Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland (22nd, 24th)

(president 1885-1889; 1893-1897)

By Richard E. Noble

Grover Cleveland was the heftiest president yet, weighing over two hundred and fifty pounds. Grover is another "lawyer" president. If you want to grow up to be president there seems to be a definite trend here. You either have to be a military hero/general, or a lawyer. Up to this point in history we have only one president who is not one of the above, and he was not elected. Andrew Johnson was the son of a laborer, and himself a tailor. He was also an autodidact. That's not a dirty word. It means that he was self- educated.
But, back to Grover. Mister Cleveland has another distinction. He was not only not a military hero and/or General, but he actually bought himself a substitute in the Civil War and this was such a common and accepted practice that it doesn't seem that it was even brought up as a criticism in any of his campaigns. He ran for president three times. He was criticized though for having a child out of wedlock via a Mrs. Maria Halpin. This was a little embarrassing especially when you consider that he was running on a "throw the rascals out" campaign. Corruption and favoritism for political appointments and jobs was still plaguing the political structure and Grover was the Honest Abe type, Democratic reform candidate. "Tell them the truth," is the famous quote attributed to Grover upon being asked by his staff as to what should be said with regards to this illegitimate child.
The illegitimate child grew up to be none other than Bill, no, no, I'm just kidding. I don't know what happen to the little b______d, but I'd like to find out.
Grover, as I said, ran three times, and was elected president twice. He is the only president to be elected to two non-consecutive terms. In between, he was beat by Benjamin Harrison, even though Grover actually won the popular vote. Grover also has the distinction of being the only Democratic president elected between the years 1861 and 1913. Woodrow Wilson claims that notion to be rather untrue because in his opinion Grover Cleveland was really a very conservative Republican in reality. But there are many union bosses today who wouldn't really consider Woodrow Wilson much of a Democrat either. So there you go.
Grover had the support of a group of well known reformers called the "Mugwumps."
Mugwumps, were to their critics, fellows who parted their hair in the middle, and were neither male nor female. Mark Twain once bragged of being a Mugwump, himself.
During Cleveland's administration the country almost ran out of Gold, and Grover cut some kind of a bailout with J.P. Morgan. Grover was considered a man of principles but veterans and workers were not on his list of princi-pals. He vetoed any Civil War Pension program bills, sent the federal troops in on the Pullman strikers against governor Altgeld’s request and advice, and sicked attorney general Richard Olney (one of the founders of the General Manager's Association) onto Coxey's Army of unemployed relief seekers who were marching on Washington.
At forty nine years of age he married a young twenty-one year old chickie, named Francis Folsom. She was very pretty and very popular. One of Grover's enemies said that he hated Grover so much that even Grover's young bride appeared ugly to him - which says a lot for her, but not much for Grover.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walter's Variety

Lawrence - My Hometown

Walter’s Variety

By Richard E. Noble

Walter owned a little variety store on the corner of Center and Willow in North Lawrence. It was one block over and just down the hill from the Howard Playground on Lawrence St.
Walter would let us little guys hangout at his place. This was greatly appreciated in those cold winter months. We always knew that Walter “loved” us little guys but, nevertheless, his patience had its limits. Periodically we’d hear a scream, “Okay boy’s, on your way - time to clear the house here.”
“But Walter, it’s still snowing outside,” we would whine.
“And so it is. On your way! Go to the boy’s club or someplace.”
“Let’s go up to Clifford’s.”
Clifford was another case entirely. We had to buy something in order to be allowed to sit in Clifford’s Ice Cream Parlor. So as we dragged up the hill to the corner of Lawrence and Chelmsford through the cold wind and driving show, we would all start counting our pennies. Usually one or two of us had enough cash to buy something. Six or seven of us would pile into a booth and one or two of us would order a hot chocolate. His hot chocolate was only a dime. He would top off the hot chocolate with a little spoonful of vanilla ice cream. We could take a long time drinking the hot chocolate using the excuse that it was too hot to drink quickly.
Occasionally he would play his organ for us. We really didn’t care much for his organ playing but if we gave a loud enough cheer he would continue playing and we would get to stay inside and soak up more heat. He had a fancy Gulbranson’s deluxe model organ. He loved that organ.
“Wow, that was great Mr. Clifford. Do you know any more songs?”
“How about this one,” and off he would go.
The next evening we would be back to good old Walter’s Variety. By then Walter would have reconsidered his impatience of the previous evening and everything would once again be hunky-dory. But nevertheless there would come an evening when Walter would get sick of us and we would be off to Clifford’s to get a ten cent hot chocolate.
One day Walter asked a bunch of us if he established hot chocolate and ice cream at his variety store would we buy from him instead of Clifford? Why of course we would we told him. We thought he was just jealous and needed to be reassured.
Within a week or two Walter’s Variety was under construction. We kids could not believe our eyes - or ears for that matter. What was Walter doing?
Walter actually built a complete soda fountain out of the front portion of his storage room. It was beautiful, complete with ice cream cases, shake machines and a barrel that sat on the counter flashing a sign that boasted “Hot Chocolate.” The hot chocolate sign waved back and forth on the top of a big hot chocolate barrel.
It was a great idea but none of us kids really had much money. We only bought hot chocolate at Clifford’s because Clifford would not let us stay inside out of the cold unless we bought something. Walter would let us hangout most nights, all night. It was always warm and cozy inside Walter’s. At Walter’s we could get our traditional bag of Granite State potato chips and a C&J unique soda of our choice. Curran and Joyce (C&J) offered unique flavors like orange phosphate, sarsaparilla, lime rickey and more. Who needed a hot chocolate?
For weeks at closing time Walter would come storming into the soda fountain where we would all be sitting and grab that barrel of steaming hot chocolate and pour it down the drain.
“Gee Walter, if you are just going to dump all the hot chocolate down the drain, why don’t you give each of us a free cup? It ain’t right to just waste it like that.”
For a long time Walter simply ignored our pleas. His face would get a little red and he sometimes stuttered a little, but nothing intelligible dribbled out. We couldn’t understand it. Walter was usually very generous hearted.
One night as we all leaned over the counter and watched Walter pour the hot chocolate down the drain, he exploded.
“You guys drive me nuts! I pay good money to put in this whole soda fountain and buy this hot chocolate maker and I don’t think that one of you guys has bought an ice cream cone or a hot chocolate.”
“Who buys ice cream in the winter time, Walter?”
“Well, what about the hot chocolate?”
“We only bought the hot chocolate at Clifford’s because you threw us out in the cold and the snow.”
“Well my god, I wish you would have told me that before I went to all this expense.”
“You never asked.”
Finally one cold snowy night after that explosion, Walter lined up a bunch of paper cups on the counter. Instead of pouring the hot chocolate down the drain, he poured us each a cup. He had a big smile on his face until one of the guys asked if he would put a spoon full of vanilla ice cream on top like Mr. Clifford used to do.
I snatched up my hot chocolate and ran. I knew what was coming would not be pretty.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry portions of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.

Monday, May 25, 2009


KIERKEGARD (1813-1855 A.D.)


By Richard E. Noble

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard has a dubious fame as a philosopher. Most biographers do not consider him a philosopher at all, and, in fact, he did not consider himself to be a philosopher. He loved and idolized his father. His father, a retired wholesale grocer, was a deeply religious man. Soren is a chip off the old block. His claim to fame seems to be his notion that belief in God required a 'leap' from reason to faith, or from the 'absurd' or ridiculous to the sublime. That there was a God and that this God could be made into man, he considered to be absurd. But belief in the absurd is what God requires of the truly faithful. God was absurd, and Life was painfully disgusting, and rightfully so.
"Though a crime I came into existence against God's will. The fault, which in one sense is not mine, even if it makes me a criminal in God's eyes, is to give life. The punishment is to give life. The punishment fits the fault: it is to be deprived of all joy of life, to be brought to the supreme degree of disgust with life."
So, life is a curse to be endured for the sake of eternity. Life and its miseries, pain and death, is a sort of boot camp for heaven. Enduring the boot camp of Life makes you fit to be one of God's eternal Marines. Life is insane and torturous. God, His Son, and His Church are absurd, but acceptance of the insane and belief in the face of absurdity is what endears the human being to his heavenly Father and guarantees him an eternity in paradise. If belief or faith was logical and rational then what would be the big deal about having faith? ... Blessed are those who see the true and the real, but have the wisdom to deny that it is so ... Faith.
On a personal note the Kierkegaard Family had a deep secret - a secret which kept young Soren from marrying the love of his life. One Biographer, Copleston, says that the secret was that Pop had lost his temper one day out on the back forty and cursed God. This slip of the tongue had from that time on caused profound guilt and the belief that God now looked upon them with disdain. A later biographer, Ben-Ami Scharfstein, says that the family secret was most likely venereal disease, and that young Soren's problem was most probably erectile dysfunction. Pop had confessed to Soren that he had on occasion slipped into a Brothel and he may have contracted something that he then transferred to his wife and children. Soren's mother and three of her children all died within the space of a couple of years, and Soren and his brother Peter feared that they may also die young, or possibly go mad.
I hate to be so crude, but from the little that I have read about Soren thus far, I think that his fear of madness was unfounded. He was already as nutty as a fruit cake and obviously didn't even know it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Den Rock Drive-in

Lawrence - My Hometown

The Den Rock Drive-in

By Richard E. Noble

The Den Rock drive-in was on route 114 before the Den restaurant and past McGovern’s.
The drive-in movie was one of those 60’s things. I suppose there is now a whole generation who has no idea what a drive-in movie was - like a 45 record or 33 1/3 record album or a 8 track. But the drive-in movie was better than all of those things. Talk about a big screen. The drive-in movie was the biggest screen ever. It was bigger than any movie theater. It was bigger than a highway billboard. It was big.
You sat and watched this giant movie screen from the comfort of your automobile. I imagine some married folks took their kids to a drive-in but it was primarily a teenager thing to our generation. It was a meeting, greeting, hangout, drinking, dating thing. In fact, if you were born in the late 60s or 70s there is a good chance that you were conceived at a drive-in movie.
Many parents were aware of what went on sexually at drive-in movies and would not let their daughters accept a date to a drive-in movie. Strangely enough parents would let their daughters go to the drive-in with other girls. So cars full of girls would file in with cars full of boys bumping up behind them. Once inside the movie the cars would empty and then the passengers would rearrange themselves with the different sexes intermingling.
Boys and girls both would leave their vehicles and go “wandering.” Their goal was either to find somebody or be found by somebody.
One excuse for wandering was the refreshment stand. They would interrupt the movie periodically and play an ad for the refreshment stand. They played a little promotional jingle that was also enticing. “We’re going to the lobby; we’re going to the lobby; we’re going to the lobby; to get ourselves a treat.” They would show on the screen little cartoon characters marching joyously off to the refreshment stand. It looked like such fun we all just had to do it. Actually it was fun.
The food at the stand was all pre-prepared and wrapped or packaged in aluminum keep-hot bags. Nothing that I can remember was of a five star quality. But they had subs, hotdogs, hamburgers, meatball sandwiches, French fries, pizza slices, candy, popcorn, soda, coffee, cigarettes and whatever.
Underage boys also hunted older booze buyers and then would go to the drive-in to drink and party.
Metal poles held the speakers. Each car would have an individual speaker to pipe the sound into their auto.
Unfortunately for the drive-in theater owners sneaking into a drive-in became a sport. The customary practice was to hide as many kids in the trunk as possible. Two passengers in the front seat looked cool. A boy and a girl in the front sit was a sure thing and two girls was good. Two boys was a little embarrassing but usually got by.
One evening, me and a bunch of my buddies had gotten all of our goodies, gathered. We stopped at McGovern’s parking lot to draw straws and see who was going into the trunk. But when we tabulated all our capital, we only had enough for one fare. One boy driving a vehicle into a drive-in movie was not the best tactic - very suspicious. But we had no choice. Since it was my 1946 Desoto fluid drive that we were going in, I was elected the designated driver. I had a big trunk but on this occasion we had so many guys going into the trunk that they were nervous about locking the trunk completely - they didn’t want to become “asphyxiated.”
They all piled into the trunk and the last guy in held the trunk open slightly. I was to give them a warning shortly before we pulled in, at which point they would slam the trunk and lock it.
I anticipated a long line getting into the movie. I didn’t want the guys stuffed in the trunk to be locked in there too long. I decided to wait until just before I was pulling in to announce my warning. Just as I was crossing the highway leading up to the entrance, I slapped my left hand on the outside of the driver’s door and to make double sure they heard me I yelled out the window, “Okay, we’re pulling in.”
I heard the trunk slam. But no sooner did the trunk slam than there was a cop standing in my driveway. He had his hands on his hips and a very unhealthy look on his face. I came to a stop without hitting him. He slowly walked around my vehicle. When he finally ended up by the driver’s window I looked up. With my well rehearsed and practiced poker face I said. “Yes officer? Something wrong?”
He bent over and stuck his head in my little window. He glowed his flashlight, exploring my back seat. He pulled back up to a standing position and folded his arms across his chest. With a slight smirk he said, “Going to the movies by yourself, son?”
“Yeah,” I said. “My girlfriend’s sick and I really wanted to see this movie.”
“What’s the name of the movie tonight?” he asked, cynically.
“I stammered and stuttered and tried to see the billboard out the corner of my eye.”
“Okay son,” he said losing his smirk. “Turn this tub around and get the hell out of here.”
“Yes sir.”
By the time I got back to McGovern’s the guys in the trunk were screaming bloody murder. But I couldn’t stop the car on the highway or where the cop could still see me. Right? What the heck!
Nobody died. But the “trunk people” weren’t happy with me for a long, long time. Not happy at all.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published several books. Several of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle. His sixth book Noble Notes on Famous Folks is now on Amazon

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bloggin' Be My Life

The Eastpointer

Me and Dick Cheney

By Richard E. Noble

Dick Cheney appeared at a press conference a while back and he made a statement that stuck in my mind. One of the reporters made reference to his accumulated wealth and an implied lack of gratitude on his part. His response was that whatever he had, he had gotten on his own and certainly with no help from "the government." He was a self-made man was the implication that I understood.
Many people in the audience applauded his statement. Of course, in Mr. Cheney’s case, I felt it was rather an obnoxious statement. Here was a man who worked for the government most of his career and when he wasn't, he was working for corporations who were tied to the government from their navel to their butt hole. If there was anybody who made their fortune off this government and not despite this government, it was him.
I felt that if Mr. Cheney wanted to meet a real self-made man he should meet me.
I realize that I may not be all that great of a self-made man in terms of total wealth - or any wealth for that matter - but certainly everything that I accumulated was without the help of the "government."
I started working when I was eight or nine years old and nobody gave me anything.
I collected returnable bottles from the neighborhood. I shoveled show every winter and I set up duck pins at a local bowling alley - all before I was ten years old. That was pretty independent wasn't it?
But how independent is "independent"? I mean, if I had no neighbors, I couldn't have collected pop bottles or shoveled out peoples' driveways in the winter when it snowed. If there was no English Social Club with six or eight duck pin bowling alleys, I couldn't have made any money setting up pins. If there were no glassy-eyed semi-intoxicated patrons who wanted to bowl, even the presence of the alleys wouldn't have done me much good.
When I was eleven I got a paper route. More of the above applies to that job.
Then I went to work at the grocery store - more dependence on neighbors and shoppers and the A&P.
On top of all of that, before I could make any money at any of the above, I had to know how to count. When I was just five years old my mother carted me down to the corner school. There were a bunch of "volunteers" there who us kid mocked and ridiculed. They made me learn what I needed. And believe me they had to force it into me because from a very early age, I felt that I already knew more than I needed to know. Me and Henry Ford had a similar attitude when it came to book learning - who needs it!
Now these volunteers weren't really trying to help me - they were under the assumption that they were employed by God. And all the neighbors and the customers and patrons and the businesses and employers, they weren't trying to help me either. They needed somebody, and I just happened to be standing there.
But as independent and self-made as I think myself to be, I have never had any job or made a penny that was without the participation of others in my society - not one penny. And neither has Dick Cheney. Neither of us were a Denial Boone or Davy Crocket. We didn't survive in a wilderness nor did we make our way in a void.
I don't care what terms you use but we have all gotten what little we have because there were others around us who needed our efforts. No, this doesn't actually constitute love, but it does dispel independence to a degree.
Me and Dick Cheney are about as self-made as R2D2. If the inadequate system that surrounds us shuts down - we shut down. Try living with no electric and no water. Most of us can't even get by without a TV. Sometimes it is not such a great feeling to realize that we need others in order to survive, but it is a fact of life. We don't have to like this fact, but to deny it is to live in a delusion.
But Dick Cheney and me are not the only humans who are living in a delusion of independence.

Richard E. Noble has now published 6 books. They are available on Click on links on right, top on this blog. Richard is a freelance writer who has been living in Eastpoint for over thirty years. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business e-mail me at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Eastpointer

The Eastpoint breakwater

By Richard E. Noble
As we drive through Eastpoint these days I’m sure not too many of us give much thought to the Eastpoint breakwater. But it was constructed in Eastpoint during my stay here. Who would think that it would have been a controversial project? Who would think some oystermen, bay shrimpers and even some local seafood dealers would have been against it.
Why would any seafood worker be against a project to protect his boat?
It all stemmed from the seafood worker mythology. Seafood workers have long been paranoid about the “plot” of the greater prosperity encroaching on their little fishing village. Like all conspiracy theories when presented by opponents, it all sounds so ridiculous. But when one considers both coasts of Florida as used-to-be little fishing villages that have all been squeezed out by “prosperity” the Eastpoint mythology is not so easily dismissed.
Every new condo, every new development, every idea to bring more people to Franklin County was looked upon very suspiciously by the seafood community - and rightfully so.
But what harm could there be in a 3 to 5 million dollar breakwater to protect oyster boats and bay shrimp boats?
The first suspicion was obvious. Why would Tallahassee want to spend 3 to 5 million dollars to protest a few semi-worthless commercial fishing crafts? Tallahassee had never been known to harbor warm thoughts regarding Franklin County’s seafood industry. Franklin County in their opinion was filled with individuals without much concern for the rule of law.
The Big Boys must have a plan. They would get the Eastpointers to agree to this obvious boon and then start moving in the Chris Crafts and the Bay Liners. Very shortly no rickety, old oyster boats would be allowed to park behind the breakwater. Then the condos would start their construction across the street. Very shortly there would be no more Eastpoint, no more oyster boats, and no more bay shrimpers. Once again the seafood “Indians” would be looking for a new reservation. Where would the next reservation be - Alabama, Mississippi … North Dakota?
“They got plans for this here area,” we were told by other oystermen. “Just go down to the courthouse and take a look at the model.” And sure enough, down at the courthouse there was a model of what some folks thought Franklin County would look like one day in the future.
But wouldn’t a breakwater in Eastpoint be great? As it was, every time a little wind came up oystermen would be digging their boats and motors out along the shore. I had done it myself numerous times. But what could a breakwater do? What would happen when the water came over the breakwater? What about the sand buildup? A person could throw a washing machine (and many did) down on the beach and in a week or two it would be buried. Wouldn’t the breakwater just get buried? The answer was that it would have to be maintained by the COE. And how much would that cost? Why would any fool spend all this money to protect a bunch of oyster boats that could be bought brand new for $1000 to $1500 or bought secondhand for hundreds? Why not just put all that money into a fund and buy a fisherman a new boat whenever his got wrecked? Sure it sounds crazy. But was it any crazier than spending millions on a breakwater and it maintenance.
I think that I was catching for Willard Vinson at that time. He was also a County Commissioner. He was an avid supporter of the breakwater. I think there is a plaque down at the courthouse honoring Willard and others for their efforts in bringing the breakwater to Eastpoint.
When the new Porthaven development was approved in the back of my mind the old seafood mythology kept flashing.
There would be a marina and boat storage. The oyster boats and shrimp boats would be allowed perpetual harbor rights, the developers said. A little voice in my mind kept whispering, “Yeah sure, just like the public access to the Bob Sikes Cut.” We used to drive down to the Cut and fish off the rocks. A road was supposed to be maintained for the locals - forever.
Now the Porthaven Project is in the dumpster. Last week I saw some people cleaning up an old oyster house that had been shut down for years. This week I saw boats unloading at that dock. It seems that “prosperity” has taken a backward step and the seafood mythology has been put on hold. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know but it seems to be the way it is.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One Last Purrr

The Hobo Philosopher

One Last Purrr

By Richard E. Noble

When I was a kid I made only one trip to the Vet. I had a dog named Rex that had to be “put to sleep.”

The dog got sick and died because it didn’t get its shots, the Vet said. My dad didn’t say anything. He was standing right there next to me. Did he know that a puppy had to have shots or it might die from “distemper”?

I’m sure he did, but he didn’t have enough money. So why did he let me have a dog? Because I begged and begged and begged.

There were times that we didn’t have money for the rent. Why would we be wasting money on shots for dogs?

No money … it is worse than a disease.

When my wife and I moved into our first apartment my niece gave us our first cat. From that time on we have always had a cat as a pet. There were times when we didn’t have much money. Our cats have had a lot of close calls. If they got sick they had to tough it out.

We came to Eastpoint and prospered. By many people’s standards we didn’t prosper all that much. But by our standards we did well. Now that we are growing old and even though we have more money than we have ever had in our lives – it is not enough. We are back to pinching pennies and doing without.

I remember eating with an older friend and some other folks in a restaurant one evening. One of the diners at our table complained that his meat was tough. My old buddy laughed and said, “It’s tougher when you ain’t got any.” That’s right.

Up until the other day we had four cats – sometimes we have had as many as seven. They have all been strays. We live on the outside of town and people drop off their unwanted animals in our area. When we first settled here there was no humane society – there was us and the city dump.

There was always a Vet in Eastpoint. But over the years things have just gotten more and more expensive. Through no fault of his own, pet health care has skyrocketed just like people health care.

Between wellness exams, flea treatments and health smart pet food, we’re talking money, now.
Because of the current economic situation, creeping living costs, and our personal health expenses, the cats are back to being backdoor strays once again.

They will stay healthy or they will die.

Last week we brought one of our cats down to the Vet to be put to sleep. He could have lived longer but we couldn’t afford the treatment.

I read that many people are in the same situation. People are dropping pets off at the shelters – even some pedigrees. Oprah can’t understand it. She shakes her head and rolls her eyes. How could anyone stop caring for their pet?

We will not be adopting any new pets. We have three kitties left. One is 15 years old. The one we just put to sleep was about 15 years old also. It hurts, to look into their trusting eyes and know that you are not doing right by them.

I think of my dad standing next to me at the Vet’s office and listening to the Vet explain that the reason Rex died was because he didn’t get his basic shots. My father didn’t apologize to me or the dog.

For two weeks before I took Sallie’s Cat to be put to sleep at the Vet’s office, I kept apologizing. I kept hugging him and holding him, and hoping that he would purr for me. He always purred. He purred so loudly that the Vet could hardly hear his heart beating through his stethoscope.

But old Sallie’s Cat just couldn’t purr for me. I thought if he would just purr a little that would be a sign that there was no hard feelings. But he wouldn’t purr.

I feed him by hand with a syringe for his last three or four days. He wouldn’t drink and he wouldn’t eat on his own. I took him for walks around the yard. He cooperated with me for those last days but then refused to even swallow. It was time. He was emaciated. I called the vet's office but I couldn't speak. I finnaly choaked out the bad news and made an appointment.

I couldn’t find the heart to put him into his carrying cage when the hour arrived. I carried him out to the car. I placed him on the seat next to me. He didn’t make a sound. I backed out of the yard and started down the road.

Suddenly I heard a rumbling noise. I thought he was choking. I reached over and put my hand on his side to comfort him. He was purring so hard his ribs were rattling. I couldn’t believe it. He had stopped purring weeks ago. I had held him up to my ear every day to listen – but nothing.

He purred all the way to the Vet’s office and right up to the front door.
I petted him and rubbed him under his chin as the vet gave him his overdose. I was the last thing he saw before the light left his eyes.
Unfortunately there is no pleasant way to die.
I do apologize my little friend. You were a real trooper. I’m so sorry. I wish I could have done better but thanks for the purr. I really needed to hear you do that one last time. Thank you so very, very much.

Richard E. Noble is a freelance writer and has lived in Franklin County for about 30 years. He has published several books. You can find them all on Amazon or by contacting the author at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Come Home America

THE Hobo Philosopher

Come Home, America

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

I have made it a point to read all of Mr. Greider’s Books. I find him to be an honest interpreter of current events. I consider him my civics teacher. He has been all over the world and has a big overview of what is happening. He knows banking. He knows economics. He knows Washington politics. He knows world trade. He knows people. And he knows and respects all of us “little” regular folks. And most important of all he has and is concerned with moral character – right and wrong; fair and unfair - what the old school once called “Social Justice.”

I was very surprised to read in this book that Mr. Greider was a product of a Republican upbringing. He states that if his back was put to the wall he would choose Democrat over Republican. I don’t have to have my back to the wall to make the same choice – yet I find myself often as critical of both sides as Mr. Greider.

I think Mr. Greider has come to the age where he feels any beating around the bush to be a waste of his valuable time. In this book he is very open with regards to his motivation, his goals and his dreams for America.

He has covered the Washington political scene and found our elected representatives less than inspiring. He has covered lobbying and the moneyed interests and their hold on our system. He has written an exhausting book on the Federal Reserve. He has been hired to speak to bankers by the bankers. He has been warning of this economic and financial disaster for years. He has challenged the top economist on their principles – especially Free Trade and the Global economy. He has found little hope anywhere in the established system but yet he remains strong to his commitment to a personal optimism. He compares his long and frustrating career to that of a bag lady standing on a corner somewhere in America, screeching to a crowd as they zoom by, unaware and unconcerned.

But who does he place his trust in if not the Fed, the president, the Senate, the Congress, the bankers, the CEOs and CFOs, the corporate giants, the international conglomerates, the boldest and brightest, the movers and shakers? Who is there left?

Mr. Greider places his faith in “we” the people – all the people and democracy. Democracy doesn’t scare him. He loves it - the more the better. He compares “we, the people” to an underground river. A river that rolls along beneath the surface. A river that is sometimes dry and sometimes a raging torrent. A river of people’s varying opinions and ideas, a river of support, outrage and often society changing currents. Mr. Greider sees that river rising in America today. He wants to see it flood its caverns and fill our country with hope, change and, most of all, action.

In this book Mr. Greider cheers for an American Democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. He doesn’t know how the people will do it. He doesn’t know what they will actually do but in true optimist tradition he is hoping that today’s underground river will swell into a deluge of change and moral economic character, true patriotism, and social justice. He wants to see a new focus on America and its people. Not isolationist but realistic and sensible – sensible to all of its citizens and not just the wealthy, the bankers, the stock brokers, and all the pointy-headed intellectuals and international investors.

When Mr. Greider says “Come Home, America” that is exactly what he means – Come Home America! Come home all of you Americans and bring your ingenuity, your inventive spirit, your investment capital, your love of your own, and let’s rebuild this country into something that we all can be proud of as Americans.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Eastpointer

Old wood, used tin and bent nails

Richard E. Noble

My wife and I are “frugal.” I would say that we gained our frugality from our Hobo-ing America extravaganza. But I know that is not true. I learned thriftiness in my childhood at home. It was embedded into my being.
When Carol and I were Hobo-ing America we ate what we picked. We had tomato, cucumber, radish, green pepper, sweet onion or apple and bacon sandwiches till they were coming out of our ears.
We gathered fish bait on the fishing piers or cut up our first caught fish to use as bait. We scavenged in the trash cans or used old bait someone left on a rock or piling. We stopped at the Goodwill for frying pans, cups, glasses and old clothes. We cooked on a wood fire to save on Coleman fuel.
When we became settlers in Eastpoint it was no different. For example, after every storm the beach would be littered with boards from docks or piers. It did not seem the least bit strange to us, that we should go picking up wood along the beaches after a storm. We spent our days working on the oyster boat with our tongs picking up nickels and dimes off the bay bottom. Why should we be timid about picking up $3.00 or $5.00 pieces of wood sitting abandoned on the beach? So what if they had a few nails in them. We gathered plywood and any tin we found floating around also.
I bought a nail puller and in our spare time we pulled nails from our boards. We straightened the nails and sorted them by size and put them in coffee cans. We made additions to our trailer - decks, porches, outbuildings - with driftwood boards, bent tin with holes, and old straightened nails.
If you have ever constructed anything with used tin, old planks and bent nails, you know that there are perils involved in this type construction that a typical carpenter does not run into.
Your deck often looks like a patchwork quilt of various sized planks. When your tin has a plethora of pre-existing holes you had better have a long overhang on your roof eaves and plenty of black mammy tar.
But using the bent nails brings back some very painful memories. A pre-bent nail has the tendency to bend again when you hit it. You must be very careful. And you don’t want to use one of those cheap Chinese round-headed hammers. Oh my!
I must admit it was somewhat amusing to watch Carol hopping around like an Arapaho doing the traditional rain dance, squeezing her thumb and chanting in a foreign tongue. But when my thumb became the target, it wasn’t all that amusing.
We had developed the technique of holding the bent nail with a pair of pliers. But as will happen, confidence soared and the pliers would be set to the side and whammo.
One day I had smacked my thumb so hard, it turned instantly purple, then black with a daub of blood red here and there. I threw down the hammer and made an announcement. “Carol, I am going down to Western Auto right now and I am going to buy a box of brand new, never used before nails.” Carol’s eyes widened to the size of saucers.
“Really! That was the last pre-bent nail that I am ever going to attempt to strike. From now on it is new shiny, never used before, flat headed, straight nails.”
“Can I go with you?” Carol stuttered excitedly.
Carol couldn’t believe that I would really do it. We had cans full of old straightened nails sitting in the shed. Would I be willing to just toss all those hours of nail straightening into the trash heap of past bad decisions? She was not used to seeing me in such a reckless state of mind. She was squirming in her seat with excitement as we headed down to Western Auto.
We bought new nails - several boxes - all different sizes.
It was thrilling to return home and start back on our project with brand new nails. It was so easy. There was no challenge to it. We finished our job in nothing flat!
“Using new nails sure makes things faster and easier,” Carol said. “Do you think that we will ever get to the point where we will buy new wood and new tin?” she asked.
“Carol, let’s not let our imaginations get the better of us. We are not going to toss our hand in to the God of conspicuous consumption. Try and control yourself and let’s not lose our common sense and our personal, lifelong commitment to the sensibleness of a thrifty Eastpointer lifestyle…”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t go crazy. A few new nails is one thing but new boards and new 10 dollar a sheet tin is quite another.”

Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. He has published 14 books and they are all for sale on If you would like to stock any of his books in your store or business contact Richard at

For the philosophically minded these books may interest you. Thanks

The Hobo Philosopher

My Philosophy in a nut shell

By Richard E. Noble

After reading and studying philosophy for over 40 years, I think I finally have one – a philosophy, that is. I am aware that most people do not like reading philosophy. I think I can explain my philosophy briefly.
All humans arrive here on the planet or as a part of this universe from the “unknown.” We are not born worrying about this fact but it gradually presents itself to us as we grow and mature. Although we learn love and kindness and many other positive things, we all become aware of death, dying, pain, hate, cruelty and suffering. As human thought has evolved, there has been one answer that has been accepted almost universally. With all of life’s positive attributes taken into consideration, life is understood to be a punishment. All religions have taught this to an extent and have developed “fables” or theories of explanation. We are all indoctrinated into one of these theories as children.
The acceptance of life as a punishment, though logical, injects a questionable premise. Who is punishing us and why.
It is logical to accept that life is a punishment because of many factors – death, disease, pain suffering and so on. Couple this with the fact that life for the most part is predatory – one living thing eating another in order to survive and we have a real case for cruelty and thus punishment.
The notion of punishment presupposes a punisher. If we are truly being punished who is doing the punishing and why? Now enters the Creator, God and a host of other possible but nevertheless imaginary characters.
The entire body of religious thought has as its main objective, the presentation of an answer to this hypothesis. Religion accepts the premise of punishment and tries to supply an answer.
The story in the Bible is the most popular religious explanation but there are others. One could spend a lifetime exploring these endless attempts to explain the punishment premise. You can find them, I will move on.
If life is a punishment this notion implies a “punisher.” Now the next question is, Who is punishing us and why.
The term God has been established as the source of this power to punish us and as a source of all things. There has developed the notion that there is a God who has established all things. This God is to be feared and admired.
Philosophers have been arguing over this premise for centuries.
I have come to accept the arguments that consider this premise of God to be impossible. There are numerous arguments but Bertrand Russell’s seems to be the briefest an most concise. Bertrand felt that if there is such a thing as a Creator or God who has established all things in the universe, then this God must also be credited with the evil of pain, death, predation suffering, natural disasters and all the abuses of this existence also. Therefore this God, with a multitude of positive attributes, must also be credited with the creation of all that is evil as well as all that is good. Bertrand concludes that he does not chose to accept the notion of an evil God – a God who has created evil must be considered evil, certainly in part.
For myself when I think how life sustains itself off other life (let’s call it, the Vampire Syndrome as opposed to the euphemism the Food Chain), I am appalled to think that anyone could believe that a charitable God could have created such a system of survival. Certainly if there were an intelligent, compassionate source behind the “creation” of this universe, he could have thought up a kinder, gentler system. If I go in the other direction and conclude from this that God is actually evil, then what?
If that is the case and God is evil, then there is nothing to be done and nothing that can be done. We will all simply have to sit and wait for the next disaster to come down on us. More hardship after death would be fearful, but what can be done about it? And what good would it do us to bow down to an evil God. A truly evil God could care less if we worship him or we don’t. So even if God is and he is evil life goes on. One must do what one thinks one must do. I have always chosen to fight evil. So if God is evil I guess that I will be fighting him until he has had enough of me and casts me into oblivion or annihilation. And that is fine with me – as long as I have a choice in the matter.
These arguments can go on endlessly and each individual makes his or her own choice. I chose to believe that the notion of God is impossible. I not only think that the notion of God is impossible I think that most religious explanations and justifications are childishly ridiculous. I am tired of even discussing them. It is time for the human race to move on. But move onto what? What now? If we eliminate God, what is left?
Everything is left. The entire universe is left. The question of how we got here is left. The question of where are we going is left. The question of human self-awareness is left. The question of cognition is left. All the bonds of living things are left. The question of a future after death is left. The only thing that has been cancelled out is an incorrect supposition, a fanciful unfounded mistake, a whole body of tons and tons of misdirected enquiry and false premises.
But this is nothing new; Copernicus and Ptolemy come to mind, along with phlogiston, the aether and many other misguided notions from the past. The centuries of misdirected Ptolemaic enquiry and the stacks and stacks of misinformation have to be discarded. It is time for a new direction - a new intelligent course of enquiry. Religions and their Gods have served to provide the enquiring mind with a vast body of accumulated, cherished and prized incorrect answers to the same, ancient basic questions. What remains are the questions – who, what, where, how and why.
We still ask where we came from. We still ask how the universe spawned cognitive creatures. We can still ask what the purpose of these creatures are. It could very well be that life has no purpose other than what we each give to it. What was the purpose of the dinosaur? To provide future generations of humans with oil so that they could use it to pollute the atmosphere and corrupt the ecological balance of the planet and thus destroy themselves and their civilization? So what if there is no purpose to existence? Does this change the goals of our individual lives? Does this make those who have an urge to succeed no longer want to fulfill that urge? Does it make the writer no longer want to write? Does it make a joke less funny? The realization of a mistake in human thinking only serves to spur on a proper enquiry. So let’s move on, please, for God’s sake let’s move on.
Once we come to the conclusion that there is no God we are then free to once again seek the truth. The fact of life becomes an inevitable and blameless situation. We could blame our parents if we are unhappy, but we don’t really know if they were not to have spawned us that someone or something else would have. If we accept the notion that all matter and energy are interchangeable and eternal, then the case may be that we are and have always been and will continue to be in one form or another for ever and ever. In other words, our parents didn’t have all that much to do with it. Existence is inevitable and permanent.
Now what about our awareness of a particular existence? What about our memory of previous or future existences? What about life? Our bodies turn to dust and our life force rejoins the universe and we are once again anonymous.
A whole new area of discovery and speculation is opened up when we stop accepting false answers to the question of existence. So, as I said, let’s move on. After death we will be aware or we won’t be aware. If we are unaware, then it doesn’t matter. If we are aware then we will be onto a new adventure – and we will have to deal with it, just as we have been forced to deal with this existence. And I am sure each of us will cope. There is no choice in existence. Existence is, it always was and it always will be. What part our present selves will play in future existence is to be discovered. There is no choice. There is only wait and see or don’t see as the case may be.

Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on He can be contacted at 1-850-670-8076 or for bookstore discounts and volume sales.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Hobo Philosopher

The Atomic Bomb

By Richard E. Noble

To our many veterans and World War II veterans in particular, an important transition has just taken place. Commander Tibbetts of Enola Gay fame has died just recently. Both he and President Harry S Truman expressed their opinion that they never lost a night of sleep over their part in dropping Atomic Bombs on Japan to conclude World War II.
The controversy concerning dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan is over whether we should have killed a few hundred thousand Japanese civilians or let an equal number of American soldiers die on the shores and coast lines of the Japanese mainland, right?
Wrong. According to the history books that I have been reading and I have been reading no secret documents, or CIA hidden files. I have been reading the basic books by a variety of writers and historians. It seems to be common historical knowledge that the Japanese had been trying to surrender prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They had petitioned the Russians to act as an intermediary for them. They had the correct suspicion that after Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, and their treatment of captured Americans, the U.S. of A. might not be too sympathetic. In any case, the Russians who still remembered their own Japanese sneak attack a few wars earlier at Port Arthur were really not overly tender hearted with regard to the "Japs" either. BUT, it is said that the message that the Japanese wanted to surrender was conveyed to the Americans and to President Truman and his advisors. But the Japanese had a stipulation to their surrender. They would only surrender if the Americans would promise not to humiliate the Emperor. Supposedly Harry Truman was informed of this request, and it was denied on the grounds that the U.S. would accept nothing less than an unconditional surrender.
Next a group of scientists requested that Harry drop a practice Atomic bomb on some deserted spot, for the Japanese to observe, with the implicit message that you better look a' here, because this could be you. Supposedly Harry refused this request due to lack of time, money, and atomic bombs.
In any case, we all know what happened next. The United States goes down in the History books as the only country to ever nuke anybody.
A very interesting non-judgmental book depicting this horror is "Hiroshima" by John Hershey. Hershey makes no judgments about the decision but follows the tragic lives of several of the survivors from ground zero. The blast of the bomb actually melted the eyeballs of people and pealed the flesh from their faces - and these live corpses were still walking around days and weeks after the explosion. It is a difficult book to read but very worthwhile.
But war is Hell, and most World War II vets heartily agree with the decision - better them than me, they all justifiably hail. The only problem is that was not the choice - it would not have been them in either case, it seems.
One thing that bothers me about the whole deal is that after the bombs are dropped and the hated Japs surrender, does MacArthur go in, grab Hirohito by the ears, bring him to the top of the tallest temple in town and throw the little bugger off, head first as we could have expected would have been done to Adolf?
No. No he doesn't. In fact, Hirohito doesn't even have to appear at the signing of the surrender. Hirohito doesn't even have to announce to the Japanese people that he is not God, or God's immediate descendent. He does make such an announcement later, on his own, and without provocation, but nobody forces him. On top of all that he gets a "pension" from the U.S. Government (via the American taxpayers). Can you imagine if we gave Adolf Hitler a pension so that he could continue living in the style that he was accustomed?
But why didn't they execute the Emperor?
MacArthur told Truman that the occupation would be much simpler and less troublesome if the Emperor were treated with respect and dignity. Humiliating the Japanese Emperor would have been comparable to crucifying Jesus in the eyes of the Japanese people, said Mac.
Now that seems all right to me also, but if that was going to be the attitude why didn't Harry accept or acknowledge the overtures made by the Japanese to the Ruskies in the first place? And why didn't Mac tell the president of this opinion in the first place? No more Americans would have died, hundreds of thousands of non-combatant Japanese civilians (old women and children) would not have been incinerated, and the United States of America would not go down into the History books as the only people in the History of mankind to ever use a weapon of such indiscriminate destructive power and horror.
The latest book that I have read on this subject by Gar Alperovitz analyzes this whole thing in detail. On the back of the book Mr. Alperovitz has quotes from General Eisenhower, Admiral Leahy and General "Hap" Arnold who all made their opinions known to Truman that they disagreed with the use of the Bomb. They all thought that it was unnecessary and a disgrace to the name and reputation of the United States.
This book (along with many others) suggests the notion that the bomb was actually dropped for political reasons. Chief among those political reasons being the basic cold war and Iron Curtain anti-Communist attitudes proliferated by Churchill, Byrnes, Truman and other right-wing conservatives and liberals of the day. They wanted to frighten Stalin and intimidate the pro-Communists Asian continent.
The bomb cost 2 billion to produce and there is also mention of the economic justification to the American public. This seems rather ludicrous when we analyze the expenditures of war these days and the "justification" of these expenditures to the American taxpayer. What justification?
I guess that we could say that this is all ancient history and so it is. I just wish that both Harry Truman and Commander Tibbetts didn't say that their parts in this human tragedy didn't even cost them one night loss of sleep.
Whether necessary to save American lives or not - it should have cost any human being a few nights of lost sleep. It does me and I had nothing to do with it. To drop a bomb that incinerates hundreds of thousands of civilians – old men, women and children – I should think is a horrible burden for anyone to sleep with.

Richard E. Noble is an author and has published several books:A Summer with Charlie, Hobo-ing America, Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, The Eastpointer, A Little Something, and Noble Notes on Famous Folks. They are all for sale on

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Lawrence - My Hometown

The Cedar Crest Restaurant

By Richard E. Noble
The Cedar Crest Restaurant must be considered another Lawrence landmark. I don’t know if it is still in business but I know that it was going strong just a few years back. I know because I had a customer down here in the Florida Panhandle who was from Lawrence. He was a “snowbird” as they call such folks down here. He came for the winter. He would give me a report every year on what was happening up in Lawrence.
The Cedar Crest was a diner on one side and a sit-down family restaurant on the other. It was a neat place. As a child I ate there only once. My family didn’t have much money and we didn’t eat out often. In fact, that one meal that we had at the Cedar Crest is the only childhood dining out experience that I can remember. My father who had been working as a Merchant Marine finally got a local job working at the new Merit gas station on Broadway across from the Arlington Mill. It was a big event. My father hated going off to sea. To find local employment was monumental. He wanted to give us all a treat. We got spiffied up in our Sunday clothes and we were off to the Cedar Crest.
I got fried chicken. After I finished my chicken the waitress brought me a bowl. The bowl had lemons floating in it. My mother often made me a drink with lemons in it when I was sick with a cold. I couldn’t understand why they had put my hot lemon drink in a bowl as opposed to a cup. I picked it up with both hands and started to drink it. It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t sweet. The waitress leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You don’t drink it, honey. You wash your fingers in it.”
As workingmen me and my two buddies, Jack Sheehy and Frank Duchnowski ate in the diner side of the Cedar Crest often. We would meet there after work. We even had a favorite waitress. She became our favorite because of one incident.
We had rushed in at supper time after cleaning somebody’s cellar or something. The waitress brought our menus. We each picked up a menu and she stopped instantly. “What have you guys been doing?” she asked. We all looked at one another curiously. What did she care what we were doing? That wasn’t a typical waitress question.
“Well, it doesn’t really matter what you’ve been doing. You guys ain’t ordering anything until you get into that bathroom and wash your hands.”
“What are you my mother?” Dutchy protested.
“Don’t give me none of that. Get into that bathroom and wash your hands or it’s no supper for any of you.”
The three of us looked at each other. Dutch shrugged, then got up and headed for the bathroom, mumbling - me and Jack followed.
I guess we liked the personal attention because we asked for that waitress from then on. When she came to our table we would all hold out our hands for her inspection. She would nod her approval and then take our orders. I must admit, I thought that Dutch would fail inspection on many of those occasions.
My last visit to the Cedar Crest was a long time coming. I had been gone for Lawrence for at least 20 years. My wife and I decided to give the old hometown a tour and look up some relatives. I had this rather strange aunt. My father used to say that she had the first penny that she ever earned. We called her and she suggested a meeting at the Cedar Crest for lunch. “The prices are cheaper at lunch time, you know,” she advised.
We met outside the restaurant on Broadway. My aunt immediately headed for the diner side of the restaurant. “No, no,” I said. “This is a special occasion. Let’s celebrate and eat in the fancy side.” Again she warned that on the fancy side the prices were higher. It took some persuading but finally she surrendered.
We had a surprisingly good time. I got the oven roast beef. My wife got the pot roast. I hadn’t had an oven roast beef in years. Everything was great. Unfortunately there was no waitress checking the cleanliness of our hands, but it still felt like home. We discussed the “good old days” and then we were off.
I would like to eat at the Cedar Crest one more time but I’m afraid it won’t happen. Either I will be gone or it will be gone before too long. But it was certainly fun while it lasted.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry -parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.

Friday, May 01, 2009


James Abram Garfield (president from 1881-1881)

By Richard E. Noble

At nineteen Garfield becomes a Disciple of Christ, a minister, preacher, and defender of the faith. In 1858, James had a well publicized debate with a man by the name of John Denton. Denton was an evolutionist, one of the many who preceded Charles Darwin and his famous "Origins of the Species." Public debate, orations, and conversations were a very popular form of entertainment of the day. In a five day debate James was able to hold his own against the well prepared, well educated, thirty-seven year old, Denton, from England.
James Garfield is an American tragedy. He is a Civil War veteran and officer, a successful politician, a grand debater, public speaker, preacher and educator. He got the Republican Party nomination, basically as a reaction against the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant. Garfield hadn't even put his name in the running, and complained when it was brought up without his consent.
Ulysses Grant had two extremely controversial terms, filled with corruption, graft and dirty dealing of one nature or another. Grant though, was still loved and admired by the people and had recently returned from a very popular and successful jaunt around the world.
Garfield wasn't even in the running, but by the end of thirty-six ballots at the convention, somehow he emerged as the Republican choice. The Democrats have their own General, Winfield Scott Hancock. He is a rather lack-luster type, and the only real controversy seemed to be between the moderates and the extremist in the Republican Party. After just serving four months as president, a man by the name of Charles Guiteau, steps up behind Garfield at a Washington train station and shoots him in the back. One bullet gets lodged somewhere; but where, no one knows. The tragedy isn't that Garfield dies from this senseless attack, though this is case enough, but that he dies, like George Washington, from the incompetence of his doctors and the medical practices of the day.
The doctors fearing that the bullet is lodged in some dangerous spot keep probing and searching for it. Infections from unsanitary conditions and surgical practices set in, and Garfield dies after two and a half months of doctor probing and poking. What a shame.
It seems that this post Civil War period does not only involve a reconstruction of the South, but a reconstruction of the North and the Federal government as well. The Grant administration was a horror. Though Hayes was a supposed return to righteousness, corruption, controversy and violence were bubbling up everywhere. Wage earners were organizing and rioting, super wealthy railroad barons and industrialist were flexing their muscle, blacks were emerging with their new found freedom, the KKK was countering with lynching and murder, ideas like communism, socialism, woman's rights, planned parenthood, birth control, Darwinism, atheism, white supremacy and anarchism were on the rise. There was a lot going on between 1840 and the First World War, and most of it was violent.
James Garfield seems a hapless victim of the violent times. The nation was still in controversy. The federal government was split. The Republican Party was split. The Democrats were trying to recuperate and re-establish themselves in the South. The political spoils system was rampant. Hayes had promised reform, but couldn't deliver. Garfield's assassin, a disgruntled political, claims he shot Garfield on behalf of the virtuous vice president Chester A. Arthur who would restore honesty and fair play to government.