Friday, July 15, 2016

Who's Who: Dean Husk?

"And who, may I ask, is Dean Husk?" The Question Box Moderator may be asked an assortment of oddball inquiries but this time he’s out to ask one of his own (Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, 49-50).

The fourth chapter of Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies spoofs the long-cherished question box whose history can be traced back to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, taking place in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago and along the Midway Plaisance that now forms the southern boundary of the University of Chicago. One of the key parts of the exposition was the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the first formal gathering of representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions from around the world.

In attendance were men from the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, better known as the Paulist Fathers, a Roman Catholic society whose mission is to preach the gospel and provide information with the intention of converting people to Catholicism. The Paulists set up the first Question Box in the Assembly Hal, allowing non-Catholic fair-goers to submit hundreds of questions on all sorts of topics: "Is the Pope Antichrist?" "The Fable of Pope Joan", "The Crusades", "The Oiuja-Board", "Theatre-Going", and "The Morality of Strikes."

With this history in mind Bellairs created his own box stuffed with questions about chain letters, Lenten fasts, and ransoming pagan babies. And, yes, Dean Husk.

David Dean Rusk (1909-94) was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Bellairs’s friend, Charles Bowen, picks up the story from there:
Rusk, inherited by LBJ, was a firm supporter of the war in Vietnam. He was a pale, rather expressionless individual, and I found John's description apt and witty. I don't know why he misspelled the name; I don't think there was any danger of prosecution to worry Macmillan. John probably liked the idea of suggesting that he was empty as well as pasty.

We suppose the son of I. H. Samsonite never ran up against Dean Musk, either.

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