David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 3 — Education, Fathers

Education

• When he was ready to enter junior high school, Eric Gregg, who was later to be the third black umpire in the major leagues, looked at the school in his neighborhood in inner-city Philadelphia. He decided that the school was “nothing but a dead end,” and he decided that he wasn’t going there. Therefore, completely on his own, he faked an address and attended a much better junior high in another neighborhood, riding city buses by himself to get to the school for classes.

• Famed Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh took many photographs of World War II leaders to be added to the Canadian National Archives. Among the people whose portrait he took was Viscount Alexander, who led British soldiers to victory in North Africa and Italy. During the portrait session, Mr. Karsh asked him, “What is the greatest lesson the war has taught us?” Viscount Alexander replied, “Not to have another war. Next time all of us will be obliterated.”

• When Muhammad Ali was still known as Cassius Clay, he almost did not graduate from high school because of his poor grades. However, Atwood Wilson, the principal of his high school, wanted him to graduate, in part because of Mr. Clay’s growing fame as a boxer. Mr. Wilson stated, “One day our greatest claim to fame is going to be that we knew Cassius Clay or taught him. Do you think that I’m going to be the principal of a school that Cassius Clay didn’t finish?”

• As children, young people’s author William Sleator and Vicky, his sister, talked often about all the popular kids they hated in school. Their father advised, “Don’t waste your hate on them. Save it up for important people, like [bad politicians].” Since young William and Vicky were well educated, they quoted to their father a line from Euripides’ Medea: “Loathing is endless. Hate is a bottomless cup: I pour and pour.”

• When Hillary Rodham Clinton was 14 years old, she wrote NASA to find out what was necessary for her to do to become an astronaut. NASA wrote back that they “weren’t taking any girls.” This letter made her furious. Later, when she was deciding which college to attend, a Harvard professor told her, “We don’t need any more women.” She ended up at Yale.

• When she was a child, renowned opera singer Mary Garden took violin lessons. She once asked her teacher, “Mr. Phelps, how long will it take me to become a good violinist and how good will I be?” Her teacher was honest and replied, “Mary, you will probably become a good amateur in 20 years.”

• Children’s book illustrator Peter Sís was amazed when Madeleine, his very young daughter, read Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats to him. His wife had to explain that their daughter wasn’t actually reading the book — Madeleine had memorized it.

Fathers

• Comedian Zero Mostel was born Samuel Joel Mostel on February 28, 1915, in Brooklyn. His father was Israel Mostel, who supported a wide variety of relatives during much of his life. Among other jobs, he made sacramental wine to be used in Jewish ceremonies. Mr. Mostel used to tell a story about how his father would look out for his children. At the supper table, his father would ask his children, “What did you learn in school today?” Each child would then tell something he had learned. After each recitation, the father would say, “Such a scholar deserves an extra piece of meat,” and he would take some meat from his own plate and put it on his child’s. Frequently, all of his meat ended up on his children’s plates.

• Barry Bonds’ father, professional baseball player Bobby Bonds, taught him many things. For example, he taught him competitiveness by playing pool with him at home. The winner of the game would get candy, while the loser had to do push-ups. Barry says, “When I played with my dad, he was such a competitor — he couldn’t lose.” In addition, Bobby taught his son not to lower himself in reaction to racists. When Barry was young, occasionally he got into fights with white boys who disliked him because of his color. One day, young Barry came home and told his father, “I don’t like white people right now.” Bobby told him, “Don’t ever come in my house like that again. Be proud of who you are. Do not allow their stupidity to make you stupid.”

 

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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