SINCE Oct. 21, 1942, the day an essay by a young writer from Maine first appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, several generations of readers have come to love the twang and zip of John Gould's Down-East humor. Through his columns, Mr. Gould, now a Friday regular on the Home Forum, has become a special guest in homes all over the world. He has appeared at the breakfast table, shared giggles in the living room, made trips to the neighbors', and, in some cases, has even done the rounds at the office.
In a normal week, Mr. Gould frequently receives more mail than most of our other writers combined. The last four weeks, however, have been extraordinary. The Home Forum office has been deluged by more than 1,200 letters and postcards arriving from readers to congratulate him on his 50th anniversary with the paper.
"Dear John," one letter began, "I feel perfectly free to call you `John' because you are an old friend of mine."
An old friend, a faithful companion, a purveyor of soft chuckles. These are the words that readers use to describe John Gould. The staff and readers of the Monitor join in saluting his enduring humor and wit, the mastery of his craft, and the immense contribution that he has made to this paper the last 50 years.
The letters excerpted here are a small sample of the mail received recently.
DEAR Mr. Gould,
How remarkable that we should be about to congratulate you on your 50th anniversary with The Christian Science Monitor.
To put it as simply and briefly as possible - my Fridays would not be complete without your special message from Friendship, Maine. It brings humour and interest to my day, and I often share your contribution with my whole office.
Do you remember I wrote to you about a young Vietnam soldier I met when he was on * and * in Bangkok? I met him one morning by the hotel pool, and he was clearly sad and homesick. I asked where he came from, and he said Maine. I asked him if he knew Lisbon Falls, and he said that [it] was just a few miles down the road from his own town. He wouldn't believe me when I told him that I read a weekly article in a daily newspaper from there. It just so happened that there was a Friday Monitor in the paper rac k in that hotel's lobby, and I went in and got it and gave it to him.
You can't imagine the joy that that article gave to that young soldier so many miles from home. Not just the content of the article, but the fact that it was from Lisbon Falls. You cured him of homesickness, and it was a privilege for me to be a small part of that little episode.
Just a small example of the goodness and joy your articles have spread around the world. John L. Miller Surrey, England
Dear Mr. Gould,
I remember distinctly the first time I heard your name. It was a hot summer afternoon in North Carolina in 1949. I was 22. I had been invited by a friend whom I had just met the week before to ride up into the nearby mountains to get a breath of fresh air and to enjoy the view.
As I got into the car, my friend tossed a copy of The Christian Science Monitor, a publication with which I was unfamiliar, into my lap, suggested that I turn to the John Gould article and read it aloud as we drove along.
"You'll enjoy it," he said. And I did. I remember so well how we laughed as we spiraled up the mountain side.
I married my friend two years later and we chuckled over your column for 33 years.
So thank you, Mr. Gould, for years of chuckles and on many occasions, for good old "down East" wisdom. Mary Babcock Valparaiso, Ind.
Reading a John Gould column is like exploring a meandering path (which I love to do), with a knowledgeable and entertaining companion. You may not know where he's taking you (if anywhere!), but the fun is in the going, the familiar newly seen, the unexpected twists and turns, the surprises and the laughter.
Thanks, friend, for all the refreshing walks you've taken me on through the decades. Mary Elizabeth Leever Gold River, Calif.
Dear Mr. Gould:
I do not wish to be irreverent, but instead of saying, "Thank goodness, it's Friday," I now say, "Thanks Friday, it's Gould." Helen Y. Harville Campbell, Calif.
When I read that October 21 marks the 50th anniversary of your first story in the Monitor, it made me think back over the many years that our family has enjoyed your friendship and stories about life in the State of Maine.
Being born and raised in Maine makes us, I think, luckier than most people. Thanks to your Monitor stories, even people who have never come face-to-snout with a moose or experienced a town meeting in the State of Maine can appreciate the things that, even today, make our state such a uniquely rewarding place to live.
Congratulations, John, from all the McKernans for 50 years of great stories, and a special congratulations to you and Dottie as you celebrate 60 years of marriage! John R. McKernan Jr. Governor, The State of Maine Augusta, Maine
Dear John Gould:
Congratulations for your 50 years with the Monitor! Harking back, I think I have been enjoying your essays for about 30 of those years.
I find that your delicious dogmatism goes well with bacon and eggs, so you are often the autocrat at my breakfast table. Many thanks for many chuckles.
A tip of my hat to Mrs. G., who has turned out a fine husband; making, I surmise, the Jovian jovial. George McPherson Rolla, Mo.
Dear Mr. Gould,
My husband and I consider ourselves avid fans of yours. But I had misjudged the depth of our enthusiasm, for one day my seven-year-old asked me: "When can I read John Gould?"
I guess he had heard our conversations about your essays and decided it was time to join the fun. I told him to wait a few years and enjoy the "Kidspace" in the meantime.
We congratulate you on 50 years with the Monitor and hope you'll still be writing when Carlos is ready to enjoy your humor.
All the Best! Joan Donaldson Fennville, Mich.
Dear Mr. Gould,
A love letter should never be postponed! And for all the laughs, wry thoughts, and outright chuckles you have given me, lo, these many years, I am delighted to finally be able to say "thank you" for the all important moments of levity and momentary returns to sanity that you have so kindly afforded me! Meri Jaye San Francisco, Calif.
In my kitchen, I have a Gould. It is an enduring, graceful tool that makes a significant contribution to culinary endeavors.
This item is slender, measures nine inches in length and has a black handle that is easily grasped. The working end presents three gently curved tines which can be inserted into foodstuffs, testing their doneness without inducing any harm. A three-tined fork; I wouldn't be without it.
Upon the 50th Anniversary of John Gould's writings for the Monitor, I am remembering an essay that he wrote, about 35 years ago, concerning the merits of such a fork. He's been there, all these years, reminding us of the pleasure-giving array of ingredients that make up our daily lives.
Congratulations to John and the Home Forum. Alma M. Penberthy Seattle, Wash.
John Gould wrote a piece about "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" about two years ago.
It inspired me to learn the poem by heart. Now when I go to swim laps I don't count the laps but recite the poem instead. One-hundred-forty-four verses - 72 laps - exactly 1 mile! It takes me about 40 minutes to do the mile and it makes the swim more enjoyable.
Thank you, Mr. Gould. Devinder Singh Des Moines, Iowa
And finally, some letters from people who have appeared over the years in Mr. Gould's columns:
The Maine farm where we lived was located in a mill town: textiles, linoleum, and wallboard. My schoolmates had fathers who left home toting lunch buckets for their appointed shifts in one of the town's four factories while my Dad sat at home all morning laboring over a typewriter. Why, I wondered, didn't he have a real job?
As his writings, both here in the Monitor and elsewhere, began to attract a following, a strange phenomenon occurred. Readers (Mother has always called them fans) would pull into town and ask directions to John Gould's farm so they could ride by and see the site of these writings. Those shift-working fathers were now giving directions to the home where we lived!
During the high tourist season, I ran a roadside stand selling farm products. Maple syrup in the spring; berries and peas in mid-season; corn, cukes, and tomatoes in August; and apples, cabbage, squash and turnips in the fall. So these touring fans, planning only to drive by "the Farm," had an unexpected excuse to stop and get a closer look while inspecting the produce. Whenever Dad knew I was attending a reader, he would wander out to visit and make sure I didn't shortchange anyone.
So on this 50th anniversary, my thanks go out to the thousands of you who over the years came to convince Dad to keep on writing and forget about shift work in the mill. Thanks, also, for buying all that sweet corn. John Gould Jr. Stamford, Conn.
My Very Dearest Father,
"What is it like to have a famous father?" people ask. I try to be modest! Dad, your success as a literary genius (move over, Mark Twain) swells me with pride. However, I would rather brag about your success as my ONLY father - which, by the way, has also reached the 50 year mark!
You taught me the universal truths and verities, you instilled the desire to excel in my personal, academic, and social pursuits, and you read to me. You read to me everyday. You still read to me. Your greatest gift is the printed word.
Sandwiched between the lessons of life were such precious events as: our fishing at Flatiron Pond, icy toboggan rides (just you and me), overnights in the sugarbush, Hudson Bay and Pittsburg, wild flower contests, melon parties in the garden, Kennebago in the Old Ford, Sweet Sixteen at the Log Cabin - and of course the night I stayed out too late with the boyfriend!
Many of these wonderful memories have appeared as a "Dispatch From The Farm" in The Christian Science Monitor. Recent years have found my own family - Terry, Julie, Karyn, and Andrea - the topic of your philosophical wit and wisdom of the Home Forum Page. The "Wheaton College vs. Bates College Field Hockey Game" and the "Hotel Flowers at Northeast Harbor" were my favorites.
What a thrill to be in print! How did you compose 2,600 unique and provocative Monitor essays during the past 50 years? I know how you did it. You are my Father!
I love you, Tink (Kathy Christy) Sebago Lake, Maine
A week ago, I went to see my doctor. He is a big fan of my grandfather, John Gould. Whenever I see him, he asks about my grandfather and praises his writing ability. John Gould is a talented author, but I have always viewed him as my "Grumpa" who loves to entertain his family with humorous stories of everyday life and people. My family appreciates this talent, and it has often been said that all of us have a crazy sense of humor. So, when I recently saw the doctor, we exchanged a funny greeting. He laugh ed and asked me if I had ever considered following my grandfather's path as a humorist. I left the office thinking differently of my grandfather. I am 23 years old - Granddaughter No. 1 - and I have a grandfather who is loved not only by me, but by perfect strangers who attain happiness by reading John Gould's humorous tales. J. M. Christy Sebago Lake, Maine
On August 24th of this year, I received a message from my brother, John, telling me what the weather was like on that date in 1918 - my birth date. It didn't surprise me that John remembered, for, we in the family, believe there isn't anything John doesn't remember. Ask him the text for his High School Baccalaureate sermon, how much baking powder Mother put into her biscuits, or what L. L. Bean charged him for a fishing rod in 1932, and John will remember.
It was fun being his little sister. He was always "up to something" as our Mother said. I remember the birch-bark canoe he built, the traps he set, the hens he raised for a 4-H project, and the darkroom he made under the stairs where he taught me to develop pictures of my friends. He had a Model-T Ford we drove to the top of Hedgehog Mountain to view the eclipse of the sun. These were just a few of the adventures I enjoyed because John didn't seem to mind letting his little sister tag along.
No matter when John retires, I'll be finding his columns to read. Our mother cut out every one he ever wrote, and she lived to be almost 103. She never kept these columns in a special place or in any order. Since she spent her last years in our home, we keep finding John's columns in sewing baskets, recipe boxes, desk drawers, etc. They may not be in chronological order, but I know I'll be enjoying Dispatches from the Farm and from Friendship for as long as I live.
Thanks, Johnnie, and all my love, Sister Kathryn (Kathryn Gould Ball) West Caldwell, N. J. There is a Maine man named Gould Whose style is always fine tool'd. He knows weel what he writes and his humor delights. Fifty cheers to you Jouh Gould. Richard Keefer, De Kalb, Ill. (Editor: Got a better rhyme for "Gould"?)