T. Herman Zweibel
Publisher Emeritus (photo circa 1911)

Not long ago, I mentioned that a nurse with extensive experience in the care of circus freaks had been hired to look after me. When I was first introduced to her, I emitted a loud shriek of terror, for she looks chillingly similar to the Goon character in the Pop-eye comical-strip panels. She is a competent nurse in most respects, though lacking in bed-side manner.

Yesterday, I could stand her coldly efficient manner no longer. "Ahoy there, Pin-head!" I barked, using the affectionate moniker I had coined for her. "My mind craves occupying. Leave my bed-chamber and do not return until you've found a suitable book to read to me!"

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I was surprised to see her return scant minutes later, figuring she would spend the duration of the day in my vast library in search of stimulating reading matter.

The book she produced was unlike any in my collection that I could recall. It was small and slender, and its spine was lined with a narrow golden strip. I believe there were also a number of decorations on the strip which faintly resembled flowers and small animals.

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Nurse Pin-head sat down and began to read: "'One day, Mr. and Mrs. Bear looked out-side their window. 'What a beautiful day!' said Mr. Bear. 'Let's have a picnic!' said Mrs. Bear.'"

This seemed straight-forward enough to me, albeit rather art-less in its presentation. But then, the narrative took an unorthodox twist. "Mr. and Mrs. Bear and their children, Hotsy and Totsy, got into their pickle car and drove to the park. Can you name the things they saw on their way?" Of course not! It is the task of the book to describe these things to me, not the other way around! Whoever heard of a book trying to solicit its own content from its reader? I said this to Nurse Pin-head, but she merely responded with a disquieting laugh. "It wants you to describe the illustration, sir!" she said, showing me the page from which she had just read. I recoiled in disgust. This was a children's picture-book! Of all the corking indignities!

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If not for my quick wits, she would probably be reading me Old Mother Hubbard by now. And if I weren't intimidated by her enormous girth, I would have had her throat cut.

T. Herman Zweibel, the great grandson of Onion founder Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel, was born in 1868, became editor of The Onion at age 20, and persisted in various editorial posts until his launching into space in 2001. Zweibel's name became synonymous with American business success in the 20th century. Many consider him the β€œFather Of American Journalism,” also the title of his well-known 1943 biography, written by Norman Rombauer.

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