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September 26, 1996

Getting ready for a garage sale always requires a lot of digging through boxes that have been stashed in the attic, basement or closet for perhaps several years. That's one of the purposes of garage sales -- to thin out our stuff. Helen Bristol experienced this recently and she has come up with some old photos and newspapers that might be of interest to someone around here.

The photos are postcard size family portraits from the early years of this century, and someone probably would dearly love to have them. Signatures on some of the cards indicate they are issued by Lester S. French. He was identified as "principal of school" at Waynoka on business cards that also are included. Several copies of The Waynoka Tribune, dated August 19, 1910, are in the collection, along with more recent vintage copies of newspapers from Perry, Guthrie, Wichita and Oklahoma City, and nine 1972 issues of Life magazine.

Helen says all these were found by her late husband, David, when he was demolishing an old farm building in this county. She knows of no one in the French family, but if by chance a reader knows of some connection, Helen would appreciate a call. Otherwise, they'll be sold at auction on October 3.

I hope many of you have had the opportunity to enjoy Ken Bums' latest video documentary, "The West," which has just concluded on PBS. Tuesday night's two-hour installment included a segment on the 1889 Oklahoma land run but neglected to mention any of the others, including the biggest of them all, the Cherokee Outlet opening on September 16, 1893. Generally I thought "The West" did a marvelous job of describing the development of that part of the U.S. west of The Mississippi. I understand that the scope of the series was so broad that every detail could not be included, but I'm disappointed the Cherokee Strip was not so much as mentioned. If you missed the series, it undoubtedly will appear later in reruns. It's worth the taping for posterity.

On the subject of TV, I'm getting a little tired of video news-meisters who promote their next telecasts with 30-second headlines that invariably conclude with the phrase, "You won't believe what (so-and-so) said..." or some such verbiage. By now, thanks to TV, most of us would believe anything they choose to show or tell us. Believe it, you smiling anchor people. Lose that cliche.

Still on TV, watching today's weathermen with their computer and radar wizardry, their blue screen maps that appear to be wall size on our home tubes, and all the gadgetry now available to them, brings back memories of the early days of forecasting by these electronic meteorologists. Remember how Wally Kinnan and Harry Volkman, who pioneered this art form in Oklahoma, used to plot weather currents on their revolving drums with crudely painted maps of the state and the entire United States? They used something like a white tipped Magic Marker to dress up those maps, and frequently the lines would leak into the wrong thermal zones. I believe Mr. Volkman once said that his marker actually contained white shoe polish.

It's a far cry from those primitive weather shows to today's high-tech spectaculars, but I haven't noticed a great improvement in their accuracy. The other night Gary England brought up a computer map of northern Oklahoma and it showed I-35 going up to the Kansas line from Oklahoma City as it should, but with Stillwater, not Perry, at about the midway point. I hope Gary's geographically challenged concept is not indicative of his weather forecasting skills.