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Monday 31 January 2022

The 'Accidental' War Correspondent Who Scored a Scoop with Her Typewriter in Korea

Patricia Corinne Scott was a 21-year-old student when in the spring of 1952 she boarded the American Mail Lines freighter the Java Mail (previously the USS Grafton. a Bayfield-class attack transport) in Seattle and sailed for Tokyo. Not even her family and friends in Battle Ground, Washington, knew she had gone, and wouldn't find out until her byline started to appear in major US newspapers six months later. Scott was following her heart, not her mind, and on sailing out of Seattle would not for one solidary second have thought she was soon going to become a war correspondent in Korea. “Yes,” she recalled in her memoir Arirang Pass (2006), “of course there was a man involved in my foolishness. Much older, glib, colorful and rebellious. A veteran OSS officer [Office of Strategic Services, a US intelligence agency] from World War II and a perennial volunteer for any and all skirmishes.” The older man was Douglas B. Martin (1922-2006) of Long Beach, California, who was serving with the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the Seventh Division in Korea.

In Tokyo Pat Scott met a fellow Portlander, the journalist Taneyoshi Koitabashi, by then editor of the English language newspaper The Nippon Times (which in 1956 would revert its masthead to The Japan Times). Nothing if not brash and headstrong, Scott responded to Koitabashi’s invitation to write for the Times back page by suggesting she provide a column from the frontlines in Korea. She said she had “cut my baby teeth on the front line dispatches of Ernie Pyle and the up front photography of Margaret Bourke-White” [during World War II]. With United Nations Command accreditation and Nippon Times sponsorship, Scott reached Korea. She was outfitted with fatigues and boots and provided with military orders authorising her to use transport and accommodation equivalent to a field grade officer’s privileges. “Carrying only a camera and a typewriter I [caught] a military transport out of the serenity of Japan … and dropped a few hours later into the most profound episode of culture shock of my entire life.” Scott set up base in the Press Billets in Seoul. Over the entrance to the billets bar was a sign saying, “Through these portals crawl some of the best reporters in the world.” Scott suddenly found herself among them. But being the only woman there was deemed unsuitable by other journalists, and Scott was soon transferred to the Fifth Air Force to share accommodation with Red Cross workers and civilian secretaries to air force generals. This had the unexpected benefit of freeing Scott from “formal briefings, sanitised photos and polished status reports”, and she was about the find herself on the frontlines. She sneered at what she termed "crawling reporters" still languishing back in Seoul.

Scott with Van Fleet.

The Press Corps in Seoul weren’t long in realising they had been upstaged by a female greenhorn. Scott’s columns to The Nippon Times had been picked up by the major news agencies and published in the US, to Scott's surprise but the delight of a reading public sick of “sterile status reports”. Pulled into line by James Alward Van Fleet (1892-1992), the four-star general who had replaced General Matthew B. Ridgway as commander of the US Eighth Army and United Nations forces in Korea after General MacArthur’s recall to the US, Scott had nonetheless “touched Van Fleet’s heart” with her reporting. She told US officers she didn't report battles, but wrote about people.

Scott tells this wonderful story about her typewriter in Arirang Pass:

A young Korean girl named Shin Du Ki cleans our rooms at the billet. She works long hours. We are to pay her in Korean won which are almost worthless. Like most Americans coming to this theater, I have heard horror stories about thievery and banditry in Korea. I’ve been prepped with suspicion, and not just by fellow Americans. Japanese friends from Hokkaido to Yokohama assure me Koreans are behind every criminal conspiracy in Japan, from gambling to dope smuggling to murder. Goro Murata, the business manager for The Nippon Times, bids me farewell with a warning to keep everything I own under lock and key. No one trusts Koreans.

Adrift in a lawless land, I take the warnings seriously. My room is padlocked during my frequent absences. I even padlock it when I shower. But Shin Du Ki has a key. Will anything be here when I return? My room is always clean and secure when I return. I begin to relax.

My assets are pathetically few. A change of fatigues, a pair of boots, a poncho for the monsoon rains, a camera [Rolleicord], a typewriter, changes of socks and underwear. Nothing disappears, but my underwear begins to show serious signs of abuse.

I know little about Shin Du Ki except that her childish enthusiasm and embarrassed little smile bring warmth to the cold quarters while I am here. Her concern when I leave for the lines and her exuberant greeting when I return make a cold barracks room feel a bit like home. I let her take charge of my pathetic possessions, even let her keep my wallet safe when I go to the lines. Only later will I realize what an unforgivable temptation that might be.

Shin Du Ki
One day I return from the lines and immediately sense something is wrong. The blackout curtains are drawn across my window. This is strange, since it is broad daylight and we haven’t had a blackout in months. I race to my room. The padlock on my door hangs open. Cautiously I grope across the blacked out room and throw the curtains back. No one is in the room. Everything is in place except my desk. What in hell? Who has gone through my papers? My typed notes, my old stories, even old press bulletins are disturbed. Nothing violates a writer worse than violating his papers.

“Shin Du Ki!” Silence. I yell again. “Shin Du Ki!” The little Korean girl stands silently in the doorway. Her feet are braced, her arms are limp at her sides. She stands like a child about to be slapped. But why? “Who has been in my room? What has happened?” She continues to brace herself. Tears roll down her cheeks. “Shin Du Ki, was it you? It’s all right. Just tell me.” She shakes her head, stares at me in disbelief, still waiting for the punishment. I look through the papers and begin to understand. Someone has carefully typed copies of my stories and news bulletins over and over again. I feel like a monster.

“Please, Du Ki, try to understand. I was tired and frightened. Are you learning to type? It’s all right. I’ll teach you. It’s okay.” She stares at me, her eyes filled with tears. Then she runs away. Next day I find a carefully written note: “Dear Miss: I am very sorry I use typewriter. I never do it again. Each night I go to school. I study English, typing and piano. In daytime when you go, I use typewriter. When you ask me, I was afraid and said no. This was lying and I am sorry. I think you will be angry, but you were not. Your very kind words say you will teach me typing. Thank you. I want to learn.”

Scott with Winnington.
Scott met and took an instant dislike to the British journalist Alan Winnington (1910-1983) the Communist activist and author of I Saw Truth in Korea (1950), an anti-war pamphlet which led to him becoming stateless. He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and an Asian correspondent for the Daily Worker.

Both Associated Press and United Press tried to convince their readers Scott was working for them. She had no way of knowing they had picked up her story from The Nippon Times.
Scott scored a significant scoop in mid-November 1952 when she came across and photographed the bodies of 44 servicemen who died when a US Air Force c-199 “Flying Boxcar” crashed into a mountain outside Seoul. Her byline appeared in all the major US newspapers and a male rival declared, “Wow. The Nippon Times scoops them all.” Margaret Bourke-White wrote to congratulate Scott, saying, “I’m so proud of you for going in there for those pictures.”

Patricia Corinne Scott was born on Mount Tabor in Portland, Oregon, on July 13, 1929. During the Depression her family moved to near Mount St Helens. Scott graduated from a consolidated high school in Battle Ground and attended the University of Washington. She returned to the US from Korea in February 1953 and married Martin at the Fort Lewis Chapel No 2 outside Tacoma, Washington, on April 11, 1953. The marriage ended in 1968. Patricia Scott Martin later settled in Lacey. She published three other books, Bad Asses and Thieves about the failing system relating to the management of forests, Pay The Piper, about the plight of landlords and tenants during the Vietnam War period, and Blame the Kittens.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Battering the Typewriter, Mangling the Language: When Dizzy Dean Pitched the King's English a Strikeout

D is for Dean,

The grammatical Diz,

When they asked, Who's the tops?

Said correctly, I is.

- Ogden Nash

Dizzy Dean at his Underwood covering the St Louis Browns' game against the
Chicago White Sox in the press box at Sportsman's Park, St Louis, on September 21, 1946.

Friends of mine who grew up, as I did, in New Zealand in the 1950s, can still recite long passages of commentary from the radio broadcasts of sporting events made back then by Winston McCarthy. As Spiro Zavos wrote in McCarthy’s entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, his peculiar expressions “became mantras for thousands of … supporters. As a party trick in the late 1950s, young men narrated [a] McCarthy commentary … They memorised it word-for-word … McCarthy would switch roles from play-by-play caller to that of the broadcasting spectator. ‘Put it in again, sonny,’ [he would say].”

Dizzy Dean and Al Jolson discuss column ideas over their typewriters.

I dare say there are probably Americans of my vintage who can recite Dizzy Dean baseball commentaries. If so, they may have been aided in memorising Dizzyisms by the fact that Dean used his Underwood to type a syndicated column, taking the trouble to use the same ridiculous pronunciations and spellings in print as he did on air. And they were printed as he wrote them, abuses of the King's English and all. So lines like “Lets [no apostrophe] git down to the World Series” appeared just as it was written by Dean. “You caint take them Boston Red Sox too light-like. Them guys got the stuff to make things disasterous or goodastrous for a man, corrdin to how things wind out.” “We seen a lot of ball hawkin’ and hittin’. Them Card fielders was snaggin’ ’em.” Even the headlines on his column used phrases like “Jest Caint Help Bein a Bragadagio”. What’s more, when Dizzy was interviewed by sports writers, the journalists and editors made certain Dizzy was quoted verbatim, with not one nod to newspaper style. What others took such great care to get right, Dizzy gleefully butchered.

Among Dean’s more famous radio broadcast comments were that a player was “standing confidentially at the plate” and that “players have returned to their respectable positions”. “Throwed” (or, more precisely, “throde’) also got plenty of airplay, as did “sityashun”, “disgustilly” and “airs” for errors. A magnificent Joe DiMaggio catch deep in centre was called, “Holy cow! He caught it with his back in front of the pitcher’s box!”

Dixie Dean on a sousaphone winds up the Detroit Tigers at Sportsman's Park, St Louis, during the 1934 World Series.

In reality Dean was a lot smarter than he liked fans to think. His sense of self-worth and his business acumen make that clear. As Herman Helms wrote in a 1974 obituary, Dean “milked a lot of mileage out of his rural background. He proudly portrayed his back-woodsman, filled with fatback and hominy grits.” “Old Diz was anything but a dummy. Two things which he had in quantity at death – money and friends – are not likely to be acquired by anyone who’s empty-headed.” In 1946 the St Louis Globe-Democrat said Dizzy was “crazy like a fox”.

The widespread notion that Dean was indeed empty-headed was grist to the mill for American newspaper headline writers when Dizzy was not once, but twice hit in the head in a game, in 1934 and again in 1936, both while he was with the St Louis Cardinals and playing at home at Sportsmen’s Park. On one such occasion, a headline was alleged to have read, “Dean’s head X-rayed, nothing found”. This, perhaps sadly, is too good to be true; it’s an urban myth, an apocryphal story. None comes even close, though there was no want of opportunities. The first incident was in an October 1934 World Series game against the Detroit Tigers when Billy Rogell’s throw flattened Dixie, in the action as a pinch hitter.  The second concussion came in July 1936 and a line drive from the New York Giants’ Burgess Whitehead had Dizzy “seeing stars”.

Dizzy knew he was on to a good thing when he started using the vernacular – at least his own Ozark farm boy version of it – for his columns and in his commentaries. Oddly enough, however, when he agreed to be the subject of a newspaper comic strip, advertising Grape-Nuts, the Dizzy Dean character spoke in almost perfect English (the odd “’cause” and “gotta” aside). Indeed, the real-life Dizzy, as portrayed by Dan Dailey in the 1952 biopic The Pride of St Louis, thinks and speaks like an average, communicative sports star.

The author H. Allen Smith wrote an amusing piece titled “Ole Diz”, starting in 1950 “the season in which Dizzy Dean was brought up to the big time as a television commentator for the New York Yankees”. He represented “a new and delightful diversion to us; the things he did and the things he said were often as entertaining as the ball games he was describing, or neglecting to describe.” Smith claimed it was Joe Williams who insisted Dean said “slud” for “slid” when it was “slood”, as in “wood”. Actually, that mistake went all the way back to the one and only Grantland Rice. Smith recalled Dean speaking about the futility of arguing with an umpire. “You might as well try to argy with a stump.” After a moment’s reflection, Dean went on, “Some of you New York folks might not know what a stump is. Well, I’ll tell ya. A stump is a wood thing .. well, it’s somethin’ a tree has been cut down off of.”

Dizzy Dean, left, and his wife, right, with Damon Runyon and Will Rogers.

In July 1946 the English Teachers’ Association of Missouri had had enough of Dizzyisms and complained bitterly that Dean was corrupting the ability of schoolchildren to learn proper grammar. The ETAM petitioned the Federal Communication Commission, saying Dean was a bad influence and asking the commission to do something about it. One letter writer, a doctor, supporting a St Louis Globe-Democrat leader on the matter – titled “Pure English v Dizzy Dean” and suggesting the FCC “let Diz do what comes naturally” -  said “If the kids can acquire 10 per cent of Diz’s disarming frankness and honesty, it’ll do them more good than his vernacular can possibly do harm!”

Friday 28 January 2022

Typewriter Eye Candy: Engin Turhan's Technology Collection in Ankara, Turkey

Typewriters in Mexican Journalist Protests

An Olivetti portable typewriter has once more featured in protests in Mexico over the killing of journalists. This photo was taken in the Zócalo, the main square in central Mexico City, where journalists from the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico displayed images of murdered colleagues. Last Tuesday Mexican journalists started nationwide protests to denounce the murders of three reporters, demanding an end to impunity that has often characterised the killings of their colleagues. The protests follow the murder of seasoned journalist Lourdes Maldonado last Sunday, some three years after she raised the issue of killings with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and said she feared for her life. Protesters in the central state of Puebla laid flowers and candles on the street along with signs that read “I'm angry at censorship”, while in the northern state of Chihuahua protesters scrawled on a wall “Journalism is a risk” and drew the face of Maldonado. Israel Ibarra, president at a Baja California communications college, said if government and society failed to act they would be “complicit” not only in the murders of Maldonado and others but “the murder of freedom of expression in Mexico”. Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, and 145 have been killed between 2000-2021, according to Article 19, an advocacy group.

Reporters also held a vigil in the Journalist's Square in Ciudad Juarez and in Veracruz after the Mexican journalist networks voted to stage the gatherings, which coincides with online protest campaigns. “It is matter of urgency that state and federal authorities prevent attacks, protect journalists when they are victims, and investigate crimes committed against the press with due diligence," Article 19 said.

Maldonado's murder in the northern border city of Tijuana, where she worked for many years, followed the killings of two other Mexican journalists this month. Lopez Obrador, who has been criticized for not doing more to protect reporters, said his government would investigate and “clear up this crime to prevent further murders of journalists”. Critics say Lopez Obrador has failed to deliver on pledges to reduce violence, combat deeply entrenched organised crime, or reduce impunity. The president says crime and violence are the products of chronic corruption and inequality.

An Olivetti portable typewriter was used in a similar protest in August 2010, after the abduction of four journalists by the Pacifico drug cartel to demand television stations broadcast a video linking the Durango state government to a rival drug gang.

Thursday 27 January 2022

Liberating the Stories Behind the Characters and the Typewriters in ‘The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun’

The publisher-editor of The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun was orginally to be called Leibling, after Abbott Joseph Liebling. It was changed to Arthur Howitzer Jr, but the back strory of how Howitzer came to be in France remained Liebling's.

It had been a long, agonising 10 weeks. Yesterday we were finally able to go to a movie theatre and see Wes Anderson’s latest quirky offering, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. It is tout simplement magnifique, as they might say in Ennui-sur-Blasé, which, as it turns out, is anything but bore-dering on the jaded. After all, it's “the Paris of Jacques Tati” (actually, it's Angoulême) and the opening scene is a homage to the one in Tati's Mon Oncle, one of my all-time favourite films. Any movie featuring so many machines à écrire is going to be absolutely brilliant anyway. What's more, given it is Anderson’s “love letter to journalists”, it was a top-of-the-wozza must-see.

Ten weeks ago we were alerted to the existence of this new Anderson film, which had been released in the United States on October 22. A friend had picked up and dropped off one of those wonderful mock 20-page copies of The French Dispatch magazine, illustrated
 by Spanish artist Javi Aznarez, in this case 149 Série, N° 12, at “200 Old Francs”. Our friend found it at a cinema complex and, like us a subscriber to The New Yorker, she recognised the cover style straight away. Seeing a typewriter advert on the back cover, Penny knew it would be of great interest in this household. She wasn't wrong. Our sense of anticipation thus heightened to the max, we waited impatiently for a chance to see The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. And yesterday it came. Well worth the wait!

The back cover of The French Dispatch magazine, right,
and the Hermes Baby poster upon which it was based, left.

An illustration of A.J. Liebling by Javi Aznarez in The French Dispatch magazine.

Anjelica Huston’s voiceover at the beginning of the film explains that the publisher-editor of The French Dispatch, Arthur Howitzer Jr (played by Bill Murray) had, in his youth, convinced his father (proprietor of the Liberty Kansas Evening Sun) to finance a series of travelogue columns from France to be published in the “Sunday Picnic” section of the Kansas newspaper. As soon as I heard Huston’s words, I recognised them as essentially A.J. Liebling’s story. In 1926, Liebling's father, wealthy New York furrier Joe Liebling, asked his son if he would like to suspend his budding career as a journalist to study in Paris for a year. Liebling, fearing his father might change his mind, concocted a yarn that he was thinking of marrying a woman 10 years his senior, a woman “being kept by a cotton broker from Memphis, Tennessee”. Joe senior promptly sent a letter of credit for $2000 and a reservation on the Caronia. Joe Jr sailed to Europe and studied French medieval literature at the Sorbonne in Paris, all the while absorbing French life and food. The experience inspired a lifelong love for France and the French. 

  That's a Japy on Bill Murray's desk, by the way, masquerading as an "Andretti Ribbon-Mate".

In An Editor’s Burial (Howitzer dies at both the beginning and end of the movie) - Journals and Journalism From The New Yorker and Other Magazines: Inspirations for The French Dispatch, an American Empirical Picture by Wes Anderson edited by David Brendel and published by Pushkin Press, Anderson tells The New Yorker’s articles editor Susan Morrison “Originally, we were calling the editor character Liebling, not Howitzer, because the face I always pictured was A.J. Liebling’s. We tried to make Bill Murray sort of look like him, I think. Remember, he says he tricked his father into paying for his early sojourn in Paris by telling him he was thinking of marrying a good woman who was 10 years older than he, although ‘Mother might think she is a bit fast’ … ” The Anderson-Morrison interview appeared in The New Yorker last September 5, under the headline, "How Wes Anderson Turned The New Yorker into The French Dispatch".

Illustration by Toma Vagner

For all that, it's a little odd that the Roebuck Wright character played by Jeffrey Wright (above) is a food journalist based on an amalgamation of James Baldwin and A. J. Liebling.” It's a memorable part, played extremely well by Wright. But Baldwin and Liebling? Seriously? (By the way, Wright and Bill Murray were also together in Broken Flowers, which featured a pink Olympia.)

The most discordant part of the movie, from the point of view of typewriter use (and there’s a lot of it), involves poor old (looking) Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz, a journalist profiling the French student revolutionaries of 1968 (in real life Mavis Gallant). The machine the props people have given Frances to use to type in bed (with Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli, a student revolutionary) is one of those awful plastic versions of the Hermes Baby, for goodness sake! I’ve never tried to type on one of the plastic models while sitting up in bed, but the sound of a plastic portable typewriter is, in itself, sufficiently grating to put one off the idea. (Frances is later seen typing her report on a red plastic Hermes Baby.)

Below, the real Mavis Gallant using a metal Smith-Corona.
The portable typewriter on Bill Murray's editor's desk is a mock-up of a Japy, masquerading as an Andretti Ribbon-Mate, a product of Ateliers Andretti and Brothers. And why not? This model is also known by a vast array of different brand names, and is part of what Georg Sommeregger insists should be known as the Euro Portable Clan. Here we see Jeffrey Wright starting to type Horiwitz's obituary (the corpse is stretched out on the editor's desk), and below that different sizes of the mock-ups - the smaller versions using bottle tops as platen knobs:
Here are some real-life variations:
There is also what looks like a Hermes Media/3000 in the editorial office:
And others:
Please go see this movie. It's totally: