SECURITY Now and For Your Later Years For Non-Cancellable HOSPITALIZATION INSURANCE Guaranteed Renewable for Life . . . Call GR 8-6312 JACK BROWN Dugger: ‘Quirks and Foibles and. Brainstorms’ A Personal Reminiscence GOLDBERG’S VIEW Backs Up on Border Labor Plan This nostalgic tribute to former editor Ronnie Dugger and those first months with the Observer could only have been written by Bill Brammer, Observer associate editor in 1955, author of “The Gay Place,” and now on the Washington Bureau of Time.Ed. AUSTIN During those early, burbling days on the Observer I was never much spooked by things that went bump in the night. I knew, nearly always, what went bump: Dugger vent bumpmy Editor was going regularly, unfailingly bump, all over the place, at all hours of the night. Even now, in certain sleepfogged moments of cognition and dubious insight, the old dusty tableaux spring clearly to mind. He is hard upon my household again, this Dugger person, thrashing about in the canna bed or crushing prized calladium, picking at a window screen, laying an indiscriminate clout to the door facing . He smiles . . . He blinks sore eyelids in the yellow porchlight. “I serve no group nor party,” he says to me, in a singsong loud enough to rouse every crazywhooping watchdog in the block. “I hue hard to one thing and another. I work much of the night and go south in the winter . . .” He embraces, schoolgirl fashion, a stack of freshly-inked Observer galley proofs. He flashes them on me, one sheet at a time, as if revealing great secret truths or some masterspy’s credentials. Then he is gone again, in careless fender-clanging post-midnight retreat . . . IF HE SEEMED a bit overmuch I in those early days, perhaps my own assessments and receptions weren’t even minimally enough. Or it might be that Ronnie, in the classic phrase of Mr. Sugar Ray Robinson, actually has “slown down” since those demonic firstphase moments of pre-orbiting flight. But it’s no great matter. There remains a blessed happy lot of him to be parcelled out, in scoops and handfuls, among friends and distant admirers. In all events, his sap was high , and clearly rising in the early days. He very often appeared to have got himself wonderfully swacked on the stuff, as if from tossing down straight shot snifters of his own adrenalin or some ego’s home brew of spirits that were anything but neutral. It was no suprise, therefore, to find that a proximity to the Editor could be a trying and occasionally debilitating experience. Though it could be inspiriting, often as notand never a bore or a waste of one’s time. His drives and demon-lusts and continuous manic flights and forced landings were clearly the offshoot of some whale-sized egomania, which might explain why I have since come to regard this quality in people as altogether, almost unexceptionally, winning. If our few voluptuous intervals of quietude were inevitably flawed by great ear-banging wooshes of activity, if some doubt remained as to ,Ronnie’s really having an intimacy with the universe, there were abundant compensations. He was never guilty of cozying his resources, of rat-holing on a human need; he was never covetous or grasping or even very thrifty with himself when it came to squandering emotion or imagination or any part of his ransacked warehouse of vitality on another . . . I think of Whitman, of old poets at their windiest .. . He wasn’t notably selective or THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 August 25, 1961 discriminating in his enthusiasmshe sang of himself and cosmic matters and of anyone else who might wander closeby and stand still long enough to be rhapsodized and set to music. HE WAS also pursued \(held in 111 thrall might be more acculusions. I do not mean to imply derangement; Ronnie’s vague paranoiac disorders were every bit as engaging as they were insupportable. I remember a time when he was convinced that the governor or the FBI or “The Lobby” or some other ubiquitous, indefinable Dark Force of Reaction was engaged in tapping his and my Dugger … Those Early Days and the Observer’s telephone lines. Perhaps they were being tappedI’ve always hoped they were. Ther&s been precious little intrigue in my life, and at this point I’m inclined to welcome a really first-rate gang of spies and trenchcoat-flapping saboteurs. But perhaps I distort . . . In lionizing my old Editor, my tireless Figurehead and former Childe Whizzbang, I do not mean to invest in him only those characteristics that distinguish the eccentric, the oddball,. the unreconstructed social revolutionary. An ‘unsettling large number of those fellows, along with their women, descended on the Observer offices in the. early days, like so many after-midnight refugees from the Scholz Garden, but the Editor, while exceedingly popular, wasn’t one among them. He was cooly, curiously aloof . . . Somehow withdrawn . .. Or, closer to reality: he was nearly run to death with work. This last. notion at least approximates my conviction that Dugger has always given far more to the Observer than he ever stood to gain . . . I couldn’t see why one should feel so all-fired obligated to any group, any crusade, however exalted and nobly motivatedeven to oneself and to the making of little revolutions. If I remain unconvinced, it can be put down as an emotional blindspot. Dugger and the Observer survive, and the revolution is on the record for all to see, obvious to anyone who remembers how it was in Texas during that hysterical, No-Think half decade of the early Fifties our own mid-century Inquisition –when nearly everyone lay torpid and uncomplaining in the clutch of the Peckerwood and the Ignoranti. That few publishers and mainchance politicians would venture, or in some instances even abide, an occasional honker of dissent is not so disturbing . as the apathetic conditions that obtained overall. In those days, the impulse toward dissent scarcely existed . . . Scarcely, in all events, until Ronnie and his newspaper erupted on the scene to shake us a little in our Hookworm Belt complacencies. THERE’S NO POINT dwelling I on the abuses, the staggering corruptions, that so many of us news people knew about or sus, pected but couldn’t or wouldn’t discuss in print. Ronnie got us off our dead centers by simply poking into things and talking to people and, most astounding, actually writing stories about what he’d learned. Soon there were wounded hoots and wild cries and a crazy circus of exposures, denials, copped pleas and even, one or two indictments. If, there are fewer accounts of scandal in the papers currently, we can pray that it is because there are fewer frauds and corruptions than used to be. I don’t claim that the Observer, all by itself, cleaned up the state of Texas, or that the state of Texas is now, by any wishful stretch of the imagination, even reasonably responsive to the public needs and the public ethic. A nightmare of petty abuses still exists, not to mention the monumental human ones. But the Observer did outdistance the competition, such as It was, during the early daysand did it so dramatically that the very concept and thrust of political reportage in Texas underwent a general overhaul and reorientation. The Observer made this little miracle, and I seriously doubt whether the paper would have lasted out its first year without Ronnie, without his total commitment, all his resources and crackling nervous vitality, without even such early hallucinations as those that visualized the Observer eventually grown to outsized manhood as a statewide daily, a sort of cornpone-snuffdipping Christian Science. Monitor or a “St. Louis Post Dispatch of the Southwest.” Part of Ronnie’s reservoir of energy and certainly much of the Observer’s staying power stemmed from the Editor’s habit of forever shooting impossibly high. Working here, it was often all a very wackiness, and somehow fabulous; yet I can’t imagine any other editor for whom the stockholders and supporters would have volunteered such heaps of money and encouragement and stoic hope over so long a period of time. Such a combination best explains why the Observer has outstOed and usually outshone other regional ventures in independent political journalism, right and left, recent and long-gone. An editor, if he’s any account at all, ought ultimately to leave some large bits and pieces of himself strewn through his pages. In time, the , stuff is bound to show through, accumulating in random little drifts and emotional slagheaps until it is possible to make a judgment, to perceive greatness or simple-mindedness or a towering mushy-headedness. From the day he took over the editorship in 1955 ’til the day he left it in 1960, it was obvious that, if Dugger wasn’t the Observer, the Observer was clearly Dugger a God-awful drudging part of him: quirks and foibles and brainstorms and backaches, all his highs and lows and half-demented full-circle exhaustions. . WE ARE INCLINED to take the man for granted, and to forget that anyone so well equipped could have gone off in half a dozen other directions, making a career in books or teaching or government or the more exalted realms of international reportage. He chose, instead, to come home and spend himself on a weekly newspapermeeting all the onerous, enervating and physically barbaric tests demanded by that form of journalism. His achievement, to my mind, was extraordinaly. B.B. SAN ‘ANTONIO Some Latin American leaders in this city are still taking apart, phrase by phrase, Labor Secretary Arthur Goldberg’s recent speech before the League of Unit-, ed Latin American Citizens, but though they have searched through the carefully-razed rhetoric ever so carefully, they have yet to find any hint of quick federal reform of the migrant workers’ deteriorating program. Neither can they find any suggestion that the labor department means to stop the flow of cornmuting Mexican nationals which has caused widespread unemployment in U.S. border towns among U.S. citizens of Mexican extraction. AN THE CONTRARY, Goldberg made it quite clear that the labor department has reversed its previously announced position in regard to commuting Mexican workers, an estimated 50,000 of whom cross the border daily to work in Laredo and El Paso and other border cities, especially in service and construction jobs. Not over six weeks ago the labor department said definitely it would stop the border-crossing. Then, reportedly under pressure from the good-neighborly state department, the labor department entered a period of silence. And now it has entered another vocal period, but echoing state department sentiments. Lumping the border-commuters under the general bracero program, Goldberg told the LULACs \(who noticeably failed to warm under Goldberg’s avuncular treatsince I am in Texas,’ about the bracero program. It is not easy to discuss because on the one hand we have invited our friends from Mexico to help us when we needed labor, during shortages; at the same time we have a problem in the United States where we have unemployment and underemployment in our own domestic forces. \(He had previously admitted that among those presently unemployed in this country, the “great bulk is among unskilled and semi-skilled,” which is exactly the area which the bracero program further de”But it is very hard to distinguish between one human being and another, just because they live on opposite sides of the border. We are proposing to continue the bracero program for another two years, but we want to improve the program so that the bracero program does not operate to displace wage standards of the same type of, people who are American citizens. “We seek a constructive way to do it, to achieve a double objective: upgrading the standards’ of our own citizens but still continuing the good relations which we have with our good friends, the Republic of Mexico.” IF THE “double objective” can be reached, the .LULAC members we have talked with would certainly hail it as a magnificent job of international fence-straddling, but they are openly pessimistic about Goldberg’s chances of pulling it off. They argue that the basic cause of low standards among U.S. Latin workers now is a surplus in the labor force and that this can hardly be helped by further adding Mexican nationals to the labor pool. Especially, they say, is this true in agricultural work, and Goldberg’s own words, from the same speech, would support their argument. “There are men and women and families,” he told them, though they must have been more aware of it than he, since many of the LULACs have kin who travel with the crops, . “are among the most neglected people in the population. There are hundreds of thousands of migratory farm laborers in the U.S. What does the term mean? “It means large numbers of men. and women who are here today and, before they can give their children a full education, go north or south or somewhere else in order to fill a great demand in the agricultural production in the U.S. Their average income?less than $900. “They cannot maintain and support a family and educate them on that type of income. Agricultural workers are victims of economic discrimination, and that’s as real as any other type. I know farmers have problems and I’m sympathetic to their problems. This administration has a comprehensive farm program. “But I also believe that the time has come when we must accomplish in agriculture what we have accomplished in the other segments of our economyrestoration of dignity. . . . “Already we have pledged ourselves to improve conditions in agriculture and for the first time in many years we do not have the spectacle of the secretary of labor saying ‘we must help them’ and the secretary of agriculture saying ‘yes, but we can’t do it.’ ” Speaking of pending bills that would help migrant workers, Goldberg said, “I don’t think farmers ought to oppose these bills. . . . The first minimum wage law adopted in this country was 25 cents an hour. There were businessmen who said if you adopt a minimum wage law it will lead to the ruin of American business. American business has achieved its highest prosperity and now the minimum wage is $1.25 an hour.
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