Every now and then, in the collection of papers passed down by my husband’s grandmother, Agnes Tully Stevens, I find a newspaper clipping with no date, no source, no notes even identifying the reason for saving it. The clipping I’ve scanned today belongs in that category—almost. Except for the handwritten note on the side margin, I can only imagine who originally thought this slip of paper was worth saving.
Perhaps this was one of the missing enclosures referred to by Will and Agnes’ son Frank in his many letters home during the war. I’ve seen him mention stuff like this in these letters, but when it came time to look back in the envelope, I’d find no sign of the missing newspaper clipping. Something like this article would be just his style.
The clipping is about an organization founded in 1929 in Wisconsin—the Burlington Liars Club. Evidently, newspaperman Otis Hulett gathered some of his cronies on New Year to determine which was the biggest whopper told in the past year.
Or perhaps that, itself, was a lie. How could you really be sure?
The Burlington Liars Club—to which you made a passing reference the other day—does it still exist?—S. T., Des Plaines
Unless Otis Hulett, founder (in 1929) and president, is lying in his teeth, it certainly does. Actually, though, it is not so much a club as a group of contest judges who get together every New Year’s Day to select the biggest lie of the year. Anyone can submit an entry, the only requirement being the ability to tell a whopper. This might exclude only such types as George Washington, who not only could not tell a lie but had no teeth (or few, at any rate). Entries should go to the Burlington Liars Club, Burlington, Wis. 53105.
Winning lies usually have been short and preposterous: “Our town is so small we had to extend the town limits to put in a phone booth.” Or, “The food here is so bad that, if it weren’t for the salt and pepper, I would starve to death.” Again: “It has been raining so much the past few weeks that, when I went into the back yard, the night crawlers were hanging themselves on the clothesline to dry out.” But in 1942, the championship went to Joseph Paul Goebbels for his whole body of propaganda broadcasts from Berlin. Originality is a major quality the judges look for in the entries. About 80 per cent of all entries duplicate others, past and present, Hulett said, insisting that, preposterous as this figure may seem, it’s no lie.