My yearbook slogan kind of summed up my feelings about life in general.
“A little man can do big things.”
The meaning here remains obvious. A man’s stature is measured by what he does with what he has given to him.
Seriously, I had this ongoing depression about my height, or rather the lack of it. They sized me at 5’7”, too short to make the basketball team at Somerville High back in 1958.
I remember buying a pair of elevator shoes, just so I could keep pace with some of the taller girls who were attracted to me. Not that I was some Casanova or anything. But I wondered what it was like being a 7-footer.
Cross-town rival Medford High School had such a stud and all they had to do was hand him the ball beneath the basket and he would tiptoe it in. But it usually took him twice as long to reach the other end of the court.
I never went anywhere with my height deficiency. The other day, I got measured at the doctor’s office and was listed at 5’6”. Either I had shrunk an inch or the measuring rod was off its rocker.
I lost a good friend recently. Although we didn’t keep in touch over the years, I’ll never forget Michael Der Boghosian. He was a real character who could brighten up a room with his infectious smile and genuine sense of humor.
So when he called me one day at the Gazette with a hot story tip, I didn’t take it too seriously. In fact, I was in the middle of an interview with a deadline approaching, compounded by a demanding editor. I really had no time for tomfoolery.
“Have you got a moment?” Mike probed.
“Ya, make it fast. I’m busier than a double-jointed woodpecker in a redwood forest.”
“Sure thing, Tom. You may be interested in knowing that the world’s tallest man is coming to Haverhill.”
“His name is—you won’t believe this—Henry Hite and he’ll be coming along real soon. Just step out the door and you’ll be seeing him.”
“How will I know it’s him?”
“Can’t miss him. He’ll be driving a Volkswagen—all 8-foot-2 of him.”
Now I’m not the most gullible person in the world, but if you knew Der Boghosian, he was pretty straight-forward, even if he threw you a curve or two. As a super salesman for Wilson Meats, he’d do anything to get a pound of hamburger sold. But a jolly green giant in a VW bug?
I dropped everything and stood outside my door in downtown Haverhill.
Sure enough, in my most incredulous manner ever, along came this guy with his head and shoulders poking out of a Beetle sunroof. As the rest of his torso sat behind the wheel, the rest of him protruded from the roof.
He was driving the company car with Wilson Meats emblazoned on the side, tooting his horn as he passed by—a redwood inside a forest of oak trees. By the time I went inside to retrieve my camera he was gone. The next call I received was again from Der Boghosian.
“Want an interview?”
One of the shortest kids at Somerville High was about to interview the world’s tallest hombre. I looked up at him. He looked down upon me. Good thing I wasn’t the King of Siam.
Come to find out, I was being introduced to Henry Mullens who took on the stage name of Henry Hite, a two-bit actor who made his living off his anatomy. He had an apparent disregard for self-embarrassment.
Henry’s closest brush with movie fame came when he portrayed a hitchhiking space alien in the science fiction failure “Terror at Halfday” (1965). He earned his ticket for making personal appearances promoting Wilson Meats as the “Corn King Giant.”
Okay, 8’2” was his enhanced height. Actually, he was more like 7’7”. Hite’s stage career ended in 1962, and he died in 1978 in Los Angeles where he resided at age 63.
Being a sportswriter at the time, the obvious question centered around basketball. Weak knees kept him immobile in athletics. Life was not good for Henry. Everywhere he went, he came under scrutiny. No airplane or bus, train or car was equipped to handle that height. All designed attire.
In the years that followed, Der Boghosian and Hite could have qualified for their own vaudeville act as the unlikely duo. They were seen together at a number of places as David & Goliath.
Over dinner the other night with family and friends, I told them the story and nobody believed me. Then one says, nonchalantly:
“There goes Tom again. Another one of his tall tales.”
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West