“I do not understand why I was not broken like an eggshell or squashed like a gooseberry.”
So said the man who would become a larger than life British statesman, leading Britain through World War II and remain a major player on the world stage into the 50s . He very nearly didn’t make it there, thanks to the perils of New York City traffic.
It was 1931 and a low point in Churchill’s career. At the age of 57, he
had been pretty much banished by his own Conservative Party and had begun to devote himself to his writing. He had sailed to the United States to give a series of lectures on “the Pathway of the English-Speaking Peoples.” On December 13, the night before one such lecture scheduled at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, he hailed a taxi and set out to visit a friend, financier Bernard Baruch. He got out of the cab on Fifth Avenue between 76th and 77th Streets. He walked a bit, then attempted to cross the street against the light (which no New Yorker would ever do). He looked to the right, just as he would were he crossing King’s Road or Carnaby Street, saw no oncoming traffic and and kept walking. An unemployed mechanic named Mario Cantasino was just as surprised as Churchill when the car he was driving slammed into the future Prime Minister and dragged him several yards, leaving him lying in a bruised and battered heap. Churchill took full responsibility for the incident, and Contasino was held blameless.
After a little more than a week in the hospital and a few weeks of recuperation, Churchill finally gave his Brooklyn lecture on Jan. 28. On one bright note: the United States being subjected to the agonies of Prohibition at this time, his American doctor wrote a note to “certify that the post-accident concussion of Hon. Winston S. Churchill necessitates the use of alcoholic spirits especially at meal times.”
Following his lecture, Churchill and his wife, seeking further rest and relaxation, traveled to Jamaica, a place where folks thankfully drove on the proper side of the street.