"Believe what ya like. Think what ya like. You'll be judged for what you do."
-- Tim Minton, Eyrie

Friday, March 2, 2012

Remember Her?

     After watching the Academy Awards the other day, I was reminded of a quote from a woman:

     "Sometimes I can't figure out designers. It's as if they flunked human anatomy."

     Can you guess who said it?

     She was a writer whose popularity crested in the 1970s and '80s, appearing on the cover of Time Magazine in 1984.

     She started out writing a column for her high-school newspaper and also worked part time as a copy girl for the Dayton, Ohio, Herald, where she eventually got a chance to interview Shirley Temple for the paper. She went to Ohio University, but her material was rejected by the college newspaper and she did not do well in her classes. She left school after only one semester. Later, she enrolled at the University of Dayton, where she did write for the university paper and also met her future husband, who went on to become an educator and school supervisor.

     She also once quipped:  "Marriage has no guarantees. If that's what you're looking for go live with a car battery."

     When doctors told the young couple they were unlikely to have a baby, they adopted a daughter. That was in 1953. Of course, two years later they had a biological son, and three years after that, in 1958, they had a second son.

     Perhaps that in part gave thought to her warning:  "Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died."

     She devoted her life to her children and her home, as a garden-variety Ohio housewife. But she kept up her writing skills by occasionally publishing a column in the Dayton Shopping News.

     As a mother, she noted,  "One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child's name and how old he or she is."

      And as a housewife she observed:  "The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one."

     In 1964 she began writing for the Kettering-Oakwood Times. The next year she moved to the Dayton Journal and started to write a weekly humor column. Before long, the column was picked up for syndication to other newspapers, under the title "At Wit's End."

     Through her syndicated column, she grew to become a popular humorist around the country. She began giving lectures in cities where her column appeared, and then became a guest on Arthur Godfrey's radio show. In 1967 she published a book, a collection of her columns -- and ultimately she would go on to publish a dozen books. In 1976, she hit the national bestseller lists with The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and she followed that in 1978 with her even more popular If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

     And speaking of food, she also advised:  "Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart."

     By 1978, some 900 newspapers were using her column -- and by now you know she's Erma Bombeck, right? -- and she was also writing for Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Family Circle and Redbook. She moved to an upscale community outside of Phoenix, Ariz., and from there did brief commentaries for ABC's "Good Morning America." She also stepped forward as an advocate for women's rights, becoming involved in President Carter's Advisory Committee for Women and pushing for the Equal Rights Amendment.

     Erma Bombeck had been diagnosed with an hereditary kidney disease when she was just 20 years old, but for years it didn't affect her health. In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after that the kidney disease did catch up with her. In 1996, at the age of 69, she went to the hospital for a kidney transplant. She died three weeks later, on April 22, 1996.

     But by then she'd lived a successful, fulfilling life and, as for any setback, she seemed to toss it off by responding:  "If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it."


stephen Hayes said...

I've always been a fan and really miss Erma. No matter how bad things were she always brightened my day. Thanks for bringing her to mind today.

June said...

When I was in my early 20s there was an article in, I think, Life magazine about this wonderful woman and it gave the city where she lived and her husband's name...and I phoned her!
Her husband said she'd be there in just a minute, she was just getting out of the car with the groceries.
We had a ten-minute chat and I just glowed for the rest of the week.

Anonymous said...

What a blast from the past. I loved Erma Bombeck.

Anyone remember Totie Fields? Her humor wasn't as gentle as Erma's but she was a very funny woman.

Meryl Baer said...

I loved Erma Bombeck. She was a gem.
And I enjoy your Remember him/her posts.

#1Nana said...

I remember reading her in both the newspaper and in women's magazines when I was growing up. She always had a funny spin on ordinary events.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

I knew it was Erma when I got to the Doctor's plants dying. The loaf of bread cinched it. Loved her. Dianne

Rosaria Williams said...

So good of you to remind us of lovely Miss Bombeck. She was a joy.

Olga said...

I loved Erma and her sense of humor. Her writing still makes me laugh. I am sorry that she did not get to give us her take on social media and the tech. explosion.

Tom said...

Thanks, MerCyn, they are fun to write, too. And Dianne, I knew I'd give it away when I started quoting her ... but that's the best part!

Dick Klade said...

She was a truly inventive comic. One of the best produced in this country. Thanks for acquainting us with Erma's background.

Old Dog Learning New Tricks said...

I loved the line about marriage guarantees and a car battery.
Thanks for starting my day out with a laugh!

Jono said...

Thanks for the reminder of this great woman. A sense of humor will get you through some tough times and hers always did.

Arkansas Patti said...

The only one luckier that us who got to read her had to be her family who got to live with her. I loved her humor.
We need an "Erma" to help us cope with todays headlines.
Thank you so much for your kind words, "It's not the face-to-face that counts, but the heart-to-heart". That so captured the friendship. Thank you.

Nance said...

Ah, Erma. I grew up loving her madly. In my family, looks were nice, smart was great, but funny was the very best of all and Erma was a goddess. Thanks for this very nice tribute to real American royalty.

Deb said...

I knew it was dear Erma halfway through the post, just from some of the funny quotes. She was so funny, had such a great outlook on life - a real talent for making the mundane humorous. If she isn't a great role model for looking on the bright side of life, I don't know who is.

Thanks again for a fun post!