David Bruce: Gifts Anecdotes

The husband of Jodi R. Scott wanted to get his license to be a principal so he went back to school. This meant that he had to quit his job as a teacher and move to an apartment close to the school he would be attending. It also meant that he would be two hours away from his wife, Jodi, and their two daughters: Delcina (age 6) and Heather (age 3). As you would expect, this put stress on Jodi, as both she and their daughters missed him. Jodi’s mother-in-law (Jo) and sister-in-law (Annie) knew that Jodi would be under stress so they sent her a we-care package. Jodi writes that the package was “full of little things to help me cope. Each item had a cute note attached. Example: One book with the note ‘to escape reality,’ and another worn book with ‘this one has seen its share of stress,’ body scrub ‘to scrub away the blues,’ and many more. Enclosed was a little card saying they loved me and were thinking of me. I cried when I opened it. It was a gift from the heart, and it made all the difference in the world to know that they understood and were supportive.”

Ronald Searle created cartoons for Punch and other media. As a boy, Gerald Scarfe, who also became a cartoonist, idolized him. Young Gerald found out where Mr. Searle lived, and he rode his bike there to visit him. Unfortunately, he was too shy to actually ring the bell and so he did not then meet the great man. Fortunately, as a married man, Mr. Scarfe was able to meet him. Mr. Scarfe explains, “A few years later, my wife, Jane Asher, organized a secret meal for my birthday at this exclusive restaurant in Provence. When we walked in, the only other people there were Ronald and his wife. It turned out they had lived in this town for years. A beautiful little package sat on the table, all done up with ribbon. I said, ‘Oh, is this for me?’ And Ronald said, ‘Yeah, it’s nothing.’ So I opened it, and there was a brass doorbell with a note saying, ‘Please ring any time.’”

On 18 September 2012, Denise Campbell was riding a Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Transit bus when she witnessed a remarkable good deed. At the corner of Portage and Main, the bus driver pulled over and jumped off the bus to talk to a homeless man, but the bus driver did more than that: The homeless man had no shoes, and the bus driver took off his shoes and gave them to the homeless man. Ms. Campbell wrote, “The bus was dead silent. I think we were all stunned and speechless. As we proceeded to our next stop, one of the passengers got up and said to the driver, that was the most amazing thing she had ever seen; and then she asked him, why did he do that? The bus driver answered because he couldn’t stand the thought of that poor man walking without shoes. Wow! No judgement; it was just, ‘Here, buddy, you need these more than I do.’”

Ed McMahon hosted Star Search for a long time. Occasionally, the contestants were children, and he worried about disappointing them. Once, the two finalists were 12-year-old Mary Johnson and five-year-old Allison Porter. Mr. McMahon did not know who the judges would pick to win, but he worried that young Allison might lose. He said to the show’s producers, “This is just awful. You’ve got to give me something to give to the five-year-old if she doesn’t win. Get me a big stuffed animal or something. The 12-year-old won, and Mr. McMahon said, “Mary gets the one hundred thousand dollars!” Then he said to Allison, “Look what we have for you!” Allison got a big stuffed panda that was almost as big as she was—she was thrilled and Ed was relieved.

Herr von Mendelssohn was both a nephew of the great composer and a rich man. Opera singer Nellie Melba once dined at his house and then sang. To thank her, Herr von Mendelssohn sent her a gift: a large, exquisite pearl that nested in a white satin box. In Paris, Ms. Melba took the pearl to a jeweler to have it set. The jeweler was impressed by the pearl and asked where she had acquired it, saying, “I am certain of one thing, however—it has not been on the market for years, or we should have known of its existence.” Ms. Melba wrote Herr von Mendelssohn, who wrote back, “The pearl belonged to my mother. You must not thank me so much. I wished you to have something that belonged to her.”

Walt Disney was a kind man, and he was generous to his children and nephews and nieces and the children of friends, and all of these children received a steady stream of toys. Frequently, they made short trips with the goal of eating ice cream. His niece, Margaret, said, “Aunt Lilly [Mrs. Walt Disney] made me clothes for my dolls, and Uncle Walt gave me skates and scooters.” When Margaret got married, Uncle Walt paid for the wedding and for a trip to Europe. When Dorothy, his niece, was ready for her first prom, Uncle Walt bought her dress. And he sent one of Lilly’s nephews, Bill Papineau, through college.

In 1969, when opera singer Beverly Sills made her debut at La Scala in Milan, Italy, she and her daughter, Muffy, stayed in a hotel on a street that was famous for its flashily dressed prostitutes, all of whom carried large handbags. Muffy was very impressed with the glamour of the prostitutes, and she asked her mother, “Mama, how do you say ‘beautiful’ in Italian?” Ms. Sills answered, “Bella, bella.” The next evening Muffy went over to a prostitute and told her, “Bella, bella.” The prostitute was so pleased that she reached into her handbag and pulled out a gift for Muffy: a piece of chocolate.

When Count Basie’s band and Benny Goodman’s band were playing in New York City at the same time, musicians of the bands got together informally to play.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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