Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where did you get that title?

A number of people have asked me that...

I stole it, of course! And from a first-class source. (of course)

It comes from the mind and pen of Frank Gilbreth, who for more than 40 years wrote a column of that name under the pseudonym of "Ashley Cooper". (Note that his pen-name is taken from the names of the two rivers which converge in Charleston Harbor to form the Atlantic Ocean...)

I quote a column written by one of his colleagues hours after his death.

I am humbled by his writing genius, and hope to live up to so worthy a mentor.

Jus' doin' the Charleston


Why Charleston will remember Ashley Cooper
Tuesday, February 20, 2001
by Elsa McDowell

Years ago, Lord Ashley Cooper started preparing his own epitaph:
"Although he lived in the twentieth century, he didn't have anything to do with the invention of the atomic bomb, internal combustion engine, TV commercial, rock music or non-objective art."

We all smiled because, of course, Ashley Cooper will be remembered for what he did, not what he didn't do.

He made us smile. He made us think. He made us angry - but never for long. In his column here, beloved by readers, he would make fun of tourists one day and make fun of native Charlestonians the next.

He would recount colorful stories of old Charleston one day and of present-day Charleston the next.

He delighted us with comical slice-of-life vignettes, and he challenged us with prickly community issues.

Ashley Cooper earned the respect and affection of thousands of readers, and when he retired from column-writing in 1993, they grieved. Many are still grieving.


Ashley Cooper, of course, was the pen name of Frank Gilbreth Jr., who died Sunday.

This is the spot in the paper that Mr. Gilbreth filled for more than 40 years. It seems a fitting place to pay tribute to him. And it seems the best way to pay tribute to a masterful columnist is in his own words.

• "I don't know about other Charlestonians, but the way I tell summer from winter is that in winter we get lots of Lincolns, Cadillacs and stuffed shirts, and in summer get lots of Chevrolets, Fords and stuffed shorts."

• "What we really need in Charleston are tourists who will send their money here but stay home themselves."

• "In a hick town they take up the sidewalks at night. In Charleston, the sidewalks are in such bad shape that if you took them up you'd never get them back down again."

• "Who was it who said that Charleston - our Holy City - was like a lesson in verbs? Yes, you discover the present tense and the past perfect."

• "A correspondent advises Lord Ashley never to ask anyone where he is from. 'If he is from Charleston, he will soon announce that fact,' alleges my correspondent. 'If he is not from Charleston, there is no need to embarrass him.' "

• "They say we in Charleston spend more money on liquor than we do on education. But, my goodness, what you can learn at a Charleston cocktail party!"

• "What is full of slime and hooey,
Makes the stomach loop-the-loop?
What is slippery and gluey?
Greasy, gooey OKRA SOUP."

• He stirred up heated emotions over the Confederate flag (which he thought didn't belong over the Statehouse); over "y'all" and "youze guys;" and over historic preservation.

He wrote about cockroaches and Gullah, about George Gershwin and palmettos, about slumlords and bike paths.

His words remind us why we love Charleston and why we will long remember Frank Gilbreth, who loved it too.

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