Dr. Seuss — an American phenomenon

David Lindeman - Contributing Columnist

I knew it was going to be a different kind of day when I got out of bed, staggered out to the kitchen and saw my wife had purple hair.

I blinked. I pinched myself. Yes, I was awake. And yes, her hair was purple. As you might expect, this would be a shocking development almost any time of day, let alone at 6:30 in the morning. I mean, you might expect to see purple or green hair on a 20-year-old to complement her tattoos and piercings, but my wife and I have been married almost 40 years and her hair is pretty much the same, except for a few gray ones that we won’t go into here.

Actually, it wasn’t really her hair. It was a purple wig. She was wearing it in honor of a friend who would have been 112 years old last week. You might have heard of him. His name was Theodor Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss.

The purple hair was part of a special day at my wife’s school. Teachers dressed up like Dr. Seuss characters and read Dr. Seuss stories to the students. She kept the wig on all day and got a few funny looks when she stopped at Winan’s later in the day, but what good is a purple wig if you can’t get people to stare a little bit?

Dr. Seuss was — and still is — an American phenomenon. He probably is one of the most famous of all Americans for children under the age of seven or so. Everyone has a favorite Dr. Seuss book — mine was “And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street.” I wore it out when I was a kid.

Last week, many schools held a special day in his honor. The Houston Rockets’ “distractor team” wore Cat in the Hat hats (and not much else) in an attempt to distract the opposing team’s free throw shooters. People all over dined on green eggs and ham. Thing One and Thing Two and the Cat in the Hat and various other Seuss characters appeared at libraries and schools across the country.

The bottom line is, it’s really hard not to like Dr. Seuss.

There are some things about the good doctor that you might not know. For one thing, he wasn’t a doctor, it was just part of his pen name. During World War II he created a number of anti Axis cartoons and even worked on animated features for the Army. The main character in Yertle the Turtle? That’s Adolph Hitler. He was famous for concocting nonsense words that somehow made sense, including the word “nerd.” And that addictive rhyming method he used is called anapestic tetrameter. No, he didn’t make that name up but it sounds like something he might have done.

And no, Dr. Seuss never had any children of his own.

So why is it that we are so enamored by the doctor’s books? For one thing, he gets us early — it’s hard not to feel nostalgic about the books you remember from your earliest reading days, and Dr. Seuss books are hard to forget. His stories are outrageous and yet many of them still manage to convey a moral. And the artwork – well, there’s nothing quite like it.

I suppose if you had to make a list of the most influential authors in modern history, you would want to include all sorts of serious people who write grown-up stuff that puts you to sleep or addresses worldwide problems. But if you’re honest, you’ll have to admit that Dr. Seuss should be on that list. You can have your old men and their seas and your Great Gatsbys and the rest of them, give me McElligott’s Pool any time.

After all, who else could make my wife go out in public in a purple wig? Actually, by the end of the day I started to kind of like it. Maybe it’s a good thing he only has a birthday once a year.

In parting, let me leave you with a few bits of Seussian wisdom:

“Adults are obsolete children.”

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

And one for those of us who remember reading our first Dr. Seuss book many decades ago:

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”


David Lindeman

Contributing Columnist

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at lindy@woh.rr.com.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at lindy@woh.rr.com.