A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 17, 2013
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

“Opportunity knocks but once” is a proverb that dates, in various forms, to the 1500s. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” is a jocular take on the old proverb that has been credited to comedian Milton Berle (1908-2002) since at least 1993.

It’s not certain when (or if) Berle ever said it. The joke does not appear in his 642-page book, Milton Berle’s Private Joke File: Over 10,000 of His Best Gags, Anecdotes, and One-Liners (1989).


Google Books
One Door Closes, Another Door Opens:
Turning Your Setbacks Into Comebacks

By Arthur Pine and Julie Houston
New York, NY: Delacorte Press
1993
Pg. 117:
“If opportunity doesn’t knock . . . build a door.”
Milton Berle (b. 1908), Comic/Entertainer

Google Books
How to Find a Job:
Your 30-Day Action Plan for Success

By Robin Casey
Nashville, TN: Oliver-Nelson Books, Thomas Nelson Publishers
1993
Pg. 57:
If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. — Milton Berle

10 June 1996, Providence (RI) Journal, “DR graduates told doors of opportunity await them” by Pia Sarkar, pg. C1:
Parents, relatives and friends packed into the brown fold-out chairs on the school’s courtyard to hear the commencement speeches, several of which played off the words of entertainer Milton Berle: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

16 April 1999, Rockford (IL) Register Star, pg. 9C, col. 2:
“IF OPPORTUNITY DOES’T KNOCK, BUILD A DOOR.”—Unknown Source

25 February 2005, Daily Herald (Chicago, IL), sec. 1, pg. 14, col. 3:
“If opportunity doesn’t work, build a door,” a meaningful quote that describes a true leader.
(Letter by Karen Thorstenson of Gurnee—ed.)

Jump for Journalism
If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
This entry was posted on July 31, 2013
I am a big fan of the cheesy inspirational quote, and I saw this quote just after I had decided to write a blog post about making opportunities for yourself – it was the perfect match for my post.
(An illustration of the quote is shown—ed.)
I fully stand by this quote, and without knowing it, it is a quote I have constantly followed for the last couple of years in relation to my own journalism career. This firstly started with work experience.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Saturday, August 17, 2013 • Permalink