Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (1927-1959) is the boy pictured in this post. He was a child star better known as Alfalfa. He was part of the Hal Roach Children’s Comedy troop who made the Our Gang films, which were later known as the Little Rascals shows released on television in the 1950’s.
Before I get to the main topic of this post, I just want to say that his was the saddest of sad tales from the lives of child actors. Switzer enjoyed early fame and fortune that did not last. He had the hardest of hard landings in his teenage years. He was no longer a cute kid with the crossed eyes, the cow lick, and the off key voice who played Spanky McFarland’s foil. He had lost his charm. Then, it is one of my most memorable of childhood events seeing his picture in the newspaper in a vending machine in 1959 and the story that told of his pathetic death. He had been shot and killed in a dispute over a $50 debt.
One of the memorable scenes in his movie career was of a comedy bit where he watches a fly walk up his nose and he tracks the fly with his crossed eyes. It was a funny scene but crossed eyes are no joke. The medical term for crossed eyes is Esotropia.
Esotropia is a form of Strabismis or eye muscle disorder. Another form of Strabismis is Exotropia or “Fish Eyes.” If you or your children have either of these eye disorders, it can lead to all kinds of problems: double vision, blindness in one eye, and dyslexia. You can’t do math if the numbers are dancing all over the page and you can’t read or spell if the letters you see are backwards or out of order. You have problems with depth perception when you try to play sports.
Why am I raising this issue? Two reasons. I have Esotropia and I had a lot of problems early in life. I did not get it under control until I was 30 years old. I also observed when I taught college that about 5 per cent of the students in my classes had eye problems that went untreated. They needed glasses and didn’t have them. The students with Myopia, i.e. nearsightedness, also needed to sit in the front of the class and they wouldn’t.
The same goes for your hearing. Avoid all unprotected exposure to loud noise. Once your hearing degrades, it’s hard to get it back. If you have hearing loss either from childhood, or from war, or from unprotected exposure to loud noise, you need to find a solution and stop doing things that make it worse.
I will discuss specific Do It Yourself learning ideas and strategies in upcoming posts.