Smiles lived up to his name

My friend and newspaper colleague Jack Smiles is the best headline writer I’ve ever encountered. Fourth of July makes me think of one of his best.
My first experience with his talent was when I became his editor in 2000. Jack had been working on a story about a fellow who, due to his diabetes, did not know he was getting severe burns on the bottom of his feet when he stood on the hot pavement in his driveway to wash his car one summer day. The diabetes made healing those burns impossible and resulted in the man having both legs amputated near the knee. Following the surgery, he vowed that one day he would return to his job. And his job was as a letter carrier.
A year later, he made good on that vow. The story Jack wrote deserved a perfect headline, but an afternoon of brainstorming came up with nothing. We had a few days before our deadline, so I suggested we sleep on it.
The next day, Jack walked into my office and announced he had it:
Stand and Deliver
I still get chills when I think of it.
Years earlier, before I had the pleasure of working with Jack, he had done a story on a guy who had converted the heating system in his house from oil to gas. He had the oil tanks removed from his basement, but never notified the oil company, who had him on automatic delivery. Which meant one day, the “oil man” showed up and proceeded to pump a few hundred gallons of oil into the guy’s basement.
Jack’s headline:
No Tanks
The one I think about at this time of year won Jack a First Place award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association.
Pittston City used to put on quite a fireworks display on the Fourth of July. Doing it was costly, and the City turned to the public for donations. Jack wrote the story. And this headline:
More Bucks for the Bangs

Ed Ackerman