Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Ken Neal!!
September 26, 2012

Round the Clock
by Troy Gordon
The Tulsa World
September 27, 1975

My longtime friend and punching bag, Ken Neal, went over the hill Friday.

No, it wasn't an escape. He turned 40. And there were a considerable number of people in the newsroom who wanted to rub it in.

That's not a sign of dislike. The attitude of most newsrooms is loose and insulting. I suppose news people deal with so many different kinds of news - much of it sad - that we take it out on each other.

It's a matter of being too old to cry and too sad to laugh. So we get rid of our frustrations speaking frankly.

Fortunately, most of the people in the newsroom are reasonable, and it works well.

Herb Karner, Riley Wilson and I - three of the elder statesmen - searched the city for the worst looking rocking chair to present to the middle-aged whippersnapper.

We found it and sneaked back to the World. We took it up to the executive floor and hit it at the end of a corridor.

Later we decided we could sneak it into the women's room, on the theory that Ken probably wouldn't go in there.

By then I found the chair was in the office of our publisher, Byron V. Boone.  I offered to move the rocker and Boone said he'd rather leave it right there.

I must have registered disbelief, for he added:  "I'm having too much fun with it."

I gathered that people coming in to see him were intrigued by this eyesore in an otherwise beautiful office. So I agreed. Obviously nobody would find it.

Some years ago, employees were awarded their birthdays off. But Friday was payday too, and Ken had to come in for his check. And we were waiting for him.

In addition to the horrible rocker, there were a couple of verses.  Mine was short and to the point:

          Ken, Ken
          I Knew You When

Julie Blakely, another friend of the new elder citizen, had to leave early so she left this verse:

          Ode To Ken Neal on the occasion of his 40th, count 'em, 40th birthday.
          by Julie St. Blakely

          Happy Birthday OLD Ken Neal, 
          Oh, ancient one, minus sex appeal
          Where there's a way there may be a will
          But from now on it's all downhill.
          My mother has told me of times like this
          When you may have the urge but not the strength to kiss
          Your hair turns gray, your walk is feeble,
          Let's say you've had it, Evil Kennealvil.
          Your peers, with great effort and expense
          Brought you a gift as recompense
          For leading the way to the life beyond 40
          May you always be hale and sometimes hearty
          Now that you're revered as venerable
          Try and recall when your days were sinner able
          Sit and rock and call your youth --
          It's ancient history but tell the truth
          Next you'll be 50 and then 60 and then BINGO!
          You just have time to repent your sins before you go.

I must say it was successful, and - apparently - just in time.

Ken's over there sitting in the rocking chair with a happy look on his face.

I just hope it isn't the first symptom of senility.

In return for my use of the material created for his birthday, Ken insisted that I use his definition of a "Mature Biological Community."

"That," he says, "is when Julie Blakely stops by to visit with Troy."

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