In lieu of another update, I provide for you these excerpts from my fantastic treasure, "The Reader's Digest Treasury of Wit and Humor." I was given this book as a present from my retiring grade 6 teacher for helping her clean out her classroom. Published in 1958, it is a compendium, presumably, of amusing stories, quotes, and jokes submitted to old Reader's Digest magazines. This tome provides a nostalgic look into mid-century American life, the references spanning from, I speculate, the thirties to the publishing date. Sources range from ordinary citizens to the wits of the day. I'll probably add more as time goes on, but enjoy these samples to begin.
I first glimpsed the glories of TV's commercials during a hymn of praise to cigarette lighters. The announcer changed a hypnotic ritual, holding the lighter of destiny before me in his hand. He turned confident eyes upon me. "Flick," he intoned, "and it's lit." He pressed the lighter and continued to look at me for a sublime second, then glanced sidelong at the lighter. It was unlit. Flick, flick, flick, he pressed madly on the lever. When the lighter recovered, his magic was gone and I was prostrate with laughter.
Two nights later a cream-voiced announcer beamed at me from a Washington station. "Deep-down smoking enjoyment with never a scratch of the throat," he sang. He inhaled deeply on a cigarette and exhaled. "Never an irritation," he said - then broke into an apoplectic cough. The camera, its operator probably frozen with fright, remained steadfastly upon him while he struggled and choked.
The blight also touched a hawker of beer, one of those whose duty it is to hold a beaded glass of the brew close to his lips, grinning lustfully as he eyes its goodness. I knew the routine. He would sigh at his beer and the camera would switch for an instant, to return as he held the empty glass before him, still sighing in ecstasy while the announcer sang of malten glories. But this time the camera did not switch. The drinker held his smile a moment, then turned and sloshed the beer into a pail at his side.
So long as we can actually see the participants at their work, we shall now and again catch them in a moment of frustration. And that is the interlude that refreshes in life as lived on the air waves.
-Evangeline Davis in The Atlantic Monthly
The late Queen Mary visited a hospital ward one day and paused for a moment at the bed of a little girl. She asked the child where she lived and the child said in Battersea, a poor district in London. "Where do you live?" the girl asked, unaware of the rank of her visitor.
"Oh, just behind Gorringe's Department Store," Queen Mary replied.
-New York Herald Tribune
A man whose business occasionally takes him to Maine reports that at the end of his last trip he went into a small railroad station to get a train back home. "Is the New York train on time?" he asked the ticket agent.
"Yep," said the agent.
The man waited. Ten minutes passed . . . 15 minutes . . . half an hour. Finally the train pulled in a full hour late. "I thought you told me the train was on time," he said accusingly.
"Son," said the ticket agent, "I ain't paid to sit here and knock the railroad."
-Jack Sterling Show, CBS
June means weddings in everyone's lexicon,
Weddings in Swedish, weddings in Mexican.
Breezes play Mendelssohn, treeses play Youmans,
Birds wed birds and humans wed humans.
All year long the gentlemen woo,
But the ladies dream of a June "I do."
Ladies grow loony, and gentlemen loonier;
This year's June is next year's Junior.
-Ogden Nash in Cosmopolitan
A gentleman with an unwieldy box of flowers under his arm was about to board a Madison Avenue bus one day when Mignon Eberhart, the mystery writer, hailed him. She was sure she recognized him, but for the life of her couldn't recall his name. He looked equally puzzled, but let the bus go by and shook her hand warmly. There followed one of those animated, supercordial exchanges of amenities that always feature the meeting of two people who aren't sure of each other's identity. Finally the gentleman said, "It's been fine seeing you again, but I really must run."
Just as he stepped on the bus Miss Eberhart remembered, in a frightening flash, one, why his face was familiar, and two, that she never had met him in her life. It was ex-President Hoover.
-Bennett Cerf, Shake Well Before Using (Simon and Schuster)
Detroit, Spare That Wheel!
By Ogden Nash
They who make automobiles,
They hate wheels.
They look on wheels as limbs were looked on by Victorian aunts,
They conceal them in skirts and pants.
Wheels are as hard to descry as bluebirds in lower Slobovia,
The only way you can see a wheel complete nowadays is to look
up at it while it is running ovia.
They who make automobiles,
They are ashamed of wheels,
Their minds are on higher things,
Their minds are on wings.
The concept of earthly vision is one that their designers stray
Currently, a successful parking operation is one that you can
walk away from.
Unremittingly the manufacturers strive
To provide point-heads with cars that will do a hundred and
twenty miles an hour where the speed limit is fifty-five.
The station wagon that shuttles the children between home and
school is hopelessly kaput
Unless two hundred and thirty horses are tugging at the acceler-
ator under Mummy's foot.
I don't like wings, I like wheels;
I like automobiles.
I don't want to ride to the station or the office in jet-propelled
All I want is a windshield wiper that really wipes the windshield,
and some simple method of putting on chains.
-You Can't Get There from Here, ©1957 by Ogden Nash (Little, Brown)