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.

The Union Army in the Civil War Was Nearly Commanded by an Italian
September 8, 2010

Had Abraham Lincoln Been Able to Offer his Emancipation Proclamation a Year Earlier, This Italian Military Hero May Have Been An American Military Hero As Well

Winfield Scott Lives up to his "Old Fuss and Feathers" moniker and the notion that he was a tired old man at 75

On This Date in History:  It has been well documented and reviewed that Abraham Lincoln had a difficult time finding a general to lead the Union Army at the outset of the Civil War and in the years to come.  The carousel of commanders ultimately ended with the elevation of General Ulysses S. Grant to the position of Lt. General of the Armies in 1864 following his victory at Vicksburg in 1863.  When the war began, Lincoln had a true military hero in General Winfield Scott who had gained accolades for his efforts in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.  But “Old Fuss and Feathers,” as Scott was called, was 75 years old and in declining health when hostilities began in 1861.  After Scott had set forth his “Anaconda Plan” to strangle the South with a naval blockade, he retired from military service.

Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee Could Not Turn His Back on Virginia

Before the war broke out. Scott had approached Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee about taking command of the Union armies in the field.  Scott pleaded with Lee not to join the Confederacy.  Lee, however, felt great loyalty to his state of Virginia as its history had in some measure been shaped by his ancestors, including American Revolution hero Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Robert E. Lee’s father.  When Virginia voted to secede from the Union and Lee informed Scott of his decision, the aging general said, “Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life;  but I feared it would be so.”    Virginia officially proposed secession on April 17, 1861 and Robert E. Lee resigned from the US Army 3 days later.  Three days thereafter, Lee was named commander of the armed forces of Virginia.

McClellan's Deliberate Approach Was Good For Railroad Building But Not So Good For Waging War; Posing Like Napoleon Didn't Make Him Napoleon

From that point, it was all downhill for the Union.  President Lincoln turned to General George B. McClellan who was a West Point Graduate but had spent the most recent years with the railroads, most significantly plotting the course of the Northern Pacific Railroad across the Cascades.  He was gifted at organization and literally built the US Army from scratch.  But, McClellan envisioned himself as an American Napoleon and had a strained relationship with the president as exemplified by his reference to the Commander in Chief as an “idiot” or “the original gorilla.”  McClellan had been a good student at West Point and thus followed the doctrine taught at the academy which  was based on the ideas of Antoine Henri de Jomini.  In general, the military strategy involved maintaining supply and communications lines and securing key locations.  True to his organizational strengths, McClellan and other Union generals tended to take their time in preparation and tended to make deliberate, rather than decisive, moves.  Lincoln accused McClellan of having a case of “the slows.” 

Famous Alexander Gardner Photo of Dead Soldiers at Antietam

In September 1862, Lee invaded Maryland and split his army, which was unconventional, in order for him to follow the Jomini doctrine of securing his supply routes.  McClellan is said to have received advanced intelligence that informed him of Lee’s plans.  A Union soldier in Frederick, Maryland had found a pack of 3 cigars in the street and when he picked it up, he found the cigars were wrapped in Lee’s orders to his field commanders which outlined the strategy which were known as Lee’s Special Orders  no. 191.  McClellan was brimming with confidence that his much larger army could surprise and overcome the divided forces of the Army of Northern Virginia and achieve a great victory.  Alas,  in spite of the information, McClellan moved so slowly and with such deliberate care that Lee was able to regroup his army at Antietam.  The Battle of Antietam, which was fought near Antietam Creek  on September 17, 1862, was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War.  McClellan said it was a great victory but, in fact, his army with a two to one advantage in numbers missed an opportunity to destroy Lee’s army and perhaps end the war.  Lee escaped with his forces intact and McClellan failed to follow up with a pursuit.

Garibaldi Refused Command of Union Army Due To Lincoln's Reluctance to Commit to Free American Slaves

As it turns out, the name of George B. McClellan might be lost to history had Abraham Lincoln been successful a year before the Battle of Antietam.  You see, on this date in 1861, the president attempted to enlist the services of Italian Revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi to lead the Union Army.  Garibaldi had become famous in his own country in his successful operation to unify Italy.  Robert E. Lee did not join the Confederacy because he supported slavery, but instead out of loyalty to Virginia.  Garibaldi had no such loyalty issues and had fought against slavery in South America.  However, a sticking point in the attempt to gain the skills of Garibaldi was the Italian’s insistence that Lincoln promise that American slaves would be freed.  At that point, Lincoln’s objective was to preserve the Union and he doubted he could reach his objective and make such a commitment. 

Ever Heard of Don Carlos Buell?

Of course, 5 days after Antietam, President Lincoln announced his intention of issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 that would free all slaves in areas in insurrection.  Lincoln said it was a military measure to help limit the South’s ability to make war.   However, it effectively freed the slaves since it would be incomprehensible to free those in bondage only to put them back in their former state once the war was over.  Had Lincoln felt as if he was in a position to make such a commitment in September 1862, then George B. McClellan might have been relegated as a footnote of history, like General Don Carlos Buell or even, in some measure, Winfield Scott. 

Light Italian Aircraft Carrier Named For Garibaldi

As it stands, it was Giuseppe Garibaldi who has been lost to American history.  Ultimately, victory was acheived under the command of Ulysses S. Grant, who was not a very good student at West Point and therefore had not been indoctrinated in the Jomini philosophy.  He developed a strategy that involved the “theatre of war” as well as using his overwhelming superiority in stregnth to simply attack and overwhelm the enemy.  The tactics involved are known as “Grantonian Tactics” and were later used by the likes of Erwin Rommel and Bernhard Montgomery.  The philsophy continues to this day and is described by historian Russell F. Weigley as The American Way of War.  The media has given some of those tactics the moniker, “Shock and Awe.”  As for Garibaldi, while he was never named as commander of the Union Army, the Italians did name an aircraft carrier in his honor.

Weather Bottom Line:  I saw someone on TV on Tuesday night say that the track of what is left over of Tropical Storm Hernine would determine if our rain chances go up at the end of the week.  What a crock.  A tropical cyclone is a very large feature and this storm remained well defined even as far north as San Antonio.  Its flow opens up the Gulf and the storm will track into the plains states.  The flow is so broad that most certainly, the moisture drawn up to the east of the center of the low will over run the cold front that came through on Tuesday.  The question will be whether or not the moisture will overcome the dry air and when it does, not the track of the system.  Look for a coolish night in the upper 50’s, a warm afternoon on Thursday with low humidity and high clouds on Thursday afternoon and then thickening clouds as the day progresses on Friday.  The dry air will limit the rain chances for awhile but by late Friday, into Friday night, its likely that our atmosphere will be saturated enough to give us a decent shot at some much needed rain.   The system will lift the front north as a warm front on Friday night or Saturday morning and that will be the best chance.  Saturday may be a shade warm and humid in advance of a cold front which may not only provide decent rain chances Saturday evening, but also, I would think, a risk of some trouble-making t’storms.

Not All Floods Can Be Blamed On The Beaver
June 9, 2010

How Can This Little Guy Be Blamed For Anything

Moravia Could Not Escape the Flood Waters

Recently, parts of Europe have received a large amount of rain which has caused problems.  The Prague Post reported that late May floods in the Czech Republic has had the worst flooding since 2002 and points out that the financial cost of the floods is doing nothing but creating a potentially bigger financial crisis in that nation.   In Poland, the flooding took 15 lives and the comparisons there are to the flooding scenario of 1997.   Apparently, after that flood event, the country made infrastructure changes to build up flood defenses.  As it turns out, some of the efforts have failed.  Oh…it’s not being blamed on poor engineering or construction or government regulation or public officials taking bribes.  No, the flooding in Poland is  blamed on beavers.   The estimate is that over 50,000 beaver live in Poland and they enjoy a measure of protection, according to animal welfare services.  

Flooding In Poland Caused by Beavers, Not Too Much Rain?

Now, for a long time I have wondered why it is that human activity is considered to not be natural when that activity changes ecosystems but the behavior of other mammals is thought to be natural.  Beavers necessarily transform and change ecosystems.  Beavers will build a dam.  That dam produces a lagoon.  That lagoon eventually fills up with sediments and a meadow is created.  What had been a flowing creek or small river tends to be destroyed by the beaver dam and a new ecosystem that supports different types of wildlife is created from the transformation.  That is considered natural whereas when man builds a dam and changes an ecosystem, it’s not natural.  Hmm.  In any event, man built these flood defenses in Poland and now the beaver has been digging holes.  When they dig their tunnels into the sides of levees, it weakens the flood control structure and the result has been that, with swollen rivers, some of the flood defenses have failed.  So, in response, authorities are upping the hunting quota on the beaver.  The “unnatural” activity of man building levees are winning out against the “natural” activity of the beaver, which has been destroying and recreating ecosystems for as long as they have been around. 

Cars No Haven From Floods In Rapid City June 1972

Debris From Homes Against A Bridge

On This Date In History: When flooding occurs in the US and dams or levees fail, the first thing that we tend to do is blame someone.   That someone is never wildlife like the friendly beaver.  Typically, its some corporate malfeasance, corrupt government official or lack of governmental regulation that is at the root of the evil.  Rarely do we put the cause of any event, where more often than not it should reside,  at the feet of the laws of Physics.  Sometimes, it’s no one’s fault and you can’t blame it on the beavers.

Gaging Station Records Along Rapid Creek June 1972

In June 1972, warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico made it all the way to South Dakota. A cold front came down and 15 inches of rain fell on the Black Hills in just 6 hours. Now, the Pactola Dam was built in 1952 and it created flood control and a resevoir that made the region much more habitable. During that time, some ten miles away, Rapid City grew to nearly 50,000 and a large residential neighborhood sprang up.   Trouble was, the neighborhood was situated in the flood plain. On This Date In 1972 after the torrential rains came and the deluge continued throughout the Rapid Creek Valley.  Some 10-15 inches of rain fell over the Rapid Creek watershed.  At the time, media reports claimed that the Pactola structure failed.  It did not.  In fact,  post analysis estimates are that the flood control project actually saved lives and damage as it reduced the flow to the Canyon Lake resevoir.  Now the dam at Canyon Lake was the one that got into trouble. A bunch of debris clogged the spillway at the dam. The dam collapsed and water was sent rushing through the neighborhood and through Rapid City.   Over 4 days,  16000 acre feet of water rolled through Rapid City and the flooding resulted in the loss of 238 lives.   Most of the homeowners had no insurance.   Today the dam has been rebuilt. I suppose it was an earthen dam in 1972 as it is today.   There’s one big difference.   There is no residential community in the flood plain any more.   Today it’s a golf course.  

Only Slabs Remained Where Houses Had Been

The 1972 Rapid City Flood has been revisited numerous times.  As it turns out, most of the rain fell between the Pactola Resevoir and the city.  In an effort to try and prevent a similar tragedy, studies were conducted but it was found that the geology precluded the construction of other dams.  The conclusion was that the best course of action was to create a  “greenway” or park system in the flood plain.  Hence, no more homes and business.    It’s always amazing how when we look back at historical events and how shortsighted we were in doing some things, like putting homes in a flood plain.   I really wasn’t anyone’s fault though.  Sometimes, things just happen that are beyond man’s grasp.  I guess building houses in that area was a good idea back when it was first proposed.  It often seems to take a tragedy to wake people from their slumber and remember one of US Grant’s favorite lines: “Man Proposes and God Disposes.”  Or, as in the case of Poland, the beaver did the disposing.

LMK Rain Total Map for Louisville Area June 9, 2010

Weather Bottom Line:  Things worked out as advertised…at least on these here pages.  We had some fairly heavy rain with a fair amount of thunder and lightning and it happened well after midnight.  I got waken up about 3:39 AM on Wednesday.  Rain totals were generally from .75″ to 1.50″.  It was a little more substantial in spots than I might have anticipated but I was mainly focused on the severe threat which I was not too enthused about as the timing came about as I expected.  Look for fog Thursday morning.  This front really didn’t bring much in the way of drier or even cooler air.  So, the dewpoints are not that low and with the moisture from the rain..fog.  We will be in the upper 80’s to low 90’s to wind up the week before we get another t’storm chance for the weekend.

Skid Road to Skid Row: Seattle Pays Its Namesake For His Trouble
June 7, 2010

Skid Road Seattle

Skid Road Seattle

Skid Road Near Utsalady

On This Date in History:  In the early 1850’s, white settlers set up logging operations in what is now Seattle.  The settlement was mainly made up of men which prompted Asa Mercer to set up a scheme to import women to the region.  About 140 years later that effort was made famous in a television adaptation called Here Comes the Brides.   Now, what the area lacked in women it made up in timber.  The area was teeming with trees but they needed a way to easily get the felled trees to the sawmill set up in the town.   They used to skid logs down a chute on the main street to get them to the sawmill. The road came to be known as “skid road”.    Later, as the town’s main center moved north, the road was left in a dilapidated part of town filled with drunkards and derelicts. The part of town went from being known as “skid road” to “skid row” and today the term “skid row” has made its way into the American lexicon for the dilapidated area of any town in the country.

Skid Road Near Snoqualmie

By the end of the Civil War, business was blowing and going in the Pacific Northwest as westward expansion was back on the minds of Americans (it never really abated much) and there was the issue of reconstructing all of the destruction brought on by the Civil War.  So, Seattle was a growing, bustling town and skid road was no doubt a busy  timber thoroughfare. Amidst all of this,  On This Date in 1866, an Indian Chief died. He was a chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes having gained the leadership of both tribes by having a Suquamish father and a Duwamish mother. He was born in the late 18th century and by the 1850’s,  when white settlers from America started setting up villages, the chief welcomed the strangers.   Inn homage to his kindness, the settlers named the village they set up on Puget Sound for him. They called it Seattle. Chief Seattle  (aka Sealth) was a pretty smart guy as, even though he thought the whites would eventually eradicate his people, he figured that fighting them would only hasten their demise. A couple of other tribes disagreed and started a war, only to surmise that Seattle was probably right all along and they too put down their weapons and made the best of the situation as they could.

Chief Seattle An Unlikely Benefactor For the Pacific Northwest

However, Chief Seattle had a little problem. In the Indian tradition, the mention of a dead man’s name would disturb his eternal rest and with a town bearing his name, the Chief would be quite restless in eternity. Well, the settlers couldn’t possibly change the name of their town. So, instead, they came up with a truly American solution.  For the discomfort of his having to live eternity in a restless state they thought that they would pay him to make his final years on earth a little more settled.  Americans from the beginning of the nation have been repulsed by the idea of taxation when they felt it was subjected on them by outside forces.  But this was different because the citizenry levied a tax on themselves to raise money for a little fund that they paid to Chief Seattle before he died as a payoff for the trouble he would be in when he passed from this world. On June 7, 1866 Chief Seattle died and by not living longer, Seattle gave one more gift to the people of the town that bore his name:  he saved the taxpayers of Seattle money.

SPC Severe Outlook Tuesday

Weather Bottom Line:  I have to say that in a quick analysis of the maps and other data, I was fully prepared to say that we have a decent risk of severe weather on Wednesday.  We have a low coming through the flow that will be just to our North and closer than the last one that moved west to east along the lower Great Lakes and brought a bunch of nasty weather from Northern Illinois through Northern Ohio over the weekend.  It seemed a reasonable assumption.  But, closer examination gives me some pause.

SPC Severe Outlook Wednesday

First off, I’ve seen several forecasts that have Tuesday with either an equal or even higher rain chance than Wednesday.  The boys at the SPC have our area on the eastern edge of the area of slight risk for severe weather on Tuesday.  Then, we’re on the western periphery of a smaller area for the Wednesday slight risk.  From observing the maps, I was not certain exactly why they would be so agressive on the Tuesday outline.  The only thing that I could figure was that they were looking at perhaps storms to the west holding together sufficiently to make it to our area before midnight.  I’m not so sure  I buy this.  We’ve got pretty dry air over us and I”m not so sure that the atmospheric column will destablize enough by late Tuesday to support any such storms.  The GFS does throw out a few showers on Tuesday afternoon but the NAM keeps us dry.

SPC Wed Severe Weather Probability

I had anticipated that severe parameters derived from forecast vertical profiles would reveal a healthy severe chance for Wednesday when the low actually comes close, we would have an extra day to reload the atmosphere with warm and more humid air and with some afternoon heating.  But, alas, neither the vertical profiles of the NAM or the GFS are very exciting for Wednesday either.  I am speculating that is the reason why the severe area for Wednesday is mainly to our east and also relatively small in areal coverage.  When the best dynamics swing through here, they come after midnight Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning.  When the afternoon heating kicks in, those areas of greatest instability and dyanmic forcing is to our east.  This is all just a bunch of machines talking.  What I would expect would be increasing clouds and humidity on Tuesday and it will be mainly dry with perhaps some scattered stuff late Tuesday.  I will suppose that the SPC has a handle on this but will keep in mind that the low will not move quite as fast, thus providing a more elevated risk for rain and t’storms on Wednesday though I have only marginal data to support any real significant severe weather in our area.  In essence, for me I’m not so sure that Wednesday will be so sedate but would not anticipate wide spread death and destruction.  Things will be more clear on Tuesday.  We get much warmer by next weekend.

Elvis Presley’s 1st National TV Appearance Huge, Not On Sullivan
June 5, 2010

Elvis Began His Road to Coronation As King of Rock and Roll on the Milton Berle Show June 5 1956

On June 5, 1956 A National TV Audience Got the Full Elvis on the Milton Berle Show

On this Date in History:  I would wager that if someone asked you which TV show was Elvis Presley’s first television appearance, you would answer the Ed Sullivan Show.  That would be wrong.  His first TV appearance was on January 28, 1956 on the little remembered, Stage Show, co-hosted by Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey.  He appeared on the next 3 episodes and a total of 6 appearances.  I’m not sure if the show lasted much longer than that but the press really didn’t pay much attention.  His first national TV appearance was on April 3, 1956 on the Milton Berle Show.   Berle remembered that there were many stars on that night including Hugh Jarrett, Esther Williams, Buddy Rich and Harry James.  Milton Berle also mentioned Buddy Hackett but the rundown of those who appeared does not list Hackett.  In any event, Elvis was an unknown young performer.  Elvis’s agent, Colonel Parker (see book about Parker and Presley) had called Berle and asked him to give Elvis an audition.  Berle did and was impressed enough to book Elvis on the show.  Elvis performed “Shake Rattle and Roll,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”  Of the three, Elvis wrote “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Steve Allen Came Up With a Creative Way in Which to Control Presley When He Sang "Hound Dog"

The story gets a little cloudy here because in an interview of Berle, he seems to mix two appearances into one.  Apparently, Elvis was gaining in popularity but the press still generally ignored him.  You see, it was the second appearance of Elvis on the Milton Berle Show on this date in 1956 that launched him into immortal superstardom.  On that show, Elvis performed “Hound Dog.”   For some reason, the press decided to pay attention this time.  Perhaps Elvis had not shown much style in his first appearance but I suppose he was feeling more confident the second time around because he showed off his moves.  He gyrated and shook and the kids went wild, the parents were aghast and the censors were frantic.  The New York Journal-American wrote that the young man’s “primitive physical movement difficult to describe in terms suitable to a family newspaper.”  The San Francisco Chronicle called the performance “In appalling taste.”  The New York  Daily News said that Elvis “gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos.”  Berle said that 4 days after the show he received 400,000 “pan” letters.  Not “fan mail” but “pan mail.”  People wrote to Berle and said that they would never watch his show again after he showed that disgusting young man.  Berle said that he called Colonel Parker to inform him that he had a star on his hands.  Berle recognized that if that many people took the time to write letters then he had to be on the minds of just about everyone.  All publicity is good publicity.

Sullivan Initially Said No To Elvis

Now, Ed Sullivan had vowed to never book Elvis on his show due to all of his controversial wiggling.   But, there were more shows besides Sullivan.  Three days prior to his groundbreaking second appearance on Milton Berle, Elvis showed up on Your Hit Parade and went on the show again on June 9, 1956.  The first of July found Elvis on the Steve Allen Show where he wore a tuxedo as he performed “Hound Dog” singing to a sad looking basset hound.  Allen had considered pulling him from the show after the backlash of the Berle appearance.  Instead, he took a comic approach and put Elvis in the tuxedo with the dog in an effort to control him.  Elvis went along with it.   An appearance with Jack Benny followed that.  Sullivan had turned down an offer to pay $5000 to put Elvis on his show but after Allen with Elvis destroyed Sullivan without Elvis in the ratings, old Ed promptly changed his mind.  The show was called originally called “Toast of the Town” and the guest host on September 9, 1956 was Charles Laughton of Captain Bligh fame from Mutiny on the Bounty.  Also on the show was the same Hugh Jarrett who was booked on the Milton Berle show on which Elvis made his national debut.   Sullivan wasn’t in the New York theatre as he was recovering from injuries suffered in an automobile accident so Laughton filled in.  Elvis wasn’t in the theatre either.  He was in Hollywood shooting his first movie.  So, Laughton tossed to the guest by saying “away to Hollywood to meet Elvis Presley.”  Elvis performed from a studio there.  Sullivan was happy because his show that night got boffo ratings and he must have also been relieved.  His delay resulted in Sullivan signing Elvis for 3 appearances for $50,000 which was an unheard of some in those days. 

I Think Charles Laughton in 1935 Made a Better Bligh Than the Real Bligh

By not having Elvis on sooner, Sullivan may have helped himself even though he cost himself money.  Other shows built his popularity so, by the time he made it to the biggest show on TV, the Sullivan Show, people watched in record numbers.  Myths get spread so much that often that the myth becomes the truth.  As previously mentioned, many people probably remember the Sullivan appearance as Elvis’s national TV debut.  They also probably recall that the censors on Sullivan’s show required that all shots of his performances would be from the waste up.    Well, on that first Sullivan appearance, his first song was “Don’t be Cruel” and the cameras did in fact stay from the waste up, showing The King in a very loud plaid jacket.  But the jacket was not the only thing that screamed out.  Women in the audience were screaming at something Elvis did beyond the camera range.  He then performed “Love Me Tender” which was his new song associated with his first movie of the same title.  But, the cameras gave the television audience the full Elvis for his second segment.  They showed his feet, his hips, his legs…everything wildly moving about as he performed the Little Richard song “Ready Teddy” and a couple of verses of “Hound Dog.”  So, Elvis was not really censored by Ed Sullivan. 

Plenty of Ladies Got to See Elvis Wiggle on the Sullivan Show

The myth was created by the press who noted that tight shots were used whenever he started to dance.  Perhaps it was censorship but more likely it was a director taking different camera shots.  The audience saw plenty of Elvis in action and they certainly heard the women in the audience sqeal every time Elvis grunted, crossed his eyes, moved his tongue or even just stood perfectly still.  Laughton concluded the show by saying, ”Well, what did someone say? Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast?”  On that night, Ed Sullivan’s show was seen by  82.6% of the total television audience in America.  Steve Allen didn’t even try as NBC pre-empted his show with a movie. 

It may have been Parker (left) and Not Sullivan who had the cameras show Elvis from Waist Up for just one song but the public got the "Full Elvis" on other segments. Myth Busted

Now, the last time that Elvis appeared on Sullivan’s show (by that time it was called the Ed Sullivan Show) was on January 6, 1957 and the TV camera’s did indeed only show him from the waste up as he sang the Gospel song,  “Peace in the Valley.”  Given that these close ups were for a non-rock and roll tune, many historians believe it was Parker’s idea to limit the camera shots as a way of creating publicity and not an order from Sullivan.   Elvis never performed for Sullivan again but it wasn’t because Ed was upset; he was a tightwad.  Colonel Parker had raised the fee for his star to perform on TV to $300,000 with a stipulation that the network had to agree to put him on two additional guest spots as well as a one hour special.  Parker credited the Sullivan appearances as the key to the success of the single and the movie “Love Me Tender.”  And many music and tv historians say that it was the 3 Sullivan appearances by Elvis to gain support from the parents of the kids who already loved  the king as Sullivan somehow bridged a generation gap.  Obviously, Elvis’s movements were tame by today’s standards, or lack thereof, but it was his breakthrough in his performing style that continues to influence rock stars today.

SPC Severe Outlook Saturday June 5, 2010

Weather Bottom Line:  A pretty strong cold front is sagging down from the North.  It will eventually get here but during the afternoon and early evening heating hours the focus of the attention will generally be to our North.  The SPC has put an area from near Gary, IN to Seymour IN in a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms with a 10% risk of tornadoes, a 30% chance for hail and 45% chance of high winds.  The reason for this is that there will be a little jet streak running across the region as the front sags through.  By the time the front gets to Louisville,it will be night and the heating of the day will be on the wane and the jet streak will have moved through.  However, there will be sufficient latent heat to support thunderstorms with the frontal passage.  While the slight risk of the severe weather threat is officially to the North of Louisville, do not be surprised to see some strong storms in our area on a isolated basis. 

Once the front moves through, we will get relief from the heat and humidity with highs on Sunday and Monday in the low 80’s to upper 70’s.  It will warm back up by the middle to late part of next week.  Depending on how pokey this front is, it is possible on Sunday to have some isolated, mainly elevated afternoon storms in the afternoon.
Alpha Inventions Ranking

U.S. Grant-It’s all in the name
May 30, 2010

Greatness of Grant is Obscured by History

Grant Loved Horses, Especially Cincinnati

On this Date in History:  One thing that I have learned in researching history is that, in order to really understand a subject, one must look at the complete historiography.  So often, you find people referring to one author as the authority on a particular subject when, the truth is, two or three people can have different perspectives.  Beyond points of view, authors can also have biases such that they will enhance data that fits their worldview and suppress any documentation that may bring an eye of skepticism.   For instance, there is no doubt about the fact that the 18th President of the United States and Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant was born as Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822 near Point Pleasant, Ohio.  So, the quesiton arises as to how Hiram Ulysses Grant became Ulysses S. Grant?

Lt. Grant at age 21

One pretty reliable source that I use quite often claims that on May 29, 1839 that Hiram Ulysses Grant enrolled at West Point as Ulysses S. Grant because he wanted to avoid the intials H.U.G.   However, in the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,  Grant says that he “reported at West Point on the 30th or 31st of May.”   Obviously, something is amiss.  Grant biographor William S. McFeely indicates that Grant had checked in to the Roe Hotel in West Point prior to actually reporting.  Grant had always been known by his middle name, Ulysses, and he signed in as U.H. Grant, flipping his first and middle initial on the hotel register.  He used the name Ulysses H. Grant and probably would have continued to do so had it not been for the sloppiness of a Congressman.

Hamer's sloppiness gave us US Grant instead of UH Grant

You see, it was Grant’s father’s idea for him to go to West Point.  Jesse Grant had thought that the military academy would provide a secure future for his son and , after all, it was free.  The richest  boy in their hometown, Bartlett Bailey, had been dismissed and that provided an opportunity for Jesse Grant to gain his son’s admission.  He initially went to Senator Thomas Morris for an appointment but he was denied.  So, he then turned to Congressman Thomas Hamer, which was difficult for Jesse since Hamer was from the oppposing political party.   Now, Hamer had known the boy as Ulysses and when he made the appointment falsely assumed that was his first name.  Hamer needed to provide a middle initial and most likely recalled that Grant’s mother’s maiden name was Simpson.  On this date in 1839, when the young lad walked from the hotel to register at the academy, he found on the roster two Grants: Elihu Grant from New York and U. S. Grant from Ohio.  From that point forth, he was forever known as U. S. Grant. 

Hand Written Copy By Grant of his "Unconditional Surrender" Notice to Buckner

Grant had success in the military in the Mexican War but, after he left the army, he was somewhat adrift.  When the war began, he was  working as a clerk in the family store in Galena, IL.  He gained a position as a colonel in the Illinois volunteers but quickly rose through the ranks.  He gained the moniker Unconditional Surrender Grant due to his lack of desire to negotiate with the enemy for terms of surrender.  At Fort Donelson, Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner was left to surrender the fort to Grant after the two officers in charge of the garrison had fled.  Buckner had known Grant from the Mexican War and had even lent him money when Grant was in one of his numerous financial potholes.   It had been assumed that Buckner could use his friendship with Grant to secure favorable terms.  But, when Buckner offered an armistice on February 16, 1862 for the purpose of convening a commission to discuss terms of capitualtion, Grant responded, “No terms except and unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.  I propose to move immediately upon your works.”    Buckner was forced “to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you (Grant) propose.” 

Pemberton's Capitulation to Unconditional Surrender Grant

On July 3, 1863 Grant received a message from Confederate General John C. Pemberton who commanded the garrison at Vicksburg, MS which had been under seige by Grant since mid-May.  Grant had made one of the most daring and brilliant moves in US military history when, instead of attempting to attack Vicksburg from the north, he crossed the Mississippi River, moved south through Lousiana and then recrossed the Mississippi, putting his army south of Vicksburg.  This totally went against all the rules of warfare put forth by Jomini, whose tactics were taught at West Point.  Grant had cut off his own supply and communications lines and put his army in a position that put two enemy armies between him and his base and also put the Mississippi River at his back.  Grant himself said in Memoirs that he was a poor student and it is probable that he never read the theories of de Jomini, which is why he stood out above all other Union generals.  Anyway, Pemberton offered an armistice for the purpose of a commission just like Buckner did and Grant responded similarly: ” “The useless effusion of blood you propose stopping by this course can be ended at any time you may choose, by the unconditional surrender of the city and garrison.”  Pemberton accepted and Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863.  It was militarily probably the most significant victory of the Civl War but it fell on the same day as the conclusion of Gettysburg, so  publically its been lost to much historical commentary.

US Grant Rise to Lt. General Followed Initial Confederate Invasion into Kentucky

Unfortunately, the presentation of Ulysses S. Grant has been rather lousy in American history classes.  We are told that he was a drunk, that he was the “butcher” as a general due to the large losses his armies sustained and that his presidency was one of the most corrupt in history.  Most of the time, the Grant administration is listed near the bottom of all presidential lists.  However,  US Grant rose to the level of Lt. General of the United States Army.  No one since Washington had such power.  He was re-elected for a second term and, in 1880, very nearly gained the nomination for a 3rd term as President.  He was wildly popular in the US and around the world as he took a two year journey around the world from 1878 to 1880 in which he literally was the guest of the crowned heads of Europe and other parts of the world.  His speeches were always short, but in total he spoke to millions of people around the world who came to see him. 

Grant's Way of War Lives in 21st Century; Lee's Left in Ash Heap of History

It was President US Grant who destroyed the Ku Klux Klan when he sent troops into the South and the organization did not rise again until the early 20th century.  He remains on the 50 dollar bill today, though some want to replace Grant with Reagan.  In Memoirs, Grant does not mention drinking once.  Biographers such as McFeely mention some drunken escapades.  But, given that he could not stand the site of blood and he presided over the deaths of so many men whom he saw die, it’s probably more surprising that he survived at all.  He was seen by his men as cool under fire and decisive.  U.S. Grant was not perfect, but he was far from the worst.  In fact, a good argument can be made that the American Way of War in the late 20th and early 21st centuries was invented by US Grant.  His tactics were used by Rommel and Montgomery as well as Norman Schwartzkoph in the Gulf War and the “Shock and Awe” tactics of the US in its invasion of Iraq.  The main difference was that Grant used cannon fire while the Americans in Iraq used bombers and missiles.   One can also argue that the command and control structure of the modern US military was invented by Abraham Lincoln and US Grant.

US Grant Lives on $50 Bill

Grant’s father more or less made him go to West Point.  His appointment came about due to the dismissal of someone else.  He rose to prominence in spite of his failings in civilian life and in spite of the fact that he was constantly opposed by his superior officer, Henry W. Halleck.  And is truly fitting name, US Grant came about due to a Congressman not doing his homework.  It was almost as if it were destiny.  Although historians continue to try to bury him the way Halleck tried to bury him, US Grant lives today on the $50 bill and lives on in the tactics of the United States military.  A great man who continues to fight to this day. As a side note….The Personal Memoirs of US Grant are considered the greatest presidential memoir of all and is still in print today.  The original publisher was none other than Mark Twain.

Weather Bottom Line:  Same song.  Look for more numerous thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon. Not everyone will get wet but if you find yourself under a storm, it could drop a pretty fair amount of rain.  Monday afternoon will feature probably more numerous thunderstorms than on Sunday…lets say excessively scattered.  Same story though…could have some heavy down pours in spots though a few people may get no rain at all, but might hear some thunder or feel the cool breezes from nearby storms.  Go to Cave Hill Cemetery for the Memorial Day services at 11AM. Should be dry.  If you see towering cumulous clouds by noon time, then its a fair bet that it will be active in the afternoon.

Import of Women to Seattle Eventually Gave Us Bobby Sherman
May 29, 2010

Asa Mercer

On This Date In History: Asa Mercer was already the president of Washington Territory’s first university by the time he was in his mid twenties. The Pacific Northwest had great natural resources attracting miners and lumbermen from around the nation. But…there was a scarcity of women. Mercer decided to fix that by placing an ad in a Seattle newspaper promising to find a wife for every man who paid $300 toward bringing a woman from the East. A New York magazine hailed Mercer as a modern day Moses. Skeptics suggested that the women would have nothing to do and their trade would be something less than honorable. Mercer assured that the ladies would be employed as schoolmistresses and nothing more. Those same skeptics wondered how they could all be school teachers if there were no children to teach.

Joan Blondell Well Before Her Role On Brides

Joan Blondell Well Before Her Role On Brides

Nevetheless, Mercer sailed a ship from Seattle and found he had some 300 adventurous ladies willing to take the trip. They were known as “Mercer Girls.”   However, by the time he was to set sail from New England, in January 1866, the number of volunteers had fallen to 100. I guess they had second thoughts. Those on board became even more fickle when they began romancing with the ships’s crew. When they stopped in Chile, many became enamoured with the military officer’s stationed at Lota, Chile. Apparently, one of Mercer’s ladies rode a spirited pony to the delight of onlookers such that 17 proposed marriage. So, now Mercer had to deal with women who didn’t want to leave the crew and others who didn’t want to leave their Chilean suitors. So, he set sail at night and secretly stole away…to keep his cargo from getting stolen away. When they got to San Francisco, he lost 11 who got off and never returned.

The "Mercer Girls"

On This Date in 1866, Asa Mercer arrived in Seattle with what was left of his precious cargo. Many of the subscribers who had paid $300 were chagrined when they found out that their payment didn’t guarantee a woman. One man was quite upset when the specific woman whom he had asked for showed up and turned out to be a different woman by the same name. Undeterred, the man said, “All I want is a wife, and if you are willin’ I would as soon take you as the other woman.” Such romantic overtones went unheeded as the woman replied simply, “I do not wish to marry, sir.”

It wasn’t a total disaster for the operation or for Asa Mercer. Annie Stephens from Baltimore was one of the first to be married. Her husband? Asa Mercer.

Brown (top left) and Leonard (top right) Star Trek Veterans; Blondell (top center) Former Hollywood Siren

Brown (top left) and Leonard (top right) Star Trek Veterans; Blondell (top center) Former Hollywood Siren

This little tale was no doubt the inspiration for the late 1960’s TV show, Here Come the Brides. The photo above is of the Bolt brothers, Jeremy, Joshua and Jason as well as Candy, a girl with whom Jeremy was smitten. Jeremy was played by Bobby Sherman, who was a teen idol. His acting career went no where and after watching the tv show, you might find out why. He tried his hand at singing and that too went nowhere. Joshua was played by David Soul who later was one of the rogue young cops in Magnum Force. I think Clint helped him exit the movie violently. Later he gained fame for his role in Starsky and Hutch. He capitalized on that fame by singing a stupid song that was in the top 40. Jason Bolt was played by Robert Brown who was an accomplished stage actor. He is known perhaps more by his role in a Star Trek episode in which he played a guy named Lazarus. I think that was the last we saw of him.  Jason Bolt was the oldest of the Bolt brothers and he sorta takes the place of Mercer because, in the series, it was Jason Bolt who had the ladies come to Seattle.   Maybe Brown got the Star Trek gig by way of Mark Lenard, who plays Sarek in the 23rd century but was Aaron Stemple in Seattle in the 19th Century. I have no idea who Candy was nor what happened to her.

I want to know what happened to Captain Clancy.  He was played by actor Henry Beckman and he was a ship captain who always had his eye on the barmaid, Lottie.  Lottie was played by Joan Blondell who had a long career well before the tv show and was considered a “Hollywood siren” in her youth.  It seems to me that aside from Lenard and Soul, Here Come the Brides was the graveyard for actors though it was a pretty accurate show because, like the Asa Mercer story, it didn’t seem there were too many marriages.

(Snow White thinks I am too hard on Bobby Sherman in this…I told you he was a teen idol)

NAM has less than 1/4" of precip at any given location in Ohio Valley Monday Aftrernoon

Weather Bottom Line:   While rain chances may be a little higher for the isolaed variety on Sunday, I”m not really all that enthused about the prospects.  Monday we do not have a cold front per se but it does appear that a little weakness in the atmosphere sets up over us with my conspire with afternoon heating to create scattered storms.  There is not much of a severe threat but individual storms may have the potential to drop a fair amount of rain.  Afternoon and early evening will be the best chance for any activity to mess up your Memorial Day plans.  I would think that there will be no problem for Memorial Day services at Cave Hill Cemetery at 11 AM and most likely it will be fine at Zachary Taylor Cemetery at 2 PM.  On Wednesday, a front will be moving in a zonal pattern across the north central plains.  Due to the zonal pattern, I suspect that the best chance for strong storms on Thursday will be to our north but we’ll have to see how it shakes out.

Great American From Cinema Still Going Strong at 103
May 26, 2010

John Wayne: American

Marion Morrison on the USC gridiron

On this Date in History:  John Wayne got fired on April 5, 1931 by Fox studios.   He mainly grew up in Lancaster, CA which later became known as Glendale.  He had a dog named Duke and, for some reason, the local firefighters would see the kid and his dog and so they started calling the youngster “Duke.”    He was a star football player at Glendale High School and went to USC on a scholarship.   But, he suffered an injury while body surfing at Newport Beach, CA and his athletic career came to an end.  To help pay his tuition, the now former tackle took a job at the Fox Hollywood movie studios.  He intially did manual labor at  but,  after two years, he quit school and in 1928 signed on with Fox. I guess the honchos at Fox didn’t see much of a future for him as he had several small roles but did star in The Big Trail in 1930.  

Jimmy Stewart, John Ford and John Wayne

He had been using the name Duke Morrison, taking the name of the dog and the nickname that the firemen had given him.   A director at Fox, Raoul Walsh claims he “discovered” Wayne and suggested he use Anthony Wayne, after a Revolutionary War Hero. Fox studios thought it sounded “too italian” so Walsh suggested John Wayne.  The first movie in which “John Wayne” appeared was The Big Trail.   He had befriended John Ford early in his career and after making several lousy movies for several years for Lonestar/Monogram pictures, including parts as a singing cowboy, Ford cast him in Stagecoach in 1939. The legend of John Wayne was born.

Dern as the Notorious Longhair

Dern as the Notorious Longhair

Duke Gives Dern ("Longhair") Some Real Justice

Duke Gives Dern ("Longhair") Some Real Justice

In short, Fox blew it. But they can claim to have at least given him his final name. See, he was initially given the name Marion Robert Morrison. But his parents had another child and they wanted to call him Robert. So, they changed Marion’s middle name to Michael. Then he became Duke and finally John Wayne. I suppose Fox probably trumpets that they gave John Wayne his name and Raoul Walsh claims he “discovered” Wayne but the truth is that Fox fired a treasure, both in culture and at the box office, and John Ford created Wayne. In my book, Fox Studio chief Winfield R. Sheehan and Bruce Dern and the bartender in The Shootist are all linked together in the netherworld. Sheehan fired John Wayne, Bruce Dern shot him in the back in The Cowboys as did the bartender in The Shootist. The trio are definitely the biggest scoundrels in cinematic history!!! 

Can You Believe that Someone is Trying to do a remake of True Grit? A travesty and a mistake.

The biography says that the legend of John Wayne was born with The Big Trail.   Nevertheless, the fact is that on this date in 1907, Marion Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa and so the man we know as  John Wayne turned 103 today. I would say that “if he were still alive” but through his films, he is still alive and always will be. He’s been dead since 1979 but his name still shows up on the top ten of movie goers favorite movie stars. On some lists, he is the only deceased star to still be a top-ten star.   However, AFI only lists him as the 13th biggest male star of all time.  What do they know?  I have been watching lots of John Wayne movies over the past few weeks. I’ve seen Chisum three times in recent weeks…like I already don’t know all of the lines.  Alot of the same guys in that movie were also in Big Jake, including Robert Mitchum’s son.  Wayne’s own son, Patrick Wayne was in Big Jake.

John Wayne Legacy Lives On in Film and the John Wayne Cancer Institute(click for profile)

Of his 175 films,  John Wayne’s character only died in 7 of them.  As I mentioned,  he was killed in the most dastardly of manners in The Cowboys and The Shootist.  He goes down as a hero as Davy Crockett in The Alamo as well as in Sands of Iwo Jima.  Wayne’s character also takes the deep six in Wake of the Red Witch, The Fighting Seabees and Reap the Wild Wind in which he is taken out by a giant squid.  But, most of the time, he played heroic figures that inspired patriotism, toughness and doing the right thing.   I think there is the implication that he went down with the ship in Sea Chase.  He dies in a few others but no one sees it.  In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,   we see him kill Lee Marvin to save Jimmy Stewart but he’s last seen all bent out of shape because Stewart stole his girl.  I don’t count this one because we only see his coffin as he died from old age.  But still, he was a heroic, self sacrificing figure.  He did not serve in World War II but did his part at home by raising money for bonds and also performing in films showing the heroism and dedication of the American soldier.  Off screen, he was diagnosed with cancer but fought it publically.  He had part of his lung removed and continued to  make films as well as public service commercials highlighting the dangers  of smoking.  He finally succumbed in 1979 and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  He did not serve in the armed forces but he inspired many an American in life and death. It’s probably pretty fitting that his birthday is on or near Memorial Day; a life memorial to all that America has been and can be again. 

Thursday Evening

Weather Bottom Line:  If you noticed on Wednesday afternoon there was quite a bit more vertical development of the cumulus clouds than in previous days.  That tells me that any cap that was out there has been eroded somewhat and I would think that with the approach of a frontal system on Thursday that a combination of heating and moisture with the weak front in the region would elevate our rain chances from the isolated category to scattered.  Now the front is pretty lame and so it will be slow to move through.  Most of the energy associated is well north so severe prospects would be limited.  I would think that Thursday evening will be our best chance for rain and t’storms with perhaps some gusty winds.  Because the boundary is hanging around to our south, we may get some stuff Friday afternoon with the heat of the day.  Saturday there is still somewhat of an inverted trof nosing into the Ohio Valley but I’d pretty much discount this because high pressure will be building in.  It should be a tad cooler with highs in the low 80’s and humidity levels decreased.  In short, the Memorial Day Weekend looks pretty good. 

I’m not even going to mention Invest 90. It was bogus and still is.

Pioneer Makes Son’s Corpse Focus of Teachable Moment
May 25, 2010

William Keil

Like Yogi, Keil was Not Your Average Bear

On This Date in History:  William Keil  was an immigrant from Germany and worked as a tailor and a medical practioner.  He had been a Methodist but turned to mysticism.  So, like Yogi, he was not your average bear.  He possessed a very strong personality and fully expressed his religious convictions such that people readily followed his words and actions.  He seems like a pretty educated man, but he was considered something of but a shade north of literate.  Nevertheless, he established a colony at Bethel, Missouri in 1844 and took the reigns as the community’s leader. 

According to this book, Not Everyone Was Happy in the Bethel Colony

The Bethel Colony  was about 45 miles west of Hannibal, MO and mainly consisted of German immigrants and was intended to be a utopian type society.  However, unlike other such experiements such as the one in New Harmony, Indiana, the Bethel Colony was reasonably successful.  Apparently, it was not successful enough to meet Keil’s liking as he felt ever crowded by secular society that continued to flow in from the East.  I suppose he knew how the American Indians must have felt.  So, he sent scouts west almost as far as he could.  The scouts staked out a claim in the Washington Territory and Keil decided that he would lead a part of the colony to a new location. 

Keil as a Young Man. Kinda Scary lookin'?

William Keil promised his son, Willie, that he could have the honor of leading the wagon train.  But, shortly before their departure, the 19-year-old Willie fell victim to malaria.  Willie’s death delayed the planned early May 1855 departure date but it did not derail the entire mission nor did it cause William Keil to break his promise.   Instead,  Keil led the first wagon from the Bethel Colony which included the preserved corpse of his son.  He did not do as a sentimentalist but instead he used his misfortune as what we might refer to as a “teachable moment.”  Keil carried the preserved corpse across the continent to illustrate to his followers the strength of the bond of a man’s word.  He promised Willie that he could lead the wagon train and I suppose that meant dead or alive. 

Marker Near Willie's Grave

 So, on this date in 1855, the bearded, somewhat rotund, Keil let loose a blast from his trumpet to signal the departure from the Bethel Colony with Willie’s coffin in the lead.  But, it was no ordinary coffin.  It was a lead-lined version and was filled with whiskey so as to preserve the body.  Colonists followed and sung funeral hymns.  If they sang all the way to Washington, it must have been the longest funeral cortege in history.  Apparently, they did so for some length of time because the Indians whom they passed along the way left them alone out of respect,  fear or awe, or in a combination of all three.

Band Behind Pioneer Hotel ca. 1877 in Aurora, Oregon

In October 1855, the colonists reached their destination.  But, Keil wasn’t too happy with the location staked out in the Willapa Valley.  He thought that it was totally unsuitable for settlement.    Nevertheless, after a five month journey, Willie finally found his resting place as the long overdue funeral ceremony took place.  Keil was almost out of money but not energy and he led the group into the Oregon Territory.  There they founded the colony of Aurora.  He acheived his objective of establishing a new colony and he kept his promise to his son.   Today, Aurora, Oregon is about 20 miles from Portland and has about 700 residents.

Not Much to Investigate with Invest 90

Invest 90 Spaghetti Model Track Shows Media's Folly

Weather Bottom Line:  To begin with, lets get the Non-Tropical Low off the SE Coast out of the way.  As I said yesterday, all of the hype in the media is way over board and if this were three months from now no one would be covering it or even really making mention.  The Weather Channel has a crew down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and they talk about 3-5 foot waves and very little beach erosion.  The guy said something about “out bands” of rain, which is nonsense because it’s not a tropical system.  The National Hurricane Center has gone down to just a 10% chance of it developing into a subtropical cyclone, let alone a tropical system.  If you look at the spaghetti models you see that none of them take the system on land anywhere except one that wants to carry it to Europe.  Almost all of them take it east, away from the US.  It’s drifting North Northwest but is expected to turn Northeast and then at least East Northeast.  It’s a non-story except for those who want to drive ratings or to alerty people that the hurricane season is near.  I’ll post the various hurricane forecasts on Thursday.

Friday 8 AM

As for our region…same old thing.  Upper 80’s and a very small chance of isolated afternoon t’storms.  My guess is as we go into the week deeper, there will be a cap developing and that will most likely  diminish the already low prospect of isolated activity.  When you see on TV a 20% chance, that’s the old CYA forecast, just in case.  I do not think that the conditions warrant that high of a percentage.  But, when we get to Friday, a frontal boundary should be here and that will help lift this humid mess and provide a chance for rain and t’storms.  Perhaps elevating chances ahead of it on Thursday night and then carrying into Friday as I suspect this guy will be moving rather slowly by the time it gets here.   Then, for the weekend, it should be closer to seasonal temperatures.

Yao Ming Baby Birth Makes China Ask, How Tall? American or Chinese?
May 23, 2010

Wonder if Van Gundy Will be the Godfather?

Yao and Ye Li Could Be Parents Standing Tall

If you recall, several months ago, I reported that a certain member of the Houston Rockets was expecting to become a father as his wife was pregnant with their first child.  It was not just another basketball player.  The player in question was none other than Yao Ming whose popularity probably exceeds that of any basketball player in the world due to his giant fan-base found in his native China.  For that same reason, he probably ranks near the top of the list of all professional athletes when it comes to world-wide name recognition.  Now, when I reported on the pregnancy announcement, I had suggested that perhaps his child may be the catalyst for world peace.  While that mayor my not prove to be true, I’m not so sure there won’t be some rough spots before we get to that point.  See, Yao and his wife, Ye Li  had a baby girl on May 21, 2010.  But, here’s the catch: the little girl was born in Houston.  That means that, by birth, she is an American citizen.  But, China forbids dual citizenship and both of her parents are Chinese citizens.  Hmmm…could be a bit of international intrigue before we get to my ideals of global cooperation. For months now, stories have circulated concerning fans in China asking if the child would be a Chinese citizen.  So far, I believe the answer, if there is one, remains in the minds of the parents. 

Tale of the Tape: Speculation Regarding Height of Ye Li and Yao's baby

 At the time of the pregnancy news, the China Daily ran a story regardling speculation of how tall the child would be given that Ye Li is 6’2″ and Yao is 7’6″.  For the record, the baby came in at a fairly pedestrian 7 pounds 6 ounces (though some sources claim 9 ounces).  In the meantime, there have been several birth announcements in the press.  Most, like the USA Today article, are simply reprints of the AP story.   The Houston Chronicle had its own story but it included just two short paragraphs.   The Singapore Straits Times wasn’t much more helpful.   And suprisingly, the China Daily birth announcement was also not filled with much more than anything else except for one line.  In relation to the question whether or not the child would be American or Chinese, it says the Mings consider the birth a “private” matter.  I suppose that explains why there isn’t much more news on the subject other than the child was born.  I suppose it remains for pundits to determine if that small statement is particulary telling or not.

Funeral Obsessed Frances

On This Date in History: Frances Hiller was what we might call eccentric. The 18th century woman was married to a doctor who had made a fortune from a patented medicine that he had invented. Frances bought hundreds of hats and wore costly jewelry, even when gardening. Her odd ways may have dervied from the fact that she had 23 children! She was rather economical in that department as well as the 23 kids includes 7 sets of twins. That is amazing but its also quite sad because not a single child lived beyond infancy. So, she had attended a lot of funerals, which may explain her strange story.

Hiller Financed Frances Eccentricies

Hiller Financed Frances Eccentricies

While she lived, Frances Hiller planned her own funeral which included a very ornate casket. Dr. Henry Hiller hired a famous wood carver to fashion a pair of exquisite caskets. But, Hank went and died in 1888 before the caskets were finished. So, she kept her husband’s body in a vault until the work was completed. It had hand carved vines, cupids, bats, dragons and angels, which seems like a display of contrast. Perhaps the angel was slaying the dragon. If the angel was doing battle with the large reptile, it would have to watch out for the skull that featured lizards crawling out of the eye socket. When the finally got around to burying Henry, he was taken in his fabulous casket in a procession that marched to the sounds of a military band and was escorted by a procession of 2000 people.

In 1893, she married her chauffer…..a boy toy perhaps? I dunno but part of the deal was the guy had to change his name to Henry Hiller. I suppose thats not a bad trade from being a chauffer to being married to a rich widow. Anyway, she was married but kept her casket handy…even on display in her parlour. She would climb into it and show visitors how she would look when she was dead. She even had a life-sized wax replica of herself made to place in the casket so she could see what she’d look like six feet under. Finally she died in 1900 and I bet the chauffer didn’t sign a pre-nuptual agreement so he made out pretty well.

Such an Eyesore Even Photographers Kept their Distance

So, she finally got her wish and made it to the casket on this date in 1900. It was a duplicate of the one Henry had used. The wood was of the finest quality which means it was quite heavy. It took 10 men to carry it. The funeral car was drawn by 4 black horses with black netting. The funeral car sagged terribly from the weight and almost fell apart. A journalist who was on hand said that the excitement and hoopla was only matched by the local cattle fair. Frances was placed in an enormous masoleum that were quite a site…but in 1935, they were condemned as an eyesore. The cemetery tore it down and buried the couple in their ostentatious coffins. Today, all that remains are an urn and bronze plates that mark the location. This brings to mind the old adage…you can’t take it with you.

We can use some boring weather

Weather Bottom Line:  We have a summer-like week ahead.  A big fat ridge over the eastern US will prevent any major systems coming in.  Look for highs generally in the mid 80’s for the first part of the week followed by upper 80’s thereafter.  Our dewpoints on Sunday afternoon were already  in the upper 60’s and there is no reason to think it will get any drier anytime soon.  So, with that type of moisture content and pretty warm temperatures, we may get a pop up afternoon t’shower or two each afternoon but, for most, it will be a pretty boring week ahead with any rain that falls being the exception rather than the rule.  It’s okay.  After all the rain we’ve had, boring isn’t a bad thing for awhile.  Oh…BTW…I’ve seen for many days now the models trying to put a 1008 or 1004 mb low off the SE coast of the US later in the week.  With hurricane season getting going on June 1, don’t be surprised to see this feature showing up on local and national newscasts.  The general consensus  is that the hurricane season will be more active than average, which fits into the idea that we are in the midst of a cycle of a more active tropical Atlantic which has been observed and noted for a long time before the idea of global warming came to the public conscience.  So, while there may be an attempt to connect the forecast with climate change, it may not hold water.