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The annual National Columnists' Day column

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On the island of Ie Shima, on April 18, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed in action and that is why that date has been selected by the National Society of Newspaper Columnist to be designated as National Columnists' Day.  

After a few years of writing about Ernie Pyle for National Columnists' Day, it grew a bit challenging, and so the focus for our annual column for that occasion was expanded to include homage to other famous columnists from the past such as Herb Caen and Walter Winchell.    

For a columnist named Bob Patterson, who was born and raised in Scranton Pa. and now lives in Berkeley CA, to celebrate National Columnists' Day by writing this year's installment about a columnist, scalawag, and rascal named Bob Patterson, who was raised about a hundred years ago in Berkeley CA, is a daunting challenge.   In order to produce a column that doesn't sound like a noteworthy example of shameless uber-egotism and crass self-promotion, we will refer to the writer from the past by his pen name of Freddie Francisco and note that the facts for this column were contained in the "expose" story Freddie Francisco wrote about himself for a weekly newspaper named "The City of San Francisco" in their August 10, 1975 issue.

Francisco revealed that during the Twenties Patterson landed a $47 a week reporter's job on the New York Graphic and when he began to work the police beat Freddie/Bob was offered a $100 a week bonus from a Prohibition entrepreneur who wanted a phone call tip whenever the Prohibition agents left on a raid.   That stunt got him fired.   His confession relates that subsequently Freddie/Bob went to work for the fellow who had supplied the tip bonuses.

In the early Thirties, Freddie/Bob moved to Japan.   To augment his pay while living there Freddie wrote about the forbidden topic of Tokyo's notorious Yoshitwara district.   That got him another pink slip and deportation status on the same day that he contracted malaria.  

Freddie quickly transitioned to the staff of the China Press in Shanghai.

Freddy/Bob arrived in Shanghai between World Wars.   Freddie described his reactions thus:   "It was fine, fine, fine; Patterson decided to stay forever, and maybe three days over."   It took only two months for him to get the assignment of writing a daily column he dubbed "The Dawn Patrol."  

During Freddie's stint in Shanghai, he gathered enough human interest stories to fill a thousand novels, if he ever retired from journalism.  

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In describing the conduct of a battle between rival houses of prostitution, he informs readers that the madam with seniority hired coolies to defecate on the front steps of the rival location just as the evening was about to begin.

One kindly Shanghai mortician used to offer free services to indigent Americans who died far from their native land.   He also, Freddie reported, paid for shipping and interment back home in the USA.   Customs started digging up the opium laden coffins before the morticians' associates and then the concept of the altruistic motivation went up in smoke (as it were).

Freddie got to visit at Madame Sun Yat-sen's home, thanks to Andre Malraux.

Freddie wrote a book about the glory days in Shanghai.   When the book was republished in the USA, the American publishing firm gave Freddie the run-a-round rather than residuals.

In the 1975 article, Freddie glossed over the time line and ignored certain gaps in the narrative saying only that when it came time to apply for a job at the San Francisco Examiner, that "Sing Sing doesn't provide irresistible references."

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Back in the day when Frisco was home for very memorable gin mills   such as "The Fly Trap," "Mark's Lower Bar," and the "Home That Jack Built;" Freddie/Bob became good friends with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, and the two gathered material by going bar hopping together.   Feddie/Bob conceded that his arch rival was "a shade faster because of fancier footwork and better streamlining."

Once, after the two purchased some toy machine guns and participated in some late night frolicking, they were apprehended by two rookie policemen and the columnists indignantly inquired if the youngster knew who they were trying to arrest.   When they arrived at the station house, they walked in and the watch commander broke into a hearty laughing fit and finally managed to ask the two patrolmen if they knew who it was that they were trying to arrest.   (Case dismissed -- on the spot.)

Freddie pushed the boundaries and got in hot water with management when he used the word "poontang."   He was forbidden to use that word ever again and the top proofreader was charged with making sure the embargoed word was banished forever.   In a description of a party that included a list of forty names, a mysterious guest named Poon Tang was listed and won Freddie a wager for a double sawbuck.

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)
 

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