May I add an anecdote to John Kobler’s “Bravo Caruso!” in your February/March issue?
In the summer of 1921, when my father was a lad, his family and some neighbors from New York set out on a cross-country trip. Outfitted by Abercrombie and Fitch and traveling in Cadillac touring/camping cars, their little expedition frequently attracted notice as it braved the ruts that served as our nation’s roads in those days.
At one stop for gasoline and provisions in a sleepy, dusty little Southwestern town, they were approached by a resident. The man timidly introduced himself and, gesturing to the cars’ New York license plates, asked if the strangers were from the city itself. My grandfather allowed that they were.
“Ah,” said the man. “Well, I don’t mean to bother you, but I just thought you might like to know that Enrico Caruso has died.”
The group of travelers expressed their surprise and regret. My father’s family had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and had frequently heard the great tenor sing.
At this a weight seemed to fall from the man, and his face brightened a little. “You know,” he said, “I’ve been wanting to share that news with someone all day. But I’m the only opera lover in this town and nobody seems to know who Caruso is and nobody cares!”
The fellow went away finally contented, and my father never forgot that totally human encounter.