Even newspaper columnists who died almost 40 years ago retain the respect of their readers.
Our story on Dallas Morning News columnist Paul Crume, which ran Jan. 5 in the Life & Arts section, heartened his admirers. Austin author Cyndi Williams recalls that her brother was mentioned in one of Crume’s columns in the 1960s.
"He was the only boy who lived on our street," Williams writes. "And he said, ‘Those girls treat me like a disaster area.’ My mom asked if he knew what a disaster area was, and he said, ‘I don’t know, but I hear it’s pretty bad.’"
Williams also admits to a crush on the writing of former American-Statesman scribe Mike Kelley.
Reader Max Woodfin studied journalism at SMU in the late 1960s and early ’70s and faithfully read Crume’s work. He took a class from "The Gay Place" novelist Billy Lee Brammer — who famously suffered from writer’s block — and walked into class a few minutes earlier than usual one day to find him muttering about over what he believes was Crume’s column.
"When I greeted him, (Brammer) said ‘How does he do it?’ " Woodfin recalls. "I played the role, of course, and asked what he meant. He kept shaking his head and said, ‘These guys that crank out daily columns. And sometimes they’re really good.’ "
Pat Burnett Krov of Wimberley grew up in Dallas with a family of faithful Crume readers.
"There were several of Mr. Crume’s columns during the ’60s that I was included in," she writes. "My Mom would share with him funny things that this incorrigible child of hers would express over the years, and he must have found a few of them entertaining and included them in his columns. He was a wonderful writer and keen observer of people. We certainly do not find many like him in today’s publications."
Much like I had discovered a copy of Crume’s "A Texan at Bay" by accident in a used bookshop, Krov found "The World of Paul Crume" while rummaging around Half Price Books.
"I wasn’t particularly looking for it," she says. "It found me, and I remember smiling and thinking that was a part of my childhood and scooped it up."
Jon Hornaday of Austin, whose father, Walter C. Hornaday, was a career reporter at the Morning News, expressed thanks for the memories of Crume.
"Very human, warm and often very humorous," Hornaday writes of Crume. "Although I’ve lived in Austin since 1958, I was a regular mail subscriber of the Dallas Morning News for many years (as well as the American and Statesman), much to do with Mr. Crume’s columns."
Hornaday informed me that 2-Alarm Chili legend Wick Fowler was a Morning News war correspondent and later a columnist, which likely led to his chili challenge in Terlingua.
Glenn George of Austin shared memories of San Francisco’s Herb Caen and Houston’s Maxine Mesinger, two other columnists who embodied the spirit of their cities. George grew up in McKinney, now a Dallas suburb, and threw a Morning News paper route there in the 1940s.
Crume’s "Big D" was a favorite.
"His introspective columns were particularly appealing to me," George writes. "He was an avid fisherman and sometimes described the solitary joys of being alone in a boat on a foggy morning, suitable for contemplating things such as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin."
George recalls that Crume stopped at the Grand Canyon on a rare vacation, then wrote: "It looked a great deal like pictures of it I had seen."
Mike Capps, director of broadcasting for the Round Rock Express, remembers reading Paul Crume from age 5 in the tiny burg of Fairfield.
"My dad’s morning ritual included reading the News, talking about it with us at breakfast and encouraging us to read for ourselves," Capps writes. "I did. Voraciously."
Capps later got to know other journalists in the Metroplex but never forgot the influence of Crume.
"His pristine, visual verbiage actually set the stage for me in my formative years," he writes.
Tim Beardon, vice president of Texas Motorsports and an admirer of American-Statesman columnist John Kelso, owns a copy of "A Texan at Bay" that has no cover but did come with end papers taped inside. It is stamped: "Houston Public Library, discarded."
"Hopefully after countless readings by Dallas’ unrefined oilfield workers to the southeast," Beardon writes. "Mine came to me at age 50+ from my avid reader mother and I continually think of deserving friends to push it on. What a great writing style and wit."