David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 3 — Problem-Solving

Problem-Solving

• When children’s mystery writer Joan Lowery Nixon was a young woman, middle-class women wore hats at fashionable dinners. Unfortunately, while in San Francisco for a convention after her father became auditor of Los Angeles County in 1938, Joan, age 16, discovered that she had forgotten to pack a hat. Her mother was understandably upset, but Joan said that she would go across the street to buy a hat at an expensive store just in time for the dress-up dinner. However, her mother, who had survived the Depression, refused to let her buy a hat for full price. (Also, the store was closed.) Fortunately, a flower vendor was still in the street, and Joan requested that he fashion a hat for her out of fresh flowers. The vendor guessed, “Your mama’s real mad at you. Right?” Joan admitted that he was right, and the flower vendor made a hat for her out of pale pink carnations, florist wire, and some black netting. The flower hat was the fashion hit of the evening.

• When Stan Berenstain was courting Jan Grant, whom he would later marry and with whom he would create the popular children’s book characters the Berenstain Bears, they ran into a problem. During World War II, when Stan was in the Army, her mother found a packet of letters from him to Jan. (Stan admits that the letters were “steamy.”) Jan’s mother decided that she didn’t want Stan and her daughter to exchange any more letters. Fortunately, Stan’s mother came up with a solution. Stan’s letters to Jan were sent to his mother’s house, and Jan picked them up there. Jan solved another problem by herself. She and Stan didn’t have engagement rings, so Jan, who had studied the making of jewelry and who was working as a Rosie the Riveter at an aircraft plant, made two engagement rings out of aircraft aluminum and sent him one. On April 13, 1946, Stan and Jan married.

• The mother of architect Julia Morgan was growing feeble, but she refused to move in with any of her children, so Julia took action with her siblings. Julia built a house on a plot of land next to her sister’s house. This new house had a room exactly like the room their mother had been living in — the windows and door were in exactly the same places. While their mother was visiting Julia’s sister, all of their mother’s possessions were moved to the new house. After their mother had finished visiting the sister, they took her to her new home. Her new room was exactly the same as her old room — the furniture was in the same place, and her possessions were in the same places — and their mother never said anything about the switch in houses.

• Back when Theodor Geisel, who later became better known as Dr. Seuss, was courting his future wife, Helen Palmer, he and she bought a motorcycle so that they could more easily travel around Oxford University, where they were first-year students. Unfortunately, Oxford University had a policy against first-year students owning motorcycles. Of course, the future Dr. Seuss was creative, and he figured out a way to keep out of trouble. He simply bought some plucked dead ducks and tied them to the handlebars, so that onlookers would think that he was a poultry shop’s delivery boy.

• While completing her residency and working sometimes 20 hours in a row, Dorothy “Dot” Richardson still worked on her softball. Because of a lack of time to get to a regular batting cage for practice, she rigged up a net and a batting tee in her bedroom so she could practice batting. To help keep from annoying her neighbors with the noise of her hitting the softball, she used a bat that she had wrapped with tape. Her hard work paid off in both endeavors. She won gold medals in softball at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, and today she is an orthopedic surgeon.

• When the parents of Roberta and Alex divorced, they wanted their children to feel secure, and one way they felt they could do that was not to make their children move from place to place so the children could spend one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. Instead, the children stayed put in the home they had grown up in, and their parents spent alternate weeks moving into the home and staying with them. Fourteen-year-old Roberta says, “They made it as easy as possible for us kids, and I’m grateful to them for doing that.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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