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Mr. Moocho and other adventures of Marvin Druger

The incomparable Syracuse University professor emeritus publishes children’s book

Apr 5, 2013 — Article by: Judy Holmes

Rooster illustration from the book

Mr. Moocho's lucky rooster.

One never knows what treasures lurk in the attic upstairs. A few months back, Marvin Druger’s grandchildren were rummaging in Druger’s attic when they stumbled across a long-forgotten manuscript lying next to a stack of illustrations. It was a children’s story Druger had written 40 years ago and tucked away.

“I had forgotten all about the story,” says Druger, biology professor emeritus in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The grandchildren, 13-year-old Rachel Druger and 21-year-old Lindsey Jamieson, were captivated by the story and insisted that grandpa publish it. So he did. Mr. Moocho and the Lucky Chicken was self-published earlier this year along with Druger’s second book of poems, Even Stranger Creatures & Other Poems, by Druger on the Lake. The books can be ordered through Druger’s website.

Druger was chair of the Department of Science Teaching, professor of biology and science education, and the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence before his retirement in 2009. He hosts “Science on the Radio” for WAER 88.3 and writes a column called “Druger’s Zoo” for 55-Plus Magazine.

In addition to teaching and writing about science over a career that spanned 55 years, Druger is a master of wit and anecdotes. He continuously jots down observations, ideas, quotes, one-liners, short poems, and a myriad of other thoughts that wind up in his publications.

“I write down everything Pat says (Druger’s wife for 55 years),” says Druger, launching into a story about exchanges with Pat over his choice of television programming (he does ballgames; she does Nova), among others.  “Those are my one liners.”

A few years ago, Druger published his first poetry book, Strange Creatures and Other Poems.  The new book of poems is a sequel. SU alumnus John Norton ’82 (B.S. biology), owner of Norton Illustration, Bangor, Maine, designed the cover. Norton was in Druger’s biology class.

Even Stranger Creatures & Other Poems includes poems Druger wrote in tribute to Pat on their 50th, 52nd, 53rd, 54th, and 55th wedding anniversaries, as well as poems about everyday experiences. One poem resulted from a question Druger was asked on the streets of New Orleans by a child who was conducting a survey for her church. She asked: “Can you tell me what love means?” The book also includes a section—“You can write poems too”—with poems written by his grandsons, Joshua (age 11) and Aaron (age 13) Druger.
Marvin Druger stands by a cutout of himself in the Syracuse University Bookstore.

Marvin Druger stands by a cutout of himself in the Syracuse University Bookstore.

Rachel and Lindsey had a hand in revising Mr. Moocho.  After discovering the manuscript in the attic, the girls spent two hours editing and revising text. “I got a little irritated by their modifications,” Druger says, “and said ‘hey, this is my book.’ ” A short while later, Druger recalls overhearing Lindsey’s response to her father when asked how grandpa liked the edits: “I don’t know. His ego got in the way.” Another one-liner Druger has tucked into his memory.

Truth be known, Druger did appreciate the feedback and proceeded to change the story from prose to verse and incorporate some of his granddaughters’ suggestions. The story was originally written after Druger returned from a family trip to Portugal during which he was captivated by colorful roosters that seemed to be everywhere. The rooster is a Portuguese good-luck symbol. According to legend, the crow of a rooster that lay resting on a steaming platter ready to be consumed during a kingly feast saved an innocent man from the gallows.

“When I saw the chickens in all the souvenir shops, I created Mr. Moocho,” Druger says. The illustrations were done, also 40 years ago, by Roberta L. Wackett ’73, a fashion illustration major who currently works on the exhibitions staff at the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton, N.Y. Neither Druger nor Wackett remember how they connected. “I didn’t take biology, so don’t remember how I got connected with Mr. Druger’s project,” Wackett says. “But I do remember consulting with one of my instructors in a general illustration course on the preliminary designs for the story. I was beginning to lean toward cartooning and this is the approach I took with Mr. Moocho.”

The illustrations were done in pen and ink, magic marker, and colored pencil and mounted on poster boards. Because they were stored in a dark, dry place, the colors remained vibrant and fresh. Like most of Druger’s creative work, there is a moral to the story of Mr. Moocho, who is an Eeyore-type character, a melancholy bloke for whom nothing seems to go right. One day, Mr. Moocho purchases a colorful chicken from a toyshop. The chicken speaks to him and gives him a task, that when completed, helps Mr. Moocho’s luck change. In fact he has so much luck, Mr. Moocho shares it with others. 

Druger now plans to write a sequel, More Adventures of Mr. Moocho, inspired by a conversation he had during the 1970s with Wallace “Wally” Amos Jr., founder of the “Famous Amos” chocolate chip cookie brand. Seems Amos had been invited to speak on campus. Druger was recording his “Druger’s Zoo” radio spot when he saw Amos walking by the window. Druger yelled to Amos from the window to ask if he would do a quick interview for the show.

“I asked him: ‘What can you do now that you are so rich and famous, Famous?’ ” Druger says. “I was stunned by his reply, ‘If you have two cars, you can only drive one; if you have two houses, you can only live in one. What more is there than what you need?’ It stuck with me.”
Contact Information

Judy Holmes
jlholmes@syr.edu
315-443-8085