Monday, June 10, 2013

"70 Most Unforgettable Characters" - Reader's Digest (1967)

The binder of this volume of short narratives was the only portion of the cover with any writing on it, hence the unusual, at least for me, display of the book cover above. This is a perfect book for vacations, or sitting around the airport waiting for a plane. Filled with 70 of the most wonderful, and unforgettable characters, just as it says on the cover, this book will inspire you as well as make you laugh out loud.

When I was a young boy I used to eagerly read the “My Most Unforgettable Person” story in every Reader’s Digest I came across. And, in those days, they were everywhere. I even remember reading them at my Grandmother Nana’s house. Barbershops, shoeshine parlors; you name the place and there was a Reader’s Digest in there somewhere. It might be an older issue- but they still had my favorite feature in them.

This book is the same as those old issues were. There is something; or should I say someone; in here for everybody. There are accounts of the obscure, such as elevator operators; and also the recollections of newspapermen, doctors, writers, and so much more between these plain looking covers.

Without going into detail about all of the 70 people represented here, I will give you a glimpse of my favorites. There is the account by Jackie Robinson and his admiration for Branch Rickey when he integrated major league baseball in the era of Jim Crow.

There is also the story of a delicatessen owner who becomes friends with a Supreme Court Justice, to the betterment of both men. Journalist H.L. Mencken is remembered by author H. Allen Smith; Cole Porter is fondly recalled by a friend who tells of the debilitating pain which the composer suffered for 35 years; all the while with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. On the way to the hospital after the initial accident which caused his lifelong pain, he finished the lyrics to “You’ll Never Know.”

Not only the famous are represented here; there are stories of Preachers, Nuns, and even working men and women who have made a difference in the lives of others. For instance, there is the story of Oddie Cox, an educator of the so-called “Negro Schools” in North Carolina during the days of Jim Crow. He had been the Principal of the Institution he ran, but only gets his teaching certificate 20 years after first enrolling; not because he didn’t attend; but because he took only courses which would benefit his students when he passed that knowledge onto them. The College Board awarded him a degree based on his accumulated knowledge, and the way in which he used that to better the lives of others.

The stories of a woman Chimney Sweep; helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky; and Pearl S. Buck’s account of an old Chinese Empress, all make this a wonderfully fulfilling read. There is literally something in here to satisfy anyone who might pick it up. Ma Pullen, of Pullen House fame in Alaska, is a great example.

And, as always with this type of book, you can pick it up and open to any chapter to begin, making it a perfect book for the beach, as well as the aforementioned airports. If the book is not available at your local library, then you can pick this one up on line for less than $5 bucks. Sue picked this one up in a basket full of books she bought last weekend at an auction. She bought the basket, but I’m reading the books.

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