Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 18, 1976 · Page 73
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 73

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 18, 1976
Page 73
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Page 73 article text (OCR)

The house he lives in can be difficult to cope with, as Pat Bilon knows. The Little People By Eddie Adams Of the Associated Press Attila the Hun was a dwarf. Napoleon and two presidents of the United States, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren, were shorter than normal. No one knows how many-dwarfs and midgets there are in the United states today -- estimates run as high as 100,000 people under 4'10". More than 500,000 Americans are 1m CHARLESTON. W.VA. under five feet. Legend and myth call small people elves, gnomes, leprechauns, goblins, and pixies. They have existed for as long as the human race, yet the world knows little about them. Midgets and dwarfs live in every country and are born into every race. They are doctors, lawyers, nurses, schoolteachers, firemen, engineer^, and truck drivers. They are people; just smaller than most, "I was always three feet tall until I took my drivers test." but people like you and me. School kids laugh. Some adults point and stare. Dr. Hugh Brodesky, a psychiatrist in Jacksonville, Fla., who stands 4'7", says: "If you are under five feet, let's face it, you are different. Suppose · you see all the trees around you with green leaves and one with blue leaves. Wouldn't you be surprised or taken back a little?" The average American is 5'10". A malfunctioning pituitary gland produces a midget -- a miniature carbon copy of an average-size person, but with a squeaky voice. The dwarf, on the other hand, is abnormally proportioned, with normal head, trunk, and voice, but short arms and legs. The condition results from a bone disease or a malfunctioning thyroid gland, or a wayward gene that stunts skeletal growth and cartilage development. When midgets mate, they almost always produce a child of normal size. The baby of two dwarfs can be either a dwarf or normal. Frank and Emma Lentini of Auburn, N.Y., are dwarfs, just over four feet tall. Their son, Gerry, is 5'10". Mrs. Terry De Lair, a social worker in Waterloo, N.Y., says: "I am only four feet tall and my daughter Paula at birth was five pounds, 4 ounces and 18% inches in length, almost half my size." Dr. Charles Scott Jr., director of the University of Texas Medical Genetics Clinic and chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of the Little People of America, explains that achondroplasia, a cartilage and bone condition, produces the most common type dwarf. Achon- droplasia strikes randomly once in every 40,000 births. There is no cure for achondroplasia, but smallness resulting from thyroid or pituitary conditions can be treated in some cases by injections that induce growth. Most people don't realize their condition until they are eight or nine, when their school chums pass them by in height.-In many cases that's when an inferiority complex begins, driving many little people to be well-educated and competitive to outdo those of normal size. Ancient history tells us that three kings were midgets. A common outcry of little people is that they suffer job discrimination more than other minority groups, although their intellectual development is unaffected by their physical condition. Joe Martin, principal of a New Jersey elementary school, says of Jean Davis, a 4'4" kindergarten teacher: "Jean is six feet tall in my book. She relates to the children. They love her. I love her. I need more like her." Pat Bilon is a nightclub bouncer in Youngstown, Ohio, although he's only 2'10"-- one inch taller than Michu of circus fame. He had thought of himself as three feet tall, until he took a driver's license test. "They measured my height and said I was 2'10". We had some fight going on until I was proved wrong." David Urbina Urbina, a representative in the Puerto Rican legislature, says'that "being 4'10" tall ~ has its advantages. People are impressed when they see such a small man with a strong resonant voice. They see it as an act of courage.... "I've u s e d m y h e i g h t i n politics...It motivates political slogans like 'the little giant' or 'the David' from David and Goliath that put me in the position of a hero." Little people almost always are defensive and say they don't have problems. Yet the homes they live in and their daily routine can be difficult. Opening drawers or a door, shopping for groceries, crossing a street, making phone calls from a telephone booth, purchasing clothes. "Thank goodness children's clothes are not styled like adults," comments one little person. Little people say that sexual relation with normal people aren't really a problem; the normal person's curiosity takes over and quite often a mixed marriage takes place. As a four-footer said: "I have an advantgage over many men. Most dance cheek to cheek. I dance breast to cheek." In 1957, 20 little people led by Hollywood actor Billy Barty met in Reno. Nev., to form the Little People of America. The only requirements for membership are to be 4'10" or less and to "think big," the organization's motto. As many as 600 members attend the annual week-long convention, held this year in Chicago, and they seem full of gaiety. "But don't let this week fool you," said one little lady. "Remember, we still have another 51 weeks to live before our next convention." July 18, 1976. Sunday Gazette-Mail

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