David Bruce: Money Anecdotes

• During World War II, almost every weekend Walt Disney would take his children to an amusement park or some other entertainment. His younger daughter, Sharon, remembers, “There was a brass ring on the merry-go-round at Griffith Park, and you’d lean out as far as you could. If you got the brass ring, you got a free ride.” On one memorable, magical day, Sharon grabbed the brass ring over and over. She says, “I suspected something was wrong. I found out later that dad had bribed the kid who ran the ride to let me get it.” Walt was a kind man in many ways. An employee — an artist — fell ill and was unable to report to work for almost six months. Walt kept sending his paycheck to the artist’s home. His brother Roy was also generous. In Walt’s early days, before he became a major success and instead was struggling financially, Roy sensed that he needed monetary help. He sent Walt a blank check and a note, “Kid, I haven’t heard from you, but I just have a suspicion that you could use a little money. I am enclosing a check. Fill it in with any amount up to thirty dollars.” Walt filled it out for $30, which was quite a lot of money back in the early 1920s. In his early, struggling days, Walt once was close to closing a deal to do an educational film for a dentist for $500, but he was unable to meet him to close the deal. When the dentist asked Walt why they couldn’t meet right away, Walt replied, “I haven’t any shoes.” He had had them repaired at a shoemaker’s shop, but he couldn’t pick them up until he had the money to pay his bill. The dentist paid for the repair to Walt’s shoes, had the shoes delivered to Walt, and then the two men met and closed the deal.

• Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes were Watching God, was her own original person. She once took a nickel from the cup of a blind beggar, promising to pay it back but saying that she really needed the fare for the subway. A man once propositioned her on the elevator. She hit him hard, he fell on the floor, and when the elevator door opened, she walked away without looking back. As a creative person, she often lacked money. One day she was thrown out of her one-room house for non-payment of rent. She had a little money, but she decided to use it to buy new shoes because her old shoes resembled scraps. While she was in the shoe store, she received a telegram offering her a $200 advance for a book. She ran out of the shoe store wearing one old shoe and one new shoe in her hurry to get to a Western Union office and send a telegram accepting the offer.

• When Fred Smith was an undergraduate at Yale University, he wrote a paper for an economics class that proposed the overnight delivery service that became FedEx. The overnight delivery service would have its own planes, depots, posting stations, and delivery vans. His professor gave him a C and wrote, “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” Mr. Smith started the company anyway, and like many or most beginning companies, it ran into financial difficulties. At one point, FedEx had only $5,000 in its checking account, and it had to pay a $24,000 jet fuel bill. Mr. Smith took the $5,000, flew to Las Vegas, played blackjack, and won $27,000. In 2012, FedEx was worth approximately $28 billion and Mr. Smith was worth approximately $2 billion.

• Vencenzo Lombardi greatly admired the tenor Enrico Caruso and early in Mr. Caruso’s career told conductor Leopoldo Mugnone that soon the tenor would be making 1,000 lire a night. Mr. Mugnone disagreed: “Nonsense! When Enrico Caruso makes 1,000 lire a night, I’ll be the pope!” Soon afterward, Mr. Caruso was making 1,000 lire a night, and Mr. Lombardi sought Mr. Mugnone. When he found him, Mr. Lombardi pretended to kneel and kiss the conductor’s feet. Mr. Mugnone exclaimed, “What the h*ll!” Mr. Lombardi said to him, “Haven’t you heard? Caruso is making 1,000 lire a night. You’re the pope!”

• An organ grinder once played music from Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Sevilleunder the window of rival composer Fromental Halévy, who told him, “I will give you a Louis d’or if you go and play music from one of my operas under Rossini’s windows.” The organ grinder replied, “I cannot do that. Rossini has paid me two Louis d’or to play hismusic under yourwindows.” By the way, some of Mr. Rossini’s friends wanted to erect a statue of him. Told that the statue would cost approximately 20,000 liras, Mr. Rossini proposed, “Why don’t you give me 10,000 liras, and I will stand on the pedestal myself?”

• We should pay teachers a low wage. Let’s say $6 an hour. And let’s not pay them for preparation time. We’ll just pay for the hours they spend teaching. That would be perhaps five hours a day. So that will be $30 a day for each child in a teacher’s classroom. (After all, look at how much childcare costs these days!) Let’s say that teachers have 20 children in their classroom. That will be $600 a day. Teachers work only 180 days a year. That means that teachers who teach 20 children should make $108,000 a year. Sounds about right.

• Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury loved theater and produced several of his own plays. He did not make money doing this. When his wife was still alive, every few years he would say to her, “Is this the year we open the window and throw the money out?” She would ask, “You want to do another play?” After he replied, “Yeah,” she would say, “Open the window.” Mr. Bradbury says, “When I do a play, I throw the money out and it never comes back. And I don’t expect it to.”

• “Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” – Helen Gurley Brown

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce

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William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce

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Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:A Retelling in Prose

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