August 31, 2022

Today would have been Mom and Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary. They were together just short of 55 years when Mom passed away in 2017; Dad joined her a little over a year later, just a few weeks short of their 56th anniversary.

Theirs was a union that weathered many storms - too many of them, I’m afraid, the result of three thoughtless young sons who hadn’t quite figured out yet just what kind of sacrifices their parents were willing to make for them. I would be an adult myself before I fully came to appreciate just how tempestuous some of those storms had actually been. 

Looking back, I can remember a few times while growing up that I - with that certain “gut feeling” or “Spidey Sense” that comes with being the oldest sibling - had sort of a vague awareness that something may not have been quite right, and that Mom and Dad were facing something that they felt honor bound for whatever reason to keep from us. 

Somehow they always managed to weather those storms, to take strength from one another and emerge from such travails in a better place than they had been in beforehand. And because of that, I suppose, my memories of childhood are mostly sunny. 

Oh, sure, there were those times when I thought I was the most put-upon child in the entire world, whenever Mom and/or Dad would hand out punishments that I felt to the very core of my being that I did not deserve. 

Especially when those punishments were for things that I had not even done, misdeeds perpetrated by one or both younger brothers - and which often occurred when I was not even home at the time of the alleged crimes, especially as I moved into my teen years and I was spending more and more time out with friends instead of being at home.

I know I’ve shared this story in the past, but it came to mind again as I sat here typing that last paragraph: One of my most vivid memories of my high school years was coming home to find Mom giving my brothers what-for over some infraction that had occurred during my absence. And as I made my way from the front door towards my bedroom, Mom stopped yelling at them long enough to turn and give me a good whack across the bottom as I walked by.

“Hey, what was THAT for?” I complained indignantly.

“That’s for being their brother,” Mom replied with that specific tone she reserved for those moments when one of us had really screwed up.

Caught up in the emotion of the moment, I immediately lashed out in response. “Well, heck, that’s not MY fault,” I told her. “I kept asking for a puppy, and you guys brought these two home instead!”

Years later Mom and I would laugh about that moment - a lot. At the time, however, I seem to recall going to bed that night feeling grateful that I had somehow avoided public execution…

In retrospect, the punishments I thought were the bane of my existence were actually few and far between. In fact, it can probably be honestly said that I actually got away with a lot of stuff neither of my younger siblings did. And I can’t help but wonder sometimes if that might have stemmed, in least in part, from the fact that Mom and Dad were both the oldest children in their families, as well. Perhaps they felt a certain sense of sympathy - and maybe even solidarity - with their oldest child.

No wonder my brothers always seemed like they were out to get me…

Every year around this time, I remember that there is a backstory which is most interesting but which, after all these years, I am still only partially aware of. 

Theirs was, according to the information I was able to gather over the years, something of a whirlwind courtship that began when Dad - who was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base at the time - met Mom while she was working at a Midwest City drug store where, as the story goes, he’d stopped in one evening to get a Coke at the soda fountain.

Apparently Mom had been engaged to another fellow at some point, but broke it off; whether she broke it off before meeting Dad, or her decision was in fact the result of meeting Dad, is something I’ve never learned. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, but despite the passage of time I can’t help but be curious. 

Mom didn’t talk about it much, other than to acknowledge that she had indeed been previously engaged but that things worked out the way they were supposed to. On the other hand, Dad - ever the jokester looking to get a rise out of his beloved wife any way he could - used to carry in his wallet a folded clipping of the newspaper article announcing Mom’s previous engagement. 

And occasionally, when the two of them would get into a spat over some silly thing or another, Dad would pull that newspaper clipping out of his wallet and wave it around, saying, “Well, you had your chance!” 

And that would usually bring the argument to a screeching halt - usually with laughter on both sides, although not always right away...

Not having been there at the time, my actual knowledge of Mom and Dad’s nuptials is pretty much limited to what’s on the public record. The only things I know beyond a reasonable doubt are that John Robert Small Jr. and Romania Sue Tipps were married on Aug. 31, 1962, at Crest Baptist Church in Midwest City, Okla.; and that I was born exactly nine months later, on the morning of June 1, 1962. 

Now it’s no great secret that I’ve never been much good at math. But even I was able to do the computation on THAT one when I became old enough to understand such things…

Once, in fact, when I was a teenager and Melissa and I had been dating for a couple of years, I sort of casually remarked to her once while out someplace with my folks (probably having lunch at the local Bonanza Steak House one Sunday afternoon) that I had figured out that I was a “honeymoon baby.” 

Upon hearing this, Dad - usually the one who would go out of his way to make ribald and risqué comments, just to see how Mom would react - suddenly seemed embarrassed and muttered something about how I had actually arrived earlier than expected.

To which my mom - much to the surprise of all of us, Dad most of all I think - just sort of grinned mischievously and responded, “Wanna bet?”

I can’t really explain why, and to be honest I’ve always been a little reluctant to put too much thought into it, but that moment is one of my favorite memories of my parents…

I had great parents. They gave me many gifts, most of which are not the kind that can be measured in terms of monetary worth. And because of those gifts, their legacy lives on.

Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks for teaching me to read at such an early age. Thanks for supporting me when I decided so young that I wanted to become a writer myself... and for being my biggest fans when that dream finally came true.

Because of you, and the equally strong support of the good woman I married, I've been able to have the career I dreamed of as a child. Truth be told, I don't know very many people who can actually say that. I may never be rich or famous, but that's okay. That wasn't why I wanted to do it, anyway. And the love received from you, my wife, my sons, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, and all the marvelous friends and colleagues I have met along the way... Quite frankly, that means more to me than all the money in the world. 

By that reckoning, I am a very rich man indeed. And I owe it all to you, Mom and Dad. Thank you. 

I love you, now and forever.

(Copyright © 2022 by John Allen Small)


How I Spent My Summer Vacation, 2022 Edition...

August 17, 2022

Lighthouse At Casco Bay, Portland, Maine (Photo by Yours Truly)

I wanted to. I really did.

There I was, driving along U.S. Highway 22 west on the evening of Aug. 5, through the most torrential downpours that I had seen in many a moon. It was the longest single day we would spend on the road during this year’s summer vacation - a 12-hour, 682-mile trek that began that morning in Maine and would ultimately end at the Doubletree Convention Center in Cranberry, Penn., that night - and to be h...

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July 28, 2022

If there is one thing that each new generation has in common with the one that immediately preceded it, it is the tendency for members of the older generation to rant and rave about how easy the current crop of youngsters has it compared to the days of their own youth. 

We all grew up with the stories about how our fathers had to travel for miles in the snow to get to school and back - walking uphill both directions, naturally. 

Or how their favorite toy one Christmas was a stick that had f...

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July 27, 2022
(Editor's Note: Upon learning that today happens to be the subject's birthday, Mr. Small thought it might be appropriate to once again share the following newspaper column that he originally wrote back in 1997.)

He is many things to many people, a figure for all seasons. Dadaist, wizard, entertainer, revolutionary, ecologist - the definitive pre-post-modern futurist. One part superhero, one part scheming criminal genius. Cultured yet unpretentious, he is at once the Ultimate Everyman and the e...

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May 18, 2022

Recently I was invited to review an advance reader’s copy of a new novel scheduled for release later this year. 

This isn’t the first time I’d been afforded this honor; one of my favorite perks that comes with being a newspaper columnist has been the number of books, fiction and non-fiction alike, that I’ve received over the years from both authors and publishers. 

In this particular instance, however, the invitation held special meaning for Yours Truly, and - being an unapologetic book...

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April 28, 2022

Today's TV History lesson, prompted by a discussion I saw on a Facebook page this morning:

No, Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show was not the first woman to wear pants on TV. Yes, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance both wore them on I Love Lucy. I'm pretty sure you can find some other examples of pre-Petrie panted pulchritude as well, if one wishes to take the time to investigate. Yet it was very much Mary's pants which DID become an issue with some sponsors and network execs.

The reason...

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April 15, 2022

..So I've been reading about this made-for-streaming series reportedly in the works that is a sequel to the George Lucas-Ron Howard film Willow, and I keep wondering if it will make references to the Lucas-Chris Claremont trilogy of follow-up novels. I personally liked those books a great deal, but I suspect they're now going to be shunted off into non-canon like the Star Wars Legends material.

In any event, an online conversation I started on the subject earlier today brought this response ...

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March 17, 2022

Today, March 17, is Saint Patrick's Day. Which means that it is once agan time for my annual holiday-themed public service announcement:

REAL Irish folks don’t care whether or not you wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, and they don’t go around pinching those who don’t. So stop it!

I don’t have to wear green every year on March 17, or eat a bowl of corned beef and cabbage, to prove that I’m Irish. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Murphy; you just don’t get any more Irish...

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January 5, 2022

I’ve been taking part over the past day or so in some interesting discussions on a couple of different FB sites regarding the nature of the Batman character, initiated by an article in which Michael Keaton - in my mind still the BEST cinematic Batman, and that is not a subject which I care to debate - decided he did not want to return for a second sequel after the franchise was turned over to Joel Schumacher. At some point I decided perhaps I might distill my thoughts in those conversations...

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December 23, 2021

December 1995. 

I was not quite six months into my two-year sojourn as News Editor for the Durant (OK) Daily Democrat, commuting back and forth each day from our home near Tishomingo and wondering during the drive each direction what I was going to get my wife for Christmas. Seems I have that problem every year, but this particular year it seemed especially difficult to decide.

Hoping for some guidance, one evening at supper I threw caution to the wind and asked Melissa point-blank: “Is t...

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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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