DOWN WITH MARY POPPINS
A life-size statue of Mary Poppins has been proposed for New York's Central Park, where it will complement similar statues of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen, and Parks Commissioner Thomas P. F. Hoving is asking New Yorkers to contribute to the Mary Poppins Fund. Nobody asked New Yorkers whether they wanted a life-size statue of Mary Poppins in their park.
Although the Mary Poppins books are popular, their heroine got her chief renown in a treacly movie in which she was played by Julie Andrews. Indeed, the first (and most improbable) objection to the statue was that in the sketch Mary Poppins looked too much like Julie Andrews. The second objection was, as The New York Times commented, that the statue is bad art (as are those of Alice and Hans) and a trespass on park land.
If, however, New Yorkers wish to defile their park with junk art, we feel Hoving can surely come up with a more suitable subject for New York children in this day and age than an English nanny with a resemblance to Julie Andrews. For example, kids would flip over a life-size statue of Mickey Mantle swinging from the heels, or one of Willie Mays making a spectacular catch, his hat, by some trick of the sculptor's art, shown in the very instant it flies off.
HEAR NO EVIL
For the past six weeks Jackie Gleason has been picking the NFL games on a TV show called NFL Countdown to Kick off, and, according to Gleason, "I've had only seven wrong out of 30, maybe even better." Last Saturday Gleason made his picks, but not as usual. Something was missing. The—if you'll excuse the expression—point spreads. The NFL and CBS had asked Gleason to "stay away from the points." Apparently they feared someone might get the idea you can bet on pro football. Which confirms our suspicion that we don't entirely understand the game. For instance, just the other day Pete Rozelle was explaining why the supergame between the NFL and AFL champions couldn't take place unless a bill was passed exempting pro football from the antitrust laws. Said Rozelle: "We can't compete aggressively, as we have, with player raiding and all, for the whole year and then get together for one day and play each other."
OFF AND RUNNING
Two weeks ago we related the athletic fortunes of the University of Plano (of Plano, Texas), which opened in 1964; this week we would like to acquaint you with those of the College of Artesia (of Artesia, N. Mex.), which opened October 12, making it, indubitably, the newest college in the nation. Artesia is going to run to catch up. In fact, Dr. Thomas C. Stevens, its president, has decided that the 334 students will be known as the Artesia Roadrunners, and he has hired a marathoner, Charles R. Solberg, to be director of athletics. In a way, this is a providential choice; Artesia has no gymnasium, but there are 300 acres of campus to run around on.
To get Artesia on the road, Solberg—who finished 222nd out of a field of 389 in the 1965 Boston Marathon—is scheduling a five-mile run on November 19, which will begin on campus and wind up in the heart of downtown Artesia (pop. 12,600). President Stevens is delighted. He feels the race will symbolize the fitness and hustle he wants to see at Artesia. "Our motto is 110% effort," says Stevens. Solberg is impatient. "I would eventually like to run in the Boston Marathon with many of my former students," he says. "I hope to make it the most prestigious class reunion in the world."
OF MICE AND MEN
Last year gerbils (pronounced jerbils) were big. The fuzzy, four-inch rodents (plus three-inch tails) were hailed as the perfect pets, being clean, cheerful, friendly and, for all we know, thrifty, reverent and brave. They are also playful, as Creative Playthings, a toy firm that sells gerbils for $15 a pair, has recently determined. According to its Christmas catalog, Creative Playthings "confronted our own gerbils with various toys" and "the ones they've had the most fun with we have packaged together for your gerbils." The package, known as Gerbil Toys, includes a little ladder, a little seesaw and a little tunnel and retails for $4.50.
The reason we bring this up is that Creative Playthings is a subsidiary of CBS. Another CBS subsidiary is the New York Yankees. Now that Creative Playthings has found something gerbils can do, couldn't they find the Yankees a nice game they can play?
THE WORMS TURN
English trout and salmon fishermen have long maintained that those who inelegantly dangle maggots, bread, elderberries, Stilton and Gorgonzola in front of such pacific fish as chub, rudd and bleak are hardly sportsmen. This judgment appears to have been confirmed earlier this month along the banks of the Thurne in Norfolk, where 75 anglers representing 15 nations competed in the World Coarse Fishing Championship.
It seemed an assembly more inclined toward international harmony than most. Nothing of the sort. Before the last line was withdrawn from the Thurne, there were cries of "gamesmanship" and "scandal." It all started, as many things have, with the Irish, who insisted on attending Mass before fishing and were therefore blamed for holding up the competition for an hour. Then there were the French, who used walkie-talkies.
"With a walkie-talkie," an expert explained, "if yellow maggots were proving an absolute winner in one place, the other men in the team could be told." The rules forbade contact by runners but—here's the rub—not radio. Spluttered Major Brian Halliday, 76-year-old president of England's National Federation of Anglers: "We would never dream of using walkie-talkie radios. We think it is very bad sportsmanship. This could not happen in an English match." The French, who won the championship, offered the explanation that the radios were used merely for "administration."
The French cherish their eminence in coarse fishing. They use tiny hooks to take fish so small it is sometimes difficult to see them. The French are also devotees of bloodworms, which the English wouldn't dream of using, either. In England bloodworms are infinitesimal, threadlike creatures—believed to be insect larvae—which, on account of their size, are difficult to hook and, because of their efficacy, are often banned in tournaments. Indeed, one Frenchman took 144 fingerlings weighing, en masse, perhaps a pound.
"The lads gave everything they had to give," said Bernard Donovan, manager of the sixth-place English, "but if we are ever to beat the French at this game we must turn to bloodworm fishing, whether we like it or not."
ALMONDS OR PLAIN
Rome might never have fallen if West Virginia's new football coach Jim Carlen had been in charge. Coach Carlen has been conscientiously enforcing rules against drinking, smoking and class-cutting, and has even made church attendance compulsory for all football players not specifically excused by their parents. Carlen himself became a parent for the third time the other day. Did he distribute cigars? No. Hershey bars.
THE FLIGHT OF THE BOO BIRDS
Two Sundays ago many of the fans in the new Oakland Coliseum for the Raiders-Dolphins game were, as usual, needlessly complicating their lives by listening simultaneously over transistor radios to the 49ers-Packers game in San Francisco. When the crowd in San Francisco began, as usual, to boo 49er Quarterback John Brodie and the sound came through loud and clear in Oakland, the transistor-huggers there mindlessly joined in. It was a demonstration of mob response that would have delighted a mob psychologist, but it did not amuse Oakland Quarterback Tom Flores; he looked up at the boo birds in the stands, spread his arms and asked, "What did I do?"
In this day and age, when anyone who refrains from leaving his empties all over the landscape qualifies as a nature lover, Frank Bliss Jr. of Silver Spring, Md. is a rare man indeed. Mr. Bliss is responsible for what must be described, paradoxically, as a public private park—a park open to the public but privately financed, a phenomenon so unusual that the U.S. Government has been baffled as to how to categorize the two permanent employees who live there.
Banner Park, Mr. Bliss's offering to the public, is now two years old. In 1964, disturbed at the encroachment of city and suburb upon the marvelous spring which gives Silver Spring its name, Bliss arranged through his small automotive firm, Banner Glass, Inc., to purchase 50 acres outside of Dickerson, Md. The park he made of them has rather more than the usual facilities: in addition to a large picnic area there are swings, horseshoe pits, badminton and volleyball courts and a nature library. A flat, grassy space serves as a Softball diamond, and in time archery and pistol ranges will be provided. But even more pleasant than what Mr. Bliss has added to his park is what he has preserved there. The terrain ranges from high and dry to dark and swampy, encompassing several streams and a large pond, and within this variegated territory may be found almost every animal, bird and plant native to Maryland.
"Why I wanted the park is really pretty simple," says Bliss. "I like nature—it clears the head, expands the lungs and gives a sense of well-being. I don't want any monument, but if I could choose one, it would be this. Something green, beautiful and useful."
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
It may have escaped your notice, but the Boy Scouts have gotten with it. Merit badges for Blacksmithing and Path-finding are out and badges for Communications (you get points for writing and narrating a one-minute radio or TV commercial), Space Exploration and American Business are in, and a Data Processing badge is in the works.
Yearning for The Good Old Days, we leafed through the Boy Scout Handbook for 1910, which was written by none other than Ernest Thompson Seton. Only 14 merit badges were awarded back then; the big deal was honors and high honors, which were given in such categories as these:
"Bathing: An honor for having bathed out of doors in water of natural temperature anywhere north of N. Lat. 30, or south of S. Lat. 30 for 300 days in the year; a high honor for 365 days.
"Sailing: To have sailed any two-man craft for 30 successive days, 12 hours a day at the wheel—the other man not a professional sailor—honor. Sixty days of the same in salt water, high honor.
"Trailing: Know and clearly discriminate the tracks of 25 of our common wild quadrupeds, also trail one for a mile and secure it, without aid of snow, honor. Similarly discriminate 50 tracks, and follow 3 tracks a mile as before, but for 3 different animals, high honor."
Ah, but it turns out that in The Good Old Days what were they yearning for but The Good Old Old Days. As Seton wrote, "We have lived to see an unfortunate change.... It is the rare exception, now, when we see a boy that is handy with tools and capable of taking care of himself.... The personal interest in athletics has been largely superseded by an interest in spectacular games, which, unfortunately, tend to divide the nation into two groups—the few overworked champions in the arena, and the great crowd, content to do nothing but sit on benches and look on, while indulging their tastes for tobacco and alcohol.... Degeneracy is the word. To combat the system that has turned such a large proportion of our robust, manly, self-reliant boyhood into a lot of flat-chested cigarette-smokers, with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality, I began the Woodcraft movement.... It aimed to counteract the evils attendant on arena baseball, football, and racing...."
THEY SAID IT
•Gene Stallings, Texas A&M football coach, hearing TCU Coach Abe Martin say his team's main strength is its lack of weakness: "I guess that makes our main weakness lack of strength."
•Danny Thomas, Miami Dolphins owner, asked by a feminine fan to autograph a holy picture: "I can't autograph a picture of Our Lord. I know I've done well, but not that well."