The Manzo Blog

The Gift of Christmas from One Solitary Writer

Peace on Earth. Goodwill to Men.”

.

By Louis M. Manzo   December 22, 2020

.

One of my favorite authors and columnists is and was the legendary Jim Bishop.

.

Bishop was born and raised in my good ol’ hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey.

.

The proud son of one of Jersey City’s finest, Bishop attended Saint Patrick’s Grammar School. His formal education ended in the 8th grade.  But, as so many other Jersey City kids from the city’s golden era soon learn, a Jersey City street corner and neighborhood education is priceless—it prepares you for life better than Harvard or Yale. Yeah! I mean it.

.

Bishop credited his affinity for writing to watching his dad compose police reports at the kitchen table. At age 16, Bishop gave it  a shot and attended a secretarial school in Jersey City, mastering shorthand and typing.

.

The writing bug bit the young Bishop and, in short time, he traded in his $52-a-week milkman’s job, driving a horse-drawn delivery wagon in Jersey City, to become a $12-a-week copy boy at The New York Daily News. You gotta love the guts of that inbred Jersey City risk taking—a pure leap of faith. Of his new job, Bishop once quipped that he spent most of his time ”going out for sauerkraut juice for reporters with hangovers.”

.

By the time he was 21, Bishop had moved to The Daily Mirror, where he remained until 1943. He learned his rewrite skills as Mark Hellinger’s assistant on a daily Broadway column. The two formed a brotherly bond. Hellinger mentored Bishop until Jim eventually worked himself up to the role of a feature writer.

.

Hellinger left the paper to become a Hollywood producer, and Bishop left to pursue writing, managing, and editing jobs with various magazines. In 1947, Hellinger offered Bishop an opportunity to write scripts in Hollywood. Bishop left a gig at Liberty magazine to take his pal up on the offer.  But dame fate threw the duo a curveball—Hellinger died suddenly, before Bishop ever got to Hollywood.

.

Just as suddenly, Bishop’s career went into a freefall. Saddled with $3000 of debt, circa 1952, Bishop wrote a biography in tribute of his mentor. The book introduced Jim to the best-seller’s list. From thereon in, the kid from ol’ JC was off to the races. The typical Jersey City comeback story.

.

Bishop would write 21 books, introducing the publishing world to his unique hour-by-hour, you are there styled formula. He wrote in short, terse sentences. Readers ate it up. His repertoire included “The Day Lincoln Was Shot,” The Day Kennedy Was Shot,” “The Day Christ Was Born,” and “The Day Christ Died.” He balanced his love for crafting manuscripts with an enjoyable syndicated column, “Jim Bishop: Reporter,” which was published by the Hearst’s news chain.

.

The column took the Nation by storm.

.

Throughout the course of his career, Bishop introduced readers to his pure Jersey City witticisms like, Gimme: an agreement between two losers who can’t putt,” and “It is difficult to live in the present, ridiculous to live in the future and impossible to live in the past. Nothing is as far away as one minute ago.

.

Bishop retired from writing in 1983. Before he did, the kid with an 8th grade education would receive honorary degrees from St. Bonaventure University, Belmont Abbey College, and St. Peter’s College.

.

One Christmas Season, Bishop spun a column on his take of James Allan Francis’ s sermon on Christ’s life. Better than John, Mark, Matthew, and Luke; Jim Bishop captured for generations of Americans the true meaning and significance of Christ’s life.

.

Here is Jim Bishop’s Christmas present to his readers….

.

One Solitary Life

.

“There was a Man born of Jewish parents in an obscure village.

.

He grew up in another obscure village.

.

He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. And then for three years He was an itinerant Preacher.

.

He never wrote a book. He never held office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place from where He was born.

.

He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness.

.

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away from Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.

.

All the Armies that have ever marched, all the Navies that were ever built, all the Parliaments that ever sat, all the Kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as this one solitary life.”

.

Merry Christmas to all.

.

Louis Manzo is a Former New Jersey State Assemblyman who sat on the Assembly Health, Economic Development, and Environmental committees. Former Hudson County Freeholder. Former Chief of Jersey City’s Health Division & Director of the Hudson County Division of Environmental and Public Health. 

.

Traditionally published American author. Published works include the bio, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie ; and the novel, An Irish Lullaby. On occasion, a content contributor to various news and sports blogs. Regular guest on Connecticut morning radio talk show, The Phil Mikan Show [WLIS 1420 AM & WMRD 1150 AM].

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *