Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Missing Gaylord, And Papa Hambone, Too

Who doesn't feel the loss of Gaylord Nelson, especially on Earth Day?

We don't have anybody on the Wisconsin political scene that comes close to his stature, or influence.

Some years ago, then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist brought Nelson in for a speech to the Mayor's Club.

There were a couple of hundred top civic and corporate people assembled to hear Nelson speak at the breakfast-hour meeting.

I think they thought they were going to hear a folksy retrospective, but Nelson read them the riot act about their failure to lead with a social conscience.

I'm telling you, it was a moment.

Later I asked Gaylord if he had a copy of his remarks and he said,
"Oh, no. I never write these things out."

A pity...

We could also use a story-teller like George Vukelich, a Madison journalist and environmental activist and who, for years, had a late-night radio show on WIBA-AM as "Papa Hambone."

Let's just say it was a different era with a different kind of talk radio.

George created a cast of fishing buddy pals characters like Steady Eddy and others who talked about the North Woods and the Great Lakes and the rest of the natural world with homespun clarity and reverence.

Gentle teaching, it was. Wry and insightful, like the man himself.

George wrote "North Country Notebook" columns for Isthmus, and briefly, before the Great Newspaper Strike, also for the Capital Times. I can't remember if he wrote them for strike paper Connections: probably.

George's early death left a gap in Wisconsin media that still needs filling - - just as there is a hole in our state's politics where a giant like Nelson once stood.

Every day was Earth Day for George and Gaylord, I am sure.


xoff said...

George Vukelich was, indeed, a contributor to the Madison Press Connection, the strike newspsper we published in 1977-79. He was also a faithful picketer who took the darkest, coldest shift, from 2 to 6 a.m.

I miss both George and Gaylord, especially when Earth Day rolls around.

Karyn Rotker said...

George was a wonderful storyteller and writer - and a great person. I'm glad to have known him, and to still be connected with his wonderful family.