Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Remember the Reason For Memorial Day
May 30, 2011

tombofunknown

Revolutionary War 1775 to 1783 4,435 US dead

War of 1812 1812 to 1815 2,260 US dead

Mexican War 1846 to 1848 1,773 US dead

Civil War 1861 to 1865 approx. 600,000 USA/CSA dead

Spanish Amer. War 1898 2,446 US dead

WWI 1917 -1918 116, 516 US dead

WWII 1941-1945 405, 399 US dead

Korean War 1950-1953 36, 914 US dead

Vietnam War 1958-1973 58, 167 US dead

War on Terrorists 2001 to present nearly 3000 sept 11, 2001

Iraq/Afghanistan approx 5900

Normandy Cemetery

Normandy Cemetery

Today, we hear on TV that Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer more than we hear of it’s original meaning.  According to this article concerning The history of Memorial Day, it’s origins go back to the close of the Civil War, though in what many may consider an unexpected manner: 

“Yale University historian David Blight places the first Memorial Day in April 1865, when a group of former slaves gathered at a Charleston, S.C., horse track turned Confederate prison where more than 250 Union soldiers had died. Digging up the soldiers’ mass grave, they interred the bodies in individual graves, built a 100-yd. fence around them and erected an archway over the entrance bearing the words “Martyrs of the Race Course.” On May 1, 1865, some 10,000 black Charleston residents, white missionaries, teachers, schoolchildren and Union troops marched around the Planters’ Race Course, singing and carrying armfuls of roses. Gathering in the graveyard, the crowd watched five black preachers recite scripture and a children’s choir sing spirituals and  ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.'”

 To be sure, there were Memorial Day activities for both the soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy in both the North and South. Eventually, the individual events were combined and in the 20th century became recognized as a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our nation. In your time of barbecue, family gatherings and fun…take a moment to remember those who have made it possible for you to have such a holiday. It is not just a day off from work, but instead is a day of remembrance and thanks to the men, women and families who laid such a sacrifice on the altar of liberty. Snow White and I have attended the services at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery. I don’t know anyone who has died though we did visit the final resting place of her uncle’s cousin who lost his life on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. He was just 19. No, we went to pay our respects for all of those in our American brotherhood whose graves remind us that our freedom was paid for by others. We should not take it for granted nor as something that is a right or something that is perpetual. It is a privilege and must be fought for to maintain. Lest we forget….

100 Years of the Indy 500 Began With the Dream of a Visionary
May 29, 2011

40 cars lined up for the 1st Indy 500; The Winner Started in the 28th position-no winner has started farther back

On This Date In History: Not all success stories are college graduates or even college drop outs. On this date in 1909, entrepreneur Carl Graham Fisher was looking ahead to a big day. In just a 3 days, he was going to stage the first race at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway . Four days later he was scratching his head because the opening of his Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a three day, 300 mile race didn’t go very well. Drivers were blinded by the dust kicked up from the gravel roadway and 5 people were killed. Fisher abruptly stopped the race. But, he didn’t give up. He had the 2.5 mile oval set with brick and in 1911, the first Indy 500 was held.

Fisher didn’t give up on a lot of things. He was born half blind but didn’t know about it until he was 31. He started a small bicycle business and promoted it by riding a bike across a tightrope. He opened what is thought to be the first auto dealership in America and promoted that business in Indianapolis by floating across the city in a hot-air balloon. Part of the reason he opened the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was that he wanted to try to make Indianapolis the hub of the auto-industry instead of Detroit. He also went into business making auto headlights. He later sold that in 1912 to Union Carbide for $9 million. Perhaps buoyed by the success of making Indianapolis Motor Speedway the “Brickyard”, he conceived of the idea and helped develop the nations first coast to coast highway, the Lincoln Highway, named for his favorite hero. He went a step farther and pushed for the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis to Florida, which John Mellencamp made famous later.

Fisher's Elephant

In Florida, he became a real estate mogul and bought an overgrown island off of Miami. He had it cleared of mangroves, filled in the swamps and built a bridge to what is now known as Miami Beach. As part of a promotion, he once used an elephant with a baseball player on its head, which I have no idea how that promotes a real estate development. But, Fisher is considered a genius while that moniker has escaped me. He also began a “Miami of the North”, developing what would become Montauk on the eastern tip of Long Island. At one point he was worth $100 million in 1920’s dollars. But..easy come easy go.

Miami Beach Memorial Honoring Fisher

Miami Beach Memorial Honoring Fisher

Before the hype of Global Warming, a number of hurricanes devastated Florida and just hammered the real estate market in Florida. That took a toll on Fisher’s fortune. Then the stock market crash of 1929 wiped him out. He ended up in a small cottage on Miami Beach, but he didn’t stop. He developed the Caribbean Club in Key Largo. He died in 1939 with an estate estimated at just $40,000. But, he is credited with helping to inspire President Eisenhower to develop the interstate highway system. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and was named one of Florida’s 50 most influential people of the 20th Century.

From rags to riches to rags again….yet he left a legacy of benefit for the entire nation. Ever wonder what you can do if you try?

Mother’s Day, aka Mothering Sunday
May 8, 2011

Nothing Says "Mom" Better than Whistler's Mother. What Was the Post Office Thinking?

HappyMothersDay-main_FullOn This Date in History: I had always assumed that Mother’s Day was invented by some card company like Hallmark. I was wrong. It was just hijacked by the entreprenuerial spirit of America! There’s all sorts of stuff about it going back to the early church and then going on through the 17th century in Europe when it was still associated with the church. It had been to celebrate Mother Mary, then the Mother Church with Mothering Sunday. But when the folks came across the pond to America, the colonists were too busy working to do such things and it died out.

Mother of Mother's Day

Mother of Mother's Day

Then along came the Civil War and a woman named Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis. She started “Mother’s Friendship Day” as a way to improve sanitation in 1858. During the Civil War she continued the practice by organizing women on both sides to try and improve the nasty situation. Afterward, she organized Mother’s Friendship Clubs to teach women the basics of nursing and sanitation. She also took the opportunity to bring reconciliation to the nation following the war. Anne died in 1905 and her daughter Anna missed her greatly. Anna felt that children didn’t appreciate their mother’s enough while they were alive. So, in 1907, she decided to start a day to honor mothers. She began a letter writing campaign to ministers and such and in 1908, the first Mother’s Day service was held in honor of Anne Marie Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia, where she went to church for 20 years and also at her church in Philadelphia, the city where Anne died.

Wilson With Wife and Daughters Mother's Day 1912

It caught on and in 1912 The International Mother’s Day Association had come into being and on this date in 1914, a Presidential Proclamation by Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day. But Anna Jarvis’ happiness didn’t last long. In just a few short years, people started giving cards and flowers and presents and all sorts of things. It became more secular than what Miss Jarivs had envisioned. Commericialization had taken over and it continues today as Mother’s Day is one of the most financially successful days on the calendar. Anna Jarvis died as a cranky old woman who fought to oppose Mother’s Day. I guess she created a monster like Frankenstein. But not as much as the Postal Service.

President Roosevelt's Original Mother's Day Stamp Design

Yes indeed…in 1934 the US Postal Service decided to get into the act and make a stamp to commemorate Mother’s Day. And what did they pick to commemorate the day to honor the wholesome beauty of Motherhood? The portrait of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s mother! You look at it and try to figure out what they were thinking. It sure wasn’t “Happy Mother’s Day.” As it turns out, the inspiration came from none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR had been presented the idea by Mrs. H. H. McCluer of Kansas City who was the past president of a group called the American War Mothers. President Roosevelt had been devoted to his own mother so he heartily accepted the proposal and sent a sketch of the stamp that he envisioned to Postmaster General James A. Farley. Farley made a few modifications and the stamp was issued on May 2, 1934.

Original Mother's Day Stamp 1934

As for Hallmark, it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Joyce C. Hall was given the name “Joyce” because he had the misfortune of being born in David, Nebraska on the day that a Methodist bishop named Isaac W. Joyce was in town and his parents must have been inspired. As a teenager, J.C. Hall went into business with his two older brothers selling picture postcards. In 1910 at the age of 18, he dropped out of school and went to Kansas City and started selling postcards to drugstores, gift shops and bookstores before opening a specialty shop.

Editorial Cartoon Made Fun of FDR's Stamp. Bet that Newspaper Received a lot of hatemail using the special stamp

But, in a case of misfortune turning to a catalyst for success, a fire swept through the store. The brothers then got a loan and decided to purchase an engraving firm that they had done business with in the past. While Mother’s Day was just getting started around that time and no doubt did Hallmark participate in the commercialization of the “Holy Day” invented by Anna Jarvis, the company was not built on the hallowed day’s back. Instead, the Hallmark company history says that the Hall brothers originally gained success with Christmas and Valentine’s cards. But, let’s think about this for a moment. All about the same time: Anna Jarvis comes up with Mother’s Day; President Wilson recognizes it nationally; a fire destroys the Hall brother’s store and they start making specialty cards; Mother’s Day becomes so commercialized that Anna Jarvis works to oppose the very thing she created. I think that perhaps Miss Jarvis did not buy any Hallmark cards.

Appomattox and Marian Anderson: Symbolic Irony of History
April 9, 2011

Don't Buy Real Estate From This Man!

Don't Buy Real Estate From This Man!

On This Date in History: Wilmer McLean was a Virginia grocer. He probably did fairly well at his craft. But, he didn’t have much luck when it came to real estate. See, he had a patch of land not too far from the nation’s capital. The first major conflict of the Civil War was known as the Battle of Bull run and it took place on McLean’s land. Not only that, but Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard thought that the McLean house would make a good headquarters, so he comandeered it. The land was ravaged by the warfare and the house took a beating as a Union cannonball came crashing through the kitchen.

Lee's Table Not as Valuable as Grant's

Lee's Table Not as Valuable as Grant's

After the battle, which was also called the Battle of Manassas,  McLean hung on but gave up a year later when the entire episode was repeated during the Second Battle of Bull Run. Following the second episode of his home being turned inside out,  McLean picked up his family and moved to a small town some miles away in an effort to find some peace and quiet from the war.

McLean's Manassas Home No Longer His Castle After Bull Run

After a couple of years, McLean thought he’d made a good move until this date in 1865. See, Generaly Ulysses S. Grant had gotten General Robert E. Lee to abandon Petersburg and Lee’s army was on the run until finally, Lee sent Colonel Charles Marshall to find an appropriate site for a conference between the two army’s commanders near the small town of Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia which was some miles from the old McLean house. The first person that Marshall came upon was none other than Wilmer McLean. McLean first steered the colonel to an abandoned house with no furniture in it. Colonel Marshall quickly dismissed the idea. McLean felt like it was all but inevitable that the war had reached out and grabbed him again so he offered his home.

Parlor In Lower Left Hand Room

Parlor In Lower Left Hand Room

On that afternoon, General Robert E. Lee signed the articles of surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant in the front parlor of the McLean home and effectively ended the Civil War, though some skirmishes would go on for several days. Now, this was a pretty historic occasion and the soldiers on hand knew it. They wanted a piece of history. Union General Edward O.C. Ord gave McLean $40 for the table at which Grant had sat. Another Union General, either Philip Sheridan or George A. Custer, got a good deal by acquiring the table at which Lee sat for just $25. At that point, McLean figured he needed his furniture and brought an end to the impromtu rummage sale. But, less honorable individuals would have none of it. Chairs were broken up, upholstery ripped and the parlor was torn to pieces as if another cannonball had ripped through. Once again, Wilmer McLean had been touched by Civil War history…and his house took a beating. Maybe he should have moved to Texas.

Bear More Valuable Than Jesus?

Bear More Valuable Than Jesus?

The selling of the Grant table for more than the Lee table reminds me of when I lived in Birmingham. I once went into an art store. On some shelves were busts. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest went for $500. Robert E. Lee and Jesus Christ went for $550. Bear Bryant? He went for $600! Yes indeed, it’s the bible belt and they love Robert E. Lee and Jesus, but you better not schedule a church social when Alabama football has a game!

Who knew the 1 year old girl would later sing for kings

Some 32 years after the close of the Civil War, a little girl was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  By the age of six, this young lady became known in her church as the “baby contralto.”  Recognizing her musical talent, her father bought a piano but was unable to afford lessons so the young budding prodigy simply taught herself.  In her early teens, she began accepting invitations to sing until she finally got the courage to ask for $5 per performance.  Groups were eager to pay.  Around that same time, the Philadelphia Choral Society held a benefit concert that raised $500 so that she might be able to afford voice lessons with a leading contralto of the day.  Following her high school graduation, her principal introduced her to the highly sought after vocal teacher Guiseppe Boghetti and her audition brought the man to tears.

23 years old looking as good as she sounded

Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, her career exploded.  She performed all over Europe at great stages such as those found in London and Berlin.  When Arturo Toscanini heard her in Salzburg at the Mozarteum international festival, the prestigious conductor told her, “Yours is a voice such as one hears once in a hundred years.”  She even performed before the King of both Sweden and Denmark.  By the late 1930’s, she was performing some 70 concerts a year in Europe, Latin America and in the United States, including at Carnegie Hall.  Wherever she went, she was welcomed to great acclaim…that is until she attempted to perform in the capital of the United States of America.  You see, Marian Anderson was one of the greatest contraltos the nation has ever produced but she was rebuffed by some who were not deaf but still could not hear.  Although a bloody Civil War had been fought that was thought to have brought freedom for all, African-Americans were not living on a level playing field in many parts of the country, including the nation’s capital.

Marian Filled the Mall After the Snub for Constitutional Hall

Washington’s Constitutional Hall was the city’s foremost venue but the city was segregated and the hall itself had separate seating based on race.  I bet I know who got the front seats.  Anyway, when Marian’s agent attempted the book the hall, he was told that it was unavailable.  It seems that, in 1935, those who ran the hall created a rule that called for only white performers.  So, while it was supposed the be the greatest venue in the city, the greatest contralto in the nation, if not the world, was not allowed in.  Marian Anderson was good enough for the crowned heads of Europe, but not Constitutional Hall.  How can such a place be considered the best when it won’t allow the best?  The First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt was so incensed that she resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution which just so happened to be the owner of Constitutional Hall.  Musicians protested and much of the public was in an uproar.  I’m not sure if President Roosevelt ever commented but, I’m sure he gave his blessing to Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes when he arranged a free open air concert for Easter Sunday.  On this date in 1939, 74 years to the day after The Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Union forces under the command of Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, Marian Anderson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and performed before 75,000 adoring onlookers.  Millions more listened at home on their radios. 

I Bet Old Abe Smiled Over Marian's Shoulder

Relating to her performance, Anderson said that at first, she was reluctant to accept the invitation because she didn’t like a lot of show and that “one could not tell in advance what direction the affair would take. I studied my conscience. …. As I thought further, I could see that my significance as an individual was small in this affair. I had become, whether I like it or not, a symbol, representing my people.”  A few weeks later, Anderson performed at the White House for President Roosevelt the visiting King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain.  Finally, in 1943, at the height of World War II, Marian Anderson performed at Constitutional Hall under the condition that the Daughter’s of the American Revolution suspend their segregationist seating policy.

Marian Anderson at New York's Metropolitan Opera 1955

While history justifiably remembers Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Marian Anderson is largely forgotten.  In a city filled with monuments that elicit great symbolism, I think it is quite fitting to remember the contralto who performed on the steps of the monument, made largely of marble from former Confederate States, to the man remembered for his  leadership in a great struggle the resulted in freedom for African Americans on the day that struggle effectively came to an end.  It’s folly to try and play the “what if” game but I do wonder for a moment that, if Marian Anderson had not performed in 1939, would Dr. King have been able to stand in literally the same spot 25 years later?  Her career flourished and she lived to see great change prior to her death in 1993 at the age of 96.  But, certainly, as her voice was one heard once in a lifetime, her legacy should be etched in the American conscience for eternity as one rarely seen in a nation’s history.

 

Frederick Douglass: American
February 28, 2011

A Truly Great American With a Life that Stands on Its Own

Dr. Woodson Ultimately Is Responsible for Black History Month and Started It Partly With Douglass In Mind

Black History Month:  Some time ago, February was designated as Black History Month.   I have mixed emotions about that particular designation.  I think it’s always a good thing to focus attention on history, particularly American history since so many Americans really don’t know a lot about their nation.  I suppose the whole idea rose from the notion that the school system in this country didn’t really mention much about African-Americans except in the context of slavery.  However, I have a problem with a focus on a particular group of Americans. I am not saying that it’s wrong to have such a month; I guess I really think that its too bad that it was a necessity.  You see,  those individuals who are discussed in February are part of American history and I believe that they should be seen simply as Americans because all citizens, past and present are, in my view, my American brother and sister and my fellow American.  Race, religion or ethnicity does not add or dimish their position as an American.  Another thing that bothers me is the a grand oversight.  I’ve gone to some Black History Month presentations and they always quite properly include Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr.  Sometimes they talk about the contributions of George Washington Carver at the events of which I have attended.  Typically following the discussion of such well-known luminaries, they go off into some modern rappers or sports stars.  If it’s a good presentation, then it will rightfully include Jackie Robinson, but Mr. Robinson sometimes loses out to other Americans whose acheivements really don’t measure up to that of Robinson or Carver and certainly not even in the same neighborhood as Dr. King.  But, almost every time, they leave out someone whom I believe to be one of the most important Americans in our history.  His name is Frederick Douglass and all Americans should know about the man.

Slave Cabin probably not unlike one Douglass shared with his grandmother for a few short years

Even though Douglass often is left out of the Black History month discussion, his life was actually part of the reason why February has the designation.  The foundation of Black History Month dates back to the 1920’s when a Harvard doctoral graduate and former slave chose the month of focus since both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in February and Douglass also died then as well.  Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in February 1818.    Douglass often suggested that his mother, Harriet Bailey, conceived Douglass following the advances of white man who was not his mother’s husband.  It may be for that reason that Douglass did not live with his mother but instead was put in the cabin of his grandmother Besty Bailey by owner, Captain Aaron Anthony.  Even though he lived with his grandmother, it didn’t take long for Douglass to be hired out and so his familial ties were not strong.  In 1826, he went to Baltimore to work and live in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld.  Sophia was Capt Anthony’s daughter and Douglass lived with the couple for 7 years from 1826 to 1833.  During that time, he watched the Auld’s young son and also was taught to read and write by Sophia…that is until Hugh told her to stop.  But, the seeds were already sewn.

Frederick Douglass Broke the Chains and Headed into History

Douglass continued to teach himself to read and write on his own.   He secretly helped organized schools for slaves.  He resisted his position as a slave.  He tried to escape and was imprisoned for awhile and was sent to a plantation where slaves who needed to be “broken” were sent.  But, he never bowed.  In 1838, he broke his bonds and escaped to New York.  He got married and had children.  He fell in with abolitionists.  He had read books related to oratory and taught himself to make public speeches.  At the age of 23, he gave a speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society convention and caught the attention of many abolitionists included renown abolitionist William Garrison.  Now, Douglass given name was really Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey but he realized that if he were to go on the speaking circuit, then he’d have to change his name to Frederick Douglass.  Afterall, he was officially a fugitive slave and could be returned to slavery.  So, he adopted the last name of Douglass. 

Click on Image For Information Regarding Book that details relationship between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

On two occasions, Douglass fled to Europe to avoid recapture.  On one of his trips, sympathetic Europeans who heard Douglass speak raised money and bought his freedom.  By the time of the Civil War, Frederick Douglass finally was safe in the land of the free and home of the brave.  His autobiography that detailed his life in slavery was a huge hit and the words  he wrote and the words he spoke were significant contributors to the ultimate destruction of slavery.  Not only for the general public, but also for President Abraham Lincoln who consulted with Douglass regarding Lincoln’s policies and thoughts concerning slavery and the emancipation issue.  That included an idea Lincoln had about creating a colony in South America where freed  slaves could live.  Lincoln for a time had  the notion that Blacks and Whites were never intended to live together nor was it possible.  While he did  not believe in equality of the races, Lincoln also felt it was morally wrong for take what was earned from “the sweat of another man’s brow.”  Douglass impressed him as a tremendous mind and thinker and also took into consideration Douglass’ admonition that America was as much his country as it was the President’s.  Remember, Lincoln was born in the country just 9 years prior to Douglass.  Lincoln knew that Douglass had a very good and strong point.

Douglass' marriage to Helen (sitting) Was Not Popular with White or Black late 19th century America

Frederick Douglass was a proud man.  He was a tough man.  He was a smart, self taught man and great thinker.  He was bold and fearless.  Not only did he contribute to the rights of  Blacks, he also lent his name and effort to the equality of women.  He even was on the ticket for an early feminist presidential candidate.  Age did not diminish his courage though.  After his first wife died, he married a white, feminist woman and that, he said, brought condemnation and scorn from both Blacks and Whites alike.  His story is absolutely remarkable and one that every American should know and be proud to be able to say that Frederick Douglass was our American brother.  So, as Black History month comes to a close  just remember that the legacy and life of a great American, Frederick Douglass,  deserves as much recognition and acknowledgement as any American.  In my view, there is no other adjective beside “American” is needed to describe Frederick Douglass.  As he did in life, he can stand on his own for  the ages.

Ginger or Mary Ann?
February 12, 2011

A Long Way From Gilligan's Island

NOT my grandmother...but it is Tatiana

On This Date in History:  If I am not mistaken, Elizabeth Carter Symon was born on this date in 1898.  My grandmother lived to see February 11, 1998.  It always amazed me that she was born in the Oklahoma Territory.  I’ve seen a photo of her and her best friend in a horse and buggy.  She and her best friend went on to marry two men who were friends as well.  They remained as such for the rest of their lives.   Think about it.  My grandmother was born in Oklahoma before it was a state, rode around in a horse and buggy and in her lifetime, the invention of the automobile, the airplane, the atomic bomb and numerous medical breakthroughs took place.  She saw her territory become a state and saw man walk on the moon.  When she began there was no radio, no phonograph, no tv and probably not too many phones or running water where she grew up.  She did go to college though, which was rare in those days for a woman.  So many other things changed during her lifetime including the notable birth of Tatiana Josivovna Chernova Blacker on this date in 1934

I Think Jonas Grumby Would Have Had a Heart Attack if he Saw This Waiting in his Hut instead of Gilligan

Tatiana was born in New York and was raised by her mother, Betty Horn, who was a fashion model.  She went by the name Tina Blacker and told her high school teacher that she was the only girl in class without a middle name.  At the age of 17, she began taking acting classes and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  At 17, she started taking acting classes and did some modeling, showing up in some old “pin-up” magazines such as Modern Man and Adam, Sir!  In 1952, Tina made her acting debut on Broadway in a Bette Davis musical revue called Two’s Company.  More Broadway shows followed as did appearances in Playboy in May 1958 and April 1959.  I guess Hef must have dug her to put her in twice.  She probably caught his attention when she gained notoriety in 1957 for her performance with future Catwoman Julie Newmar in the Broadway adaptation of Li’l Abner.  That same year, she released an album with a couple of popular tunes, “Embraceable You” and “I’m in the Mood for Love.”  I mean, 1957 alone must have screamed “Hef! Hef!” for the budding star and she seemed destined for greatness.  And you know what, she became a household name; even to this day.

As We Remember, Ginger

She had film roles in the early 1960’s as a leading lady for the likes of Robert Ryan, Richard Widmark and Robert Taylor.  She turned down a role in Operation Petticoat, which would have put her on the wide screen with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.  She opted instead for more Broadway shows.  Then, in 1964, she teamed up with Bob Denver in a beach party movie called For Those Who Think Young.  No one remembers that movie but Tina will always remember that as the catalyst that changed her career and life.  You see, Denver was set to star in a new TV Show in 1964 and she took the role that was turned down by Jayne Mansfield.  Tina had taken as a stage name the middle name her high school teacher had given her, which was Louise.  Tina Louise starred in Gilligan’s Island as Ginger Grant.  She became unhappy with the role as she feared she would be typecast.  She was right.  But, she also became a television icon.

Cast Your Vote in the Poll

She continued her career and even had a memorable role in The Stepford Wives.   But, for all the acting credentials, playboy shoots and pinups, she will always be remembered as Ginger and be part of arguments over the question that will last forever: “Ginger or Mary Anne?”  While she generally refused to reprise the role of Ginger in any of the follow up movies related to Gilligan’s Island, she did make cameos on a few talk shows with a reunion theme.  While she may have tried to run from her role as Ginger, she couldn’t hide.  In fact, in 2005, TV Land listed her as 2nd all time in that cable channel’s top ten greatest sex-symbols of TV.  I once had a job in which I got to see all 98 episodes of Gilligan’s Island as I edited and dubbed the entire series.  I could watch every show frame by frame.  An interesting way to try to analyze the question: Ginger or Mary Ann?  And, it provided answers to other questions:  The Skipper was Jonas Grumby, the Professor was Roy Hinkley, Mary Ann’s last name was Summers and Gilligan was never given a last name, though creator Sherwood Schwartz once said that Gilligan was his last name.

Weather Bottom Line:  Believe the hype; it’s going to warm up.  The oscillation over the Arctic changed last week which had been oriented such that the North Pole has been warm all season and the continental US so cold has flipped.  It takes a little while for the change to come down stream but it will come.  The jet stream will move well north and we’ll be pushing toward 60 by the end of next week. If this shift persists, then winter is effectively over…but…it could shift back..after all it is an El Nino year so enjoy it while you can.

Disaster Comes When Men Go To the Wrong House
January 26, 2011

pinkerton_eye

Pinkerton Logo Coined the Term "Private Eye"

On This Date in History: A few years ago, Snow White and I were walking from Papa Johns Stadium and some event,,,probably a football game. We were walking back to the car and crossed the railroad tracks. Well, we were supposed to do that but I decided it would be faster walking the tracks. I started walking down the tracks and Snow White stopped, telling me to come back that it was against the law. Out of the darkness came a figure. It was a Pinkerton Man! Pinkerton Security provides the security for the railroad and he wrote me up. Snow White was right again.

Jesse and Frank James

Jesse and Frank James

Well, on this date in 1875 the Pinkertons got it wrong. The Pinkerton Detective Agency had been on the trail of Frank and Jesse James when it was hired by the railroads to catch the train and bank robbers. It was not an easy task. See, the James gang also had members of the Younger family and both the James’ and the Youngers had lots of friends and family in Missouri. Many of their relatives and friends had been partial to the Confederacy during the Civil War and considered the big railroads to be nothing but a bunch of Yankees. They thought the same of the Pinkerton Agency.

Allen Pinkerton Provided Security For Abraham Lincoln

Allen Pinkerton (left) Provided Security For Abraham Lincoln

Now, the men of the Pinkerton Agency were not too fond of the James Gang. Seems that one of their men, John W. Witcher, was found with a bullet hole in his stomach and much of his face eaten off by hogs. They thought for sure the culprits were members of the James Gang. The Pinkerton Agency must have let their animosity for the James’ get to them because, even though they weren’t entirely positive that it was the James Gang who killed Witcher, they went after them anyway. They had heard that Jesse and Frank often returned to their family farm. So, the Pinkertons waited until the sun went down and surrounded the James home. They threw some smoke bombs or flares into the home. To there surprise, there was a huge explosion. Jesse and Frank’s young half-brother was killed and their mother had her arm blown off. When the smoke had cleared, the Pinkertons found that Jesse and Frank were never there. Guess they should have knocked first.

Jesse's Mom Missing an Arm

Jesse's Mom Missing an Arm

After their keystone cops episode, the Pinkertons backed off a bit but they kept up the pursuit. They never got Frank and Jesse. Instead, Jesse was shot in the back of the head in 1882 by one of his own men, Bob Ford, who collected the reward money. Frank turned himself in shortly thereafter but no jury would ever convict him. He remained a law-abiding citizen until his death in 1915. As for his mother…she had quite the cottage business. Tourists could come by her house and for a small fee, they could hear of how the nasty railroad men and their disgusting Pinkertons persecuted her poor, innocent boys. Bet that performance was worth the price of admission.

Is This Floodwater?

Is This Floodwater?

On This Date in History:

On This Date in 1962, Jeffery Gordon Riley came into the world. Since that time he has come to be known as Flood Water, F-Water, Floods, F-Ditch, F-Dip, effrey and just plain F. Jeff Riley is a lot of things…and one of those things is a good friend to all who are fortunate enough to be able to call him a friend. Happy Birthday F.

It’s National Nothing Day; Celebrate in Earnest
January 16, 2011

You can even get a wristband (click image) for National Nothing Day!

Doing Nothing Meant Alot to Bon Scott and Angus Young

This Date in History: Everyone says that they are so busy these days, or at least we act like we are. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tells me that they are too busy to do something. Do you think that you could just do nothing? There is an AC/DC song called Down Payment Blues with a line that says “I know I ain’t doin’ much, doin’ nothin’ means a lot to me.” My friends and I in high school always liked that song. I guess Bon Scott liked doin’ nothing. After a bunch of poor grades on a test, a bunch of my students’ excuse was that they didn’t have time to do the reading assignment. A few days later, I tricked them when I asked if they had seen the UL-UK football game, the VH-1 Awards or Dancing with the Stars. When they all said that they had, I told them to never tell me that they don’t have time to do the reading assignment. We use the excuse that “I don’t have time” to do a given thing when, in fact, we choose not to use our time in that way. We say that we don’t have time to visit a co-worker in the hospital but have plenty of time to watch that favorite TV show. So, the question on the table might be, could you do nothing or are you too busy?

I think that everyone’s life is an interesting story. But, I suppose society doesn’t much think so. The lives of everyday people tend to go by the wayside while instead we turn our attention to people who yearn for attention even though they didn’t do anything to really earn that distinction. Think of all of the celebrities in the spotlight today who really have done nothing except be in the spotlight. So, maybe we do like to celebrate nothing. If that is the case, then today is your lucky day. It would seem that the life of a newspaperman would be interesting but, in the case of Harold Pullman Coffin, apparently that was not the case.

One cannot find anything about the life of this journalist; not even the name of any newspaper for which he worked. Children Come First have a writing contest for the day but the link to the Smithsonian it features leads nowhere. But, you will find that he was described as a “newspaperman” and he managed to leave his name for posterity and history simply by decided to celebrate nothing. On this date in 1973, newspaperman Harold Pullman Coffin designated January 16 as National Nothing Day. I’m not sure of his motivation but he wanted to “to provide Americans with one national day when they can just sit without celebrating, observing, or honoring anything.” Beyond that quote and the assertion that he was a newspaperman, there is nothing more. It’s too bad that Congress doesn’t recognize Coffin’s day for about half the year, then the nation might be able to get something done.

Abolitionist Coffin Related To Harold Pullman Coffin?

Anyway, I”m forced to speculate regarding Mr. Coffin but I have found that the University of Nevada at Reno is the holder of the E.B. Coffin collection. It is a set of personal papers and photographs derived from the Edward Baker Coffin family. Edward Baker Coffin was born in 1861 in California. His family was from Nantuckett, MA and his uncle or great uncle was probably aboltionist Levi Coffin as his brother was named George Levi Coffin. Edward B. Coffin married Ida Pullman of Elko, Nevada. They had 4 children, including Harold Pullman Coffin. Now, that is a rather unusual name so it’s probably our National Nothing Day founder or at least a relation. Now, the listing of Harold Pullman was fourth in the list of the children so we may presume that he was the youngest. But even so, if we assume that Edward Coffin was 30 when Harold was born, then Harold Pullman Coffin would have been 82 when he designated National Nothing Day as an Un-Event.

Andy Rooney Doesn’t think much of Birthdays

Andy Rooney just celebrated his 92nd birthday so, it’s possible that Coffin could have been still working as a newspaperman. (Rooney Bio) But, it seems more likely that the founder of National Nothing Day was the grandson of Edward Baker Coffin. But, we know nothing of the birthday of Harry Pullman Coffin and Andy Rooney says that Unhappy Birthday is a better greeting or none at all for someone looking at another year on the planet. Besides that, it’s probably better that we know nothing about the founder of National Nothing Day because, if we knew more, than that would be something.

Weather Bottom Line:  Today may be nothing…and the Seattle Seahawks seemed to have taken the day seriously…but tomorrow is something of note as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  There are lots of events around town but, unfortunately, the weather will not be very cooperative.  The good news is that we will be dancing with the 40 degree mark.  The bad news is that its going to be wet.  I would much rather have a bunch of snow than cold, dreary rain.  Well, we can’t have everything and I suspect that after the cold and rather snowy winter we’ve had so far, many of you would take the rain.  But, alas, the pattern does not change too much and it would appear that we’re in store for another pretty cold stretch after Tuesday as, after again being around 40 or so we fall below freezing Tuesday night and do not rise above 32 through next weekend.  In fact, several days will feature highs in the 20’s.  Snow returns to the forecast for Thursday behind which arctic air spills down.  At this point, the morning golf game next weekend may be tough as we’ll probably be in the single digits each morning.  Hope you’ve been nice to LG&E.

Edison Didn’t Invent the 1st Light Bulb, Just the best. And No One Remembers the Other Guys
December 31, 2010

Looks Like Me Trying to Forecast

Looks Like Me Trying to Forecast

Edison Invention Factory

Edison Invention Factory

On This Date in History: In 1876, Thomas Edison did perhaps the smartest thing he ever did. He created an invention factory. He moved his staff of 15 people into a large clapboard building filled with all sorts of scientific equipment and chemicals in Menlo Park, New Jersey which was then just a small rural hamlet. I’m not certain but it may have been the first research laboratory ever established and Edison proclaimed that he would produce “a minor invention every ten days and a big thing every six months or so.” At the time, many thought the claim was preposterous but 10 years later, Edison had been granted 420 patents…that averages out to one every 3.5 months.

First Edison Light Bulb

First Edison Light Bulb

Perhaps his most famous invention was the first practical incandescent light bulb. Note the word “practical.” See, other people had applied for patents for lights but they didn’t last too long. They tried to “sub-divide” electric light or somehow make it weaker. Edison for his part kept trying to use a filament to electrify and make glow. He kept trying platinum but it kept burning up. So, he used a sort of cardboard covered in carbon but that didn’t work so well either until he created a vacuum in glass. The filament didn’t burn but instead glowed brightly. On this date in 1879, Thomas Alva Edison lit up the new year by demonstrating for the first time publically his incandescent light.

Southern Exposition 1883

Southern Exposition 1883

A couple of other items. First off, by June 1882, Edison had demostrated how the light could be used in a system and wires were laid and a small area of New York was illuminated. But, on August 1, 1883 20,000 incandescent lights burned brightly in the largest display ever seen in the world. I believe that represented more lights than existed in all of New York City. The place of this display? Louisville, Kentucky at the Southern Exposition. The building was a huge palacial area that stood for five years during the time of the exposition. It stood where you will find St. James Court today. Now, Edison gets all of the credit for the electric light and a whole slew of other inventions. But, he had an entire staff working for him. I’ve always wondered how many of those inventions really came about due to the ideas and work of his staff. Certainly it was Edison’s inspiration, but I wonder about the rest. I suppose it may be a case of those who have the gold makes the rules.

A Dirty Ring Around the White House Bathtub
December 28, 2010

Rub a Dub Dub, Big Bill Taft's Bath Could Hold Four Men In a Tub

I Don't Know if Big Bill is Right because I don't think being Secretary of War counts as part of the legislative branch. Either Way, the Tub story is more fun

On This Date in History:   According to H.L. Mencken, the first bathtub was installed in the White House in 1851 by President Millard Fillmore. Mencken wrote in a New York newspaper that the first bathtub in the United States was an “elegant mahogany contraption” installed in the home of a Cincinnati businessman in 1842. He said after that point, that the practice of bathing became popular with the wealthy. He said when word reached the masses a public outcry against the “epicurean and obnoxious toy from England” was “designed to corrupt the democratic simplicity of the republic.” Mencken added that it was Fillmore was responsible for the public’s acceptance for the habit of regular bathing. On this day in 1917, Mencken was basking in the glow created by his article in the New York Evening Mail titled” A Neglected Anniversary.”

He was probably still chuckling the day after his work was published because it was an elaborate hoax. December 1917 was a time of great sadness around the world due to World War I. He decided that a spoof on bathtub history would be a good way to raise the spirits fo his readers.  And who better to include in the hoax but the historically hapless Millard Fillmore.   Mencken’s joy turned to shock when he learned that his words were taken as Gospel. In 1926, he was so uneasy with the fact that his fiction was considered to be real history that he wrote a public confession of his hoax. But, no one listened and the result of his little tale have continued to this day with some sources claiming that Fillmore did indeed install the first bathtub in the White House. The real truth is that copper bathtubs and a shower were installed in the Executive Mansion on the first floor in 1833 or 1834. A permanent bathtub was put in the second floor of the White House in 1853. Mencken would have been better off publishing a true story about the White House bathtub. President William Howard Taft was 6’2″ and weighed a rotund 300 pounds. He had once become stuck in the normal presidential tub. So, he installed a tub that was 41 inches across and 7 feet long. It is said that it could hold four regular size men. The truth was stranger than fiction and this little story may be a good example of how if a lie is told enough times by enough people, then the lie becomes the truth. It also may be a good example of how we should not necessarily believe everything that we read.  And then again, perhaps it is telling that William Howard Taft is best known for being the fattest president, having a huge bathtub, standing up in the middle of the 7th inning to begin the “7th inning stretch” tradition and splitting the ticket with Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose campaign and vaulting Woodrow Wilson to the presidency.  The fact that he was the only person to serve as President and Supreme Court Chief Justice gets lost.   He was also Secretary of War.  Maybe if he’d done something more interesting while holding the important jobs then he wouldn’t be remembered as he is.  But, it could be worse, he could be remembered like Millard Fillmore who is but a footnote.  Besides, its more fun this way.