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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 • Posted July 15, 2009

Remembering a Great One…

Column #324 for Release Saturday, July 11, 2009

It is a worthwhile activity in which folks of a certain age can and should engage, plucking warm, pleasant and smile-inducing withdrawals from their memory banks. They should be selective, leaving undisturbed the negative thoughts and deeds of yesteryear.

Such selectivity is nothing new. We routinely thump melons and lightly squeeze avocados. (Some even put the squeeze on the Charmin, despite Mr. Whipple’s chagrin.)

A memory shared by millions is that of Art Linkletter, an entertainment icon who celebrates his 97th birthday on July 17th….

  • * * * *

With two network shows (House Party and People Are Funny) running for 44 years on network radio and TV, Linkletter was to entertainment what Walter Cronkite was to network news and what Joe DiMaggio was to baseball.

The mere mention of his name twinkles our eyes and brightens our days. His gentle smile, sparkling eyes and patient nature made children want to crawl up into his lap. He was like a granddad to the kids; they trusted him. (Few freedoms trump the ones kids feel in saying whatever crosses their minds.)

Linkletter could easily have chosen a path of bitterness. He was abandoned at birth in Canada. He and Lois, his wife of 74 years, have lost three of their five children, only one of whom died of natural causes. Still, he chose life’s high roads….

  • * * * *

I met him once on a college campus some 20 years ago. He was fully “vimmed and vigored” with his trademark spirit and warm optimism.

Someone asked him how he’d choose to die, if the decision were left to him. “I love to snow ski,” he answered. “In life’s final seconds, I’d like to be whizzing down a snowy slope, hoping that my heart would stop somewhere between the time I’m airborne and before my skis hit the ground.”

The thought of him makes me yearn to engage more often in conversations with youngsters, mostly to listen. No matter the topic, kids, as he’s always noted, still “say the darndest things.” Too bad we can’t find his musings with youngsters on the airwaves today. However, we can dip into the bucket of verbiage some kids have offered here lately. We’ll give ‘em first names. If you choose, insert the names of youngsters you love. No doubt you’ll recall shenanigans they’ve pulled that make you smile….

  • * * * *

Ben, age 8, itches to go places, then runs around when he gets there. Hemmed in between his folks high in the bleachers at a recent rodeo, he wanted to dispose of the final two bites of a hot dog.

His mom pointed to a barrel 50 or so yards away. She watched him gliding over steps two at a time, then stand motionless for a time at the barrel. Then, he returned, his hot dog remnant in hand.

“I tried, Mom,” he said, “But I guess that barrel is just for hamburgers. The sign above it says, ‘No Dogs Allowed.’”

  • * * * *

Another “Ben” of the same age has vague understandings about both allergies and divorce. He does know that his dad is allergic to cats.

Awhile back, he asked if his dad might ever go live some place else.

“If you did,” he asserted, “We could get a cat.”…

  • * * * *

Brittin, age 5, told her mom about Bible school week. It was Thursday night, with one session to go. “We’ve learned a lot about Jesus, and how we can go to heaven if we do good things and love Him,” she volunteered.

“And where do you go if you do bad things?” her mother asked.

“I don’t have a clue, Mom,” she responded. “Maybe they’ll cover that tomorrow.”…

  • * * * *

The memory bank of El Paso’s Dr. John Uxer, a retired educator, is full of deposits from his 40-year career. In the early going, he was superintendent of schools in Jal, NM.

One day, he stopped by a first-grade classroom. The teacher said, “Children, our superintendent is visiting our class today.” They applauded as he scrunched down on one of the little chairs.

When the recess bell rang, one little girl asked, “How many years do you have to be superintendent before they let you be a teacher?”….

  • * * * *

Finally, when Micah was a pre-teen, he decided he wanted to be an optometrist.

“I have the right name for it,” he claimed. Oh, you’ll want to know his last name: “Seawright.”

With that, we wish the happiest of birthdays to Mr. Linkletter, and blessings to all the children of the world….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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