George Sander’s jaunt to South America.

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At the age of nineteen George took himself off to Argentina to work as a manufacturer’s representative for the British and American Tobacco Company in South America.  This was to be an interesting four years for him, perhaps the happiest, most carefree years in his life.  George fell in love with the country, its music, its people and the language. He  developed a fluency in Spanish and spoke it, as mentioned by several Latin American actors,  without a trace of an accent.

While in Argentina, and later Chile, George, as he put it, “engaged in a lot of youthful high jinks”. On one occassion he swam across a lake while dressed in a tuxedo. Indeed, it was one of these “youthful high jinks” that forced him to leave the continent. To describe the incident I will quote from George’s account of it in his book Memoirs of a Professional Cad. He writes:

“I had decided to celebrate this happy turn of events [a succesful advertising idea] in the manner prescribed by mankind since the dawn of history–namely by imbibing an excessive amount of intoxicating liquor, or in other words getting swacked.

It was in a highly inebriated state and rather late at night that I decided to go home.  I had been living for some time in a chalet on the outskirts of town [Temuco, Chile] as the house guest of a very charming widow, who was engaged to be married to a lawyer in Temuco.

I would have been very happy with this woman but for the nocturnal visits of her fiance, who would remonstrate with her by banging on the shutters of our bedroom window and shouting what I felt to be totally irrelevant accusations of infidelity.  He took a thoroughly middle-class attitude toward the hospitality his fiancee was showing to me. I found it extremely irksome to be awakened in the middle of the night by loud bangings on the window shutters, but the villa was  more comfortable than the hotel and so I put up with it.

On the night of my triumph, however, I did not feel disposed to pursue this craven attitude, and in response to our nocturnal visitor’s knocking I threw the window open wide and faced him in defiance, revolver in hand.  He must have been at least as drunk, if not drunker, than I.  He promptly challenged me to a duel, and I just as promptly accepted.

I climbed out of the window and dropped to the ground.  I could not see him because it was pitch dark outside, but our bodies touched.  We maneuvered ourselves into a back-to-back position.  ‘Ten paces,’ he said. ‘All right,’ I answered, and we started to stagger away from one another.  I had the advantage. I was barefoot.  I could hear the crunch of his shoes on the gravel path.  I turned and pressed my trigger in the direction of the last crunch.  I stood my ground but there was no answering shot.  I walked back in his direction and stumbled over him as he lay on the ground.  I picked him up, fireman’s-lift style, and carried him into the house.  He was all right.  The bullet had entered his neck but he wasn’t bleeding much.  Later they told me that if it had been a fraction of inch to the left he would have died.  As it was he was perfectly all right four days later….

I have not owned a gun since then and never will….

Somebody in the house, in trying to get hold of a doctor, had described the situation too fully over the telephone and the operator had called the police.  I was carted off  to jail….

I did not remain in prison for more than a few hours …before my company sent a man down to do whatever was necessary to set me free.  When I say they set me free–I mean they set me free.  I was not only thrown out of the company, I was thrown out of South America.”

George was twenty-three at the time…

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