Around the middle of the last century, the University of Nevada’s journalism school was rated among the best in the nation. It was headed up by the late A.L. “Higgy” Higginbotham. It was located in a tiny brick building on the west side of the Quad.
When I attended my first class at the j school, I was treated to a lecture by Higgy where he noted that historically only about 20 percent of our class would graduate in journalism. This was based on previous records where the strict demands of his curriculum had quickly weeded out many aspiring writers.
Those students who did prevail included such famous journalists as Ted Scripps and Frank McCulloch.
One of Higginbotham’s most didactic quotes was, “Get it first, but first get it right.” His students were directed to apply for positions with The Sagebrush, the campus newspaper. During my time at The Sagebrush I was lucky enough to cover sports, write movie reviews and do an occasional poem. One of the most rewarding things that came my way was when Sagebrush editor Gene Evans tossed me a letter that he had received from Twentieth Century Fox movie studio. It contained the news that one Pat O’Hara, a location scout, would be arriving in Reno at a certain date and time to work on pre-production of a movie that was to be shot on campus, entitled “Belvedere Goes to College.”According to the missive, the film would star Clifton Webb, Shirley Temple and Tom Drake.
Since my roommate Bob Burke had a new Mercury convertible I prevailed upon him to accompany me to meet O’Hara at the Reno train station. Once we had picked him up we offered our services to take him anywhere he wanted to go to complete his assignment. It proved to be a very fortuitous move since O’Hara was able to get us work as extras on the film and even special parts as “doubles”in some scenes.
One of the most interesting of Higginbotham’s classes was that of headline writing. It combined both mathematics and a variety of styles to make headlines fit in the allotted space. Of those disciplines, alliterative writing was my favorite. It was a style in which nearly every word began with the same letter. If I were writing some in today’s political coverage, it might turn out like this: “Trump’s Tempestuous and Tireless Tirades,” “Clinton’s Ceaseless Calumny Continues,””Bush is Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Cruz Coolly Confident,”“Sanders’ Sorry Socialistic Suggestions,”“Huckabee has High Hopes”, “Carson Continues to Crumble,”“Paul Promulgates Passivity,” “Fiorina Fearlessly Fights for Femininity,”“Christy Calls Continuously for Crime-fighter Capability,”“Graham Gets the Gong,”Rubio’s Rapid Rise Relevant,”“Santorum Seeks Substantial Support from Someone,”“Jindal’s Jump-Out Justified,””Oblivious Obama Obfuscates,”“Kasich’s Keen Kaleidoscopic Know-it-All is Kaput,”“Putin’s Perniciousness Progresses,”“Democratic Debate Declines into Declivity,”“Reverend Graham Rejects Republicans,”“Planned Parenthood Prevails,”“Reid’s Ruinous Redskin Rumble Recedes” and “Tribune Tells the Truth”.