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Smart Talk, Dec. 3



New angle on Central High


Room for one more Central High School book on your bookshelf?

Security guards at Central High have combined for the self-published, “Grand Central: The Untold Story.” Lead authors are Floyd Smith and Rev. Benny Johnson, with contributions from Jackie Fells and Keith Monts.

Smith's voice is poignant as he tells of seeing Central as “The Castle” as a student in still-segregated Little Rock elementary schools, then a part of the great wave of busing and school assignment plans that set in motion events that still roil public schools.

It's a heartfelt, if choppy account of the Smith's own school days, high school sports and the headline-making events at Central during his years on the security detail — fights, gangs, racial tensions, principals good and bad (one very bad indeed). Smith's emotional account of watching President Clinton pay tribute to the Little Rock Nine in 1997 provides an uplifting close, along with an exhortation to kids who still face tough obstacles to get a decent education. “The Greek statues that represent Ambition, Personality, Opportunity and Preparation are still the keepers of The Castle.” The book costs $22, plus $5 for shipping at Smith's or from Trafford Publishing,


Engagement for real


Mainstream media reported last spring that Chelsea Clinton, the former president's daughter, was to wed in the summer of 2009. She didn't and apparently never had plans to do so.

Outlook is more promising for the summer of 2010. Chelsea, 29, and her fiance, Mark Mevzinsky, sent e-mails to friends that they'd become engaged over Thanksgiving and were looking to the summer for marriage. Both live in New York City. They kept the lid on this news longer than is often the case in the political big leagues. Friends got the news the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving. It didn't hit mainstream media until roughly 60 hours later, with an ABC report Monday morning.


Missing detail


When a gas explosion and fire destroyed the home of E.J. and Flo Cato in southern Little Rock Nov. 24, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sent a feature writer to chronicle the remarkably sunny way in which the Catos handled their devastation. Things can be replaced, Flo told reporters. Angels were watching over them, she said, as they fled the house safely.

Papa and Nona Cato have much to be happy for — 70 years of marriage, a loving family and independent living at 94 (Papa) and 85 (Flo). But the writer missed something. Flo Cato is one of the town's most prolific writers of letters to the editor, her trade mark “ha!” often punctuating a concise and breezy dismissal of a dishonest politician. A longtime friend of the Times, Flo's loyalties are clear and unwavering. A sample from a letter written during the 2008 presidential campaign:

“We say that we believe in separation of church and state, yet in this campaign it seems that the deciding factor is who is the most religious. They are not running for pope. The president is president of all the people, believers and non-believers.

“I don't understand why lots of people seem to think that Mike Huckabee is so religious. He left the ministry and went into politics. He was called to preach or he wasn't. If he wasn't, he had a lot of Baptists fooled. The Bible says no man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

“Remember when Republicans were going to put this great Christian leader in the White House, George W. Bush? We have been misled from day one. We heard that there was no doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Sure, Hillary voted to support the president. You expect the president to tell you the truth. We later found out it was all a big lie.”

Somebody please replace Flo's typewriter, quick.


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