The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 7, 2014

Mike Pound: Millard Fillmore gets remembered once again

I don’t want to say the informational pickings at the sort-of-annual Millard Fillmore birthday observance are getting slim, but here was one of my contributions to the discussion Tuesday afternoon.

“You know, in this picture, Millard sort of looks like Alec Baldwin.”

When it comes to Millard Fillmore — the 13th president of the United States — I’m not exactly Robert Cato. Of course, it’s probably a bit of a stretch for me to work presidential historian Robert Cato into a discussion about Millard Fillmore.

But that’s what you do when you talk about Millard: You stretch.

When I found out last week that Charlie Shipman, who I’ve known since our radio days in Kansas City many years ago, was trying to get ahold of me, I instantly knew why: Millard Fillmore’s birthday was coming up.

I have been attending the Millard Fillmore birthday gatherings at the long back table in Cooky’s Cafe in Golden City for at least four years now. To say that the gatherings are informal is like saying Congress is worthless.

The Millard Fillmore birthday celebration in Golden City dates to the 1940s, when Lowell Pugh and his high school pals would make a point to wish one another “Happy Millard Fillmore Birthday” greetings. The fact that the greetings seldom were given on Millard’s birthday, which is Jan. 7, didn’t seem to bother Lowell and his pals.

I remember that during the 2011 Millard Fillmore celebration, Lowell said no one knew exactly how long the gatherings had been taking place.

On Tuesday, there were probably nine or 10 people sitting around the table at Cooky’s. I think, in the past, we’ve had more people than that, but I don’t know. We don’t exactly take roll.

On Tuesday, Lowell repeated something he had mentioned a few years ago. Lowell said the fact that Millard pushed the U.S. Navy to open relations with Japan in a way made him responsible for World War II. Lowell’s comment led me to suggest that Millard also could be credited with the popularity of the Beatles.

A nice guy, sitting next to Lowell, gave me a funny look.

“What makes you say that?” he asked.

I explained that since Millard had a role in opening Japan up to the rest of the world, he also had a role in the Japanese making the transistor radio popular. And the transistor radio, in the hands of American teenagers, made Top 40 radio popular, which made the Beatles popular.

The nice guy looked at me for a second and shook his head.

“You sure went a long way for that one,” he said, and everyone at the table laughed.

“Welcome to Millard Fillmore’s birthday party,” said Joanne Howard, a longtime friend of Lowell’s and his wife, Betty.

At the end of Tuesday’s lunch meeting, I told Lowell that next year we should try to find a university history professor who might want to stop by and tell us more about Millard, but then, on the drive home, I got a better idea.

We need to contact Alec Baldwin, show him a picture of Millard and see if he would be interested in doing a one-man show based on Millard’s life. Heck, since Alec is a pretty talented guy, he might be able to turn it into something called — oh, I don’t know — “Millard: The Musical.”

So Alec, if you read this, drop me an email.

And, if you come to next year’s celebration, I’ll buy your lunch and a piece of pie at Cooky’s.

Trust me, lunch will be worth the trip.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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