Mayor La Guardia reading the comic strips to kids on N.Y.C. radio station WNYC

N.Y.C. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia awarding the Medal of Honor to my uncle, Lou Tobkes

Article written by Bob Diamond

A near disaster nearly took place for us in the late 1930’s. A lengthy newspaper strike prevented us from reading the Sunday comics. It meant life without our great heroes. Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia came to our rescue.

On Sunday mornings during the strike, we listened to the radio as Fiorello (in Italian the name translates to “Little Flower”…he was 5′ 2”) read the comics to us in his unique high pitched voice. He made Superman and Batman seem to come alive as they battled against the evil forces that threatened mankind. That was the great era before television, when our imaginations soared.

In 1922, then Congressman LaGuardia ran for reelection and was opposed by a sleazy Tammany backed Jewish candidate. Sensing the opportunity to drive a wedge with Fiorello’s Jewish supporters, the opposition circulated a flier calling La Guardia “a pronounced Jew hater.” La Guardia fought back in a most unusual manner. He challenged his opponent to debate all issues in any synagogue of his opponent’s choice, on one condition, namely, that the entire debate be spoken exclusively in Yiddish, the Jewish language. Completely stunned, his opponent refused the debate and Fiorello easily won reelection.

La Guardia was born in 1882 in Greenwich Village to parents of different religions. His Catholic father was Achille Luigi Carlo La Guardia and his observant Jewish mother was Irene Lazato Coen. To maintain their heritage within the home, Achille spoke Italian to Fiorello while Irene spoke to him in Yiddish. In school, La Guardia spoke English so that he became fluent in all three languages. He also became an early advocate for Jewish rights.

In 1934, he urged the world to face up to the Nazi’s and confront Hitler. Unfortunately, the world was not yet ready to listen to the Little Flower.

I miss that little guy!

Source: Bob Diamond \"Historically Yours\" Aventura Community News

About this entry