A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 08, 2010
“He couldn’t sell watermelons with the highway patrol blocking traffic”

A January 2005 blog post credited Jim Hightower with this phrase: “[W]e are upper-crust, elite intellectual snobs who couldn’t sell watermelons if we had the Highway Patrol blocking traffic and directing people into our melon patch (one of my favorite Jim Hightower sayings).” Hightower responded to an e-mail query (see below) and stated that he’s used the phrase since 1982, when he ran (successfully) for Texas Agricultural Commissioner.

The phrase was popularized in March 2010 when news journalist Dan Rather said this on CNBC: “And a version of, ‘Listen he’s (President Barack Obama—ed.) a nice person, he’s very articulate,’ this is what’s been used against him, ‘but he couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.’”

Both Jim Hightower and Dan Rather are from Texas and the phrase might be a regionalism.


Wikipedia: Jim Hightower
James Allen “Jim” Hightower (born January 11, 1943) is an American syndicated columnist, liberal commentator, populist activist and author.

Wikipedia: Dan Rather
Daniel Irvin “Dan” Rather, Jr. (born October 31, 1931) is a journalist and former news anchor for the CBS Evening News and is now managing editor and anchor of a television news magazine, Dan Rather Reports, on the cable channel HDNet. Rather was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, from March 9, 1981, to March 9, 2005. He also contributed to CBS’ 60 Minutes. Rather became embroiled in controversy about a disputed news report involving the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election and subsequently left CBS Evening News in 2005 and left the network in 2006.

Democratic Underground
Fly by night
Fri Jan-21-05 06:13 PM
The point of my earlier post was two-fold:

1) We shouldn’t concede that Bush won “fair and square” because the overwhelming evidence is that he did not. So anyone who says that Bush got the majority of the country to back him is misguided and surrenders the political high ground needlessly.

2) Spending our time criticizing others (particularly in regionalist, classist and other condescending ways) only invites rebuttal comments that we are upper-crust, elite intellectual snobs who couldn’t sell watermelons if we had the Highway Patrol blocking traffic and directing people into our melon patch (one of my favorite Jim Hightower sayings).

AlterNet
Hightower Lowdown / By Jim Hightower
The Upchuck Rebellion
The Good Food movement is leading the charge against expensive, nutrient-free, artificial, unhealthy, corporate crap-food.

April 6, 2006
(...)
These are people who could not run a watermelon stand if we gave them the melons and had the highway patrol flag down customers for them! Yet they’re in charge, saddling us with a food system that enriches corporate middlemen while driving good farmers off the land, poisoning our productive soil and water supplies, and literally sickening those who consume these adulterated foodstuffs.

Mediaite
Dan Rather Uses “Obama,” “Articulate” And “Watermelons” In Same Anecdote
by Steve Krakauer | 4:07 pm, March 8th, 2010
Dan Rather, longtime anchor at the CBS Evening News and now of HD Net, has been known for his analogies and anecdotes (Ratherisms).

But Newsbusters has caught one that seems to have gone way off the rails during an appearance on the Chris Matthews Show Sunday – involving Pres. Obama and “watermelons.”

In an argument about the 2012 election, Rather was describing what he thinks “Republicans” will say – and what “a lot of independents will buy.” So he’s speaking as Obama’s critics:

The Republicans will make a case and a lot of independents will buy this argument. “Listen he just hasn’t been, look at the health care bill. It was his number one priority. It took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death.” And a version of, “Listen he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate,” this is what’s been used against him, “but he couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”

(E-mail from 3-10-2010)
Dear Barry,

I used it at least as early as 1982 when running for Texas Ag Commissioner. My version (directed at ag economist and agbiz execs): “They couldn’t run a watermelon stand if we gave them the melons and had the highway patrol flag down customers for them.” I have no idea where I got it ­ probably heard someome say something like it, then adapted for my style.

Best to you.
Jim Hightower

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, March 08, 2010 • Permalink