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Carl Wernicke: Moving into the new year


We human beings are suckers for new things, which is why there is a cottage industry devoted to putting the word “new” on old products, usually in bright red stickers with ragged edges and an exclamation mark or two. But the start of a new year really is something new, not just a mark on an artificial calendar. The earth itself is headed toward the rebirth of spring, at least on our side of the equator. I’d be writing this six months from now in, say, Peru, but try to forget that. It really doesn’t apply here, and I’m sorry I brought it up. Anyway, an integral part of moving to the new is deciding how much of the old to hold onto. My wife and I are completing our roughly three-year transition from a big house in the country, on Garcon Point, to a smaller house on the edge of downtown Pensacola. Along the way, we experienced both pain and joy in getting rid of stuff accumulated over many years. Believe me, you don’t realize how much stuff you have until you move. If you do it right, you distill your heap of belongings, some accumulated on a whim or a sudden, but fleeting inspiration while perusing Amazon, down to what you really value. You make some wrong calls, sure, but forgetting them is one of the upsides of age-induced memory loss. Of course, there are things you don’t want to let go of. For us that includes the art, we have gathered over the years from local artists. For me, that includes a collection of ink drawings by longtime Pensacola News Journal editor J. Earle Bowden.  Many people know only of Earle’s artistic skills from the cartoons he drew for the News Journal. He learned his craft from the pioneers of early Twentieth Century journalistic cartooning, and in later years many readers found them simplistic. PNJ readers also were familiar with Earle’s excellent skills as a caricaturist; over several decades he drew many remarkably skilled renderings of the faces of the area’s movers and shakers. Hundreds of those caricatures now hang in homes, offices, and businesses across Pensacola. Lesser known are Earle’s skillful artistic drawings, from his childhood home in Altha to Northwest Florida historical sketches depicting such disparate subjects as cane syrup makers, turpentine workers, and the intriguingly named Look and Tremble Shoal on the Chipola River. OK, fast forward to our recent move. In case you haven’t noticed, mini-warehouses are a growth industry today; we rented two units and stuffed them dangerously full. Emptying them took repeated trips with my pickup truck and trailer. One day a former colleague at the PNJ called to ask if I had lost a box of framed artworks. Somehow, a box with all my Bowden art – including a remarkably good caricature of me at my PNJ keyboard – had fallen off the trailer along I-10.  It was found there by a woman who connected Earle to the PNJ and was gracious enough to take it there. The folks at the PNJ connected it to me. Unfortunately, they didn’t the name of the anonymous Good Samaritan. But I got my cherished artworks back, and I thank her, whoever she is.