David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families — Sons, Thanksgiving, War, Weddings

Sons

• Comedian Robin Williams often watched Saturday morning cartoons with Zach, his young son. While watching, Mr. Williams sometimes did funny voices and made funny remarks. Usually, Zach enjoyed this, but sometimes he told his father, “Daddy, don’t use that voice. Just be Daddy.”

• One day, Bobbie, Beatrice Lillie’s son, came in the house after playing in the garden. Ms. Lillie saw the dirt on her son’s face and arms and asked what he had been doing. He said, “I’ve been in the garden playing with the faeries.” She replied, “Faeries? Elves, dear.”

• Jack, Art Linkletter’s son, attended Beverly Hills High School, where he once ran for class president. Because 85 percent of the school’s students were Jewish, Jack used the name “Linkletterberg” for campaigning purposes and almost won the election.

Thanksgiving

• According to Totie Fields, her sister (Rosie), was the best cook in the family. Just before one Thanksgiving, Rosie prepared a feast of Jewish dishes — mushroom and barley soup, noodle pudding, brisket, and so on. (Totie says that this is what the Jewish Pilgrims ate.) Because the refrigerator and freezer were already full, they carried the Thanksgiving food out to the garage and left it there, knowing that the weather was cold enough to keep the food safe. Thanksgiving morning they went to the garage, only to discover that a gardener had left the door to the garage open and a neighborhood dog had enjoyed the feast. For Thanksgiving, they ate in a restaurant, then drove around the neighborhood looking for a dog with heartburn.

War

• Michael, the son of children’s author Walter Dean Myers, served in the Persian Gulf War and came back to the United States safe and sound. About the experience of having a child serve as a soldier in a war, Mr. Myers says, “You hear this story about a woman waking up in the middle of the night in fear, and later she learns that her husband was killed at that exact moment. Well, that’s a bunch of crap. The truth is, you wake up every night in fear. It was a very scary time.” (Mr. Myers’ younger brother died in Vietnam.)

• One of Emma Washa’s sons had an unenviable job during World War II. He worked in a hospital ward, and the wounded soldiers sometimes went crazy with pain and suffering. His job was to kneel on them to keep them from getting out of bed and hurting themselves. Later, this son died from a brain tumor. According to Ms. Washa, the brain tumor was caused by the insanity of war.

Weddings

• In the first half of the 20th century, Edwin Porter was a preacher in Texas, where he performed many weddings. In those days, etiquette books said that $3 was the proper amount to pay the preacher for performing the wedding, but when asked what he was owed Rev. Porter simply answered, “Just pay me whatever you think your wife is worth.” One new husband dug a quarter out of his pocket and asked if Rev. Porter had change! But another new husband dug into his pockets and hauled out bills, quarters, and other change, then he handed all his money to Rev. Porter without counting it, saying, “My wife is worth all I’ve got.” (Because the marriage fees varied so widely, Rev. Porter’s children made a game out of guessing the amount the groom would pay their father.)

• In a Haverhill, Massachusetts, cemetery are several funeral stones dedicated to the wives of Captain Nathaniel Thurston. His final wife, who outlived him, is not there. During the good captain’s final trip to the cemetery from Lansinburgh, New York, she rode beside his coffin in the undertaker’s wagon while the undertaker and his son rode up front. On the way back home from the cemetery, she rode beside the undertaker up front while his son rode in back. When she and the undertaker returned back home to Lansinburgh, New York, they got married.

• Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma fell in love with British citizen Michael Aris. In 1971, when he was working as a tutor in Bhutan for the royal family and she was working in New York City, she sent him 187 letters. They married even though Suu Kyi came from a prominent Burmese family and the Burmese people often are against intermarriage with foreigners. In fact, Chit Myaing, former Burmese ambassador to Great Britain, said, “The Burmese people would not like [Suu Kyi] marrying a foreigner. I knew that if I attended the wedding, I would be fired that day.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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