James Sullivan talks to Dick Berkenbush, who as a child played "a role in the making of Virginia Lee Burton's 1939 children's classic, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel," for The Boston Globe.
Berkenbush is now 81 years old, but when he was much younger Virginia Lee Burton was a frequent guest in his home. One evening, the author told her hosts:
- "She had written Mike and Mary Anne into a literal corner -- they were stuck in the hole they dug for the Town Hall basement. Dick, then about 12 years old, suggested the steam shovel could become the building's heating source. It was a simple notion, he said. 'My father had a garage in town that had a steam heating system, so I was familiar with it. 'In the first edition of Mike Mulligan, Burton credited her young collaborator as 'Dickie Birkenbush.'"
Sullivan concludes his article by mentioning, "the misspelling has remained in print ever since, through an estimated 70 million copies sold." Seventy million!