The Onion Was A Merry Place In My Day!

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The Onion Was A Merry Place In My Day!

Often my thoughts turn to the old press-room, over which I presided nigh unto 70 years. What heady days those were! So great was the camaraderie among the staff, a bystander would have mistaken it for a gay amusement park! And oh, the jests and japes that were exchanged!

I recall an elderly copy boy, Chalmers, who had worked for my father back when this paper was called The Mercantile Onion. Now, Chalmers was along in years, but I kept him on the payroll, much as a favorite old mare who is put out to pasture. Chalmers treasured his 25 cents a week, and it was amusing to watch him hobble about on his remaining leg, emptying rubbish baskets and grinning toothlessly.

One day, the boys at the city desk decided to play a good-natured prank on Chalmers. He kept a cat in the boiler room, an orange tabby named Lily, named after Lily Langtry, the celebrated English actress. Oh, how the old fool loved that cat!

The pranksters paid a young boy a nickel to run breathlessly into the office and tell Chalmers that Lily had been run over by a horsecar, ground into grease by its iron wheels!

Of course, nothing was further from the truth; Lily was happily eating a moth in the broom-closet near the city desk. But old Chalmers turned white! He clutched his stomach and doubled over, as silent sobs wracked his frail body. It was delirious to watch!

After several minutes of this, the boys finally broke down and opened the closet door, revealing the feline. When someone explained to Chalmers that the whole story had only been a good-natured tease, his face turned to stone. Without a word, he picked up the cat and limped out of the office.

For the next week, Chalmers spoke to nary a soul. Then, one day, for the first time ever, he did not show up. The next day, his landlady announced he had died in his room. Chalmers was buried in the pauper's grave outside of town, and his cat was put to sleep.

It was truly a laugh a minute at the old Onion office! Oh, how I long for those happy days!

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