David Bruce: Travel Anecdotes

After a long night of traveling, soprano Adelina Patti stopped at 5 a.m. for a few hours rest in Warsaw, Poland. Unfortunately, at 6 a.m. what sounded like a racket to the tired soprano broke out next door as someone began to play a piano. Outraged, Ms. Patti sent a servant to ask the noise-maker to stop playing the piano—at least until 8 a.m. The noise-maker stopped, and Ms. Patti’s husband, the Marquise de Caux, sent his card to him in thanks. A moment later, the noise-maker himself appeared at Ms. Patti’s door to ask politely about her. The famous soprano and her husband were shocked to learn that the noise-maker was the eminent pianist Hans von Bulow.

African-American author Maya Angelou once traveled to Keta, Ghana, where she discovered a woman who strongly resembled her grandmother. Hundreds of years ago, slavers had come to Keta, where they had captured everyone except for some children who had run away. After the slavers left, the citizens of a nearby village cared for the now parentless children until they were grown up enough to rebuild Keta. Ms. Angelou strongly resembles the people now living in Keta, and they think that she must be a descendant of the Keta people who were kidnapped and taken into slavery many years ago.

After soprano Marjorie Lawrence appeared as Brünnhilde in St. Louis, Missouri, she left the theater in full costume and makeup because her train was scheduled to leave quickly. Unfortunately, even though she left the theater and went to the train station right away, the train pulled out just as she reached the station. Therefore, she was driven to the next train stop, where—still wearing her Brünnhilde makeup and costume—she boarded the wrong car. Walking through several cars until she reached her car, she startled the passengers, and one person called out, “It must be a holdup!”

Meindert DeJong was born in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands, and he had the blond hair of his countrymen. During World War II, having moved to America, he joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in the Chungking area of China. There, his blond hair fascinated the Chinese. Many wanted to touch it—but some women were so frightened by it that they ran away from him. Later, Mr. DeJong became the renowned author of such children’s books as The House of the Sixty Fathers, a story about a Chinese boy struggling to survive in wartime.

Other people had built steamboats before Robert Fulton, but Mr. Fulton showed that steamboats could be profitable modes of transportation. In 1810, Mr. Fulton had three steamboats carrying passengers and cargo in the Hudson and Raritan rivers. He had designed the steamboats so that they were double-ended. Because of this, they did not need to turn around in order to go back in the direction from which they came—the engine of a steamboat could make it go in either direction.

While Paul Zindel, the author of such young adult novels as The Pigman, was researching a book in England, he asked people everywhere he went, “Did anything unusual ever happen here?” People at the Haunch of Venison, a 16th-century inn, replied, “Yes. We were doing renovations four years ago, and we found a severed hand in the wall.” The inn’s proprietors display the severed hand, now mummified, under glass at the bar.

When the New York Yankees were playing in Chicago, the game was tied in extra innings and Yankee traveling secretary Mark Roth worried about whether the game would end in time for the team to catch the train. Babe Ruth heard Mr. Roth expressing his worries, and he told him, “Don’t worry, Mark. We’ll make that train. I’ll fix that.” Going up to bat a few minutes later, Babe hit a game-winning home run. The Yankees caught the train.

As the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling frequently travels from book signing to book signing. However, often she is too busy signing her autograph and meeting with her fans to see the sights in some of the places she visits. During a trip to Seattle, her six-year-old daughter, Jessica, was gleeful because she was able to go up in the Space Needle and her mother couldn’t because she was too busy.

Gustave Charpentier, French composer of the opera Julien, was invited to attend a performance of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Charpentier wanted to go, so in preparation for the sea voyage, he sailed in a boat for 15 minutes on the Seine. This short boat ride made him ill, and he declined the invitation to go to New York, having resolved to spend the rest of his life on land.

Opera singers sometimes have very tight travel schedules. On her way to London to perform, soprano Eva Turner stopped at Las Palmas to sing the part of Leonora in Trovatore. Her ship sailed just a half-hour after the final curtain, so her fellow travelers were treated to the sight of Ms. Turner in full costume climbing up a ladder to get on board.

After a worldwide tour in which she spent 150 days at sea and visited in Australia, the United States, and the Orient, Emma Calvé experienced eye trouble and went to see a doctor. He told her, “What do you expect? Of course your eyes are tired! You have seen more in the last few months than I have seen in all my seventy years!”

Johanna Hurwitz, author of Busybody Nora, usually writes in her study, although while travelling, she occasionally writes elsewhere. During an airplane trip, a flight attendant asked her if she wanted a beverage. Ms. Hurwitz looked up from her writing and wondered, “What is this lady doing in my study?”

Charlie Chaplin came to the United States as a member of a traveling comedy company: the Fred Karno Pantomime Troupe. As the boat sailed into the harbor, Mr. Chaplin stood up and proclaimed, “America, I am going to conquer you!” He did.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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