I'M GLAD I MARRIED A BETTY...

June 18, 2024
I'M GLAD I MARRIED A BETTY...

I can’t remember now exactly how the subject came up (I've slept once or twice since then... I think), but a few years back I found myself standing in the parking lot of our local post office reminiscing with one of our community’s more prominent public figures (I won’t embarrass him by identifying him publicly) about the affection we shared as kids for reading comic books.


Turns out while we both enjoyed reading comics, our taste in superheroes skewed in different directions – somewhat like our political beliefs, as it turns out, though I think we would both have a difficult time proving that one somehow has something to do with the other. In fact, there are some who might argue that, based on our political beliefs, our taste in superheroes should have been the opposite of what they actually were. 


I, the former chair of our county’s Democratic Party, always preferred the older, more traditional heroes published by DC Comics – particularly those published prior to the mid-1980s, back when you could still easily tell the difference between the heroes and the villains, when Batman was a Caped Crusader rather than a Black Knight and Superman was still basically an overgrown Boy Scout whose biggest headache always seemed to be trying to deal with a lovesick Lois Lane. 


On the other hand, he, a staunch Republican, seems – based on what I recall of the conversation, anyway – to have preferred the later Marvel Comics heroes who first rose to prominence during the early 1960s and ushered in an era of a supposedly more realistic kind of superhero. Personally I always thought the notion of a “realistic superhero” was a contradiction in terms and somewhat anathema to the whole point in reading comic books in the first place. I didn’t want my superheroes to have real-life problems and neuroses; they were supposed to be better than everybody else. That’s what made them superheroes, for crying out loud.

(And it suddenly occurs to me as I read back over what I’ve just typed just how silly such things must sound to anyone who didn’t read comic books. Holy Arrested Development, Batman!!)

Anyway...


One comic book character we did share a fondness for – in fact, the one such character whose adventures I still buy every now and then, despite my ever-advancing years – was Archie Andrews. When I was a kid, the world of Archie, his pal Jughead and their assorted friends contained as much realism as I cared to see in the comic book universe; as an adult their adventures carry a certain sense of nostalgia, a wistful remembrance of how much simpler life was at that age and wouldn’t it have been great if life could have always been that way?


Eventually the conversation turned – as such conversations always seem to do, I’ve noticed over the years – to the question that has plagued many a male Archie fan for just over 80 years now:


Betty, or Veronica?


For me there was never any question. Veronica Lodge, the brunette debutante from the other side of town whose father seemed to own everything in Riverdale, was always such a narcissistic she-devil that I could never figure out just what Archie saw in her. Sure, she was pretty. She was rich. But she was also mean, nasty, childish, and so incredibly self-centered that she made the characters on "Seinfeld" look like paragons of kindness and humility. It seemed to me that the only reason she ever showed poor Archie the time of day at all was because she didn’t want Betty to have him; as soon as the poor dummy started swooning in her direction again, she dropped him like a brick and hitched a ride in rival Reggie’s sports car.


But Betty Cooper, the cute blonde who lived right up the street, was the dictionary definition of the sweet, genuine “girl next door” type. It was easy to see that her affection for Archie was real, because she was always doing things for the poor jerk – baking cookies, helping with homework, sometimes even loaning him money for another date with Veronica. Betty never asked for anything from Archie, except maybe a little show of appreciation now and then; Veronica expected everything of Archie and rarely gave him anything but heartache in return.


The high school I attended seemed to have more than its share of Veronica types, and - just like Archie - most of the guys I hung out with always seemed to be knocking themselves out to try and get to win their hands, with little success. I can only think of a few instances in which any of my pals actually won their Veronica – and not a single instance in which the relationship proved a lasting one.


Me? I guess I must have learned something from those silly comic books, because the first, last and only girlfriend I ever had in high school was a genuine “girl next door” Betty type; it might not have been her name, but it was certainly her personality. And this past April 5 we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. 


I’m no Clark Kent, but as Archies go I guess I turned out okay...

(Copyright © 2024, by John A. Small)

 

KORAK AT THE EARTH’S CORE: MY REVIEW

February 29, 2024

I can’t remember after so many years if it was for a book or a movie, or possibly even a TV show, but years I ago I read a review in which the writer began by saying that the best review he could ever imagine sharing would consist of just a single word: “Wow!”


That single word review pretty well sums up my reaction to Win Scott Eckert’s latest addition to the ever-expanding mythology created well over a century ago by my all-time favorite storyteller, Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’ve wri...


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EXPERIMENT IN SHORT FICTION: SUNDAY MORNING WITH AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE

February 23, 2024

(Digital Art by Me!)

Still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Nathaniel Rackham (Smoky Gulch High School Class of 1957 - Go Wombats!) stumbled into the kitchen one Sunday morning after sleeping in late and gave his wife of sixty years a peck on the cheek as she prepared breakfast. 


Allene smiled at her husband in response as she stirred the corned beef hash she was browning in the skillet. But her smile faded as she noticed the unusual expression etched upon Nathaniel’s face.


“Something wron...


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Which Three Would YOU Pick?

January 3, 2024

(NOTE: On New Year’s Eve, my Facebook friend posted a photograph of Alan Young in the final scene of the classic George Pal adaptation of The Time Machine, and it reminded me of a newspaper column I wrote back in 2019 that was partly inspired by that same scene. A quick check indicated that I apparently never got around to sharing that column here, for whatever reason, and because Arnold reminded me of it in the first place - and because my feelings on the subject haven’t really changed i...


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CLAYTON TROTWOOD AND THE IDEA THAT FAILED (A CHRISTMAS MEMORY)

December 22, 2023

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect…

 

Well, let’s just be upfront and honest about it, shall we? The names have been changed to protect ME. 


I mean, yeah, sure, okay, it all happened a little over four decades ago and roughly 900 miles (give or take) from here - but these people are still around, and they know where to find me. So why take chances?


Anyway...


When I was a teenager in Illinois attending Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High Schoo...


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MAKING THE CASE FOR AN INTERFAITH SOLIDARITY…

September 14, 2023

I reckon there are going to be some who won’t much like some of what I have to say this time. Apologies for that in advance; it is never my intention to deliberately offend, even on those occasions when it might actually be justified. (Hey, it happens…)


But one thing I learned from my late parents is that, whether we like it or not, there are times when giving offense simply cannot be avoided - and I suspect this is going to be one of those times. But seeing how this is America and I hav...


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THE FLASH: MY REVIEW

June 22, 2023

Okay. So… The Flash.


Wow…


Just… wow.


All right, let’s be honest: Yes, the film has its faults. And I’ll get to those in just a bit. But for the moment…


When you’ve a guy who spent most of his first sixty revolutions around Ol’ Sol subsisting on a fairly steady diet of superhero comic books and TV shows and movies and related novelizations and tie-ins… when your earliest childhood memories are of sitting on your daddy’s knee at the age of 3 watching episodes of the orig...


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A BIRTHDAY LETTER TO MY GRANDDAUGHTERS

June 1, 2023

Dear Zoey and Willow:


I realize that you are both too young at the moment to understand most of what I’m about to tell you. Zoey, after all, won’t celebrate her fifth birthday until late October - and Willow is only a couple of months old now as I write this. (Roughly the same age that your Uncle Josh was when we moved here from Illinois all those years ago, now that I think about it.)


Even so, it occurred to me the other day that now was the right time to write this letter to you - and...


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I’m Not At All Sure Why, But I Do Remember...

May 25, 2023

To be honest, I’m really not sure what might have prompted it.


It might have been that photograph we ran on the front page of last week’s Johnston County Sentinel of the Stay Golden Inn, the new Airbnb located in the building that had been the home of the Johnston County Capital-Democrat for more than a century. The fact that the historic building has been given both a long-overdue renovation and a new purpose pleases more than I can say, and I wish nothing but success for new owners Car...


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Were they celebrating nerds like me... or making fun of us?

May 12, 2023


Sometimes I just stand there, staring at myself in the mirror and wondering how I keep getting myself into these things...

This past Monday night I was here at the office, scouring the digital landscape in search of a possible topic or two for my column in this week’s issue of the newspaper, when I stumbled upon an online debate over the merits - or, in the minds of some, the perceived lack thereof - of the television sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

Full disclosure before going any further: I w...


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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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