STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It is Friday morning, which means it's time again for StoryCorps. This project records people talking about important people, and sometimes important places in their lives. Van Harris and his wife Shirley grew up in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn. They lived about a block away from each other. And at StoryCorps they talked of how they first met - 75 years ago.
VAN HARRIS: I met her when she was about 10 years old and she was beating up a couple of guys. The boys had taken her hat off her head, and they were tossing it around. Gimme back my hat. They wouldn't. So one by one, she punched out every boy. I said, geez, I'd like to meet a girl like that.
Later on, I used to take you with me when we'd go to our hangout, which was Dubrow's Cafeteria.
SHIRLEY HARRIS: We'd come in late at night. We'd have a cup of coffee. And then who was our friend who would have dinner every evening?
HARRIS: Oh, Harvey the Nibbler. He ate so much.
HARRIS: And they gave him a discount on his food.
HARRIS: They sure did. At Dubrow's - here comes Herbie, so they'd give him a table, and he'd sit all by himself. And we'd gather around and watch Herbie the Nibbler eat. We used to say...
HARRIS: He had a tapeworm.
HARRIS: He didn't have a tapeworm. We used to say he has a snake. And we had a guy called One-Ball Barney. I don't think I have to explain it.
And there was a guy named Mendel Berman. Mendel had a leaky ear. And he'd go to dances, and he'd sit there. And he'd put a handkerchief in his ear. And it was a terrible habit - he would smell the handkerchief. How could you pick up a girl when you're there sniffing a handkerchief that's got the deposit from a bad ear, you know? But that's the way these guys were.
Oh Shirley, you grew up with these fellows too. They loved her.
HARRIS: Yeah. We'd sit around, and everybody would be telling jokes. You just felt at home.
HARRIS: Filthy Miltie was my friend. And when we got married, Filthy Miltie was our babysitter. And he was as crazy as a bedbug. While we were out to wherever we went, he would take the dresser drawers, and he would exchange them. He moved the top drawer to the bottom, the middle drawer to the top. So if we went looking for, let's say, underwear, it wasn't in the same place. This was Miltie.
HARRIS: And it turned out that all of our children have a great sense of humor as a result of being surrounded with these guys. And I'd say to you today, thank you for a wonderful life.
HARRIS: Well, thank you.
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INSKEEP: Van Harris with his wife Shirley at StoryCorps in New York. No tissues necessary this week. Van and Shirley performed together in the Catskills for almost 40 years. And their interview will be archived with all the others at the Library of Congress. You can hear more on the podcast at npr.org.
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