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PAUL POPENOE (1888 -1979) First Marriage Counselor and Eugenicist

In American History, Biography, Doctors, People, Trivia on October 27, 2010 at 9:06 AM

Paul Popenoe, age 27

In 1888, Paul Popenoe was the first of four children born in Topeka, Kansas.  When his parents moved the family to Pasadena, California, Popenoe found fertile ground for his seemingly disparate interests: growing date palms, eugenics, and marriage counseling.

The Victorian values of the late 19th century were embedded in Popenoe, but he took a progressive stance on many issues, making his life a contradiction.  He was a Sunday school teacher in his youth but later eschewed religion and became a secular humanist.  When he was 17, he fainted after eating a steak dinner and became a strict vegetarian long before that was popular.  But, true to his Victorian roots, he did not believe in any kind of sex outside of marriage, and he was a virgin on his wedding night.

About 1908, Popenoe dropped out of college after three years to work and care for his sick father.  After working as a newspaper editor for a few years, he quit his job and made a six-month tour of Europe.  Popenoe’s father worked as a nurseryman when he retired, so on his dad’s behalf, Popenoe learned Arabic, one of eight languages he knew, and traveled around the Middle East collecting date palms.  This lead to his first book, Date Growing in the New and Old Worlds, published in 1913, which became a manual for horticulturists.   

A CERTAIN KIND OF PEOPLE PERSON         Later that year, Popenoe moved to Washington D.C. to edit the new publication the Journal of Heredity. He idolized Charles Darwin and believed that improving humanity would happen by applying science to society.  His focus turned to heredity and eugenics, an extension of natural selection.  Eugenicists believe in improving the genetic makeup of the human population specifically by sterilizing people with genetic defects or undesirable traits, thereby keeping them from reproducing.  This was a very progressive point of view subscribed to by the intellectuals of the time, including Alexander Graham Bell, Margaret Sanger and Theodore Roosevelt.  Popenoe’s self study in a group of like-minded scientists and intellectuals eventually resulted in his book Applied Eugenics, published in 1918. 

During World War I, Popenoe was a captain in the vice and liquor section of the War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities.  He was responsible for eliminating liquor and prostitutes from around the army training camps, the perfect job for a teetotaler with his puritanical upbringing.  After the war he went to New York and worked as the Executive Secretary of the American Social Hygiene Association.  Their mission was to use public education to promote premarital abstinence, but they were broadminded enough to promote sex education and birth control. 

BECOMING HIS OWN CASE STUDY               It was while he was in New York that Popenoe married Betty Bowman, a dancer 13 years his junior, after a six month courtship.  The couple moved to Coachella Valley, California where Popenoe retreated to his first love and established a date farm until the agricultural market collapsed and forced them to move to back to Pasadena.

Popenoe’s lack of experience with women made his marriage rough going at first.  He was, however, determined to understand the unique world of women, and his efforts resulted in the book Modern Marriage, A Handbook for Men, published in 1925.  Fifteen years later he revised the book to include advice for women based on his personal and professional experience. 

Despite his lack of a college diploma, in 1929 Popenoe was awarded an honorary doctorate from Occidental College, where he had done two years of study twenty years earlier.  He used the title Dr. Popenoe professionally.

STAYING TRENDY                       The application of his philosophy of hereditarianism shifted with the tide of social thought, and he changed his focus from genetic improvement to family improvement.  In 1930 Popenoe founded the Institute of Family Relations (later the American Institute of Family Relations) in Los Angeles, bringing marriage and family counseling (a concept that started in Germany a decade earlier) to America.  He maintained that “…to improve the race, we should first start with the family.  And since the family often suffers problems which threaten its stability, we must treat those problems.  In other words, we should establish a marriage counseling center where maladjustments might be brought, studied, classified–and helped if possible.”1  Part of his counseling was to encourage fathers to take an active role in the lives of their children. 

In the ensuing decades, the Institute had up to 70 counselors and claimed in 1977 to have counseled over 300,000 men, women and children.  He required the counselors to be married and never divorced.  Even though Popenoe was not religious, in the 1960s and ‘70s many of his assistants were ministers and other religious people, including Dr. James D. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  His office moved to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and Popenoe became the marriage counselor to the stars, although Lana Turner went to his house for her sessions to maintain privacy.

REACHING THE MASSES              Popenoe’s influence extended beyond the Institute.  He wrote a daily newspaper column called “Your Family and You,” and he counseled couples on a reality TV show called “Divorce Hearing.”  He was a popular lecturer on college campuses and wrote a total of 17 books and numerous popular and scientific articles on marriage relations.  Television host Art Linkletter asked Popenoe to help him create a way to successfully match men and women, a forerunner to today’s dating services.  Popenoe created a questionnaire of 32 items including race, religion, politics, and pets.  Over 4,000 people responded to a newspaper ad to be matched.  A Univac computer analyzed the surveys and picked a couple who were introduced to each other on Linkletter’s television show People Are Funny.  It was a good match, and the couple got married. 

In 1953 Popenoe started the advice column “Can This Marriage Be Saved” in the magazine the Ladies Home Journal, using actual case studies from the Institute in his articles.  Still a feature of the magazine, the column has been called “the most popular, most enduring women’s magazine feature in the world.”1

Popenoe’s own marriage was not without its challenges, but he practiced what he preached.  Within the relationship the duties fell along traditional gender lines: Popenoe worked and took care of the yard and Betty was a stay-at-home mom who raised four boys.  Their youngest son wrote that Popenoe was a strict disciplinarian who, despite a heavy work schedule, gave his children lots of attention.

In his 1926 book Conservation of the Family, Popenoe predicted what the family of the future would be like.  He expected better mate selection, greater understanding leading to a stronger permanence of love, more intelligent consideration of children, more concern for individual development, especially for women, and more democracy within the family structure.1

QUESTION:  What do you think makes a good marriage?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

1http://www.popenoe.com/PaulPopenoe.htm

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/glossary=eugenics

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eugenics

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,867279,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Popenoe

Popenoe, David, War Over the Family.  New Jersey: Transactions Publishers, 2005   http://books.google.com/books?id=FhZeJwLSu74C&pg=PA238&lpg=PA238&dq=obituary+paul+popenoe&source=bl&ots=iH3CDQf5Ut&sig=qWwi-eyeC2zp23l5EpqalGP91eg&hl=en&ei=GiLHTJOMAoyssAPKps2oDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=obituary%20paul%20popenoe&f=false

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AUDIE MURPHY (1924 – 1971) Most Decorated Soldier in World War II & Actor

In Actors, adventure, American History, Hollywood, People, People from Texas, Trivia, World War II on October 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy was twelve, the dream of fighting in the Army was his only relief from the poverty and back-breaking work of his Texas sharecropper family.  He was one of nine children who all worked in the fields as soon as they were old enough to hold a hoe.  While he was tending the crops, Murphy fought many battles, and he was always victorious and unharmed.  Real life did not play itself out so easily.

When Murphy was a young boy, his father left with no explanation and never returned.  His mother died when he was sixteen.  The three youngest children were placed in an orphanage, and the rest were forced to fend for themselves.  Murphy worked in a gas station and radio repair shop, but he had a bad temper and got into fights often.  He preferred to be alone, and only in solitude could he connect with his dreams.

 NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK   On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Murphy was 17 years old and more determined than ever to become a soldier.  The day he turned 18 he went to the Marine Corps recruiting station to offer his services.  He was rejected outright for being too skinny, which only added to his anger.  His second choice was the newly formed paratroopers.  They were a little more encouraging, telling him to come back after putting on weight.  His third option was the infantry, even though he thought they were too ordinary for his ambitions.   They accepted him as he was and shipped him off to boot camp.  During the first close-order drill, Murphy passed out and was immediately dubbed “Baby.”  To add insult to injury, he was transferred to cook and baker’s school.

Refusal to do anything else eventually got Murphy a place back in the rank and file. In 1943 he landed in Tunis, Tunisia and then went on to Italy.  Finally, his dream of being in combat was coming true.

In Sicily, Murphy was moving ahead of his company with the scouts.  Two Italians appeared, and instead of surrendering, they jumped on horses to escape.  Murphy instinctively fired two shots and killed the two enemy soldiers.  Murphy’s company commander made him a corporal.  During a march to Palermo, covering 25 miles per day, he contracted malaria and was in the field hospital for a week. 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOLDIER    After many more battles, some additional training and two more bouts of malaria, Murphy landed in France.  His company was ordered to neutralize a hill that was an enemy strongpoint.  Murphy and two comrades were bringing up the rear with enemy fire surrounding them.  One of his partners died mid-sentence right next to Murphy, and the other one was killed when standing up to move.  Murphy dove into a ditch and came face to face with two German soldiers.  The split second it took for them to realize who they were looking at was enough of an advantage for Murphy to react, killing both of them. 

While he was making his retreat, Murphy exchanged fire with several Germans in various foxholes until his ammunition ran out.  He found some fellow soldiers pinned to the ground by German fire overhead.  Murphy dragged a discarded machine gun into a ditch and aimed uphill so the enemy had to expose themselves to shoot down to him.  By the time he was ready to shoot, however, bullets were landing within a foot of his body.  He let loose with fire in all directions trying to hit anything he could.  There were cries of agony, and Murphy walked uphill to reconnoiter the area.  He saw several dead Germans and one that he put out of his misery. 

When more gunfire attacked him, he emptied his weapon and waited.  One of his buddies, Brandon, arrived, and as both men started walking in the ditch, they were attacked at point blank range.  A bullet clipped off part of Brandon’s ear, but he was able to kill both attackers.  The two American soldiers dove into a hole already occupied by two Germans, and killed them.  Then Murphy and Brandon raised their helmets, inviting fire to reveal the enemy’s position.  They lobbed two hand grenades toward the sound of the blast, and then there was silence.  Brandon saw a white handkerchief waving and was convinced the Germans were giving up.  Murphy cautioned him against responding to the gesture, but Brandon stood up to capture the surrendering enemy.  In a barrage of bullets, Brandon fell back into the hole.  Murphy was trapped with two German soldiers under him and his best buddy on top.  With single-minded focus, he tried to move his friend, leading the way with a grenade.  He sneaked behind the remaining Germans and made sure they were permanently incapacitated.  Finally, there were no more enemy soldiers to confront.  After removing the personal effects from Brandon’s pockets, Murphy sat next to his friend and cried until he was spent before rejoining his company.

For his courage and commitment in many similar situations during three years of active combat, Murphy received 33 awards and decorations.  He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award given for bravery.  In an attack of six Panzer tanks and 250 infantrymen, Murphy mounted an abandoned, burning tank destroyer and used one machine gun to stave off the advancing enemy.  Even though he was wounded in the leg, Murphy stayed there for almost an hour, fighting off the attacking Germans on three sides and single-handedly killing 50 of them.  After rejoining his company, he organized a counterattack which forced the Germans to retreat.  In addition, he received five decorations from France and Belgium.  He is credited with killing, wounding or capturing over 250 enemy soldiers.  In 1945 Murphy was 21 years old when he resigned from active duty.  He had attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.

LIFE AFTER WAR    James Cagney saw Murphy’s photo on the cover of Life magazine and invited him to go to Hollywood.  Murphy admitted he had little talent, and he struggled to get parts, sleeping in a gymnasium until he got a break and finally a contract at Universal.  He found his niche in westerns and starred in The Red Badge of Courage directed by John Houston. 

In 1949 he published his autobiography, To Hell and Back, which proved to be a bestseller, and he starred in the film version of his story.  The movie set a box office record for Universal that was only surpassed by Jaws in 1975.  He made a total of 44 films.

Murphy’s heart was always in Texas, and he owned a ranch there as well as in California and Arizona.  He owned and bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, winning and losing fortunes gambling on them, and playing poker.  He also discovered a talent for songwriting, and he wrote songs recorded by Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold and Roy Clark. 

In 1949 he married actress Wanda Hendrix, but the marriage only lasted a year.  In 1951 he married Pamela Archer, and they had two sons. 

LIVING WITH THE NIGHTMARES     Murphy’s combat experiences haunted him for the rest of his life.  He suffered from “battle fatigue,” now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow.  In order to cope with insomnia and depression he became addicted to sleeping pills.  To break the addiction, Murphy locked himself in a motel room for a week until he finished going through withdrawal.  He advocated on behalf of the soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam for better health benefits and treatment for mental health issues. 

On May 28, 1971, Murphy, 46 years old, was a passenger in a private plane when it crashed into a fog covered mountain near Roanoke, Virginia.  He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. 

QUESTION:  How do you feel about war?  What ideals do you think are important enough to die for?

To see clips of Murphy in To Hell and Back go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFOMVKB9fiY&feature=related

To see his appearance on the game show “What’s My Line” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RWQ5tESVzk

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Murphy, Audie, To Hell and Back. New York: Holt Rinehart, and Winston, 1949.

http://www.audiemurphy.com/biograph.htm

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559/bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy

http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2907/murphy-audie-l.php

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/historical_information/audie_murphy.html

LARRY HARMON (1925 – 2008) Bozo the Clown & Businessman

In Biography, Bozo, Clowns, People, Trivia, Uncategorized, USC Alumni on September 7, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Larry Harmon

Larry Harmon was born Lawrence Weiss in Ohio, the older of two boys.  His mom worked in an office, and his dad took anything he could find, from handyman to salesman. These humble beginnings were no match for Harmon’s vision and determination.  When Bozo decided to run for political office, people thought he was just clowning around, but Harmon had a mission.  Making people laugh and learn was no laughing matter.

As a young boy Harmon stuttered, and he knew he would have to overcome that to be successful.  He figured he could help prepare himself for his destiny by imitating what he heard on the radio. Whenever his parents listened to a program, their ambitious son copied all the sounds and patterns of the voices, from speeches by President Roosevelt to opera. 

THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUMMER     Harmon had a keen ear, and he heard rhythm in everything.  Beating on things was a natural outlet for a kid with rhythm.  He started with the pots and pans, banging out patterns with spoons.  When he was six he wanted a more sophisticated sound.  His first drum set was made up of a wooden breadboard, a cast-iron skillet, a metal mixing bowl, and an empty coffee can.  For drum sticks he upgraded to his mom’s butcher knives.  For his safety, his parents finally gave him a pair of real drumsticks and lessons with the renowned Charley Wilcoxon. 

In eighth grade Harmon was captivated by listening to the USC marching band perform during the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.  The announcer described the drum major in his colorful uniform and commanding showmanship, and Harmon decided that he would be a drum major as soon he got into high school.  Never mind that had never seen one and the position was always held by a senior.    

Through annoying persistence, a trait that often served him well, Harmon convinced the high school band director to let him audition at band camp that summer.  To earn the money to go to camp, Harmon, only 14 years old, talked his way into a job at the local dry cleaners.  On the last day of camp, Harmon fell, tore a tendon and was in a cast for the audition.  He made up for his immobility with a grandiose ending that got him the job, the only freshman in the history of the school to be drum major.

After a stint in the army Harmon had another dream come true.  He was accepted to USC where he studied theater and became the drum major for the Trojan marching band.  When he graduated he was ready for a career in entertainment and started using the stage name Larry Harmon.  His first gig was as Commander Comet in a kid’s show on NBC.  Television was still in its infancy, and Harmon not only played the spaceman, he also did the voices for six puppets, read the commercials and booked the guests, including pilot Chuck Yeager.

As busy as the actor was on his first show, he also needed a day job.  During that time he worked as a private investigator, home decorator, manager of a wholesale brokerage company and, when his parents moved to California, he opened a jewelry store with his father.  At night he played with a jazz combo.

SEND IN THE CLOWN                                         In 1952 Harmon auditioned at Capitol Records to be one of the Bozo the Capitol Clowns in public appearances.  He got the job and felt as comfortable in the oversized costume as in a favorite pair of jeans.  For a few years he played Bozo and maintained his survival jobs until one night he had an epiphany.  He envisioned transforming Bozo from just a clown to the World’s Most Famous Clown.  In 1956, he negotiated buying the rights to the character at a time when the clown was losing his relevance for the direction Capitol was going.

Immediately Harmon revamped the character into its iconic image.  He made him smart and energetic with the wisdom of an adult and the wonder of a child.  He changed the voice and created a laugh that crescendoed with each syllable.  He redesigned the costume, replacing the mop-like wig with a red wig made from yak hair and coated with Krylon.  He traded in his shoes for a size 83AAA.

Bozo the Clown

Once the new character was set, Harmon needed a TV show for him to appear in.  It was too expensive to produce a program on a major network, so he decided to create a show for the local market airing in Los Angeles on KTLA.  He added other characters and hired a different actor to play Bozo so he could concentrate on the production aspects.  To round out the program, Harmon wanted cartoons to give Bozo the opportunity to do crazy things a live actor couldn’t.  He borrowed money and opened a small animation studio.

It didn’t take long for Bozo to become a hit, and Harmon started stage two of his business plan.  He franchised the show at local stations all around the country, allowing it to adapt to regional differences and giving the kids in each market the opportunity to participate in the audiences. Advertisers had the advantage of buying time on a show that catered to the customers in their area.

In 1959 Harmon started licensing the Bozo TV shows, and he traveled around the country to train hand-picked actors to play the character.  Eventually, over 200 men in the US and other countries, including Thailand, Greece, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Australia, completed the rigorous training to learn the specifics of playing the world’s most famous clown.  And, playing Bozo launched at least one show business career.  In Washington, DC, Willard Scott wore the red wig and nose before becoming a celebrity weather man. 

FINDING OPPORTUNITIES                               Harmon occasionally played Bozo himself, and he used his alter ego to educate children as well as entertain.  This gave him the opportunity for some unique experiences, always in costume.  He flew in the zero gravity aircraft that trains astronauts.  He went scuba diving with Navy frogmen.  He threw out the first pitch for a Cleveland Indian’s baseball game.  He jumped out of a window while being chased by flames to demonstrate fire safety. 

Much of Harmon’s success was because he refused to take “no” for an answer.  Harmon persuaded an Australian bush pilot to drop the clown and a two-person film crew into the jungle of New Guinea so he could meet the cannibalistic aborigines and prove that laughter is a universal language.  When he came face to face with the chief, Bozo tried to explain that he came in peace, but he was at a loss for words.  After some tense moments, the two men discerned that they had something in common, an unusual headdress.  Then Bozo broke the ice with a magic trick which led to spending two days making friends with people the rest of the world feared. 

In 1984, Harmon was encouraged to use Bozo’s influence to get people to vote in the presidential election.  To do this he declared himself a write-in candidate for President of the United States and hit the campaign trail.  He had no delusions about winning, but some citizens feared his candidacy was more than symbolic.  There were three serious attempts to kill him. 

When Harmon was 60 years old he had a heart attack, the first in a long list of heart ailments.  He continued working on the business aspects of his enterprise for over 20 years supported by his second wife Susan. On January 1,1996 Harmon became Bozo for the first time in a decade to appear in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. 

In 2008 his heart gave out.  But even though Harmon has passed on, the laughter and lessons from Bozo live forever.

QUESTION:  What could you do if you refused to take “no” for an answer?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Harmon, Larry & McKenzie, Thomas Scott, The Man Behind the Nose: Assassins, Astronauts, Cannibals, and Other Stupendous Tales. New York: Igniter Books, 2010.

http://bozotheclown.org/blog/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0363528/bio

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=28022262

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Harmon