Goodbye, Etaoin Shrdlu

I was saddened to hear that Vince Caravan, the alter ego of Etaoin Shrdlu (who wrote an occasional column for the Oswego Valley News when I worked there back in the mid-70s) passed away recently.

Etaoin was unfailingly droll, like Vince — who was also an intelligent, generous and supportive mentor to me. Etaoin got his foreign-sounding name from now-forgotten linotype operations, whereas Vince got his the familiar way.

I can’t think of Etaoin or Vince without smiling; either one could always be depended upon to lift your mood. But it was Vince who signed my paycheck.

That led to a story that I’ll tell now for the second time in print. (The first was in a Bantam memoir I co-wrote called “Younger Than That Now — A Shared Passage From the Sixties.”)

When I got my first check, I noticed that it came out to just short of a round $100 after taxes. So I went in to Vince’s office, showed him the odd number and suggested he could remedy the situation by throwing a few more bucks into the pot.

He stared at me for a moment but then broke into that wonderful smile of his and said: “I like even numbers, too. A hundred it is.” For the rest of my time there we got along like old friends.

I used to love to read Etaoin’s columns in the paper, and when time passed without one I’d get on Vince’s case about it. I’m not saying I had anything to do with it, but sooner or later Etaoin would be back and all would be right in Valley News world.

Goodbye, Etaoin and Vince. I’ll always remember you both fondly.

Jeff Durstewitz

Saratoga Springs, NY

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