It would be improper to allow what has become an institution in the pages of the Brownwood Bulletin to end without formal notice. And since Harry Marlin is not going to do so in his own words, this must suffice.
It’s official: Harry won’t be writing any more columns.
As best as we can determine, Harry began writing his weekly column for the Bulletin on Sept. 15, 1997. It was introduced as part of a redesign of the daily viewpoint page that began the previous Sunday with the announcement of several new columnists, including those by two Bulletin staff members. Harry may have offered some articles prior to this, but memories fail. What is certain, though, is that the September 1997 date is when Harry’s observations and recollections became a weekly feature.
Harry was no stranger to those of us who had been at the Bulletin for a period of years. Usually, we saw him at various public functions - most often staged by the Brownwood Mafia - where he was the “official” photographer while Bulletin staff members shot film for newspaper use. Harry always had some dry observation about the world condition or some such, and the day was much brighter for us as a result.
Harry put such thoughts and his remembrances of times long past to good use in his columns. He gathered many of his works together and published a series of books. In addition to the Bulletin, Harry’s articles were also carried in a few limited-circulation magazines, such as the “Goat Gap Gazette” and “Old Sorehead Gazette.” In 2001, noted Texas-based reporter and author Mike Cochran wrote a major feature about him for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Harry’s experiences during World War II as a gunner on a bomber were well documented in his columns, and his military service was honored just last Sunday by the Dyess Air Force Base chapter of the Non-Commissioned Officers Association. In true form, the biography he submitted for reading at the ceremony drew the biggest - maybe it was the only - laugh of an event that recognized seven other World War II veterans. Harry pointed out the irony of his earning a Good Conduct Medal from the military, comparing that achievement to the odds against Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize.
Harry has tried to step away from his weekly assignment several times before, saying that the well had simply gone dry. But he always managed to produce another gem to offer within a few days, so we didn’t immediately believe it when he sent an e-mail last month saying that he was going to have to quit. We found a timeless classic from the files, something first published several years ago, and waited until the next week. This time, though, he was serious.
Harry explained that he simply didn’t have any more recollections to share, or if he did he couldn’t remember them. His fans might say that point alone would be an interesting column in Harry’s hands, but he could not be convinced.
At Sunday’s ceremony where he and other World War II veterans were honored, Harry confirmed the verdict to us - although he has warned that he may start writing letters to the editor periodically. We hope he was serious about that, because even during a short conversation, it’s obvious that Harry hasn’t lost his flair or his wit.
Harry told the audience Sunday he had been having a little trouble lately with his equilibrium. While we certainly hope it’s temporary, that seems somehow appropriate. Harry has been keeping his faithful Bulletin readers happily off-balance for almost 11 years.
We have column to put in its place, but no one can ever replace Harry. Tuesday mornings just won’t be the same anymore.