People in Passing

It occurs to me that I have not done a rundown of celebrity volunteers for a while. Since I hate to miss an opportunity to run down the Newberry’s volunteer staff, I think I will pass along some more info about the people you may have encountered during the Book Fair. And, anyway, a few people have been echoing that line from the Vicar of Dibley, in which one of the characters is told, “You should write down those stories of yours, Frank. Instead of telling them to us. All the damn time.”

So here are some things you did not know about the people you passed on your way to find a nice paperback edition of that book on waging war against toenail fungus.

One of our volunteers is the niece of one of the chief contractors who built Soldier Field. (And wishes she had inherited his money instead of his good looks.)

A volunteer was once asked if he’d care to be shortlisted for the Newberry’s Board of Trustees and said no. (He was going through a difficult stretch in his career, as he tried to decide whether to change from being a Book Fair volunteer to being a lottery millionaire.)

One of our volunteers did some volunteer work in the archives of Graceland Cemetery and swore he saw the record which showed Walter Newberry was buried in a cask. (Uncle Blogsy does not take sides in such deep matters, but wishes to note that this volunteer was also a docent noted for giving the most imaginative tours of the Newberry.)

A Book Fair volunteer once borrowed a book of poetry to get Gwendolyn Brooks to sign the page with one of her poems on it. This way, he said, we could sell what was basically just a one dollar book for much much more. When she inscribed the page personally to the volunteer, he came back and bought the book. Ya, you betcha: he paid one dollar.

Another of our volunteers recently dropped by the Smithsonian to see a photograph of herself on display. She still has the original, which is slated to be given to the Library of Congress.

One of our volunteers counts his celebrity encounters: he was glared at by Jane Byrne in a grocery check-out line, punched in the arm by Senator Paul Simon while waiting for a cab, and had Walter Jacobsen’s eyebrows raised at him once in passing in a corridor. Anybody, he says, can collect mere autographs.

A Book Fair volunteer has the ashes of every dog and cat she ever owned on her mantelpiece; they are to go with her when she goes. (Or, she has explained, if they’re going to some separate Heaven, she’s going to sneak in with them.)

As far as I know, another of our volunteers is still planning to have her ashes tossed into Lake Michigan as a ragtime band plays. It is not the purpose of this column to suggest disposal methods, but surely we have someone among the volunteer corps (note the lack of an e on that, please) who would like to make use of a cask of rum, just for a mention in our 150th anniversary book.

I’d volunteer to do that myself, but I’m already kind of committed to a banana box.

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