EDITOR’S NOTE: The columns of Bill Duncan are being reprinted in The News-Review. Duncan, who died in November 2011, wrote a weekly column for The News-Review and The Capital Press of Salem from 1981 to 2011. Duncan wrote the following column in July 1995. His thoughts are still pertinent to today.
I am a compulsive clipper.
I clip items from newspapers, newsletters and magazines and stack them in file folders or paste them in notebooks.
I started this back in high school and still have a notebook, with a price of 10 cents stamped on its cover, that contains yellowed clippings from the 1940s.
The purpose of this paper madness — or at least the purpose of which I convince myself — is to secure an endless resource of material for stories, articles and columns such as the one I am writing.
My wife looks at the boxes of clippings spilling over into several rooms in the house and snips: “You’re right about one thing. You have an endless supply.”
She’s right about that and since the supply is so endless that it will outlive me, I decided the other day to thin the stack and help save a few trees with my paper recycling. My wife thinks it is more like a forest.
I started my thinning in a storeroom at the rear of the house.
Anyway, I needed to make room for several hundred books a friend, who is moving, gave me.
The first day it went well. I hauled a pickup load of paper to the recycling center.
But then it happened.
I found an August 1944 edition of The Reader’s Digest among the stack and just took a few minutes to scan a few articles.
There was my downfall. I recall reading a line (actually I had clipped it and pasted it in one of my notebooks) that was printed in a 1955 Saturday Evening Post (if I had only saved the whole edition). It said:
“Nobody who can read is ever successful at cleaning out the attic.”
Therein lies the problem with a compulsive clipper. We are all readers — readers of every written word.
I don’t have an attic large enough to store things, for which my wife is eternally grateful.
But storerooms, spare bedrooms and even the barn are good substitutes.
And who in their right mind is going to recycle an August 1944 Reader’s Digest?
The old magazine holds a storehouse of nostalgia from World War II.
For instance, I found a story by John Hersey, who was then a relatively unknown war correspondent for Time-Life, about a young Navy hero named John F. Kennedy whose patrol boat was split in half by a Japanese destroyer off the Solomon Islands.
Kennedy was such an unknown, Hersey identified him as the son of the former ambassador to Great Britain.
There is a story by Theodore H. White, then a 28-year-old Time-Life correspondent, warning that the Nationalist Chinese were weak and corrupt and that the communist forces were leading the fight against the Japanese and would have to be reckoned with after Japan’s defeat.
Bob Hope wrote an article on GI humor, saying that he was sure we’d win the war because the fighting men and women had a sense of humor. The enemy didn’t, he said.
Some of the GI humor ended up in anecdotes and quips that are surprisingly risqué for that day. Few of them would pass muster in today’s politically correct environment.
In a few days I might get back to saving the rest of the forest.
But in the meantime I have this great World War II nostalgia to read about in an old Reader’s Digest.