ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME...!

November 21, 2017
We didn’t have a whole lot of what you might call “hard and fast rules” in the Small household when my younger brothers and I were growing up.

Compared to some of my classmates – especially a couple of fellows I knew whose fathers appeared to run their households like German stalags, and wielded an iron hand even over visitors of all ages who usually left looking shell-shocked - life was actually... well, I hesitate to say that it was relatively cushy, but it definitely could have been a whole lot worse.

It would be years before we would fully appreciate this fact, of course. Like all kids, my brothers and I probably acted like we were the most put-upon young’uns who ever trod the face of the planet. But in retrospect we had it pretty darn good indeed; the standing joke these days is that around our house we only had Four Commandments, and Six Do-The-Best -You-Cans.

Oh, sure, there were some family regulations that were practically written in stone, and which the three of us were expected to obey or else. Mom and Dad weren’t anarchists, after all.

For instance, we knew better than to sass our mother. (Spankings tend to be a lot worse when you have to go cut the switch off the tree yourself.) We couldn't feed our vegetables to the dog. (He wouldn’t have eaten them anyway, the traitor...) And Sundays were for Rocky and Bullwinkle reruns and WGN-TV’s afternoon Family Classics movie program, NOT (ugh!) pro football.

But the BIG one was that we celebrated only ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME. We didn’t go to the store on Valentine’s Day to stock up on Easter candy. I didn’t get early birthday presents on Memorial Day. July 4 was for fireworks, not pre-planning our Halloween costumes. And we never, ever, EVER dug out the Christmas records or put up the tree until AFTER Thanksgiving.

Heck, in my day we didn’t even see the Sears Wish Book catalog at our house until day or so after Thanksgiving. That was actually part of the tradition. On Thursday we overate and watched cartoons and old movies on TV, and then on Friday or Saturday the Wish Book showed up and Mom and Dad let us go through and circle those items in the toy section that we hoped to find under the tree that year... ALWAYS with the warm but stern reminder that just because we might want a particular gift did NOT necessarily mean it would be there under the tree when we woke up on Christmas morning.

(This was especially true with regard to the more high-dollar items - which in my day tended to be such things as deluxe chemistry sets or the G.I. Joe “Search For The Mummy’s Tomb” play set. I can scarcely dare imagine what our parents’ reaction would have been if there had been iPads and X-Box One gaming consoles back when we were rugrats.)
Back then it seemed like it took forever for the calendar to go full circle from one Christmas season to the next. But even in our youthful ignorance we somehow appreciated that. It gave us something to look forward to. The breathless anticipation was part of the holiday. And even if we didn’t get that deluxe chemistry set or that G.I. Joe play set, we enjoyed what we did receive. Because we knew the gifts had been given with love, not out of some sense of obligation because we had nagged our parents or grandparents to death.

My wife and I tried to recreate that same experience for our own sons when they were little, and to some extent I think we succeeded. It wasn’t easy, though, what with the de-evolution of the Christmas holiday into into a time of greed, of shopping frenzies, and of marathon broadcasts of A Christmas Story and the reformatted high-definition version of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (which has not been improved one single iota by all that digital trickery, by the way).
Things have only gotten worse since our boys have grown up. Somewhere along the way it became better to receive than to give, and the thoughtful sincerity that may have gone into Aunt Petunia’s gift for little Tommy doesn’t really matter as long as the store will let Mom exchange it on Dec. 26 when little Tommy hates it. Stores and online shopping sites have Christmas promotions in July and stumble over one another to see who can launch their “Black Friday” sales the earliest.

Call me a Scrooge if you must, but Humbug to all that. It is NOT what the Christmas season is all about.

And yet the shoppers allow themselves to be sucked in with increasingly mind-numbing ferocity. I remember reading a few weeks ago about a couple of women who were already camped out in front of some department store somewhere, looking to be the first to go rushing through the doors when the post-Thanksgiving “Black Friday” sale finally began. You can’t honestly tell me that’s not just a little...  Well, I’ll just go ahead and say it: STUPID.

I mean, I suppose you can. But it’s really going to take some doing on your part to convince me.

(Copyright 2017 by John A. Small)
 

RAY LOKEY: 1953-2017

November 21, 2017

(Note: The following is a transcript of my eulogy for my employer and friend, Johnston County Capital-Democrat Publisher Ray Lokey, which was delivered on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Ray's memorial service. The service was held in Fletcher Auditoirum on the campus of Murray State College in Tishomingo.)


I've been agonizing all week about what I was going to say when I got up here… It's hard to sum up in just a few short minutes a relationship that lasted over a quarter of a century. But let me sta...
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THINGS MY MAMA TAUGHT ME

October 11, 2017
It is a sad fact of life that, all too often, we become so bogged down with the minutiae and infinitia of everyday life that we find ourselves accidentally forgetting the really important stuff.

That almost happened to me this week. I got so busy tackling what was required of me while working on this week’s issue of the Capital-Democrat that it almost - almost - slipped my mind that today (Wednesday, Oct. 11) would have been my mother’s 75th birthday.

It’s hard to believe that it has almo...
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HOLMES AND WATSON: THE NEXT GENERATION

October 6, 2017
Last night I finished reading Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study In Charlotte, the first book in a trilogy about Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson - the great-great-great-granddaughter and great-great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The story is set in the modern day at a prep school in Connecticut, where both protagonists have been sent by their respective families for different reasons and who meet quite by accident (or so we are first led to believe).

Jamie is a rugby player ...

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A CLASSIC SONG RECONSIDERED...

September 7, 2017
“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most popular of the hundreds of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and recorded by the Beatles. It is also one of the best examples of their growing maturity as lyricists at the time, a song containing poetic qualities not found in such earlier works as “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Unlike so many of those earlier compositions, which for all their energy were merely variations of the traditional love song, “Eleanor Rigby...

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THOUGHTS ON CHARLOTTESVILLE...

August 16, 2017

My wife Melissa, son Joshua and I were in Monroe, Louisiana, sitting in the living room of our dear friends Win and Lisa Eckert last Saturday, talking about any number of things - most of them far removed from this place we (sometimes grudgingly) refer to as “the Real World” - when we got the news about the act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Like so many others - like anyone with even a trace of human decency in their soul an...


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ERB MOVIES OF THE 1970s

June 19, 2017

As Phillip R. Burger pointed out in an essay included in the 2005 Bison Books reissue of Richard Lupoff’s Master Of Adventure, 1975 was a particularly good year to be a fan of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

For one thing, it was the centennial of ERB’s birth, which meant that much attention was being paid to the author and his works. As part of the centennial celebration, Irwin Porges finally published his long-anticipated (and definitive) ERB biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man...
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THE TARZAN NOVELS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

June 16, 2017

This project grew out of my son Joshua’s stated desire to read the entire run of the authorized Tarzan novels - the original series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and those ERB Inc.-sanctioned novels by Fritz Leiber, Philip José Farmer, Joe Lansdale, Will Murray and Michael S. Sanford - more or less in the order in which they take place. When Josh announced his intent, I decided to compile this chronology for the purpose of helping him and other fans who might be considering a similar reading pr...


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A NOTE FOR MY MOTHER...

May 3, 2017

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Me and my mother, Romania Sue Small, circa 1963-64.



I am told that a certain member of my family apparently did not appreciate my sharing the following story at my mother’s funeral last Friday. 


I have to admit to having been somewhat baffled by this response. Certain things being what they are, certain people being who they are, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. I don’t know. 


Everyone else seemed to appreciate the story, and had nothing b...


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31 YEARS AND COUNTING...

April 6, 2017
APRIL 5, 1986, Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene, Kankakee Illinois.


Once upon a time, a boy and a girl from opposite sides of town met and fell in love…

The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president; Styx and the Electric Light Orchestra were two of the biggest rock groups in the country; and nearly a year after its release, Star Wars was STILL the numbest popular movie in America.

One Sunday evening in late April of that year, a teenage boy met the girl of his dreams at church. He was a ...

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About Me


John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.
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