Prohibition and Andy Volstead’s Rapture

In Arthur C. Gulliver’s description of Lilliputian Drinking Laws, the ordinary reader will have no trouble spotting that the Lilliputian word ruquat, denoting a type of Lilliputian drinking vessel, is a near anagram for the English quart, having only the “u” doubled to keep one after the “q” while simultaneously permuting it.
The more astute anagrammer may also have spotted the fact that that most exhilarating and tongue-twisting Lilliputian liquor thgbainbut is an anagram for the more pronounceable American beverage bathtub gin.

Andrew Volstead

Andrew Volstead

Those acquainted with U.S. history between the end of World War I and the Depression may also have recognized that the name of the Lilliputian architect of their drinking laws, Randew Olvedts, is an anagram for Andrew Volstead, author of the Volstead Act, which was the enabling legislation for Prohibition.
As might be surmised from his raucous, Bizarro parody in the Lilliputian Drinking Laws, Joseph Cunningham was no fan of Prohibition. Much of his poetry that I have from the early 1930s consists of humorous anti-Prohibition verse. I will add selections of his verse to the new Poetry section on this site from time to time. The first selection, A Famous Prohibitionist Has a Bad Dream is a poem about Andrew Volstead.
In the poem, Dry Andy is surprised by the frosty reception he receives from St. Peter when he gets to the gates of Heaven. Instead of welcoming him for his saintliness, St. Peter tells him to go to Hell for his egotism. Needless to say, the poem does not end there. In the end, even such an egotistical sinner as Andy Volstead, is redeemed by a couple of mellow whiskeys.
I’ll drink to that!
The Flight of Souls, by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Wade Chapel, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

The Flight of Souls

Somehow this poem seems more than remotely topical today, May 22, 2011, a day when so many evangelicals are trying to rationalize their failure leave yesterday as they promised.
I was more than ready for them to leave.
Life on Earth might not be Heaven without the Rapchaists, but I’d be willing to try.
I think it would be a small, but significant, improvement.
But now, I suppose we will have to listen to them bemoaning the fact that they, like Dry Andy in the poem, did not get the luxury boxes in Heaven to which they thought they were entitled.
I suppose it would be too much to hope they could help out just a little down here.
They have the time now.
Blondie’s Rapture is still my favorite version.
Although maybe Dry Andy does look like a Man From Mars, eating bars, now that you mention it.

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Lilliputian Drinking Laws

After an incident with a Lilliputian drunk driver, I suspected Lilliputian attitudes toward drinking were different than our own. The banquet in observance of the eve of the national Lilliputian elections further confirmed my suspicions. The Donkgop, Medid Wherding, led off the festivities with a speech delivered in a strange, loud, booming voice.

“Fellow countrymen and women, citizens all, we are met here tonight to observe the great national elections which fall on the morrow,” began the high executive. “In observance of the national law and support of the national constitution, it is fitting that we open the ceremonies of the evening in drinking three ruquats of that most exhilarating liquor, thgbainbut; also it is highly appropriate that the honorable gentleman who drafted the noble law requiring the citizens of this land to drink at least four ruquats daily should, on such an occasion as this, offer the toast to which we may drink in unison. Ladies and gentlemen, the Honorable Randew Olvedts.”

As a puffy-eyed, cherry-beaked little fellow staggered to his feet, the air filled with a strange wailing whistle to the great volume of which everyone present contributed. At first, I thought this to be the Lilliputian equivalent of a “Bronx Cheer”, since it was difficult to see how those present could be sincere in showing respect to such an obviously dissolute and dissipated individual. In this I was mistaken. The peculiar wailing to which I have alluded was the approved method of applause employed in that country.

“Sfellow cshitizens, it is with great spleasure I ashk you to trink to the successh of our leader, the worth Donkgop Medish Wherdong, and to the continuance and further successh of the great guzzshel law. Lesh ush trink and pe merry for tomorrow we may go dry.”

Following suit of the weaving gentleman who offered the toast, every person present lifted a cup as large as half an egg shell and drained the contents thereof. These bowls were so large that all but the strongest of those people present employed both hands in lifting them to their lips. A glance from Nitpooperler Hirear, who occupied a place at the Donkgop’s table immediately before me, indicated clearly that I was expected to take part in the drinking of the toast. Fortunately for me, especially since the toast was not completed until everybody had drained three bowls, I was supplied with a Lilliputian bowl for this purpose, and not with one proportionate to my size. Even as it was, so strong was the liquor that my ears soon rang, and I felt somewhat dizzy. Lilliputians are certainly persons of no mean or trivial alcoholic capacity, else I do not see how any of them could remain conscious after such prodigious draughts. Banquet customs of Lilliput, though as boresome as our own, differ from them in several minor respects. For instance, it is the custom in that country to do all the speaking before the food is served, which has numerous advantages. Not only does the speaker gain in this order of things by reason of the fact that he has the ears of his listeners before they have become torpid with gluttony or stupefied with drink, but the listeners gain in that they know they at least have something to look forward to, in that they will eventually get something to eat, if only they have patience.

That night, several Lilliputian “hosts and hostesses” spent the night on the Night-Hawk. In the morning, as we sat down to breakfast, my guests enlightened be further on the matter of the Lilliputian drinking laws.

When I had lifted them all one at a time to the top of the mess table, where their breakfast awaited them, I seated myself and commenced to eat. For some reason incomprehensible to me, the others did not follow suit but sat ogling one another as though there was some deep current of distrust flowing among them. At length, Watwil broke the silence to ask the Admiral if the Night-Hawk lay outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Lilliputian nation, to which the Admiral replied in the negative, saying that it lay within that jurisdiction by several thousand scandunks.

“Then, perhaps, our guest would not mind moving his vessel beyond the twelve-quink limit,” suggested the Admiral’s wife.

Still not understanding what could be clouding the minds of my friends, I replied that I would be glad to move the ship, but for the fact that I had considerable difficulty in manning it alone, and that should I weigh anchor I ran considerable danger of not being able to anchor the Night-Hawk as advantageously as I then had her anchored, owing to the threefold difficulty of approaching the moving island, of catching anchor in undersea soil of that island, and of keeping the vessel from going aground.

“In that event,” Watwil haughtily asserted, “we must either return to the capital without having breakfasted here, or we must prevail upon our guest, Man Mountain Gulliver, to provide us with drink to the end that we may obey the law in letter as well as in spirit.”

I saw a gloomy shadow fall over the faces of all at this remark of Watwil as though a disagreeable truth had been uttered which would have left them happier had it not been said.

“Does your law require you to drink before breakfast?” I inquired.

“That it does,” answered Hirear, “and on election days two ruquats before breakfast.”

I could plainly see that Hirear and the Admiral were not elated over the prospect of having to drink so early in the morning, and I would have hazarded a guess that all of the others were of the same mind, but, being mutually distrustful, if not hypocritical, they were determined to make a brave outer show of observing the law, whether or no. Not wishing to have my friends leave, and wanting even less to violate again the Lilliputian law, I went at once to a cabinet where a bottle of spiritus frumenti was kept for medicinal purposes. Bringing this out along with an eye dropper, four thimbles, a small salt shaker, and a miniature night chamber that one of the crew had been given as a souvenir in some dive along the river front in New Orleans, I proceeded to serve drinks in a manner which, while not strictly in accord with all the more fastidious points of Lilliputian fashion did, nevertheless, accomplish the same ends, — namely — satisfy the law, salve self-opinion of those who would appear noble and law-abiding in the eyes of their neighbors, and get everybody including myself busting tipsy again.

After I too had satisfied the law by the insistent entreaties of my “hosts and hostesses” I lost a large measure of my contempt for the law. After all, I reasoned there was something to be said in support of such laws.

It was only a few minutes until aching heads and the petty unimportant things in life were forgotten. As we breakfasted, the Admiral, who thus far I had considered a stiff, unbending sort of gentleman, gave me a surprise with his levity and jocularity in telling a number of anecdotes, some of which concerned prominent Lilliputians and all of which had a distinct frankness about them that either Boccaccio or Chaucer would have been glad to own.

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The Springer Times, May 13, 1921

Details about the Sophomore class


On Friday, May 13, 1921, The Springer Times published their Springer High School Edition. It reads much like school newspapers everywhere, featuring articles on school sports, activities, and writings by the students. At the time, Joseph Cunningham was 16 years old and in the Sophomore class, which appears to have had just 12 students: 6 boys and 6 girls. Consequently, the newspaper features a lot more personal detail about individual students than I would have found in my high school newspaper.

In the clipping, Joe is listed as the Class President, and we are treated to a little bit of doggerel called The Sophomores, which devotes a verse to each member of the class and 4 girls who had left the class. I have not included the whole poem as it gets a little tedious. However, it does tell us that Joe is the second tallest boy in the class, next in stature only to Carl Shirley, and that:

In English he’s quite stubborn
But elsewhere he’s a lamb.

The paper also features a short story by my father entitled The Hunch, which I have included in the Stories section of this site. The first verse of the The Sophomores may contain an oblique reference to this story. This story, which is the earliest of my father’s writings that I know of, is interesting, not because it is a great work of literature, but because of the insight it gives into what the 16 year old Joseph Cunningham cared about.

Briefly, the story is about a young man, William Farley, Jr., just graduated from college with a degree in geology, who has been sent to New Mexico by his father in Wyoming to make a geological survey of some land had been offered for sale to determine whether it would be worthwhile to purchase it and drill for oil. However, in college, William Jr. “really didn’t attend to business and studies enough to become an expert geologist.” So, even though he really doesn’t have a clue as to whether or not the land might contain oil, he decides to play a “hunch” and recommend to his father that he buy the land and drill for oil. If he strikes oil, he will split the profits evenly with his father and be able to marry. Several months later, we find young William leading a drilling crew on the land, not striking oil, and facing “labor difficulties” when he is unable to pay his crew when his father cuts off his line of credit. The plot does not really get resolved, it just trails off into an epiphany of manliness.

What I find interesting about the story is not so much the plot, which I have rather cavalierly dismissed, but the descriptions.

The story opens with a rather florid description of the young man enjoying the beauty of the evening in the New Mexico countryside. I have no doubt that Joe was writing about what he knew here. He was a teen, raised on a ranch near Springer, who was describing the clouds, the golden sunsets, the views of the mountains, and the evening coolness after a hot day that he knew and loved. We are also introduced to young William’s longing to marry “the lady of his heart’s desire.” Certainly this is not an uncommon preoccupation for a16 year old.

A little later, we are introduced to William’s only friend nearby, an Airedale dog named “Bummer”. I’m sure Bummer is based on an Airedale named “Yellow Boy” that my father had when he was a boy and that he told me about many, many times. The stories of Yellow Boy that he told when I was young were of adventures, mainly Yellow Boy chasing badgers, skunks, or porcupines, with unfortunate and dramatic consequences. His descriptions of Bummer I’m sure are descriptions of Yellow Boy that he left out of his stories: how they had met, how he had a place in his heart, what he felt when he looked into his eyes, and how they understood each other. I don’t recall him ever telling me these things about Yellow Boy directly, although he may have, but the fact that he told me so many stories about him over forty years later is a pretty good indication that he felt he had a very special relationship with his dog.

When I was fairly young, I received a beautiful slip-cased, hardcover copy of Anna Sewell‘s Black Beauty, which I loved. I probably first struggled through it in the second-grade. I distinctly remember reading it for the second time when I was in the third grade. It deeply influenced my attitude towards animals then, objectifying them less, anthropomorphizing them more, but taking the lesson that they were thinking feeling beings who should be respected and treated with kindness. I embarked on reading a whole series of animal books, as is common for kids of that age: Walter Farley‘s Black Stallion books, Eric Knight‘s Lassie Come-Home, and many more. My father, undoubted noticing the trend, and possibly thinking of his relationship with Yellow Boy, bought me a copy of Margaret Marshall Saunders‘s novel Beautiful Joe as a birthday or Christmas gift sometime around when I was in the fourth grade. He might have chosen it thinking back to his relationship with Yellow Boy because Beautiful Joe was an Airedale-type dog, or simply because he was a dog. However, I have to confess that I never read the novel, even though I thought it was a wonderful gift and felt guilty about not reading it for years. The simple reason is that because Beautiful Joe is described as having been abused nearly to the point of death and having his ears and tail cut off, it simply seemed too painful to read. However, it still remains one of those books that I want to read. I’m fairly certain that I will find my preconceptions are probably wrong and I will find it much different than my 10 year old self imagined.

One of the other interesting points that I noted about The Hunch was related to a remark Joe once made to me when we were on a train leaving Los Angeles, headed north to visit his brother Burris’s family in Berkeley. We were passing through some rolling hills when he said that he was sure there was oil beneath those hills because of their dome shapes. He seemed curiously insistent on the point. I tended to disbelieve him about this point then, as I do now, for the simple reason that that area has been so extensively explored and drilled for oil for many decades that it seemed almost certain that the possibility must have already been thoroughly explored by many others. The story left me wondering whether there was some relationship between it and his insistence that there was oil beneath those hills north of Los Angeles.

Springer High School Boys Basket Ball Team, Spring, 1921.

Another highlight of this issue of The Springer Times is that it apparently contains the earliest photograph that I have of my father. The irony is that he is in a group shot and I am not sure which one is him. The Springer High School Basket Ball team consisted of Raymond Tindall, forward (Capt.); Paul Bruce, forward; Lawrence Abreu, center; Joe Cunningham, guard; Roy Hunter, guard. Substitutes, Carl Shirley and Evans Milton. I guessing that my father is at the middle-left or lower-right, but I really don’t know.

I met Larry Abreu several times when I was young. He lived in Los Angeles and my father would see him from time to time. For the longest time I never understood just who he was or what his relationship to my father was. I think I was in high school before Joe finally explained to me that he had gone to high school with Larry Abreu. But until going through this newspaper I did not really understand what that must have meant to him. There were 410 people in my (half-year) high school class. I barely knew most of them. There were 12 people in my father’s full-year sophomore class. Larry Abreu was a year or two ahead of my father in high school, but he was a lifelong friend that grew up very close to him. Larry Abreu died sometime in the 1960s, several years before my father. He did not speak of it much, but I’m sure Joe took his death hard as it was a reminder of his own mortality.


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A Trip to New Mexico in 1955

Joe was a teacher, so he had the whole summer off from school too when I was a kid. Before he retired in 1960, we would travel around the Western United States for three to four weeks every year. He told me I should keep a journal of our trips, but I never did. Now, fifty years later, my memories of those trips resolve themselves into a series of images and memories, some vivid, some vague, in uncertain temporal order.

The first summer trip I remember taking with him was probably in summer of 1955, when I was 6 going on 7. Aunt Lorna, the sister of my father’s first wife, Kay, invited us to come visit her in Albuquerque. While some memories of that trip are vivid, my understanding at that age was pretty vague, so I have some trouble fitting them into a coherent whole. At six years old, I wandered in dream after dream, seeing animals and people and mountains in the clouds; staring at ceilings and wondering what it would be like to live in the upside down world where they were the floor, stairwells were interesting slides, and the thought of peering over the edge of the porch roof into the depths of the sky was awesome and a little scary.

By then I’m sure my father had told me some of his many stories of growing up on a ranch near Springer, New Mexico. Of his Airedale named Yellow Boy, who had a regrettable penchant for chasing badger, skunks, and porcupines, that led to interesting situations. He told me of his father, Charles Cunningham, who loved horses, always cut the cruppers off his harnesses, and wore spurs with smooth rowels made of silver dollars. So, with an invitation from Lorna and a place for us to stay, he decided it would be a wonderful opportunity to show me a little of where he was from and possibly catch up with old friends.

We bought a set of luggage for our trip consisting of two brown leather suitcases, a large one for him and a medium size one for me. Over the years they would become filled with decals from states, cities, and national parks along our way. We were to take the train from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles for our adventure. The Yellow Cab came to our door, the gentlemanly, uniformed cab driver stowed our suitcases in the trunk, we got in the spacious back seat of the yellow Checker, the driver turned on the meter, and we were off.

I loved Union Station downtown, with its church-like Mission Revival style architecture and Art Deco feel. While my father bought tickets for our trip, I sat in one of the sleek leather chairs in the waiting room, staring up at the intricately decorated ceiling, imagining what it might be like to climb around on that ceiling world. In later years, I was always disappointed that we seldom departed on our summer train trips from Union Station, instead picking up the train at Glendale Station, which was much closer to us. But I was fascinated by its architecture and the historical neighborhood around it. I remember other trips to that area at other times: get our shoes shined by a young Mexican shoeshine boy in the Plaza; briefly visiting the old Plaza Church, La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles; many visits to Olvera Street, where the candle-makers who showed you how they dipped their candles, and the glass-makers, especially the glass-makers, who miraculously sculpted their glass creations with their torches and dexterous hands in front of your eyes.

We went down the long passenger tunnels to board our Santa Fe train, the El Capitan, most of it gleaming stainless steel, with the red, yellow, and black Warbonnet design on the engine. A porter helped us aboard and we found our reclining seats, which I was a little surprised to learn we would be sleeping in, but at 6 almost everything is still new and an adventure. The El Capitan was an all coach car equipped with a dining car, a 2-level dome car for appreciating the scenery, and men’s rooms with stainless steel toilets you were not supposed to flush in stations and a roomy lounge with old guys gabbing around a spittoon I stepped in my first time through. I learned to get my sea legs on the rocking train, to pass through the twisty lurching connectors between cars that sometimes had open windows where the porters would stand.

My father regaled me with tales of other times he had passed through eastern California and western Arizona: Barstow, Needles, and Yuma. He always recalled that one time when he had a lunch stop at Needles, it was so hot that he couldn’t pickup the silverware without burning his hands. We rolled out through the suburbs of L.A., out past mountains, across the desert, into the night and Arizona.

When the train stopped late at night in Flagstaff, Joe woke me up to look at the beautiful sea of stars, the Milky Way, visible in the high, thin mountain air of Flagstaff, away from the light pollution of L.A. He talked about those stars for years afterward. He probably saw that sea of stars often when he was growing up Springer. I can only imagine that they must have been an integral part of his youth that he took for granted. Perhaps he never thought much about missing them in the smog and lights of L.A. until he saw them again that night in Flagstaff and memories came back to him.

I think Lorna lived in Albuquerque, but my geography was a little weak at that age. My attention was quite weak also. I didn’t understand much of what the trip was about. At that age, I became completely absorbed in microcosms and explored them through play. One of the highlights of the trip for me was finding .22 caliber bullet shells, shorts and longs, on the ground in various places; they were a complete novelty to me.

My father looked up old friends. One of them lived in a small, brightly painted house he had named La Casa de Colores. I don’t remember who he visited; some old guy and his wife I suppose. I do remember the house being a novelty that my father reminisced about later. I also remember that the highlight of the visit for me was finding and playing with half a dozen .22 bullets shells there in the rocky gravel driveway. I also remember playing with them on polished wooden floor, near the floor register of the heater, in Lorna’s house.

At some point, we drove up to Taos with Lorna, a very long drive through very big mountains. When we got out of the car at Taos, my father was scandalized that one of the old Indians, who had dressed up in full regalia for the tourists, wanted to charge him a dollar to let him take his picture. He thought that was highway robbery and would have none of it.

I remember making two stops somewhere on the way up to or back from Taos. We stopped to look at an old church. Perhaps it was the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Rancho de Taos. We went inside, looked around, and talked to someone there. He showed us that there were trap doors in the floor near the altar leading to an archaeological excavation beneath that end of the church. We were amazed to hear of the meticulous care with which the archaeologists were doing the excavation — digging it out with teaspoons. Lorna and Joe both remarked on that for some time afterward.

We also stopped at a restaurant someplace. The dinner rolls were quite amazing to me, probably very pedestrian sopapillas, they were about the size of normal dinner rolls, but they were entirely hollow, like little air pillows.

Unfortunately, I was starting to get sick by that time, so the vacation went downhill from there. I remember nausea, diarrhea, and fever; a visit from a doctor who made a house call at Lorna’s house; being bundled off in a taxi with my father who, perhaps by being a bit overprotective, had gotten into some kind of row with Lorna; and waking up in hotel room someplace else, probably Las Vegas, where we stayed for a day or two while my father took care of me. I suppose we went home soon after that. I have other memories of traveling around New Mexico with my father, but they were probably from later trips.

I was sick enough early in the fall of that year that I was sent off to Queen of Angels Hospital for observation for nearly a week. This was not an unmitigated disaster for me though. I trace my early serious interest in baseball to then.

Barry on the front lawn of his house in the Summer of 1955.

On the front lawn, Summer, 1955.

The first day of school I missed I spent with my regular sitter that year, Mrs. Hudson, where I watched the first game of the 1955 World Series on her television, the Brooklyn Dodgers versus the New York Yankees. That night, the doctor made a house call and was worried enough about me to trundle me off to the hospital. My father gave me our little Motorola clock radio to keep me entertained at the hospital. I faithfully listened to Games 2 through 6 while I was there.

I had started off Game 1, where Jackie Robinson stole home in a losing effort, rooting for the Dodgers because they seemed more colorful, the underdogs. After Game 2, when they were two games down and all the sports broadcasters were saying that no team had ever come back from being behind 2 games to none to win the series, I decided that maybe I should root for the Yankees if I wanted to be on the winning side. At the end of Game 6, the series was tied. Then the real tragedy: after Game 6 I was pronounced well enough to go back to school. I missed Game 7 entirely! To punish me for my fickleness, the Dodgers won Game 7 in a 2-0 shutout. To punish me further, I faithfully rooted for the Dodgers against the Yankees the next year when the Yankees turned the tables on them, losing the first two games to the Dodgers, but vanquishing them in 7 games, with Don Larsen throwing his perfect game in Game 5. Finally, to further humiliate me for my fickleness, the Dodgers chased away my hometown heroes, the old Pacific Coast League L.A. Angels with Steve Bilko, when they moved to L.A. in 1958.

Posted in baseball, Childhood, Dodgers, El Capitan, Joseph Martin Cunningham, L.A. Angels, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Pacific Coast League, Santa Fe Railroad, trains, Travel, Uncategorized, World Series, Yankees | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Trip to New Mexico in 1955

Word Play

Unabashedly punny and anagrammatic, my father did not withhold this side of his wit in his novel. The new Lilliput is a world filled with scazpops, zingpups, fezerdicks, snickdids, paynetakitors, zangnuts, estibelobs, Nitpooperlers, popweezers, scatchmanmond, moronsnidge, Scakadors, sharis, disthedons, crinkplunks, bibancribs, and pinks.

The novel’s Glossary provides a list of most of the made up Lilliputian words and names. Some originated by Jonathan Swift, some were just meant to sound funny, but many are punny or anagrammatic references to institutions, people and events that may have been topical when it was written. But, as constant as human nature and foibles are, zeitgeist references age rapidly. So that many allusions will necessarily elude modern readers. Indeed, I probably have gleaned less than half. I thought I would review some of what I know and plead a seemly ignorance where I am completely mystified.

This is the first in a short series of posts that will summarize what I have been able to figure out about word play and references in the novel. I’ll take them in the order the book presents them, a few chapters at a time. So, let me begin at the beginning and see where that leads.

In the Foreword, Arthur first refers to the institution where he resides, Spoop Sanitorium, and his friend, Spaddle, who was instrumental in enabling Arthur’s voyage to Lilliput. I’m sure these names were chosen simply because they sound funny. I do not believe the institution’s name was at all related to the homonyms defined Urban Dictionary.

The word sanitorium itself drives all my spell-checkers crazy; they seem to think it should be sanatorium or sanitarium. More complete dictionaries do offer sanitorium as an alternative, albeit less common, spelling. However, it appears to me that in the 1930s the word referred to a medical facility for long-term illness, typically tuberculosis, or a kind of health resort, not a mental asylum as described in the novel. Somehow I doubt that my father noticed this imprecision in his language, even though he was an English teacher.

I was amazed to notice late in my editing that Spaddle’s first name was spelled inconsistently in my father’s manuscript, appearing as both Gluykus and Glykus at various places. I settled on the latter since his name was consistently abbreviated as Glyk. This error was a potent reminder of how difficult it is to edit a book length manuscript on a manual typewriter.

I don’t know how the name of Arthur’s other friend in the Sanitorium, Professor Isaac Eliminom, was coined. Of course the first name conjures up echoes of Isaac Newton, a scientific authority allusion if there ever was one. The name Eliminom I might conjecture is related to Gaussian elimination in linear algebra, but this is somewhat of a stretch. I know my father claimed not to know algebra and would not have studied linear algebra. But it is possible that he had heard the term and it inspired the Professor’s name.

When Arthur first encounters the Lilliputians, near the end of Chapter II, Lilliputian words and phrases are first introduced. The first officer that Arthur encounters is a Chalbrig (petty naval officer). This would appear to be the first of many Lilliputian words of my father’s invention in the novel. Jonathan Swift uses the word Galbet to refer to an Admiral of the Realm or high-admiral (e.g., Skyresh Bolgolam), but I can find no reference in Swift to the Lilliput words for lesser naval officers. My only guess about my father’s derivation of the word is that it may be a bad pun combining chal for jail with brig, a ship’s jail.

The first Lilliputian phrase which follows, Digrug fallertz ontz haba unto port out Kanutz (Ah nertz, Sir, he doesn’t know we haven’t a King) appears to me to be wholly my father’s invention and not obviously derived from the little Lilliputian that appears in Swift.

My wife pointed out to me the obvious derivation of Donkgop (the chief executive of Lilliput): it is a combination of donkey, the symbol of the Democratic Party, and G.O.P. (Grand Old Party), the nickname of the Republican Party. In keeping with the bipartisan nature of the pun on office title, I presume that Medid Wherding is intended to satirize not just Franklin Roosevelt, but also Herbert Hoover and American Presidents in general.

As mentioned in Chapter III, cheviot is a type of fine woolen tweed. Probably unrelated and unknown to my father in 1936, there is a neighborhood on the west side of Los Angeles, near U.C.L.A., named Cheviot Hills.

Now that I think about it, might not the Donkgop’s name itself,
Medid Wherding, be an allusion to Word Play? This is a bit of a stretch; the pronunciation in Glossary is more akin to weirding (which has a connotation of Fate) than wording.

Jonathan Swift was also fond of word play. Many of the names referred to Arthur’s summary of Lilliputian history just after Lemuel’s departure are characters in Gulliver’s Travels.

  • Golbasto Momarem Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue was the Emperor, or King, of Lilliput during the time of Lemuel’s visit.
  • Skyresh Bolgolam was Lemuel’s worst enemy. One of Arthur’s enemies was another Skyresh, Skyresh Bagumsock. The reader may be forgiven for confusing the two names; there was some confusion of the names in the later chapters in the original typewritten manuscript copy. In fact, I might never have noticed this confusion during editing without the aid of my computer.
  • Flimnap was the High Treasurer;
  • Lalcon, the Chamberlain;
  • Limtoc, the General; and
  • Balmuff, the High Justiciary.

The parallel for the King’s ministers in Arthur’s time are the nine members of the Donkgop’s cabinet, the Nitpoopo. We are informed that the literal translation of this term from Lilliputian means Footlickers, scatological innuendos notwithstanding. Somehow, twongue-tistedly derived from this, their individual titles become Nitpooperler. The officers and the unlikely partition of their administrative responsibilities are described in Chapter III.

  • Nitpooperler Flebrow: High Civil Officer of Elections and Politics. Makes me think of highbrow and flea bitten.
  • Nitpooperler Garnite: Head of the Bureau of Garbage Disposal, Onion Culture, and Sandburr Conservation. A lackluster name, but there is some element of scatology in his office: chromatic sandburrs are the Lilliputian equivalent of designer toilet paper.
  • Nitpooperler Gravinap: High Officer of Health, Happiness, Disease, and Mortality. The obvious pun is grab a nap.
  • General Ossdoc: High Commander of the Lilliputian Army. Sounds like Cossack, which, as a military allusion, would make sense.
  • Admiral Spraygrees: High Commander of the Lilliputian Navy. Sounds like spray grease, but I don’t know of any further naval allusion.
  • Barrister Bittzzora: Head of the Department of Prison, Crime, Injustice, and Liquor Consumption. Seems like just a funny sounding name with strong alliteration to me.
  • Nitpooperler Wickdomp Ooick: High Nitpooperler for Education, Labor, and Cockroach Extermination. I don’t care to conjecture what wick domping might be or what onomatopoeia might be associated with it.
  • Nitpooperler Tomatocumber: High Officer of the Department of Money, Change, Currency, Cash, and Corruption. Tomato and cucumber spring to mind. Although vegetally unrelated, my father’s favorite all vegetable sentence was “Lettuce, turnip, and pea.”
  • Nitpooperler Oxmut Hirear: Head of the Department of Gambling, Recreation, Amusement, and Public Works. A glorious name! Alluding to high brow, but scatologically undercutting the pretense, while simultaneously incorporating bovine and canine references. With states now nurturing casino gambling as an industry to provide revenue, the department name no longer seems so far fetched.

At the end of Chapter III, we are introduced to Onk Watwil. This name may simply contain plays on oink and What will. But, while playing with the Wordsmith Anagram Solver, I noticed that one unscrambling is It know law. This leads me to wonder whether my father derived the name from a phase like I know law or Law, know it. Alas, I’ll never know.

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Lilliputian Handshakes

The Donkgop filed down the stairway followed by the men of State. Upon reaching the ground he showed me his right hand which I perceived to be bound thickly in bandages. He also turned around to show me a pillow strapped to that part of his anatomy with which nature has provided man primarily for sitting. Then he faced me again and requested me to lie prone upon the ground. To say the least, I was considerably at sea and undetermined whether to comply with his request. Finally, two cavalry officers dismounted and by their antics and explanations made me understand what was desired of me.

The Lilliputians have a queer custom which they follow upon being introduced to a stranger, or greeting a friend. When one wishes to greet a person or to bid him goodbye, the custom requires that one or more slaps should be delivered to the person, much in the manner we would use in spanking. In all truth, a sound spanking is the warmest, friendliest kind of gesture among the Lilliputians.

When at last I understood what was wanted of me, I lay down laughing heartily at this strange custom. Later the Donkgop had his turn at laughing when I told him we used the Lilliputian salutation as a means of chastising children, but my laughter caused some hesitancy and misgivings on his part at the moment. Had I known what was in store for me I would not have been in such a laughing mood.

The Donkgop, having a very sore right hand and even a more tender hinder portion from having greeted and received greetings from a large agrarian delegation which had called upon him the previous day, was unable to deliver my salutation in person. Besides, the officers of State who served as a Board of Etiquette, had decided that a strictly Lilliputian slap would be disrespectful to so large a person as I, therefore had arranged with one of their foundries for the casting of a handle about four feet long. With this contrivance forty or more people could greet me at once and with sufficient force to make the gesture a truly friendly one. The ceremony lasted long enough for one hundred twenty thousand persons to take an active part in it, consequently the Donkgop was not the only person who needed a pillow to sit upon when the business was finished. To escape the labor of returning the sign of esteem to the many who welcomed me so warmly I pleaded danger of injuring some should I attempt to thump them where custom demanded I must. This plea put at ease many a mind which had entertained the very apprehension which I expressed, and it proved highly pleasing to the Donkgop. However, I am far from being certain that my decision was a good one. I am not sure but what the relays of small people who delivered me “Lilliputian handshakes” did so with more thoroughness and gusto than they would have employed, had they known the affair was to have been reciprocal. The rites lasted for more than three hours, during which time I became very stiff from lying upon the ground as well as smarting and bruised in a southern locality. When the last comer, man, woman and child had fittingly given me their best regards, the Donkgop commanded me to rise and turn again to the platform where, during the ceremony, a large chair suitable for me had been carried on a huge army wagon.

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Football at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

While watching the Steelers and Jets in the AFC Championship Game today, one of the announcers said that the first Pro-Bowl took place 40 years ago today. I thought, “That can’t be right!” I remember attending a Pro-Bowl sometime in the late 1950s with my dad at the L.A. Coliseum.
Of course, we’re both right. After the 1970 merger of the National Football League with the American Football League, the first NFC-AFC Pro Bowl was held at the L.A. Coliseum on January 24, 1971. The game I remembered was one of the NFL Pro Bowl held between 1951 and 1970, probably the January 14, 1957 contest.
My dad took me to many events at the L.A. Coliseum: football, fireworks, rodeo, and, after the Dodger moved to L.A., baseball. Probably the first ones were when I was 6 or 7 years old. I remember being very impressed with the Coliseum. It is a gargantuan structure.
The earliest football games I remember were L.A. Rams with Norm Van Brocklin and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. At that tender age, I tended to take Rams losses too seriously; I remember pacing back and forth between first base and second on the schoolyard fist ball diamond before 1st grade class on Monday trying to figure out what I could do to help the Rams win.
I also remember attending at least one USC-UCLA game there with him. It was seriously colorful; rah-rah-rah and the card sections were amazing to my youthful, not yet pixelated eyes.
But the game that stands out in my mind, and which demonstrates how far he was willing to go to please me sometimes, was the November 10, 1957 Rams-49ers game at the L.A. Coliseum. I guess I had heard about the game on the radio or in the paper. It seems I conceived a desire to go to the game rather late. I must have pestered him terribly to get him to agree to go even though we had no chance of getting there in time for the kickoff. In fact, I think we got there somewhere around half-time.
The Coliseum was absolutely packed. The attendance was 102,368. They had built huge sets of temporary bleachers in the peristyle end of the Coliseum to pack in more people. (In case you’re not familiar the Coliseum, the peristyle end is where they set up fireworks for the 4th of July Fireworks shows because it is so far away from the field and everything else that setting off massive amounts of ordnance there poses no risk to anybody.)

Anyway, somehow, Joe managed to buy 2 tickets for the last half of the game in the nosebleed section of the temporary bleachers in the peristyle end of the Coliseum. We marched in and started heading to our seats at the top of those bleachers. It was scary as hell. The bleachers seemed awfully flimsy and they were filled with thousands of excited people. But having gotten my way, it was way too late to turn back.
When we reached the relative safety of our seats, I turned around to look at the game. Where the peristyle end met the field was about 60 yards in back of the closest end zone. You could kind of see some of the game when the play was near the goal line at that end. When the play got to midfield or beyond, you would have had a better view on the radio.
Looking up the game now, I see that the Rams did win, 37-24. So it must have been a good game. It sure was exciting.
I guess I learned something. I’m not sure what it was though. I don’t think it was to avoid large crowds. I went to see the Boston Pops with nearly a half-million other people on July 4, 1976. Never saw them actually, but I heard them. Oh, yeah. They had some nice fireworks too.

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The Estibelobs

Literally — implorers; they evolved into the paynetakit.

The capitol building of Lilliput bears very little resemblance to the great buildings of Mildendo. It is, nevertheless, an architectural gem. It is a long low building of seven stories, sky blue in color, and topped by a magnificent silver dome beautifully fluted. In it are many offices of the central government and the meeting halls of the popweeze (the lower division of the tricamerate), the Scnakad (the middle division), and a smaller hall housing the paynetakit (the upper division). I learned the locations of these halls and of various other offices in the great building by a series of inquiries, observations, and examinations.

Now to acquaint the reader with some of the things I learned about the tricamerate. First, I looked in upon the popweeze through a skylight admirably suited to my needs. By aid of the same periscope which had theretofore served me so well in Lilliput, I was able to look down upon the several hundred dignitaries there assembled. When I first peered down upon the meeting, everything was quiet except for the droning voice of a speaker I could barely hear. The members were lounging about in various attitudes of silent inattention in their overstuffed seats, which ran in semi-circular rows around the hall in such a way as to face toward a dais at one end upon which were the speaker and several officers of the popweeze. Behind the speaker was a figure wearing a black mask and a wide flowing black robe. In his hands he bore a long pointed stick or pike with which, at irregular intervals, he prodded the speaker, using no little energy in the process. For a long time, as I viewed this strange procedure and strained my ears trying to understand what the popweezer was saying, I was unable to determine whether the queer figure in black was interfering with the speech or merely prompting or prodding the speaker on. At last it seemed that each time the figure in black performed the duty of his strange office, the voice of the speaker became somewhat louder and clearer, so it was a fair conjecture that the prodding was designed to help rather than to hinder. The black robed figure was a paynetakitor, or a member of the paynetakit, the third great division of the Lilliputian legislature. Paynetakitors spend nearly all of their time prodding popweezers and Scnakadors, such being the sole purpose for the existence of their office.

Originally, the paynetakit was not a branch of the tricamerate at all, and even now is not directly on the government payroll. Following the organization of the tricamerate (which was then called the dudecker — a word for which there is no English equivalent but meaning approximately — a place for big talk, there being some elusive connotations) after the successful revolt against the monarch, the paynetakit was unknown, but it came to pass that men wanting certain legislation passed would either go to the capitol or send someone to corner members of the legislature to implore them to pass legislation which the implorer thought would benefit their country or themselves. As time went on, more and more men imploring passage of laws found their way into Mildendo when the dudecker was in session, until each season saw swarms of them in the halls of the great capitol building. Popweezers and Scnakadors were buttonholed at every turn; some were threatened — one actually disappeared and was never heard from again.

Then came the great war of the estibelobs, as those numerous implorers at the capitol were called previous to their evolution into the modern paynetakit. Violent quarrels and bitter feuds broke out among the estibelobs. Men knifed and shot each other down on sight; blood flowed in the halls of the capitol; the business of the dudecker could not go on at all, such was the terrible tumult and strife going on in its very corridors. In some manner never explained, two or three Scnakadors, along with the Donkgop, managed to get into one of the offices of the capitol, whereupon it was there decided to call out the army to restore order among the estibelobs. But before the troops arrived, the tumultuous crowds had been warned of their coming. A convincing speaker had gained their attention and announced a plan for organizing the paynetakit into a well planned and powerful branch of the government, the plan had been adopted, and the corridors were deserted. From that day to this the paynetakit has maintained its vigorous control over the tricamerate, steadily wielding greater and greater power.

Oddly enough, with all the organized strength of the paynetakit, the individual members bitterly hate many of their fellow members; thus comes it that they wear black masks and black robes. They cannot recognize bodily and facial characteristics of enemies, so feuds and the venting of bitter hatreds are avoided. In some few matters wherein the paynetakitors are all agreed, they work in mighty concert, prodding the Scnakad and popweeze into action to the benefit of those whom the paynetakitors represent — who, by the way, I learned, were commercial firms, merchants, manufacturers, bankers, et cetera — in short, the wealthy class. Since the constituents of the paynetakitors have conflicting interests, their representatives naturally heat up at the point of friction.

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About This Blog

The first time I completely read the manuscript copy of my father’s book, There’s a New Shuffle in Lilliput, I was surprised at how topical it was. I had heard about it and read pieces of it when I was young, but the first time I actually read it from start to finish was in the Fall of 2004, when I retyped and edited it as part of a web site I created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. In that election season, just prior to George W. Bush’s reelection, it seemed uniquely topical. In mid-2010, following the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 that may presage more serious economic and political turmoil, it still seems topical, but for somewhat different reasons.

Finally, 40 years after his death, Mount Laurel Press will be publishing my father’s novel. It may not flood the aisles of your local booksellers like Harry Potter or the latest Dan Brown creation. But it will be available online, through Amazon and major book distributors, the voice of Arthur C. Gulliver may speak to whomever is curious enough to listen.

I will use this blog to explore ideas suggested by my father’s book: politics, economics, religion, legal systems, medicine, invention, science fiction, other Utopian literature, and reminiscences of my father and family.

Oh, about the estibelobs. Of course you can read about them in my father’s book, but I will be getting to them with a book excerpt real soon now, I promise. In the meantime think: “near anagram” and “third legislative branch”.

Barry Cunningham

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Arthur C. Gulliver


Obsessed from childhood with Jonathan Swift’s story of Lemuel Gulliver’s travels, Arthur C. Gulliver is committed to an asylum for his pestiferous soliciting to raise funds for an insane voyage to the fictitious land of Lilliput. But, with the aid of two other inmates, he manages to realize his dream and sail to Lilliput.

The Lilliput Arthur finds in the mid 1930s is much different than Lemuel Gulliver’s. The monarchy is gone. Lilliputians zoom across land and sea in spheres of transparent steel. Spanking is the Lilliputian method of formal greeting. Drunkenness is required by law. Skyscrapers hang gracefully suspended in mid-air. Politicians pay voters directly and openly for their votes. The military wields a fantastic paralytic ray. Nights in the city are lit by small artificial suns created by great beams of light. And, a mysterious third chamber in the tricameral legislature dominates Lilliputian government.

Watch this space for more about Arthur C. Gulliver’s travels to the New Lilliput.

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