DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — ‘A Man Of Letters’

I appreciate the responses,  on Facebook and privately, to my post Sunday about my old friend Arch Monroe’s book of letters, “The Lighter Side of the Law.” I can’t resist adding a bit more about him.

University of North Dakota President Tom Clifford hired Arch in 1983 and assigned him to the public relations office to assist with UND’s Centennial celebration. And he did indeed add flair to the event that might not otherwise have occurred.

Arch was a recovering alcoholic always willing to help others deal with the addiction. After his death, I organized a prayer service in Grand Forks. Although Arch was Protestant, a half-dozen Catholic priests attended. The Rev. William Sherman spoke, and, on a sad day, provoked the joyous laughter Arch would have appreciated when he said, “Now Arch knows that in heaven there is no beer.”

Instead of reprinting an obituary, here is what friend, journalist and humorist Wayne Lubenow wrote in the preface to Arch’s 1973 book (accompanied by a mug shot of Arch sporting a black eye).

“Well, what about him? I’ve known this guy’s unemployment record for over 25 years ― dating back to his editorship of our University of North Dakota paper. I just hope this book doesn’t give humor a permanent black-eye because it was intended to be a ‘knockout.’ ”

He served two years for a U.S. senator on Capitol Hill (it took him that long to find out that the Carroll Arms Hotel across from the S.O.B., “Senate Office Building,” wasn’t part of the defense establishment. He played in an Army band to stay out of service.

Monroe moved secretly from paper to paper, ad agency to radio and TV. His work was so classified that when he left the Galveston News the check read “pre-employment expenses,” with a P.S. “You forget you worked for us, and we’ll try to do the same.” His last Texas job was ad manager for the Houston Football Almanac, perhaps the greatest contribution to tennis, soccer and hockey’s new found popularity in the Southwest.

He went legit for a stint as a railroad brakeman. He took the title literarily and damn near broke the Soo Line Railroad in one summer. I also might note he ran for U.S. Senate from North Dakota. After a frantic three week campaign, he found he’d spent two weeks of his western swing in Montana.

His dampened political aspirations died on a note of honesty we shall always remember. He confessed to his (304) loyal followers, “I don’t understand this defeat … I know so many people, but then again, a lot of people know me, too.”

After all, except for a smile, a joke, a laugh, what more can he do for our country? Now, finally he is a man of LETTERS!

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