I’ve always said that gossip in Lennox Valley was born in one of three places: Maxine’s weekly column called "Rumor Has It," Raymond Cooper’s radio show, or Caroline’s Beauty Salon.
Being a Friday afternoon, every seat in Caroline’s was filled, and all the hair dryers were humming as the good ladies of the Valley prepared to look their best for Sunday services. Some would call it coincidence that the women were trying to discuss Maxine’s latest installment of "Rumor Has It" as "Renderings with Raymond" was playing in the background on the ancient sound system.
All three ingredients were in the mix for a gossip-fest of gigantic proportions.
There’s a tradition among gossip columnists called the blind item. When a columnist gets a juicy tip but doesn’t have a reliable source, as was often the case in "Rumor Has It," a blind item is sometimes applied. Maxine used this technique frequently, describing in detail something that had happened to someone in the Valley without revealing any names.
For example: "What single minister in Lennox Valley was seen having lunch with another ‘supposedly’ single pastor at the Hoffbrau last Monday?"
The salon was full of customers trying to discuss Maxine’s column while listening to Raymond as he concluded his second hour of programming with Brother Jacob as his guest.
"I believe we are," exclaimed Raymond, "cut from the same cloth, Brother Jacob." Then, after a dramatic pause, "Wouldn’t you agree?"
Jacob attempted to sputter some words, but Raymond cut him off before he had a chance.
"We should do this again," continued Raymond. "It’s a nice change to have someone with me to discuss theology."
Not that anyone noticed besides Jacob, but his contribution to the discussion amounted to a total of 3 minutes, 12 seconds during the second hour of Raymond’s show. He secretly hoped he’d never be subjected to such torture again.
Vera Penrod, who was under the hair dryer closest to the window overlooking Main Street, interrupted the discussion about "Rumor Has It" as she noticed something peculiar happening across the street.
"Look at that Elbert Lee Jones and Marvin Walsh scurrying into the radio station like a couple of mice," she said in a distasteful tone. "They almost knocked over that young Lutheran pastor. I wonder what they’re up to now."
A hushed tone suddenly covered Caroline’s as everyone waited to hear what Raymond would have to say after the "top of the hour" commercial break.
Vera broke the silence as she said, "I wonder if Elbert Lee and Marvin have some breaking news."
Top-of-the-hour commercial breaks generally lasted four minutes on Cooper’s show. The salon assembly couldn’t help but notice when the commercial for Massengale’s Mortuary played a second time.
Eventually, after seven minutes, Raymond returned to the air.
"You know," he uttered, "that visit with Brother Jacob has me feeling extra spiritual this afternoon. I think this would be a good time to play a few gospel songs for our listening audience so you can share in my sacred moment."
Inside the radio studio, emotions turned frantic as Marvin explained how Elbert Lee had spilled the beans to Iris.
"Exactly what did he say?" asked Cooper.
Marvin answered, "He said it was ‘that radio man’s fault.’"
"That was all he said?" asked Cooper.
"Wasn’t that enough?" Walsh shot back.
The customers at Caroline’s listened intently as Raymond returned to the air, following "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing."
"Friends," began Raymond, "I have the biggest news flash in Lennox Valley history."
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.