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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Happy Campers at Sea…
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 • Posted July 16, 2008

Musical humorist Allan Sherman, gag writer for several of America’s top comedians, died too young at age 48 and was beyond clever. For a couple of decades, his name was associated with many things funny.

He’s been gone for 35 years, but many of his musical spoofs remain lodged in memories of folks who’ve lived long enough to remember three-cent stamps, rotary phones and single-edge razor blades. One is Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.

It just may be that his spoof heightened interest in summer camps for children. Had he hung around longer, and had cruise ships offered planned activities for kids a few years earlier, Sherman might have turned out even more musical parodies….

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Sherman’s name came to mind last month as my wife and I sailed on Carnival Cruise Line’s Miracle on an eight-day pilgrimage to three ports in the eastern Caribbean. Right after safety drills, we saw several sets of parents and grandparents parting company with youngsters who’d rather spend time with others their age at Camp Carnival.

Activities, projects and contests for the youngsters number into multiple dozens, and they’re conducted by professional personnel.

Supervised programs for kids as young as two are offered. Some of the older children joke with their elders that they’ll see them when the cruise is over, and they’re “semi-serious.” Parents try to act sad, but smiles break out as they think of a week or so without being chained to children….

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It’s fun to see a growing number of children on summer cruises. Cruise ships, after all, are melting pots of nationalities, so why not ages, too?

I’m noting more family groups on cruises. This is most evident at mealtime, when some tables are reserved for 30-40 relatives. Sometimes they wear matching T-shirts with funny messages.

And several times I’ve heard grandparents bragging that they’ve got the whole family “trapped” without mentioning that they’re also picking up the tab….

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But wait. My initial intent a few paragraphs ago was to focus on funny things kids say and do.

It is rarely a mistake to watch and listen.

One day, a dozen or so cruisers, maybe eight years of age, took a trivia contest seriously….

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One question was viewed as a slam dunk by all of the youngsters—except the one to whom it was directed.

Brow furrowed and voice shaking, he responded in classic fashion.

“I’m having a junior moment,” he confessed….

  • * * * *

We are amused by others at times we least expect.

The same is true for moments of sheer inspiration. One day, we saw a large group of adults gathering on deck to participate in a Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure. Actually, most Carnival vessels participate in the program that has raised almost a half-million dollars in the past year. Actually, they call it On Deck for the Cure, and come November it will also be featured on the 113,300-ton Splendor, Carnival’s newest ship. So far, more than 50,000 persons dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research have signed up for the one-mile deck walks.

I learned that one of the older runners was a 77-year-old cancer survivor. And that the cruise was a present she bought for herself to mark an important milestone. Back in May, she crossed the stage to receive her college diploma. A lifelong dream has been to complete requirements for a baccalaureate degree—the pilgrimage she began as a freshman six decades ago….

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Amazement was underscored again as we noted the efficiency of 920 crew members. They hail from 51 countries.

Theirs is a strong work ethic, and their commitment to tasks, ready smiles and eagerness to please make it easy to deal with a multitude of accents rarely heard by this Texan’s ears.

They know that their jobs on the cruise ship are their “tickets out” of poverty in their native lands, even though they are typically on assignment for six-month contracts….

  • * * * *

The ship, with a capacity of 2,600 guests on board, glided back toward NYC eight days after we boarded. We disembarked feeling totally pampered. Memories of grand food (the supper club was the best ever), wonderful entertainment and a cadre of new friends remain.

We also remember children at play, families celebrating and a 77-year-old cancer survivor determined to finish college.

Finally, we had to chuckle upon hearing some esoteric quotations by graduate students engaged in spirited competition. “To do is to be,” one scholar quoted Socrates. “To be is to do,” a second attributed to Sartre. In the audience, a youngster piped up, “Do be do be do,” crediting Sinatra. Yeah, I think it was the eight-year-old kid who had a “junior” moment. I’m guessing Sherman could have penned several funny verses about this happy camper….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send emails to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com

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