I Remember Milwaukee | Program | #313 — Gertie the Duck


>>IN 1945, A DUCK NAMED GERTIE BECAME THE TALK OF MILWAUKEE AND BEYOND. HERE TO SHARE THE TALE OF “GERTIE THE DUCK” AND HOW THEY CAME TO TURN IT INTO A CHILDREN’S BOOK ARE LOUIS ROMANO AND NICHOLAS GEORGIADY. THEY ARE MY SPECIAL GUESTS NEXT ON “I REMEMBER MILWAUKEE.”>>HI, I’M JIM PECK. WELCOME TO “I REMEMBER MILWAUKEE.” JOINING US TONIGHT ARE LOUIS ROMANO AND NICHOLAS GEORGIADY. FORMER EDUCATORS, THEY HAVE CO-AUTHORED MORE THAN 100 BOOKS FOR CHILDREN. ONE BOOK THAT MET WITH GREAT SUCCESS WAS INSPIRED BY A TRUE EVENT IN MILWAUKEE. WITH MORE THAN A MILLION COPIES SOLD, THE TALE OF “GERTIE THE DUCK” IS AS POPULAR AS EVER. LET’S TAKE A LOOK. ♪ BE KIND TO YOUR WEB-FOOTED FRIENDS, FOR A DUCK MAY BE SOMEBODY’S MOTHER ♪>>IF YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER THAT SILLY CHANT, YOU MAY ALSO REMEMBER THE TIME WHEN A DUCK TOOK HOLD OF THE IMAGINATION OF ALL OF MILWAUKEE, THEN MOST OF AMERICA, AND EVEN OUR SERVICEMEN OVERSEAS. IT BEGAN IN THE WANING DAYS OF WORLD WAR II, WHEN A PASSING MALLARD DUCK LANDED ON SOME BRIDGE PILINGS, WHERE WISCONSIN AVENUE CROSSES THE MILWAUKEE RIVER. IT SEEMS SHE WAS IN WHAT WAS THEN TERMED, “THE FAMILY WAY.” A CITY EMPLOYEE NOTICED THE DUCK BEGINNING TO LAY HER EGGS IN A NEST SHE HAD MADE ON A PILING. HE MENTIONED IT TO A NEWSPAPER REPORTER AND SUDDENLY THE DUCK BECAME A CELEBRITY. THE REPORTER NAMED HER GERTIE. GERTIE, THE DUCK. STORIES OF HER ESCAPADES BEGAN CIRCULATING EVERYWHERE AND, ALMOST OVERNIGHT, THIS LITTLE DUCK BECAME THE CENTER OF ATTENTION FOR A WAR-WEARY PEOPLE.>>WHAT A GREAT, GREAT STORY. ANY OF US WHO WERE AROUND BACK THEN, I WAS JUST A WEE LITTLE KID, REMEMBERED GERTIE THE DUCK. IT WAS CAPTIVATING. WHERE WERE YOU TWO THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD ABOUT GERTIE?>>WE WERE BOTH IN THE SERVICE.>>WE WERE IN THE AIR FORCE, BUT WE WERE THOUSANDS OF MILES APART AND THOUSANDS OF MILES FROM HOME. AND WE BEGAN HEARING ABOUT GERTIE THROUGH THE MILITARY NEWSPAPER CALLED “STARS AND STRIPES,” THAT’S SENT ALL OVER THE WORLD WHEREVER MILITARY PERSONNEL ARE STATIONED AND IT’S STILL DONE TODAY, AND THE MILITARY PERSONNEL DEVOUR THAT PAPER, LOOKING FOR NEWS ABOUT THEIR HOMETOWN. AND WE ALWAYS LOOK FOR NEWS ABOUT MILWAUKEE AND THAT’S WHERE WE FIRST BECAME ACQUAINTED WITH THE STORY OF GERTIE.>>WE BOTH HAD THE SAME IDEA, DIDN’T WE?>>WE BOTH HAD A WONDERFUL STORY THIS WOULD BE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN TO READ. AND THEN WE FILED THAT THOUGHT AWAY AND GAVE OUR ATTENTION TO SURVIVING IN THE WAR.>>WHERE WERE YOU LOCATED?>>I WAS LOCATED AT SANTA ANA CALIFORNIA AND WHEN THE BOYS FOUND OUT I WAS FROM MILWAUKEE, THEY WOULD SAY HOW’S GERTIE, THEY RAN THE HECK OUT OF ME AND SO I CALLED MY WIFE EACH DAY TO GET THE LATEST NEWS AND THEN THEY’D SAY, WELL, WHAT HAPPENED, AND I’D TELL THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED, AND EACH DAY, AND IT WAS REALLY, I FELT GREAT.>>WE SAW IN THE PIECE THAT DEB SHEWOOD PUT TOGETHER AND I LOVE THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF COURSE FROM YOUR BOOK, AND GERTIE JUST CAPTIVATED THIS ENTIRE CITY, BUT WHY WOULD A MALLARD MAKE A MESS ON A BRIDGE PILING?>>WELL, THAT’S SOMETHING WE TALKED ABOUT AND THOUGHT ABOUT. BECAUSE THE PLACE WHERE SHE MADE HER NEST WAS THE WORST PLACE IN THE WORLD.>>THERE WAS NO PRIVACY, BECAUSE IT WAS ON THE — JUST UNDERNEATH THE BUSIEST STREET IN THE CITY.>>WISCONSIN AVENUE.>>BUT IT WAS NOISY, BECAUSE THERE WERE BUSES AND STREET CARS AND AUTOMOBILES AND TRUCKS DRIVING OVER THE BRIDGE, DAY AND NIGHT. THE RIVER WAS POLLUTED WITH OIL FROM THE SHIPS THAT WENT UP AND DOWN THE RIVER, CARRYING CARGOES, BUT THAT’S WHERE SHE WANTED HER NEST AND WE DECIDED THAT GERTIE LIKED TO BE NEAR PEOPLE.>>THAT’S RIGHT.>>WELL, SHE SURE GOT HER WISH. NOW, WHO ACTUALLY FOUND GERTIE?>>WELL, WHAT HAPPENED, WAS A LITTLE BOY, LOOKED THROUGH THE BRIDGE FENCING, AND HE LOOKED DOWN AND HE SAID, LOOK, MOTHER, HE SAID IT LOUD ENOUGH, SO IT ATTRACTED A LOT OF ADULTS, AND HE POINTED.>>AND HE POINTED TO THE DUCK. AND THERE WAS GERTIE, CHIPPING AWAY AT THE ROTTED PILINGS. AND THEN THE MOTHER TOLD HIM WHAT WAS HAPPENING, SHE WAS MAKING A NEST, AND THEN OTHER ADULTS CAME IN, AND THAT STARTED IT ALL. WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT, EVENTUALLY 80 — WRITTEN AND RECORDED 87,000 PEOPLE PER DAY WERE THERE TO LOOK AT GERTIE AND HER DUCKLINGS.>>MY FAMILY WAS ONE OF THEM AND I CAN REMEMBER AND I’M SURE IT DROVE EVERYBODY CRAZY, BECAUSE YOU DRIVE ALONG WISCONSIN AVENUE, YOU GET TO THE BRIDGE AND EVERYBODY WOULD SLOW DOWN. AND HE’D BE LOOKING.>>NOT ONLY SLOW DOWN, THE BUSES WOULD SLOW, AND THEN SOME WOULD GO TO THE DRIVER AND OPEN THE DOOR AND SOME WOULD SHOUT OUT, HOW’S GERTIE AND THEY WOULD TELL HIM SOMETHING AND HE TURNED AROUND AND SAW THE PASSENGERS AND THE SAME WITH THE STREETCAR. IT WAS REALLY PHENOMENAL THE WAY THEY BEHAVED, THE ADULTS.>>WE’VE BEEN ARGUING IN THE STUDY OFFALL DAY ABOUT EXACTLY — STUDIO ALL DAY ABOUT WHICH SIDE OF THE RIVER AND WHICH SIDE OF WISCONSIN AVENUE THIS WAS ON. WHERE WAS GERTIE’S NEST?>>WHERE MARSHAL FIELDS IS. NOT WHERE THEY HAVE THE DUCK NOW. IN FACT, I WAS ON THE TV SHOW WITH THE MAYOR AND THEY WERE DEDICATING THE DUCK AND SOME OLD FELLOW — SENIOR CITIZEN STOPPED ME AND HE SAID, IT’S DISGRACEFUL. I SAID, WHAT’S DISGRACEFUL? GERTIE WASN’T THERE. SHE WAS OVER THERE. I SAID YOU’RE RIGHT, SHE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.>>SO SHE WAS ON THE — SEE IF I CAN GET THIS RIGHT, THE SOUTHWEST –>>WEST, THAT’S RIGHT.>>PART OF THE BRIDGE AND THEY WERE LOOKING AT THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BRIDGE.>>THAT’S RIGHT. SO SHE WAS ACTUALLY NEXT TO GIMBEL’S.>>RIGHT.>>OK. WE TALKED ABOUT PEOPLE DRIVING BY AND STOPPING AND THAT SORT OF THING. WAS GERTIE ALWAYS SAFE?>>NO. NO. AS A MATTER OF FACT, OF AFTER SHE MADE HER NEST, AND WAS SITTING THERE, THERE WERE — PEOPLE WERE WAITING TO SEE IF SHE WAS GOING TO LAY ANY EGGS. AND THERE WERE A COUPLE OF SAILORS FROM THE GREAT LAKES NAVAL TRAINING STATION SOUTH OF MILWAUKEE WHO USED TO COME UP ON SHORE LEAVE, AND THEY WOULD WAIT PATIENTLY TO HAVE GERTIE TO GET UP SO THEY COULD SEE IF THERE WERE ANY EGGS THERE, SO THEY BEGAN THROWING CIGARETTE BUTTS AT HER AND PEOPLE WERE HORRIFIED, BECAUSE THEY WERE WORRIED, THE BUTTS MIGHT SET FIRE TO THE WOODEN PILING AND POOR GERTIE WOULD HAVE NO MORE OF A NEST, AND TWO LADIES, WHO SAW THIS, WERE FURIOUS, AND THEY TOOK THEIR HANDBAGS AND THEIR UMBRELLAS AND THEY BEGAN HITTING THESE YOUNG SAILORS, TO HAVE THEM STOP. AND THE SAILORS LEFT VERY QUICKLY.>>AND THERE ACTUALLY WAS A FIRE AT THE NEST, WASN’T THERE?>>OH, YES. IN FACT, THEY CALLED THE BRIDGE TENDERS, WHO PLAYED A VERY IMPORTANT PART IN THIS WHOLE STORY, CALLED THE FIRE DEPARTMENT AND THEY CAME SCREAMING IN THERE, AND THEY PUT OUT THE FIRE, AND THE WHOLE TOWN WAS SO DEVOTED, NICK MENTIONED THE OIL. WELL, THE MAYOR TOLD THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE FILTRATION PLANT THAT WE WANT THE MILWAUKEE RIVER CLEANED OUT. THEY POURED OUT HOW MANY MINNEAPOLIS — 3.5 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER A DAY TO FLUSH OUT THE RIVER.>>BROUGHT IT IN FROM THE LAKE.>>YEAH. THEY BROUGHT IT IN, PURIFIED IT, AND THEN FLUSHED OUT THE RIVER.>>YEAH. AND THEN SOMEONE ASKED –>>IT’S A SHAME THEY DIDN’T KEEP DOING THAT.>>THEN SOMEONE ASKED THE MAYOR, WHY. HE SAID NOTHING IS TOO GOOD FOR GERTIE.>>WHO WAS MAYOR THEN? I WAS TRYING TO THINK –>>MAIER.>>I DON’T THINK SO, BECAUSE HE CAME AFTER MAYOR ZEIDLER AND MAYOR ZEIDLER DIDN’T COME IN UNTIL 1948, SO IF SOMEBODY OUT THERE KNOWS, DROP US A NOTE –>>I HAVE A LETTER FROM MAIER. THAT’S RIGHT. IT WASN’T MAIER, IT WAS SOMEONE BEFORE THAT.>>BUT THE DAN HOAN –>>BECAUSE HOAN — NOW I’M BECOMING — HOAN WAS DEFEATED IN 1940 BY CARL ZEIDLER, SO THERE WAS SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN THERE WHEN CARL WENT TO THE WAR ANYWAY. THIS IS A DIFFERENT STORY. WE TALKED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE FIRE PEOPLE THROWING THINGS. DIDN’T GERTIE EVER HAVE A GUARD?>>YES, THEY HAD SEVERAL. THE BOY SCOUTS, THE HUMANE SOCIETY HAD A MAN STANDING THERE, FULL TIME, TO WATCH OVER GERTIE. AND AS NICK POINTED OUT –>>THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. POSTED A MAN THERE TO KEEP THE TRAFFIC MOVING.>>WAS THERE SOMETHING WITH THE BRIDGE TENDERS?>>OH, YES. THEY HAD TWO LONG — THEY ARE LONG STICK AT THE END OF IT WAS A NET, AND THEY USED THAT TO FISH OUT THE DUCKS THAT THEY FOUND IN THE RIVER.>>BUT THEY WERE ALSO DEPUTIZED, WEREN’T THEY? I SEEM TO REMEMBER THAT.>>I DON’T KNOW WHETHER THEY WERE DEPUTYSED, BUT THEY AUTOMATICALLY TOOK CARE OF THAT. IN FACT, THERE WAS A NOTE ON THE BRIDGE SAYING THESE POLES ARE FOR EMERGENCY ONLY FOR GERTIE.>>MILWAUKEE IS A CITY THAT LOVES PARADES. FIRST OF ALL, WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR WAS THIS, THAT GERTIE WAS THERE?>>WELL, THIS WAS 1945.>>OK. AND GERTIE’S NEST WAS STARTED IN THE LAST PART OF APRIL, 1944. — 1945, AND SHE LAID HER EGGS AND ON V.E. DAY, WHICH WAS MAY 8, WHEN THE WAR ENDED IN EUROPE, SHE WAS STILL WAITING FOR THE EGGS TO HATCH, AND THE PEOPLE DECIDED TO HAVE A VICTORY PARADE IN MILWAUKEE. AND SO THEY HAD ARMY BANDS FROM TRUEX FIELD AND NAVY BANDS AND MILITARY PERSONNEL FROM ALL THE SERVICES, AND SCREW BANDS FROM THE HIGH SCHOOLS, AND THE COLLEGES IN THE AREA, AND THEY ALL MARCHED DOWN WISCONSIN AVENUE WITH THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE –>>DIDN’T THEY SCARE GERTIE.>>THOUSANDS ON THE SIDELINES.>>WHEN THEY GOT TO THE BRIDGE, AN AMAZING THING HAPPENED. THE BAND STOPPED PLAYING AND THE MARCHERS TIP TOED ACROSS THE BRIDGE SO THEY WOULDN’T DISTURB MOTHER GERTIE AND HER EGGS. THEN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE, THEY STARTED PLAYING AND MARCHED OFF TO THE LAKEFRONT.>>YOU TALKED ABOUT THE SHIPS THAT WENT UP THERE, CARRYING CARGO. WHILE GERTIE WAS THERE, DID THAT BRIDGE EVER HAVE TO OPEN?>>OH, YES. BECAUSE YOU HAD YOUR CLOTHES FIELD DOWN THE WAY.>>HOW DID SHE HANDLE THAT?>>FUNNY THING, IT NEVER BOTHERED HER. AND THIS WAS AGAIN, AN AMAZING THING ABOUT THIS DUCK. SHE WAS SO DEVOTED SO THAT NEST AND THOSE EGGS THAT SHE JUST STAYED THERE.>>HOW MANY EGGS WERE THERE?>>THERE WERE SIX EGGS. BUT ACTUALLY, THERE WERE NINE AND THREE OF THEM DISAPPEARED, BUT THEY HAD SIX AND WE TALK ABOUT SIX ALL THE TIME.>>AND WHEN DID THE EGGS START TO HATCH?>>HOW SOON WOULD YOU GUESS?>>IT WAS SOON AFTER — SOON AFTER V.E. DAY, THAT THE FIRST EGG HATCHED AND THE DUCKLING THAT CAME OUT WAS ALL COVERED WITH BLACK FEATHERS. SO THEY NAMED HIM IMMEDIATELY BLACK BILL. AND HE BECAME THE FAVORITE OF THE CROWD WATCHING HIM.>>HE WAS A BIT OF AN EXHIBITIONIST, WASN’T HE?>>BUT HE WAS A RASCAL. HE WAS A RASCAL.>>AND A TROUBLEMAKER. BECAUSE HE WAS THE ONE WHO WOULD WALK IN HIS MOTHER’S BACK, WOULD FALL IN THE WATER AND THE BRIDGE TENDER WOULD GO AND SAVE HIM AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN, BUT HE WAS A LOVEABLE DUCK. EVERYBODY LOVED HIM.>>THE BIRTH PROCESS AS I REMEMBER IT WASN’T ALL THAT EASY. WHEN THEY STARTED TO HATCH, THERE WAS A BIG STORM OR SOMETHING.>>OH, YES. YES. IN FACT, THE BRIDGE TENDER WENT OVER AND GOT THE EGGS AND THE LITTLE DUCKLINGS AND THERE’S ONE EGG BY THE WAY THAT WASN’T HATCHED. HE VERY COMPAREFULLY BROKE THE EGG. IN THE EGG, IS A LIFE SACK AND THAT’S WHAT THE LITTLE EMBRYO FEEDS ON AND IF HE DOESN’T HAVE THAT, HE DIES. AND HE DID A MAGNIFICENT JOB IN BREAKING THE EGG, BUT NOT BREAKING THE EMBRYO, AND THAT LITTLE DUCKLING LIVED.>>HOW, BY THE WAY, DID GERTIE FIND FOOD? THAT AREA, I REMEMBER THAT, THAT’S NOT AN AREA FULL OF WILD RICE OR ANYTHING.>>OH, NO.>>WELL, ONE THING, PEOPLE THREW SEEDS. A LOT OF SEEDS.>>THEY SHOWERED DEAD CRUMBS AND EVERYTHING.>>GOOD MEALS.>>NOW, THE EGGS HAVE HATCHED, THIS TERRIBLE STORM, AND DIDN’T GERTIE GET LOST DURING THAT STORM OR ONE OF THE DUCKLINGS GOT LOST DURING THAT STORM, THAT FIRST NIGHT? I SEEM TO REMEMBER THAT, AND THEY HAD TO GO OUT IN A ROW BOAT OR SOMETHING.>>AS A MATTER OF FACT, THAT’S ONE THE THINGS THAT WORRIED PEOPLE ABOUT THAT LOCATION FOR HER NEST. IT WAS OUT IN THE OPEN AND IT WAS PRONE TO ANY KINDS OF WINDS OR RAIN, AND THAT’S WHAT CAUSED THEM TO DECIDE TO FIND A BETTER PLACE FOR HER NEST.>>WHERE DID GERTIE GO?>>BUT BEFORE THAT, AN INTERESTING THING HAPPENED.>>I FEEL LIKE YOU’RE STILL MY PRINCIPAL BY THE WAY.>>FORGIVE ME. FORCE OF HABIT. GERTIE BEGAN RECEIVING CONGRATULATORY MESSAGES, AND VERY, VERY INTERESTING ONES. THEY SENT HER SEEDS FOR THE BABIES, THEY SENT HER TIDBITS FOR THE BABIES, THEY SENT HER DIAPERS FOR THE BABY.>>PEOPLE WEREN’T TOO SURE OF THE DUCKS.>>AND PEOPLE GOT A BIG KICK OUT OF THAT, BECAUSE AGAIN, YOU SEE, THE NEWSPAPERS, NOT ONLY MILWAUKEE NEWSPAPERS, BUT STATEWIDE AND NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS WERE REPORTING THESE THINGS. QUITE REGULAR LISP. — REGULARLY.>>ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS THAT HAPPENED FOR GERTIE, OF COURSE, WAS THERE WAS A WRITER WITH “THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL” BY THE MAIME OF GORDON McQUARRY, A BRILLIANT WRITER, WHO NAMED HER GERTIE AND SHE HAD ANOTHER NAME THAT THEY USED BUT THAT STUCK, SHE WAS MRS. FRANCIS DRAKE.>>OH, YES.>>AND IT NEVER WORKED.>>OH, NO.>>GERTIE OR GIMBEL’S GERTIE IS WHAT I REMEMBER. AND NOW GERTIE, SOMEBODY DECIDED TO ASK GIMBEL’S IF THEY WOULD LIKE GERTIE IN THEIR FRONT WINDOW, BUT IT WASN’T — YOU COULDN’T JUST TAKE HER ACROSS AND PUT HER IN THE WINDOW. THEY HAD SERIOUS STIPULATIONS, DIDN’T THEY?>>THEY HAD TO HAVE TEMPERATURE CONTROL, HUMIDITY CONTROL, THEY BROUGHT IN THREE REGISTERED NURSES, WHO SERVED EIGHT HOUR SHIFTS TO TAKE CARE OF GERTIE AND THE DUCKLINGS, AND BY THE WAY, THE CROWDS WERE SO, YOU KNOW, PUSHY-PUSHY TO SEE, THEY WERE AFRAID THEY WERE GOING TO PUSH THE GLASS IN, SO THEY PUT A 2 BY 4 FRAME TO KEEP THE PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE GLASS. BUT I NOTICE IN ONE OF THE PICTURES, PEOPLE WERE SNEAKING THE 2 BY 4, THEY JUST COULD NOT KEEP AWAY FROM THAT WINDOW.>>WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS THAT THIS BECAME SUCH A HUGE THING HERE AND SUCH A HUGE STORY NATIONWIDE AND EVEN OUT OF AMERICA?>>WELL, IT CAME AT A TIME WHEN WE WERE VERY ENGROSSED IN A TERRIBLE WAR WITH THOUSANDS OF YOUNG MEN DYING AND MANY, MANY MORE THOUSANDS IN BATTLE, AND THIS WAS SUCH A PURE HOME SPUN STORY THAT APPEALED TO PEOPLE, THAT THEY JUST GRABBED IT.>>I FELL IN LOVE WITH HER. HERE I’M MILES AWAY FROM HER, AND SO MUCH OF THAT POINTED OUT, I CALLED MY WIFE EVERY DAY SO I CAN KEEP UP ON THE EVENTS, AND THEN SHARE THEM WITH THE REST OF THE GUYS IN THE SERVICE.>>NOW, THE INTERESTING THING IS THAT FOREIGN PRESS PICKED THIS UP THAT. AND THERE WERE REPORTS ABOUT GERTIE IN BRITISH NEWSPAPERS, IN AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPERS, AND SO IT WAS AMAZING HOW WIDESPREAD THE STORY OF GERTIE BECAME.>>IT WAS ALL OVER — ALL OVER THE WORLD. I THINK LOU, YOU HAVE KIND OF A SCRAP BOOK OF DIFFERENT ARTICLES HERE.>>I HAVE A SCRAP BOOK, WHICH SHOWS THAT –>>PICK IT UP AND SHOW IT TO THE CAM BRA.>>OK. — CAMERA.>>OK.>>I’LL WORK IT OUT.>>THIS IS A COLLECTION HERE OF ARTICLES, CONTRACTS, BECAUSE IT’S IN AUSTRALIA, THEY PUT IT THERE AND THEY HAD TO GET PERMISSION FROM US TO DO IT. SO FORTH AND SO ON.>>HERE IS LOOKING AT A CITY SCENE. I HAVE TO WATCH THE MONITOR HERE SO I DON’T GET MY BIG ARM IN FRONT OF IT, AND WONDERFUL PICTURES HERE. STORIES FROM ALL OVER. THERE YOU GO. OK.>>THERE IS — IN THERE IS A COLLECTION OF LETTERS FROM CLINTON. WE SENT HIM A COPY. HE WROTE A BEAUTIFUL NOTE THANKING US. THE ONE LETTER I REALLY AM THRILLED ABOUT FROM BUCKINGHAM PALACE, WHEN PRINCE WILLIAM WAS BORN, WE SENT HIM A COPY OF GERTIE, AND DARN IT ALL, I WAS HOPING PRINCESS DIANA WOULD SIGN THIS AND THE LADY IN WAITING WRITES THE LETTERS, THEY DON’T WRITE THE LETTERS.>>BUT IT’S — IT GOT ROYAL NOTICE.>>IT GOT ROYAL NOTICE, AND I MENTIONED –>>FUTURE KING OF ENGLAND GREW UP READING ABOUT GERTIE.>>SHOW THE ROSIE O’DONNELL’S SIGNATURE. HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT.>>I LIKE IT. IT LOOKS A LITTLE BIT LIKE ROSEIE. THERE WE GO.>>I THINK THE LETTER THAT WE CHERISH THE MOST THOUGH, CAME FROM A PRELIMINARY GIRL NAMED ANNIE, WHOSE GRANDFATHER HAD GIVEN HER A COPY OF GERTIE THE DUCK, IN ENGLISH AND IN SPANISH, AND SHE WROTE, SHE WAS ABOUT 7 YEARS OLD, AND SHE WROTE ON PRIMARY GRADE STATIONARY WITH A WIDELY SPACED LINE, WROTE IT IN PENCIL, AND TOLD US HOW MUCH SHE ENJOYED THE BOOK, ESPECIALLY THE SPANISH. AND THEN SIGNED HER NAME ANNIE, AND THE THING THAT MADE US CHERISH THIS LETTER WAS WHEN THEY LEARNED THAT ANNIE HAD BEEN BORN WITHOUT HANDS AND HAD LEARNED TO WRITE WITH A PENCIL HELD BETWEEN HER TEETH.>>WOW.>>SO THAT REALLY MADE IT UNIQUE FOR US.>>GERTIE WAS — OK, WE LEFT THE STORY, GERTIE IS NOW IN GIMBEL’S WINDOW WITH THE DUCKLINGS. AT WHAT TIME DID SHE MOVE? WHAT HAPPENED NEXT I GUESS IS THE QUESTION?>>THEY KNEW THAT WASN’T A NORMAL ENVIRONMENT, SO THEY DECIDED TO TAKE HER TO JUNEAU PARK. WHEN THE DUCKLINGS WERE OLD.>>OH, YES.>>VERY INTERESTING ABOUT THAT WHOLE THING, WHEN THEY TOOK HIM TO THE LAGOON, TO DISTINGUISH GERTIE AND HER FAMILY FROM THE REST OF THE DUCKS, THEY SPLATTERED ORANGE PAINT ON THE BACK. ISN’T THAT SOMETHING?>>SO PEOPLE COULD LOOK OUT.>>THERE’S GERTIE, OR THERE’S –>>BLACK DOE AND SO FORTH.>>THEY DID THINGS TO BEAUTIFULLY AND EXCITING. FOR YEARS AFTER THAT, PEOPLE WOULD GO DOWN TO THE LAGOON, AND THEY’D LOOK FOR GERTIE’S DESCENDANTS AND THEY’D SPOT ONE AND SAY THAT LOOKS LIKE ONE OF GERTIE’S BABIES.>>IT WAS AMAZING. AND THE BOOKS SHE WROTE, I’VE GOT TO SHOW THESE, BECAUSE THIS IS PHENOMENAL. FIRST, WE HAVE THE ENGLISH VERSION, BECAUSE YOU CAN SEE THIS AND THEN I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU WHAT SOME OF THE OTHERS ARE. LET ME SEE WHERE I’M LOOKING HERE. OK. THERE WE GO. THERE WE GO. THAT’S ENGLISH. NOW, LOOK, NOW WE’VE GOT AN DEN AGO GO, WHICH IS — ANDEN AGDA, WHICH IS SWEDISH, ANDEN GERTRUDE, AND TOLT PATE, WHICH IS SPANISH. SO ALL THOSE DIFFERENT LANGUAGES HAVE BEEN TRANSLATED IN TO CHINESE, I THINK?>>WE HAVE CHINESE TRANSLATION, AND WE’RE LOOKING FOR A PUBLISHER NOW IN CHINA. THE FIRST PUBLISHER WE CONTACTED TOOK A LOOK AT THE BOOK AND SAID, OH, HE SAID, YOU AMERICANS, YOU ARE SO SENTIMENTAL, HERE IN CHINA, HE SAID, A DEATH MEANS NOTHING MORE THAN A GOOD DINNER. WELL, WHEN WE HEARD THAT, WE SAID, THIS IS NOT THE PUBLISHER FOR US.>>EXACTLY.>>GO BACK TO THAT FIRST PUBLISHER. NOW YOU GUYS — HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA WRITING A CHILDREN’S BOOK BY THE WAY? YOU WEREN’T WRITERS, YOU WERE BOTH EDUCATORS.>>WE MAKE BOOKS FOR LA FOLLETTE COMPANY, THEY HAD A CONTEST AND THEY ASKED FOR MANUSCRIPTS, WELL, NICK CAME OVER TO MY HOME, REMEMBER THAT EVENING, WE SAT THERE DRINKING OLD FASHIONS.>>BOY, YOU’RE A COUPLE OF OLD FASHIONED GUYS.>>ANYWAY, WE TOSSED IDEAS AROUND, AND I DON’T KNOW WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA. HEY, WE’VE GOT A STORY RIGHT HERE. IT HAPPENED IN MILWAUKEE. GERTIE THE DUCK. AND WE TALKED ABOUT IT. AND TALKED ABOUT IT. AND FINALLY, WE STARTED TO WRITE DOWN WHAT WE THOUGHT THE PRINT WORDS OUGHT TO BE. AND ONCE IT WAS DONE, WE SAID, LET’S MEET TOMORROW. WE MET TOMORROW, WENT OVER AGAIN, WE SAID THAT’S IT. SUBMITTED IT TO LA FOLLETTE, THEY ACCEPTED IT. AS A MATTER OF FACT, WHEN IT CAME TO ILLUSTRATIONS FOR THE BOOK, FOLLETT HAD THEIR OF STAFF ARTISTS PRESENT SAMPLES TO US AND WE DIDN’T LIKE THEM, AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE FOLLETT COMPANY, DWIGHT FOLLETT, DIDN’T LIKE THEM EITHER, SO THEY FOUND AN INDEPENDENT ILLUSTRATOR, WHO DID THE ILLUSTRATIONS FOR US. HER NAME WAS DAGMAR WILSON AND WE ALL THEM THEM, BUT WE NEVER MET HER, EXCEPT ONE TIME WHEN I WAS IN MY HOUSE, AND MY WIFE WAS WATCHING TELEVISION, SHE SAID, NICK, COME ON IN HERE. AND I CAME IN, THIS WAS ABOUT 1962 OR 1963, OF AFTER THE BOOK WAS PUBLISHED, AND THERE WAS A RAID IN WASHINGTON, D.C. OF THE WOMEN’S LIB ORGANIZATION, WOMEN’S LIBERATION, AND LEADING THE PARADE WAS A LITTLE GRANDMOTHERLY FIGURE, WITH A NILES SUIT AND A HAT, DAGMAR WILSON.>>OH, MARVELOUS.>>THE ONLY CONTACT WE EVER HAD.>>WELL, WE’RE SO GLAD YOU WROTE TRUDI LA CANE. THANKS FOR JOINING US TONIGHT, DR. ROMANO AND DR. GEORGIADY. AND THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US ALSO. SEE YOU NEXT TIME ON “I REMEMBER MILWAUKEE.”

1 thought on “I Remember Milwaukee | Program | #313 — Gertie the Duck

  1. I was given this book as a child (In South Africa) and kept it, now I'm reading it to my own two daughters here in the United Kingdom! Fabulous book, and so nice to hear this history piece on a factual story.

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