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Sage advice, the Civil War and a fire

June 25, 1997

In 1985, when the late Joe Harp retired for the final time, the editors came to me and asked me to move into his office. I hesitated; Joe had been with the company more than 50 years, and it seemed presumptuous of me to accept it, kind of like Marv Throneberry putting his stuff in Mickey Mantle's locker.

But the editors insisted, for some logistical reasons too boring to explain here, and in I went.

On the bulletin board above his typing table was a frame enclosing a one-paragraph observation. Entitled, "Prologue," it said:

"A sage gent once observed that writing editorials can be like wetting your pants in a blue serge suit. It gives you a nice warm feeling and no one seems to notice."

That was Joe's humorous reminder that what we as newspaper people think isn't nearly as important as what our readers think. I took down the frame a couple of years ago, but I've never forgotten the idea. We'll miss you, Joe.

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Got relatives coming in for the 135th commemoration of the Battle of Antietam this September? If so, you might have to put them up on the couch, because members of the event's marketing committee learned this week that almost all rooms in Washington County motels are booked for the Sept. 12-14 weekend.

However, there is still time to get discount tickets for the event, which will be held at the Artz Farm on Rench Road.

Tickets at the gate will be $9 a day for adults, $6 a day for children. For a family of four with two adults and two children, it would cost $90 at the gate for all three days. However, by purchasing in advance, it costs only $40 for the same tickets, a savings of $50.

Ticket sales benefit six local non-profit groups, includinng the Asoociation for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Washington County Library, the county's historical society, the Antiteam Battlefield luminaires display and the Hagerstown/Washington County Civil War Committee.

For more information, call 1-888-CIVILWR, or visit the web site at www.civilwarsites.com.

Because events at the Artz Farm will be concluded by 6 p.m. each day, promoters of downtown Hagerstown are discussing how they might to provide hospitality to the thousands who'll visit that weekend.

Possibilities - and nothing is set in stone yet - include outdoor Civil War-era music in Public Square and getting merchants and restaurants to extend their hours. My suggestions: Have the Maryland Theatre offer a special showing of "Gettysburg," and for goodness sakes, have the streets cleaned of trash.

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Does being immortal appeal to you? Your body might not endure, but it will be possible for your name to become part of the renovated Public Square in downtown Hagerstown. For just $30, you can have your name inscribed on a brick which will be placed in a walkway on the square. For an order form, call (301) 739-8577, ext. 116.

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For several years, we've been receiving letters from a nice fellow named of Bill Kaufman, who lived on Westside Avenue in Hagerstown. I say he's nice because along with his letters he usually includes a private P.S. with a joke or two.

Well, Kaufman needs a little cheering up himself now. His home was severely damaged by fire on June 19, though his family (including his daughter and son-in-law) and their pets escaped without injury.

The home sustained major damage, but they are apparently going to rebuild. If you'd like to help, there's a trust fund set up at Home Federal Savings & Loan. Just tell the teller at any branch you'd like to donate to the Kaufman Trust Fund.

In addition, the Maranatha Brethren Church on Jefferson Boulevard (733-1717) is collecting clothes (size 2X-3X men's tall and size 16 women's) for the Kaufmans. And because they may have to rent for awhile while repairs are being done, a working refrigerator, a dryer and washer would be appreciated.

The day before the fire, Kaufman sent me the following anecdote:

The principal at a middle school discovered that some of the female students who used lipstick were blotting off the excess by pressing their lips against the mirror in the ladies' rest room, a practice which made extra work for the custodian.

And so the principal asked the lipstick wearers to meet him and the custodian in the ladies room, at 2 p.m., where he explained to them how tough lipstick was to get off the mirrors.

The custdian then demonstrated by dipping a long-handled brush in the nearest commode, then using the water to wash off the mirror. Lipstick prints on the mirror ceased to be a problem.

A true story? Who knows, but why not send me a few short quips (clean ones, please) that we can send to Bill. Send them to Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagertown, Md., 21741. I'll share the best ones in this column.

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