Oldtimer's Notebook, Sept. 13, 2023


The publishers of The Eagle Democrat have chosen to publish articles from the past Oldtimer’s Notebook in memory of Robert L. Newton. This article was first published August 15, 2001.

We came home from being over at the lake for several days.

We came home in a hurry and in advance because the burglar alarm company called and said the alarm at our house was “going off”.

We thought it might be disturbing our neighbors, but the “siren” was just never set off.

What took place (many of your will remember it) was sthis: we had a big electrical storm with lots of thunder-boomers. On a really big “boom”, a picture fell off one of our walls. The “motion dector” phase caught it and set off the alarm.

But there was something else: lightning came rollin’ into our house and disabled a a TV..mortally-wounding a VCR machine.

One of our younger sons of the spirit, the TV repairman Daniel Herring, came from Young’s TV, operated by the widow of my late brother in the spirit James O. Young.

TV sets don’t die much anymore (they sure used to: Bobby Bradford and Loyd Norton, plus others, made careers of keeping them going: these two, of course, plus James Owen Young).

But Daniel muscled the wounded TV to his van, took it to the repair place, and fixed it by the next day.

But what about the VCR machine?

“You don’t repair those”, said Daniel, smiling. “You just go over and buy another one”.

That didn’t sound too economical to the Oldtimer, who remembered paying another brother of the spirit, W.T. Outlaw, of the lamented Warren Tire Company at Main and Central, over a thousand dollars for one in the fall of 1979.

We’d seen a VCR several months earlier in the possession of an old friend, the late John Clay Burch, was impressed and, in 1979, the oldtimer was a “pitiful widower man” (that didn’t last long, come to think of it).

Any rate, I taped a symphony concert (the Boston, with Ozawa conducting one of the Liszt tone poems titled “Orpheus”: I almost wore the tape out).

Getting my thousand dollars’ worth of use.

The other day, we repaired to the Friendly Discounter and picked up a VCR, made in Indonesia, for less than $60.

Works just as well as that thousand-dollar one, too.

Daniel came over and “connected it up”.

Everything’s getting less expensive in electronics, he opined; says he wishes cars and trucks were doing the same thing.

Well, life can’t be perfect: it approaches that elevated standard, let it be said, for the onetime newspaper man at 212 East Shields.


We have had a mad adventure on the internet.

We found an old and antique item on the Ebay auction thing.

We told ‘em we wanted it; they shipped it from California.

End of story?

No, the story is of the elderly trying to run a computer and to enter information about purchases the computer demands.

We tried and tried and tried and just never could get the thing to take a credit card: we gave up and sent ‘em a cashier’s check from the bank.

Post office in town said they’d send the check to San Diego for about $12.50 and GUARANTEED it would be there before noon the next day.

Didn’t know they could do that.

Well, life gets complicated.

Just wish my 11-year-old twin grandsons were close enough (they’re in Kentucky) to come over and program the VCR…also to program the computer.

It’s easy for kids; not for the venerable.


Part of the certified activities of retired grandparents are periodic treks to see the kids and the grandkids: we started off on another journey of this nature the other day, en route to Kentucky. To get to Kentucky, you have to go through Memphis and to get to Memphis, you have to cross a handsome four-lane bridge over the Big River.

Just this side of the bridge, traffic slowed, then stopped…and remained thus, frozen in time, for a full hour.

We got to visiting with a young man driving a giant transport truck based in Joplin, Mo.

Said he was 21, and had been in this country only three years, coming from Honduras in Central America.

We lent him our cell ‘phone so he could call his boss and explain why he would be at least an hour late getting to Nashville.

Nice kid.

We asked him how he got a visa to get into the country from Honduras. He laughed. No explaining.

We bade each other farewell.

Times are changing.


One of the really elegant gentlemen of the 20th century in Bradley County was a South Carolinian named David Alexander Bradham. He was an alumnus of The Citadel and of the law school at Washington and Lee. A W&L classmate from Jersey in Bradley County named M.J. Anders convinced the young attorney he could have a good career in Warren, where three massive sawmills had just gone into business.

We came to know the Judge well in the summer of 1948 when he was seeking reelection as Chancery Judge for South East Arkansas. two years prior, he had engaged the future minister in the Church of Christ named Bill Bates to drive him around the area while he canvassed for votes.

But in 1948, he invited me to provide this service (Bill Bates was already working fulltime at Eagle Publishing Company).

We’d ride back and forth to assorted centers of refinement and charm like Eudora, Portland, Wilmot, Parkdale, Mist, Hamburg, and Crossett.

In the latter city, I’d station myself on the front porch of the lamented Rose Inn, the Crossett Company-owned hotel, while the Judge went around shaking hands.

Judge Bradham was frail-looking: but appearances deceived. He had been a fearless prosecuting attorney; he was a completely-fearless judge, too.

He taught me lots of things.

Just one of them was to always order breakfast if you were in a strange new café which didn’t look very promising from a culinary standpoint. “They can’t mess up breakfast”, the Judge insisted.

Judge Bradham’s home was the residence now owned by Mrs. Floyd Richardson.

In my youth, the Judge’s daughter, Eloise, and her husband Jack Orton, resided with the Judge…plus their kids, Jacqueline and Davis.

The Judge was divorced.

But that’s another story.