The 1963 conference, sponsored with the generous support of Malcolm Fraser from the then Speech Foundation of America (now the Stuttering Foundation of America), brought together several of the leading authorities in the area of stuttering. The following skit was written by Hal Luper, one of the participants. Duncan was a public school speech therapist who wrote to Fraser saying "help." The conference that year was organized to produce a book for school SLPs. The skit was sent by Jane Fraser, of the SFA. Students might find it interesting to research just why this skit is so funny!


This is not a true story -- it's a sad tale. The setting is in the Caribbean. The people are fishermen for the most part, though one is a sinking man. It's difficult to tell where they're going because each man -- though in the same boat -- is going in a different direction. As the scene opens, we see this group of fishermen interested in watching a sailor drown in the ocean.

Sailor (Dick Duncan) pleadingly: I want you guys to help me. Give me something specific I can hang onto -- a guideline or something.

First fisherman (Wendell "Jack". Johnson): I don't really believe you mean what you're saying. You don't really want us to give you a guideline, do you?

Second fisherman (George Shames): Take me to Jamaica where the rum comes from -- the rum comes from -- the rum comes from.

First fisherman: (Johnson): How many of you had ever noticed before that George sometime repeats?

Third fisherman (Dean Williams): I think we need to help that poor sailor, but I hate to just throw him a line. He might choke himself with it or something. (group all agrees). I think it's more important that he just change what he's doing while he's doing it.

Fourth fisherman (Hal Luper): Yes, but he might drown if he does.

Third fisherman (Williams): Yeah, that's right. I'd never though of that.

Drowning Duncan: What I'm trying to say fellows is help me. I've about had it. (Sailor goes under second time).

Fifth fisherman (Charles Van Riper): Don't roll those bloodshot eyes at me.

Sixth Fisherman (at the tiller) (Stanley Ainsworth): Listen fellows, we'll never get there if we don't get busy. Are we going to help this guy or not?

Seventh fisherman (Joseph Sheehan): What is it we're really trying to do -- get ourselves home or help every poor sailor that comes along? I sorta hate to trust these guys anyway. If we give him a certain kind of help -- like throwing him that line -- he'll think that's the only way to swim.

Fourth fisherman (Luper): I do think the guy's about to drown. Let's help him. I'm going to throw out this life preserver to him.

First fisherman (Johnson): Now that's an interesting word -- life preserver -- have you ever thought of what you really mean when you say life preserver? Do you mean that somebody's life is preserved or that a piece of round cork has the capacity to prolong a life?

Malcolm Fraser (owner of the boat): Yes. Although I don't claim to be as smart as you guys, I know that's what it does. (Picks up life preserver and throws to sailor).

Sailor (Duncan): Now I think I've got something to hang onto -- something that can help me return to my island in the sun. (Reaches for life preserver but misses).

Second fisherman (Shames): Don't tell him exactly what to do. Don't spell it out for him. In operant conditioning terms, he's about had it, but he might miss the significance of what we're saying if we tell him what to do. Look, he's grabbing the line now!

Fifth fisherman (Van Riper): I say slash it. Let's be unmerciful both with ourselves and with him. Cut -- cut -- cut --, but don't make a lecture about it!

Sixth fisherman (Ainsworth): Okay fellows, if you can't decide what to do we'll be here all night. We've got to agree on something. We seem to be going around in a vicious cycle.

Third fisherman (Williams): I think the important thing is to listen to what he's saying.

Sailor (gasping): Help -- help!

Fourth fisherman (Luper): I think he needs help.

First fisherman (Johnson): There's no need to assume he has a problem unless everyone else agrees. Stop putting words in his mouth.

Fraser: That's not words, that's salt-water.

Seventh fisherman (Sheehan): Why don't we just give him a little help right now -- just don't be too specific. He may not be in this same exact situation again.

A mist surrounds the group making it difficult to see what happens. Apparently the sailor is hauled in -- along with one of the fishermen who had thought he could walk on top of the water and had started out to help the sailor. The boat then started to go around in circles though each man tried to go his own way. The mist gets heavier now making a view of the group imporssible. Soon all is quiet.

The end.

added with permission of Jane Fraser, July 2, 2003