Monday, August 16, 2021

Quote of the Day (Robert Benchley, Anticipating the Back-to-School Season)

"Although it hardly seems credible, it is almost time to begin packing the kiddies off to school again. Here they have been all summer, the rascals, tracking sand into the dining room, rolling Grandma about, and bringing in little playmates who have been exposed to mumps (when Daddy himself hasn't had mumps yet, and mumps for Daddy would be no fun), and in all kinds of ways cheering up the Old Manse to the point of bursting it asunder.”—American humorist and film actor Robert Benchley (1889-1945), “Ding-Dong, School Bells,” in Chips Off the Old Benchley (1949)

Benchley wrote this piece originally for Liberty Magazine in 1930. The back-to-school situation today is far more dire than it was then, but Benchley’s humor is so droll, so amiable that I couldn’t help including it here.

Besides, it’s not like darkness wasn’t present in Benchley’s time, too. Twelve years before publication of this article, the so-called “Spanish Flu” had wreaked damage worldwide, not unlike COVID-19 now. Several European nations, if they hadn’t yet fallen under the shadow of totalitarianism, were veering dangerously in this direction. And America itself was a year into a Great Depression from which it would not truly emerge for another decade.

So I hope you’ll chuckle when you read that first paragraph—either in recognition of past times (would that it was only mumps that we were exposed to now!) or from whatever reminders you can find of them in the present. Goodness knows, we can all use the laughs.

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