THIRTY YEARS AGO this week, the front page of this newspaper announced, among other things, that the comics were being "restored to pre-war size." What's more, said the blurb, there would be not one, but two glorious pages of them, along with "a new local column by W.E.G." That column began with a chatty anecdote about a morning stroller who by chance ran smack into another daybreak hiker named Harry Truman and who quickly found out that she couldn't keep pace with him. Then there was an item - "Overheard on a Pennsylvania Avenue Streetcar: 'All right, folks, move to the rear of the car, please. Take the BACK seats, just like you do in church."
The patter caught on, you might say, and the columnist - known all around town today as Bill Gold, chronicler of The District Line - is still collecting news, views and vignettes about our community. And, as generations of loyal readers know, he's done just a bit of collecting for Children's Hospital, too. Starting with what he called his "shoe box" for collections, Bill began publishing the names of organization that sent him donations to be forwarded to the hospital.
These days, Bill uses his "electronic abacus" to give readers the running totals and lists of donors to his annual appeals.Those numbers were still rolling up when we checked his column the other day, with the current appeals then heading toward $80,000. What Bill may not get around to telling you, however, is that he's become one of the greatest individual fundraisers ever in our town: In 1976, his campaigns passed the $1-million mark for Children's - and by now that total has easily topped $1.1 million.
The money has come from generous people in every corner of the community, from offices, clubs, children's groups - you name it. But Bill wouldn't want these impressive figures to slow his continuing appeal. As he has noted, Children's is the "hospital with the built-in deficit . . . Our thesis here is a simple one: that no child should be turned away from a hospital because its parents are too poor to pay." Bill God has been unstinting in his concern for a town he clearly loves.