top of page

The Earliest Royko: Before the column, 1951-1961

Preparing the book, Royko In Love: Mike’s letters to Carol, led me to boxes that had remained unopened since my mother’s sudden death in 1979. Besides photos and documents stretching back to the turn of the 20th Century, I uncovered pieces of Dad’s early career that I hadn’t thought survived, including a couple of his earliest columns -- not his first Daily News columns, which began in 1963 (see Early Royko: Up Against It in Chicago for those), but Mike's View, his column for The O’Hare News, from more than eight years earlier.

In January, 1955, Dad was transferred from the Air Force base in Blaine, Washington, to O’Hare (still in its pre-commercial airport days) to complete his stint in the service. Dad had heard that the editor of the base newspaper was about to be discharged, and instantly fabricated a past that included work as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. He got the job, and spent that weekend in the public library reading up on how to be a reporter and edit a paper. This is a tale he told, with variations, on several occasions, but until now, I was afraid none of the writing he did for The O’Hare News survived. We now have two examples of Mike’s View.

Before his early experience as a reporter, or his City News Bureau training, or his official baptism as a newspaperman for the Daily News, Mike’s View shows how much he already was "Royko," the writer he would become. We even find a predecessor to his later creation, Dr. Kookie, “World renowned expert on lots of stuff.” In 1955, the 22 year old Royko named him Ignats Phnff. And, from "the more things change . . ." department, the reference to Afghanistan likely had to do with then-current tensions in the region. For info, see the March 29, 1955 entry (10 days before this Mike's View column) in Wikipedia on Afghanistan.

Mike’s View

By Mike Royko

The O’Hare News

Friday, April 8, 1955

The many letters we have received requesting information on survival during an atomic blast indicate an immediate need for a set of rules. I have looked into the field of survival and have compiled some important things to remember.

If enemy aircraft are sighted, a warning will be provided by use of a loud siren. The Russians are sly, so they may attack at noon when the lunch whistles are being blown. To distinguish between the two, all lunch whistles are being arranged in the key of C and all air raid whistles in G flat. The war department has announced that a pamphlet on reading music is being printed and all families can be provided with one by sending in ten cents and the tops off two airmen.

After hearing the siren, the first thing to do is to swear. If you are a Republican, you should swear at the Democrats, and vice versa. If you are an independent voter you swear at both parties. If you don’t swear there are other emotional outlets such as breaking street lights, pinching girls, and letting the air out of tires. All are recommended.

All members of the American Legion should put on their uniforms and have a protest parade because the Russians are un-American. Following the parade they will adjourn to their headquarters where they will drink and sing dirty songs. All airmen are invited.

If you are home at the time of the attack, go to your basement immediately. Then pile all your furniture against the doors and walls. This offers absolutely no protection but it is good exercise and provides more room on the floor if you should have unexpected company and want to dance.

If you are outdoors when the blast occurs, it is advisable to climb a tree. It has been said that only the monkeys will survive an atomic war so there must be something beneficial in being in a tree.

If you have been out of the Air Force less than six months, your best bet is to reenlist. This has nothing to do with survival, but unless I print it, I’ll be shipped to Afghanistan.

One of the safest places to be during an attack is in a subway. It would be a good idea to keep exactly twenty cents with you at all times, and if possible, take an apartment near a subway entrance. Subways are safe because they are below the ground. This has caused the noted scientist, Professor Ignats Phnff, to state that after the next war, all that will remain on earth will be snakes, worms, gophers, and subway conductors. This should make us all appreciate the man who invented the subway. He may be the hope of mankind.

* * *

The following Mike’s View presents his take on the advice columnist and her readers.

Mike’s View By Mike Royko The O’Hare News Friday, May 20, 1955 Glance through any major newspaper and you will find a column devoted to solving the marital, pre-marital, and hope-of-marital difficulties of anonymous advice seekers. The problems are usually lengthy and hilarious while the answers are short and inadequate. If you have neglected to partake in the griefs [sic] of these woeful souls, the following examples will give you an idea of what they are like. Dear Miss Helpall: I have been going with a young man for six years. He says he loves me but whenever I mention marriage he gouges my eyes. Since I am 84 years old I feel that I am wasting my youth. Another man has been courting me and though I don’t love him, he would be a good husband, a good provider, and is an excellent scrabble player. What shall I do? Confused. Dear Confused: Give them both up and try to climb Mt. Everest. You need a hobby. Dear Miss Helpall: My husband and I have been married for 16 years. We have 24 beautiful children and a nice home. Lately he has taken to staying away from home for days at a time and when he comes home he smells of whiskey and beats me and kicks the children. I have seen him with other women and he spends all our money. Rejected. Dear Rejected: You silly goose. Every man has to have his month out with the boys, and by trying to deprive him of it, you just enrage him. Be kind and understanding, and if that doesn’t work, put arsenic in his coffee. Dear Miss Helpall: I am unpopular with boys. I don’t know why. I am four feet tall and weigh 175 pounds but I keep myself well groomed and drink deodorants. I play the bass drum and like to chop trees so I am a good companion. What is wrong with me and how can I find a boyfriend? Lovesick. Dear Lovesick: Take up a hobby that will bring you in contact with men. The Chicago Bears hold tryouts in the fall. Dear Miss Helpall: When I am with girls I don’t know what to talk about. I get nervous and upset. Sometimes I feel so shy that I swallow my tongue and a doctor has to be called to prevent my strangling. A girl once said hello to me, and I was so shocked I hid in a sewer for three days. It was cold. What can I do to become a life of the party? Shy. Dear Shy: Try getting hopped up on cocaine. Dear Miss Helpall: I am 109 years old and in love with a man of 17. We love each other, and though I am confined to an iron lung we want to get married. He is a republican and I am a democrat. Do you think that we can be happy despite the political differences between us? Disturbed. Dear Disturbed: Elope immediately. Love conquers all.

* * * This is a description from Royko: A Life in Print, by F. Richard Ciccone (Public Affairs, 2001), of a few more Mike's View columns, their aftermath, and the resultant death of The O'Hare News -- not the last time Dad would see a newspaper fold around him (though the last time it would be his fault): Royko’s first decision as editor was to was to assign himself a column called “Mike’s View.” His first column attacked the American Legion for supporting the communist witch hunts of the late senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. Appearing in a military newspaper, the column might have raised a few epaulets, but Royko was not reprimanded. Then he wrote his second column. He rebuked the officers’ wives for coming on the base with their hair in curlers and wearing casual clothes while their husbands had to go around spic-and-span. He concluded the appearance of these women was bad for morale. Three wives burst into the public information office demanding to see “this Mike Royko.” In those days servicemen did not wear name tags, and the grinning Royko blithely said, “That guy just left on a 30-day leave.” But Royko’s first and last stint as an editor ironically ended when he unwittingly printed his first expose. “The base commander was a nut on sports, and his pride and joy was the base softball team and the pride and joy of the team was the pitcher. But the pitcher was due for his discharge, so to keep him the commander extended his enlistment. I ran a big front-page story about it, thinking it was great news for the commander and the team. What I didn’t know is that you can’t extend a man’s enlistment except during time of war or emergency. Well, the thing really blew up in my face. It went through all layers of command, clear on past the generals to our congressman. One man got sent to the Aleutians. “As for me, nobody would talk to me. They simply decided they didn’t need a base paper anymore. But they did need somebody to clean up the officers’ quarters. So I spent my last three months in the Air Force there as chief janitor and hotel clerk.” * * *

Another voice, and a "poem" of Dad's, from the Air Force base, 1954

I received this via e-mail July 12, 2011: === David, I'm taking the chance that Mike Royko was your father. If so, he was stationed in Blaine, WA with the 757th AC&W Squad with my first husband, Charles "Chuck" Jumisko. I did not know him well but besides being stationed together, Mike and Chuck also played baseball on the Base team. However, like your father, Chuck passed away, in 1975, and I re-married and returned to Blaine from Bellevue, WA. The reason for my note is to let you know I have one of Mike's writings and would like to send it to you. It's a take-off of "The Night Before Christmas" with the characters changed to some of the guys he was stationed with. Even then we all figured he'd do some writing someplace---such a gifted man he was. Please let me know if I'm "talking to the right man" and I'll be happy to send the original poem on to you. Sincerely, Theo (Jumisko) Hull

=== I let Theo know she found the right man, and she not only sent Dad's "Ode to a Comode" (below), she sent the following reminiscences:

=== July 15, 2011 Hi, David. ...I was a very young lady of 19 when I met Chuck (almost 21) and most of his friends. You might guess that Mike's sharp wit and sense of humor were a bit intimidating to me but I appreciated it all the same. Yes, Blaine was a quiet little town of about 2,000 people and the last stop on the I-5 before entering Canada. Birch Bay is about a mile from the base but it was a resort area and was pretty much closed down after September. There was little to do for any young people so a lot of the airmen found a ride into Blaine just five miles away. There was a movie theater which I worked in, or the bar in the Cafe International. Due to boredom, many of the guys spent too much time there and I imagine were reminiscing about home, etc... Your Dad was one of them. He did not seem happy and often appeared to be melancholy. Now I understand why! BTW, he didn't spend all his money at the International as it seems to me that some of the younger men ran out of money soon after payday and your Dad was kind enough to loan them some. Maybe he'd been through the same thing! I can only imagine his joy and excitement when he was transferred to the Chicago area and therefore, closer to his Carol! The guys worked shift work at the base so they tended to spend off -time with one another. Chuck was in radar maintenance and had just returned from Korea when he came to Blaine. About six months later, it was discovered that he should have gone to Sacramento to work on airplanes (needless to say there were none in Blaine). We were married in July and reported in at Sacto in August. I do recall some of the names of Mike's friends in the book but did not know them well. Have you been contacted by any of the guys from the 757th who knew Mike? The only reason for giving me credit for his poem would be if by chance one of Chuck's buddies would read it and we might get in touch. By the way, I thought you'd find it interesting that there were many, many marriages of local girls and airmen; two of my sisters and several girlfriends among them. Quite a number of men remained in Blaine for one reason or another, and many women became scattered across the country when they married. With Canada being so close, a number of men married women from there... Sincerely, Theo

=== Thanks so very much, Theo, for Dad's "Ode," and your own words that make the time-period live a bit more. July 23, 2011 === "Ode to a Comode" by Mike Royko, 1954, Blaine, Washington. All spelling and grammar unaltered. "Re-up" meant to re-enlist. "Blanchard and Davis" refers to a legendary college football duo of the 1940s.

=== RADAR MAINTENANCE SECTION THE FIGHTING 757TH P.O. Box 548, Blaine, Washington TODAY SUBJECT: The forthcoming wild drinking bout whick will be laugingly referred to as a "Party" TO: The Great White Father and His gang of Wild Eyed, Frothy mouthed enebriates ODE TO A COMODE

Listen my children and you shall hear How the troops of this section Did drink all the beer. Twas early evening 19th of July And the troops cried out We are dry, we are dry. To the house of the chief In droves they did swarm With the fear in their eyes That the beer would get warm. And the chief did await them his eyes all agleam for he had contrived a naferious scheme. He would ply them with liquor And then they would sup falling prey to his scheme to make them re-up. First to arrive as the evening grew dusky was the troop known as Sam and he cried "Suck a Husky"! Then arrived Smitty with Browny on his right the Blanchard and Davis of this Radar Site. Then showed up Miles So gay he did prance little did he know we would soon take his pants. Look, there is Nagy with his cheeks blushing red, just three or four beers and he'll be safely in bed. What is that smoke? Who can it be? It's Leo the Lion Chief of the S.O.P. Then the crowd grew hushed Their voices fell low Here comes Audy the great hero. All the troops did arrive and tilted the cup till the chief cried out "Let's all re-up!" The crowd grew wild and moved with a start they fell upon him with death in their heart. And Royko did turn and run like a deer I didn't see shit I ain't even here. But the articles of war were brought to his ears and he was sentenced to 6 7/8 years. So remember, new airmen don't drink too much brew this terrible fate could happen to you. Henry Wadsworth Longroyko

* * * Lincoln-Belmont Booster, 1956: Deep Baby Trap In the beginning of 1956, Dad was discharged and went to work for the Chicago neighborhood paper, the Lincoln-Belmont Booster, his first paying newspaper job. This is from an old family scrapbook. I don't have the precise date (nor is the photographer named), but this 1956 shot is the earliest example I have seen of Dad's work in the newspaper business.

* * *

City News Bureau, late 1950s: Mice

Dad's next stop was the City News Bureau of Chicago (CNB), the most famous training ground in the history of newspapers, where the line was born, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” CNB reporters would provide stories to the various competing papers in the area, and what they wrote and the information they provided went uncredited, making it difficult to find examples of Mike’s writing from this period.

This single-sided sheet hints at the kind of work Mike produced for the City News Bureau. (I'm basing my assumption that this comes from his CMB days from the box in which it was packed, but it is possibly from Dad's time with the Lincoln-Belmont Booster.) Not known to readers was that Fred Duckman, quoted in the story, was the reporter’s father-in-law (and my grandfather), and Duckman's address was the house that Mike and Carol lived in, on the third floor. Whether the final line was actually by Gramps or a whimsical fabrication by Dad, we'll never know -- my grandfather could be pretty funny himself.

Mice WEATHER Tiny field mice, chilled victims of Chicago’s cold spell, have been seeking refuge in Northwest side homes. The cats, and the hardware store owners who have been having a record sale of mouse traps, like it. The local residents don’t. This is what Fred Duckman, an electrician, who lives at 5408 N. Central av., has to say about it: “We’ve always had mice out here, because the land has only been recently developed. But this winter, well, its just amazing. I’ve set six traps at a time, and they go off like fire crackers.” Duckman added: “The mice are stylish, though. They’re coming in a sort of charcoal brown.” * * *

Mike Royko, Daily News reporter, February 28, 1961

After City News, Dad went to the Chicago Daily News in 1959 and began his column in 1963. Again, bylines were not the norm, making it difficult to know what he wrote before the column began. Thanks to the photo, we know Dad was covering this story about a spokesman for Mayor Richard J. Daley informing a large gathering of cops that the investigation of police wrongdoing would be moved to a different department, and the reaction that ensued. The story’s final paragraph is nicely serendipitous -- Dad’s classic book on Daley is titled, “Boss.”

Chicago Daily News Tuesday, Feb. 28, 1961 Page 1 [Overlaid photo caption] 'Throw Him Out!' [Photo caption] Attorney Raymond Simon (with brief case), a representative of Mayor Daley, is ejected from police protest rally at St. Jude's Hall, 221 W. Madison, by Policeman Edward Hayes (left) sergeant-at-arms of the Chicago Patrolman's Association. Daley News reporter Mike Royko is between the two men. Simon had gone to the meeting to explain the proposed legislation to revamp the police department. Other pictures on Back Page) Exclusive photo by Luther Joseph [Headline] Wilson 'Shocked' By Cop Violence Daley Aide Roughed Up, Thrown Out of Meeting [Photo caption] Frank Carey, President of the Patrolmen's Club, addresses police mass meeting. --- Police supt. Orlando W. Wilson said Tuesday he was "shocked" at an outburst of violence at a mass meeting of Chicago's policemen. Mayor Daley called it an "unfortunate incident." A representative of Daley was tossed out of St. Jude's Hall, 221 W. Madison, when he tried to speak Monday night in favor of proposed legislation that would revamp the department. He was kicked at, whirled, jostled and cursed and had a police escort through the angry crowd of more than 4,000. About half the crowd, which overflowed the hall into Madison St., cheered a series of police leaders who condemned Wilson, Daley and the proposed laws that would take police discipline away from the Civil Service Commission. Before the crowd was calmed, shouts of "throw the reporters out" threatened further outbreaks. I'm shocked to think Chicago police officers, whose mission it is to protect people, would treat a representative of the mayor with so much discourtesy and incivility," Wilson said.

*** Daley said he had asked Raymond Simon, a city lawyer, to "appear at the meeting because I felt that it was only fair to the men and women of the police department to hear both sides of this important proposal recommended by Supt. Wilson and the police force." "It is regrettable that they didn't hear both sides," the mayor continued. "Let us not judge the rank and file of the police department by this unfortunate incident. "Let us not be diverted from the main issue--the merits of the police bill and its objective of making the Chicago Police Department the finest in the nation." Simon showed up while Frank Carey, president of the Chicago Patrolmen's Assn., was speaking. "Let me explain the legislation," Simon shouted after threading his way through the hot, smoky, standing-room-only hall. And angry roar burst from the crowd. Simon was grabbed by several policemen and shoved toward the door, his arm held in a wrestling hold. *** "Throw him out . . . shut up you louse . . . pitch him down the stairs," hundreds of policemen shouted. An aisle opened through the crowd and fists and legs shot out to speed Simon's departure. Simon tried to re-enter the auditorium from a hallway, but Edward Hayes,, beefy Sergeant-at-arms of the Patrolmen's Assn., said, "Out, out, we don't want you in here," and led him down the stairs into the street. *** Outside, the crowd shouted at Simon, and he was led to his car by a member of the police Task Force. "I'll make a report to the mayor on this," said the shaken Simon, who explained that Daley had told him to attend the meeting. He said that earlier he had asked Carey for permission to speak and told there was no room on the schedule.

*** The meeting was called by the Patrolmen's Assn. with members of the sergeants, lieutenants and captain's associations also attending. The policemen -- one third of the city's force -- served notice on Wilson that he is in for a rought [sic] time as their chief. Attorney Isadore Goldstein, who represents the Lieutenants Assn., branded the legislation as "vicious." *** Under the proposed legislation, trials of policemen accused of wrong-doing would be taken away from the Civil Service Commission and put in the hands of a board composed of three police captains. The speakers protested that this would wreck job security and morale, cause a huge turnover in police personnel and make every policeman prey to political and inter-departmental reprisal. Goldstein urged the policemen to see the state legislators from their districts and tell them: "Listen Senator, I helped send you to Springfield. If you vote for this legislation, I'll go from house to house and see that you are defeated." *** Hayes said that he went to Springfield and spoke to "veteran legislators" about the bills. "They told me 'It's going to be rough because the boss wants it.'" "Now who is the boss?" Hayes shouted. Shouts of "Daley," and "boo" erupted from the policemen. * * *

Mike Royko, high school political activist, Chicago Herald-American, December 22, 1951 And stepping back a decade -- this is from the same scrapbook that contained the Lincoln-Belmont Booster photos. Not an example of Dad's writing, this is the earliest evidence I've found of his interest in politics -- 19-year-old Royko (standing second from left) as a high school student (Central YMCA), soon before enlisting in the Air Force and heading to Korea. The story (written by the Chicago Herald-American's "Youth Editor," Dorothy Petrucci) implies that these are the "foremen" of the eleven high schools that the Herald-American polled for a total of 1709 "jurists." The individual opinions of the various jurors, or which ones' quotes were used for the story, aren't identified.

I'd welcome any info on the other participants, especially hearing from them and any memories of this or Dad they might have. They are listed as:

Janet Thomas, 17, 6416 Fairfield, Berwyn, Morton Township High; Joyce Rita Stern, 14, 1533 S. Kedvale, Austin High; Donald Duff, 17, 12100 Ann St., Blue Island, Blue Island Community High; Barbara Karg, 17, 7021 Euclid, Hyde Park High; Stephen Witek, 17, 2654 W. Thomas St., Weber High; Henry Bielinski, 16, 1700 Wilson, Lane Tech; Patrick Robinson, 16, 429 E. 89th St., St. Ignatius High; Ben Tallman, 16, 2233 N. St. Louis, Kelvyn Park; Warren Born, 17, 5957 Newark, Luther Institute; Charles Gilbert, 17, 3837 N. Keeler, Schurz High.

* * *

Recent Posts

See All

Royko's Grove (September 19, 2015)

Royko's Grove Though there's no plaque or sign, the grassy spot at the end of Montrose Point, a place Dad loved, was officially named "Royko's Grove" by the city posthumously in his honor, spearheaded


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page