1913 “V” Nickel

[An update on one of my very first posts – of August 3, 2011]  The Liberty Head five cent piece (the “V” Nickel – because of a Roman numeral “5” on the reverse) was made from 1883 to 1912 and was America’s second “nickel.”   In 1913, the United States Mint produced Liberty Head nickels but they were never intended for circulation.   Colonel E. H. R. Green (the son of the famous Hetty Green) owned 5 strikes of the 1913 nickel.  These five rarities have since been dispersed to collectors.  

Around 1960, I was a Boy Scout working on Coin Collecting Merit Badge.  The merit badge counselor was a gentle man named Herman Noll (he lived in Mt. Prospect, IL).  He had an amazing collection of coins housed in a walk in closet off the living room.  Apart from quizzing me on and helping me with the merit badge requirements, Mr. Noll generously gave me some assorted coins for my collection.  I remember him telling me that his father was an employee of the U.S. Mint that produced the 1913 “V” Nickel.  His father took a few — apparently beyond those belonging to Mr. Green.  Mr. Noll never told me where the remaining 1913 nickels were or what had been done with them.  On August 14th, a 1913 “V” nickel sold for $4.5 million (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/rare-nickel-sells-for-record-breaking-dollar45-million/ar-BBM0vFy?li=BBnbfc ).   I wonder if they know about Herman. . . . .

 I wish I’d asked a few more questions . . . .      

Talk Like a Pirate Day

I can’t wait! September 19th is “International Talk Like a Pirate Day.” Do you know about this special day? 

In 1995 two guys from Albany, OR (John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers proclaimed September 19th as the day everyone in the world should “talk like a pirate.” The whole idea stemmed from a racquetball injury. One of them reacted with an “Arrrggghhh” as he lay on the floor in pain – and along came an idea. For seven years, it remained an “inside” idea but in 2002 they sent a letter about their “holiday” to humorist Dave Barry.  Barry liked the idea, pushed it in a few columns and the rest is history.

Actor Robert Newton (who starred as Long John Silver in the 1950 Disney film “Treasure Island“) is considered the patron saint of Talk Like a Pirate Day.   So remember, on September 19th, when anyone says anything to you, tilt your head, give them the eye and say “Avast you scurvy lubber.  Prepare to be boarded. . . . ”  

I suggest writing your Congressmen and Senators to make this a national holiday.  Since all politicians are scurvy bilge rats, this should be a natural for them . . . . .

Loeb & Leopold

The “Crime of the Century” occurred in 1924. Two 19 year old law students coming from two wealthy families in Chicago murdered a 14 year old boy – Bobby Franks. The reason?  They wanted to have the experience of killing someone.  And they intended to commit the “perfect crime.”   The two were caught thanks to the unique hinge on a pair of eyeglasses found near the body.  And a match between the typewritten ransom notes and some class notes of one of the young men.  

Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold were arrested and grilled by police.  After being confronted with the evidence, they confessed.  And the public clamored for them to hang.  In a dramatic “end run” to avoid a poisoned jury, their lawyer Clarence Darrow pleaded them guilty to murder and kidnapping.  And placed the decision of life – or death – in the hands of the court — Judge John L. Caverly.  Following a month-long hearing on aggravation and mitigation, States Attorney Robert Crowe argued for five hours demanding that the two be hung by the neck until dead.  Clarence Darrow argued for eleven hours.  Pleading for mercy.  Pleading for life.  It is said that when Darrow finished his closing argument, there was not a dry eye in the courtroom — except for the dour States Attorney.  Two weeks later, Judge Caverly delivered the verdict.  His decision?   “Life” in the penitentiary.

For the last twelve years, I have been performing in a one act play – “Pleading for the Future.”  Early on, the production ran for four nights in a northside Chicago theater.  Today, the play provides continuing legal education for law schools, bar associations and law firms.  It is a real life account of the murder and the closing arguments – complete with slides and music.  Famed reporter and author Ben Hecht (played by lawyer and former U.S. Army Stars & Stripes reporter Bill Hannay) provides the introduction and prologue.  Todd Parkhurst (a veteran actor, lawyer and LifeLine pilot) has the role of Clarence Darrow.   And I (former States Attorney) am States Attorney Bob Crowe. We continue to perform gratis for various groups and organizations.  The play has taken on a life of its own.  Now if only we could get Steven Spielberg, Disney or Warner Bros. to pick it up — keeping the original cast of course . . . .      


I had some good courses in college.  But the most useful was a year long course on advanced first aid which ended with me getting a Civil Defense medical responder card (remember – this was 1966).  I thought – I’m an Eagle Scout – this’ll be a snap.  It was not.  But the knowledge gleaned from this course has come in very handy over the years.   

Of all the subjects I endured in high school — far and away the best course I ever took was typing.  It was called “touch typing” – a skill developed by Frank Edward McGurrin (a Salt Lake City court stenographer) in 1888.  Thank you, Mr. McGurrin!  I use this skill every day.  In abundance. . . . . 

I am able to type the way one was meant to type. Accurately. Fast.  Fingers flying (whooosh!).  None of this two finger business.  I often type my own letters, lengthy reports and loquacious emails at a speed of perhaps 60 words a minute with minimal error.  Rarely looking at the keyboard.  Typing.  What a value-added learning tool for a young person today.  But do schools teach typing the way they did?  I dunno but if not, it belongs on the menu. 

By the way – do you know the longest word in the English language that you can write using the letters on the top row of a typewriter or keyboard?  “Typewriter.”  Yep . . . .

The Road to Character

[A summer repeat from October 1, 2015]
In my post of January 26, 2012, I offered a few classic quotations on character.  When I was tutoring, each week I would put a “character” quotation on a 3″ x 5″ card for my student(s).   To me, the reading, writing and arithmetic are all important.  But developing character is just as important.  Perhaps more.  For students, friends, family and politicians. 

I just finished David Brooks wonderful work The Road to Character.  Brooks opens with reference to the end of World War II — a victory of epic proportion.  He observes that our parents and grandparents did not go around telling each other how great they were.  The collective impulse was to warn themselves against pride.  And self-glorification.  But Brooks observes that there has been a shift in ensuing generations.  From a culture of humility to a culture of I am the center of the universe.  Brooks calls it “The Big Me.”  Fame and fortune used to rank low as life’s core ambitions.  Today, those goals have skyrocketed to the top.  Yet the Left pushes to censor the teaching of virtue, character and integrity in schools.

The word “sin” was always a moral tug that helped remind us that life is a moral affair.  But as Brooks comments “When modern culture tries to replace ‘sin’ with ideas like error or insensitivity, or tries to banish words like ‘virtue’ ‘character’ ‘evil’ and ‘vice’, it doesn’t make life any less moral.  It just means that we have obscured the inescapable moral core of life with shallow language . . . and we become increasingly blind to the moral stakes of everyday life.”


He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

It is interesting that many folks who have “everything” – are unhappy.  Yet those who have little or nothing can often be very happy.  Why?   

Part of the reason is that people who feel a sense of gratitude in their lives – are more apt to be happy.  In the past, I’ve referenced TED Talks.  And I’ve posted on a few of my favorites that I watch while having lunch at my desk.  Well. . . . fasten your seat belts.  Here’s one that made my eyes misty.  This 9 minute program is on the subject of gratitude.  http://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_nature_beauty_gratitude?referrer=playlist-give_thanks#t-2392    

We all have reason – to be grateful.  Yet how often do we ponder this sentiment?  The talk ends with a powerful narrative by Brother David Steindl-Rast – a Benedictine monk – who expounds on the why gratitude is such an important emotion.  Among his comments – “Think of this day as the first day and the last day of your life.”  He asks — would you do anything different?  And “Each day is a giftLet your gratitude for this day flow through you and be a blessing to others.”  Strong, compelling words.  Inspiration to give.  Reason to be grateful.