David Bruce: Don’t Fear the Reaper — Signs, Sports, Travel

Signs

• On 15 July 1969, singer Joan Baez’ husband, David Harris, was arrested for evading the draft. As the police car drove away with her husband inside, it sported a new bumper sticker that one of her husband’s friends had placed on it: “RESIST THE DRAFT.”

• While visiting the gardens called Kagetsu-an-Tusrumi in Tokyo, Theodore Stier, who was Anna Pavlova’s music director, was amused to see a large sign which stated: “NO CHEEK-TO-CHEEK DANCING. NO SHIMMYING OR SHAKING.”

• Signs can be misleading. A sign once said, “Ornette Coleman — Free Jazz Concert.” Fans were shocked that they had to pay to attend the concert — “Free Jazz” was the name of the kind of jazz music that Mr. Coleman was playing.

Sports

• Babe Zaharias was a female professional athlete when few female professional athletes existed. She won Olympic gold medals in track and field and started the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), but she played (and often excelled in) many other sports. A reporter once asked her if there was anything she did not play. She replied, “Yeah. Dolls.” Lots of people thought that playing sports was a masculine trait, and a woman once asked her, “Where are your whiskers?” Babe replied, “I’m sitting on them, sister, just like you.”

• People with mental retardation like having fun and participating in sports, too. Leslie Fish, who became mentally retarded after suffering from meningitis as a baby, lives in Minnesota where winter sports are popular. She enjoys both skiing and ice skating. She and her Special Olympics team once skated at the United States National Figure Skating Championships. When she was young, she and her father sometimes pretended to smoke cigars just for fun.

Travel

• Travelers sometimes have interesting experiences. While traveling in Mexico, Anna Pavlova’s dance troupe ran into a problem. The proprietor of a hotel showed them a large room where he expected all the members of the troupe — male and female — to sleep. He explained that the large room was “for the family.” Ms. Pavlova and her troupe found different lodgings. While Ms. Pavlova was touring in South Africa, a male Kaffir dancer named Brandy was told that she was the greatest dancer in the world. He replied, “She hasn’t seen me yet.”

• Anna Pavlova believed in getting all she could from her travels. For example, she studied the national dances of the countries she performed in: While touring in a country for an extended time, she sought the best teachers for her dance company, so they could learn the national dances and perform them the next time they visited that country. In addition, she once spent an entire night watching the Taj Mahal under a full moon.

• Early aviator Katherine Stinson was known for keeping her airplane very clean. Was this because of a woman’s stereotypical concern with cleanliness? No. She explained, “It’s all right if your automobile goes wrong while you are driving it. You can get out … and tinker with it. But if your airplane breaks down, you can’t sit on a convenient cloud and tinker with that!”

• Ballerina Illaria Obidenna Ladré danced all over the world. She remembers the smells of South America vividly. Arriving at 3 a.m. in a small town, she and the dance troupe smelled freshly baked bread — quite a contrast to the smell of the town where people at a hotel dumped the contents of their chamber pots from the hotel balcony.

• Sir Harry Lauder, a Scotsman, performed in Chicago, where he asked an elderly woman in the audience to come up on stage with him. She did, saying that she had come 30 miles to see him. Sir Harry replied, “But that’s nothing, my dear lassie. I’ve just traveled 5,000 miles to see you.”

• When Harry Hershfield first went to Paris as an old man, he told a friend that he wished he had seen Paris 30 years earlier. The friend asked, “You mean when Paris was Paris?” “No,” he said, “when Hershfield was Hershfield.”

• Traveler Peg Bracken likes to keep an eye on the graffiti of any country she visits. On the sea wall of Saint-Tropez, she saw this graffito: “Revolution is coming; keep your eyes on the rich men’s yachts.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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