A Christmas toast to Vince Guaraldi

If I heard it correctly, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs Thursday night, Dec. 1, at 8 on ABC. And that should propel me right into the Christmas spirit. I associate it so much with my kids (Greta, now 33 and about to give birth, and Michael, now 30), I tend to forget that it actually debuted in 1965. While “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” may be most memorable for contributing the expression “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” to the lexicon, it’s the music, especially the theme song, that made the cartoon legendary. Do you know that song has a title? It’s “Linus… Continue Reading

What it means to teach

From the near past a student drops by. She looks so successful. You tell her you’ve just been thinking of her, which is true. At this time of year you always think of her sweet potato pies. You remember when, as a single mom, she sold sweet potato pies to get money to buy her children Christmas gifts. She still bakes and sells sweet potato pies, she tells you, but now as a fundraiser for her church. It’s a cause you want to support and the next thing you know you are planning (loosely planning, but planning) a sweet potato… Continue Reading


“I hear them clapping in the oven.” I know. This line never made sense to me either. But it is crucial to the game pies. What’s that? You never heard of the game pies? Well, don’t feel bad. Neither did anyone else at Sanitary Bakery in Nanticoke Tuesday morning. And neither did anyone else I ran into throughout the day. I was shocked. I hadn’t thought of the game in years, but the sight of all the pies at the bakery conjured up the childhood memory. When I mentioned it, however, no one had any idea what I was talking… Continue Reading

A role model for my female students

I told my students about Judy McGrath last week. I’ve been telling them about Ms McGrath every semester since 1999. I first became aware of Judy McGrath in the summer of 1994. I was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the Inn at Cooperstown reading New Yorker magazine when I came across a lengthy article titled “Rockin’ in Shangri-la.” It was about MTV but a good deal of it was about McGrath, then creative director. I immediately incorporated items from that article into my Introduction to Mass Communications lectures on television. The launch of MTV was significant… Continue Reading

The morning after

My students were distraught the day after the election. Most of them, like most college students across the land, were Hillary fans. Actually, they were Bernie fans turned Hillary fans, but they were distraught nonetheless. So I asked them a simple question: What has changed in your lives since yesterday? I’ll answer for you I said: nothing. Your ability to be happy. Your opportunity to choose a profession you love. Your freedom to decide where you want to live. Your desire to lead a productive life. Your determination to make the world a better place. The way you treat others.… Continue Reading

Joy awaits in my front yard

There’s a yard full of leaves right outside my front door and I can’t wait to get at them. Tomorrow is the day. The forecast calls for sunshine and a high of 50. I hope to get out there early. I love raking leaves. Typically, I will fill 40 or more of those big biodegradable bags. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, I will be sore Sunday morning. But that just adds to the enjoyment. The name Ackerman, loosely translated from its German origins, means “man of the land,” or more simply, “farmer,” and I sometimes wonder if that’s what pleases… Continue Reading

A view from ‘Down Under’

“You don’t sound like a Texan,” I said to the fellow in the aisle seat as I excused myself to get to the center one on a flight from Dallas, Texas, to Austin last Thursday, as I took a long weekend to visit my daughter. “Nope, British,” he said, “by way of Australia. I’ve lived there for 18 years.” “Do you desire solitude?” I asked. “Or would you like to chat?” “Oh, let’s chat,” he answered. “The best part of traveling is the people you meet.” And so Mark (it sounded like “Mock” when he introduced himself) Creamer and I… Continue Reading

Pittston proud, always

I love this town. Sure, it has its flaws, but Pittston is my home. And when I think of it, my thoughts find far more positives than negatives. As such, I love all things Pittston. And want others to as well. So when I spotted a shelf of Susquehanna Brewing Company’s pumpkin ale at The Apple House in Virginia last weekend, my heart leapt. Our nephew John Kandrac told us about The Apple House and gave us directions. We took a car out to Old Town Alexandria to visit him and Jenny and their new baby boy while we were… Continue Reading

Man, it’s flying, but that’s ok

Today, Nov. 2, is my birthday. I normally keep that under wraps. But if Hillary can do it … I even dug up a photo of little me. I’m guessing second grade. Maybe third. Wish my mom were alive to verify. What has prompted me to write about it is the incredulity of it. I am now 67 years old. How did this happen? When I was 37 I wrote a column under the headline “Pausing at halftime to take stock of my life.” I based the “halftime” reference on a life expectancy of 74 years. Thirty years later I… Continue Reading