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 fallen off a tree out in the backyard. 

Or how they had to go out into the woods with their bows and arrows in order to shoot their own potatoes if they expected French fries with their supper that night. 

Such stories are part and parcel of the experience of growing up. Our parents are trying to teach us something that will stand us in good stead when we become the adults - and if they have to exaggerate a little bit in order to get the point across, then so be it. There’s a lesson to be learned, after all. 

Hey, it worked for the ancient Greeks and Romans. Those people turned exaggeration for educational purposes into an art form. 

That lightning bolt Zeus supposedly wielded against his enemies? It was actually a homemade slingshot that he carried around in his back pocket to protect himself against playground bullies.

The trials of Hercules? That was just a bedtime story ol’ Herc told his kids to make them think they had it easier than he’d had as a kid when it came to doing their household chores.

Leda and the swan? A mother’s cautionary tale about avoiding college frat parties - the details of which became ever more imaginatively and bizarrely embellished with each subsequent retelling…

So yes, exaggerating for effect in order to convince our children that we had it rougher when we were their age is a time-honored tradition. We’ve all done it - and any parent who tries to tell you otherwise has, whether they realize it or not, merely retold the same old stories so many times that they’ve fallen victim to the “illusion of truth” effect, that glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth.

What’s interesting to me is the way some of those stories evolve in the retelling. Sometimes illusion of truth appears to walk hand-in-hand with the theory of parallel universes - raising the question of whether differing versions of the stories our parents tell us all really happened, just in alternate realities. Sounds like a great idea for a History Channel documentary. Or maybe a 12-issue comic book mini-series: Exaggerations On Infinite Earths.

When I was growing up, my father used to tell a story about a scam he and one of his childhood buddies pulled on a local grocery store owner in order to get a little spending money. Seems Dad and his buddy rounded up a bunch of soda pop bottles and brought them in to get the five cents in deposit money back, which they then split between them. 

The first time I remember hearing the story, Dad and his chum simply pocketed the money, then went down the street to the local drugstore to buy an ice cream cone and a couple of comic books apiece. But over time the details of the story seemed to change as Dad’s memory of the incident became, as he put it, “clearer.” 

One account had Dad and his buddy turning in about a dozen bottles, watching as the store clerk placed them in one of those old wooden pop bottle cartons you can buy at just about any antique store worth its dust these days, then carried the carton out to the back of the store and placed it just off to the side of the door so the soft drink distributor could pick it up on his next delivery… whereupon Dad and his friend reportedly snuck around and took the bottles again, hiding the carton as they did, and brought them around to the front door and told the clerk that they’d found a few more bottles. At which point they were given another handful of deposit money for their troubles by the oblivious clerk.

Each time Dad retold the story, the number of times he and his friend reclaimed the bottles and turned them back for the return on the deposit seemed to grow exponentially. By the time my own sons were old enough to sit in wide-eyed wonder as their Grandpa regaled them with the tale, Dad and his friend were spending the better part of an entire Saturday running back and forth with the same reclaimed armloads of bottles, collecting enough deposit returns that they should have been able to buy ice cream cones and comic books for every kid in town… and still have enough set aside for a new bicycle.

I almost - almost - made the mistake of questioning my father when he shared that latest revision to one of the great misadventures of his childhood. Fortunately my mother and my wife were both there to shoot me their patented “keep your mouth shut” looks. 

Mom taught Melissa well, I’ll say that much…

And for all the eye-rolling we might have done as kids when our parents would share these mythic tales of their youthful misadventures - and you might as well admit it, you rolled your eyes, I know you did - there seems to be some sort of genetic disposition amongst those of us who claim membership in this little coffee klatch we call the Human Race that leaves us little choice but to try and outdo our parents‘ storytelling skills when our own kids come along. 

Years ago, when my sons were still young and one of them was having a little bit of trouble with a classmate, who according to him was something of a bully, I sat down and shared the story of an incident from my own school days in which I found myself faced with a similar scenario. When I was in the sixth grade, there was this kid who had moved to town over the summer and thought he was, as the kids like to say, “all that.” 

This kid was a bully in every sense of the word, a fact that quickly became apparent to everyone and which, we were told, had been at least a partial factor in his parents’ decision to relocate. One day his misbehavior towards one particular friend of mine was even nastier than usual and, being the chivalrous fellow my parents raised me to be, I took exception. To which he responded by challenging me to a fight in a nearby alley that afternoon after school.

At the appointed time we both showed up, surrounded by classmates eager to see Mr. All That get what was coming to him, and by golly they were not disappointed. It was a battle royale straight out of one of the old movies I liked to watch on TV, with me in the swashbuckling Errol Flynn role and he as the dastardly Basil Rathbone. And lo and behold, the good guy won that day, just like in the movies.

Except that wasn’t quite the way it really happened...

Oh, there was a bully whom I actually bested, and it happened in the alley after school. However, the “fight” was not an epic exhibition of fisticuffs  but, rather, an agreed-to beforehand situation in which we just pushed one another and the first one to fall down three times was the loser.

Yeah, I won. But what man wants to tell a son looking to his hero of a father for advice that Dad’s only “fight” was won simply because the other guy was a bigger klutz than he was?

Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t experience my share of youthful misadventures. I remember there was this one time on the back of a church bus, when me and...  

Wait, hold on, that one actually happened. And I promised I’d never talk about it. 

Forget I said anything... 

(Column copyright © 2022 by John A. Small)



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...

Continue reading...


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...

Continue reading...


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...

Continue reading...


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 ...

Continue reading...


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...

Continue reading...


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...

Continue reading...


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...

Continue reading...


December 22, 2021

Well, it's that time of year again.

I refer, of course, to the perpetual hullabaloo that has been raging for a number of years now over the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays.” 

To the best of my memory (which I’ll be the first to admit is quite often questionable at best), the brouhaha began when some well-meaning Christians started voicing their displeasure over the use of “Happy Holidays” by retailers during the gift-buying season. 

Their argument, as I understand it, was that ...

Continue reading...


December 15, 2021
(Micky and Mike: The Final Concert)

Looking back on it now, a little over half a century after the fact, I suppose it does seem a little.. well, okay, silly.

But at the time it made perfect sense to a seven-year-old boy hoping to get even the quickest glimpse of one of my childhood heroes. Because that’s the way a seven-year-old boy’s mind works.

Or, at least, it was the way this seven-year-old boy’s mind worked. Given that I was rarely if ever accompanied by any of my buddies from the...

Continue reading...
blog comments powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus

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.


blog comments powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus