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Thurber Connection
written by Gazette Publisher Tom Thomson
September/October 2017

Rosemary Thurber born

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By the end of 1931, the United States was suffering the full effects of the Great Depression. Millions of people were unemployed and World War I veterans were selling apples on street corners. People were working for 25 cents an hour, or less, if they were lucky enough to have a job. Hundreds of banks closed down. It was scary.

Everything was dirt cheap. You could buy a hamburger for a nickel, a quart of milk for 8 cents, and purchase a house for a couple of thousand, or less. The problem was hardly anybody had any money.

Herbert Hoover was president, Prohibition was still the law of the land, Wiley Post and Harold Gatty flew around the world in 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes.

And, James Thurber was sitting on top of the world.

He was working full time at the New Yorker, his quirky little drawings of domineering women, downtrodden men, and funky looking little animals now appearing in its pages regularly – and his second book, The Owl in the Attic, was published less than two years after the first.

And, surprise of surprises! Althea, his once estranged wife, had just presented him with a daughter. How could he have not been happy? Hadn’t he just fulfilled
at least three of the major components of immortality?

Which three are those? – you might ask. Well, if you don’t know, I'll tell you.
One is creativity in art. Another is creativity in literature. And, the third is biological reproduction. Some would argue that this is the most important of the three, but that is debatable and best left for each to decide for himself, or herself.

Being a good person would be still another door to immortality, but Thurber might have been on shaky ground in that regard. In the final analysis it would depend on whom you talked to. He could be a real hell-raiser when he was drinking, and there are many eye-witness accounts of some of his shenanigans.

Let me be quick to point out that there are other pathways to what we perceive as immortality. Finding them depends on where you are coming from and what you perceive as the truth. All of this can be a touchy subject, and that’s enough said!

In Thurber’s case, he deserved a lot of extra credit because of the huge handicap laid upon him by the loss of one eye and the unreliability of the remaining one.

One eye gone and the other one on the blink, you might say.

As anyone who has had eye problems can tell you, the quality of their vision can change from one day to the next. What was worse, every now and then, seemingly for no reason at all, Thurber’s remaining eye would just shut down, quit functioning, go blotto – leaving him totally unnerved. This happened one day at the office when he was talking to a co-worker and it scared him half to death.

So you see, even though he was sitting on top of the world, it was a wobbly world, much like the one portrayed in many of his drawings. Who would expect it to be otherwise? Like in that old song, “raindrops keep falling on my head.” True for all of us, at various times.
Now, I suppose you want to know all about how this baby came to be born.

Most of Thurber’s friends doped it out this way. Althea, they figured, had gotten wind of Thurber running around on her. Especially with cute little Paula Trueman, a winsome lass he had long had the hots for.

One day, on one of his visits to Connecticut, she probably looked at her husband with adoring eyes and whispered, “Let’s give it another go. I’ll move in with you.”

The chronology of events is a bit murky, as they often are in such cases, and you can almost imagine some of these scenes being portrayed in his own cartoons.

Like her informing him that she was pregnant. “You’re what?!” he might well have responded.

“I’m with child,” she undoubtedly said. “Your child.” Whatever, hadn’t she given up her dearly loved dog shows just so she could move in with her husband?!

Thus it was that when the allotted time expired, the couple were blessed with a bouncing baby girl: Enter Rosemary Thurber, born October 7, 1931. A bright spot in the midst of gloomy times.

The only child he would ever have – that we know of.

To be continued

Reprinted from the May 2005 issue.

©2017 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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