Friday, June 6, 2008

Odds 'n' ends from a reporter's notebook...

The following are all actual stories from contemporary newspaper accounts:

ITEM: August 17, 1959...
James Neal, a 26-year-old Ft. Rucker officer, vanishes while skin-diving off St. Andrews State Park. Neal's body is never found, but divers report, "his gear and clothing bore heavy teeth marks and were badly ripped." A fellow diver told the Panama City News, "I ran into a 12-foot Blue shark and a 12-foot Mako and the two passed within inches. They veered off and I made my getaway."

Neal was Bay County's first recorded shark fatality. Today, as tourists crowd state beaches in record numbers, shark encounters appear to be rising: the decade 1990-2000 witnessed 217 shark attacks in Florida, compared to fewer than 40 from 1970-80. In June 2005 the Florida Panhandle was the site of two attacks in three days, one of them fatal.

ITEM: January 4, 1951...
Aunt Jemima--on a promotional tour for Quaker Oats pancakes--makes a weekend appearance at Panama City's downtown Piggly Wiggly grocery store. The event is heavily promoted in the newspaper: "A large crowd turned out to sample her famous pancakes and syrup, served up by Jemima herself."

Of course this was not the real Aunt Jemima, just someone who resembled the face in the familiar logo. In fact the product--America's first commercial pancake mix--dates to 1889. In 1951 the logo depicted an obese Jemima dressed as a cook. She's been updated many times over the years to reflect society's changing attitudes. Next time you're at the market, check her out. You'll not see the "domestic" Jemima of 1951, but rather a younger, slimmer, dressed-for-success Jemima.

ITEM: June 7, 1938...
The Panama City News reports that "W.M. Berry, Panama City...took unto himself a bride yesterday 75 years his junior. Berry gave his age as 107. His bride was Rosa Lee Brown, who gave her age as 32. Berry, born in Jamaica in 1830, walks rather spryly with a cane, but declared he would discard that now that he had a wife to take care of him."

INSERT YOUR OWN PUNCHLINE HERE:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
(Sorry, I can't do all the work!)

--Ken Brooks, Panama City News Herald, Sept. 11, 2000

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