygone days when much was left unsaid.

On our hurting planet, politically-charged news bites refer to “streets”—more specifically, Wall Street, Main Street, as well as streets of the world….

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When our nation was younger, guardians of the people seemed more plentiful. Such courageous guardians, in their respective ways, worked the streets in the public interest. Ever vigilant, they risked their necks, asked tough questions and grew thick skin.

Many didn’t dress the part, and may or may not have had material wealth. They were both Republicans and Democrats, sometimes in highly visible assignments, but often working quietly behind the scenes.

Whatever, the streets got worked. And these guardians—often reporters—knew that their community status could change on a dime. One said, “They’ll name a street after you one day and chase you down it the next.” Yet, they pressed on.

Two such guardians who worked the streets are now at rest. Each of them served for more than 60 years, Carl Freund in metropolitan centers and Jack Scott in a small West Texas town….

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Freund was a newspaper reporter whose career included work in Waco, Dallas and Fort Worth. Scott was the colorful editor-publisher of the Cross Plains Review for much of the 20th century.

They loved their God, families and communities, worked untiringly and were doggedly committed to fairness for the masses.

These journalists worked both sides of the streets, fearlessly asking penetrating questions. They lived in an era when it was NOT easier to apologize than ask permission. Accountability reigned….

  • * * * *

Keenly remembered for his visits to offices of public officials, Freund arrived with the predictability of a milkman.

Always smiling and with the warmth of a choir boy, he had a clever and unchanging opening question: “Is there anything I should be asking you?”

Often, there was….

  • * * * *

The conscience of his community, Scott was able to secure a loan at age 20 to purchase an interest in ownership of the Review. Immediately he assumed the position of editor.

His life invested in the community, Scott asked the right questions of the right people. Readers eagerly anticipated his weekly column, The Hometowner.

He embodied the words of Lord Byron: “Without or with offense to friends or foes, I sketch your world exactly as it goes.”…

  • * * * *

These friends lived when spades were called spades, not shovels, digging instruments or earth-moving tools.

They experienced the Great Depression, digging deep for faith to persevere.

Scott was proud of his hometown bank, now called Texas Heritage Bank. (It’s had a couple of other names previously.) He delighted in bragging that for more than a century, the bank ended each year stronger than it began. He was also proud that no depositor ever lost a dollar. When some depression-weary depositors scurried to close their accounts, he took them to task in his column. He called them “yellow-bellied skunks.”…

  • * * * *

A few weeks ago, the now “Texas Heritage Bank” was honored by the Cross Plains Chamber of Commerce.

Selected minutes of directors’ meetings provided proof that in its early years, the bank operated on short rations. Once in 1934, the board voted to buy 5,000 paper towels and 5,000 drinking cups for $17.88.

One director held out, contending that “a good gourd is hard to beat for holding liquids.”…

  • * * * *

No doubt, this item made Scott’s Hometowner column.

I imagine that he may have taken the matter a step further, cautioning that “progress” should be taken in small steps.

Maybe if they’d gone from a gourd to a tin dipper first, the paper cup purchase might later have sailed through without comment….

  • * * * *

Memories of such conservatism warm the heart.

Indeed, life was simpler then. One banker pensively recalls yesteryear’s “1-2-3” banking. “We paid 1% on savings, charged 2% on loans and went fishing at 3 in the afternoon.”

They asked the questions during the loan process that so need to be posed today, on Wall Street, Main Street and the streets of the world. As Americans revisit lifestyles that demand that we pay as we go, let’s hope that our advocates working the streets ask Freund’s unchanging question: “Is there anything I should be asking you?”…

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com

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