Monday, December 12, 2011


I don't think Terry Ryan will win any awards as a writer, but I enjoyed this memoir just the same. Terry's mother, Eveyln, managed a household of ten children with no help from her hard-drinking Irish Catholic husband Kelly. Evelyn, though, refused to wallow in self-pity and instead demonstrated endless spunk in her quest to provide life's essentials and a few extra niceties for her family in the 50's. Armed with a passel of 4-cent stamps, Evelyn focused her surplus energy (how did she have any with 10 kids?) on contests in which the entrant supplied the last line of a jingle or described a product in 25 words or less. The book is filled with many of her winning entries and a lot more that resulted in zilch. It's interesting how the simplest line sometimes won, and sometimes the most obscure reference won. We discover what Evelyn already knew: the entry needed to fit the demeanor of the advertising company that was judging the entries. Evelyn couldn't resist sending in a few humorous ones to the stodgy judges and vice versa. She also had to be creative in avoiding sending in multiple entries under the same name. She won a big contest in her son's name that included a trip to New York to be on TV. She accompanied him on the trip, while the rest of her family tried in vain to watch from home on a TV that malfunctioned during a storm. Many of the contest windfalls arrived in the nick of time—twice just before eviction from their home. Each time she won a car, she had to sell it, since a family of twelve had no use for a two-seater sports car. Indeed.

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