By RICH FOLEY
Recently, a new friend of mine searched the Observer’s website for some of my old columns. I decided to take a look there myself as I wanted to print a copy of a vintage column for another new acquaintance. I was quickly fascinated by the number of hits, or lack thereof, recorded by the columns currently posted online.
Of the 450 or so of these little screeds I’ve written thus far, about 280 are available on the website. The number of hits range from under 200 for several of the newer postings all the way up to 3,491 for a 2007 column.
That particular column featured a telemarketing firm in the Denver area which back then was bombarding me with calls selling magazine subscriptions. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one annoyed by their tactics.
I suspect that once the column was posted online, people looking for the company’s name in order to lodge a complaint clicked on the column looking for helpful information. I wasn’t offering any help, unfortunately, but at least the company eventually quit calling me.
The second-most popular column by number of hits was a 2014 story about the Aunt Bee character from the old Andy Griffith Show and her 1966 Studebaker. Frances Bavier, who portrayed Aunt Bee, was a longtime fan of the Studebaker brand and drove her personal Lark Daytona in an episode of the show’s spin-off, Mayberry, RFD.
The column explained how the car deteriorated after Bavier gave up driving and following her death, it was discovered to have four flat tires and an interior destroyed by her many cats. Despite that, a collector paid $20,000 for the car, intending to keep it in that condition as a tribute to Aunt Bee.
That column had 2,205 hits the last time I looked, plus something I wasn’t expecting. If you search “Aunt Bee’s Studebaker” online, in addition to the link to the Observer’s website, above it on the first page of search results there’s a link to a non-Observer site which reproduces the entire page from the May 29, 2014 Observer that contains the original column.
Since it appears above the Observer’s link, I’m guessing the rogue link has received more hits than the real Observer link. Add in the seven or eight followers of my column who originally saw it in the paper and total readership for it is probably the highest of any of my columns.
The third most popular column is one from 2006 concerning cell phones, netting 1,671 hits. That might be due to what I consider my favorite column headline, at least my favorite so far, namely “Cell phone: Thoughtful gift or present from Hell?” It’s been twelve years, and I still can’t definitively answer the question.
Next on the list is a 2011 column about the then-current glut of Toledo-area publications devoted to running mug shots of area criminals. It has netted 1,589 hits, but I’m not sure if any of those publications are still in business. If anyone has seen one lately, please let me know.
Number five is a 2006 column describing wacky vacation destinations in the state of Ohio, garnering 1.532 hits from readers who may have been disappointed if they followed my advice. Maybe this year, I’ll give bad vacation tips for Michigan travelers.
The rest of the top ten on the “hit list” included a column about the possibility of a reality television show filming in Morenci, followed by one of my occasional columns about odd obituaries. Dime store turtles, one of my all-time favorite column subjects, ranked eighth. Another favorite, Snuggle, the fabric softener bear, came in ninth, followed by yet another, Indy 500 trivia.
The next ten included other subjects that won’t surprise regular readers of this space. They included columns about car ads, Warren Zevon, fish-flavored Pringles, Norman Greenbaum, celebrities in Hell and my idea to break off the old Toledo Strip area from the rest of Ohio and become the 51st state (with Fayette as its capital). That still sounds like a good idea to me.
In all, 39 columns had at least 1,000 hits when I last checked. A column about Kinky Friedman had 999, deserving of an honorable mention, at least by me. In 284th, or last place, was a 2016 column about cereal with a mere 163 hits. The people have spoken. You’ve seen my last cereal column. Maybe.