Archive: » 2020 » December

A Different Christmas Season

Suddenly it is Christmas. In this strangest of years, we celebrate the birth of Christ in the midst of a pandemic that shows no signs of abating. Families face hard choices, especially those who are out of work. For some families, there will be an empty chair at the dinner table — if they choose to get together at all today. For front-line health care workers and first responders, today could be just another day trying to save lives in hospitals filled with patients who have contracted COVID-19. My prayers are with both the patients and the workers — who no doubt are exhausted after 10 long...

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Nuggets From 19th-Century Newspapers

Since going into stay-at-home mode last March, I have spent many hours transcribing articles from newspapers published in the 1830s through the 1850s, for a history book project. In the 35 years since I originally did research for a master’s thesis at UT-Austin, millions of newspaper pages have been digitized and are searchable. Now I can type in the keywords, and articles pop up that can be saved as pdfs and later transcribed. To date, I have compiled about 150,000 words’ worth of articles on everything from tariffs to slave-trading, the Regulator-Moderator War in Shelby County, and Sam Houston’s...

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Becoming the Bottle Washer Watcher at Made-Rite

The Made-Rite Co. here in Longview recently announced it is selling its longtime Dr Pepper distribution franchise back to the soft drink’s parent company and will concentrate on selling “high-growth, premium products,” such as energy drinks and fancy water. The company began bottling soft drinks in Marshall in 1925, and at one point had more than a dozen bottling plants in several states. The Longview plant opened  in 1963. Ten years later, I was working at Made-Rite full-time while finishing my sketchy high school career by correspondence course. I worked there for two years, through...

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‘Queen’s Gambit’ spurs chess craze

The sale of chess sets has boomed this Christmas season, thanks to a Netflix mini-series called The Queen’s Gambit, which we watched recently. Goliath Games, a toy company that sells several types of chess sets, told NPR that sales are up more than 1,000 percent compared to last year. Other companies have similar stories. Chess has become the sourdough bread starter in the latter months of 2020, after the series debuted in late October. The Queen’s Gambit features an orphaned girl of 9 who is taught chess by the janitor hiding in the basement, who hides down there replaying famous chess games...

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