Words from a Pulitzer Winner

Take a Lesson

SUPPORT YOUR TEACHER: Santa Barbara’s movers and shakers filled the Granada Theatre Monday night and got a stern, finger-shaking lecture from Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.

It was like your earnest, loving grandfather telling you that you’re basically a good person but need to shape up.

McCullough, 77, author of highly praised biographies of presidents John Adams and Harry Truman, and other books, wasn’t there to talk history, for the most part. He praised the unsung — and underpaidheroes who teach our children.

Barney Brantingham

“I don’t think there’s anyone in our society who does more important work than our teachers,” and we must support them, he said. “We must do a better job of giving appreciation and gratitude to the work our teachers do.”

They can inspire our youth, but unfortunately we are turning out “a generation of history illiterates,” and it’s not the teachers’ fault — ”it’s ours.” He urged parents to share their enthusiasm with their children “and show them what we love.”

Otherwise intelligent young people butcher the English language, McCullough lamented. “It drives people nuts.” Education, he said, comes from the teacher, books, and “hard work.”

“I work every day,” McCullough said, in an eight-by-12-foot “shed” on a manual Royal typewriter he bought used many years ago and on which he’s written all his books.

When friends ask why he doesn’t work on an electric typewriter or computer, he tells them: “I don’t want to write faster. I don’t think that fast.”

SMALL MINDS: There’s a saying: “Never steal anything small.” So look at alleged conman Steven Kunes, facing felony charges and possible prison for ripping off $2,000 from area restaurateur Wally Ronchietto.

He risked getting tossed behind bars for a measly 2,000 bucks? Steve, you could have found nearly that much in Granada seat cushions after Monday’s talk.

Did you think that Wally, one of the all-time nice guys of Santa Barbara, would just shrug off your bogus movie caper after you played buddy-buddy to him? Look, this isn’t Hollywood, where multimillion-dollar deals rise and fall daily, like bread in a bakery with oven problems. They steal big there and no one goes to jail, right?

Steve, Wally was your friend, or he thought so. Even after the cops had you in custody, Wally tried to get you sprung to attend a dinner. No dice, natch, but what kind of a victim is that? This is Santa Barbara, Steve.

It’s also a place where you dare not steal from nuns. What was Denise D’Sant Angelo thinking when she decided to pocket those donations meant for the Sisters of Bethany a few years ago? Did she really think that folks like Ernie Salomon wouldn’t be outraged or that the cops and DA would just let it go, treating it like some kid running off with a restaurant tip jar?

So for embezzling $2,800, Denise got sentenced to time in Sheriff Bill Brown’s little B&B. But before she hit the hoosegow, while out on bail, she couldn’t resist taking an area elderly couple for about $30,000, pretending to be a “paralegal” working to save their mortgage-threatened home.

Well, according to the DA, she didn’t lift a finger and they lost the house. Maybe they would have anyway; I don’t know. At least she should have filed a few papers to make it look good. It didn’t look good to the jury. Last week a Superior Court panel convicted her of elder abuse by grand theft and practicing law without a license.

I watched as she didn’t bat an eyelash or change expression while the jury forewoman read the findings. Maybe she figured she could do another county jail stint “standing on her head,” as the expression goes. But I figure the DA is going for a prison term when she’s sentenced June 6. Not so much fun in the governor’s steel-bar sorority.

After the jury filed out, Judge Frank Ochoa spent at least a half hour studying her case, before deciding whether or not to free her on bail. Could she resist running another con while free this time? Well, because she’d fleeced the elderly couple while out on bail over the nuns’ case, Ochoa had her “remanded” — handcuffed and locked up without bail.

Which is more than the Wall Street crooks who stole big are getting.

MONTE’S NOVEL: It’s 1929. The Great Depression looms. Monte Schulz, whose Santa Barbara Writers Conference begins June 18, has written a powerful novel about three women and their families struggling with life.

The Last Rose of Summer, just published Fantagraphics Books of Seattle, is the third for Monte, whose late father, Charles, penned the beloved Peanuts series.

Life in East Texas was never easy in those days. Even tougher when Marie Hennesey’s husband takes an out-of-town job and she and the children have to manage without him. It’s an engrossing story, weaving in family disputes and racial tensions of the time.

The 39th Writers Conference (sbwriters.com), back after a two-year hiatus and rescued by Schulz, runs June 18-23 at the Mar Monte Hotel. Speakers include keynoter Ray Bradbury, Santa Barbara’s T.C. Boyle, and thriller author Clive Cussler.


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