Illegal oleo no more

I was about three years out of journalism school when I went to work on the copy desk of The Raleigh Times. The publication that the bar was named after. We copy editors sat in a circle of desks and waited for reporters and editors to send us their articles, which we would then knead into readable, correct copy that would print to fit. The job consisted of long periods of waiting jarred by frantic, noisy activity as the desk chief yelled for a page-one piece and the pneumatic tubes we used to receive items from the photo department whooshed and clunked as deadline approached.

But we did spend a lot of time waiting. And that was when I’d find out stuff. Part of being a copy editor was the speedy retrieval of random facts. One minute, you’d have to know that the small Granville County town north of Raleigh is not spelled Creedmore. (Rookie reporter mistake that we’d scoff at.)  The next, you’d have to change Hugh Morrison High to the correct Hugh Morson.

But there was one person on the desk who seemed to know the most about everything, who was always the first to answer when someone yelled a question like, “When did Isabella Cannon get elected Raleigh mayor?” His name was Jim Pearce. Even if Google had existed, I would have put my money on him in any contest of rapid fact fetching. He could also spin a tale. On one particularly slow Saturday morning, he told me a long story about how yellow margarine used to be illegal because of the powerful butter lobby. I had no reason to doubt the story, but it always seemed a little stretched.

Well, Jim, wherever you are, I know you were right – at least in Wisconsin. This article says that a law was on the state’s books banning yellow coloring in margarine, along with other pro-butter laws that are set for repeal.

So, enjoy your yellow oleo today. It tastes like freedom.


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