Monday, March 04, 2013

Smoking Typewriters II

When I first heard the name "Joe Pool Lake," I chuckled. It sounds so goofy and quaint. I wondered: What is it? Found out it's a North Texas reservoir and recreational area named after none other than Joe Pool, a Congressional Representative from North Texas (in the 1960s).

In the last couple of years, about the only time Joe Pool Lake has seemed to make news headlines has been when someone dies there. Items like: "Another one drowns in Joe Pool Lake" or: "Boat capsizes, three drown in Joe Pool Lake."

In any case, I finally finished John McMillian's Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America (Oxford University Press, 2011). In it, Representative Joe Pool makes a couple of comical appearances as a rabid opponent of the Sixties underground press. Apparently he hated actual free speech and attacked anyone opposed to the US-Vietnam War. In Chapter 5 ("Either We Have Freedom of the Press . . . or We Don't Have Freedom of the Press"), Pool is quoted as going after the Underground Press Syndicate, an underground version of Associated Press and United Press International wire services, in 1967.

Here's Joe Pool: "The plan of this Underground Press Syndicate is to take advantage of that part of the First Amendment which protects newspapers and gives them freedom of press."  Doh! So what's the problem with free speech in Texas? According to Joe Pool, "These smut sheets are today's Molotov cocktails thrown at respectability in our nation . . . They encourage depravity and irresponsibility . . ." (Smoking Typewriters, page 129).

What a dope. 

So what happened to Joe Pool? About six months after the Tet Offensive began in early 1968, he keeled over dead in Houston, Texas, age 57, at the airport.

Of Joe Pool: ". . . outspoken critic of Vietnam war protesters and resisters to the draft . . . member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities . . . often said he would vote for a declaration of war against North Vietnam." ("REP. JOE POOL DIES SUDDENLY," Gettysburg Times, July 16, 1968). 

If only more Texas politicians were as adamant about protecting the First Amendment as they are about bandying about the Second . . . but alas, they'd rather go jump in Joe Pool Lake, and drown.

Today's Rune: Signals.     

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

This book sounds like something I'd like. I've heard of Joe Pool Lake. Not sure how or why.