Paul Coates -- Confidential File, January 23, 1959
January 23, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Scroll Crusade Strikes Deeply
You ask me, I say Burton Chace is carrying this "economy-in-government" crusade too far.
Let him cut financial corners by buying cheaper wastebaskets or by scrapping the jazzy two-tone commodes in the new Board of Supervisors barracks. Let him introduce resolutions that all county golf courses be trimmed to 17 holes.
That far, I'll go along. I'm a reasonable man.
But on the stunt he tried to pull this week, I draw the line.
The honorable Mr. Chace came out in favor of less scrolls to "distinguished" citizens.
"We're passing out so many scrolls that it's becoming more of an honor NOT to receive one."
That's his story.
But now, hear mine.
Never once as a kid was I singled out from the masses for some special achievement.
While other youngsters in my neighborhood were getting gold stars for coming to school with their teeth brushed, I was constantly being passed up by our teacher, who repeatedly made me the butt of a tiresome little joke about "knowing where the yellow went."
That woman really bugged me.
Even my mother's comforting words didn't help.
"Don't let it grate on you, sonny," she used to tell me. "Some people are just cut out to be nothing."
"You're more than a mother to me, Mom," I told her. "You're a pal."
And with her inspiration, I ran away from home at the age of 33 and joined a newspaper. I did this on the theory that any reporter who can spell his name is bound to get an accommodation for something -- even if it's only for drinking.
The results were instantaneous. As soon as I got a byline, the phone calls started coming in. Invariably, they followed this pattern:
"Mr. Coates? This is Henry B. Schwarzkopf of the South Whittier Men's and Women's Mixed Bowling Society calling."
"What can I do for you, Hank?" I ask.
After a pause, he says incredulously, "That's funny."
Becomes Man of Year
"You called me Hank and that's my nickname," he answers, continuing, "I'm chairman of our club's entertainment committee and we've just named you Man of the Year for your outstanding good works of a civic nature in the community."
"Why, I hardly know-"
"We're going to make the award at our annual banquet next Saturday."
"Well, I'm certainly flattered. I really don't deserve such an honor."
"The only thing," Schwarzkopf continues, "we got a p.a. system but we haven't worked out the entertainment program. Could you get us a few people like, say, FrankieLaine or Doris Day?"
I explain that both Frankie and Doris are on a USO tour in Oriente Province.
"Can't you get anybody?" he asks disappointedly. "We were even going to give you a plaque."
I explain that I can't. And then in a voice which I must admit is somewhat apologetic, he asks if I can switch him to Matt Weinstock.
So I've never made it as anybody's Man of the Year.
But, about two years ago, I did get a scroll from the Board of Supervisors. It changed my whole personality. Made me outgoing. Gave me a sense of being somebody, at last.
Now Burton Chace says it's an honor not to receive one.
I only hope he's happy. It doesn't matter that he's destroyed me.
But how can he sleep at night after what he did to those little Rose Parade princesses?