My folks had vivid memories of the Great Depres-sion. They were there. Dad related hundreds of times — always with a chuckle and without a hint of lamentation — that he had a dollar-a-day job when I was born in 1937. Maybe this helps to explain why I was “home delivered,” with old Doc McDaniel pocketing $25 for bringing me into the world.
Those years, followed by the bleak days of World War II, were made more bearable by jokes, funny stories and limericks. They were passed along by word of mouth, brightening dark days.
My dad was front and center in the parade of people dedicated to making others laugh. When we went to town, or when folks visited, a typical opening remark was: “Heard any good ones lately?”
Almost always, Dad had a new yarn that he was happy to relate for all within hearing distance. One was a story of two men who had amazing driving records over a 40-year period. They were “team drivers” for a large trucking company, one driving while the other slept. They were honored at a retirement dinner for setting a company record: driving three million accident-free miles.
The president droned on and on about their spotless record before handing them gold watches. “These guys were invincible,” he added.
He asked if anyone in the audience would like to pose a hypothetical traffic situation that these guys — call ‘em Hank and Boudreaux — couldn’t handle…
A young trucker in the audience approached the microphone, directing his question to Bou-dreaux.
“It’s a cold, dreary night,” he said. “Rain and sleet are pelting the windshield. Driving down a steep hill approaching a one-way bridge below, you see another truck coming down the opposite hill.
“It is obvious that you’re going to reach the bridge at exactly the same time. You apply brakes to allow the other to cross the bridge first, but they fail. You blink your lights to alert the other trucker. He tries to brake, but his brakes are out, too. Both trucks are gaining speed for an inevitable grill-to-grill meeting on the bridge. What would you do?”
“That’s so easy,” Boudreaux answered, “I’d wake up Hank.”
“What good would that do?” questioned the young trucker.
“Oh, it wouldn’t do no good,” Boudreaux answered, “But Hank ain’t never seen no really big wreck before!” And laughing abounded…
There still are ever-present day-brighteners, even in the newspaper you are reading. Some of them are head-cocking dillies!
Some may contain typos. Others are simply far-out stories, and a few fall into the category of creative genius written to inflate the balloon of notoriety.
Allow me to mention a couple appearing in my newspaper this very morning…
One was about a one-room hotel placed atop a Paris museum offering a grand view of the Eiffel Tower. The other was Lynne Cheney’s claim that her husband (Vice President Dick Cheney) and democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama are eighth cousins.
The latter shouldn’t shock. Genealogists have contended for years that almost half of all Americans are no less related than eighth cousins. So what?
I am more intrigued by the hotel story, “dressed up,” of course, to generate visitors to Paris. The plush room was conceived for Expo 2002, and is, uh, somewhat portable. Just keep trucks and cranes handy, as well as $700 American dollars weekdays and $900 weekends. Bookings, limited to one night, are made on line at www.everland.ch, and guests must make room presentable for museum visitors touring the premises during the day. Check the site out for great pics, even if you don’t book the room…
This reminds me of the old, old story of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Italian leaders were worried as tourism waned. They complained to the Minister of Tourism that in London, tourists continued to flock in record numbers to see the massive Clock Tower.
In a stroke of genius, the tourism leader had a clock installed on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and tourist numbers shot upward. He reasoned that with the addition of the clock, visitors not only had the inclination, they also had the time.
I dunno. But the old ones are hard to beat. We so need to laugh, or maybe hear a new poem or limerick. “Never hurts to laugh or be rhymed up a bit,” my dad always said. They called him an “equal opportunity story teller.” He’d laugh equally hard at stories, whether he was tellin’ or listenin’…
Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to email@example.com His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.