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ssic ads SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION
CLASSIC READS 2014 SINGAPORE
Cott clAssic reAds 2014
ClassiC Hits Match the year to the classic RD section.
i donâ€™t believe in gHosts, but â€Ś A country inn, a surprise visitorâ€Ś J H A n
stowaway! Dreaming of freedom, I climbed into the wheel well of an Atlantic jet. A r m A n d o s o c A r r As r A m Ă r e z
Monkeys out on tHe town Loose in New York, 100 monkeys sample the cityâ€™s delights. H e n ry T r e f l i c H FRom they never talk back
ClassiC Reading Welce t th pecal cllectn f tre and clun fr the Readerâ€™ Dget archve. Explre a wrld full f huur, adventure, thrll and npratn, wth tale that are a rewardng a the day they were firt publhed. Happy readng, THE EDiToRs
Real-life sHeRloCk HolMes Truth was more deductive than fiction for this pioneer of forensic science. JA m e s sT e wA r T- G o r d o n
s t 1995
a MiRaCle of MeRMaids A grieving childâ€™s balloon message to heaven brings an extraordinary, life-affirming reply. m A r G o p f e i f f
o t 1986
tHe aMazing gRaCe of joHn newton From slave ships to salvation. A l e x
tHe pig wHo loved people When Lord Bacon came to live with the Atties, they had no idea his charm would change their lives. J o co u d e r T
letteR fRoM Cloud nine A book opened up the world. H e l e n e
Contents classic reads 2014
the little boat Grandpa’s lesson lasted a lifetime. a r n o l d
b e rw i c k
but we’re alive! I nearly died that Tuesday… d o r i s
ag e e
the last butterfly A light touch of beauty. M i c h a e l
w e l z e n b ac h
the husband who vanished One day he was a loving husband, the next, a void in many lives. J o s e p h p. b l a n k F y 1953
the birth of television The student said he had a brilliant invention, but his teacher was sceptical. M i tc h e l l w i l s o n My 1987
strange encounter on coho creek An extraordinary friendship. M o r r i s
h o M e r e rw i n
d m 1954
the gold and ivory tablecloth A remarkable piece of cloth weaves a married couple’s life together again. r e v. h owa r d c . s h a d e d m 1990
remembering jim henson The man who made the Muppets. J o h n
when i can’t sleep Famous faces of the 1930s share tips for slumber. J 1936
age of ingenuity Magnificent inventions, some of which survived.
? ON i T eC iLs s s DeTA U N bO FOR R 5 U K O PAGe C NLO ! see U TO OW NT ibe N A W sCR sUb RegulaRs 4 129 144 160
Staff Picks Personal Glimpses Picturesque speech Points to Ponder
HuMOuR Laughter, the Best Medicine 33, 47, 55, 63 Life’s Like That 39, 96, 147, 159 All in a Day’s Work 25, 71, 85, 167 Classic Reads•2014
In this issue
th cic hv mhig fr vry v. Hr r r fv ri
I was engrossed by the story of Sir Sydney Smith, the forensic scientist in “The RealLife Sherlock Holmes” (page 40). He loved his career in Egypt, finding the people delightful and the crimes challenging. By contrast, the British were “amateurs at murder”. Donyale Harrison, Chief Subeditor Make sure you take time to soak up the stylish graphics and illustrations that help bring the classic pages to life. Luke Temby, Designer We all love a good ghost story. “I Don’t Believe in Ghosts, But …” (page 18) has it all: a haunted inn, a mysterious apparition and a tale of thwarted love. Melanie Egan, Deputy Chief Subeditor
When I was younger, my favourite movie was The Little Mermaid (OK, it still is!) so I think 4
that’s what initially drew me to “A Miracle of Mermaids” (page 48). But as I read on, the tale of loss, closure and an amazing coincidence had me in tears by the end. Sally McMullen, Editorial Coordinator
“The Husband Who Vanished” (page 132) struck a chord with me. How a series of relatively minor bumps to the head could lead to amnesia, and subsequently change the life of Jim McDonnell and his wife for 15 years makes this a truly unforgettable story. Louise Waterson, Managing Editor
Here at Reader’s Digest we love writing that conjures a tear or a chuckle with a deft turn of phrase. So it goes with “The Pig Who Loved People” (page 64), the lovable pet who leaves a telltale “rash of affection”, and Private Arthur Hill’s outrageous description of a girl he once knew (“Picturesque Speech”, page 144). Don’t miss it. Sue Carney, Editor-in-Chief Monkeys on the lam, drinking whisky in a bar in New York. What’s not to love? (“Monkeys Out on the Town”, page 34) Gail MacCallum, Subeditor
I llustRatI on: MaRCela RestRep o
“A Healing Birth” (page 98) is an amazing story about a family weathering a devastating storm, amid what must have been intense media and public scrutiny. Yet their contribution to bone marrow registers across the globe now means that few need face their difficult decision. Judith Love, Photo Editor
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what year was that?
departments are gazine, but things changed a bit over time. Can you guess which of the following pages match the dates below?
September 1929, January 1933, March 1948, May 1966, April 1970, October 1978 and September 1993. Answers on page 16 8
w h at y e a r wa s t h at ?
w h at y e a R wa s t h at ?
w h at y e a R wa s t h at ?
ANSWERS p9 May 1966; p10 Sept 1929; p11 Mar 1948; p12 Apr 1970; p13 Oct 1978; p14 Jan 1933; p16 Sept 1993
w h at y e a R wa s t h at ?
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I Don’t Believe
something strange n that night at the George and Dragon Inn
By Jh An Ro BBins illustRAtio n By gReedy h e n
I d o n ’ t b e l I e v e I n g h o s t s , b u t. . .
LIke ghost storIes. The eerier the better. But when the
story is over and the hair on my head is lying flat again, I invariably laugh and say, “Of course no sensible person believes in ghosts.” Until recently. Now I don’t know. I was in London last January and decided to drive up to Oxford to do some research in one of the libraries there. On the evening of Wednesday the 18th, at the close of a bone-chilling, rainy day, I rented a motorcar and set out on the A40. Passing through West Wycombe, a village of brick and half-timbered houses so quaint that time seems to have bypassed it, I stopped at the George and Dragon Inn. The menu was pure 18th-century English: mutton broth, steak and kidney pie, treacle pudding. When my pudding arrived, I noticed a large hole on one side – as though someone had put a thumb in it. I mentioned this to the waitress. “Oh, rot!” she exclaimed. “The White Lady’s walking again. I do wish she’d keep out of the kitchen.” “The White Lady?” I enquired. “Oh, she’s our regular ghost,” the waitress said. Later, I asked John Boon, the ruddyfaced proprietor, whether he had a resident ghost. “Yes, indeed,” he replied. “And she’s a bit troublesome at times. Sorry about the pudding. The fact is we don’t quite know how to deal with her. She was a poor serving girl who was killed in one of the chalk caves down the road. There’s an underground tunnel that leads from the inn to the caves. She was victimised. Very sad tale.” He nodded towards the larger room beyond, quite clearly the village 20
pub or “local”. “Lift a few glasses in there and you’ll get the whole story.” Among the occupants of the pub that night were a chairmaker who had a bristly, upturned moustache; a bricklayer who still wore his striped work apron; a young man in checked vest and black bowler; a red-haired woman whose family had been five generations in West Wycombe. It was these four, largely, who recounted the story of “the White Lady of the local”.
It happened 200 years ago. The White Lady, whom my narrators called Sukie, was 16 years old. She worked long hours at the George and Dragon. With two other girls she shared a bare little room in a chilly and distant wing of the inn. Sukie was an extraordinarily pretty girl, with golden hair and a delicately turned figure. She was well-mannered; indeed, she gave herself such airs and graces that the other servants mockingly called her “your ladyship”. She
was ambitious to raise herself in life his rich clothing and the conformathrough a good marriage – and there tion of his horse he was clearly either were three likely prospects among the a prosperous highwayman or to the habitués of the inn. She set her cap manor born. Sukie preferred to think for all three at once. So occupied did the latter, and went around humming she become with the simultaneous and dreaming – and more useless flirtations that she took to dreamily than ever. Meanwhile, her other admirers tripping over doorsteps, spilling soup on the customers, and confusing or scowled jealously from the far end of the dark-raftered room. As Sukie forgetting her instructions. One rainy night, a handsome continued to ignore them, they concocted a crude pracyoung stranger rode up tical joke to “bring her to the inn, left his mudto her senses”. died and exhausted “Meet ’im at the A scullery lad was stallion in the hands of the ostler, and sat weachalk caves at sent to Sukie with a whispered message, rily down at one of the ten tomorrow purportedly from her copper-sheathed tables night, and wear mysterious lover. “ ’ E in the public room. A said to tell you ’e’s a tankard of ale revived a proper noble lord and ’e wants him, and he winked wedding gown” to make you ’is lady,” cheerily at pretty Sukie the lad said. “Meet ’im as she set his dinner in at the chalk caves at ten front of him. Sukie became so confused that her tomorrow night, and wear a proper thumb slipped into the bowl of treacle wedding gown.” Poor Sukie swallowed the bait. She pudding, splashing a blob of it onto the young man’s knee. She blushed dashed up to her mistress’s bedroom, and gasped, but the young man only ripped the linen sheets off the bed, laughed. The landlord, in a rage, and within the next 24 hours stitched boxed poor Sukie’s ears and sent her up a handsome, full-skirted white dress. And at the appointed hour she weeping from the room. The unknown rider returned the hurried along the damp tunnel to the next night, and for a month he came chalk caves. There, of course, she found only several times a week, always looking for Sukie. He would pinch her pretty her three jilted sweethearts – a little cheek and make her giggle with some drunk and roaring with laughter. foolish flattery. He had introduced “Here comes her ladyship!” they himself to no-one, but from the cut of cried, “Welcome, my lady!” Classic Reads•2014
I d o n ’ t b e l I e v e I n g h o s t s , b u t. . .
Half mad with fury, she picked up lumps of soft chalk and hurled them at her tormentors. But then, as she whirled to run back, they caught her, pinched her and kissed her and spun her round. She kicked and clawed at them. In the scuffle she fell, striking her head on the wall. Frightened and remorseful, the men carried her, unconscious, back through the tunnel to the inn and to her bed. Then they tiptoed away. FR O M In the morning, the other girls found Sukie dead. Her three suitors told what had happened. But the sheriff and the local curate looked at the body and felt that Sukie had not died of physical injury. Perhaps, they suggested, it was from humiliation and a broken heart. Neither Sukie’s aristocratic-looking lover nor his flashy chestnut steed was ever seen again. But a few days after Sukie’s burial the two maids who shared her room moved out. Strange things were going on in that room, they declared, and they wanted no part of it.
AFTER ThE TAlE EndEd, I went into the kitchen and asked the proprietor if I might spend the night in Sukie’s room. “If you really want to,” he said doubtfully. “We’ve got other rooms. 22
My own dog won’t go in there. If the White Lady had her thumb in the pudding tonight, she’ll be there, mark you.” “What happens?” I asked. He shrugged. “Depends. Some say they see a Lady all decked out in diamonds with a coronet on her head. Most say they just – well – see and feel something. It’s uncomfortable, that’s all I know. You haven’t got high blood pressure or 19 67 anything, have you?” A little while later, I was tucked up in bed in the room where I was told that poor Sukie had met her end. I read a while, yawned, then pulled the chain on the room’s only electric light – a single bulb fixed to the wall behind my head – and in a few minutes was asleep. Many stories of ghostly encounters begin with “I don’t know what woke me.” I was sure I knew what woke me. Some joker had sneaked in and put a damp, cold hand on my forehead. Or an ice-cold slice of liver, more likely. Anything to panic the silly tourist. I angrily yanked the light chain. No-one was in the room. There was nothing on my forehead. The phenomenon was repeated several times. Cold hand. Snap on light. Cold hand goes away. Snap off light. Cold hand again. At length, I got
the message. Something wanted me awake, but in the dark. I turned off the light and sat up, eyes open, staring into blackness. Almost at once, I saw a pinpoint of light glowing about a metre off the ground near the door. A pencil flashlight aimed through the key-hole, I thought scornfully. I watched the shaft of light grow wider and stronger. It had an opaque, pearly quality. The apparition of the White Lady – if indeed it was she – was now about half a metre in diameter and over a metre high, still hovering near the doorway. I turned on the electric bulb. The room looked as it had before – bare and ordinary. I turned it off again, and the strange light reappeared. I flung back the covers and, carrying my heavy book in one hand, walked resolutely towards the door. Any prankster lurking in the hallway was going to get a good clout. A few metres from the door, I abruptly entered a zone of intense cold. My breath became laboured. My arms and legs felt heavy. Was I having a heart attack? Was I just plain quailing from fear? As I stood there, I was swept by a sudden, anguished depression – Weltschmerz, world weariness. Life seemed futile, beset by tragedy. Life must have felt this way to poor Sukie, I thought, with no-one to stand up and protect her dignity. At this sympathetic feeling, the light ballooned forward and seemed
to reach for me. I backed hastily across the room, jumped into bed and yanked the electric light on. I tried to think. The power of suggestion – was that why I was seeing a ghost? But if the ghost was only an emanation from my own subconscious, why wasn’t it as I’d been told: a beautiful lady in white who wore diamonds, instead of a formless blob that looked more like a large, floating oyster and felt colder than sea water? I considered the possibility of some kind of clairvoyance. A message from home, perhaps? I looked at my watch – 3.15am. My thoughts flashed across the sea to my country home, where my wife was alone with our younger son. In this less than cheerful frame of mind, I waited for daylight. Breakfast, I had been told, was at seven. I was in the dining room, dressed and packed, five minutes early. “Well, did you see anything of the White Lady?” the landlord enquired. I told him what I had experienced. He nodded. “That’s her, all right. Some claim she’s looking for her lost lover. Others say she’s out to find her murderers. My wife tells me I should have a priest in to lay her ghost to rest – there’s a regular church ritual for that. But I daresay she brings in some trade. Will you be stopping here on your return from Oxford?” “Quite likely,” I said bravely. But when I drove through West Wycombe a few days later on my way back, I was behind schedule and caught only a Classic Reads•2014
i d o n â€™ t b e l i e v e i n g h o s t s , b u t. . .
fleeting glimpse of its imposing roof lines as I sped on to London. I honked as I went past.
This sTory, like all proper ghost tales, has an epilogue. When I returned home the following week, my wife greeted me excitedly. â€œYou know, I had the strangest experience one night,â€? she said. â€œI went to bed early, and just as I was drifting off to sleep I heard you calling me. I jumped out of bed and thought I saw the lights of a taxi in the driveway. I was sure you were standing on the terrace, shouting to get in. I
ran downstairs and opened the door. There was no-one â€“ nothing. But I tell you, I heard your voice! I saw a light! It was weird!â€? â€œYou must have heard a truck changing gears,â€? I said. â€œAnd you probably forgot to turn off the front light, as usual. Ah â€“ by the way, when was this experience?â€? She said it promptly, â€œLast Wednesday at a quarter past ten.â€? Allowing for the five-hour time difference, this was exactly when I was dealing with the presence of the White Lady. You figure it out. I prefer not to try.
short and snappy R D j u ly 19 6 0
by- r r r pr : â€œh w â€™c ck, 8.50, 9.30, 10, 11, 11.15 m .â€? William von riegen in Calling all girls
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c c f r cm , r r mrr .â€? gregory dâ€™alessio, PublisheRs sYndiCate
k z : â€œif p r c m , i f â€™ r .â€? BoB Barnes, RegisteR and tRibute sYndiCate
nr xpc f r: â€œJ c y â€™ kp w
, â€™ cry m y w r.â€? reamer Keller in EsquirE
All in a Day’s Work humouR on The job
PhoToS: ThIn kSToCk
in safe HanDs Tw w wald it t car rpair sp wr I wr, ad cplaid t t srvic aagr a t a f l d r aatig fr r car. T caic w ad wrd t vicl tw ws fr accpaid t t cc it t. W pd t dr, t sll arly cd i t. Taig a dp rat, xaid t itrir. Fr dr a sat p lld t a aig pa wit dcayig fd i it. “S,” said t tr wa. “I tld y t caic did’t stal y r lasag.” eriC J. Deveau, May 1995
A driver at the freight company I work for radioed our dispatcher and asked to have the people at one of his stops meet him at his truck. “What’s the problem?” asked the dispatcher. “Well, there’s a big dog in the front yard.” “Is that all you’re worried about?” said the dispatcher. “Actually, it’s the sign on the doghouse,” the driver admitted. “It says: COME ON, MAKE MY DAY.”
In preparation for an official visit by the Duke of Gloucester a bright assortment of flags was being strung outside the local British naval headquarters. A passing naval officer studied the array carefully, then anxiously asked the petty officer in charge: “Do we really have smallpox on board?” J. G. DaviDson, May 1969
rae L. BaiLey,
At a department-store lunch bar, we watched a Santa Claus sit down and order coffee. He saw a boy around seven who was sitting nearby, and asked, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” “No,” said the kid. “Good for you,” beamed Santa, taking off his beard to sip his coffee.
H.C., DeceMber 1987
By Arm And o S o c ArrAS rAm írez as To l d To d e nIs Fod o R and Jo h n Reddy 26
P hoTo: T hIn ksToCk
Tw Cub tgr rmig f frm rc t cimb it t w w f Ibri Fig t 904 it txi t t ff. T i i t ir icrib tr
s t o w a w ay !
he jet engines of the Iberia Airlines DC-8 thundered
in earsplitting crescendo as the big plane taxied towards where we huddled in the tall grass just off the end of the runway at Havana’s José Martí Airport. For months, my friend Jorge Pérez Blanco and I had been planning to stow away in a wheel well on this flight, No. 904 – Iberia’s once-weekly, non-stop run from Havana to Madrid. Now, in the late afternoon of June 3, 1969, our moment had come. We realised that we were pretty young to be taking such a big gamble; I was 17, Jorge was 16. But we were both determined to escape from Cuba, and our plans had been carefully made. We knew that departing airliners taxied to the end of the 3500m runway, stopped momentarily after turning around, then roared at full throttle down the runway to take off. We wore rubber-soled shoes to aid us in crawling up the wheels and carried ropes to secure ourselves inside the wheel well. We had also stuffed cotton in our ears as protection against the shriek of the four jet engines. Now we lay sweating with fear as the massive craft swung into its about-face, the jet blast flattening the grass all around us. “Let’s run!” I shouted to Jorge. We dashed onto the runway and sprinted towards the left-hand wheels of the momentarily stationary plane. As Jorge began to scramble up the 1m-high tyres, I saw there was not room for us both in the single well. “I’ll try the other side!” I shouted. Quickly I climbed onto the right 28
wheels, grabbed a strut and, twisting and wriggling, pulled myself into the semi-dark well. The plane began rolling immediately, and I grabbed some machinery to keep from falling out. The roar of the engines nearly deafened me. A s we b e cam e a i r b o r n e, t h e huge double wheels, scorching hot from takeoff, began folding into the compartment. I tried to flatten myself against the overhead as they came closer and closer; then, in desperation, I pushed at them with my feet. But they pressed powerfully upwards, squeezing me terrifyingly against the roof of the well. Just when I felt that I would be crushed, the wheels locked in place and the bay doors beneath them closed, plunging me into darkness. So there I was, my 1.62m, 65kg frame literally wedged in amid a spaghetti-like maze of conduits and machinery. I could not move enough to tie myself to anything, so I stuck my rope behind a pipe. Then, before I had time to catch my breath, the bay doors suddenly
“Are you having difficulty?” the condropped open again and the wheels stretched out into their landing trol tower asked. “Yes,” replied Vara del Rey. “There position. I held on for dear life, swinging over the abyss, wondering if I had is an indication that the right wheel been spotted, if even now the plane hasn’t closed properly. I’ll repeat the was turning back to hand me over to procedure.” The captain relowered the landing Castro’s police. By the time the wheels began gear, then raised it again. This time retracting again, I had seen a bit of the red light blinked out. Dismissing the incident as a minor extra space among all the machinery where I could safely squeeze. malfunction, the captain turned his attention to climbing to Now I knew there was assigned cruising altiro o m f o r m e, e v e n tude. On levelling out, though I could scarcely One of three red he observed that the breathe. After a few minutes, I touched one lights was still temperature outside was –40°C. Inside Flight 904, of the tyres and found on, indicating the stewardesses began that it had cooled off. I improper serving dinner to the swallowed some aspirin tablets against the retraction of the passengers. head-splitting noise, landing gear Shivering uncontrollaand began to wish that bly from the bitter cold, I had worn something I wondered if Jorge had warmer than my light made it into the other wheel well, sports shirt and green fatigues. and began thinking about what had Up in the cockpit of Flight 904, brought me to this desperate situaCaptain Valentin Vara del Rey, 44, tion. I thought about my parents and had settled into the routine of the my girl, María Esther, and wondered overnight flight, which would last what they would think when they eight hours and 20 minutes. Takeoff learned what I had done. My father is a plumber, and I have had been normal, with the aircraft and its 147 passengers, plus a crew of four brothers and a sister. We are ten, lifting off at 270km/h. But, right poor, like most Cubans. Our house after lift-off, something unusual had in Havana has just one large room; happened. One of three red lights on 11 people live in it – or did. Food was the instrument panel had remained scarce and strictly rationed. About alight, indicating improper retraction the only fun I had was playing baseball and walking with María Esther of the landing gear. Classic Reads•2014
s t o w a w ay !
along the seawall. When I turned took off and flew directly over us; the 16, the government shipped me off wheels were still down, and we could to vocational school in Betancourt, see into the well compartments. a sugarcane village in Matanzas “There’s enough room in there for me,” I remember saying. Province. There I was These were my supposed to learn weldthoughts as I lay in the ing, but classes were freezing darkness more often interrupted to than 8km above the send us off to plant cane. Atlantic Ocean. By now Young as I was, I was we had been in the air tired of living in a state about an hour, and I that controlled everywas getting light-headed one’s life. I dreamed of from the lack of oxygen. freedom. I wanted to Was it really only a few become an artist and hours earlier that I had live in the United States, FR O M 1 970 bicycled through the where I had an uncle. I knew that thousands of Cubans had rain with Jorge and hidden in the grass? got to America and done well there. Was Jorge safe? My parents? María As the time approached when I would Esther? I drifted into unconsciousness. be drafted, I thought more and more of trying to get away. But how? I knew The sun rose over the Atlantic like a that two planeloads of people were great golden globe, its rays glinting off allowed to leave Havana for Miami the silver-and-red fuselage of Iberia’s each day, but there is a waiting list of DC-8 as it crossed the European coast 800,000 for these flights. Also, if you high over Portugal. With the end of sign up to leave, the government looks the 8952km flight in sight, Captain on you as a gusano – a worm – and life Vara del Rey began his descent towards Madrid’s Barajas Airport. becomes even less bearable. My hopes seemed futile. Then I Arrival would be at 8am local time, met Jorge at a Havana baseball game. the captain told his passengers over the After the game we got to talking. I intercom, and the weather in Madrid found out that Jorge, like myself, was was sunny and pleasant. Shortly after passing over Toledo, disillusioned with Cuba. “The system takes away your freedom – forever,” he Vara del Rey let down his landing gear. As always, the manoeuvre was accomcomplained. Jorge told me about the weekly panied by a buffeting as the wheels flight to Madrid. Twice we went to the hit the slipstream and a 320km/h airport to reconnoitre. Once a DC-8 turbulence swirled through the wheel 30
wells. Now the plane went into its final approach; now, a spurt of flame and smoke from the tyres as the DC-8 touched down at about 225km/h. It was a perfect landing – no bumps. After a brief post-flight check, Vara del Rey walked down the ramp steps and stood by the nose of the plane waiting for a car to pick him up, along with his crew. Nearby, there was a sudden, soft plop as the frozen body of Armando Socarras Ramírez fell to the concrete apron beneath the plane. José Rocha Lorenzana, a security guard, was the first to reach the crumpled figure. “When I touched his clothes, they were frozen and stiff as wood,” Rocha said. “All he did was make a strange sound, a kind of moan.” “I couldn’t believe it at first,” Vara del Rey said when told of Armando. “But then I went over to see him. He had ice over his nose and mouth. And his colour…” As he watched the unconscious boy being bundled into a truck, the captain kept exclaiming to himself, “Impossible! Impossible!” The first thing I remember after losing consciousness was hitting the ground at the Madrid airport. Then I blacked out again and woke up later at the Gran Hospital de la Beneficencia in downtown Madrid, more dead than alive. When they took my temperature, it was so low that it did not even register on the thermometer. “Am I in Spain?” was my first question.
ChanCe in a Million Charles Glasgow, a vice president of the Douglas Aircraft Co, which makes the DC-8, commented in 1970 that there was “one chance in a million” that a man would not be crushed when the plane’s huge double wheel retracts. “There is space for a man in there,” he said, “but he would have to be a contortionist to fit himself in among the wheels, hydraulic pipes and other apparatus.” Armando should also have died from both the lack of oxygen and extreme cold. At the altitude of Flight 904 (8.8km), the oxygen content of the air was about half that at sea level, and the temperature was –40°C. An expert at Brooks Air Force Base School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio, Texas, said that at that altitude, in an unpressurised, unwarmed compartment, a man would normally retain consciousness for only two or three minutes, and live only a short while longer. Perhaps a Spanish doctor summed up Armando’s experience most effectively: “He survived with luck, luck, luck – many tonnes of luck.”
And then, “Where’s Jorge?” [Jorge is believed to have been knocked down by the jet blast while trying to climb into the other wheel well, and to be in prison in Cuba.] Classic Reads•2014
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defying the Odds the blindingl bviu dnger f ing in he heel ell f plne ugh mke armnd scrr Rmírez’ jurne ne-ff inciden. ye, ccrding he Us Federl aviin adminirin, here re 109 recrded inciden f peple ing in he heel ell f plne rund he rld frm 1947-2014. of hee, 84 hve died f hphermi, flling frm he ircrf r frm being cruhed hen he heel rerced. t f he bigge hre re exreme cld h led hphermi nd reduced xgen preure leding hpxi nd l f cnciune. If i luck enugh be live hen he plne uche dn, he m uffer frbie, hering l, nd pibl brin dmge. s ih lim chnce f urvivl, h uld nne emp uch recheru jurne? a fe , h re predminel ung men, hve ken he rik u f miguided ene f dvenure, r hve n full cnempled he dnger. In april 2004, 15-er-ld yh abdi urvived ride in he heel ell f fligh frm sn Je irpr Hii, depere r he jurne h uld reunie him ih hi fmil in afric. Hever, like armnd, he mjri re he in erch f pliicl lum r ne life in weern cunr. td, armnd i fher f fur nd live in Mimi, Flrid. Helen Sandstrom
Doctors said later that my condition was comparable to that of a patient undergoing “deep freeze” surgery – a delicate process performed only under carefully controlled conditions. Dr José María Pajares, who cared for me, called my survival a “medical miracle,” and, in truth, I feel lucky to be alive. A few days after my escape, I was up and around the hospital, playing cards with my police guard and reading stacks of letters from all over the world. I especially liked one from a girl in California. “You are a hero,” she wrote, “but not very wise.” My uncle, Elo Fernandez, who lives in New Jersey, telephoned and invited 32
me to come to the United States to live with him. The International Rescue Committee arranged my passage, and has continued to help me. I am fine now. I live with my uncle, and go to school to learn English. I still hope to study to be an artist. I want to be a good citizen and contribute something to this country, for I love it here. You can smell freedom in the air. I often think of my friend Jorge. We both knew the risk we were taking, and that we might be killed in our attempt to escape Cuba. But it seemed worth the chance. Even knowing the risks, I would try to escape again if I had to.
Laughter the best mediCine
Ph h OtO: thin kstOCk
“W you wallpapr your loug roo,” Fr a o P r, “ow ay roll you uy? Our roo xac ly a z.” “twlv,” P r rpl. A ou a for g la r, Fr copla a a x roll lf ovr. “i’ o urpr,” a P r. “so av i.” F. ChadwiCk, June 1990
“This guy came by trying to sell me a talking dog for $10,” related the bartender. “I said, ‘Get out of here!’ “But then the dog said, ‘Please, sir, this man is mean to me; he never takes me for walks, hardly feeds me, coops me up for days …’ “I said, ‘Hey, he really can talk. Why are you selling him for only S10?’ “The guy said, ‘I’m sick and tired of all his lies!’” Jay a TraChman, May 1994
Walking across a parking area, a woman saw a driverless car slowly rolling towards her. She sprinted to it, opened the door and pulled on the handbrake, bringing the car to a halt. As she got out, a man in overalls was among the fast-gathering crowd that approached her. “Well, I stopped the car!” she announced with pride. “Yes, I know,” said the man. “I was pushing it.” RotaRian, DeceMber 1987 A arl a a wa g gv a par cularly ar y a woa wo copla a ou par ur . s a, “Youg a, i coul c a fa r y ar a g r fa r.” “maa,” rpl ag cally, “ ruway ar clar.” C.w., august 1974
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Town Dwnwn Nw Yrk can b a crazy pac. Bu n uuay this crazy
Co nd e ns e d fro m They Never Talk Bac k By H e nry TreffliCH As to lD to BAYNARD K eND RiCK i llusTraTio n By Travis p riCe
m o n k e ys o u t o n t h e tow n
bout 10.15 on Saturday morning, May 11, 1946,
lights began to flash and telephones to jangle at the Old Slip police station in New York City. A moment later came the riot call. Nearby Fulton, Vesey and Church streets were jammed with people. Downtown New York was being taken over by monkeys! At 9.45 that morning Gus Hildebrand, an employee in my pet shop at 215 Fulton Street, had noted a monkey entangled in the wire mesh of his cage. Gus opened the door of the cage and untangled the little fellow, who promptly raced out. Before Gus could make a move, 19 other monkeys, gibbering with glee, followed the leader. The monkeys held a quick consultation and apparently decided that it would be unfair to leave their fellow primates behind bars. In an instant they had opened the other four cages, and 80 more monkeys poured into the room. Then, while Gus was frantically trying to trap some of them, one bright little fellow opened the door of the room and discovered, there in the hallway, a ladder leading to an open skylight! Immediately the 99 other monkeys followed him up the ladder to the roof – and to freedom.
him. Mr Gordon turned his attention to the half of the visitors who were opening sacks of coffee and aromatic spices. The customer made his way to the ground floor, accompanied by the other half, non-coffee drinkers, who meant to investigate the bananas in the fruit department. Though a little green, the bananas proved edible, and since clerks and customers had obligingly left, everything was quite convivial until some dogs tried to chisel in. These strays were greeted by a barrage of banana skins, pop bottles and cans. The dogs beat a strategic retreat. Exhibiting remarkable presence of mind, Mr Gordon slammed the upstairs window shut, then dashed downstairs and shut all the other windows and doors. Twenty minutes later the 40 monkeys (netted by SPCA agents) and Mr Gordon were removed from the store – alive and unharmed.
… Chester Gordon, employee of a Vesey Street grocery store, was in the third-floor storeroom showing a customer a new stock of coffee when a cloud of 40 monkeys entered noisily through an open window behind
… everythinG was quiet at the three-storey firehouse on Fulton Street. A handball game was underway on the roof, and on the second floor two firemen were engaged in a game of chequers.
“It’s your move,” one player said … The TriniTy Church choirmaster impatiently. “Why are you sitting was starting a practise session in the there staring at the wall?” Fulton Street mission house. When he The other man shook his head as if got the choirboys quieted down, he to clear his brain. “Five monkeys just struck his tuning fork, gave the beat – slid down the pole,” he said. “One was and then one of the boys giggled. holding a handball.” “I’m sorry, sir,” the giggler said, Everything broke loose at once. “but there’s a monkey on the piano. Two irate firemen burst into the Another just came in the window.” room yelling, “Who stole our handA moment later there were four ball?” Just then all the showers in the boys on top of the piano, but now the adjoining locker room monkey was hanging were turned on full force. from a chandelier. The The locker-room door second monkey was A fireman flew open, and five more swinging gaily from a monkeys ran gleefully to curtain rod. dashed into the shiny brass pole and he choirmaster the locker room c aTl m disappeared to the floor ly closed the and saw ten below. A fireman dashed window. He had been into the locker room and monkeys taking dealing with choirboys gazed in stunned disfor years – what were showers belief at ten monkeys a couple of monkeys? taking showers. With military precision For 35 minutes every he broke the choir up member of the fire company chased into squads of four, arming each monkeys over and under the hook- squad with a slip cover stripped from and-ladder truck, up the stairs and a chair. The monkeys proved no match down the brass pole. Then the gong for the boys. The two were bagged in sounded. When the hook-and-ladder seven minutes flat and deposited in started to roll, ten monkeys were left the corner to wait for their owner. taking showers, while the other ten clung to the truck. … A bArrel-chesTed longshoreIt was a call from down the street, man, Pete by name, was just winding where a ladder was needed to get some up a three-week binge. That Saturday monkeys off a building. But when the morning he drifted into the White truck rolled to a stop, a cop took one Rose Tavern on Fulton Street, ordered look and shook his head: “It ain’t a drink and looked around. possible,” he said. “They’re bringing He reached for his drink. It wasn’t more!” there. Pete grinned sheepishly and Classic Reads•2014
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pretended he’d been reaching for a cigarette. He wasn’t going to tell the bartender that a half dozen monkeys had just come along, and one of them had drunk his whisky and thrown the glass back of the bar! But then he saw the bartender had hold of a monkey who was trying to get out through the ventilating fan. Pete turned to the customer next to him – the customer wasn’t there! Suddenly Pete felt sick. FROM The bar was deserted except for himself and the barkeep. But no, it wasn’t deserted – that was the trouble. Pete had heard about pink elephants. But monkeys! There were three – no, four – running around in front of the mirror sampling bottles. And when Pete looked in back of him there were a lot of others hopping from table to table, eating pretzels. Pete reached out to snatch a drink a customer had left, but a monkey beat him to it. That did it. A few minutes later a patrolman at
the Old Slip police station answered a phone call. “This is the bartender at the White Rose Tavern,” a voice said. “You’d better send the boobyhatch wagon and four m e n , a n d a ja c k e t. There’s a guy sitting here screaming, ‘There are no monkeys in here! There are no monkeys in here!’” “Oh, DT’s,” the officer said. “No, not that,” the bartender said. “He’s crazy. The damn place 1954 is full of them!”
It was three months before all the monkeys were rounded up. One elusive little female, hungry and frightened, retreated into the sanctuary of the drums and cables that operate the elevator in Callanan’s Grocery Store. A newsman photographed her there, squatting on the cable drum. The picture appeared on the front page of the New York Daily Mirror the next morning, captioned: WE’VE BEEN WAITING YE ARS TO USE THIS GAG – A MONKEY WENCH IN THE WORKS.
C o n d e n s e d f r o m T h e y N e v e r Ta l k B a c k © 1 9 5 4 H e n r y T r e f f l i C H a n d B ay n a r d K e n d r i C K . PuBlisHed By aPPleTon- CenTury- Crof Ts, new yorK
HOME, SWEET HOME R D j u ly 19 6 0
A d f a r f acd cag i a all egli villag i a “t La sra”. G. T. WOODS 38
Lifeâ€™s Like That Seeing the funny Side
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After my grandmother, aged 89, had moved to a retirement home, we k d what h t she h did asked with her spare time. She promptly replied, â€œI help look after the old people.â€? e. Greeff, December 1987
A friend of mine sometimes feels that his wife and children do not fully appreciate him. While reading â€œA Workable Cue to Happiness and Personalityâ€? in a recent Readerâ€™s Digest he underlined in red a sentence he thought aptly summed up his position: â€œThe father, upon his arrival home, is often greeted with greater affection by the dog than his own children.â€? He thought no more of it until he happened to thumb through the magazine a week later. Someone had underlined in green the sentence immediately following his red-marked one. It read: â€œFor that matter, he may greet the dog with more enthusiasm than he greets his family.â€? Gordon Akers, July 1950 Classc Ras
Sherlock Holmes Sir Sydney Smith followed in the footsteps of Conan Doyleâ€™s hero, often proving that true crime is more suspenseful than fiction
by Ja m e s st e wart- Go rd o n i l lu stratio n by m arc ela restr epo
real-life sherlock holmes
s part of his morning’s work a young doctor in
the medico-legal section of the Ministry of Justice in Cairo was handed a sealed parcel containing three small bones. The routine police report said they had been found in the bottom of a dry well. “They look as though they might belong to some animal that fell into the well,” the report added. “But would you mind checking them out?” In a short while the doctor, a small, apple-cheeked New Zealander named Smith, was back with a report. “The bones,” he said, “are those of a woman between 23 and 25. She died three months ago, had had at least one pregnancy, walked with a limp, was killed by a homemade shotgun slug and was alive from seven to ten days after the shooting.” A policeman asked sarcastically, “Might you want to guess the colour of her eyes?” “Brown, I should think,” Dr Smith said, popping his ever-present monocle from his eye. The police looked into the matter. To their amazement they discovered a slight Egyptian woman with a limp who had a child who disappeared about three months before. After investigating, they arrested her father who confessed to mortally wounding his daughter accidentally when a gun he was cleaning went off. When the police asked Dr Smith about his remarkable reasoning he told them that it was all quite easy – elementary, in fact. Two of the bones were hip bones, 42
the third a sacrum, and together they formed a pelvis. Their condition revealed age, sex and the fact that the woman had had a child. One set of bones was heavier than the other, indicating the limp. Embedded in one bone was a home-made shotgun slug. The edges of the wound showed that she had lived for several days while the bones tried to knit. The brown eyes? “Well, she was probably Egyptian and they do have brown eyes, you know,” the doctor chuckled.
With this case, which occurred around 1920, the young doctor was started on a long road towards his present reputation as an expert of the modern crime laboratory. If his style was reminiscent of the great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, the fact was not coincidental. In his autobiography, the doctor, by then Sir Sydney Smith, writes: “Today criminal investigation is a science… . This was not always so, and the change owes much to the influence of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle had the rare, perhaps unique, distinction of seeing life
evidence through a battery of tests. become true to his fiction.” The parallel between fact and He probed at it, looked at it under fiction is amazingly close. Both microscopes; X rayed it and tested it Holmes and his real-life counterpart, chemically. “The leather,” he said at last, “is off a Sir Sydney, are products of Edinburgh University. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle man’s shoe, size 9½. It is a black shoe, used Dr Joseph Bell, member of the has been worn for about two years, medical faculty there, as his model was made in England and the wearer for the wizard of Baker Street. And Dr had been walking through a limeBell’s colleague, Harvey Littlejohn, sprinkled field recently.” A r m e d w i t h t h i s k n ow l e d g e, taught Sydney Smith. Merilees headed for an Sir Sydney was, in Edinburgh pub which turn, professor, dean of he knew was frequented faculty and rector at the A safe had been by a gang of toughs. university. But it was Walking up to a man his uncanny detective cracked and the he suspected of the job, work that caused him, only clue was a he asked, “What have even in retirement, to small piece of you been doing walking be besieged by letters f ro m b a f f l e d p o l i c e leather, the size around limed fields?” “Helping my dear old all over the world. His of a fingernail dad on his farm,” the field, forensic medicine crook replied piously. – once called medical “Very well, then,” Willie jurisprudence – is the bridge between medicine and the snapped. “With the information I have law. While the police collect evidence, from Professor Smith, I might as well it is the job of the forensic-medicine jug dear old Dad, too!” The detective took the man along expert to determine through laborato the police station and sent his shoe tory tests the hard facts of the case. Shortly after he had been brought to Sir Sydney, who identified it as the from Cairo to become Regius Pro- one from which the fragment had fessor of Forensic Medicine at Edin- come. Confronted with the evidence, burgh, Sir Sydney was approached the safecracker confessed. He told the by a young detective sergeant, Willie police, “It’s damned unfair prying into Merrilees, with a problem. A safe had a man’s private life with a microscope, been cracked, and the only clue was a you know.” Sir Sydney Smith was born in small piece of leather, about the size of a fingernail, found at the scene of Roxburgh, New Zealand, in 1883, the crime. Sir Sydney began to put the the son of a gold prospector. After a Classic Reads•2014
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pioneering boyhood and three years of working as a pharmacist, young Sydney went to medical school in Edinburgh. Though he hung up his shingle, a tragedy kept him from remaining a practising physician. L at e o n e e v e n i ng a young farmer knocked on his door and asked him to come to his home where his pregnant wife lay sick. When he got to the farmhouse Smith found a girl with a high fever and in great pain. FR O M Unable to speak, she opened her eyes, reached out her hand and managed to grasp one of the doctor’s in hers. Smith examined her, but realised there was nothing he or any doctor could do. Numbed with this knowledge, he held her hand through the night until she died. Sir Sydney was shocked by his inability to save the girl. Deciding that he might not have the temperament for regular practice, he wrote to Edinburgh asking for a teaching post. The only opening was in the department of forensic medicine as an assistant at £50 a year. Smith left for Edinburgh the following afternoon. Shortly before the end of World War I – he served in the New Zealand Army Corps – he heard that Egypt needed a forensic-medical man to organise a police laboratory. He applied for the job and got it. 44
Egypt proved a forensic-medical man’s paradise. There were more than 1000 unsolved murders a year. Among these were a series of political murders in the early 1920s. In his efforts to solve these crimes, Sir Sydney developed the science of forensic ballistics – the scientific proof that bullets fired from the same gun have individual characteristics as marked as human fingerprints. Terrorists, anxious to 1 9 61 upset the government, had embarked on a course of wholesale slaughter. Time after time when B r i t i s h o f f i c i a l s, o r E g y p t i a n s connected with the government, appeared publicly, they would be gunned down. The killers, camouflaged by the crowds on Cairo’s teeming streets, would empty their pistols at their victim and escape. Although the police knew the gangs responsible for the killings, identification seemed impossible until Smith went to work on the fatal bullets dug out of the bodies in post-mortems, and on the empty cartridge cases turned up by the police. He discovered that, beyond a doubt, the bullets in case after case had been fired from the same guns: a Colt, a Browning and a Mauser – all .32 caliber. “If you find the guns,” he told his
superiors, “I can prove the bullets used in the murders were fired from them.” Then on a muggy November morning in 1924 there came with dramatic suddenness a case that not only proved Smith’s point but made him world-famous overnight. Sir Lee Stack Pasha, Britain’s governor general of the Sudan, was driving home from an official function when suddenly two men pressed to the side of his car and emptied their pistols at point-blank rage. When Stack Pasha died the next day, Sir Sydney rushed the bullets taken from the body to his lab and checked them under microscopes. They were the same in every particular as the ones fired in the earlier killings. The police rounded up the men they suspected, but no trace could be found of the guns. Then, quite by accident, a policeman, while questioning two brothers, kicked over a basket of fruit. Under a cascade of dates were two pistols: a Colt and a Browning. Sir Sydney got the guns, fired the Colt into a bale of cotton. He pulled out the spent bullets, put them under the microscope and teased at them with a probe. Straightening up, he looked at the police. “Gentleman,” he said. “This is the gun that killed Stack Pasha.” In court the prosecutor asked Dr Smith, “Are you prepared to say this is absolutely the pistol that fired
the shots?” “I am,” replied Smith, who then hauled in his laboratory apparatus. When he had finished explaining his comparisons, the judge asked the defence counsel if he wished to cross-examine. There was a moment of silence; the defence counsel looked at the doctor, the charts, the guns, the bullets, and slowly shook his head. There were no questions. Smith had proved his point.
The effecTs of The case were enormous. Enquiries poured in to Smith from all over the world, asking him about this “new science”. Not long afterwards, he received a cable offering him the Edinburgh post. At Edinburgh, Professor Smith’s lectures filled the hall. An actor of enormous skill, he delighted in using his most recent cases as classroom material. One afternoon he went right from the courtroom to the lecture platform. “Our text for the day,” he said, “is the power of observation. I have just come from seeing a murderer sentenced. The case almost never came to trial. The police officer assured me it was suicide. The man had been found in his farm yard with half his head blown in, his cap on his head, and his shotgun leaning against his arm. “I told the policeman, ‘This is murder. No man could blow his head half off and put his cap back on. Besides that, if you turn the man over, you will notice that the back of his Classic Reads•2014
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trousers is filled with weeds, showing that he was dragged from his porch and laid out there. Besides that, this man was dead before he was ever shot. He was killed with an axe, and the blow came just like thisâ€Ś!â€™â€? With that, Smith took an axe from behind his lectern, raised it high above his head and smashed it into the lintel of the door, to thunderous applause.
In SIr Sydneyâ€™S vIew, there had never been a perfect crime. â€œBut there have been cases of imperfect observation,â€? he explained. â€œNo man can
enter or leave a place without leaving signs as powerfully full of proof as fingerprints. Find those signs and you have your man.â€? In his spare time Sir Sydney managed to write one of the leading textbooks on forensic medicine; write his autobiography, Mostly Murder; become noted as the greatest raconteur in Edinburgh; play golf; raise a family; continue his interest in botany; and retain a bubbling enthusiasm in everything from judging the merits of sherry to composing blank verse. Like Sherlock Holmes, Sir Sydney was a specialist in everything.
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Laughter the best mediCine
A despondent woman was walking along the beach when she saw a bottle on the sand. She picked it up and pulled out the cork. Whoosh! A big puff of smoke appeared. “You have released me from my prison,” the genie told her. “To show my thanks, I grant you three wishes. But take care, for with each wish, your mate will receive double of whatever you request.” “Why?” the woman asked. “That rat left me for another woman.” “That is how it is written,” replied the genie. The woman shrugged, then asked for a million dollars. There was a flash of light, and a million dollars appeared at her feet. At the same
instant, in a far-off place, her wayward husband looked down to see twice that amount at his feet. “And your second wish?” “Genie, I want the world’s most expensive diamond necklace.” Another flash of light, and the woman was holding the precious treasure. And, in that distant place, her husband was looking for a gem broker to buy his latest bonanza. “Genie, is it really true that my husband has two million dollars and more jewels than I do, and that he gets double of whatever I wish for?” The genie said it was indeed true. “OK, genie, I’m ready for my last wish,” she said. “Scare me half to death.” Tom Nedwek, May 1989
Photo: t hinkstoCk
NoT eggS-TravagaNT Two Scots were holidaying abroad. The younger one was enjoying himself, but his uncle found fault with everything, especially the prices. One morning, the uncle ordered two fried eggs. “But you hate fried eggs!” the nephew exclaimed. “You like them scrambled.” “At what they cost each,” the uncle replied. “I want to be able to count them!” JohN roberTSoN, January 1970
The child was inconsolable after her father died. Nothing seemed to help until â€Ś
by m argo p fe iff i l lu stratio n by geo rgia p e rry
a miracle of mermaids
honda Gill froze as she heard her four-year-old
daughter, Desiree, sobbing quietly in the family room that morning in October 1993. Rhonda tiptoed through the doorway. The tiny dark-haired child was hugging a photograph of her father, who had died nine months earlier. Rhonda, 24, watched as Desiree gently ran her fingers around her father’s face. “Daddy,” she said softly, “why won’t you come back?” The peTiTe bruneTTe college student felt a surge of despair. It had been hard enough coping with her husband Ken’s death, but her daughter’s grief was more than she could bear. If only I could tear the pain out of her, Rhonda thought. Ken Gill and Rhonda Hill of Yuba City, California, had met when Rhonda was 18, and had married after a whirlwind courtship. Their daughter, Desiree, was born on January 9, 1989. Although a muscular 1.8m tall, Ken was a gentle man whom everyone loved. His big passion was his daughter. “She’s a real daddy’s girl,” Rhonda would often say as Ken’s eyes twinkled with pride. Father and daughter went everywhere together: hiking, dunebuggy riding and fishing for bass and salmon on the Feather River. Instead of gradually adjusting to her father’s death, Desiree had refused to accept it. “Daddy will be home soon,” she would tell her mother. “He’s at work.” When she played with her toy telephone, she pretended she was chatting with him. “I miss you, 50
Daddy,” she’d say. “When will you come back?” Immediately after Ken’s death, Rhonda moved from her apartment in Yuba City to her mother’s home in nearby Live Oak. Seven weeks after the funeral, Desiree was still inconsolable. “I just don’t know what to do,” Rhonda told her mother, Trish Moore, a 47-year-old medical assistant. One evening the three of them sat outside, gazing at the stars over the Sacramento Valley. “See that one, Desiree?” Her grandmother pointed at a bright speck near the horizon. “That’s your daddy shining down from heaven.” Several nights later Rhonda woke to find Desiree on the doorstep in her pyjamas, weeping as she sought her daddy’s star. Twice they took her to a child therapist, but nothing seemed to help. As a last resort, Trish took Desiree to Ken’s grave, hoping that it would help her come to terms with his death. The child laid her head against his gravestone and said, “Maybe if I listen hard enough I can hear Daddy talk to me.”
hope you get this and can write to me on my birthday in January.’” Trish wrote the message and their address on a small piece of paper, which was then wrapped in plastic and tied to the end of the string on the balloon. Finally Desiree released November 8, 1993, would have the balloon. For almost an hour they watched been Ken’s 29th birthday. “How will I send him a card?” Desiree asked her the shining spot of silver grow ever smaller. “OK,” Trish said at last. grandmother. “ Time to go home.” “How about if we tie a Rhonda and Trish letter to a balloon,” Trish were beginning to said, “and send it up to “How about we walk slowly from the heaven?” Desiree’s eyes grave when they heard immediately lit up. tie a letter to shout excitOn their way to the a balloon,” Trish Desiree edly, “Did you see that? cemetery, the back seat said, “and I s aw D a d d y re a c h of the car full of flowdown and take it!” The ers for their planned send it up to balloon, visible just grave site visit, the three heaven?” moments earlier, had stopped at a store. “Help disappeared. “Now Mum pick out a balDad’s going to write loon,” Trish instructed. At a rack where dozens of helium- back to me,” Desiree declared as she filled silver Mylar balloons bobbed, walked past them towards the car. Desiree made an instant decision: “That one!” HAPPY BIRTHDAY was oN a cold, raiNy November emblazoned above a drawing of the morning on Prince Edward Island in Little Mermaid from the Disney film. eastern Canada, 32-year-old Wade Desiree and her father had often MacKinnon pulled on his waterproof watched the video together. duck-hunting gear. MacKinnon, a The child’s eyes shone as they forest ranger, lived with his wife and arranged flowers on Ken’s grave. It three children in Mermaid, a rural was a beautiful day, with a slight community a few kilometres east of breeze rippling the eucalyptus trees. Charlottetown. Then Desiree dictated a letter to her But instead of driving to the estuary dad. “Tell him ‘Happy Birthday, I love where he usually hunted, he suddenly you and miss you,’” she rattled off. “‘ I decided to go to Mermaid Lake, 3km
Then one evening, as Rhonda tucked her child in, Desiree announced, “I want to die, Mummy, so I can be with Daddy.” God help me, Rhonda prayed. What more can I possibly do?
a miracle of mermaids
away. Leaving his pickup, he hiked past dripping spruce and pine and soon entered a cranberry bog surrounding the 9-hectare lake. In the bushes on the shoreline, something fluttered and caught his eye. Curious, he approached to find a silver balloon snagged in the branches of a thigh-high bayberry bush. Printed on one side was a picture of a mermaid. When he untangled the string, he found a soggy piece of paper at the end of it, wrapped in plastic. At home, MacKinnon carefully removed the wet note, allowing it to dry. When his wife, Donna, came home later, he said, “Look at this,” and showed her the balloon and note. Intrigued, she read: “November 8, 1993. Happy Birthday, Daddy…” It finished with a mailing address in Live Oak, California. “It’s only November 12,” Wade exclaimed. “This balloon travelled 3000 miles in four days!” “A n d l o o k ,” s a i d Don n a, t u r n i ng t he balloon over. “This is a Little Mermaid balloon, and it landed at Mermaid Lake.” FR O M “ We have to w r ite to Desiree,” Wade said. “Maybe we were chosen to help this little girl.” But he could see that his wife didn’t feel the same way. With tears in her eyes, Donna stepped away from the balloon. “Such a young girl having 52
to deal with death – it’s awful,” she said. Wade let the matter rest. He placed the note in a drawer and tied the balloon, still buoyant, to the railing of the balcony overlooking their living room. But the sight of the balloon made Donna uncomfortable. A few days later, she stuffed it in a closet.
As the weeks went by, however, Donna found herself thinking more and more about the balloon. It had flown over the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. Just a few more kilometres and it would have landed in the ocean. Instead it had stopped there, in Mermaid. Our three children are so lucky, she t houg ht . T he y have t wo healt hy parents. She i mag i ned how their daughter, Hailey, almost two years old, would feel if Wade were to die. The next morning, Donna said to Wade: “ Yo u ’ r e r i g h t . W e have this balloon for a reason. We have to try to help Desiree.” 1 9 95 In a Charlottetown bookstore Donna MacKinnon bought an adaptation of The Little Mermaid. A few days later, just after Christmas, Wade brought home a birthday card that read “For a Dear Daughter, Loving Birthday Wishes.”
Donna sat down one morning to write a letter to Desiree. When she finished, she tucked it into the birthday card, wrapped it up with the book and mailed the package on January 3, 1994.
Desiree’s fifth birthDay came and went quietly with a small party on January 9. Every day since they’d released the balloon, Desiree had asked Rhonda, “Do you think Daddy has my balloon yet?” After her party she stopped asking. Late on the afternoon of January 19, the Mackinnons’ package arrived. Busy cooking dinner, Trish looked at the unfamiliar return address and assumed it was a birthday gift for her granddaughter from someone in Ken’s family. Rhonda and Desiree had moved back to Yuba City, so Trish decided to deliver it to Rhonda the next day. As Trish watched television that evening, a thought nagged at her. Why would someone send a parcel for Desiree to this address? Tearing the package open, she found the card. “For a Dear Daughter…” Her heart raced. Dear God! She thought, and reached for the telephone. It was after midnight, but she had to call Rhonda. When trish, eyes reD from weeping, pulled into Rhonda’s driveway the next morning at 6.45, her daughter and granddaughter were already up. Rhonda and Trish sat
Desiree between them on the couch. Trish said, “Desiree, this is for you,” and handed her the parcel. “It’s from your daddy.” “I know,” said Desiree matter-offactly. “Here, Grandma, read it to me.” “Happy birthday from your daddy,” Trish began. “I guess you must be wondering who we are. Well, it all started in November when my husband, Wade, went duck hunting. Guess what he found? A mermaid balloon that you sent your daddy…” Trish paused. A single tear began to trickle down Desiree’s cheek. “There are no stores in heaven, so your daddy wanted someone to do his shopping for him. I think he picked us because we live in a town called Mermaid.” Trish continued reading: “I know your daddy would want you to be happy and not sad. I know he loves you very much and will always be watching over you. Lots of love, the MacKinnons.” When Trish finished reading, she looked at Desiree. “I knew Daddy would find a way not to forget me,” the child said. Wiping the tears from her eyes, Trish put her arm around Desiree and began to read The Little Mermaid that the MacKinnons had sent. The story was different from the one Ken had so often read to the child. In that version, the Little Mermaid lives happily ever after with the handsome prince. But in the new one, she dies Classic Reads•2014
a miracle of mermaids
because a wicked witch has taken her tail. Three angels carry her away. As Trish finished reading, she worried that the ending would upset her granddaughter. But Desiree put her hands on her cheeks with delight. “She goes to heaven!” she cried. “That’s why Daddy sent me this book. Because the mermaid goes to heaven just like him!”
In mId-February the MacKinnons received a letter from Rhonda: “On January 19 my little girl’s dream came true when your parcel arrived.” During the next few weeks, the MacKinnons and the Gills often telephoned each other. Then, in March, Rhonda, Trish and Desiree flew the 4700km to Prince Edward
Island to meet the MacKinnons. As the two families walked through the forest to see the spot beside the lake where Wade had found the balloon, Rhonda and Desiree fell silent. It seemed as though Ken was there with them. In the months after, whenever Desiree wanted to talk about her dad, she called the MacKinnons. A few minutes on the phone soothed her as nothing else could. “People tell me, ‘What a coincidence that your mermaid balloon landed so far away at a place called Mermaid Lake,’” says Rhonda. “But we know Ken picked the MacKinnons as a way to send his love to Desiree. She understands now that her father is with her always.”
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Laughter the best mediCine
BY SPECIAL REQUEST t fau a lar a play vr 2000 ac a . C ly, a fa a , “Wa av yu a rqu fr?” “Wr’ ’ r?” awr a r. HERB CAEn In San FranciSco ExaminEr, January 1958
A well-known TV comedian went to see a psychiatrist because of his frightening dreams. “Every day I take a nap,” he said, “and I dream that I’m telling fabulous jokes that keep the audiences hysterical for a whole hour without a stop.” “I don’t see what’s terrifying about that dream,” said the psychiatrist. “You don’t?” shouted the comedian. “A whole hour without a stop? That means I’m unsponsored!”
Photo: t hi nkstoCk
L.L., July 1959
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bhvd oc ciiz. a o h i c o which d: “I do’ ok, och ioxic o b . I fihf o wif d v ook oh wo . I hd-woki , qi d obdi. I v o o h ovi o h h d I o o bd v i h d i wih h dw. I d ch ch sd wiho fi . “I’v b ik hi fo h h . B j wi i x i , wh h o of h!” The irish digesT, septemBer 1960
H upt youth and spent years as a slave-ship captain, but the man who once was lost, truly found salvation
bY ALe X H ALe Y i LLustrAtio n bY H e AtH k iLLen
T H E a m a z i n g g r ac E o f j o H n n E w To n
When Roots burst upon the literary world in 1976, it was an immediate phenomenon. A decade on, millions of copies had been sold in more than 40 languages; the TV mini-series had been seen by over 500 million people; and the story of Alex Haley’s African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, who was taken in chains from Gambia to a British slave ship in 1767, had become part of history. The Digest was privileged to publish the first words from Roots and Alex Haley told editors how his research for the book had led him to the story of John Newton, an English minister who wrote hymns even as Kunta Kinte entered slavery in America. Newton was once a slave-ship captain. But then he helped inspire the first great step toward the abolition of slavery, and he wrote a hymn that remains a moving personal testament to salvation.” Haley died in 1992, five years after sharing Newton’s story.
ohn newton was born in London on July 24, 1725, to a pious and shy mother and an authoritarian father. To the boy’s relief, his shipmaster father would spend only a few weeks at home between year-long voyages. When John was seven, his mother died of tuberculosis. The shipmaster, practical man that he was, remarried before his next voyage; for John, however, the loss of his mother was devastating. He became stubborn, disrespectful and difficult, and soon was packed off to a boarding school. There he was confronted with a headmaster who wielded a cane and a birch rod. The experience “almost broke my spirit”, he later confided in a letter. But more torment was in store. 58
At 11, John was sent to sea as an apprentice sailor on his father’s ship. During this time, he strayed further and further from his mother’s religious teachings. By his teens, he was an expert sailor, but his father apprenticed him to a merchant at Alicante, Spain. The 15-year-old disobeyed orders, fought with anyone who crossed him, and was sent back because of his unsettled behaviour. As he later confessed, “I believe for some years I never was an hour in any company without attempting to corrupt them.” Next, his father arranged for John to learn the plantation business in Jamaica. Before leaving, the youth went to visit his mother’s relatives in Chatham, England, and, in one
In Sierra Leone, he left the ship to of the twists of circumstance that filled Newton’s life, met and fell in work for a slave dealer, a white man love with Mary Catlett, not quite 14. named Clow. Clow’s common-law Mary reminded him of his mother. So African wife hated John; when he fell smitten was John that he prolonged desperately ill, she denied him food and water, and had her own black the visit and missed his ship. Months later, he was impressed into slaves torment him. Miraculously, the British navy. In 1745, Midshipman Newton survived, but only to live in Newton set sail for the East Indies on virtual bondage for more than a year HMS Harwich. The voyage was to last on Clow’s plantation. His life had five years, but a storm hit and the reached its nadir. Newton’s father had Harwich had to anchor urged a ship-owning off Plymouth. Newton friend in Liverpool to was put in charge of He was ask all captains of his a boat going ashore, transferred to a slave ships working with instructions to see that none of the ship that ranked along the African coast to search for John and crew deserted. Lovesick lowest in the to bring him home. and headstrong, John himself escaped. Afraid maritime world In February 1747, the Greyhound put in at a to ask for directions to – a ship that port in Sierra Leone, Chatham, he walked for engaged in the and Newton – through two days before he was a series of divine interarrested by a military slave trade ventions, he would later patrol and returned to say – was found. the Harwich. There he The Greyhound was on a long trade was put into irons and flogged as a deserter, then transferred to a ship cruise, returning to England via Brazil. that ranked lowest in the maritime Seeking something to do, Newton world – a ship engaged in the slave began reading The Imitation of Christ, trade. “From this time I was exceed- by Thomas à Kempis, a classic study of spiritual life that included warnings ingly vile,” he later confessed. The female slaves on board were at of God’s judgement. Disturbed by the the crew’s disposal. John Newton, not book’s message, he flung it aside. It quite 20 and now a militant atheist, was March 9, 1748, the turning point indulged his sexual appetites as often of Newton’s life. In the dark, early-morning hours as he wished. He was a far cry from the studious child who had sung of the next day, the Greyhound was struck by a sea so heavy that part of hymns at his mother’s knee. Classic Reads•2014
T H E a m a z i n g g r ac E o f j o H n n E w To n
her side was stove in. “Pumping’s useless! Nothing can save this ship, or us!” a veteran sailor exclaimed. But Newton and others pumped from five in the morning until noon. “If this will not do, the Lord have mercy upon us!” Newton cried out, startled by his own words. The Greyhound did survive, and when she finally limped into Liverpool she carried a different John Newton from “the blasphemer” who had been plucked from the African coast. As he later explained, “I FR O M began to know there is a God that hears and answers prayer… though I can see no reason why the Lord singled me out for mercy.” (For the rest of Newton’s life, he prayed and fasted on each anniversary of that fateful March morning.) Newton rushed to Chatham to see Mary, and after a voyage as first mate on a slave ship, John Newton, 24, married Mary Catlett, 20.
Conscience Pangs For the next four years, Newton captained slave ships. At first he had no scruples about slave trading, which was considered respectable and essential to Britain’s prosperity. But as his new faith steadily grew, he wrestled with his conscience. Twice each Sunday he began conducting his white 60
crew in prayers as the chained Africans lay closely packed, some of them dying, on the opposite side of the ship. During his next two voyages to Guinea, buying and selling blacks, he tried to act mercifully towards them. Then, in 1754, while Newton was sitting at home drinking tea with Mary, he suffered a minor stroke. He recovered, but it was clear that his days at sea were over. Newton was appointed the official Liverpool tide surveyor in 1755. With time on his hands, he studied 1986 Latin, mathematics and the Scriptures. He also wrote hymns and began to preach occasionally as a lay evangelist. Increasingly he felt the call to enter the ministry. In 1764, the new Reverend John Newton, 39, was appointed the curate of Olney, a little village on the bank of the River Ouse in Buckinghamshire. Newton loved his Olney parishioners. “Brothers and sisters” he called them. Many were poor, uneducated lacemakers. Not only did he wear his old sea coat on his rounds to the sick and needy, but he also told stories from the pulpit of his sea-faring life, his great sins and his own unworthiness to preach the Gospel. Moreover, Newton dared to replace the conventional psalm-singing with the singing of hymns that were simple
enough to be understood and felt by the simple people. When Newton published An Authentic Narrative in 1764, a graphic first-person record of his past debauchery and rescue, so many people flocked to his church that a new gallery had to be added. After 15 years, Newton of Olney was reassigned to St Mary Woolnoth, a distinguished church in London. Though his new position brought him great influence and social status, he never lost the image of himself broken and wretched on the coast of Africa, hating God and his own soul. His constant message, even to London’s elite, was that he himself was living proof God could save the very worst. In 1785, in yet another twist of fate, Newton crossed paths with a popular young political figure named William Wilberforce. Only 26 and already a member of parliament, Wilberforce had recently experienced a religious awakening. Though his friends predicted a great political career, Wilberforce was convinced that his privileged life had no purpose. Years before, Newton had been a friend and neighbour of Wilberforce’s aunt, and as a youngster William had come under Newton’s spell. Now “reborn”, Wilberforce sought out the 60-year-old Newton for spiritual counsel. Should he resign from parliament and enter the ministry? No, advised Newton. God can make you “a blessing both as a Christian and a statesman”.
Wilberforce, who was looking for a cause, found it in Newton’s sermons against slavery. This was an issue that no political party would dare touch, but no true Christian could evade.
Persuasive Argument Newton joined the battle as he could, although his health was failing. He alone in the political arena spoke from personal experience, a trump card the opposing forces were unable to counter. He addressed the Privy Council (including Prime Minister William Pitt): “The slaves lie in two rows, one above the other, on each side of the ship, like books upon a shelf. The poor creatures are in irons, both hands and feet… And every morning more instances than one are found of the living and the dead fastened together.” In March 1807, parliament passed Wilberforce’s bill abolishing the slave trade on British ships. That same year, on December 21, the Rev John Newton, 82, spoke his last words: “I am a great sinner… and Christ is a great Saviour.” Newton was buried beneath his church of St Mary Woolnoth, and a tablet was placed on the church wall, with an inscription he had written himself: “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.” Classic Reads•2014
T H e a m a z i n g g r ac e o f j o H n n e w To n
My research brought me to St Mary Woolnoth. I stood on the very rostrum where the Rev John Newton had held his congregation spellbound with stories of the sea, his sins and God’s great mercy. As I looked out over the empty pews, the organist played the melodies of Newton’s hymns. One glorious tune swelled up all around me. The verses were written at Olney – a minor autobiographical lyric that critics say is a poor example of Newton’s work.
But that hymn has travelled the world, bringing a message of hope and forgiveness to all people of faith. I sang to myself the simple words I learned as a child in a church in the American South. You know them too: Amazing grace – how sweet the sound – That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
IT’S A DOG’S LIFE R D j u n e 1 9 67
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t fid th py th ut- -pt vlu . wh sh t t, sh st t t nsh th ltt xpl ht hd hppd d s h t utph t. nsh st th b t T , sbd: “T T cls hs d – dpd hs tst t bst suts.” NOrTON MOckrIDGE in new York World Journal Tribune
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Laughter THe besT mediCine Sins o won’ e qifin for e Ompics n ime soon: lyo keep ccidetl ig o westig oppoets with o cigette. lyo c’t fit o thighs etwee the pllel s. lWhe o he the stte’s pistol, o cl p like fighteed mdillo. lWheeve o ete chgig oom, people tomticll hd o thei towels. lThe ol spect of weight liftig o hve tlet fo is gtig. lWhe o get ot of ed i the moig, o hve tole ilig the dismot.
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DaVID lEttERMaN, JunE 2000
PEtE CzuRa, JunE 1963
“For 20 years,” mused the man at the bar, “my wife and I were ecstatically happy.” “Then what happened?” asked the bartender. “We met.” The english DigesT, JunE 1970 Two cu cout who yougr rothr ha fall to a po ruh ovr to thr othr, cryg. “W’r tryg to gv h artfcal rprato,” o o. “but h p gttg up a wal g away.”
PHOTO: T Hi nksTOCk
baby talk The husband arrived home one evening to find his wife distraught. “I’ve had a terrible day,” she complained. “The baby cut his first tooth; then he took his first step; then he fell down and cut his lip on his tooth.” “What happened next?” the husband asked. “Then,” she added in a shocked voice, “he said his first word!” Family Weekly, January 1960 Clac Ra•2014
p ig W ho loved the
He wasn’t what you’d expect in a pet – or even in a pig
By Jo Co ud e rt illustratio n By lilly p iri
the pig who loved people
he phone rang at Bette and Don Atty’s house in
Johnstown, New York. It was a friend calling to ask if they’d like a pig. “His name is Lord Bacon. He’s four months old, and he’s smarter than any dog,” the friend said to Don. “He adores people, and with Bette working at home, I thought she might like the company.” Fo r a y e a r D o n h a d s t o o d by helplessly as his wife suffered from agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces and crowds, apparently triggered by stress at work. Even after she had quit her job, just going to the local mall could bring on an anxiety attack. She couldn’t leave the house unless Don was with her. Now Bette was standing nearby, overhearing the conversation, and she shook her head no. “Think about it,” Don urged. “It’ll be good for you to have a special pet.” Bette recalled reading in one of the many psychology books she had consulted about her condition that caring for another creature strengthens a person’s inner being. But could a pig help my nerves? “All right,” she said reluctantly. “I suppose some farmer’ll take him if we have to get rid of him.” Two hours later the owner delivered Lord Bacon in a wire cage. He was a miniature variety who stood 34cm high and 60cm long. Shaped like a root beer keg on stilts, he weighed 20kg. Don laughed when he saw him. “That snout looks like he ran into a wall doing 90!” Even Bette joined in: 66
“I’ve got an old hairbrush with betterlooking bristles than these.” When the cage was opened, Lord Bacon trotted out wagging his straight tail, looked around and headed for Bette. She knelt to greet him. He heaved himself up on his hind legs, laid his head on her shoulder and kissed her on the cheek with his leathery snout. She looked at the pig and, for the first time in a long time, smiled.
The resT of The day, Bette and Don watched as the pig bustled about, exploring the house. He sat up on his bottom and begged for a treat. He gently chewed on Don’s beard when Don put him on his lap. When they whistled, he came to them. That night the pig tried to follow Bette and Don upstairs, but with his potbelly he couldn’t negotiate the steps. Bette made up a bed for him in the kitchen, then sat on the floor and stroked him. “It’s all right. We’ll be here in the morning,” she told him. The next morning, instead of dreading having to face another day, Bette was actually eager to see her new pet. Lord Bacon scrambled to greet her and rubbed against her
leg. It was like being massaged with off the hook, stood over it and grunted a scouring pad. From then on, Bette into the mouthpiece. was destined always to have this red I wonder what my clients must rash of affection on her leg. think? Bette thought, only half After breakfast the pig followed Bette amused. into the small home office where she prepared tax returns and settled down One day a client came to see beside her desk. Bette found that when her about his tax return and was so she grew edgy, if she reached down charmed by her pet that he returned and petted him and said a few words, later with his children. Soon other it made her feel calmer. neighbours were stopping by to see Ver y soon the pig Lord Bacon. Finding was a member of the this to be too formidahousehold. When Don ble a name for such a Soon other brought home a doggy friendly, small pig, the bed to put next to Bette’s neighbours were kids took to calling him desk, the animal looked Pigger, and Pigger he stopping by to it over and decided that, became from then on. with some alterations, Once when a small see Lord Bacon it would do nicely. He group had gathered, … the kids took Bette felt herself growplanted his hoofs, ripped to calling him open the tartan pillow, ing tense. Realising they pulled out the stuffing were all too fascinated Pigger and then crawled inside by the pig to look at her, the cover, content. however, she began to One evening when Bette and Don enjoy the company. drew up their armchairs to watch “It’s fun coming home from work television, the pig pushed a chair now,” Don told Bette. “The first thing over with his snout and sat up in you say is, ‘Guess what Pigger did front of it, as if to say, “Hey, I want today. He pulled the blankets off to be part of this too.” As he watched the bed,’ or whatever, and we get to figures on the screen, his head laughing and it feels like when we bobbed from side to side. were first married.” Lord Bacon disliked loud noises. “You laugh,” Bette said, “but it Bette’s phone hung on a post beside wasn’t so funny when he locked me her desk, and the pig figured out that out this morning.” Pigger had followed it stopped ringing when Bette picked Bette in and out of the house and had it up. If Bette wasn’t there to answer it watched her close the door behind immediately, he yanked the receiver her. That morning as he went inside, Classic Reads•2014
the pig who loved people
he took the initiative himself – except that the door was on the latch and his mistress was still outside. Luckily, she had a spare key. More and more Bette realised that Pigger was a superb mimic and would imitate whatever she and Don did. If she shook her head, Pigger would too. If she twirled, Pigger would twirl. Soon Bette was teaching tricks to her pig that few dogs would learn. His reward was dog biscuits. In Pigger’s company Bette was beginning to be more like her old self FR O M – so much so that her father tried to persuade her to bring Pigger to a senior-citizens meeting. Bette demurred. “Pigger can run like the wind and faint like a soccer player,” she said, “but he hates a leash. He plants his feet and won’t walk. I’d look pretty silly, wouldn’t I, a grown lady dragging a pig?” The next night Don came home with a baby stroller. “What’s that?” Bette demanded. “It’s a pig-mobile, so you can take Pigger to the seniors’ meeting.” Pigger loved the stroller. He sat up in it, blanket around his shoulders, green visor on his head, as Don pushed him about. Bette finally agreed to take Pigger to the meeting. Her nerves tightened as she drove up. She turned off the 68
motor and sat in the car, trembling. She stroked Pigger, seat-belted beside her, and felt calmer. I ’ve got to conquer my fears, she told herself. I can’t spend the rest of my life being afraid. She struggled out, settled Pigger in the pig-mobile and wheeled him into the building. T h e s e n i o r s w e re intr igued. “What is that?” they asked. Bette lifted Pigger to the floor. He immediately singled out the oldest woman and trotted over to nuzzle her cheek. The other seniors broke into 19 92 laughter and crowded around to pet him. Bette found herself answering questions, at first haltingly, then with enthusiasm. She told the seniors that pigs are smarter than dogs and twice as clean. “Pigger loves it when I put him into the bathtub once a week for a good scrub,” she said. To show off how smart he was, she called to Pigger and told him he was a handsome hog. Pigger strutted about proudly. Then she scolded him for being piggy. Pigger lowered his head in shame and, for good measure, let his tongue hang out. His audience cheered. Word got around, and soon Bette and Pigger set out on what Don referred to as pig gigs. At a nearby
nursing home, she wheeled Pigger from room to room to visit with the patients. In one, an old woman sat staring at her hands in her lap. Suddenly her head came up, and her face cracked in the beginning of a smile. She held out her hands, then wrapped her arms around herself. “What is it?” Bette asked. “Do you want to hug him?” An aide whispered to Bette that the woman had not smiled, spoken or taken an interest in anything since her husband died years before. Bette picked up Pigger and let the old woman pet him. Pigger stayed as quiet as could be, with his ears cocked and his mouth drawn up in a grin. O n l at e r v i s i t s, w h e n P i g g e r came through the front door in his pig-mobile, the call would go out : “Pigger’s here!” A commotion would start in the halls – the squeak of wheelchairs, the taptap of walkers, the shuffle of slippered feet – as the residents hurried to see him. The more Bette saw of sick and helpless people, the more thoughts of her own illness faded away. “I used to hate myself,” she told Don, “but now I’m beginning to thank God every day for being me. Pigger is my therapy.”
One day it occurred to Bette that Pigger might carry a message to schoolchildren. Soon she faced an audience of youngsters and invited them to ask Pigger if he would ever
take drugs. Pigger shook his head emphatically while grunting and snorting disgust at the idea. Asked if he’d stay in school and study hard, Pigger bowed low and nodded his head. The children were curious about what Pigger liked to eat. “Dog biscuits, of course. Also beans, corn, carrots, apples and Cheerios. But the two things Pigger loves best are popcorn and ice-cream. At the Dairy Queen, he gets his own dish of icecream, which he eats neatly from a spoon,” Bette explained. The kids’ comments about Pigger ranged from: “He feels like a pot scrubber” to “He has cute ears” to “He looks like my uncle”. One little boy, hugging Pigger, said wistfully, “I wish you could come home with me. I know you’d love me.” Bette had to hold firmly on the leash to keep Pigger from following the boy. Sometimes Bette and Don would be shopping in the supermarket, and from the next aisle a child’s voice would ring out: “There’s the pig’s mother and father!” An embarrassed parent would be dragged over to be introduced to “the pig’s family”. When strangers stopped, stared, and asked what Pigger was, Don explained, “To us, he’s a pig, but to him, he’s people.” Sometimes Don quoted Winston Churchill: “Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” And Pigger would confirm this by grunting. Classic Reads•2014
the pig who loved people
In one year Bette and Pigger made 95 public appearances together, m o s t l y b e f o re o l d p e o p l e a n d children. Bette handled each occasion with poise and flair.
In July, Pigger was invited to attend the 1990 Fulton County, New York, Senior Citizens Annual Picnic. The day before, Bette opened the back door. “Why don’t you go out and cool off in your pool, Pigger?” she suggested. Pigger trotted into the yard, and Bette went back to work. Half an hour later, something made her check on him. He was lying in his favourite napping spot in the shade of a
barberry bush. He wasn’t breathing. Bette felt panic coming on. She began to wail. No, I mustn’t carry on. Pigger never liked loud noises . She phoned the police to come take his body. She called two friends to keep her company until Don got home. Then she knew she was going to make it. Pigger had succumbed to a pulmonary aneurysm. But Bette has her own theory on why he died. “I think Pigger had a heart so big, it just burst with all that love. He helped me become my old self, and he brightened so many other lives. There’ll never be another Pigger.”
MARKED WOMAN RD FEBRUARY 1 950
A ny rans camra cub a ram f ay n cu a a m fr sm nu ra c s us. Bu mmbrs n’ a muc mny an k sm
m fr cub rasury nu . Fnay b n
cam. t m arr, camras r ray. Bu sm m a bn arn ar rs an r s r y m rn . Fr af an ur s an arus un rs r rub aay ar r marks s y un’ s n c urs. Fnay as c a s u a n an r rm fr an ur y a r busnss m n. An ur a r n y n n r, s u – an s ’ bn s
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All in a Day’s Work humouR on The joB brassed oFF A a ca it y sic sp t by a avy brass t fr is vili. W was tld t pric, said cld’t ad wld’t pay tat c, ad strd t. A fw days latr, rtrd ad startd ctig t t y. “I tgt y cld’t affrd it,” r sp assistat said. “I ca’t,” bld t vili playr. “Bt t igbrs cippd i.” alice sampson, June 1990
Our daughter was being interviewed for a supervisory position. When asked if she had ever worked in such a capacity before, she answered, “No, but at home I have four boys and they call me General.” She got the job.
PhoToS: ThIn kSToCk
lillian Hilde, December 1987
There was almost a miniuprising when the boss threatened to end our weekly delivery of bottled water. She eventually backed down but caused confusion when she announced, “I am happy to report we can retain water.” robinette Flygare, December 2003
I t ffic wr I wr, tr is a cstat battl btw r tcicalspprt dirctr ad cstr-srvic prsl vr t r tpratr, wic is sally t lw. T frstratd dirctr, tryig t gt s t drstad is psiti, xplaid aftr, “W d t p t tpratr blw 24 dgrs r t cptr will vrat.” Tiig tat tis was st atr xcs, f y sivrig cllags rtrtd, “Ya, rigt. S w did ty p t cptrs fr vratig bfr tr was air cditiig?” Heidi dysard, February 2004
etter from ud
Hanff’s book ader’s Digest, she suddenly discovered a delightful world of total strangers
by h ele Ne h aNFF i l lu st ratio N by s o p h ie blackall-ca i N
Classic Reads •2014
letter from cloud nine
ear friends, You all know, of course, that nobody
in this 20th-century world of ours can communicate with anybody any more: the individual has been swallowed up by our huge, computerised society. Mr Thomas Lask touched on this very point in his review in the New York Times of my book, 84, Charing Cross Road. This was the story of a correspondence I had for 20 years with a man at Marks & Co, a London bookshop. (I never met the man, or saw the bookshop, since I never had the money to go abroad). In his review, Mr Lask said that the book would appeal to “everyone whose humanity has been reduced to a hole in a punch card”. He’d have stayed out of trouble if he’d stopped there. But he went on to conclude his review jokingly by saying that since the bookshop was soon to close down, he was in favour of a fund to get me from New York to England to see it, and that I could put him down for “any amount up to and including five dollars”. A few days later a clutch of letters arrived in Mr Lask’s Times mailbox, viz: “Dear Mr Lask: your tender appeal has gone straight to my heart. My five dollars is enclosed.” “Enclosed is a dollar; sorry it can’t be more. Should you need help setting up the fund, I’d be glad to donate some of my time.” Well, the Times got pretty uptight 74
about this mythical fund, and Mr Lask returned the money to the donors. And I tried to figure out why solid, sensible Times readers should send their hard-earned dollars to finance a trip to Europe for some author they’d never met. Not at this address
Then, during the month of September, fan letters began to arrive in my mail box. One came from an elderly lady, who enclosed a cheque for $25: I was to buy myself a book and a pot of tea on her whenever I got to London. (I returned the cheque with thanks, and the lady wrote that she understood, and was coming to New York for the winter. Would I have tea with her instead? I went, and she lent me some books, and then came here to tea to see mine.) From December 1970 onwards, condensations of 84, Charing Cross Road began appearing in the Digest’s world-wide family of magazines and now the whole pace of the matter picked up. Soon letters were pouring in from all over the United States, from Canada, Northern Ireland, Italy, West Malaysia, West Africa, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan – everywhere!
The remarkable thing about the could not get a new edition to the Digest fan mail was that it reached me bookshops in time for Christmas. Nothing makes you want a thing as at all. Although the book contained both my present and former ad- much as being told you can’t have it. dresses, the Digest, knowing its own Unable to get Charing Cross at their strength, sought to protect me from bookshops, would-be buyers began its readers by deleting my present ad- writing to me. One man wrote that he wanted to send the book as a Christdress in its condensation. Nothing daunted, a few of you mas gift to his girlfriend. He would posted your letters to me c/o The be very grateful if I’d inscribe a copy Reader’s Digest, which posted them of the book to her from him, and add my name, and post it, to t he book publishand write and let him ers, who posted them know what he owed to me. The rest of you Nothing makes me, and he’d send me sent your letters to my a cheque at once. With old add ress, 14 East you want a great gratitude. 95th Street, which had thing as much I wanted to ignore been printed. Since I as being told it, but my conscience had moved away from nagged. So I inscribed there a mere 15 years you can’t the book from John to ago, the letters roamed have it Marge, autographed it, a rou nd for a w h i le, gift-wrapped it, put it in and by the time they a cardboard book-envereac hed me t he envelopes were thickly covered with lope, lugged it to the post office and r ubber sta mps a nd ha ndw r it ten mailed it. It wasn’t till the fourth time memos: “Moved. Left No Address.” I’d done this –inscribed, autographed, “Not at This Address.” “Unknown at gift wrapped, outer-wrapped, lugged 14 East 95.” Under all of these, at the to the post office – that I looked down bottom of each envelope, was written the long line ahead of me at the in pencil: “Try 305 East 72. 10021.” parcel-post window and asked myself: In the weeks just before Christ- “What are you doing? You are not a mas, a complication set in. The bookshop!” All in all, December was a wild book had got off to a slow start, and book shops hadn’t ordered any vast month. By Christmas I had run quantities of it. Now, thanks to the through five boxes of Christmas cards, Digest and Christmas, there was a two boxes of stationery and three rolls sudden demand for it which caught of stamps – just thanking people for the publisher flat-footed. He simply their letters. Classic Reads •2014
letter from cloud nine
Christmas also brought presents. Off tO LOndOn One fan left at the desk for me a beau- Then everything came all right again. tiful, gold-embossed leather-bound In April, eight fans plucked out of the book published in 1875 entitled book the one sentence that told them Gleanings for the Curious From the my birth date; six of them sent me Harvest Field of Literature. One birthday cards and the other two sent gentleman sent me a packet of Marks boxes of sweets. & Co gummed labels (he collects In May, the book columns of bookshop labels). A lady who shares London newspapers announced that my last name but is no relation, sent Andre Deutsch was bringing out a me the Hanff Coat-of-Arms just jump- British edition of 84, Charing Cross ing with rampant unicorns and silver Road in June and that I would be fields and dangling grapes and stir- making my first trip to England to rups, painted in green, blue, purple be on hand for the event. As a result, and silver and mounted for framing. a batch of incredibly generous and Came January and the “second- heartwarming letters arrived from hand” fan letters. For example, a man England. sent three thank-you notes clipped A gentleman wrote from London to together, explaining that he’d sent the say that he worked at Heathrow Airbook as a gift to Becky port and that if I would who had lent it to Sarah let him know the date who had given it to Jo. Jo and time of my arrival When I found returned it to Sarah with h e w o u l d g re e t m e nothing in the “before your dainty feet a note; Sarah returned it to Becky with Jo’s note touch British soil”, see mailbox but a and one of her own; me through Customs bill, I suffered a and Immigration and and Becky sent a note enclosing the other two severe sense of then hand me over to notes to the first man, any friends waiting for rejection who sent all three notes me. If no friends met on to me. the plane, he would The attention grew, drive me to my hotel – and grew, and by March I was so and if no hotel room was waiting for spoiled that when I went down for the me he would put me up in the spare mail one morning, and found nothing bedroom of his Chelsea flat. He even in the box but a bill, I suffered a severe added the name and phone number sense of rejection. I went back up in of a lady he knew in Connecticut so the lift in a forlorn: “Where is every- that I could telephone her for assurbody?” gloom. ance that he was entirely respectable. 76
When I wrote thanking him and giving him the date of my arrival, he wrote back to say that he would take a few days’ holiday that week to drive me around the English countryside. Nora Doel, the widow of the man with whom I’d corresponded for almost 20 years, wrote to say that she, too, was taking a week’s holiday in order to be free to drive me around. (She added that the book had brought her almost as much mail as it had brought me, including a proposal of marriage from a gentleman who arrived on her doorstep, luggage in hand. I got two proposals myself; one from a gentleman in Ohio, the other from Malaysia.) The wife of a visiting classics professor at Oxford wrote inviting me to dine at Balliol High Table with herself and her husband. And a Californian lady living in London wrote asking me to set aside two days so that she could take me on a walking tour of her own private “book lovers’ London”. TighT BudgeT
At the end of May two new letters capped everything. One was from my most irrepressible fan, an American businessman living near Brussels with his wife and four sons. He had turned up on my doorstep in December with a copy of the book to be autographed, and two record albums and a bottle of scotch as gifts. He and his wife wrote that since I was coming to London I must plan on a trip to Belgium for
a long weekend with his family at their home in Waterloo. I wrote back thanking them and explaining that since I was going to England on a tight budget and timetable, trips to the Continent were a bit beyond me. Whereupon a letter came back telling me that he and his wife would personally fetch me from London, take me to Waterloo and then drive me to Copenhagen and anywhere else I wanted to go. And lying on my desk is a letter from Dalton’s bookstore in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s the second letter from Dalton’s. The first, which arrived a week before, just said, “Should you make it to Las Vegas, please call on our store.” I found that sentence hilarious, since my income isn’t the kind you ever make it to Las Vegas on. I explained this to the lady in my thank-you note, adding that I might be making my first trip to Los Angeles in the autumn and that was happiness enough. Came the second letter: “When I found that a little thing like finances might prevent you from stopping in our city this autumn, I went to work,” wrote the girl at Dalton’s. “There is a TWA flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to New York. Thus, travel costs are taken care of. Next, a room. You have made a lot of friends here through your book, and Classic Reads •2014
letter from cloud nine
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we have a room for you at one of our finer hotels, compliments of the management. Dinners and shows will also be taken care of. We are all in agreement that we will not take no for an answer.â€? 78
So itâ€™s off to London and Brussels, then Los Angeles and Las Vegas â€“ always provided anybody can get me down off Cloud Nine long enough to put me on a plane and send me back up again.
Reach Out tO OtheRs
I used to lie awake at night trying to understand what had happened. All I did was write a book, and the sky fell on me. And to be honest, in my own private opinion it isn’t even much of a book; it’s only letters between me and an Englishman – and a few other people – whom I never met, in a bookshop I never saw. But lying awake one night last week, I suddenly remembered some lines from a review of the book. And finally I understood. The lines were written by Haskel Frankel FR O m in The Saturday Review: “If one brash American heart can break through one Englishman’s starched reserve, what is not possible between people in this tortured world? And what is loneliness but an illusion of private affliction which people are waiting to dispel at the other end of a postage stamp?” So there it is, dear friends: We were wrong. The belief that people can no
longer communicate with each other has proved – like loneliness – an illusion. The individual – the singular, unpredictable, unclassifiable, extraordinary human-being – is alive and well and living at the other end of a postage stamp from Saudi Arabia to Newfoundland to East 72nd Street. Which is why, now that the letterbox has subsided to its normal yield of ads and bills, I thought the time had come to write this fan letter of my own, to all the marvellous people who have phoned me 1 97 1 a n d w r i t t e n t o m e, wined-and-dined me and sent me gifts, to all the generous, warm-hearted strangers I might never have known existed, who from thousands of kilometres away as from my own doorstep have done me the honour to call me friend. Thank you for everything. God bless! Helene Hanff
signs Of life RD maRch 1980
On an office copy machine: “There is joy in reproduction.” JacK ROsenBauM IN SAN FRANCISO EXAMINER
On the back of a rental trailer: “If I’m not headed west, stop me and turn me around.” JOhn lee Classic Reads •2014
Boat Sailed Through
It wa the preciou li that boud geeratio
By arno ld Berwick
P HOTO: T HIn ksTOCk
t h e L i t t L e b o at t h at s a i L e d t h r o u g h t i m e
sspent the tenth summer of my childhood, the most
memorable months of my life, in western Norway at the mountain farm where my mother was born. What remains most vivid in my mind are the times I shared with my grandfather Jørgen. The first thing I noticed about Grandfather was his thick, bushy moustache and broad shoulders. The second thing was how he could work.
All summer I watched him. He mowed grass with wide sweeps of the scythe, raked it up, and hung it on racks to dry. Later he gathered the hay in huge bundles tied with a rope and carried them on his back, one after another, to the barn. He sharpened the scythes on a grindstone, slaughtered a pig, caught and salted fish, ground barley in a water-driven gristmill, and grew and stored potatoes. He had to produce enough in the short summer to carry the family and the animals through the long, snowbound winter. He stopped only long enough to eat and to sleep a few winks. And yet he found time for just the two of us. One day after a trip to a faraway town, he handed me a knife and sheath, saying, “These are for you. Now watch.” He slipped his own knife from its sheath, cut a thin, succulent branch from a tree, and sat down beside me. With callused hands, he showed me how to make a f lute. Even today, 63 years later, whenever I hear the pure notes of a flute, I think of how he made music from nothing but a thin branch of a tree. Living on 82
an isolated mountain farm, far from neighbours and stores, he had to make do with what he had. Growing up, I always thought people simply bought whatever they needed. Whether Grandfather knew this, I don’t know. But it seems he wanted to teach me something because one day, he said, “Come. I have something for you.” I followed him into the basement, where he led me to a workbench by a window. “You should have a toy boat. You can sail it at Storvassdal,” he said, referring to a small lake a few kilometres from the house. Swell, I thought, looking around for the boat. But there was none. Grandfather picked up a block of wood, about 45cm long. “The boat is in there,” he said. “You can bring it out.” Then he handed me a razor-sharp axe. I wasn’t sure what to do, so Grandfather showed me how to handle the tool. I started to chop away to shape the bow. Later, after he taught me the proper use of the hammer and chisel, I began to hollow out the hull. Often Grandfather joined me in the basement, repairing homemade wooden rakes or sharpening tools. He answered my questions and made
suggestions, but he saw to it that I did all the work myself. “It’ll be a fine boat, and you’ll be making it all with your own hands,” he said. “No-one can give you what you do for yourself.” The words rang in my head as I worked. Finally, I finished the hull and made a mast and sail. The boat wasn’t much to look at, but I was proud of what I had built. Then, with my creation, I headed for Storvassdal. Climbing the mountain slope, I entered the woods and followed a steep path. I crossed tiny streams, trod on spongy moss, and ascended slippery stone steps – higher, higher, until I was above the timberline. After six FR O M or eight kilometres, I came at last to a small lake that had been carved out by a glacier. Its sloping sides were covered with stones of all shapes and sizes. I launched my boat and daydreamed while a slight breeze carried the little craft to an opposite shore. The air was crisp and clean. There was no sound but the occasional warble of a bird. I would return to the lake many times to sail my boat. One day, dark clouds came in, burst open, and poured sheets of rain. I pressed myself against a large boulder and felt its captured warmth. I thought of “Rock
of Ages” (“…let me hide myself in thee”). Through the rain, I saw my little boat pushing its way over the ripples. I imagined a ship bravely fighting a turbulent sea. Then the sun came out, and all was well again. A crisis developed when we were ready to return to America. “You cannot bring that boat home with you,” my mother said. We already had too much baggage. I pleaded, but to no avail. With a saddened heart, I went to Storvassdal for the last time, found that large boulder, placed my boat in a hollow space under its base, piled stones to hide it, and resolved to return one day to recover my treasure. 1 9 93 I said goodbye to my grandfather, not knowing I would never see him again. “Farewell,” he said as he clasped my hand tightly.
In the summer of 1964, I went to Norway with my parents and my wife and children. One day, I left the family farmhouse and hiked up to Storvassdal, looking for the large boulder. There were plenty around. My search seemed hopeless. I was about to give up when I saw a pile of small stones jammed under a boulder. I slowly removed the stones and reached into the hollow space Classic Reads•2014
t h e L i t t L e b o at t h at s a i L e d t h r o u g h t i m e
beneath the boulder. My hand touched something that moved. I pulled the boat out and held it in my hands. For 34 years, it had been resting there, waiting for my return. The rough, bare-wood hull and mast were hardly touched by age; only the cloth sail had disintegrated. I shall never forget that moment. As I cradled the boat, I felt my grandfather’s presence. He had died 22 years before, and yet he was there. We three were together again – Grandfather and I and the little boat, the tangible link that bound us together. I brought the boat back to the farm for the others to see and carved 1930 and 1964 on its side. Someone suggested I take it home. “No,” I said. “Its home is under that boulder at Storvassdal.” I took it back to its resting place. I returned to the lake in 1968, 1971, 1977, and 1988. Each time as I held the little boat and carved the year on its side, my grandfather seemed near. My last trip to Storvassdal was in 1991. This time, I brought two of my granddaughters: Catherine, 13, and Claire, 12. As we climbed the mountain, I thought of my grandfather and compared his life with that of my granddaughters. Catherine and Claire are made of the same stuff as their ancestors. They are determined and independent – I see it in the way they carry themselves at work and play. And yet my grandfather seemed to have so little 84
to work with, while my granddaughters have so much. Usually the things we dream of, then work and struggle for, are what we value most. Have my granddaughters, blessed with abundance, been denied life’s real pleasures? Working tirelessly on that isolated farm, my grandfather taught me that we should accept and be grateful for what we have – whether it be much or little. We must bear the burdens and relish the joys. There is so much we cannot control, but we must try to make things better when we are able. We must depend on ourselves to make our own way as best we can. Growing up in a comfortable suburban home, my granddaughters have been presented with a different situation. But I hope – I believe – they will in their own way be able to cope as well as my grandfather coped and learn the lesson my grandfather taught me all those years ago. On the day I took them to Storvassdal, I hoped they would somehow understand the importance of the little boat and its simple message of self-reliance. High in the mountain, I hesitated to speak lest I disturb our tranquillity. Then Claire broke my reverie as she said softly, “Grandpa, someday I’ll come back.” She paused. “And I’ll bring my children.” Arnold Berwick died peacefully at home in December 2013, at the age of 93. He left behind 11 great-grandchildren.
All in a Day’s Work humouR on the job JusT In Case
bil ccki i la f r lar airli wr I w rk, I akd vr ravllr, “I i r i ca?” f r pr cdi. A pak f af r r, a i a d af r qir ad rplid, “n , i ’
r r-i-law’ – aid I c ld i .” sTeve sChuMaCher, OctOber 1988
In my job as administrator of a jail, I was informed one day that a container of “home brew” had been found in one of the jail dormitories. Unable to identify the brewmaster, I dispatched a memo. “To the Men of ‘A’ Dorm: Roses are red, violets are blue, nice try guys, but you don’t get the brew.” I thought the matter was closed until I found a response on my desk the next day. “To the Administrator: Roses are red, violets are blue, you found one, we made two!” Photo: g etty I mAges
Joe CoCo, May 1994
A jeweller I know has a policy that when a new customer makes a purchase, the person’s name and address are recorded and he receives a personal note of appreciation. One such note brought the following reply:
“I appreciate your appreciation. Unfortunately, my wife opened your letter. The gold necklace I bought was for my secretary. Do you have a market for used wedding rings?” Paul Dean, OctOber 1980
M hnd, who mn lon offi , i of n h p wokin ho o h p on hin. On vnin m on nd li
l find of hi vlld in wi h m o pi k him p. W w i
in o id h offi , w hin m hnd dw h in nd n off h lih , whn I hd m on xplin o hi find, “M dd’ h o. H n l h C. MuslanD, august 1974 wn o.” Claic Rad•2014
Alive How I nearly died at 4.34pm on a very ordinary Tuesday
By D o ris Ag e e i l lu st r At i o n By VAu g h A n f l A n Ag A n
but we’re alive!
s a child groWing up by the edge of the sea, I used
to wonder about the people who managed to drown. I’d wonder how anyone could be frightened enough of the water to panic and sink instead of simply floating until help came. (This was a basic lesson I had learnt early.) I’d wonder why people – good and poor swimmers alike – would wander into heavy surf and allow themselves to be pounded into the sand or carried out to sea. Drowning seemed a ridiculous and unnecessary way to die. On Tuesday, September 20, 1966, I learnt that there is no special trick to drowning. Anyone can do it. Even a strong swimmer like myself, with years of ocean experience, can do it. On that afternoon, at 4.34, I came within a breath of it. Rust has fixed the hands of my watch at that time. My watch cannot be repaired, and I wouldn’t want it to be. I want to remember that day. There were three of us. Don Horan and Jess Paley, from a television production firm in New York City, had flown out to California that morning to scout locations for a film they were planning. Through a mutual friend, I had offered to show them some beaches near my home. Although we had only just met, we soon drifted into an easy, relaxed relationship. Our spirits were high when, a little after four o’clock, we found the beach that seemed perfect for the film. Su n light blaze d on th e rol ling surf. There were no swimmers, and only a few people sat along the wide expanse of pink-gold sand. 88
Gulls swooped and settled along the ocean’s edge. Just offshore stood an impressive mass of black rocks, and occasionally a wave would hit the base of these and send up a tower of foam. If I’d been thinking, and not simply enjoying the scene, I would have recognised the unmistakable signs of high tide. I missed them all.
We parked the car near the base of a large, flat-topped cliff whose appearance intrigued us: its chocolate-brown sides soared straight up from the shore, and its wide, flat face was squared off to the sea. We decided to walk along the front of it and see what lay beyond. Laughing at how ridiculous we looked in our street clothes, we moved in single file across the wet sand. Some 45m separated the base of the cliff from the edge of the sea; enough, we thought – or did we think? – for walking. Suddenly, Jess, ahead of us, stopped to remove his shoes, and I noticed with a rushing sense of danger that the rocks were wet to a point well
above his head. I was just about to dragging and lowering of the water that always precedes such waves. In mention it when time ran out. We all saw the big wave foaming the next instant I was being shoved towards us at the same time. There ahead of the wave as it sped towards was no place to run, so we drew back shore. Surely I would be dashed to against the rock. Instinctively, to cut pieces against the cliff! Mercifully, the wave took me only resistance, I turned my body sideways. The wave caught me with unbeliev- to a point just short of the beach. Don able force as it went under me, rode was standing in the surf close by. His straight up the rock and fell back on hand reached towards me. I wanted itself. Suddenly I was being turned to shout, “Don’t! You’ll be pulled out, too!” But there was no and twisted and thrown need, for I felt myself down again and again. moving, with incredible Within moments I was far out in deep water. Within moments swiftness, back into Other waves added to I was far out ... I deep water. The wave that had carried me the rolling, boiling turfelt the stinging almost to safety was moil. I felt the stinging now removing me from salt of the water as it salt of the water entered my nose and as it entered my it with its backwash. I lost sight of Don. throat. Something heavy nose and throat Again there was the – kelp? – wrapped round helpless turning and my legs and feet, pulling twisting, the gasping me down. I tried to kick away the dragging weight, but it stayed for air, the weight at my legs. Once with me, tormenting me. Occasion- more I was delivered nearly to the ally my head would break through to beach, and snatched away. It came to the surface and, for a brief moment, I me, with shocking clarity, that I was could breathe. Once I came up facing hopelessly trapped. I couldn’t get out the cliff, and saw that it was a long way of the breakers – either onto the beach off. In the ever-changing turbulence or into the relative calm beyond the I couldn’t swim; the best I could surf. I was going to die. I saw my handbag floating over manage was an attempt to tread water, to conserve my strength and keep my a wave and thought, If I could only head above the waves. I concentrated catch it when it comes this way. Then on relaxing, hoping that new waves I realised that I had no further need of it. I thought of my husband, Bill, and would push me towards shore. Then I looked up and saw a huge of how much I loved him. When had I wave rising, and felt the outward last told him so? Who would meet his Classic Reads•2014
but we’re alive!
six-o’clock train? When would he know what had become of me? All thought was halted by an enormous wave that broke directly over my head. I recall little else. Once I heard someone shout, “Hold on! I’ve got you!” But it sounded far away and strange, and I felt no hand on mine. (The wave had brought me dire ctly to D on, he told me afterwards. He clutched my hand, but it was completely lifeless FR O M and slipped from his as the surf tore me back into deep water. He thought I was dead.) Suddenly, incredibly, I found myself face down on the beach, half in and half out of the water. Someone called, “Run! There’s time!” Don crawled to me, grabbed my hand and fell to the sand at my side. I tried to get up, but couldn’t even raise my head. I heard waves crashing behind me, and knew that within moments I would be swept into the sea for the final time. All my will, all my hope, went into the effort to rise from the sand. But I could not move. Then Jess was there, a shadowy figure over us. Somehow he got Don to his feet and the two of them managed to pull me up. Stumbling, falling, crawling, we fought to get beyond the rocks, it was a slow-motion nightmare, an eternity before we fell in 90
a sodden heap onto the safe, dry sand. We stayed that way for a long time, holding silently to one another, unwilling and unable to let go.
Suddenly we were all talking at once, with b re a t h w e c o u l d n ’ t spare, saying foolish, o bv i o u s t h i n g s. We counted our losses – my ha n d b a g , D o n ’s wallet. It was too soon to state the truth: we’d been careless, had suffered for it, and only 19 67 a miracle had put the three of us back on the beach. Yes, we counted what we’d lost – and each account invariably ended with, “But we’re alive!” People, many of them now, were standing over us. We were told that we had been carried far out. One man said, “Only a fool would go in front of that cliff at high tide.” High tide! I, raised at the edge of the ocean, had not even noticed. Another man said, “I live over in that cottage. I’ve seen a lot of people caught where you were. Most of ’em don’t make it back, even after they’re dead.” Finally we were able to stand, and compare experiences. Don had been thrown against the rock by the first wave, hitting his head. He had been carried into the breakers twice. Jess, luckily, had been pulled in only once, and so it was his greater strength that
eventually had drawn us to safety. My sturdy wool suit testified to the might of the ocean and the action of the sand: it was riddled with holes, the hem torn and hanging nearly to my ankles.
For several days afterwards, I slept very little. My body was bruised and aching, my mind restless. I thought, again and again, of how it had begun: the foolish way we walked in there, leaving ourselves no avenue of escape. I thought of the many times in my life when, with no fear of the ocean’s power, I had put myself in equal jeopardy and not been caught. Those days are over. In the future I will swim – and live – with new respect for the forces of nature.
Since that Tuesday, many wonderful things have come to me. I have seen, with my eyes and my spirit, sunsets such as I’ve never seen before. I have heard a Chopin étude played by a 15-year-old genius. I have burnt my tongue with steaming black coffee. I have heard people talking and laughing. I have watched the long grasses bend in the wind, a tear on a baby’s cheek. I have looked into my husband’s eyes and told him of my love for him, and his eyes have returned that love. And always I realise that in one careless moment I nearly gave up all these things. Because I came so close to losing them, I can never again take them for granted.
marryment R D au g u st 1972
Our neighbour’s three-year-old son, who loves to visit the zoo, recently served as ring bearer at his aunt’s wedding. He grr’ed and growled all the way down the aisle and during much of the ceremony. When his mother asked him why he had done this, he replied, rather indignantly, “Because I was the ring bear.” H. B. HUnter
At a wedding reception, my husband was asked to make the farewell toast to the newlyweds. When our 11-year-old daughter heard this, she said, “Oh, don’t let him – he always burns it.” catHy Brandon
R D J u n e 19 9 4
Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning handsprings or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it. Helen rowland Classic Reads•2014
Sometimes beauty comes to meet you
By M ich Ael Welz e nBAc h i l lu strAtio n By We Buyyo urkids
T H e l a s T b u T T e r f ly
Was 11, and my family was preparing to leave the beautiful
Japanese island of Okinawa, where we had lived for four years. Shortly we’d head back to North America, thence to England: My father was being transferred yet again. But I had constructed a mental wall against this unsettledness. My fascination with nature, in whatever country I moved to, provided me with an endless source of distraction and amazement. I’d been collecting seashells and fossils, hiking and bird-watching since I could remember. And when I had arrived on this little island in the Pacific Ocean, I discovered a startling variety of butterflies, and I began to collect them. By now I had several glass-topped trays of glorious specimens, carefully labelled and mounted. They came in all sizes and hues, from deepest blues to brilliant yellows, scarlets and shimmering emerald greens. Catching butterflies wasn’t easy, so I was proud of my collection. But there was one that I had yet to capture – the magnificent great orange tip. The previous Christmas I had received from my godfather a marvellous book on subtropical butterflies. It included a fully illustrated page with scientific information on this orangetipped white that, with its 7-10cm wingspan, was Okinawa’s largest white. I was entranced – and determined to have one. The problem was its lofty habitat: I could only watch these lovely insects floating gracefully on the sea breeze, high above the canopy of trees that shrouded the centre of the island. No matter how high I climbed, 94
encumbered by my net and collection jars, these creatures were always just beyond my reach – like white and orange confetti settled on the treetops. As the bags and boxes were packed that summer for our departure, the household was steadily converted into luggage, and our bungalow rang hollow. Yet I kept my butterfly net clear of the packers’ hands and spent most of my time outdoors, ranging through the bamboo. With school out for the summer and only a couple of days before we were to leave, I began to give up hope of finding my great orange tip. My mother told me one morning that my collection panels and books had to be packed up by afternoon. Meanwhile I was at leave to wander the bush and the hedgerows, keeping a wary eye out for my elusive beauty. In the dense heat, the cicadas buzzed and green lizards danced on the sidewalks in the burning sun. The seas of sugarcane rippled gently in the air, and
butterflies of all sorts floated or dodged briskly above the wildflowers on the hillsides. But as usual, the great orange tips remained high above the treetops that day. I traipsed home disconsolately after my fruitless, final search. But then, as I rounded the corner of our culde-sac, alongside the vibrant hibiscus hedge, I caught a flash of brilliant white out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and there it was, about a metre away, settled on one of the big scarlet flowers. As it fed on the fR o m nectar, its wings moved tremulously and I froze in my tracks, transfixed. After A long moment, I began to raise my net, little by little, my heart pounding, the sweat trickling down my brow. Suddenly the big beauty was aloft, moving to another flower. I swung. And there at last was the coveted prize, beating furiously in the fine mesh of my trap. I could scarcely believe my eyes or my
luck. Gently I reached in and grabbed the butterfly by the thorax, with every intention of nudging it into the killing jar, where the deadly formaldehyde would quickly do its work. But my hand froze as I reached for the jar, and I simply gazed, astonished, at the grail in my other hand. There was the brilliant, iridescent bloom of orange on the tips of its glowing white wings, and I could feel the creature’s fear between my fingers. Its little legs scrambled frantically in 2 002 my palm. And then, on an impulse, I tossed my long-sought prize into the clear, bright air and watched it float away like a perfect, living origami. High above the nearby trees it sailed, then disappeared from sight. Two days later I, too, was soaring over the little green island, headed for a home I didn’t know. My butterfly was down there somewhere, hovering above the trees, distant and only fleetingly attainable. Love is like that.
You can’t win R D ja n ua Ry 1970
Middle-aged man at the end of a long day: “Did you ever have one of those days when everybody calls you Dad except your own children?” John J. PLomP Classic Reads•2014
Life’s Like That Seeing the funny Side
On leaving primary school, my nephew, 13, received a highly original graduation gift from a pal: “Dear Rich, All your life you have been deprived of one of the essential joys of life, that of being a Big Brother. As the younger brother you were bullied, bashed, socked and always stuck on the short end of things. You never had a chance to give vent to your wilder emotions on a person smaller than you. Well, Rich, all this will be no more! I’m lending you my brother for one day, to do with as you wish. To sock, bash, bully – or anything you want. I know this gift will make you happier than anything I could get with mere money. P.S. Enclosed find Big Brother certificate which is redeemable anytime for one full day.”
Feeling tired, I flopped on the living room sofa. Within seconds, music from my daughter’s radio blared from the kitchen, disturbing my muchneeded peace. As calmly as I could, I called, “Mandy, please turn that racket off! It’s driving me crazy!” “OK, Mum,” Mandy yelled back. Then she turned off the dishwasher. Denise Kroll, May 1989
Pg 97-128 f p y.
I l lsso i sposiili h d I d fom s hool o fid m g i pigs missig. I shd o sk m moh o hm. “I gv hm w s o did’ k of hm.” “b I did k of hm!” “Joi, I gv hm w ds go!” Joni Mccreith, OctOber 1980
P hoto: t hi nkStoCk
Jean auerbach, January 1958
Personal Glimpses bRIEf MOMEnTS wITH THE nOTAblE
Movie mogul Sam Goldwyn and his ace director, William Wyler, cannot get along either with, or without, each other. Twice Wyler has walked out on Goldwyn in the middle of a picture, and twice Goldwyn has called him back. Now, when the two fiery personalities confer over important problems, each deposits on the desk before them a $100 bill. The one who raises his voice first forfeits the money. It works. ErskinE Johnson, from may 1939 Columnist Don Freeman writes: “I once interviewed the great songwriter Irving Berlin. ‘Mr. Berlin,’ I began, ‘is there a question that you’ve never been asked that you’d like to be asked?’ “‘Young man,’ replied Berlin, ‘there is one: What do you think of the many songs you’ve written that did not become hits? The answer is: I still think they’re wonderful.’”
PHOTO: G ETTY I MAGES
san DiEgo Union, from December 1987
Actress Sheila Hancock wrote of a luncheon at Buckingham Palace: “I should have learned a lesson in graciousness from the Queen who, when I inadvertently trod on one of her corgis, ignored its yelp and calmed my confusion by saying,
‘It’s her own fault. She shouldn’t be the same colour as the carpet.’” shEila hancock, Ramblings of an
actRess, from June 1990
Actress Katharine Hepburn says, “I hate punctuating with full stops. They’re so final. Like death. I use a dash instead of a full stop. And commas bother me. When I use one, I think I’ve stubbed my toe. I haven’t made up my mind about question marks.” gEorgE christy, from December 1974
When Walt Disney started his studio in Hollywood on a shoestring, one of his assistants was a girl who didn’t really need the job and who used to Katharine Hepburn
stuff her pay cheques in her purse and never cash them. But eventually Walt and his brother, Roy, started to worry about it. Her uncashed cheques were enough to break them if she took them all to the bank at the same time. “Roy and I decided we better have a talk with that girl,” Disney said. “We told her we thought it would be nice, since she didn’t seem to need the money, if she’s just tear up those cheques. And, by George, she tore them up! Maybe that’s why I married her.” Tex Mccrary and Jinx Falkenburg in new York Herald Tribune, From SepTember 1951
Comedic actress Marie Dressler writes: Once when I went as paid entertainment to the house of one of New York’s first hostesses, I became enamoured of the shining banister that wound from the third floor, where I had gone to leave my wrap, to the great hall below. Its curves were pure poetry. “If I don’t slide down that,” I told myself, “I’ll die.” There was nobody in sight. I took a deep breath, and in a moment landed in a heap at the foot of the stairs. To my horror, I saw bearing down on me the butler, whose frosty hauteur had frozen my soul when I arrived. He picked me up and dusted me off without a flicker of expression on his correct countenance, meanwhile murmuring 130
cordially: “Very good, Miss. Very good indeed. I’ve always wanted to take a go at it myself!” Marie Dressler, My own Story, From JanuarY 1940
Prince Philip tells this story: His uncle, Lord Mountbatten, had written to Bob Hope to ask the star to appear at a show for the benefit of the United World College of the Atlantic at St Donats in Glamorgan, Wales. He signed it with his official name: “Mountbatten of Burma”. Hope wrote and accepted, and signed himself: “Bob Hope of Burbank (Downtown)”. leonarD lyons, From June 1970
Writer Henry James could never rest content with the phrases that came to his tongue. He simply couldn’t leave the English language alone; he would extract a word from his verbal storehouse, drop it, substitute another, then a third, and so on until he had constructed a veritable pyramid of synonyms. This terrible word-malady broke out once at Prince’s Restaurant as he gave the waiter his order: “Bring me …fetch me … carry me … supply me … in other words (I hope you are following me) serve – when it is cooked … scorched … grilled, I should say – a large … considerable …meaty (as opposed to fatty) … chop.” THe wHiSpering gallerY, From JanuarY 1939
Composer Johannes Brahms’s father refused steadfastly to take any money from his son, and it required all of Brahms’s tact and delicacy to support him. One time, when the two parted, Johannes said, “Believe me, Father, music in every situation is the greatest comforter. Whenever you are discouraged and feel you need something to lift you up, just take my old score of Handel’s Saul and read it over. I’m sure you’ll find there whatever you need.” Some time later the old man had occasion to remember Johannes’s words and looked through the old score. What he found was indeed the one thing he needed: his son had carefully put a bank note between each page. BeRnaRd gRun, Private Lives of the Great ComPosers, ConduCtors and artistes of the WorLd, from January 1958
Scientist Albert Einstein was interested in almost everything, and gave every topic and visitor his undivided attention. But sometimes he would rise abruptly – even in the middle of a sentence – and say apologetically, “I have to work now.” Whereupon he would retire to his study, leaving it to his wife and secretary to entertain the guest a while longer. There was nothing offensive about this; it was obvious that Einstein’s brain had started to spin, and that he “had to work”. It seemed as though he had received orders from
elsewhere and he followed them goodnaturedly, expecting good-natured understanding from those around him. KonRad Kellen, from november 1966
Cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, once wore a Nehru jacket when he dined at the home of a friend. “You should wear a medallion with that,” said the friend, who then brought out a heavy chain from which dangled a medallion reading LOVE in beautifully entwined letters. After fingering it for a few seconds, Schulz handed it back. “It’s just a little too much for me,” he said with a Charlie Brown smile. “Do you have one that says LIKE?” HeRB Caen, from may 1969
When The Assassination of Trotsky was being filmed, French actor Alain Delon, playing the nervous killer, swung an Alpine ice-axe high above Richard Burton’s head. “You’d better be careful how you handle that axe,” bellowed Burton out of his Trotsky mask. “There are plenty of French actors around, but if you kill me, there goes one-sixth of all the Welsh actors in the world!” M. aBa, from auGust 1974 American H.L. Hunt, one of the wealthiest men in the world, explained why he gave up cigars: “It was costing $300,000 per year of my time to unwrap them.” MiCK MCgRady, from february 1971
P hoto: t hin kstock
r 15 year, Ae MDell lved lmb â€“ wg w e er er Jm wa dead r alve. t e e afer e drbell rag
By Jos ep h p. Blank
t h e h u s b a n d w h o va n i s h e d
He McDonnells lived in a small brick house in
Larchmont, a suburb of New York City. Jim was foreman of mail carriers at the post office where he had worked for 25 years. A gentle, soft spoken man, he had a wave-ofthe-hand acquaintance with hundreds of people in town. Married in 1960, he and Anne were childless. During February and March 1971, when he was 50, Jim McDonnell suffered a curious series of accidents. None was critical in itself, but the combination appeared to trigger a strange result. Carrying out the garbage one evening, he slipped on ice-coated steps, bruised his back and struck his head. A few days later, driving to work, he had a fit of sneezing, lost control of the car, hit a telephone pole and banged his forehead against the windshield. The following day a dizzy spell at work sent him tumbling down a flight of steps, and again he banged his head. Ten days later he again lost control of his car and hit a pole. Found unconscious, he was hospitalised for three days with a cerebral concussion. On March 29, 1971, Jim borrowed a friend’s station wagon and drove to Kennedy Airport to pick up Anne’s brother and family. Then he took them to Anne’s sister’s house. When he returned the borrowed car at 10pm, he was unaware that the leather wallet containing his identification had slipped out of his pocket onto the floor of the station wagon. Jim declined the offer of a ride home: “I have a terrible 134
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headache and the walk will help clear my head.” Ordinarily the walk would have taken about 15 minutes. At 11.15pm Anne called the owner of the station wagon; he had no idea why Jim had not yet reached home. It was unlike Jim not to telephone if he was delayed. At 2am, Anne called the police and reported her husband missing. After 24 hours, the police sent out an all-points bulletin and began writing some 50 letters to Jim’s friends and relatives. They followed through on every anonymous tip and even checked unidentified bodies in New York morgues. Detective George Mulcahy was assigned to head the investigation. He knew Jim was a man of probity and openness – the two attended the same church – and Mulcahy was sure the disappearance had nothing to do with wrongdoing by Jim McDonnell. Investigation confirmed that McDonnell’s personal and professional records were impeccable, and turned up no tendencies towards self-destruction or any evidence that he had been a victim of an accident or attack.
For Mulcahy, the only explanation took her current job as a nursing attendant. was amnesia. Anne fell into the habit of working The phenomenon of amnesia is clouded in mystery. Why it occurs at the hospital on holidays because it in some patients and not in others is was easier if she kept busy. I’ve got to open to medical speculation. What go on, live as best I can, she told heris known is that loss of memory can self. Through it all, she had faith that be caused by stroke, Alzheimer’s dis- Jim would return. She kept his clothes ease, alcoholism, severe psychological in the closet covered to protect them trauma – or by blows to the head. Any from dust. His razor and can of shavindividual whose brain has suffered ing cream remained in the bathroom cabinet. such injuries can simply wander aimlessly away from the place where he Dur ing his wa lk lives, with all knowledge It never occurred home, Jim had indeed of his past blacked out. blacked out, losing all to him to seek “For weeks,” Anne’s abi l it y to remember assistance. He sister reca l ls, “A n ne who he was and where w a l k e d t h e h o u s e had no past; his he l ived. W hat hapwringing her hands and only reality was pened then is unclear. praying. She agreed that He may have taken the the present Jim could be a victim of train to Grand Central amnesia – and she worTerminal, then another ried about his health. train or a bus south. Anne was sustained by her deep trust The next thing he knew, he was in in God. She felt that one day he would downtown Philadelphia, a city he provide an answer.” had never visited before. Anne remained alone in the house, S e e i ng s i gn s a dv er t i si n g t h e waiting. At night, watching television, services of a James Peters, a real estate she would stare at the overstuffed has- agent, Jim adopted James Peters as his sock where Jim had dozed off most own name. It never occurred to him evenings. She often dreamed he had to seek assistance at a police station come home, only to wake up and find or hospital. He had no past; his only he wasn’t there. reality was the present. Soon after Jim’s disappearance James Peters got a Social Security A nne realised she had to earn a card, which could be obtained at that living. She took babysitting jobs, was time without showing a birth certifia supermarket cashier and worked cate, and took a job in the luncheonin a hospital cafeteria. In 1977 she ette of a health club. He next worked Classic Reads•2014
t h e h u s b a n d w h o va n i s h e d
at a cancer research institute, cleaning out animal cages. He also got a night shift job at the P&P luncheonette, where he became well known for his omelettes, as well as his courtesy and good humour. After a year he felt he was established at P&P and quit his job at the cancer institute. Jim made new friends, joined an American Legion post and the Knights of Columbus, and became an active member of the St Hugh Roman Catholic Church. He never talked about his past, and his friends didn’t pry. One once said to him, “From your accent, you must be from New York.” Jim replied, “I guess so.” To Cheryle Sloan, a waitress at P&P, Jim was special: “He loved kids. At Christmastime, he played Santa Claus at orphanages. He grew a big white beard to make his appearance more authentic. Of course we wondered about his past. My mother decided that he had to be an expriest FR O M or an excriminal.” Bernadine Golashovsky recalls: “Soon after Jim started at P&P, I took a job there as a waitress. My father had died and Jim apparently had no family, so we adopted each other. He became my father figure, and we – my husband, Pete, our four children and I – were his family. The children loved him.” 136
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About a month before Christmas 1985, Bernadine noticed that Jim had grown unusually quiet and subdued. Something seemed to be turning in his mind. On Thanksgiving Day, Jim visited the family and sat watching television with Pete. A scene appeared in which a mail carrier was making deliveries on a miserably rainy day. Pete said, “Boy, that’s one job I wouldn’t want.” Jim frowned and said, “I think I used to be a postman.” “Really? Where?” “I don’t know,” Jim answered. “New York?” “I’m not sure. But I think I remem ber my parents. A little.” Jim spent every major holiday with Bernadine and Pete. On Christ mas Eve he always ar rived late because the Golashovskys were his last stop on his rounds of wishing friends a happy holiday. On this Christmas Eve he never arrived. Bernadine and Pete stayed up all night 1 9 87 waiting for him. On December 22, Jim had fallen and banged his head. The next day at work he seemed distracted, and late that afternoon he had fallen again, striking his head. On Decem ber 24, he awoke feeling confused, yet elated. After almost 15 years, he knew who he was! He was James A.
McDonnell, Jr, of Larchmont, New York. His w ife’s name was Anne. Then, suddenly, he was scared: Is Anne alive? Has she remarried? If not, how will she greet me? Anne had just returned home from Christmas Mass, where she lit candles and prayed for Jim. A light snow was falling, and she was in a hurry to leave for Christmas dinner at her sister’s before the roads grew slick. Then the doorbell rang, Oh, my, she thought, this is not a good time for a visitor. Anne opened the door – and peered at a man with a full white beard. Immediately she recognised Jim. She couldn’t speak. To Jim, Anne looked a little older, but prettier too. His heart overflowed. “Hello, Anne,” he said. “Jim,” she gasped. “Is it true?” Her breathing came in bursts, as if she had been running. “Oh, I’m glad you’re home. Come in, come in.” They barely touched hands. They were too
stunned to fall into each other’s arms. The embraces and the tears would come later. Anne led Jim to his favourite seat, the overstuffed hassock. They began to talk, trying to fill in the gaps in time. Finally, Jim’s eyes grew heavy. Exhausted and happy, he dozed off. After 15 years, Jim McDonnell was home at last.
On the day after Christmas, Jim reported his return to the police. That evening the Golashovskys received a phone call from a New York Daily News reporter who told them Jim was fine. Bernadine phoned Jim’s friends with the good news. A week after his return Jim had a complete physical, including a CAT scan of his brain. The conclusion: he was in normal health. Jim and Anne have had no problems resuming their lives as a married couple. “Each day we are together,” Jim says, “makes the time we were apart seem shorter.”
did YOU HeaR ... R D FE BR UA RY 1970
... about the new daytime TV series in which all the characters are hippies – it’s a sort of no-soap opera. Akron BeAcon JournAl ... about the cut-rate airline – instead of showing movies, the pilot buzzes drive-ins. current comedy ... about the fellow who has been taking both tranquillisers and pep pills – he doesn’t know if he’s calming or going. RObeRt sYlvesteR Classic Reads•2014
Birth Television of
by M itch e ll Wils o n
P hoTos: Thin ksToCk
Te try f clby Pl Farwrt, w at te age f 16 ad t all fgured ut
the strange birth of television
NE OF TELEVISION’S most exciting dramas has never
appeared on any screen, though it combines dramatic elements dear to a producer’s heart. The hero: Philo Farnsworth, a brilliant young inventor. The stakes: control of the basic patents of a multimillion-dollar industry. The theme: the enduring friendship between a boy and the teacher who never forgot him. The story begins in the autumn of 1922, in the ranch town of Rigby, Idaho, US. Philo Farnsworth, a 16-year-old farm boy, was a shy youth, but underneath his shyness was a compelling intensity that would have gone unnoticed by anyone with less insight than Justin Tolman, the school superintendent, who also taught science. “I had known hundreds of boys before I met Philo,” Tolman once said. “But he was the one I knew was different. I had a feeling that I would never meet anyone like him again.” The boy impulsively opened his heart to Tolman. He wanted to learn all about science, he said. Philo signed up for freshman chemistry, but within a few days he began appearing with the senior class, too. Just to sit and listen, he said. Tolman volunteered to give up his afternoons to tutor him. The boy was so avid to learn that when, shortly after, he caught up with the seniors. Tolman continued the tutoring on subjects beyond high school level. Farnsworth devoured every book on science in the school library; whatever he read he grasped immediately. One afternoon Tolman found the 140
study-hall blackboards chalked from border to border with electrical circuit diagrams, on which Farnsworth was feverishly scrawling the finishing touches. “What’s this got to do with chemistry?” Tolman asked. “I told you I wanted to be an inventor, and this is my invention,” Farnsworth said. “I’ve got to tell you about it. You’re the only person I can make sense to.” In 1922 radio was in its infancy; there were fewer than 30 licensed broadcasting stations in the entire country. Yet that year a boy of 16 in a small Idaho high school explained to his teacher that he had worked out the details of electronic television. An article in an old science magazine about a man who had failed in his attempt had suggested it. Philo Farnsworth was sure he had the answer. Tolman was sceptical, but the boy was able to answer every one of his teacher’s objections. The following spring, however, the Farnsworth family moved out of the school district, and the companionship between teacher and pupil was disrupted. They were to meet
again – at the most crucial moment of city’s most conservative bankers. On the day the agreement was to be Farnsworth’s life. In the summer of 1926 Philo worked executed, each of the backers affixed as an office boy for the Salt Lake his signature to the documents. When City Community Chest Drive. His Farnsworth’s turn came, he took up the eager willingness brought him to the pen, then put it down. “I don’t think I attention of George Everson of San can sign this,” he said. “You see, I’m Francisco, who was managing the not 21 yet.” And so the agreement which was to campaign. Like all amateur inventors, Farns- be vital to one of the great industries of our time had to be worth was terrified of delayed while George revealing his ideas for Everson telephoned fear that someone might appropriate them. But Like all amateur Farnsworth’s mother for permission to be her one night he started talkinventors, son’s legal guardian in ing about what he hoped Farnsworth the state of California. to accomplish some day. was terrified With his own laboraAt first Everson was not tory, Farnsworth now particularly impressed; someone might came directly to grips he was simply trying to steal his ideas with the problems of telbe sympathetic to a kid evision. The US Patent to whom he had taken a Office was bombarded liking. In his published recollections Ever- with applications from him. One other man, however, had a son writes: “As the discussion started, Farnsworth’s personality seemed similar idea. In the Westinghouse to change. His eyes, always pleas- research laboratories an emigré ant, began burning with eagerness engineer, Vladimir Zworykin, had been and conviction; his speech, usually trying vainly to get permission to work halting, became fluent to the point of on some ideas formulated years before eloquence as he described this scheme when he had been the student assistant that had occupied his mind for the last to the very man whose work, as described in that old science magazine, four years.” Everson took Farnsworth to San had inspired Philo Farnsworth. From Westinghouse, Zworykin Francisco to get him a hearing before men who could really pass judgement moved to the Radio Corp. of America on the idea. They were so impressed (RCA) and came to the attention that backing of $25,000 for Farnsworth of president David Sarnoff, who at was arranged by a syndicate of the once grasped the importance of his Classic Reads•2014
the strange birth of television
television plans. Sarnoff decided to back Zworykin with all RCA’s resources. Zworykin and Farnsworth, a continent apart, did not even know of each other’s existence. As far as the Patent Office was concerned, a completely new art was being staked out by two men, each working without any idea of what the other was doing. It was inevitable that many of their most important developments should duplicate. On learning of the FROM situation, both sides besieged Washington for a decision. The stakes were incalculable. By this time entertainment broadcasting had shown where the future lay for radio and its associated art, television. Whoever was granted the basic patents would stand an excellent chance of controlling a mammoth industry. The Patent Office finally requested both sides to present their cases at a hearing. The record runs to many volumes, but the point at issue was simple – which man could prove conclusively that he had been the first to conceive of and create the imagedissector camera tube? The Patent Office wanted evidence in tangible form: a letter, a witnessed statement made at the time, or some dated entry in a research ledger. Farnsworth had no entries, records 142
or sketches that antedated his backing by the syndicate. But his conception went back years before that. “I suppose the earliest sketch I ever made was in 1922,” Farnsworth told his attorney. “Can you produce that sketch?” his lawyer asked. “It was made in chalk on a blackboard one afternoon after school.” “Did anyone else see that sketch?” “ Yes, my teacher, Justin Tolman.” “Where is he now?” “I don’t know.” 1953 “Yet he is your only witness, Mr Farnsworth.” Tolman was located in a Salt Lake City high school. At the Patent Office hearing the lawyer established that at no time during the intervening years had there been any discussion between teacher and former pupil. “Mr Tolman, I want you to think back to the time when Philo Farnsworth was a pupil of yours,” said the lawyer. “Did he ever tell you of an invention that he called television?” “He did.” “Can you recall any details of that invention?” “Yes,” Tolman said quietly. He rose and went to a blackboard and chalked the diagram engraved on his memory years before in the Idaho schoolroom. Under cross-examination he repeated in detail every facet of the
system which the 16-year-old boy had outlined to him. The decision on the camera-tube dissector went to Farnsworth. Since then the field of television has grown so rapidly that the further contributions of both Zworykin and Farnsworth have equal recognition. Subsequent systems were the result of cross-licensing arrangements that used the best features of both. [By 1953] Farnsworth was a happy man, hard-working, successful and universally recognised. He lived in
Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife and three sons, the eldest of whom, Philo, Jr, 23, was already following in his father’s footsteps. Behind him, besides his talent, Farnsworth had the support of two devoted friends: George Everson, who had the vision to take a young boy before a group of San Francisco bankers and make them see the future; and Justin Tolman, the schoolteacher who not only knew genius when he saw it but remembered every word that genius spoke.
The ForgoTTen FaTher oF TV When this story was published by Reader’s Digest in 1953, Farnsworth already had a stack of achievements to his name. Not only had he the patent to the image-dissector camera tube – the foundation of modern electronic televisions – he had also been the first to transmit a live human television image and had an experimental station on air. In 1936 his technology was used for the Olympic Games in Berlin – the first time a major sporting event was seen live on TV. Farnsworth’s work was seminal, so why was his name so quickly forgotten? He didn’t get the credit he deserved, largely because of the marketing clout of his rival, RCA, says Donald Godfrey, author of Philo T. Farnsworth: The Father of Television. “RCA had more money in their PR budget and conducted a publicity blitz that completely ignored Farnsworth.” In 1951 he sold Farnsworth Television and Radio Corp. to the International Telephone and Telegraph Company (ITT) but continued his work on radar and nuclear fusion. In 1967 he set up Philo T. Farnsworth & Associates to concentrate on fusion, but funding was a struggle. “He was promised $1.5 million financing from a bank, but that was slow in coming, so as he waited, he invested his own retirement funds. Unfortunately, the bank fell through,” says Godfrey. In his later years, Farnsworth was plagued by ill health. He died of pneumonia in 1971, aged 64. During a 1996 interview, Farnsworth’s wife, Elma (nicknamed “Pem”) said they watched with pride the Apollo 11 moonwalk. The event, televised to millions in real time, struck a chord with Farnsworth. “We were watching when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and Phil turned to me and said: ‘Pem, this has made it all worthwhile.’ Before then, he wasn’t too sure.” Helen Sandstrom
Picturesque Speech towaRds moRe LiveLy Language
He tossed a yeasty word into the conversational dough.
1930s R D M ay 1 9 3 9
How Else Would You Say It? She made a rosary of her slights and injuries and has been counting her beads publicly ever since.
a. haMilton GiBBS
Gracious as the dip of a dancing wave. JuStin Mccarthy
…Clothes? She had as many coats as an onion! … She’s far from her old sylph. JiMMy Fidler
R D N oveMb eR 1941
Don’t marry a girl because she looks sensible because a sensible girl has more sense than to look sensible.
…She defrosted him with a glance.
uncle Walter’S doGhouSe
GraeMe and Sarah loriMer
…It was more than a smile – it was a little sonata in three movements.
She can’t dance so well, but gosh, how she can intermission. private arthur hill
lloyd c. douGlaS
…A drizmal day.
She’s very tantrumental.
The rain humdrummed on my roof. FranceS e. Bryan
Such snoopdity. A profile like bird prey.
He dresses like an unmade bed. quoted in Life
Photo: g etty i mages
He always sits with his back to the cheque. Walter Winchell He was just recovering from the exchange of silences that had greeted his entrance. edith Wharton
“When you’ve been married as long as we have, you’ll find even your minds holding hands.” benita colman
Aside Lines RD July 1953
Visitor to the War Department: “I have crossed a homing pigeon with a woodpecker. It not only delivers the message, but it knocks on the door.” Cartoon in CliCk
He gave off quiet comfort as a stove gives off warmth. nina Wilcox Putnam
Women giving vent to their inner felines.
Eyes like two righteous raisins stuck in a pudding of utter contempt. William iversen in EvErywoman’s magazinE
RD July 1958
Don’t slam your mind in my face. christoPher hale
At a class reunion you see that most people your own age are a lot older than you are. kathryn Gelander, in thE amEriCan lEgion magazinE
RD July 1951
Young Ideas Child about school play: “We’re going to have real people there, not just mothers and fathers.” sidney skolsky
Little girl when asked what her father was doing: “He’s listening to the ignited nations.” James l. Frisbie Child explaining why she didn’t drink soda pop at the party: “It has too many ’scuse me’s in it.” J.m. shePPard
Radio Quips “I’ve found the secret of youth – I lie about my age.” bob hoPe
A hamburger by any other name costs more. raymond duncan in Farming
A speaker going back and forth over one little idea like a stocking darner. mildred Walker
RD OctObeR 1956
Deft Definitions Chivalry: the attitude of a man toward somebody else’s wife. Journal oF thE amEriCan mEdiCal assoCiation
Grandfather: A grandchild’s press agent. cedric adams in minnEapolis star
Shakespeare on the road (lines from his plays): What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom? (Macbeth) … Horns do make one mad (Merry Wives of Windsor) … Oh, let him pass (King Lear) … When I was at home, I was in a better place (As You Like It) New York Times magaziNe
1970 R D j u n e 1 970
Aside Lines The nice thing about being a teenager these days is that you can pick up any magazine and have your suspicions about your parents confirmed. FleTCher Knebel
Nothing depreciates a car faster than a neighbour’s buying a new one.
1960 R D Au gu st 1 96 6
Occupational Birthstones Architects: Cornerstone … Politicians: Blarney stone … Burglars: Keystone … Motorists: Milestone … Pedestrians: Tombstone … Astronauts: Moonstone … Doctors: Gallstone … Vintners: Rhinestone …Opticians: Grindstone … Hatters: Brimstone … Laundrymen: Soapstone … Barmen: Whetstone … Shoe-repair men: Cobblestone.
The trouble is that the car of tomorrow is being driven on the highway of yesterday by the driver of today. Jim seAls There are two kinds of highways – inadequate and under construction. FrAnKlin Jones
Alden AdAms And ednA Webb
Happiness Is … … Learning that your daughter’s boyfriend has had his electric guitar repossessed. … Having the machine that replaced you decide that the man who bought it should be fired. … Being rich enough to ask the shop assistant to show you something cheaper. Johnny CArson iN HappiNess is a DrY marTiNi
… Finding your glasses soon enough to remember what it was you wanted them for. C.T. … Five green traffic lights in a row. bill Gold
Terse Verse I used to be a fashion plate to envy and extol, but now, although I’m upto-date, I look more like a bowl. John lArGe
When I play golf, it’s plain to see, my handicap is simply me. s.b.
R D A p R i l 1 975
Book Review One trouble with developing speed reading skills is that by the time you realise a book is boring, you’ve already finished it. FrAnKlin Jones
Life’s Like That Seeing THe funny Side
PHoToS: geTTy i MAgeS , THi nKSToCK
UNDER WRAPS K w r rat trst e pta a tqts, a r prs t s wth a m atr sarcphas c ta a a c t mmm . A e ptlst at th arb msm tl s that t was apprxmatl 2000 ars l. Sm ths vtv r s, h a, c ta lttl mmm a mals, whl thrs wr smpl
b ls tws b tthr wth clth. S c r mmm was t brttl t wrap, w c t hav t X-ra . A lcal bsttrca , ams b r rqst, ar t th jb. W sat hs wat rm, wth svral xpcta t mthrs, a xsl awat th ctr’s rprt. Prs tl , th ctr p th r hs srr a sml at s. “C ratlat s,” h sa. “y hav a bab crcl!” LiNDA DURhAm, January 1970
Th tr t rzzl, a th rzzl t a w pr, bt s act a s strr. Th tr c t ts a lvl l hm wr b sl. A brm st w t, a th a prtabl cat cpbar was pt r th hammr. Thr was l b that – bt a rs . Th b r sst that h b v hs prchas mmatl . H cam back t th crw am mch rbb a b . Bt r rsp s tr t v wh h p th cpbar r a stpp s. PoLLy BEhRmAN, november 1966
Our family always enjoyed a good argument. When tempers grew heated, Dad would smile and say, “Come outside and tell me that,” and we knew it was time to stop. When my 15-year-old sister, Nora, went to visit our cousins, she jumped headfirst into an argument with teenage cousin Clement. When it seemed to be getting out of hand, she said, “Come outside and tell me that.” He went. Nora bent over and drew a line in the dust. Pointing to it, she said, “See that line?” Clement nodded. “Step over it,” Nora challenged. He did, and she hugged him, saying, “Now you are on my side.” FRiEDA DUPoNt ELLiStoN, may 1994
Something wonderful and a little mystical happened there in the lonely wilderness of Alaska â€“ something that can be accepted even if it is not fully understood By m o rris H o m er e rwin illustratio n By ric kie wu
strange encounter on coho creek
ne spring morning many years ago, I had been
prospecting for gold along Coho Creek on southeastern Alaska’s Kupreanof Island, and as I emerged from a forest of spruce and hemlock, I froze in my tracks. No more than 20 paces away in the flat muskeg [bog] was a huge, black Alaskan timber wolf – caught in one of Trapper George’s traps. Old George had died the previous week of a heart attack, so the wolf was lucky I had happened along. Yet now, confused and frightened at my approach the wolf backed away, straining at the trap chain. Then I noticed something else: it was a female, and her teats were full of milk. Somewhere, there was a den of hungry pups waiting for their mother. From her appearance, I guessed that she had been trapped only a few days. That meant her pups were probably still alive, surely no more than a few kilometres away. But I suspected that if I tried to release the wolf, she would turn aggressive and try to tear me to pieces. So I decided to search for her pups instead and began to look for incoming tracks that might lead me to her den. Fortunately, there were still a few remaining patches of snow. After several moments, I spotted paw marks on a trail skirting the muskeg. The tracks led 800m through the forest, then up a rock-strewn slope. I finally spotted the den at the base of an enormous spruce. There wasn’t a sound inside. Wolf pups are shy and cautious, and I didn’t have much 150
hope of luring them outside. But I had to try. So I began imitating the high-pitched squeak of a mother wolf calling her young. No response. A few moments later, after I tried another call, four tiny pups appeared. They couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. I extended my hands, and they tentatively suckled at my fingers. Perhaps hunger had helped overcome their natural fear. Then, one by one, I placed them in a burlap bag, and headed back down the slope. When the mother wolf spotted me, she stood erect. Possibly picking up the scent of her young, she let out a high-pitched, plaintive whine. I released the pups, and they raced to her. Within seconds, they were slurping at her belly. W hat next? I wondered. The mother wolf was clearly suffering. Yet each time I moved in her direction, a menacing growl rumbled in her throat. With her young to protect, she was becoming belligerent. She needs nourishment, I thought. I have to find her something to eat. I hiked towards Coho Creek, and spotted the leg of a winter-killed deer sticking out of a snow bank. I cut off
a hind quarter, then returned the me. At least I had their trust. But I was remains to nature’s ice box. Toting beginning to lose hope of ever winthe venison haunch back to the wolf, ning over the mother. Then I thought I whispered in a soothing tone, “OK, I saw a slight wagging of her tail. I mother, your dinner is served. But moved within the length of her chain. She remained motionless. My heart only if you stop growling at me. C’mon now. Easy.” I tossed chunks of venison in my mouth, I sat down 2m from her. in her direction. She sniffed them, One snap of her huge jaws and she could break my arm… or my neck. I then gobbled them up. Cutting hemlock boughs, I fash- wrapped my blanket around me and ioned a rough shelter for myself and slowly settled onto the cold ground. It was a long time before I was soon asleep. At fell asleep. dawn I was awakened I aw oke at daw n, by four fluffy bundles At dawn I was stirred by the sound of fur sniffing at my face of the pups nursand hands. I glanced awakened by ing. Gently, I leaned towards the agitated four fluffy over and petted them. mother wolf. If I could bundles of fur The mother wolf stiffonly win her confidence, ened. “Good morning, I thought. It was her sniffing at friends,” I said tentaonly hope. my face tively. Then I slowly Over the next few placed my hand on days, I divided my time the wolf ’s injured leg. between prospecting and trying to win the wolf ’s trust. I She flinched, but made no threatentalked gently with her, threw her more ing move. This can’t be happening, I venison and played with the pups. thought. Yet it was. I could see that the trap’s steel jaws Little by little, I kept edging closer – though I was careful to remain had imprisoned only two toes. They beyond the length of her chain. The were swollen and lacerated, but she big animal never took her dark eyes wouldn’t lose the paw – if I could off me. “Come on, mother,” I pleaded. free her. “OK,” I said. “Just a little longer and “You want to go back to your friends we’ll have you out of there.” on the mountain. Relax.” I applied pressure; the trap sprang At dusk on the fifth day, I delivered her daily fare of venison. “Here’s open, and the wolf pulled free. Whimdinner,” I said softly as I approached. pering, she loped about, favouring the “C’mon, girl. Nothing to be afraid of.” injured paw. My experience in the wild Suddenly, the pups came bounding to suggested the wolf would now gather Classic Reads•2014
strange encounter on coho creek
her pups and vanish into the woods. But cautiously, she crept towards me. The pups nipped playfully at their mother as she stopped at my elbow. Slowly, she sniffed my hands and arms. Then the wolf began licking my fingers. I was astonished. This went against everything I’d ever heard about timber wolves. Yet, strangely, it all seemed so natural. After a while, with her pups scurrying around her, the mother wolf was FR O M ready to leave and began to limp off towards the forest. Then she turned back to me. “You want me to come with you, girl?” I asked. Curious, I packed my gear, and set off. Following Coho Creek for a few kilometres, we ascended Kupreanof Mountain until we reached an alpine meadow. There, lurking in the forested perimeter, was a wolf pack – I counted nine adults and, judging by their playful antics, four nearly full-grown pups. After a few minutes of greeting, the pack broke into howling. It was an eerie sound, ranging from low wails to high-pitched yodelling. At dark, I set up camp. By the light of my fire and a glistening moon, I could see furtive wolf shapes dodging in and out of the shadows, eyes shining. I had no fear. They were merely curious. So was I. I awoke at first light. It was time 152
to leave the wolf to her pack. She watched as I assembled my gear and started walking across the meadow. Reaching the far side, I looked back. The mother and her pups were sitting where I had left them, watching me. I don’t know why, but I waved. At the same time, the mother wolf sent a long, mournful howl into the crisp air.
Four years later, after serving in World 19 87 War II, I returned to Coho Creek in the autumn of 1945. After the horrors of the war, it was good to be back among the soaring spruce and breathing the familiar, bracing air of the Alaskan bush. Then I saw, hanging in a red cedar where I had placed it four years before, the now rusted steel trap that had ensnared the mother wolf. The sight of it gave me a strange feeling, and something made me climb Kupreanof Mountain to the meadow where I had last seen her. There, standing on a lofty ledge, I gave out a long, low wolf call – something I had done many times before. An echo came back across the distance. Again I called. And again the echo reverberated, this time followed by a wolf call from a ridge about 800m away. Then, far off, I saw a dark shape moving slowly in my direction. As it
crossed the meadow, I could see it was a black timber wolf. A chill spread through my whole body. I knew at once that familiar shape, even after four years. “Hello, old girl,” I called gently. The wolf edged closer, ears erect, body tense, and stopped a few metres off, her bushy tail wagging slightly. Moments later, the wolf was gone. I left Kupreanof Island a short time after that, and I never saw the animal again. But the memory she left with me – vivid, haunting, a little eerie
– will always be there, a reminder that there are things in nature that exist outside the laws and understanding of man. During that brief instant in time, this injured animal and I had somehow penetrated each other’s worlds, bridging barriers that were never meant to be bridged. There is no explaining experiences like this. We can only accept them and – because they’re tinged with an air of mystery and strangeness – perhaps treasure them all the more.
NOT aCCORdiNg TO PLaN R D AU G U ST 19 6 6
A busiessma who lives ext oor to the shop he maages has ofte bee aoye by private citizes parkig their cars i the area reserve for the firm’s trucks. Oe ight whe he reture from a meetig to fi the parkig space jamme with cars, he irately hute up a policema a watche with satisfactio as the officer hug a ticket o each vehicle. The he wet ito the house a fou his wife etertaiig a group of church laies, all of whom ha bee elighte by the coveiet free parkig ext oor. Maclean’s Magazine, CAnAdA R D M AY 1 9 8 0
It was Suay morig a the church was fille. The muffle shouts of a group of boys playig baseball i the earby school yar coul be hear, as the mass bega. Suely a baseball came crashig through the wiow, laig about a metre from the altar. A freckle-face altar boy got up, geuflecte, a walke over to the ball. He picke it up, hurle it back out of the wiow. The he solemly tiptoe back to the altar a cotiue servig mass, just as if othig ha happee. gReg BeCK Classic Reas•2014
GIold vory The
Tablecloth A remarkable piece of cloth was the thread that brought a husband and wife back together
by rev. H oward c . S c H ad e i lluStratio n by e m i ueo Ka
t h e g o l d a n d i v o r y ta b l e c l o t h
t Christmas time men and women everywhere
gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a miracle – not exactly. It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit, prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood. But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down church. They felt that with paint, hammer and faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work. But late in December a severe storm whipped through the river valley, and the worst blow fell on the little church – a huge chunk of rainsoaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they couldn’t hide the ragged hole. The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!” That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a handsome gold-and-ivor y lace tablecloth. It was a magnificent item, nearly 156
4.5m long. But it, too, dated from a long-vanished era. Who, today, had any use for such a thing? There were a few half-hearted bids. Then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea. He bid it in for $6.50. He carried the cloth back to the church and tacked it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinar y beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel. It was a great triumph. Happily he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.
Just before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop. “The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, and he invited her into the church to get warm. She told him that she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy
families in town but she had been turned down. A war refugee, her English was imperfect. The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while she dropped her head and prayed. She looked up as the pastor began to adjust the great gold-andivory lace cloth across the hole. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel. She looked at the tablecloth. The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of cloth and rubbed it between her fingers. “It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials FROM m o n o g ra m m e d i nt o it. “My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it!” For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese; that she and her husband had opposed the Nazis and decided to leave the country. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could
arrange to ship their household goods across the border. She never saw him again. Later she heard he had died in a concentration camp. “I have always felt that it was my fault – to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!” The pastor tried to comfort her, urged her to take the cloth with her. She refused. Then she went away.
As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skilfully designed to look its best by candlelight. After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway; many people told him the church looked 1954 beautiful. One gentlefaced, middle-aged man – he was the local clock-and-watch repairman – looked rather puzzled. “It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago my wife – God rest her – and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table” – and here he smiled – “only when the bishop came to dinner!” The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweller about the woman who had been in the church earlier in the day. Classic Reads•2014
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The startled jeweller clutched the pastorâ€™s arm. â€œCan it be? Does she live?â€? Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed her. Then, in the pastorâ€™s car they started for the city. And as Christmas Day was born this man and his wife â€“ who had been separated through
so many saddened Yuletides â€“ were reunited. To all who heard this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now quite clear. Of course people said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!
Please Note R D Ja n ua Ry 1 9 63
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Life’s Like That Seeing the funny Side Kow wol appal o r ss o mor a lov o msc, i orr a B ov swas r or m w ’s mo r – or r br a. W arrv i was sma b s ac msos; wol av swallow r p ram. hr br a was ol as awa, so i wro o
racall or a smallr sz. W 24 ors i o a p o call rom ma acrr, w o xpla a, o b rall “”, s r ms b wor b a ba, b xpla ow col b s rk. i ak m
or s o lss call. “to ll r ,” rpl, “i js wa o alk o somo w o as k o mo r--law o w o ca v a B ov swas r.” Pat F. Kyser, May 1966
My brother adopted a snake named Slinky, whose most disagreeable trait was eating live mice. Once I was pressed into going to the pet shop to buy Slinky’s dinner. The worst part of this wasn’t choosing the juiciestlooking creatures or turning down the shopowner’s efforts to sell me vitamins to ensure their longevity. No, the worst part was carrying the poor things out in a box bearing the words: “Thank you for giving me a home.” Joanne Mitchell, June 1990
In a nearby amusement park I stopped to watch several children riding Shetland ponies. The gentle ponies were moving slowly around the inside tracks, and astride them were the very young and the timid. But in the outside track was “Little Miss Hopalong Cassidy” herself. Bent forward in the saddle, she was slapping the pony with the reins and urging him on to a faster and faster gallop. Four times around the track they flew, before she was lifted from the saddle. “Where did you learn to ride so well?” asked a bystander. She pushed back her hair, giving us a glimpse of flushed cheeks and shining eyes, and replied, “On the television.” louise longe, February 1950
G.K. Chesterton, author: Architecture is the alphabet of giants; it is the largest set of symbols ever made to meet the eyes of men. May 1994
knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work. May 1990
Winston ChurChill, statesman: At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man walking into the little booth with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point. NOveMber 1993
John MortiMer, playwright, lawyer: A man with a bristling grey beard came and sat next to me at lunch. He had pale blue eyes, and he talked of yachting in the English Channel: “It’s not dangerous at all, provided you don’t know how to swim.” “Why is that?” “When you’re in a spot of trouble, if you can swim you try to strike out for shore. You invariably drown. As I can’t swim, I cling to the wreckage. That’s my tip; if you are in trouble, cling to the wreckage!” It was advice I’ve been taking most of my life. OctOber 1988
Carl sandburG, poet: Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio or looked at television. They had “loneliness” and
Writer C.S. Lewis, on a freedom of reaching maturity: Wen I wa en, I read fairy ale in ecre and wuld ave been aamed if I ad been fund ding . Nw a I am 50, I read em penly. Wen I became a man, I pu away cildi ing – including fear f cildine and e deire be grwn-up. Of Other WOrlds, edited by Walter HOOper, deceMber 1987
P hotos: GEttY IMAGEs
Points to Ponder
e Gdm, Pitz Piz-wiig ji t: There is a real tension between our wants and what we want from others. Nobody wants to be married to a doctor who works weekends and makes house calls at 2am. But every patient would like to find one. Noone admires a lawyer who spends holidays and weekends with a briefcase, except, of course, the client. We all agree that a politician should spend private time with his family. And we all want him to speak at our banquet. August 1988
One sunny day, a five-year-old boy begged his father to go for a walk. The man explained that he was too busy. “Stop working, Dad,” the boy urged. “Let’s go outside and get some use out of the world.” GeorGe Dolan, June 1970
In these troubled times the following quotation by 18th-century novelist Daniel Defoe makes more than a little sense: “Though I don’t like the crew, I won’t sink the ship. In fact, in time of storm, I’ll do my best to save it. You see, we are all in this craft and must sink or swim together.” Mary russell, June 1970
I have discovered a way to detect outrageous flattery, though I’ve never discovered a way to dislike it. When appreciation and compliments seem just about your due, that’s flattery. If praise leaves you hungering for more, perhaps you’re getting all you deserve.
BarBara WeBster, writer: I think one reason we admire cats, those of us who do, is their proficiency in oneupmanship. They always seem to come out on top, no matter what they are doing – or pretend they do. Rarely do you see a cat discomfited. They have no conscience, and they never regret. Maybe we secretly envy them. August 1966
Bruce GoulD, June 1970
by Jo h n culh ane
P hoto: A LAM Y
s grew up wi is furry creains as ur friends and unexpeced eacers
REMEMBERING JIM HENSON
very week in scores of countries, millions of children
flick on one of the greatest television shows of all time. More incredible still, the cast of characters in this show – imaginatively called Sesame Street (after “Open Sesame”, the Arabian Nights invitation to discovery) – is as unlikely a group as the world’s children ever took to their hearts. Among the fictional creatures are such funny folk of felt or fur, gazing at you with pingpong-ball eyes, as an uneasy green frog, a royal-blue monster with an insatiable appetite for biscuits, and a big, curious, naïve, vulnerable, sympathetic golden bird. They are the Muppets – one of the most worthwhile creations of popular culture. It is likely that more people can name the Muppet pig (Miss Piggy, femme fatale) who is in love with the Muppet frog (Kermit, “my frog”) than can name the capital of Iraq. Behind this phenomenal success story was Jim Henson, the brilliant creator of the Muppets, who once struggled to explain their extraordinary appeal. “I think it’s a sense of innocence, of the naivety of a young person meeting life. Even the most worldly of our characters is innocent. Our villains are innocent, really. And it’s that innocence that is the connection to the audience.” This distinction, along with an almost childlike genius, echoed through all of Henson’s work. “The most sophisticated people I know – inside they’re all children,” he told me another time. “We never really lose a certain sense we had when we were kids. That sense of looking at this big world and not knowing who we are and what we’re supposed to be doing here.” 164
Starting in America in 1969, Sesame Street brought a rare combination of education and entertainment to its young audience, youngsters roughly aged two to five years of age – and quicker than you could say “Cookie Monster”, these children were learning their letters and numbers and many other things from the Muppets. When my two sons found out I was going to talk to Jim Henson for an article on Sesame Street, there was no way they would let me out of our house without tagging along. I remember Jim’s warm, gentle-eyed greeting when Michael, T.H. and I showed up on a television sound stage in Manhattan. Taking us to a table where a Muppet frog lay lifeless, Jim slipped his hand into the piece of fabric and brought him suddenly alive.
“Hey, look!” Kermit told my sons. background,” the Muppeteer said. “It’s “I can salute!” And with a deft move- important for the illusion that these ment of a rod attached to Kermit’s characters seem to move and think right hand, Jim made the Muppet for themselves.” The child in the man was born deliver a snappy salute. We watched the rehearsal of a scene James Maury Henson on September in which Jim operated a round-faced 24, 1936. Jim’s mother, Elizabeth, was Muppet named Ernie, and a mous- a woman of lively imagination. His tached, balding Frank Oz was an father, Paul, was an agronomist with oval-headed Muppet named Bert. the United States Department of AgStanding below an elevated set, both riculture, working on pasture crops. (One of these bore the men held their characodd name of bird’s-foot ters over their heads so the camera could see “We never lose a trefoil, and Jim, always captivated by funny the Muppets, but not sense we had as names, later christened Jim and Frank. They kept track of what their kids … of looking a Muppet after this crop: Herbert Birdsfoot.) Muppets were doing by In school, Jim was watching a small moni- at the world and never much of an athtor below the stage. not knowing lete, but he was always Often Jim and his fellow what we’re a great dreamer. The Muppeteers had to twist supposed to be last one chosen in basethemselves into pretzel ball teams, he would shapes to create some doing here” stand dreaming where of the complicated routhere was never much tines. Yet what viewers saw on the screen were Muppets action. That suited him fine. When he turned 13, the youngster began moving with astonishing grace. “Looks like hard work,” Michael badgering his parents to buy a new said when we later watched the same appliance called television, so he could watch the puppet show Kukla, scenes on a TV screen with Jim. “The only way the magic works is by Fran and Ollie, and later Life with hard work,” he told my sons. “But hard Snarky Parker. In high school, Jim joined a puppet club and, after finwork can be fun.” The parent in me cheered. Watching ishing school, he landed a job with a the television replay, my younger son, local television station that was lookT.H., was amazed. “We didn’t see the ing for young puppeteers. Continuing to make local TV appearances, Jim rods on the screen!” he told Jim. “They’re painted to match the enrolled at university and during his Classic Reads•2014
REMEMBERING JIM HENSON
first year was offered a late-night, fiveminute TV show in Washington. He asked Jane Nebel, a fellow art student, to work with him. “It was admiration at first sight,” Jane said later. In 1956, the Muppets made their network television debut on Steve Allen’s Tonight! show. Kermit the Frog – fashioned from Jim’s mother’s old green coat – wore a blonde wig and sang “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” to an unsightly, purple-faced monster operated by Jane. Jim tried to interest the three US TV networks in a family variety series built around the Muppets, but was turned down. However, England’s Lord Grade liked the idea, and in 1976 put The Muppet Show into world distribution from London, combining the biggest American stars – from Bob Hope to Julie Andrews – and the smallest Muppets. Comedian Mel Brooks, who appeared in The Muppet Movie, once said that the basic message of The Muppet Show FR O M was that “The meek shall inherit the earth.” The Muppets were equally admiring of their guests. Of Ethel Merman, who appeared on the show during its first season, Jim’s Kermit once intoned, “When she sings, I get a people in my throat.” Jim and Jane were married in 1959. By the 1970s, Jane was spending most 166
of her time raising their five children. An affectionate father, Jim encouraged Brian, Cheryl, Heather, John and Lisa to watch how the Muppet magic was made – and to get involved. Brian Henson remembers the “huge inspiration” that came from growing up around a man whose special world was always spilling over into his family. Not surprisingly, all five children have worked in the arts. Brian, like his father, became a puppeteer. In all, Jim and his colleagues created more than 2000 woolly and imaginative Muppet characters. Some became superstars – like the seductive Miss Piggy and Cookie Monster (both operated by Frank Oz), Big Bird (Carroll Spinney) and, of course, Jim’s own irrepressible Kermit. “I suppose he’s an alter ego,” Jim once said, “but he’s a little testier than I am – and slightly wiser. Kermit says some things I hold myself back from saying.” Yet Kermit, like Jim, was ever the trouper. In a movie backlot in 19 9 0 Hollywood, I remember Jim and Kermit aboard a bathysphere, being lowered into a “Georgia swamp” for a scene in The Muppet Movie. A log had been fitted on top of the bathysphere, and Kermit was perched on the log. In Jim’s tiny submarine compartment was a breadbox-sixed TV monitor and all 190 centimetres of
Jim, jammed into a cross-legged yoga crouch. Air was fed to him through a hose, and electric cables brought him the director’s instructions and the picture on the TV monitor. Through two rubber gloves that came out of the top of the diving bell, Jim manipulated Kermit’s mouth with his right hand so Kermit could sing, and with his left hand Jim used a nearly invisible black wire to make Kermit strum the banjo. Jim was underwater for three or four hours at a time. Why all this? So audiences would better accept the seemingly effortless illusion that Kermit was alive and real. Jim drove himself hard – and the results showed. As of 1989, Sesame Street was being watched by more than 68% of all American households with a child under the age of six. The Muppet Show plays weekly to 235 million viewers in over a hundred countries. Jim Henson Productions has won 22 Emmy Awards, with 12 going to Henson personally. His company also won the prestigious Peabody Award in 1978 and again in 1986. His movies have drawn millions of fans. All of this activity, however, wore Jim out. In May 1990, after appearing on a TV show in Los Angeles, Jim complained of fatigue and a sore throat. Returning to New York with what he thought was the flu, he put off seeing a doctor. When Jane Henson finally got him to hospital, he was having trouble breathing. An aggressive type of pneumonia
known as streptococcus pneumonia Group A had been galloping through his body for at least three days. He was immediately treated with high doses of antibiotics, but the infection had already overwhelmed him. This led to kidney and heart failure, and he died 20 hours later. At his memorial service, thousands crowded the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York. In place of a traditional service, Jim’s family substituted a “celebration of life”. Mourners waved brightly coloured foam butterflies handed out with memorial programmes. “After the service,” says fellow Muppeteer Frank Oz, one of Jim’s closest friends, “I wandered around for days and weeks, thinking about Jim. And one image kept coming back to me. It was of Jim standing with his arms folded, wearing a very warm smile, looking, just appreciating. “Sure, Jim the creator was a genius. Yet I see Jim foremost as an appreciator. He appreciated the Muppet family and his own family. He appreciated flying kites with his children. He appreciated beauty, and he appreciated fun.” And out of that, in turn, Jim made appreciators of the rest of us. We appreciate Jim Henson’s brilliance, his joy of life, and especially, the joy he brought to many millions of us around the world. Now 45 years old, Sesame Street screens in 150 of the globe’s 196 countries. Classic Reads•2014
CSleep Advc fr fau, a ld Radr’ Dg n 1930
P hoto: G etty im AGes
when i can’t sleep
Cecil B. De Mille, movie mogul: “An automatic phonograph with bedside control plays my favourite symphonies which I find a good hypnotic.” Sophie Kerr, novelist: “I found my recipe in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. It is simply to draw 20 even breaths, then on the 21st hold the breath as long as possible. By the time I have done this three times I am drowsy.”
Orson Welles, actor and producer: “I read the History of MacHenry County, Illinois, and if that fails, I turn out the light and try to pretend that it is 5am of a winter’s morning and I have to get up.” Gracie Allen, radio comedienne: “I used to count sheep, but they made such a racket with their baaing that it kept me awake. Now I count oranges on an imaginary orange tree!”
Harrison Candy, artist: “I place my hands at the back of my head, relax, and contemplate something which represents great quiet and tranquillity – such as a drowsy midsummer noon, while I lie on a grassy slope beneath a shade tree and see a blue pool in the distance.”
Fanny Heaslip Lea, novelist: “I sing myself to sleep (mentally) with ‘The Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.’ It has a wave-like swing to it and a philosophy to which I have become resigned.”
Kitty Carlisle, musical comedy star: “I sing old songs to myself. It’s difficult to remember the lyrics of songs you haven’t sung for a long time, and in trying to recall the words, I drop off to sleep.”
Frank Craven, actor: “I choose the toughest golf course I ever played –and for c ompa n ion t he one person I’d rather beat than all others. Then I par and birdie and eagle hole after hole until it becomes so easy that I fall asleep from sheer boredom.”
Major Anthony Fiala, explorer: “On my trip FR O M through Brazil w ith Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, I learned my best lesson: when I go to bed it’s solely for the purpose of sleeping. If I cannot sleep, I get up and exercise until I am tired.” 170
Lillian Gish, actress: “Black eyeshades and wax earplugs have always done the trick for me!”
Norman Rockwell, illustrator: “New York’s noises supply my only
sleep problem. I take the most excruciating sound – trolley, taxi, or train – and imagine myself a character going home in it. Perhaps I’m a jolly little breadwinner, pleasantly tired, ca r r y i ng home a su r pr ise package for my wife. In this imagining I throw off my own worries by becoming this simple, untroubled person – and drop off to sleep.” Albert Edward Wiggam, lecturer: “If I wake during the night I step out the door into the cold air, and take a two-minute air bath. Within five minutes I am sleeping like a baby. I got this from Ben Franklin.” Hugh Herbert, movie star: “When I can’t sleep, I get up and watch the
goldfish. The first thing I know, one of them will gape at me. Then I yawn at him. We keep this up for a few minutes and usually I’m so sleepy that I can’t find my way back to the bedroom.” Katherine Mayo, novelist: “Somet imes I lie on one ear and put a substantial pillow firmly over the other. This not only keeps out outside noises, but suppresses the chatter of ideas on the loose within. My other practice I learned from a wise old Indian in Dutch Guiana: put about a half-teaspoonful of pepper in a coffee cup and fill the cup with blistering hot milk. You drink the milk immediately and as fast as you possibly can.”
caught in passing R D Ja n ua Ry 1 9 8 0
Icd viwr: “I’v watchd TV grow from ifacy to adutry!” eddie d. In ChiCago tribune
At bu top: “I did’t mid my wif itig a my imprfctio, but writig to Raph nadr wa too much!” BoB goddard In St. LouiS gLobe-demoCrat
O woma to aothr: “W’v jut movd ito our dram hou. It cot twic a much a w vr dramd it woud.” WATeRlOO, WIsCOnsIn, Courier
I a bauty hop: “I vr aw o may wom dy with thir boot o.” BoB talBert In detroit free preSS Caic Rad•2014
Televiion w in it infnc; Gone With the Wind hd jut hit the booktore; Berlin w prepring to hot the Olpic; nd Edwrd VIII’ bdiction crii w onth w. In id-1936 Reder’ Diget fetured oe wondrou invention with the potentil to revolutionie ll our live. Wht hppened?
P HOTO: G ETTy Im aGEs
the age of ingenuity
Hose-off fabrics All types of textiles are rendered permanently water-repellent with a compound developed by Imperial Chemical Industries, England. Demonstrating the process, two girls in light summer frocks stood beneath a drenching showerbath, then stepped out, gave their frocks a twitch to dislodge lingering drops of water, and walked off perfectly dry. They spilled glasses of water and cups of tea on their clothes, upset drinks on sofas and tablecloths, and the liquids rolled off, leaving no mark. The effectiveness of Velan is not destroyed by laundering or cleaning. N.Y. Times d Illustrated London News Editor’s update: According to a 1950 patent application, Velan had a small drawback in practice: “…by its application the fibre is weakened in some unexplained manner; which weakness is very likely due to a considerable reduction in the elasticity of elongation, with the result, that the fibre becomes brittle.” In other words, your Velan dress would likely stay dry, but, sadly, it would also snap off when sat on. Room-to-room communication The “Radio Nurse” now being advertised by Zenith Radio Corporation, consists of a transmitter and a receiver, which are plugged into the nearest light socket. Placing the “ear” unit in the nursery, a mother can plug in the “voice” unit whenever she is working and hear the slightest cry, the 174
opening of a window, or even the child’s breathing. With the “ear” unit beside an invalid bed, requests can be transmitted to another room without the patient’s so much as changing position. Business Week Radio Nurse is now known to worried new parents around the world as a baby monitor. Keyboard teacher The Piano Master, invented by Carl Rupp, dance-band leader, provides an ingenious short cut in learning to play the piano. A motor-driven player-roll mechanism flashes a light beneath each transparent key at the moment when it should be struck – whenever the student sees a flash, he pounces. A modification of the device, the Key Master, flashes lights in a dummy keyboard above the regular piano keys, and can be fitted to the family upright. Time d Popular Mechanics
Light systems still help piano students advance quickly, though Mr Rupp is responsible for tortured renditions of “Oh my Darling Clementine” in living rooms everywhere. Silent lights In a new noiseless electric light switch perfected by General Electric engineers, contact is made by the glow of mercury. The switch has no moving parts to wear out, no springs or blades to break, and is easily interchanged with standard switches. Christian Science Monitor It’s estimated there are thousands of mercury switches still in use in the US.
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the age of ingenuity
Concerns about the possible leakage of toxic mercury from damaged switches saw them phased out in houses in the ’70s. Mercury can carry a large current for its volume and is today used in switches for specific applications, including aircraft attitude indicators, thermostats, vending machines – and bomb triggers. Pre-sown grass A new process of lawn-growing has been invented by Vincent Hartley, English printing-works o w n e r. G ra s s s e e d s are spread on sheets of paper smeared with preservative paste, then covered with another sheet. The sheets are three feet by two and can be cut to fit bare patches or to follow the curving edge of a flower garden FR O M or walk. After laying the sheet, he sprinkles an eighth of an inch of dry soil over it, and a fine spray of water. The paper protects the seeds from birds and attracts the requisite amount of water. During germination the paper decomposes and the paste, a mild fertiliser, nourishes the grass. Within ten days a perfect grass plot has sprung up, in three months there is a smooth, compact lawn. Life In addition to pre-sown lawn, Hartley’s innovations included a cowl lamp cover for motorbikes used 176
during the WWII Blitz, “everlasting” metal plant labels and the ingenious “SafeBoil”, to stop milk boiling over in saucepans. The greenhouse company he founded with his brother, Hartley Botanic, is still going strong. Quiet horns To minimise the annoyance of honking horns, a new super-sonic horn, its tone so high that human ears cannot hear it, is being used by autos and trucks in Germany. A motorist wishing to pass a truck ahead uses h i s h i g h - f re q u e n c y horn. A microphone in the truck picks up the sound and carries it to the driver as a gentle hum. A red tail-light on the truck indicates to the driver behind that his signal has been received; when it is safe 193 6 for him to pass, the truck driver presses a button, changing the red light to green. Medley and Electronics It’s unclear why this brilliant – though complicated – idea was lost to the mists of time. We’re still waiting for a horn that differentiates between Oops – I think you haven’t noticed the green light and YOU’RE ABOUT TO HIT ME. But perhaps we’re too old fashioned: a recent product in the US offers a horn with 46 different sounds, including popular melodies, police sirens and animal noises.
Classic Reads on my favorite mag.