The Funniest People in Neighborhoods: 250 Anecdotes

All anecdotes are retold in my own words.


  • During a long-distance telephone call, choreographer Agnes de Mille told her soldier husband, Walter Prude, that she was pregnant: “We’re having a baby!” He managed to say, “Good God, are you sure!” before they were disconnected — telephone service during World War II was not as good as it is today. Twenty-five minutes later, they were reconnected, and Agnes asked, “Are you all right? Have you something to drink?” Walter replied, “A bottle of Scotch. I’m well along in it.”[1]
  • Before they were married, Fred and Joanne Rogers (TV’s Mister Rogers and his significant other) went to many dances and parties, and they once won a bottle of champagne for their costumes when they went as Raggedy Ann and Andy. Because they were teetotalers, they did not drink it, but instead went around pouring it at various tables for their friends.[2]


  • A few months after African-American contralto Marian Anderson had been prevented from singing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., because of her race, Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra were scheduled to perform there. Doris, Pierre’s wife, arrived, along with Fifi, their pet dog. Unfortunately, three stern-looking men stopped Doris, telling her that under no circumstances could she enter Constitution Hall with “that dog.” A friend of Doris, Hilda Davis, told the stern-looking men, “Without a doubt we cannot enter because the dog, as you call her, is BLACK.” As Ms. Davis and the stern-looking men argued, Doris and Fifi made their way into Constitution Hall, where they enjoyed the concert.[3]`
  • Marion Dane Bauer, author of the 1987 Newbery Honor Book titled On My Honor, has trained herself to be observant of behavior, including animal behavior. For example, she watched Popcorn, her pet dog, looking at snow. Popcorn first looked outside the kitchen window and watched snow falling. Then Popcorn looked down the hallway and through the dining-room glass doors and watched snow falling. Then Popcorn looked up at the ceiling. Clearly, Popcorn was wondering why white stuff was falling in front of the house and in back of the house but not in the house.[4]
  • When she was in the first grade, children’s book author Lois Lowry found what she thought was a very cold mouse. (Actually, it was a dead rat, but she didn’t understand such things yet.) Hoping to warm up the “mouse” and keep it as a pet, she took it home, put it in the oven, and turned the oven on to a low temperature. Then she started playing and forgot about her new pet. Her mother noticed that something was being baked in the oven, and she checked it out — then, Lois says, her mother started screaming at her for no reason.[5]
  • Even a dog can be a critic. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a number of mansions, but he also designed a number of modest houses. After schoolteacher Robert Berger built his own house using Mr. Wright’s design, his 12-year-old son wrote Mr. Wright asking him to design a matching doghouse. Mr. Wright did exactly that, and Mr. Berger and his son built the doghouse. However, Eddie, their Labrador retriever, apparently did not like the doghouse and so never went into it.[6]
  • In 1924, Pep, a black Labrador retriever, killed a cat that belonged to the governor of Pennsylvania. The governor was not pleased. Because he was a judge, he decided to hold a trial for Pep. He found Pep guilty, and Pep was sent to prison for life. However, Pep was happy in prison. He was allowed to run free as he pleased, and he accompanied the prisoners on their work details. Pep liked the prisoners, and the prisoners liked Pep. When Pep finally died, prisoners wept.[7]
  • In his book Faith, Hope, and Hilarity, Dick Van Dyke tells a story about a boy who prayed to God to bring him a puppy. Unfortunately, his mother was allergic to dogs and so she got him a kitten instead. The boy told his mother, “I thought you said that God is perfect and never makes mistakes.” “That’s true,” his mother said. “Well, you’re wrong,” her son said. “I prayed real hard for a puppy and anyone can see that this is a kitten.”[8]
  • At a Westminster Dog Show in Madison Square Garden, a woman was selling an expensive coat made for dogs. Saying “We want her dog to look as smart as madame,” the saleslady held up a pink cocktail coat made out of embroidered silk with a lining of mohair. Sportswriter Robert Lipsyte asked her, “When would a dog wear that?” The saleslady replied, “After five o’clock.”[9]
  • When opera singer Joan Hammond returned to Australia for a visit, two of her nieces asked for her autograph — in fact, they each gave her a piece of paper and asked that she sign each piece of paper ten times. When she had finished, they said, “Goody! Now we can swap these for twenty tadpoles!”[10]

[1] Source: Margaret Speaker-Yuan, Agnes de Mille, p. 81.

[2] Source: Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers, p. 3.

[3] Source: Fifi Monteux, Everyone is Someone, pp. 51-54.

[4] Source: Marion Dane Bauer, A Writer’s Story, pp. 75-76.

[5] Source: Lois Lowry, Looking Back: A Book of Memories, pp. 63-64.

[6] Source: Susan Goldman Rubin, Frank Lloyd Wright, p. 84.

[7] Source: Don L. Wulffson, Amazing True Stories, pp. 32-33.

[8] Source: Dick Van Dyke, Faith, Hope, and Hilarity, p. 47.

[9] Source: Robert Lipsyte, Assignment: Sports, p. 130.

[10] Source: Joan Hammond, A Voice, A Life, pp. 163-164.






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