Antonio Rivera took refuge with other Nationalists in the Alcázar during the Spanish Civil War. As a pacifist, the youth refused at first to help defend the ancient stronghold, and was put on latrine duty. When the situation of the besieged became more desperate, he decided that it would not be inconsistent with his principles to aid in the defense, provided that he did not kill in hatred. He was assigned the position of loader to a heavy machine gun. It was said that he would give the signal to fire with the words: "Tirad — pero sin odio." (Fire — but without hatred. )
A certain businessman, renowned for his ruthlessness, once made a vow in Mark Twain's presence. "Before I die," he declared, "I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top." "I have a better idea," Twain replied. "You could stay home in Boston and keep them.
During his stint as host of a show called You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx interviewed many participants. On one occasion he interviewed a Mrs. Story, who had given birth to twenty-two children. "I love my husband," Mrs. Story said enthusiastically. "I like my cigar, too," said Groucho, "but I take it out once in a while.
Jim Moore, founder of a famous New York restaurant, had many friends in the theatrical world. As he grew older, several of them died and were sorely missed by Moore. One Friday afternoon he made a pilgrimage to the graves of those departed friends, remonstrating with them for their thoughtlessness in dying. When he got to George M. Cohan's grave, he took out a parcel of fish and thumped it against the headstone. "In case you don't know," he shouted, "today's Friday, and I just want you to see what you're missing.
A major problem in the development of Elias Howe's sewing machine was the location of the eye of the needle. The inventor was rapidly running out of money and ideas when one night he had a peculiar dream. He was being led to his execution for failing to design a sewing machine for the king of a strange country. He was surrounded by guards, all of whom carried spears that were pierced near the head. Realizing instantly that this was the solution to his problem, Howe woke up and rushed straight to his workshop. By nine o'clock that morning, the design of the first sewing machine was well on the way to completion.
Sir J. M. Barrie was sitting next to George Bernard Shaw at a dinner party. The vegetarian Shaw had been provided with a special dish of salad greens and dressing. Eyeing the unpleasant-looking concoction, Barrie whispered to Shaw, "Tell me, have you eaten that, or are you going to?
President and Mrs. Coolidge, visiting a government farm, were taken around on separate tours. At the chicken pens Mrs. Coolidge paused to inquire of the overseer whether the rooster copulated more than once a day. "Dozens of times," said the man. "Tell that to the president," requested Mrs. Coolidge. The president came past the pens and was told about the rooster. "Same hen every time?" he asked. "Oh, no, a different one each time." Coolidge nodded. "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge," he said.
I can't swim, so when the cigar goes out, I know I'm getting out of my depth." To illustrate, he lit the cigar, walked into the lake until the water reached the level of his mouth, then returned to the dry land, the cigar extinguished. "There, now," he said triumphantly, "if it hadn't been for the cigar, I would have drowned.
Despite his evident love of children, Hans Christian Andersen never married. Late in life his health declined rapidly; first he developed chronic bronchitis, then the more serious, and ultimately fatal, liver cancer. Unable to care for himself, he moved into the house of some friends near Copenhagen, where he could see the ocean from his room. One morning he quietly finished his tea, and was found a few minutes later in his bed, dead. In his hands was a farewell letter written forty-five years earlier by the only woman he had ever loved.
During a recital in Berlin, Andrés Segovia's guitar was heard to emit a loud cracking sound. Segovia rushed offstage and, cradling his instrument, kept repeating, "My guitar, my guitar." It was soon learned that the man who had built the guitar had died in Madrid at the exact moment in the concert that Segovia's guitar had split.
Although failing fast, [former U.S. president] John Adams was determined to survive until the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — July 4, 1826. At dawn on that day he was awakened by his servant, who asked if he knew what day it was. He replied, "Oh, yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all." He then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon he recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, "Thomas Jefferson lives." These were his last words. Unknown to him, Thomas Jefferson had died that same day.
Questioned by the British television interviewer David Frost about his approval of a plan of action that entailed such criminal ingredients as burglary and the opening of other people's mail, Richard Nixon replied, "Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln had occasion at an official reception to refer to the Southerners rather as erring human beings than as foes to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked him for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. "Why, madam," said Lincoln, "do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
When composer Igor Stravinsky was fifty-seven, he settled in the United States and a year later decided to apply for American citizenship. He made an appointment to see the appropriate official. At his first interview the official asked the famous composer his name. "Stra-vin-sky," he replied, speaking each syllable distinctly. "You could change it, you know," suggested the official.
Henry Thoreau was languishing in jail after he had refused to pay the Massachusetts poll tax in 1843 [to protest the Mexican-American War]. Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit him and asked him why he was there. "Waldo, why are you not here?" said Thoreau.