Thursday, August 2, 2007

Warren Wakefield

Great Grand-Pappy Could Write Okay
by Charlie Leck

There is some news print and ink in my wife’s background. A great grandfather, Warren Wakefield, wrote for newspapers for most of his adult life. That is he, pictured above. He edited the Wayzata newspaper for the last six years of his life (1912-1918). Heading up a weekly newspaper back then was very different than today. They were real newspapers that people counted on and they were content rich. A nephew of Warren, Harry Wakefield, wrote editorials for the Minneapolis Tribune in the early part of the 1900s. A daughter, Lisa, has her Masters Degree in Journalism (I guess they call it Mass Media studies these days.)

One of my very pleasant activities right now is to learn as much as I can about Warren. Thanks to the History Center in Saint Paul, I’ve lately been reading some of the writing he left behind. I thought I would share a few gems with you. These came from either speeches he gave (for he was a frequent speaker at community events) or from some of his editorials over the years.
They are so good that I wanted to share them with you. Pass them on to others who also enjoy writing done well.
“The man who opens a farm on a frontier is building a home for himself and his family and his impulse is to surround that habitation with an atmosphere of morality that will safeguard the character of his posterity. His log cabin, mean in appearance and cramped in dimension, is to him but the foundation of a commodious dwelling which time and energy will evolve. His stumpy and stubborn patch of corn ground is but the prelude to the broad cultivated fields of the future…” [from a speech to a church celebrating its 50th anniversary]

“The legislature is in session, but who cares!”

“The state legislature has assembled in extraordinary session. All session of the legislature are extraordinary in their depleting effect upon the resources of the taxpayer.”

“Some children were badly frightened by a cow last week, when brave Mrs. Eddy came to the rescue with her parasol. The beauty of the parasol attracted the attention of the cow and the children got by unmolested. Our advice to ladies traveling unprotected is “always carry a parasol.”

“Great wealth makes a hog of its average possessor, while “Culture” removes its devotee from all genuinely human association. All real humanity is jammed between the High brows and the hogs.”

“My first work away from home was done for Mr. Dudley. I plowed what has recently become known as “Bald Hill” with the blacksmith’s famous horse, “Old Tom,” and a queer apology for a plow forged by my employer. I worked for five days for a wage of seventy-five cents per day and my dinner and when the job was completed I spent another week in an attempt to collect my pay. The old gentleman was quite deaf, but his infirmity never prevented his hearing an agreeable communication, and it was a matter of public knowledge that he was quick to hear a proffer to pay money and invariably deaf to a demand for settlement. After completion of my job I haunted the man’s stone shop for days and frequently interrupted the industry of its occupant with a loudly shouted demand for my pay. I would jerk his leather apron to claim his attention; he would incline his head, place his hand behind his ear and I would yell, “Mr. Dudley I want my dollar and a quarter.” He would regard me with astonishment and seizing his hammer would respond, “No, No, I never let boys take my horse.” I would repeat my demand to be told, “If you want a boat, take the red one.” Finally, I was obliged to appeal to Mrs. Dudley, who gave me five shiny silver quarters, the first money I ever earned.” [from the unpublished memoirs of Warren Wakefield]
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