David Bruce: Travel, War, Work

Travel

• Authors are — of course — very proud of publishing their first book. When physician Joseph K. Shija published his first book, which was about pediatric surgery, he flew home to Tanzania. When the customs official asked him if he had anything to declare, Dr. Shija raised his book in the air for everyone to see and declared that he had published his first book!

War

• When children’s mystery writer Joan Lowery Nixon was a teenager, World War II was raging, and one night while she was asleep the Coast Guard fired at what they thought was a Japanese submarine. The next day, her grandmother told her, “I stood here at our bedroom window and watched the bullets trace red lines across the sky. I was terrified. I didn’t know if we were being attacked or we were defending ourselves.” Ms. Nixon was disappointed at not being woken up because she had missed an exciting part of history, but her grandmother explained, “It was a school night. I wouldn’t wake you on a school night. You’re young. You need your sleep.”

• When Stan Berenstain (co-creator of the Berenstain Bears books with his wife, Jan) was a child, he knew that his left eye was much weaker than his right eye; however, he also knew that he was right-handed, so it made sense to him that he must also be right-eyed, and so he never told his parents about his weak left eye. By the time his weak eye was discovered in an eye examination, it was too late to correct the weakness in that eye. As an adult soldier in World War II, for a while he served with other soldiers who were blind or nearly blind in one eye. These soldiers were known informally as the “one-eyed battalion.”

• The creators and writers of M*A*S*H interviewed many, many Army physicians in order to get material for their show, and of course they learned much that they would not have thought up on their own. For example, sometimes in Korea it would be so cold that when a physician made an incision for an operation and steam would rise up from the opening of the patient’s body the physician would warm his hands in the steam. This fact was used in an episode in which a journalist interviewed the physicians and other people of M*A*S*H.

• The Hon. Hugh Fraser, the husband of Lady Antonia Fraser, author of The Weaker Vessel, was a soldier who parachuted into occupied Belgium. She once complimented him on his courage for doing that, but he replied that it would have taken much more courage for him to tell his sergeant that he wasn’t going to jump.

Work

• When he was a young man, Daniel Keyes, author of “Flowers for Algernon,” worked as a waiter for a luncheonette and ice cream parlor, which was owned by an eccentric man named Mr. Sohn. This eccentric man would do such things as take sugar dispensers, salt shakers, and ketchup bottles off the tables and hide them behind the counter — this was an over-reaction to an unfortunate day during which a practical joker had put salt in the sugar dispensers and sugar in the salt shakers. Mr. Sohn also was convinced that someone was stealing his flatware, so he would take the flatware and also hide it. Of course, customers expect such amenities as salt, sugar, ketchup, forks, spoons, and knives, so the waiters had a real problem. However, they figured out what they had to do to provide good service. They used to hide flatware in their pockets and wherever else they could put it, and they figured out ways to distract Mr. Sohn so that their confederates could liberate the sugar dispensers, salt shakers, and ketchup bottles.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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