In an Over-Communicated, Intrusive World, Simple is Better
Ed

Yes, Virginia, There
Is a Santa Claus

 
Copyright © 2007
by Ed Bagley

(Editor’s Note: The following editorial by Francis P. Church was first published in The New York Sun in 1897 in response to an
8-year-old girl’s letter to the editor, and is arguably the most famous editorial ever written in an American newspaper. This incredible piece of writing happened when newspapers were the primary means of communication. In 1897 there was no mass communication by radio, television, computers, cell phones and the associated technical goodies we have today. Readers actually believed and trusted in newspapers. Now we do not believe and trust in newspapers anymore than we do in politicians.)

Here is how Francis P. Church responded to Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter:

“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (in what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal (supernal means “of exceptional quality or extent”) beauty and glory beyond.

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

About the Exchange
Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus,
I was filled with doubts.
I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does’.”

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer.

Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply that was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia University, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator.

Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon” Part 2 – The 7 Cures for a Lean Wallet and The 5 Laws of Money

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Part 1 of this 2 Part series ends the synopsis of George Clason’s book “The Richest Man in Babylon,” but Clason raises an important question: Why should
so few men be able to acquire so much gold?

The answer is because they know how.

One may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability.

And so it was that the good king of Babylon sought out the richest man in Babylon to teach to others in his kingdom the secrets of his success.

This is a synopsis of what the richest man taught to the people
of Babylon:

The Seven Cures for a Lean Wallet

1) Start your wallet to fattening. Save one-tenth of all you earn. Remember that a part
of all I earn is mine to keep. Do this faithfully. Do not let the simplicity of this escape you.

When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings,
I got along just as well.
I was not shorter than before, and, money came to me more easily than before.

2) Control your expenses. How is it that all do not earn the same yet all have lean wallets? Here is the truth: That which each of us calls our “necessary expenses” will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to
the contrary.

Confuse not necessary expenses with desires. We all have more desires than our earnings can gratify. Examine which of the accepted expenses of living can be reduced or eliminated. Let your motto be 100% of appreciated value demanded for every dollar spent.

Budget your expenses so that your actual necessities are met without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings.

3) Make your money multiply. Protect your growing treasure by putting it to labor and increasing. Money in your wallet earns nothing. Money that we earn from our money is but a start; it is the earnings generating earnings that builds fortunes.

When the richest man in Babylon loaned money to the shield maker to buy bronze, he said this: “Each time I loaned money to the shield maker, I loaned back also the rental he had paid me. Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased.”

4) Guard your money from loss. Everyone has an idea of how to make quick money; few, however, have the evidence of making money to justify their idea, scheme or offer of quick riches. The first sound principle of investment is security for your principal.

Before you loan your money to any man assure yourself of his ability to repay your loan, and of his reputation to do so. Make no one a present of your hard-earned treasure.

Consult the wisdom of those experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is often freely given for
the asking, and may possess more value than the amount you
are about to invest.

5) Make your home a profitable investment. When you can set aside only nine-tenths of what you earn to live, and can use a part of that nine-tenths to improve the investment in your housing, do it; owning your own home is also an investment that grows with your wealth.

Your family deserves a home they can enjoy and call their own. It builds a sense of stability and well-being.

6) Ensure a future income. Build income-producing assets that do not require you to work forever. We will all grow old and die.

You should prepare a suitable income for the days to come when you are no longer younger and cannot work as hard, and to make preparations for your family should you no longer be with them to comfort and support them. Provide in advance for the needs of your growing age, and the protection of your family.

7) Increase your
ability to earn.
Desire precedes accomplishment, and the desire must be strong and definite. When you have backed your desire for saving $1,000 with the strength and purpose to secure it, you can then save $2,000.

Desires must be simple and definite. Desires defeat their own purpose when they are too many, too confusing, or too difficult to accomplish. Cultivate your own powers to study and become wiser, more skillful, and more productive.

Here is more sage advice from Clason’s masterpiece on financial matters:

The 5 Laws of Money

If you had to choose, would you choose tons of money or wisdom? Most men would take the money, ignore the wisdom, and waste the money. Here is the wisdom:

1) Money comes gladly and in increasing quantities to any man who will put aside not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and the future of his family.

2) Money labors diligently and contently for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying unto itself in infinity if kept working diligently. Money multiplies itself in surprising fashion.

3) Money clings to
the protection of the cautious owner who invests it with the advice of men wise
in its handling.

4) Money slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes that he is not familiar with, or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep. The inexperienced handler of money who trusts his own judgment, and puts his money in investments which he is not familiar, always pays with his money for his experience.

5) Money flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings, or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers, or who
trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

Here is the hard lesson of the 5 Laws of Money: You cannot measure the value of wisdom in bags of money. Without wisdom, those who have it quickly lose money, but with wisdom, money can be secured by those who have it not.

This ends the condensation.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Was there ever an actress who combined these four timeless qualities—beauty, fashion, grace and humility—better than Audrey Hepburn? I think not, especially when I see her again in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Even an actress who could come close (and I can think of none) would in no way match the humility of Audrey Hepburn. We shall not see another like her in our lifetime and by then the film industry may be on the way out when some newer, better technology unknown to us today arrives.

All the more reason to purchase her five most memorable movies in DVD now while they are still available.

First would be her Oscar winning Best Actress performance in Roman Holiday opposite Gregory Peck, which was also her first starring role in an American film.

The next four would be her Best Actress Oscar nominations for “Sabrina”, “The Nun’s Story”, “Wait Until Dark” (one of the two scariest movies I have ever seen) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (the Oscar went to Sophia Loren for “Two Women”).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s had two great assets, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, the young New York socialite (we say socialite because this movie was released in 1961, 45 years ago), and Director Blake Edwards, whose deft, sensitive handling of Hepburn’s character (a high-priced prostitute) could not have been done better.

Holly Golightly’s beauty, sense of fashion and pure innocence prohibit me from thinking of her as a woman of the night. She is so inherently stylish. God has not made a woman that could wear clothes better than Audrey Hepburn.

She has Holly Golightly floating around in Givenchy gowns with matchless grace and glamour.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is based on Truman Capote’s novel with the screenplay by George Axelrod, who also garnered an Oscar nomination.

Henry Mancini (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics) teamed up to win an Oscar for the Original Song “Moon River” while Mancini earned another Oscar as well as a Grammy for Best Musical Score.

The story line has the two romantic interests dependent upon others for financial support, Holly as a lady of the night and Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a wannabe writer who is kept by the married and wealthy Mrs. Failenson (Patricia Neal). Eventually Holly and Paul experience some personal growth and find love together.

There are matchless moments in this film that find places forever in your heart. One is Hepburn sitting on the fire escape plaintively singing “Moon River,” especially when you remember that the theme of your high school senior prom was Moon River, and that you were with the girl you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. It is a rare opportunity to hear Hepburn sing in the movie.

She recorded singing vocals for her role as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” only to discover that professional “singing double” Marni Nixon had overdubbed all of her songs.

Hepburn was not nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in this film, but her love interest Rex Harrison won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Professor Henry Higgins.

The “little black dress” worn by Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was designed by Givenchy and sold at Christie’s auction this year (2006) for $920,000 with the proceeds going to aid underprivileged children in India. It was not the one worn by Hepburn in the movie.

The only two dresses she wore are now in the Givenchy archives and the Museum of Costume in Madrid, Spain.

In Audrey Hepburn’s performance there are times when we are delighted by sweet innocence in a woman. You cannot imagine how difficult this is to find in today’s world.

Audrey Hepburn became a beauty and fashion icon, and although she did enjoy fashion, she placed little importance on it, preferring casual and comfortable clothes away from the bright lights and cameras.

I do want to give Breakfast at Tiffany’s an Excellent rating but cannot because of too many flaws in the film. I can easily give Audrey Hepburn an Excellent rating for her performance as Holly Golightly.

After 15 years as a highly successful actress Audrey Hepburn chose to lead a quieter life far away from Hollywood. She was married twice, first to actor Mel Ferrer and then to Italian doctor Andrea Dotti and had a son with each.

Hepburn was Belgian by birth and would grow up with her mother in The Netherlands, nearly starving to death during the Nazi occupation in World War II when the Dutch food and fuel supplies were cut off. Tragically, she suffered through watching her uncle and cousin being shot to death for being part of the Resistance movement.

She rose from the horrific atrocities of her youth to find fame and fortune in America and in the last four years of her life (1988 to 1992) became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund).

Only four months before her death from abdominal cancer she went on a mission to Somalia and was devastated to see the nightmare of famine and carnage.

Audrey Hepburn was the picture of beauty, fashion and grace but never for a minute let her success go to her head, and most certainly never led a Hollywood lifestyle of overblown debauchery so much in evidence in moviemaking and Tinseltown today.

See Breakfast at Tiffany’s because Audrey Hepburn became an important contributor to our time and culture. She not only represented the best in professional growth but made her life a legacy with her personal growth. She was a model of grace and humility in a world with little of either.

Pardon Me, I Am Gushing Again About Hollywood’s Incomparable Actress: Audrey Hepburn

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Like a lot of shoppers at supermarkets, I look at the magazine displays while waiting in line to check out. Recently I was thrilled to see a recent edition to LIFE’s Great Photographers Series: Remembering Audrey 15 Years Later with photographs by Bob Willoughby.

In my review of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” I posed this question: Was there ever an actress who combined these four timeless qualities—beauty, fashion, grace and humility—better than Audrey Hepburn? My answer was simply, I think not.

You better believe I bought a copy of Remembering Audrey faster than a single heartbeat and remain a better person for having done so.

Willoughby was born in Los Angeles—the city of the stars—and began taking pictures when he was 12. He was good, very good, and best described as a prodigy. In 1953, when he was 26, he would be assigned to photograph an upcoming soon to be actress, Audrey Hepburn. The result of their meeting would produce one of his most positive relationships, both as a photographer and a friend.

Willoughby pioneered the role of the “special” photographer to take formal publicity shots and candids of the stars Hollywood’s publicity departments wanted to promote. He was credited by Popular Photography magazine as the man “who virtually invented the photojournalistic motion-picture still.”

The images that you remember of James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn among dozens of others were mostly the work of Bob Willoughby. All the major magazines of the day—LIFE, Look, Saturday Evening Post and Harper’s Bazaar—published his work

Willoughby’s creations grace the exhibits in more than 500 museums in more than 50 countries around the world.

When first meeting Audrey, Willoughby said, “She took my hand and dazzled me with a smile that God designed to melt mortal men’s hearts.

“The amazing instant contact she always made was a remarkable gift, and I know from talking to others that it was felt by all who met her.”

Audrey had made a big impression with the studio brass in the 1953 William Wyler film “Roman Holiday”. She won an Oscar for Best Actress as Princess Ann in her film debut playing opposite Gregory Peck.

In the next 15 years, she would be nominated for 4 Best Actress Oscars for her work as Sabrina Fairchild in “Sabrina” (1954), Sister Luke in “The Nun’s Story” (1959), Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), and Susy Hendrix in “Wait Until Dark” (1967).

She also won a Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress in Roman Holiday and had an additional 6 Golden Globe nominations as Best Actress. Lesser known is the fact that Audrey was one of the few entertainers to have won an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony Award as well as an Oscar.

Bob Willoughby’s formal and candid photographs of Audrey Hepburn will stand the test of time as some of the greatest ever taken of a woman and an actress. He said that Audrey never took a bad photograph, or even a mediocre one.

“She could sit next to an old ladder on the set and look terrific,” said Willoughby. With designs by Hubert de Givenchy, the world’s most smashing woman wore the world’s most smashing fashions.

She became the most charming, disarming, altogether friendly and charismatic superstar ever to grace a Hollywood production. According to Willoughby, everyone liked Audrey and remained loyal to her. The best directors and the world’s greatest designers sought to work with her.

It was said that all her leading men fell in love with her, including Gregory Peck, William Holden, Anthony Perkins, Rex Harrison and Albert Finney.

When making My Fair Lady Audrey would not be recognized for her role as Eliza Doolittle. She had been promised that she could sing her songs in the film, but Marni Nixon was ultimately contracted to perform Eliza’s vocals.

Julie Andrews had played the role of Eliza in the stage production of the Lerner and Loewe musical, but she lost the role to Audrey in the film. It was perhaps no accident that the Best Actress Oscar that year went to Julie Andrews for her role as Mary Poppins.

My Fair Lady cost $17 million to make in 1964, an astounding investment in its day. It became Warner Brothers highest-grossing film at the time and would go on to earn 12 Oscar nominations and win 8 Oscars. Many film historians consider My Fair Lady to be the last great musical of Hollywood’s studio era.

Audrey would marry twice and have a son by both Mel Ferrer, the actor/director, and Andrea Dotti, an Italian psychiatrist. She suffered 4 miscarriages during her 13-year marriage to Mel Ferrer.

In her early life, Audrey’s parents would divorce and her mother took her and her two stepbrothers to London and then to the Netherlands, where her mother was a bona fide Dutch baroness. In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and the horror of war would surround her.

She danced in clandestine locations to raise money for the Dutch Resistance. One of her stepbrothers was sent to a German labor camp, and her uncle and one of her mother’s cousins were shot and killed for participating in the Resistance.

The Germans seized food and fuel when the Netherlands was already suffering a winter famine. Audrey would suffer malnutrition, anemia and frequent bouts of depression. She was 10 years old when World War II started and remained fragile her entire life as a result of her wartime experience.

Some believe her final act in life was her best when she was named UNICEF’s International Goodwill Ambassador in 1988. Audrey would travel around the world on 50+ missions to bring attention to the world’s suffering children. The sight of children dying from hunger in distant lands was devastating; she had once been one of those children and survived.

“I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering,” said Audrey. Despite being terribly ill herself, she continued to go on missions. She would die of colon cancer in 1993, four months before her 64th birthday. When she died, the world lost a great human being.

Bob Willoughby said it best: “She left those who came into contact with her better for having known her. I miss her to this day.” Amen, Bob, amen.

The First Time I Had Witnessed a Miracle

 

(Ed’s Note: This article was written in 1976, 44 years ago, on the occasion of my daughter’s birth, and was first published in The Lacey Leader, the newspaper
I owned and operated for
8 years. As a Christian,
I celebrate the Resurrection of Christ rising from the dead this Easter Sunday so that all who believe might have eternal life. It is a joy for me to recount this miracle with you, recognizing that the birth of life is both a miracle and mystery to be cherished among all of our living experiences.)

Copyright 1976
by Ed Bagley

I have lived on this Earth 31 years, but Saturday night was the first time
I had ever seen a miracle.

It started in the dead of sleep at 5 a.m. For four hours I slept on like a newborn baby. It was nothing unusual for me—
the freight train that cuts Patterson Lake in two could detour through our bedroom, and I would probably not wake up.

Inside Annette—while I cut through zees like rewrite copy—a slow stirring began. Soon it became sharp pains. Finally I woke at 9 a.m. to greet the new day and found out Annette had been up at 5 wondering if her time had come. It had.

We checked into St. Peter Hospital at 11 a.m. and began an even longer wait. Soon it was 1 p.m., then 3 and 5 and 7 and 9 and her labor continued. The baby was not in the right position, and Annette spent a good deal of time figuring out how to push when the contractions came.

It was a struggle we went through together, her frank cries of anguish and my dispassionate encouragement. I could not have become emotionally involved, or it would have been all over for me. I wanted to see everything.

Finally monitors were put on her to play out the frequency of the contractions and the frequency of the baby’s heartbeat. A steady blip, blip, blip played across the face of the machine and, to the right, numbers changed every few seconds, telling the baby’s heartbeat per minute. Eventually medicine was used to help induce the contractions.

After 17½ hours, Annette went to the delivery room and I was right behind her. Inside, as Dr. Krug exhibited a totally calm, professional demeanor, I watched as the baby’s head pushed into the new world.

Dr. Krug noted that the cord had a knot and then, with one final push, Kristin Ann came into the world and nothing could hold back Annette’s elation and tears, and Kristin’s cry for survival.

Kristin was bright and alert to the momentous occasion; she immediately opened her eyes and let us know she was here—it must have been a tremendous struggle for her too.

I sat stunned, not giving in to instant joy. I wanted to note, with the patience and calm of a craftsman, every detail of this glorious moment.

Kristin looked blue and—had it not been for her crying—you might have thought she was not alive. Her eyes, if not her voice, said otherwise. I felt like
I could have reached out and touched the Hand of God.

Later, in the nursery, I was astounded that Kristin looked a healthy pink only minutes after her arrival. Her eyes were still open and her mouth was constantly moving.

When Annette came out of the delivery room and the nurse wheeled her up to the window, I was sure I saw Kristin smile. As if to test this observation against reality, I asked the nurse if she had smiled. I could not believe it.

The nurse replied yes and then, when the nurse, Annette and I once again focused on the wonder before us, Kristin Ann smiled again.

(Ed’s Note: Family is the fundamental core unit of our culture, from the unity of many comes the strength of the family to fulfill its destiny, with each generation experiencing the life cycle, and the joys and challenges of realizing our individual and group potential. The gift of life is only our first gift, it is up to us—as individuals and as a family unit—to love and support each other as we develop our unique gifts as children of God. Regrettably, more than 62 million babies have suffered abortion and been killed in their mother’s womb because of the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court. It obviously never occurred to the majority of the 7 of 9 setting Justices that they would have not been alive on Planet Earth if their mothers had aborted them. And many of us thought that those 7 Supreme Court Justices that ruled in favor of the motion were kind, thoughtful and sensible students of the United States Constitution, a document whose authors never, and I mean never, would have approved the motion. I say this because our great nation ensured us that were endowed by God with the fundamental tenet of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The majority decision by those
7 misguided Justices have resulted in the killing of 62+ million babies and counting, as more are killed every day in America. It is easy to see why liberal progressives are happy with kicking God out of our schools. These are the same Pro Choice believers who would like to kick God out of our country and kick Christianity out of our nation, then we could become a socialist nation (or Communist or a Dictatorship) without a need for God or religion. Non-believers have some other ideas about this same topic. That’s OK. I believe our universe is big enough to accommodate everyone.)

Financial Thoughts
on Investing
by Warren Buffett

 

(Ed’s Note: The following condensation is from The Tao of Warren Buffett, written by Mary Buffett and David Clark and available for sale at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. I am always impressed by what Warren Buffett has to say and am doing this condensation to help promote their book.)

On Investing: Never be afraid to ask too much when selling offer too little when buying.
(Ed’s Note: How much you get from a sale or how much you have to pay when making a purchase determines whether you make or lose money and how rich you ultimately become.)

(Ed’s Note: For more of Warren Buffett’s advice go to the menu bar above and click on Financial Thoughts.)