Harry Truman and Bessie, his blond bride of 2 days, were off honeymooning. Meanwhile, in Cameron, Missouri, beautiful dark-haired Eulah Brown was being married to redheaded, blue-eyed Albert Harley Wolfe, just home from the Western Front. And here I am, one of their 10 grandchildren, 91 years later, letting you know about them. Harley, as he was known, was given up for adoption when he was a boy in Illinois, him and his sisters, by their father, James Wolfe. His wife, whose name is lost (to me anyway), had died. The youngest sister was Emma, a red-haired 3-year-old, when she was put aboard an orphan train. A childless Minnesota couple, the Stickneys, adopted her, changing her name to Alice....
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
So, on the 30th of June, 1919, the ill-omened Treaty of Versailles had just been signed, Jack Dempsey was preparing for the match that'd win him the heavyweight boxing championship, and wily, determined, selectively generous old Andrew Carnegie was on his deathbed. Earlier that year the buying, selling, swigging, sipping, tippling, and/or drinking became against the Law and too, the country, desperate to return to a normalcy that probably never existed was all hot & bothered with a Red Scare.
So, my old man's favorite actress, Susan Hayward, was born on the last day of June, summer of 1917. The U.S. had just entered the Great War. And sure, countless souls have come in or gone out through the cosmic door marked June 30. I know it doesn't matter all that much, these little factoids. Little invitations to remember, that's all. So long June, month of roses and renegade petroleum. Deadliest month for our troops in Afghanistan in all these nine long years of war. So long June. Let's see what July will bring....
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
So, I dressed myself in my calico gown last Tuesday morning (the 22nd of June, 2nd day of summer, 104th anniversary of the day that Billy Wilder & Anne Morrow Lindbergh were born), and headed off to SE Kansas the other day. I set out from one Independence to another, down where the storied Ingalls family lived some 140 years ago. I confess that my scuffed-up heart fluttered at the sight of the Verdigris River, only because my 8-year-old self learned about it in Mrs. Wilder's L. H. on the P. One of the best parts of doing my books over the years has been getting to visit places of which I'd read. When I was researching for my Lincoln books, you'd better know that my heart skipped when I sped past a sign on a freeway bridge reading Sangamon County. I'd come into that lanky man's home country.
Out in the shade behind the replica of THE L. H. on the P. I had the pleasure of visiting with some kindred spirits from India, Pennsylvania and Japan. Their admiration of L.I.W., who'd been a skippy little brown-haired girl right thereabouts, had brought them, by way of a tour arranged by Barbara and George Hawkins. http://lhsitetours.homestead.com/ And don't think I didn't tip my hat to gritty commerce and mention my L.I.W. Coloring Book, available in the gift shop.
Home again, by way of Fort Scott, Kansas, and off again to Burr Oak, Iowa, for Laura Days. The Ingallses lived there too, in that beautiful, green and rolling country up by the Minnesota line for a little while, around 1876, the Centennial Year. It was in the summer of that year (June 25), when that horrid battle went down at Little Big Horn, Montana. I've been gallivanting rather than writing about inspiring pulpit-pounder Henry Ward Beecher, who was born June 24, 1813, or the anniversaries of the U.N. Charter or the Korean invasion or the 1914 assassinations in Sarajevo or Helen Keller's and Pearl Buck's birthdays and old Senator Byrd's deathday and so the summer steams on and the big wheel keeps on turning. Did I tell you that tomorrow tomorrow makes 91 years since .... never mind. It's time to think of today.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Summertime journeys, I was thinking about, as I sped down the highway in my temperature-controlled box-on-wheels. Doing my best to stay out of the June heat. Crossing a bit of bridge over a slow-moving creek in the blink of an eye. Thinking about long-gone travelers out in the hot wind. Squinting at black clouds in the west or a line of dark green that meant water for you and the stock and/or getting yourselves & your wagon from one bank to another.
Meadowlarks. Sun beating down. Grasses, blowing, brushing, catching in your skirts. Butterflies swooping. Iron & wood wheels turning. Four-leggers plodding, walking, walking alongside their two-leggers, walking alongside a wagon carrying all the folks could pack into it, all they'd have to get along with in the next chapter of their lives. uff da.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
So, now it's the steamy time of year, a fine time to be heading down the road. And where to? To visit the earnest replica of the log house, built by Charles Ingalls, back when U.S. Grant was the U.S. president. Wanna go sometime? Wanna read more about it? www.littlehouseontheprairie.com
It took me about 4 hours to cover the 200 miles or so between Independence, MO & Independence, KS. Windows UP. Cool air blasting. I'll not blather about the obvious differences between my junket and the Ingalls family's migrations. No need. Complicated though it is, modern life sure as heck has its compensations. Is there more to say about this day? Oh, very much more, but not now....
Sunday, June 20, 2010
So, according to my calendar & all of the dad-related hoohah in the paper, on the radio, greeting card racks, & elsewhere, this warm and steamy Sunday is not set aside for Errol Flynn's 101st birthday or noting that Louis & Antoinette of France tried to escape their pissed off subjects on this day in 1791,( to no avail). A quick scan tells me that the Brits, still in high imperial clover, got themselves a new monarch on this day in 1837: 18-year-old Victoria. Some years earlier, in 1756, furious Bengalis consigned 146 British prisoners to a "black hole" in Calcutta, India. Some say that 123 of the crammed-together captives died most dreadfully, crushed, too hot, no air... Some say, too, that the horrid deal was made up propaganda. Nasty. And Pancho Villa of Mexico was killed today, in 1923. My dad Raymond Harness, would've been 10 days past his 1st birthday, the first of some eighty birthdays. 'What do you want for your birthday?' we'd ask him. "Peace & quiet." I reckon he's got it now. Or not. Getting what he wanted wasn't his custom.
His father, Clarence Lee Harness, might have been home. Or not. He was a restless sort and full of sadness for his lot in life, abandoned by his own dad, Alden Harness. It's said that Clarence (Granpap, to us, a sly old fellow with peppermints in his pockets) would rather have pity than a new hat. Where did his old man get off to? California, maybe.... Alden Senior and his wife Sarah pretty much stayed put in Missouri until their deaths in the summer of 1884. What's left of them rests under a limestone obelisk in a Baptist churchyard outside of Chilhowee, Mo. And the bones of the fathers and the fathers? Beats me. I don't reckon it matters, really, any more than the long-gone queen of England.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
So, 145 years ago it was, summer of 1865. Future writers W.B. Yeats & Rudyard Kipling; a future president [Wm. Harding] and a future king [Geo. V of the Brits] and Laura Ingalls big sister Mary, were newborn or about to be. Lewis Carroll & Mary Mapes Dodge were fixing to publish their adventures of Alice and of Hans Brinker. Lincoln, along with his murderer, J.W. Booth, and hundreds of thousands of other souls had gone to their reward, courtesy of the great & terrible Civil War. It was finally over & had been for a little while now, but only now, the 19th of June, 1865, did the news finally make its way to Galveston, Texas, that people, heretofore held in bondage, were free, as far as the U.S. government was concerned. It's said that these folks were the last to be told the great, long-yearned-for news. So it is that, "Juneteenth," as the great day was dubbed, is commemorated and celebrated. Properly so.
With this, I am off to a memorial service for a friend who took me in for a while, back in the day.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Sure, the glorious & beautiful singer [way better than that stiff, Nelson Eddy] Jeannette MacDonald was born on this day in 1901 and it's the anniversary of the day in 1877 when one of the most marvelous illustrators, Jas. Montgomery Flagg came into the world, but for me, this is & always will be a Beatle Birthday. You may not have known, but that's good luck. Didn't I finally pass the test for my driver's license, years & years ago, on the 18th of June, Paul McCartney's birthday? [How on earth can it be that he's 68? and that Ringo will be 70 next month? Because Time is a runaway train and we're all on this conveyor belt, just passing through, on our way from who knows where to who knows where & who knows when. Ah well: "Further along we'll know all about it/ Further along we'll understand why' so says the old hymn.] I did indeed. And weren't the Beatles the only happiness in my 13-year-old life? When my folks had taken us all to live in a rickety farm house outside of Chilhowee, Missouri? Sad and poor in the boondocks. Wasps and sweat and rubbish, little brothers and racket everywhere. But in my room, behind my door, mercifully closed, there were books and dreams and the Beatles. bless 'em 4-ever.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
So, 'fierce' is today's word, it seems. In one of my favorite books, Irving Stone's Those Who Love [an historical novel about the lives of John & Abigail Adams], I remember being touched by the story of Dr. Joseph Warren. He was a widower with 4 children, a passionate member of the Sons of Liberty, and the Adamses' family physician. He died on this day in 1775. at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Reserve troops were posted there that day. All night, the night before, patriot warriors were digging entrenchments for the battle next day, the fierce [truly, it had to have been] and bloody, hot, loud, miserable battle that occurred, primarily, on nearby Breed's Hill, north of Boston, on this day in 1775. Here is a handsome place at which you can read more about that tragic 17th of June: www.theamericanrevolution.org/battledetail.aspx?battle=5
According to Wikipedia, our present from the French people showed up at New York harbor on this day in 1885. Not everybody was entirely grateful for a so-called 'Statue of Liberty' especially as there wasn't any money in the budget for a pedestal for her to stand on. It seems to me that I remember from Ken Burns' splendid, splendid documentary about the S. of L. that Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher, organized a terrific fund-raiser for a pedestal. I could be wrong. I have been - often! And on this day in 1932 [exactly a year before there was a fierce shoot-out not far from here, at Kansas City's Union Station - http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/floyd/floyd.htm], a Bonus Army of out-of-work, down & out WWI vets + their dear ones massed around the U.S. Capitol. Do go to this amazing, brilliant site and read this heartbreaking chapter in our nation's history. A fierce species we are, seems to me, in every sense of the word. ... http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/snprelief4.htm Bonus Marchers
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
So, yesterday I had the chance to go for a ride down Missouri's old Highway 13, past banks of daylilies, down through Jackson County into Johnson County, where my great-great grandparents, Alden and Sarah Harness used to live. Don't I wish I knew what they looked like.
"Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June."
"To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June."
"How dreary - to be - somebody! How public - like a frog -
to tell your name the livelong June - to an admiring bog!"
A warm soup of an afternoon, with the promise of showers,
Thunderclouds loom. Half full? Half gone? It's June....
Monday, June 14, 2010
"So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why doesn't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women." Harriet Beecher Stowe
So, Harriet is best remembered by those who still do as the author of the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin,
in the sunny South was not so very sunny for the sons & daughters of Africa who happened to be
enslaved by the denizens of Dixie. It's said that President Lincoln greeted her as "the little lady who
started this great war.'
In any case, today's the anniversary of the day in 1777 when the gents at the Second
Continental Congress adopted an official for a nation still in the making. 34 years later, June 14, 1811,
Harriet was born into the great and influential Beecher family, a family of preachers and educators.
And too, there's a snapshot in my family's album of a cake my mom baked some 60 years ago to
commemorate the blind date she had on this day in 1947. She went out with this skinny Coast Guard
veteran of another great war. Two months + a day later my future mom & dad [hot for each other, big
time] married one another. Anyway, it was probably on this day in 1948, Mom iced and decorated her cake
with the words June 14 The Day We Met. Before they cut into it they took its picture, so proud and happy
they were. A fine day for flying the Flag, for Harriet & the rest of us.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
So, if the world wasn't so rotten, Anne Frank might well be celebrating her 81st birthday today. Pretty gloomy I've been lately, despite all the blessings there are to count.
1. It's a Saturday in June.
2. On my kitchen table is a trio of tomatoes from the farmers' market up at the Square.
3. A big whacking thunderstorm blew away the soupy air in which we'd all been marinating.
4. There's an Andy Griffith Show marathon on: the good, black & white ones. www.tvland.com
5. And I had the wherewithal to take myself to the fabric store this morning. (Melancholy? Make something.) I dug out an old Folkwear Pattern, [ folkwear.com ], my scissors, & pins. Between now and tomorrow my old Singer and I are going to turn 5.5 yards of printed cotton into a "Calico Day Dress, A Turn-of-the-Century Wrapper." Why? In the very near future I'll be talking to bunches of folks about the past. Stay tuned.
And remember Anne.
"Everyone," she wrote, "has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!"
Let her words be her birthday gift to me & you.
Friday, June 11, 2010
So, yesterday, the 10th of June, my mind was not on this blog. Well, that's not entirely true. I thought of it, but, like a fly at a picnic, paying visits on the potato salad, then the sweet pickles and on to the hot dog buns, my mind lit upon this blog then buzzed off to other things. One of them was looking in on Turner's Movie Channel. Lots of Judy Garland to be had, seeing as it was her birthday. My dad's too. They both entered the world, Judy and Raymond, on June 10, 1922, and were it not for countless variables, they'd have turned 88 yesterday. The picture here shows me starting my so-called writing career at my father's knee. Golly.
And now it's the 11th, but not for much longer. Long-gone playwright Ben Johnson was born on this day, 1572. And one of my favorite painter, John Constable, was born on June 11, 1776. Busy summer that was.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
So, did I neglect to point out that yesterday, the 8th of June was the anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1867? Probably because I don't care very much about him. If you care about everybody and everything you're supposed to, well, I'd take my hat off to you if I were, in fact, wearing one. It might well be Cole Porter's birthday today, June 9 (1891 See www.coleporter.org There's a list of his songs there. My favorite? Night & Day, that be the one. I do care about Cole Porter. And Les Paul (1915). Him, too.
Let me note that 101 years ago today, June 9, 1909, 22-year-old Alice Huyler Ramsey set out in a Maxwell automobile on a bumptious journey that'd make her THE first woman to drive clear across the United States, from NYC to San Francisco. 3,800 miles. 59 days. More information? Oh yes: www.aliceramsey.com
So, June 8th. Clicking about, avoiding a book I've been avoiding, that needs to be written or else I'll feel sadder about this becalmed, flummoxed chapter than I already do, I find that Viking raiders pillaged an English abbey on this day in A.D. 793. [What a load of pain & terror hides in that little stat, that nothing factoid.] James Earl Ray arrested, this day in 1968. Really? That's the day, this day [42 years ago. truly?] RFK was buried at Arlington.
Barbara Pierce Bush, pearly, craggy ex-First Lady, completed her 85th year of life today. Another White House Wife, beautiful, brilliant Ida Saxton McKinley, entered the world on the 8th of June, 1847. She was about my age when she died, having lived long enough to lose first one then another of her two children when they were just tiny girls. Ah well... if you're the sort who reads a blog such as this, then I'm betting you know that she lost her health, that her neural underpinnings came unpinned a bit. Pres. McKinley would insist upon sitting by her side at dinner so he could cover Ida's face with a napkin, sparing her the dis-ease of being seen while having a seizure.
I came across a wonderful candid photograph of Wm. McKinley. Lifting his topper he was and smiling [breezy, handsome. In his official pictures Wm. McK. looked like a sleep-deprived banker. ] in the back of an open carriage in Buffalo, NY, Sept. 6, 1901. Right when his assassin, was probably fiddling with the white handkerchief he was carrying to spare the President and the guards and the crowds there, at the Temple of Music, the dis-ease of seeing the gun too soon. What was the caption? Something to the affect that McKinley be shot about 15 min. after this picture was taken.
"Be careful," mortally-wounded Wm. McKinley would say to his secretary. Oh be careful, he pleaded, when it came to telling Ida.
Sheesh. Who needs fiction?
Me, I guess.
Note: To read more about it, as the saying goes, check out www.whitehouse.gov
You'll find splendid bios of the Presidential partners at www.firstladies.org
For a handsome telling of the life and death of President McKinley, go to www.mckinley.lib.oh.us/mckinley/biography.htm
Sunday, June 6, 2010
So, okay, today's the 255th anniversary of Nathan Hale. Patrick Henry, another storied hero of our nation's war for independence, was given death on this day, 211 years ago, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Diego Rodriguez Silva y Velazquez, glorious Spanish painter. And oh yeah: this is my 11/12 birthday, one month out from the start of my 60th year. My eyes: they roll heavenward. All of this, especially the latter, pales next to the thunderous events of this day, 66 years ago, on coast of France.
Inevitable though it was, the actual date a closely held secret and dependent upon all manner of weather and logistics, but what an heroic and horrific deal it was when Allied forces invaded Europe. Among them was 56-year-old General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.. His lionheart was dicky and he was plagued with arthritis, thanks to his injuries in the Great War (to End All Wars), but TR's eldest cub was there. His Medal of Honor citation explains better than I ever could what he did there at Normandy, shortly before his death of a heart attack, on the 13th of July.
"For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the callof duty on 6 June 1644, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leadingassault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt'swritten request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presencein the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy hadthe beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality toanother, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy.Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reducedbeach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thuscontributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France."
Friday, June 4, 2010
So, 21 years since the men [mostly old] running China sent troops & tanks into Tiananmen Square, teeming with protesters [mostly young], agitating for civic liberties. Well I remember standing at my ironing board in my little house in Colorado Springs, watching the coverage of the massacre. Long time ago. There are probably soldiers lurking about even now, infesting the broad Square, making sure no one marks the day.
Longer still, seventy years ago today. German forces had blitzed their way across western Europe. By the end of May, British and French soldiers, along with many from "brave little Belgium." So she was called in 1914, the last time Belgium tried & failed to defend herself from her rude neighbors to the east, Now, in 1940, Allied armies were shoved to the very edge of Europe. Thousands of men clustered 'round France's seaport at Dunkirk, trapped between the Nazis and the English Channel. Over the next few days, more than 800 destroyers, gunboats, fishing boats, yachts, and little motor boats came to their rescue. By the 4th of June, they'd plucked some 338,000 men from the brink. Miraculous, heroic, it really was, this "Miracle at Dunkirk," but it wasn't the end, of course. "Not the end.," as Prime Minister Winston Churchill would say in 1942, upon another critical moment in the Second World Nightmare, " It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
"We shall not flag or fail," said Winston, that most eloquent of Britain's P.M.s, on this day, 70 years ago today," ...We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be."
Thursday, June 3, 2010
"A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams
So, a fine quote for the day, giving the ongoing, oily outrage under the sea. Rather than dwell upon the contentious and contaminating nature of our species I'll turn my mind to a few performers who share a birthday today, who served life with what they did best. One of 'em, in fact, is still at it. Actor and painter Tony Curtis has completed 85 years of life. To that I say jesusmary&joseph - how on earth can it be that he's gotten that danged old?
Had she not passed on back in 1991, Colleen Dewhurst, (who did ever so much more than portray Marilla in the PBS A. of G. Gables, but that role was my favorite), would have beem 86 today. A fine old Shakespearean actor, Maurice Evans, was born on this day in 1901, but to my mind the Queen of the Day was the lady who was born over in St. Louis, MO, on the 3rd of June, 1906. By 1925, she'd put her mean country and hard-scrabble childhood far behind. She'd taken Paris by storm, as the saying goes, by dancing, prancing & entrancing in very little but a bit of jewelry and a bunch o' bananas. Oh bébé, ooh la la! Oh to have been there and seen Miss Josephine! To press agents and to her multitudinous admirers, Josephine Baker would be known as The Bronze Venus or The Black Pearl. To her rapturous fans in her adopted country of France she was La Baker. The glorious, outrageous, big-hearted, large-living entertainer would do many things in her life, not the least of which was her service in the French Underground Resistance with others trying to subvert the Nazi occupation, and in her home country's civil rights movement. I could go on, but I've me own work to accomplish. Miss Josephine's work is done. Happy Birthday, Bon Anniversaire to her, off in the Blue Beyond, la Au-dela Bleu To see La Baker in her glory, do visit:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
So, it appears that Johnny Weissmuller (b. 1904, grew up to be Olympic swimmer & best film Tarzan of all time], Hedda Hopper (b. 1890, grew up to be an okay actress, big deal columnist, & milliners' delight), and Michael Todd (b. 1901, grew up to be fabulous film producer & one of Miss Taylor's favorite husbands, only to be killed in a plane crash. eek.), all share today as their birthday, along with author, Thos. Hardy, music genius Marvin Hamlisch, & the Marquis de Sade (ouch). Me, this is the first proper day of my period of eating sensibly, in a manner that will undo the squashy excess upon my person. It is not as if I dwell in the heart of the Fatlands, but I've crossed the border. I can see the capital city from here and I know how sad folks are there. Should I keep on the road I've been traveling, stopping every now and a again for bread pudding, ice cream cones, and the occasional bag of M&M's, I shall be forced to take out citizenship papers. I've seen where this road leads so I'm turning this bus around.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
So, here are a few happy words written by long-gone poet, James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) “...There is no price set on the lavish summer/ And June may be had by the poorest comer./ And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days”..
Let's hope so. And what qualifies as a day of perfection? What's the criteria? A hearty breakfast eaten, good deeds done? A list of tasks, all crossed off? Do your bills: check. Work a bit on your book: check. Meditation: check. Blogification, lest people forget you: check. Bit o' housework & exercise [take your happy pill], lest you end up like your mother: check. Weather, not too hot, not too cold, not too humid, too rainy/icy/snowy/foggy, but just right. Check your calendar so you don't forget to show up somewhere or call someone & tell him or her happy birthday. My niece and nephew, Amy and Zachary, for instance - twins from A to Z, 17 today. Both of 'em. Another niece, the glorious Sara, 23.
I'd call Andy Griffith, bless him forever for his Andy Griffith Show [just the black & white ones], thank him, honor him, tip my hat to him over the ph. for his scary-marvelous performances in A Face in the Crowd (1957) and his comic-brilliant performance in No Time For Sergeants (1958). Don Knotts (1924-2006) was in that, too, and oh baybee... Deee-lightful, smart screwiness. I'd sure tell Andy Griffith Happy Birthday if I could. He won't have too many more of them, if the actuarial tables are to be believed. It's not every day a person turns 84. That's how old Marilyn Monroe would be this very day, if only - a cavalcade of if onlies. Only imagine an 84-year-old Norma Jean. And Frank Morgan, by the way, that great old character actor, would be 120 today, if he hadn't corked off in 1949. Ah well, best of luck, happy June to the living and the dead. Pondering upon my fellow travelers: check.