Pinky Pie

W.C. Fields & Me

Posted on: October 21, 2009

W.C. Fields - can you see a similarity?

W.C. Fields - can you see a similarity?

Oh how I wish I had a straw hat to wear today.

Yes, this is the opening day for the Association of Personal Historians’ annual conference, which this year is in Philadelphia. It would have been my fifth conference, but alas, not this year.

Of course, I want all my buddies in APH to have a great time, learn a lot and just enjoy five days with folks, who like me, see stories anywhere and everywhere. We can learn from all of life experiences – good, bad and ugly.

Just a year ago at the conference in Salt Lake City (or was it two years ago in Portland?) a speaker challenged us to write and preserve our own stories, not just the histories/memoirs of our clients.

She made the point that we can be like the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. We capture these important stories for others, but not for ourselves and for our own families.

I can attest to that. There are big holes in what I know about my own family’s history.

And a year later, I am capturing my story through this blog. I find myself weaving in bits of my early life as I write about what’s going on with me today.

So why do I want a straw hat? It was the trademark of comedian W.C. Fields, who responded to a question in Vanity Fair magazine in 1925 about what he wanted on his gravestone: “Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.”

According to Wikipedia and other sources, the line was an apparent reference to an old vaudeville joke: “I would rather be dead than play Philadelphia.”

William Claude Dukenfield was born in Philly in 1880 and made his living with jokes about his hometown. According to Wikipedia, he said in the movie My Little Chickadee: “I’d like to see Paris before I die… Philadelphia would do!”

The quote about his grave was stretched over time to, “I would rather be here than in Philadelphia.” Also attributed to him was “Philadelphia, wonderful town, spent a week there one night.” Apparently, he never said either of those lines.

And when he died, W.C. Fields was cremated and his ashes buried in Forest Lawn, the cemetery for the stars in California. What did his marker say? “W. C. Fields 1880 – 1946”

As I have chemo on Friday, I definitely will say, “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

And you can quote me on that one.

Oh, let me add one thing: Each year at Passover, Jews say, “Next year may we be in Jerusalem.” While I have not had a burning desire to visit Israel (I’m a chicken), I have to say that much of my life right now is thinking about next year.

As I’ve said and written before (I think), it is not good to wish your life away – meaning don’t rush; enjoy each minute – but I think chemotherapy is an exception. Let’s get is over with.

But once this is done, I want to celebrate and will entertain suggestions – even visiting Philadelphia  or the next place where the APH conference will be held.

Of course, I also want to visit family and friends. I’ll entertain suggestions once again.


16 Responses to "W.C. Fields & Me"

Suggestion for a way to celebrate post chemo? I know! Visit me! hooooray!

Brilliant plan! Several times …. Love …

I don’t have as serious a reason for not attending, Sue, just that it’s impossible for me to travel unless it’s by car and with my dog, for my physical health and her mental health reasons. One of these days, though, I hope to meet you in person along with the other beautiful members of APH. And if you’re down Atlanta way, give me a holler.

Of course, I don’t even consider taking my cats with me. I hoe to meet you one day as well.

Give your dog a hug from me.

Sue, it feels like a normal conference so far. Hotel activity is on the increase, New members are in their session, registration is underway, board meeting just ended, weather is sunny.
We wish you could be here.

Next year for sure! Even if I have to go with you to Philadelphia!

Well, it may be in British Columbia. Cool, eh?

I, too, am missing the APH conference due to health reasons. I had my left total knee replacement on 20th August and have my right knee surgery scheduled for 12th November.

I plan to be at next year’s conference with 2 strong, shiny titanium and ceramic knees which will carry me the vast distance I need to travel to intermingle with my APH collegues and to absorb new ideas, while learning skills.

Best health wishes for the remainder of your chemo.

Well, we could be part of an invalid’s panel. 🙂

Hope you recover well from your surgeries – and I assume you have a government health plan that keeps you from the problems we have in this country. Oh, must I always be political?

Most of all, as someone with a long history of knee problems (dislocations as a kid), I can tell you my knees haven’t hurt a bit since this cancer thing started and I’m walking as much as possible.

I remember meeting you last year and hope to see you next year, possibly in BC?

Definitely missing you this year. Next year may we be in Victoria, BC!

I am so there! Sounds expensive, but a trip to experience to remember!

Say hi to everyone from me.

Just stopped by to check out who wants to be in Philadelphia and was sad to see your reason for not coming. I don’t know you but I’ll be thinking of you. Get well!!! I just finished reading a memoir about a survivor. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The Sky Begins at your Feet by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Check out my blog for the two part interview. She generously shares her strength.

There must be quite a contingent of Wisconsin APH’ers. Who would have thought?

Best wishes,

Thanks, Jerry.
I hope everyone enjoys the conference. It is always inspiring.

See you next year.

Enjoyed your story on the 10/9 NOW program. That morning I had NOT enjoyed a stereotactic biopsy on the one breast I have had since 1989 — and learned on Monday 10/12 that I have cancer again.
Since I’ve been through the surgery before — and am a 20-year survivor — I’m sure that next year I’ll be a 21-year survivor.
I drove North (from Tarpon Springs, Florida) for the APH conference and am happy to be in Philadelphia.
Wish I didn’t have to wait until Victoria, B.C., to meet you. Sending good thoughts and best wishes your way, Sue.
I’ll be heading home to meet with a surgeon on 11/2.
cheers, ches

I’m sure you will be a 21-year survivor and we will meet in BC next year. Let’s stay in touch with each other.

Thanks for your kind words.


you are indeed fortunate to have had the pleasant task of profiling America”s funniest comedian. He died in the town i grew up in, but many years before i was born. I don’t know you as intimately as the others here do, but i also want to wish you well with your chemo and hope only the best for you.

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