Roy Exum: J.B. And The Saturday Funnies

Saturday, September 23, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As thousands of his friends prepare to celebrate the 100th birthday of Chattanooga newspaper icon, J.B. Collins, tomorrow, it is only fitting that I publicly salute a great reporter who helped develop me as a writer in the 38 years we spent together at the Chattanooga News-Free Press. He was a genius of a writer back in the day and a great photographer as well. I have adored him for over 60 years.

Far more, J.B. will always be a family favorite and – for the life of me – I can never remember when there was not a smile on his face. He’s taught me subject-verb agreement, how to make one paragraph tickle the next, and, as he would read my early stories, he was a great teacher because he made learning so much fun. I never attended the first journalism class – I had J.B.

Earlier this week John Wilson of dropped by to visit and reported J.B. is still sharper than a tack. His trademark laugh is ageless and I know this to be true: no man on earth has ever shot his age more often on a golf course. He played at Brainerd until he was 96!

I can describe him in one word – he is and will always be one of the greatest blessings in my life. Chattanooga attorney Jerry Summers wrote a spectacular tribute to him as well but have you ever wondered what it was like on Sept. 24, 1917? Here’s a peek I found among my internet “funnies” this week:

* * *


The year is 1917 "One hundred years ago." What a difference a century makes!

Here are some statistics for the Year 1917:

* -- The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

* -- Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.

* -- Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

* -- Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

* -- The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

* -- The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

* -- The average US wage in 1917 was 22 cents per hour.

* -- The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

* -- A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year.

* -- A dentist $2,500 per year.

* -- A veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year.

* -- And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

* -- More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

* -- Ninety percent of all doctors had no college education. (Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and the government as "substandard.")

* -- Sugar cost four cents a pound.

* -- Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

* -- Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

* -- Most women only washed their hair once a month … and, used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

* -- Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

* -- The Five leading causes of death were: 1. Pneumonia and influenza; 2. Tuberculosis; 3. Diarrhea; 4.  Heart disease; and 5. Stroke

* -- The American flag had a total of 45 stars.

* -- The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.

* -- Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet.

* -- There was neither a Mother's Day nor a Father's Day.

* -- Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write.

* -- Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

* -- Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores. (Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!")

* -- Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

* -- There were about 230 reported murders reported in the entire United States.

It is impossible to imagine what it may be like in the next 100 years.

* * *


* -- 36 have been accused of spousal abuse

* -- 7 have been arrested for fraud

* -- 19 have been accused of writing bad checks

* -- 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least two businesses

* -- Three have done time for assault

* -- 71 (that’s right, 71) cannot get a credit card due to bad credit

* -- 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges

* -- 8 have been arrested for shoplifting

* -- 21 currently are defendants in lawsuits

* -- 84 have been arrested for drunk driving

Can you guess which organization this is?

The National Football League or the NBA?

Neither, it's the 535 members of the United States Congress.

* * *


Two Texas Highway Patrol Officers were conducting speeding enforcement on Highway 77, just south of Kingsville, Texas. One of the officers was using a hand-held radar device to check speeding vehicles approaching the town of Kingsville.

The officers were suddenly surprised when the radar gun began reading 300 miles per hour and climbing. The officer attempted to reset the radar gun, but it would not reset and then it suddenly turned off.

Just then a deafening roar over the mesquite tree tops on Highway 77 revealed that the radar had in fact, locked on to a USMC F/A-18 Hornet which was engaged in a low-flying exercise near its Naval Air home base location in Kingsville.

Back at the Texas Highway Patrol Headquarters in Corpus Christi the Patrol Captain fired off a complaint to the U. S. Naval Base Commander in Kingsville for shutting down his equipment. 

The reply came back in true USMC style:

"Thank you for your letter …

"You may be interested to know that the tactical computer in the Hornet had detected the presence of, and subsequently locked on to, your hostile radar equipment and automatically sent a jamming signal back to it, which is why it shut down."

"Furthermore, an air-to-ground missile aboard the fully-armed aircraft had also automatically locked on to your equipment's location."

"Fortunately, the Marine pilot flying the Hornet recognized the situation for what it was, quickly responded to the missile system alert status and was able to override the automated defense system before the missile was launched to destroy the hostile radar position on the side of Highway 77, south of Kingsville."

"The pilot suggests you cover your mouths when swearing at them, since the video systems on these jets are very high tech … Sergeant Johnson, the officer holding the radar gun, should get his dentist to check his left molar. It appears the filling is loose. Also, the snap is broken on his holster."

Semper Fi.

* * *


1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress. -- John Adams

2. If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. -- Mark Twain

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. -- Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. --Winston Churchill

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. -- G. Gordon Liddy

7. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.  -- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

8. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. --Ronald Reagan (1986)

9. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. -- Will Rogers

10. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!  -- P. J. O'Rourke

11. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. -- Mark Twain (1866)

12. Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it. – Anonymous

13. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -- Winston Churchill

14. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. -- Mark Twain

15. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class, save Congress. -- Mark Twain

16. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians -- Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

17. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. -- Thomas Jefferson


1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!
J.B. Collins at 100
J.B. Collins at 100

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