ALL ABOARD | Whidbey’s own ‘Ben Franklin’ rightfully gets his due


If you are like me, you will not be reading this page of our paper until Monday morning.

Today is Saturday.

It is Island County Fair week.

Where else would you be today, assuming you are in town, but the Island County Fair?

Easy now, this is a family paper. This morning, Saturday, Aug. 21, the 86th Annual Island County Fair Parade will commence in the streets of Langley, our Village by the Sea.

This year’s grand marshal, Jim Larsen, is the always venerable, seldom vivacious and never voluminous editor of the Whidbey News-Times, the mother ship of the Sound Publishing Group, which also owns the daddy ship, NW Navigator, and the mother-in-law ship, the South Whidbey Record.

Jim was my first ever editor when I began in the professional newspaper biz a couple of decades ago.

Jim taught me the most important part of community newspaper writing when he advised, “If you want folks to read you, put their name in it.”

My first column was easy — the three columns of the South Whidbey phone book that listed all the Andersons.

Jim decided not to print it because it was already too long, plus I had not mentioned the two columns of Andersens.

What did I know about Scandihoovian spelling?

Today’s venerable grand marshal reminds me of the 1971 Rose Bowl Parade when Reverend Billy Graham was the venerable grand marshal.

Ohio State was playing in the game that year against Stanford.

Fortunately, we had end zone seats so we could leave early without being seen on TV while Stanford’s QB Jim Plunkett humiliated Woody Hayes and his over-confident Buckeyes. I was in the Marines at the time, almost as bald as I am now, but back then baldness was part of the uniform.

Nixon was our Commander-in-Chief.

So when I saw Billy and his wife Ruth seated on the back of their approaching parade convertible, I yelled, “Hey, Billy!” and flashed him the peace sign.

In return, the Reverend flashed me a double peace sign.

Both hands.

Four fingers.

And a big ol’ Billy grin.

I took a picture. I had it. The shot.

In my excitement during a horrible fourth quarter of the game later that day,

I decided to rewind the film in my 35 millimeter, take out the roll, and put it in a safe place.

But I opened the camera before I rewound the film.

Which reminds me of our Grand Marshal Jim Larsen.

Since Jim is most likely the only person in Sound Publishing who still knows how to use typesetting, do you suppose he, like me, ever took a picture that he never saw?

I sure bet I’ll find out at today’s parade if my first editor is still reading my sarcasm.

Who do you think taught me?

Speaking of naming names, if you get my attention tomorrow afternoon between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. while I am jumping on and off the Eva Mae Gabelein Midway Stage, you may have a chance to say your name on the microphone.

For details, show up, but you’ll have to know the two secret words — Jim Larsen.

Still with us, grand marshal?