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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 4.4

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.

I figure I was a lot like the little monkey that I read about in books—some of the earliest books I enjoyed as a child. I had much in common with Curious George—and that penchant for getting into situations made late-1950s life in Tripoli, Libya most interesting for me.

There was the time my family—Daddy, an Air Force technical sergeant, Mama, my older brother Gary, and I—took in a movie at the Sahara Theater on Wheelus Air Base. Being all of four years old, I wasn't much into the onscreen action, opting to check out the intricacies of the theater surrounding me in the darkness.

We were sitting in a row of seats right next to the wall. Jutting out of the wall was a water spigot—used after the show to cleanse the floor of sticky popcorn, candy, and Coca-Cola. Like George, I was curious. The next thing Daddy heard

was water gushing down the aisle as I was handily reprimanded and placed unceremoniously in between my parents for safe watching.

Uncle Dave looking as curious as George.  Tripoli, Libya apartment compound, 1958
Uncle Dave looking as curious as George. Tripoli, Libya apartment compound, 1958

Another adventure took place in the Libyan apartment compound where we lived. The compound was off base in the city of Tripoli and home to families of varied ethnicities. Our neighbors were of Italian descent. Their daughter, Fran,

had a tricycle that went missing.

I figured it couldn't have gone too far, considering the compound housed only about nine buildings, all surrounded by a huge stucco wall and a couple of iron gates for family vehicles to enter and exit. Situated in the two southern corners inside the compound wall were two separate Arab families, who split the duties of maintaining the apartments we lived in.

Our half of the compound was overseen by Ali—a frail, old, gentle Arab man with a few teeth, a thin gray mustache, and an arthritic hump in his shoulders. The buildings on the other side were maintained by Muhammad—quite the opposite of Ali. He was much younger and much bigger, with a full dark beard sitting at the top of his kaftan robe, and a brood of young Arabic children—one of whom I spotted riding the missing trike.

With little to no hesitation, I eased over the line to Muhammad's side of the compound and snatched the youngun off the shiny, red ride. The little boy let out

a cry, as I took a peek over my shoulder to see big Muhammad tearing out of his corner tent, angrily shouting at me with his fist in the air, and placed my left foot on the rear standing deck, hot-footing it through the Tripoli sand to the safety of my apartment building.

Margret and Hans Rey in the 40s.
Margret and Hans Rey in the 40s.

Such antics could have easily filled the pages of the Curious George books I loved to read. Created in 1940, while living in Paris, by Hans and Margret Rey, German-born husband and wife of Jewish faith, Curious George has become one

of the most-popular children's books in the world.

The Reys fled Paris on bicycles just minutes ahead of the Nazi Invasion of France, with the meagerest of possessions, including the original manuscript of Curious George. Dodging bombs from German warplanes and working their way around all the other fleeing refugees on automobile-cluttered French back roads, the couple made it safely to Portugal, where they left by ship to Brazil, then on to the United States.

The original Curious George, 1941.
The original Curious George, 1941.

In 1941, Houghton Mifflin published the first Curious George book, which became an instant success, followed by six more titles. In '63, the Reys moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, remaining there until Hans's passing in 1977.

It's amazing to me that—within the same space in time of 1940s Germany—two men are remembered for their historical gestures. Adolph Hitler's vision wrought death, despair, and destruction to families in Europe and around the world. Hans A. Reyersbach's words and art brought universal life, hope, and laughter to parents and children everywhere.

Hans Rey surrounded by his biggest fans in the 70s.
Hans Rey surrounded by his biggest fans in the 70s.

To put it simply—goodness is greater than evil—and love conquers hate.

Lessons learned from a little monkey in the pages of a storybook.

2019 Official STGD Flyer.  Artwork by James Brandon Jones.

9th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival

For Early Bird Weekend Passes:


Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George's Creators. Dir. Ema Ryan Yamazaki. The Orchard, 2017. Hulu. Web. 30 December 2018.

Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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