Friday 16 September 2005
There have been Many famous Americans of Lebanese descent. Old time film star Warner Baxter (Wadi Bekhus), Danny Thomas, Tiny Tim (he was born the same day as me, April 12, 1930) and Ralph Nadar, who rumour has it, was related to Mrs Rose Ferris (Raymond's Mother). He was and is an activist in the auto safety movement in the USA and was a contender for the presidency in two elections.
As for Danny Thomas, he was a very famous comedian and was made a big fuss of whenever he visited Lebanon, the homeland of his parents. Today, his daughter, Marlo Thomas, is a major executive for Danny Thomas Productions. He died quite a few years back and had been a great benefactor of the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles until its name was changed to please other financial supporters. He then transferred his financial support to a hospital called after St Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. My mother used to pray to him on my behalf but without much success.
Tiny Tim was famous for his falsetto rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" and died singing at a Lebanese wedding in Los Angeles.
American five star General Abousaid was recently here in New Zealand, His people came from near Becharre.
Politics, closer to home, also has attracted many of Lebanese descent. Doug Anthony, also Lebanese, was mayor of Brisbane and later a Minister in the Australian Federal Parliament. The Lord Mayor of Sydney was ex-footballer Nick Shahadee whom I met once at Badeliah Farry's apartment in High St. Dunedin. He was a close friend of the late Tony Farry (Gabriel's brother).
When Malcolm Farry stood for Dunedin's Mayoralty we were all so proud and I, for one, was very disappointed when he narrowly missed out. I wrote to him at the time telling him how proud his parents would have been. As you probably know, his grandmother, (Shareefi's daughter, Jamelie) was widowed on a Holiday in Lebanon prior to World War 1. Lebanon was at that time under the draconian rule of Ottoman Turkey and she was stranded in Becharre with her children, Saba, Joe, Mary and Johnny, and was not able to return until the end of that useless conflict. I said to Malcolm in my letter, 'Malcolm, just imagine if Nostradamus had whispered in your father's ear, when he was young - "Do not despair Seba. One day, a son of yours will run for the Mayoralty of that far away city that you are all so eager to return to." That, I'm sure, was a boost to him (he said tears came to his eyes when he read my letter). Sadly, it was not to be.
Tomorrow, we have another election to select the government. I have just finished reading David Lange's autobiography (very good) and it does make me realise how far the Labour Party has strayed from the days of Micky Savage. One famous Labour Minister, Bob Semple said once, 'They walked to the polling booths to vote us in and they will drive to the booths to vote us out'. Years ago, before they dropped it, there was always a space on the ballot paper to vote for prohibition or State Control but that has gone by the board. Although New Zealand has never had prohibition, in 1911 they voted for 'Reduction'. There were four hotels in Carroll St at that time, which have all closed except the Rugby Hotel. One Hotel, called 'The Rising Sun' was turned into a boarding house and purchased by my grandfather, Michael George. It was just up a bit from Hannahs on the opposite side. Many newly arrived Lebanese families stayed there over the years, till they found their feet. It was eventually demolished and a very nice house was built on the site by a chap called Micky Stevenson. He had a large transport business in Dunedin, the biggest on its time. Now here's a strange coincidence. The grandson of Micky Stevenson married the grand-daughter of Michael George (Johnny's daughter, now living in Australia as is half of New Zealand).
Well, that's about all for today. I can't seem to escape Carroll St. 'Just a little street, where old friends meet and greet you in the same old way.