by Bob Steaely

    Phyllis Brown of Musgrave Street, a new friend I’ve met in my column-writing days, has made an interesting observation about tattoos that I’d like to pass along.
    “Watch any football or basketball game and you can see them,” she pointed out. “Watch the young folks and the not-so-young folks at the mall and you can see them. ... From a pink rosebud or a tiny butterfly on the ankle of a lady to an elaborate dragon with two heads on; the muscular arm of an athlete — it’s quite evident that tattoos are very popular now.”
As she points out, tattoos have been around for thousands of years in all corners of the globe, and for a number of reasons.
    The early Greeks and Romans and the Japanese often tattooed their prisoners and slaves, marking them as undesirables. And during the second world war, the Nazi officers registered Jewish people in the concentration camps by tattooing numbers on the forearms of the prisoners.
    Mrs. Brown said, “In the mid-1700s, the famous Captain Cook traveled to the South Pacific, where he and his sailors saw tribal members with body designs that told stories of family relationships, honors and skills. These naval seamen soon spread the art of the tattoo to Europe and eventually to America.”
    She added that by the 1800s, these body designs became fashionable and gave people a unique identity. The British sailors tattooed themselves with eyes on their chests as a superstitious protection.
    “By the late 1880s,” Mrs. Brown said, “about 80 percent of all sailors had some kind of tattoo. In more recent times, sailors would tattoo the name of their girlfriend inside a heart or the word ‘Mom’ or ‘Mother’.”
    She explained that her study of tattoos led her to what she recently found in the Harrison County Register of Deaths — an entry that has been on the record books for more than 100 years.
    “On July, 1, 1895,” she began, “a white male about 40 years old was killed by a train in Salem, a town west of Clarksburg. He was listed as ‘Unknown Tramp’ and was buried in Salem. The interesting notation was the description of the tattoos on this man. On his right arm was a woman in morning glories and on his left arm were the initials ‘J.C.C.’
    “A book found on this ‘Unknown Tramp’ had the name ‘Jim Chambers’ written on it. Could the ‘Unknown Tramp’ have been James C. Chambers?”
    Mrs. Brown suggested that for any genealogist researching the Chambers family tree, this could be the answer to their family member who just “vanished into thin air.”

    Back in 1937, the Clarksburg Publishing Company published the “Reporter’s Guide Book of Style ... And Other Information.” It was prepared for the use of writers of the Clarksburg newspapers, especially correspondents.
    At the front of the booklet was a quote from the French philosopher and author Rochefoucauld, who said, “Fine eloquence consists in saying all that should be said, not all that could be said.”
    The booklet was made available to me by Leslie Moore, secretary of Cecil B. Highland Jr., president and treasurer of Clarksburg Publishing Company. She said it was one of many interesting items of information retained during their recent move to the Exponent-Telegram building on Hewes Avenue.
    There were many different guidelines printed in the booklet, including information on capitalization, spelling, apostrophes, abbreviations, figures, plural-singular, punctuation, indention, names and titles, etc. There were some unusual headings of the various divisions of the booklet, including: “classifying those who steal.”
    Of particular interest to me was the section headed, “For Correspondents.” It reads as follows: “Correspondents are urged to cultivate a proper appreciation of the value of ‘spot news,’ including such stories as murders, suicides, robberies, important fires, big business deals, serious auto wrecks — and any other big story in their town or its vicinity.
    “Stories like these make the front page and that should be the aim of every correspondent. The run-of-mine news is good and we need daily letters, but we need real stories on page one to sell papers. Each correspondent should furnish his share of them.”
    My thanks to Leslie for passing along that interesting data.

Have a great rest-of-the-week. Another Bob’n’Along Wednesday.

A simpler tax system may involve some pain

    If you are a member of Congress you have to be scratching your head right about now. A poll released by the Associated Press on taxes certainly has to have our representatives wondering if their constituents are somewhat schizophrenic.
The poll showed that 66 percent of those questioned think the federal tax system is too complicated. Many of them have to have professional help in filling out their tax returns.
No surprises there.
    More than half of the respondents say they favor a flat tax as a fairer way to go about taxation. But two-thirds say they don’t want to give up their deductions.
What’s a legislator to do?
    If we are to have a flat tax, we’re going to have to give up many, if not all of our deductions. That’s why they call it a flat tax. That’s why it’s so simple.
    This is one of those situations where we can’t have it both ways. If we are to have a simpler tax form to fill out we’re going to have to give up the many exemptions that we take advantage of each year to get that big, fat tax refund.
Congress and the White House have had a busy year tinkering with the federal tax code. The IRS had to create 11 new forms and revise 177 current ones for this year’s tax season alone.
    Not to point fingers, but the very people who complain about the complexity of the tax system are the same ones who write their representatives demanding certain credits or deductions.
    This has to leave the folks on Capitol Hill in a quandary. The folks back home, it seems, what their cake and they want to eat it, too.
    If there is to be some meaningful tax reform on the federal level, something’s got to give. Either taxpayers yield some of their deductions in order to pave the way for a simpler tax return, or they put up with a system that is designed to please the voters.
Your deadline, by the way, is only 10 days away.

Today’s editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Underwood’s juggling act: how to save both mountains and people.

    Gov. Cecil Underwood is urging cooperation and common sense following his signing of legislation meant to protect the future of mountaintop mining. He knows that without coal, jobs in the Southern coal fields will dry up and West Virginia will experience another great exodus of people in pursuit of a means to support their families.
    Environment or Jobs, that is the dilemma Gov. Underwood faces. With environmentalists on one side armed with federal laws intended to protect environmental issues, and coal industry workers on the other side threatened with the loss of jobs, Underwood attempted a juggling act that resulted in compromise legislation that he signed last week.
    The legislation tightens some regulations and sets up an office within the Division of Environmental Protection to study blasting. One key provision scales back from 480 acres to 250 acres the amount of watershed that mining operations can bury through a procedure called valley fill, without compensating the state.
    Many components of the bill were developed by a task force during the past year, which the governor appointed after coal operators became embroiled in legal battles with environmentalists and coal filed residents who sought to block mountaintop removal projects. “The realities of our economy dictate that mountaintop removal must continue, and our collective conscience dictates that we must do it better,” Underwood said.
    As the economic effects of the temporary injunction ordered by U.S. District Judge Charles Haden hit home, some people are having second thoughts. Two of the residents who originally joined the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy against Arch Coal withdrew from the case last week, citing the economic effects of abolishing mountaintop mining.
    “I will never apologize for fighting every inch of the way to protect your job from people who don’t care about your future,” Underwood told coal industry supporters at the signing of the bill.
    But the governor urged coal officials to place more emphasis on post-mining development plans for the hills they flatten in the process.
I    t’s quite apparent that Gov. Underwood is trying to save both mountains and people. We believe that his efforts to come to a compromise are right on target. Let’s hope that the federal courts are convinced when trial begins in July. The fate of our coal field economy is dependent on the outcome.

Andy Kniceley
Telegram Editorial Board member


Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999