I’ve been writing and shooting pictures forever. Almost.

I’ve worked for newspapers, wire services, ad agencies, PR shops, big corporations, politicians, colleges and all kinds of businesses, large and small.

I’ve written feature stories, obituaries and travel pieces. Speeches, ad copy and press releases.  Articles for trade journals, newsletters and motorcycle magazines.  I’ve photographed everything from wood furnaces to candles to dog shows to birds (actually, lots and LOTS of birds).

Recently, a prospective client said she would like to see my portfolio, and I was somewhat startled to realize that I had never put one together.  I’ve had a website for many years that focuses on my public relations business; but a portfolio that actually showcases my writing and my photos? For some reason, I simply never thought of it.

So I’ve spent some time scouring the Internet, looking through my computer files and paging through my dusty old filing cabinets in search of examples of my work. It’s been fun, and I’ve found quite a few examples that I don’t mind sharing (And a few things I would NEVER share in a million years. But that’s another story).

I decided the best way to showcase all this material was on a blog, where I can mix up words and pictures and post things as I find them. Since this is a blog, and newer stuff ends up on top of the pile, you may want to scroll all the way down to the bottom and then work your way back to the top.  But it really doesn’t matter; it’s all going to be a bit of a jumble anyway.

Thanks for visiting. If there is something you see here that sparks some sort of reaction in you, I’d love to hear it.

(And by the way… I have a separate blog now dedicated to my photo work. Take a look by clicking HERE.)

Bill Frederick

There’s one thing that you might find a little confusing. Most people know me as Bill, but my real first name is Arthur, and as a journalist I always wrote under my real name – Arthur Frederick. So if you see a story that is topped by a byline that says “By ARTHUR FREDERICK”, that’s why.

Writing fiction

I didn’t get serious about writing fiction until pretty late in my life. I found a fiction writers group at my local library in Tarpon Springs, Fla. around 2015, dusted off an old novel I had started in the 1990s and, with the help of the writers in the group, finally got it finished.

coloradas coverMuch to my surprise, it won a Silver Award in the Florida Writers Association’s annual Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. “Nailing Coloradas” is now available on Amazon in Kindle format.

So I want the term “award-winning novelist” to appear prominently in my obit.

I did a few short stories to read to the writers group, and one of them has turned into another novel, “Bernie’s Shell,” which is about 80 percent complete and will hopefully be ready for the FWA competition this year.

In doing some genealogical work on my family, and having my DNA analyzed, I came across an unanticipated story that I hope will be novel #3. There’s no way I can uncover all the facts of the story since it happened 125 years ago, so I’m going to write it in fictional format. If you don’t have the facts, make ’em up!

Here’s the link to “Nailing Coloradas.”



My mom’s Harcourt portrait

This being the Fourth of July, I thought about posting something about one or both of my parents. My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and earned the Silver Star by doing so. My mother, a registered nurse, was assigned to a U.S. Army hospital in Paris, and treated American soldiers who were wounded there and elsewhere.


Lt. Alta Widener Frederick

Instead, I decided to tell you how my mother’s time in Paris resulted in her having something significant in common with Marlene Dietrich, Simone Signoret and Bridget Bardot.

The picture of my mom that I’ve posted here has been in the family forever. She is in her Army uniform, and the word “Paris” is printed down in the lower right-hand corner. So I knew the portrait was taken during her time in Paris, and I never figured there was much more to know about the story than that.

But not long ago I realized there was another word above “Paris.”


Studio Harcourt in Paris was perhaps the world’s most famous photo studio of its day. Founded in 1934, the studio was located in an impressive limestone mansion on a quiet street near the Champs-Élysées. Actors and actresses, entertainers of all kinds and famous politicians made their way to Studio Harcourt from all over Europe to get their portraits taken.

th[7]The studio was affected by the German occupation, and some of the studio’s principals, who were Jewish, left the city. But the studio continued to operate through the war years.

Harcourt brought a new look to portraiture, using lighting and camera angles developed in the movie industry. And they included some of their own techniques, like making sure facial features were in sharp focus while hair, cheeks and foreheads were slightly blurred. They did this by covering the camera lens with a woman’s stocking, then burning a hole in the very center with a cigarette.


Marlene Dietrich

(I checked this little factoid by looking closely at my mother’s picture. Sure enough. Sharp eyes, nose, mouth and chin, slightly blurry hair.)

Once Paris was liberated, it didn’t take long for American service men and women to discover that Studio Harcourt was not to be missed, and many Americans returned home with Harcourt portraits. Including Mom. Those Harcourt portraits did much to spread Harcourt’s reputation to the U.S.

Studio Harcourt is still in business, and it still relies on many of the lighting techniques that it developed more than 80 years ago.


Simone Sigoret

In 2000, the French government bought Studio Harcourt’s historic negatives taken between 1934 and 1991. There were about five million such negatives in all, involving about 550,000 people. So the negative of my mom’s Harcourt portrait now resides in the French National Archives.

My grandfather’s pocket watch

This was something I wrote without any real clear idea of where to publish it. I just ended up posting it here on my blog, and then on Facebook.


My grandfather was an engineer for the Boston & Albany Railroad. This was his pocket watch. It is a Ball Official Standard. I think it was made in the 1920s, but I’m not sure.

grampa's watchWatches were a big deal for railroad people back in the old days, because time was critical in the railroad business. Getting somewhere on schedule mattered, but it was more than that.

Maybe a freight train is coming from the opposite direction. Maybe you need to pull your train onto a siding to let it pass. If your watch is eight or nine minutes slow, and the other freight gets to the siding before you do, the trains could collide.

That’s what happened in Kipton, Ohio on April 18, 1891, in what came to be known as the Great Kipton Train Disaster. It was a train wreck that killed nine people, six of them postal clerks, and it changed time forever.

Here is what happened:

The fast mail train known as #14, with three mail cars and two parlor cars, was headed west at full speed on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks, about 40 miles west of Cleveland. Coming in the other direction, at much slower speed, was the Toledo Express, a train consisting of five coaches and two baggage cars.

great kipton

This is one of the engines involved in the 1893 Kipton train crash

At an earlier stop, the Toledo Express crew had been instructed to pull onto a siding up ahead at Kipton to let the mail train pass. And they would have done that, were it not for some issues involving the crew’s watches.

The conductor of the Toledo Express said later that he never looked at his watch, thinking that the engineer would look after the schedule. But a later investigation revealed that the engineer’s watch had stopped working for a critical four minutes before starting up again. A few miles out of Kipton, the engineer thought he had a comfortable seven minutes to get his train out of the way of the oncoming mail train, when he actually had just three.

The engineer of the mail train saw the Toledo Express on the tracks ahead and hurriedly applied the brakes, but it was too late. Here is what the Atlanta CONSTITUTION newspaper said of the crash:

“The engine of the Toledo Express was knocked squarely across the track, and that of the fast mail reared in the air, resting on the top of the other… The first and second mail cars were telescoped and smashed to kindling wood, and the third crashed into the first two and rolled over on the station platform, breaking the windows of the building.”

The crash was big news across the country, and it resulted in an investigation that found the Toledo Express crew to be at fault. The investigation also focused on the engineer’s faulty watch.

And this is where we get back around to Grandfather Frederick’s Ball Official Standard pocket watch.

After the crash, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad appointed a Cleveland jeweler, Webster Ball, to investigate the railroad’s timekeeping issues. Ball found that railroad crews did not use any particular time or watch standards in their work. Two years after the crash, in 1893, Ball produced a new set of standards. From that time on, railroad pocket watches had to be accurate to within 30 seconds per week; have 15 jewels; and had to have a white face and black Arabic numerals. Since variances in temperature could cause watches to speed up or slow down, they also had to be temperature compensated.

Also, the standards required railroad engineers to have their watches inspected regularly. After each successful inspection, the engineers were handed certificates that guaranteed the watches’ reliability. Watch repairs had to be paid for by the engineers themselves, although they could get loaner watches from the jeweler while their own watch was being fixed.

So my grandfather had a Ball watch. So did everyone else in the railroad business at that time.

Ever heard the phrase, “on the ball?” It’s a phrase that relates to promptness and accuracy, and it traces back to Webster Ball.


BA engine

This is a locomotive that was operated by the Boston & Albany Railroad. This photo was taken in Springfield, Mass., my grandfather’s daily destination from Boston. It would be very cool if that was him hanging out of the window, but we’ll never know.

One day in, I think, 1951, my father took me to the Boston & Albany railroad yard in Boston, and we climbed up into my grandfather’s engine. I was 4. We hung on while he hooked up the cars, a process that involved getting the engine up to a little speed backwards and then banging it into some freight cars. I don’t remember much about that, except that it happened quite a few times, and the process involved a lot of banging and clanking and hanging on.

engineer capsA couple of years later, my grandmother and aunt drove me into Boston in my aunt’s blue Ford. We pulled off to the side of Storrow Drive near what is now Boston University, and waited near a railroad overpass. In a while, my grandfather’s train approached the overpass – right on time, I assume, because of his Ball Official Standard. He waved out the window, and blew the air horn. He was even wearing one of those blue-and-white striped engineer’s caps, which I just learned you can still buy at Wal-Mart for about 10 bucks.

My grandfather worked hard all his life, was lucky enough to have a good job through the Depression, and he was looking forward to retirement. But in 1956, at age 64 and just six months before collecting his good railroad pension, he walked home from the bus stop one night, climbed into bed, and died of a massive heart attack. The unfiltered Chesterfields he had smoked all his life finally caught up with him.

Many years later, when I was about 64, his daughter (my aunt) died, and I got my grandfather’s Ball Official Standard pocket watch. It was the only thing I wanted.



Moose warning signs won’t be in French

It was always kind of fun to catch the state government screwing up. This was a pretty good one…


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) — New signs in English warning motorists to be alert for moose along ‘Moose Alley’ may not prevent accidents because almost all moose-car mishaps involve French-speaking motorists from Quebec, state officials said Monday.

State Department of Transportation officials said they do not plan to change the signs to include moose warnings in French, even though game wardens estimate that as many as 98 percent of the moose-car crashes involve French-Canadian drivers.

‘We don’t have plans for that,’ said Douglas McCobb of the department’s Traffic Engineering Division. ‘We think the warning sign itself is more noticeable than perhaps the message that you see.


‘The first thing you see is the color of the sign and the second thing is the shape of the sign and the third thing is the actual message on the sign,’ McCobb said. ‘We feel the warning message is proclaimed by the color and the shape of the sign and we hope that if (the French-speaking motorists) see enough of them they will know there is some kind of wild animal crossing or something.’

The problem area is a 50-mile stretch of Route 201 between the town of Bingham and the Canadian border, where the moose population is especially thick. State Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokesman Paul Fournier said department officials have done moose population counts that show as many as six or seven moose per square mile in the area.

‘It is among the highest densities (of moose) found anywhere,’ Fournier said.

Robert Darbelnet, director general of the Canadian Automobile Association’s office in Quebec City, said he travels to Maine often and once nearby struck a moose himself along Route 201.

But he said he was reluctant to tell Maine officials how to handle their road signs when Quebec’s signs are all in French.


Writing for Facebook

This headline is somewhat misleading. If I were REALLY going to show an example of writing for Facebook (or any social media), I’d post something that would contain links and keywords and other little tidbits that are especially applicable to social media. But I posted this story and picture about my father on a recent Veteran’s Day (November 11, 2016) for a couple of reasons — it told a little about me and my family, and I knew that anything that relates to a holiday or other special day usually gets a good amount of attention. This story got around 75 “likes” and around 25 comments, so it was pretty well received.  This is typical of what I’m writing currently; I’m working on my second novel, writing some PR-related magazine articles and press releases for a Tampa-based agency, and posting a fair amount of social media words and pictures.


This is a picture of my father with just one leg under him, an observation that has more truth to it than you know. I’ve always been reluctant to share this picture, especially on a day like today. I didn’t want anyone to feel that I was being disrespectful by posting a picture of him in such a comic pose.

But I decided to go ahead and share it. It’s a story that is worth telling.

muleshit-pictureArthur (that was his name, the same as mine) quit high school in his junior year, and then bummed around for a number of years. He worked as a painter and paperhanger in Boston, then moved to Cleveland in pursuit of a woman. He worked there in a hotel kitchen, as assistant to the ice cream chef.

Nothing much happened in his life until he got his draft notice in 1942. He was 25.

He was inducted into the army, and was assigned to an artillery unit. U.S. Army artillery pieces were still being dragged around by mules at that time, and Arthur spent a number of months as a buck private, shoveling mule shit. This was duty that he did not like.

Paper hanger, then assistant ice cream maker, then shoveler of mule shit. He was in his mid-20s, not all that young. I think around this time he finally got the message that some changes had to be made; he applied for Officer Candidate School.

His Army aptitude tests showed he had an IQ of 135, and that’s what got him accepted. He spent the next 90 nights in the latrine, the only place he could study. With only a 10th grade education, he mastered trigonometry while sitting on a toilet.

Now he was a Second Lieutenant, an artillery officer. A year or so later, he landed on Utah Beach, marched across Europe as part of Patton’s Army, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He earned the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. The Boston Globe, his hometown newspaper, wrote a story about him.

He came home and got a good job with Standard Oil on the basis of his military rank and record. He believed that World War II was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

This story does not have a good ending. Arthur’s lifelong addiction to alcohol killed him at 54. He died pretty much alone, having lost his job, his family and friends many years earlier. He was a high school dropout at the beginning of his adult life, and an alcoholic at the end of it.

But in the middle of his life, between those two dark bookends, there was a shining moment. He did the right thing, he contributed something good to others, and he earned some respect. I bet it made him feel good. I believe the picture is of him during his Army training, sometime during his transition from muleshit-shoveler to leader of men.

It’s not easy for me to say anything good about Arthur; my memories of him are not good ones. But today I’m going to try to give him his due.

I guess this Veteran’s Day belongs to him as much as anyone.


Stephen King, the Red Sox and long underwear

Novelist Stephen King lived in Bangor (still does), and I would write a story about him every few months. This was a favorite — King has a good sense of humor and he saw the potential for fun in this event right away. King was supposed to eat lunch on this day in his underwear if he had lost the bet with Bangor Daily News sportswriter Bob Haskell; since he won the bet, he showed up in a tuxedo.  Later in that year (1986), the Red Sox won the pennant and went on to the World Series. I called King, a Red Sox fanatic, and asked him if he would be interested in covering the Red Sox post-game locker room. He was enthusiastic about the idea (it would have given him access to the team locker room), but the plan was killed by UPI’s union; no union membership, no work.


BANGOR, Maine (UPI) — Sports writer Bob Haskell wore his old Army long stephen kingjohns and munched a chicken lunch Thursday provided by novelist Stephen King in payment for a sports bet that attracted donations for young cancer victims.

Haskell’s humiliation began in May with a newspaper column in which he predicted the Boston Red Sox, then as now in first place in the American League East, would be out of contention by Flag Day.

King, a Bangor resident and rabid Red Sox fan, took exception.

“It was like Germany before World War II,” said King, a Red Sox season ticket holder.  “Good people must not be silent in the face of outrage.”

In a guest column, King said if the Red Sox were indeed out of it by Flag Day, he would eat a chicken dinner on the lawn in front of the Bangor Daily News, June 14, in his underwear. He challenged Haskell to the same terms if the Sox were still in the pennant race.

“It was the best lunch I ever had, and I didn’t even eat anything,” King said after about 200 people watched Haskell chew on a chicken leg in the gazebo at Bass Park, next door to the newspaper.

fenwayHaskell, who wore a New York Yankees shirt and a pair of cutoff long johns left over from his Army days, said he was through with sports bets.

“This will be the last bet I ever make in public, and it most certainly will be the last bet I ever make with Stephen King,” Haskell said.

After lunch, Haskell said he still was not ready to concede a Red Sox victory in the American League East.

“I still think the Yankees are going to win,” he said. “I’m not going to give up on them when they are just eight games out before the All-Star break.”

The Bangor Daily News invited readers to participate by sending in their predictions and money for the Jimmy Fund, a nationwide charity for young cancer victims and their families. The promotion netted $1,250, and King kicked in an additional $1,000 just before Haskell’s chicken lunch began.

The money raised was presented to Jerry and Maureen Hodge, a Bangor couple whose young son, Adam, died of cancer in April.

Carter speaks at Bates College

An earlier post talked about a gathering of former secretaries of state at the Muskie Archives at Bates College in Lewiston, and the occasional opportunity to cover national political events in rural Maine. Here’s another example. Remember that Muskie served as secretary of state during the Carter Administration.


LEWISTON, Maine (UPI) — Former President Jimmy Carter, attending the dedication of the Edmund S. Muskie Archive at Bates College, said Saturday he has little hope for an arms agreement unless President Reagan “is willing to bend” on the Star Wars space weapons program.

jimmy carterCarter, speaking at ceremonies honoring his former secretary of state, noted that all recent presidents except Reagan have been able to agree with the Soviets on some sort of arms control.

“All my predecessors, and I, have been very successful in negotiating arms control with the Soviet Union, in spite of those who see the Soviet people as an ‘evil empire,” said Carter, who lost to Reagan in the 1980 election.

“Those opponents of good-faith negotiation provide a foundation for our nation’s position that there is little hope for a reduction of nuclear stockpiles,” he said.

At a news conference prior to his speech, Carter said he doesn’t hold out much hope for an arms agreement when Reagan meets for summit talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva Nov. 19-20 unless the Reagan administration is willing to bend on its Star Wars space weapons program.

“I think an obstacle is Star Wars,” Carter said. ‘It is ill-conceived, expensive and an impediment to arms control.”

Carter, in his speech at the dedication, also said the United States must provide world leadership in human rights.

“In order to be truly great, we must use our power for the enhancement of peace for ourselves and for others,” he said. “This includes forgoing belligerence and force wherever possible and relying wherever possible on diplomacy.”

Carter said the nation’s greatness should also be measured by its commitment to human rights and by its efforts to reduce the danger of a nuclear holocaust.

The Muskie Archive will house more than 5 million documents that span Muskie’s years as governor of Maine, U.S. Senator and secretary of state. Muskie is a graduate of Bates.

Carter was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree during the ceremony.