I hadn’t seen this fellow Classical High School alumnus in years until we met a school function. Mort White was a bit ahead of me at Classical. I remembered him as a good athlete in two sports, one of them my teammate on the basketball team. He was a prankster, full of fun and mischief, and I was once the butt of a prank. He came up to me, “Hi Ed.”
“Mort? Mort White? Wait, wait, I recognize the voice. Are you the Mort White of the Magic Garden Radio Show?”
“Remember when you poured that sticky glue-like stuff in my hair after practice one day?”
“I did?” Oh such an innocent face, with a smirk I remember. It was so nice to see him and recall old times at the great school. A couple of years went by before I saw him again and there he was, in the audience at one of my presentations. “Mort, how nice to see you again. And so nice of you to come.”
“Yeah. Great, Ed. We should have coffee.”
“You bet.” And we did. Last week at my favorite office away from the office, The Seven Stars Bakery in Providence where we caught up even more. I had a chance to hear of the great radio and consulting gardening career of this feisty (no surprise) gentleman.
There is no need to reiterate his struggle to a most successful radio career and a book ( A Face Made for Radio) that incorporates through his personal experiences the history of radio in Rhode Island over the past 30 years or so. His writing, as is his speech, is full of whimsy. And he tells you the story in the book. But there is so much more to Mort when you have a face-to-face chat. He speaks freely, with knowledge and authority of his loves since childhood… gardening and radio. He speaks even more so of a not-so-easy life that drove him to be tough and successful despite difficult (to say the least) odds. He can be funny and sad, introspective and visionary. He is the crusty curmudgeon with a twinkle in his eye.
And it is always interesting to see that we had, as so many do, mutual admiration and respect for each other in those high school days without ever expressing it to each other. It took more than 50 years to do so… to tell him how I admired his tough play in two sports. We can now call ourselves fellow authors.
“Yeah, those teachers at Classical sure taught us how to write, huh?”
Sure, he is a member of the Pioneers in Broadcasting and the Garden Writers of America and maybe a Hall-of-Famer at that. Mort continues to write a nationally syndicated column, ads for key sponsors and he makes regular appearances around the country for various organizations. He has produced television programs of gardens throughout North America. He has been a consultant to major horticultural companies, but his true love is the connection he makes with his audience on The Magic Garden Show.
Whether he makes a connection with thousands or with one, as he did with me, it was worth every moment. “Hey, let’s do this again.”
“You bet, Mort. You bet.”