Saturday night we were home watching television. The SAG Awards. That’s the Screen Actors’ Guild, for those of you not current on your People magazine reading. Actually I’m not current either and spent half the evening asking my wife who the presenters were. She does better than I do, though she was also stumped several times.

Took some satisfaction, however, in being able to tell her, when they tipped their hand that Betty White would receive the union’s lifetime achievement award, that Ms. White was born in Oak Park.

“No? Really!” Mary said with both astonishment and genuine interest. “Yes, I’ve read that in Wednesday Journal,” I told her proudly. Then, a bit later, when they rolled the tribute piece, there it was. Adorable tike picture and the announcer intoned, “Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois.”

Betty White is 88 years old. She said so when she got to the stage: had her birthday last Sunday. Now, I always worry for these awfully old people, the ones most likely to get lifetime achievement awards. I worry they’ll get to the microphone and make no sense whatever. Complete undecipherable blather.

Needn’t have worried about Oak Parker White. She was sharp, to the point and very funny. You’ve got to love those nearing 90 who can still tell a joke about sex and bring the house down. She was so cool that, later, George Clooney made a sex joke back at her.

For your information, Betty White lived in Oak Park for only a short time as a baby. But we can still claim her.

Several years back, we learned that we could not precisely claim White’s old CBS Saturday night colleague Bob Newhart. I assumed he had lived in Oak Park, since I was often playing with his nephew Ned Newhart over on Lyman. But, alas, Newhart reports he grew up in Austin and just wished he’d lived in Oak Park.

Reading a book called Grant and Twain. Teaser alert: Much of this book is about Gen. U.S. Grant racing to finish his memoirs while battling cancer of the tongue. He didn’t make it. President Grant is dead.

The morbid fascination of the press in his slow decline and occasional rallying is well covered in the book. The New York tabloids were regularly decrying his doctors as quacks. The book explains this was common practice at that time, owing to the determined misinformation provided the public a few years earlier when President James Garfield was assassinated.

Bet you didn’t know that Garfield lingered for 80 days before he died and that, based on the medical reports, Americans expected him to turn up behind his desk at any moment. Or that Alexander Graham Bell was called in with a gerry-rigged metal detector to try and find the bullet doctors thought was lodged in the president. Didn’t find the bullet partly because he was on a mattress filled with metal springs. That would go to the concerns about bad doctoring.

Here’s the payoff. Charles Guiteau, the man who assassinated Garfield, allegedly lived for a time in Oak Park. And from all descriptions, he was one confused fellow. This was before Betty White was born, though.

Last one. Ken Williams, the Sox general manager, lived at 100 Forest Place for a time when he was a third string outfielder for the team in the late 1980s. Better to rent than buy when your lifetime batting average is .218.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...