Dr. Seuss Facts
I was looking through an old journal today and stumbled across some notes I had taken from a book I read a couple of years ago called, “The Man Who Was Dr. Seuss. The Life and Work of Theodor Geisel,” by Thomas Fensch.
1. He was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
2. His mother’s maiden name (pronounced in the German style “Zoice”) was years later corrupted to rhyme with juice.
3. His parents were Theodor Robert, Jr. and Henrietta Seuss Geisel.
4. Geisel is pronounced GUY-sell
5. He had a sister named Marnie who died when he was three, at eighteen months of pneumonia.
6. His grandfather (also Theodor Geisel) and a man named Christian Kalmbach bought a small brewery in 1876. They
named it “Kalmbach and Geisel.” As it became well known, it was called “Come Back and Guzzle.”
7. Theodor (Dr. Seuss’) father worked in his dad’s brewery for 35 years. In 1920 when he became president of the company, the Volstead Act became law and the Geisel brewery became illegal.
8. In 1931 Dr. Seuss’ father became the park superintendent for 30 years at the Springfield Zoo. They lived so close to the zoo when he was young that he could hear the animals at night. He went to the zoo frequently to draw the animals, but he said over the years that he sharpened his skill at making the animals he drew awkward, misshapen and bizarre. He didn’t think he could draw animals well, so he purposely made them look quirky.
9. In 1915 when the Lusitania was torpedoed, anti-German sentiment grew. In 1917 America went to war with Germany and German-Americans faced a hard time maintaining a normal life. Theodor suddenly became the neighborhood boy to be picked on.
10. He started high school in 1917. He took an art class until one day when he was having difficulty drawing a milk bottle, he turned his drawing board around to work on it upside down. His teacher said, “No Theodor. Not upside down! There are rules that every artist must abide by. You will never succeed if you break them.” Ted (as everyone called him then) transferred out of the art class that day.
11. The Methodist Church sponsored his Boy Scout Troop, number 13, in a War Bonds drive. So he went from house to house selling war bonds. His grandfather bought $1000 worth of bonds, and Ted became one of the top 10 scouts in sales.
12. In early May, 1918, former President Theodore Roosevelt awarded the scouts one-by-one on the stage of the Municipal Auditorium. But Ted was last, and the President had run out of awards, but instead of pointing this out as a mistake, he asked the adult scout officials loudly, “What’s this boy doing here?” Ted was hustled off the stage, humiliated and mortified, and no award was presented to him. He was so deeply affected by this incident that he developed a phobia up in front of people. (I’m not sure I have that quoted perfectly, but you get the gist. No plagerism going on here!)
Isn’t it amazing how experiences like that can affect children? I’ve had a few things like that happen to me in my life. Humiliation is bad enough without it being public. Fortunately, Dr. Seuss did become a great success and left us with some of the most awesome books for children that I’ve ever read. I taught my children how to read with a few of them (the ones without the crazy names for all his crazy shaped “animals”.) They love them to this day! And if I’m ever fortunate enough to have grandchildren, they will hear them all, too.
Don’t let past experiences stop you from going for your dreams! Reach for the stars and let your gifts shine for others to see!!