David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Husbands and Wives, Illness, Language

Husbands and Wives

• Two Quakers by the name of Rachel Kirk and Phillip Price got married. (Mr. Price was the 4th Superintendent of Westtown School.) Ms. Kirk was asked how she had ever consented to give up such a wonderful name as Kirk (which means “Church”). She replied, “Oh, I got a good Price for it.”

• Russian bass Feodor Chaliapine knew a military man named General Ernst, who sometimes quarreled with his wife. When the arguments grew especially heated, she would sit at the piano and play the Russian National Anthem, forcing the general to come to attention and stop quarreling.

• When Morrie Turner, creator of the comic strip Wee Pals, wanted to propose to his girlfriend, Letha, he carefully prepared the words he wanted to speak to her, but he was so nervous when the time came to propose that all he could say at first was, “Will you, will you, will you?”

• Many children’s book illustrators put their spouses and children in their artistic creations. Jane Dyer once put her husband in an illustration in which she gave him striped socks and fairy wings. He requested that she not put him in any more illustrations.

• French-American modern artist Marcel Duchamp enjoyed playing chess. In fact, on his honeymoon his wife got so annoyed at his chess playing that she glued all the chess pieces to the playing board. (They were divorced a few months later.)

• Daniel Keyes wrote much of “Flowers for Algernon” on his typewriter at night while his wife, Aurea, was sleeping in the same room. She got so used to his typing that when he stopped she would wake up and ask, “What’s the matter?”

Illness

• Kazuko came from a very traditional Japanese family, but she ended up getting a Fulbright scholarship and moving to New York City. Once, she returned home when both of her parents were ill and in the hospital. Being a dutiful daughter, she spent time with both parents. Because they were on different floors, she would spend time with one parent, then go to a different floor and spend time with the other parent. This, however, was something that the lady who shared a room with her mother did not know. This lady’s daughter was dutiful indeed, spending morning, afternoon, and evening with her. When Kazuko had to return to New York, this lady gave her a gift: a box of seaweed in a bag that had written on it traditional Japanese calligraphy. Kazuko thanked the lady for the gift, then carried it on board a train, where she fell asleep. When she woke up, she deciphered the calligraphy — and was horrified because it said, “Those who betray and do not take care of parents will be punished for not knowing the virtue of filial piety.” While Kazuko had been sleeping, other Japanese people on the train had been able to read the calligraphy and receive the clear message that she was a bad daughter!

• When Quaker humorist Tom Mullen went into a hospital to have his colon removed, he met a nurse who had undergone the same medical procedure and so was able to answer his questions and joke with him about the procedure. For example, with no colon, the patient must wear a bag into which the feces collect. Mr. Mullen asked what he should do if the bag broke, and the nurse replied, “Stand downwind.” The nurse also said that men have an advantage over women in undergoing this procedure: “Both men and women wear bags, but we women have to find shoes to match.”

Language

• Opera singer Helen Traubel was born in St. Louis, Missouri, at a time when the best opera singers were thought to come from Europe. In Seattle, a surprised woman told Ms. Traubel’s husband, “Why, your wife speaks almost perfect English! How long has she been in this country?” Ms. Traubel’s husband replied, “All her life, and if I told you how long that is, she would shoot me first and divorce me later.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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