Thursday, July 23, 2009


An Irish couple in Mason City Iowa reared a family of 8 children right during the Great Depression. Decades later, after the parents were dead, the surviving children tried to figure out two things: a) how could they afford it? And
(b) how did they manage to conceive all those children with all those children around?

The answer to (a) was backbreaking work and strict frugality. But the children were stumped to answer (b).

Then they remembered an odd fact—poor as they were, the two oldest children (Agnes and John) were sent to a movie every Saturday afternoon (a nickel a ticket).
That’s how Billy and Margaret and Bernard and Clare and Anne and Bridget showed up.

Then the survivors talked to friends from Cedar Falls—also 6 siblings raised in the Depression. Sure enough, poor as they were, the two older children (Andy and Jerry) were always Funded for a Sunday movie—result ? the appearance of Alice and Don and Edward and Liz.

These parents enjoyed movies they never saw.

Friday, July 17, 2009


In 1972, I took my family to Ireland, planning to spend my whole Sabbatical year there. We didn’t; elsewhere I have explained why.

This tale is about our first day in Ireland. I foolishly took the whole year Sabbatical, on half of my miserable pay. In Chicago we heard of a couple who won
a prize of having their luggage conveyed to Ireland (!) They weren’t going, so they offeredThe luggage allowance to us. We grabbed it.

The only problem was that the luggage had to go to the West of Ireland,to the town of Limerick, near Shannon airport. My wife had relatives in Limerick who could help us get the luggage illicitly. There were several big bags, and a trunk, which we lived out of the whole year.

My family settled into a nice duplex in the suburb of Dublin.
(I found out later that several of them had diarrhea, with no toilet paper. Kindly neighbors looked out for them..) I took off at once for the train to Limerick. Arriving, I looked for the first cheapest accommodations I could find—a block from the train station.

The building was ancient and musty smelling. In the parlor there were two pictures: Jack Kennedy, with a full halo—and Bobby Kennedy(recently assassinated) with only the beginning of a halo. An interesting theology.

The hostess was a skinny old woman with a scarred face—either her husband beat her, or she fell down drunk. I slept ill that night, worried about bedbugs.
In the morning, I sat down for breakfast, but the awful smell made me flee (the only time in my life I haven’t eaten a meal I paid for.)

But the memorable part of my meeting the hostess was when she noticed I had
no luggage. She wanted to show that she once had strict standards,
but now couldn’t afford them./

“Are ye a DAIRTY man? Oh well, it doesn’t matter.”