Tag Archives: 1904 Worlds Fair

On Paternal Ancestry

On Progeny and patrimonial lineage

A Girl named Poppy

CNN has been sporting quite a few interesting documentaries recently: Steve Jobs, Life Itself (Roger Ebert), the Sixties, the Seventies, The Black Panthers. Last month they aired a different kind of documentary; it was comprised of a dozen or so “shorts.” Each segment was a story by one of their news anchors on the topic “The Person who Changed my Life.”

Unfortunately, I did not see most of the segments. I did see the one by Poppy Harlow. I was moved by whom she identified as “the person who most changed my life”, and the story she told about him and their relationship. That person was her father, who died when she was still a young teen. It’s a very good production video of a touching story; a success story that is both likely and unlikely.

Poppy Harlow: CNN Anchor

Poppy Harlow: CNN Anchor

Likely: we all “like” to think that success can, in most cases and in some way, be traced from a parental influence. Unlikely: Poppy’s career turned out to be nothing like her father’s. You can watch the video here. Poppy Harlow: The Person who Changed my Life.

It reminded me of several other stories that I’ve been holding onto for no particular reason, except to maybe share them here. I won’t say these are similar to Poppy’s story, but they are not all that different either. I will limit them to a total of a mere three segments. (And a very brief fourth follow-up).

  1. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”
    – Howard Beale (Network) –> watch the
    Mad as Hell Scene.

If you haven’t watched the iconic 1976 movie “Network”, then watching the scene via the link above is probably all you need in order to get an excellent cultural reference. It applies as much today as ever. It will probably always be “timely.”

Peter Finch as Howard Beale: "I'm as Mad as Hell! And I'm not gonna take it anymore!"

Peter Finch as Howard Beale: “I’m as Mad as Hell! And I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

Peter Finch’s (1916 – 1977) portrayal of crazed news anchor Howard Beale in “Network” earned him an Oscar: the Academy Award for Best Actor. The award was posthumous; he died suddenly – age only 60 – of a heart attack January, 14, 1977, two and a half months before that year’s Academy Awards ceremony. He was the first person to be awarded an Oscar posthumously for an acting performance.[1]  

Finch’s award for “Network” was no fluke. Before that he had earned five BAFTA awards for Best Actor (that’s British Academy of Film and Arts). He was also nominated by both the British and American Academies for several other prominent awards.

The effect of Finch’s patrimony is difficult to ascertain, but it is very interesting to investigate.

Australian George Ingle Finch had a very successful career as a chemist. Among his achievements: developed an improved catalyst for synthesis of ammonia; conducted groundbreaking research into solid state physics, surfaces and thin films, electron diffraction, electron microscopy; and the electrical ignition of gases. In 1944 he was recognized with the Hughes Medal of the (British) Royal Society. He was president of the esteemed Physical Society of London 1947-49. And yet, this is not what he is most known for, nor (probably) his greatest effect on young Peter Finch.

In 1914 Finch the elder was in London, where he was doing research at the Imperial College of Science and Industry. That’s where and when he met Alicia Fisher, daughter of a Kent barrister. Soon after World War I broke out he was assigned to the Royal Field Artillery. Sometime shortly after the start of his military service, in 1915, George and Alice were wed. [As an Australian he was still a subject of the crown, and duty-bound to serve].

While George was away, Peter was conceived. He arrived September 28, 1916 – with George obviously still away. Officially named Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch – perhaps in a way to honor Alicia’s absent husband – he went through most of his life as Peter.

When George returned there were some accounts to settle. He soon divorced Alicia and, with his sister, took full legal custody of Peter. Shortly thereafter young Peter was sent off to France to live with relatives, where he was mostly reared by George’s mother – Peter’s putative grandmother. In the meanwhile George had some dreams to fulfill. He wanted to be a mountain climber.

Those were still the days of the great British adventure; adventure as experienced by, and performed by, the privileged gentry. Yes, the British gentry, of which Finch was certainly not a part. Sailing the world, going to the Yukon gold rush, safaris in Africa, climbing mountains – these were things done with as much creature comfort as possible. Often smoking cigars, dining on quail and herring, sipping brandy, while attired in tweed – that was how to adventure. At least the British gentry’s mode.

That was not how to attack a beast like Everest. Finch joined the Alpine club and set out to join three attempts to make the ascent of Everest in the 1920s with the much more famous climber, the legendary George Mallory.

Finch was an outsider, a colonial farm boy. He had done some climbing in the Alps while studying in Zurich before getting his post at Imperial College. For the Himalayas he brought oxygen canisters, which came in at a hefty 16kg for eight hours supply. On the second British Everest attempt in 1924, Finch was allowed on the ascent team; he made the highest effort on Everest to that date, over 27,000 feet. (Everest tops out at 29,028 ft; that’s 8,848 m). He might well have summited, had he not felt compelled to assist an enfeebled novice companion back to safety.

Finch was, in the eyes of many experts, the best technical climber of his time, despite it being merely a hobby, and he not being a gentlemen. He was sneered upon as a country boy, a colonialist, and an outsider who would “cheat” by using oxygen. He was left off the other two ascent attempts.

In the end, Finch was right. [2]

And in the end, it’s hard to know his influence on his “son”. When Peter was 10, George fetched him up and took him back to Australia. Peter always knew that George openly denied that Peter was his biological son.[3] He also knew of his “father’s” attempt at Everest, and his contributions to science – although George was never much recognized for either until later in his life, when Peter was already well on in his acting career.

The younger Finch’s career started out as bumming across Australia during the Great Depression with a traveling troupe, picking up odd acting roles. During World War II he served in the Army, manning an anti-aircraft gun to fend off Japanese during the bombing of Darwin, and serving in the Middle East.

He didn’t let the war slow him down much: he produced, directed and acted in plays for the troops. When the war was over, his career only delayed a bit, he hit the ground running, took every opportunity, worked hard, and became one of the most famous actors of all time: British, Australian, or, of the world.

  • 2. “Tell yer uncle why there ain’t no snow in California”
    — “Don’t look at me! I didn’t take it!” – Cousin Peal and Jethro (Beverly Hillbillies)

 

1960s sitcoms. They were corny. Some were corny and popular. Among them, “The Beverly Hillbillies” was regularly the top rated TV show in America. During its eleven year run it was only occasionally bumped from #1, usually by The Ed Sullivan Show.

The adorable Donna Douglas, who played Ellie Mae Clampett on the show, passed on about a year ago (January, 2015) at age 82, leaving Max Baer, Jr (Jethro Bodine) as the last living member of the cast.

Both skilled and successful actors, Douglas and Baer would end up with constricted acting careers, as they were so very type-casted by their successful roles on Beverly Hillbillies. [Although Douglas made a 1959 pre-Hillbillies recording in The Twilight Zone episode “The Eye of the Beholder”, wherein she played a woman undergoing a surgery to have her appearance fixed so that she would look more normal. The surgery was a failure: she was just as beautiful after the bandages were removed. The episode was not shown until 1960. — Yes, Donna Douglas, even as Ellie Mae, was inherently beautiful.]

As a Beverly Hillbillies side note and question: can anyone provide an accurate description of the familial relationships between Granny, Uncle Jed, Ellie Mae, Jethro, and Aunt Pearl? (Whom did I forget? Was some sort of incest implied?)

Hopelessly typecast, Douglas more or less gave up acting when the series ended in 1971 and moved on to a successful career as a Gospel singer and inspirational speaker.

Baer, however, did not give up the camera.

Sports enthusiasts might recognize the name Max Baer as a former World Heavyweight Boxing champion. A big brute of a man, with a literally deadly right hand, Max Baer, Sr was indeed the Heavyweight Boxing Champion. That would be “Jethro’s” real life father.

Max Baer, Sr was one-quarter Jewish – acquired from his half-Jewish father. Although he rarely practiced Judaism, he eventually decided to embrace it as a public gesture, nonetheless.

Baer broke into worldwide recognition as a champion contender just as Adolf Hitler assumed the German chancellorship, and ultimately the dictatorship, of Nazi Germany. He became a bona fide contender when the beat the great German boxer, Max Schmeling, in June 1933. Schmeling was a recent (although not current) heavy-weight champion. He was the reigning German Heavyweight champion.

Max Baer, Sr, in his Star of David embroidered boxing trunks. I think this is the fight with Max Schmeling

Max Baer, Sr, in his Star of David embroidered boxing trunks. I think this is the fight with Max Schmeling

Baer was disgusted by the warmth and favoritism shown by the Jew-hating Hitler and the Nazi party apparatus toward Schmeling. Baer was willing to make a public statement, and so he began wearing a very prominent Star of David on his boxing trunks for matches. He started wearing the Star for the match against Hitler’s favorite, Schmeling. And he continued to do so. He was wearing the Star of David embroidered trunks when he won the World Heavyweight Title a year later, June, 1934, when he defeated the then current title holder, Prima Carnera.

And he was wearing the Star, 364 days later, when he lost the title in The Cinderella Match against Irish-American New York longshoreman, James (Jimmy) “Cinderella Man” Braddock.

Unfortunately the otherwise terrific movie about that fight (The Cinderella Man) casts Baer in an extremely negative light. However, it was based partly on fact: Baer considered part of the job of boxing champ to be an entertainer, and he could be pretty darned silly when in that role. The movie played up the goofy and obnoxious role-playing of Baer (in an obvious shallow attempt to get viewers to appreciate underdog Braddock all the more). The movie also failed to prominently show Baer’s trunks, and their plainly visible Star of David. (Blame that on the producer, Ron Howard — Opie).

Shortly after Baer Sr’s boxing retirement, World War II broke out for the United States. Baer served as a physical conditioning trainer for the US Army Air Force. He continued to sporadically act in films (he had started in 1933) and served as celebrity referee for boxing matches.

In November 1959 Baer was in Hollywood for several television commercials (they were done “live” in those does – very few 2nd takes). While shaving at the Roosevelt Hotel, Baer felt a chest pain. He called the front desk, asking for a doctor. They told him they’d send a “house doctor” right up. Ever playful, Baer replied: “No dummy, I need a people doctor.” In hospital later that morning he was joking with doctors when … a second attack hit him. “Oh God, here I go …”

He was only 50 years old. (I am often humbled by how people achieved so very much … and then died … far younger than I am now). His son Max Jr would be making his first appearance on TV in just a few weeks, under contract with Warner Brothers, with whom he would eventually star in The Beverly Hillbillies. Baer, Sr is rated #22 in Ring’s list of all-time boxers. He is among a very few boxers who’ve won by knock-out over 50 times. Two deaths are attributed to his mighty right arm. He was devastated by each.

Max Baer, Jr -- as Jethro Bodine on Beverly Hillbillies

Max Baer, Jr — as Jethro Bodine on Beverly Hillbillies

Max Jr’s career after the Beverly Hillbillies remained in the entertainment industry. Hopelessly typecast by his role as Hillbilly Jethro Bodine until 1971, his acting career was largely over. After that he wrote, produced and directed movies, including “Macon County Line”, in which he also played a rare serious role. That movie made $25 million for an investment of just over $100,000 – a record ratio that lasted until the Blair Witch Project (1999).

He also had the idea of turning popular songs into movies. It was Baer, Jr who came up with turning Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe”, a hit ’60s song, into a cinematic feature. [The lyrics are below… if you’d like to follow along while listening).

In retirement, Baer continues to make a few TV appearances and has long been attempting to develop a casino in Carson City on the Beverly Hillbillies theme. It has been fraught with legal issues and odd competition.

 

  1. Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
    – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

William Greenleaf Eliot died January 23, 1887 in St Louis, Missouri. He founded the first Unitarian Church west of the Mississippi in 1837, at the corner of 4th and Pine – perhaps 1000 ft from where the famous Gateway Arch has stood since 1964. Outgrowing that location, in 1852, Eliot led the congregation in building and moving to a larger worship space at 9th and Olive. This is only a few blocks from where the stately Post Office and Customs House, and the Library, would be built decades later; those still stand. In 1880, Eliot again led the building of a new Church, at Locust and Garrison. This site was on the Register of National Historic Places. It unfortunately suffered a devastating fire in 1982, and was completely razed in 1987.

St Louis Unitarian Church -- on National Register of Historic Places, until its demise

St Louis Unitarian Church — on National Register of Historic Places, until its demise

That’s just the beginning of William Eliot’s curriculum vitae and significance to St Louis. He’s most notable for founding Washington University in St. Louis (initially called Eliot Seminary). He was influential and critical to founding many civic institutions, including: the St. Louis Public School System; the St. Louis Art Museum; the Mission Free School; the South Side Day Nursery; and the Western Sanitary Commission that provided medical care and supplies during the Civil War. He also contributed to the development of the Colored Orphans’ Home, Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, Memorial Home, Blind Girls Home, Women’s Christian Home, and many other charitable institutions.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited St. Louis, he had the opportunity to meet Eliot and subsequently called him “the Saint of the West.” Besides founding Washington University in 1853, Eliot donated generously to its construction and served as chancellor from 1870 to 1887.

In 1859 William Eliot founded Mary Institute, a school for girls which he named after his daughter, who had died very young. It is now part of the co-educational Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MISLCDS).

Same Church, after the tragic fire.

Same Church, after the tragic fire.

It’s hard to know the further effect he had on American culture and literature. In fact, his effect on world culture and literature. Why? William Eliot was also the grandfather of Thomas Stearns Eliot, who was born the year after William’s passing. Going by his initials, T.S., Eliot is renowned in his own right as one of America’s and the world’s most acclaimed poets, essayists, playwrights and literary critics.

It’s hard to imagine young Thomas, spending his youth going between St Louis and New England (due to family ties in the Boston area) and not being very aware of his grandfather’s contributions to society. Frail as a child, “Tom” turned to literature, embraced it, and found inspiration in fellow Missourian, Samuel Clemens.

I’ve read, recited and committed to memory quite a bit of verse over my many decades. Poe, Frost, Longfellow … even Lewis Carrol. And yet, somehow, I’ve not connected much with Mr Eliot the younger. As an aerospace engineer and amateur historian, perhaps I can be forgiven.

As a sop to fellow enthusiasts of the 1904 World’s Fair: As a teen, young Tom attended the Fair – it was in his hometown, after all. The 47-acre Philippines Igorot “village” living exhibit inspired him to write some short stories and poems. This experience also probably influenced his decision to pursue anthropological studies at Harvard – where his grandfather’s name still stood large. [4]

Yes, perhaps I can be forgiven for not taking to Eliot’s writings. T.S. eventually turned away from much of what his grandfather was proud of. In 1910 he moved to Paris; then, in 1914, to England. And there he stayed. He eventually gave up both his Unitarian faith and US citizenship, becoming both Anglican and a subject of the crown.

T.S. Eliot won the Nobel Prize for Literature, as a British subject, in 1948.

  1. Depression Youth; Military Service

My wife and I think of, and talk about, our fathers quite often. They had a lot in common. Both grew up in humble households during the Great Depression. It’s easy to see that this helped make them thrifty, resilient and loyal. They both served in the US military in the ‘40s, Audrey’s dad in the US Navy – in fact a Pearl Harbor Survivor; my dad in the occupation of Japan. It’s easy to see how this helped mold them into the prototypical “Greatest Generation” male: the strong quiet type; able to lead and command; yet equally capable of following and taking orders: organization men. They each loved their family and country dearly, loyally, sincerely … yet often from a reticent and in-charge position and point-of-view.

For the rest of their lives, they felt it was a duty to stay very informed on current events, and they loved to encourage discussion that swirled around world events – including past and current.

I have no idea how our three children’s lives will play out … hopefully very long after we are gone. I’d like to think that there is something of the following in them, and that – in some way – part of it comes from their parents. Just as we received something in this regard from our parents:

  • Inner Strength and Self-Discipline
  • Loyalty and Love
  • Kindness and Compassion
  • Service and Simplicity
  • Living in the Moment
  • Honesty and Humility
  • Graciousness and Generosity
  • Patience and Perseverance
  • Forgiveness and Fortitude

 

Obviously no one is perfect. I certainly am not; neither is my wife. Neither were our fathers. Still – we cling to the positive influences and traits … and gently release the rest. Life is too short to be concerned with anything else.

And I wish the same strengths and virtues for you and yours.

Peace

Joe Girard © 2016

email joe: Email Joe (for addition to email list, or discussion not related to this post.  Comments can be added below)

 

Footnotes:

 

[1] Heath Ledger duplicated this sad/happy circumstance, passing on before he could be receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as The Joker in 2008’s Batman sequel “The Black Knight.” Ledger died from a prescription drug overdose (likely due to abuse from ongoing viral infections and insomnia issues). Ironically, both Ledger and Finch were Australian. Ledger was only 28.

 

[2] The air pressure at 28,000 ft elevation is only one-third that at sea level. That means 67% less oxygen for the lungs while working severely hard at steep ascent grades. Famed Kiwi Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, were the first humans to summit Everest, in 1951. They used supplemental oxygen, as have the vast majority of those who’ve successfully achieved the full ascent.
The first summit without oxygen was not until 1978. In 2013, a total of 658 climbers attained the summit; only 9 did so without oxygen. There were also 8 deaths.

 

[3] Finch’s biological father was Wentworth Edward Dallas “Jock” Campbell, an Indian Army officer. Alicia Fisher Finch later married Campbell in 1922. (what’s with the Brits and all those middle names?)

[4] The St Louis 1904 Exposition was huge. Hyuge. Just the Igorot Village living exhibit was larger than many famous World’s Fairs … e.g. The complete 1962 Seattle World’s Fair (which gave us the Space Needle and the Monorail) was only 32 acres … vs the Igorot village at 47 acres … the whole 1904 Fair covered nearly 1280 acres (two square miles)!

Final notes: You can watch The Twilight Zone episode online (The Eye of the Beholder). It’s easier to listen to Bobbie Gentry singing Ode to Billie Joe … one of my favorite Ballads (right up there with “West Texas Town of El Paso.” If you do, here are the lyrics so you can follow along.

 

 

And just for grins….

Ode to Billy Joe

(written, sung and performed by Bobbie Gentry)

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day.
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay.
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat.
And mama hollered out the back door: “y’all, remember to wipe your feet!”
And then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge.
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the black-eyed peas:
“Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please.
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow”
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow;
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge.
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show.
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece o’ apple pie; you know, it don’t seem right.
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

And mama said to me, “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning, and you haven’t touched a single bite.
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today.
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way …
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge,
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

A year has come and gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe.
‘n’ Brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo.
There was a virus going ’round, Papa caught it and he died last Spring,
And now Mama doesn’t seem to wanna do much of anything.
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge,
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

 

 

Morton: Hart to Smith


By 1950, the effervescent consumption potential of the world’s largest single national economy — the United States economy — had been restrained like over-carbonated champagne in a bottle for two decades. At first the role of cork was filled by The Great Depression, then the Second World War, and finally, by massive demobilization of the armed forces, and conversion of industry from war to a peace time economy.

That cork was creeping out, the bubbly about to spew forth. One way that was beginning to occur was manifest in the strong desire to live outside of the urban jungles; to move outside of the cramped, dirty confines of cities like New York, Chicago, St Louis. And yet, not move so far away that they couldn’t commute to the jobs that stayed in the cities … that is, commute via that great symbol of personal freedom of the era: the automobile.

In metropolitan areas where open available spaces were relatively close, brand new planned suburban communities sprang up in land that was previously agricultural, or wooded, or simply empty. The prime example of this was the Levittowns built by the  Levitt Company  in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Some large cities had established communities – usually small simple towns or hamlets – that were only close enough to be suburbs when highways and expressways were built to ease motor transportation to and from the cities.

Welcome to Morton Grove (Illinois)

Welcome to Morton Grove (Illinois)

One of these towns was Morton Grove, Illinois, located some 14 miles or so North-northwest from Chicago’s central Loop. The Eden’s Expressway – which was soon incorporated into the Interstate Highway system as I-94 a few years later – ran north across Cook County, and by 1951 connected Morton Grove to Chicago.

In the decade of the 1950s the population of Morton Grove more than quintupled, from about 4,000 to over 20,000 by 1960. I was one of those “newcomers”; so were my parents, soon followed by two sisters. Just a few months before my birth, in September 1956, my parents bought a humble, tiny ranch home in one of those planned neighborhoods. It was my first home, my sisters’ first home, and the first home my parents owned.

Morton Grove’s population has remained relatively flat since then; I suppose we are part of the reason for that too. With a fourth child now in tow, we moved at Christmastime, 1962, to a suburb of Milwaukee.

The area that would become Morton Grove was first settled by whites of European descent in the 1830s by Germans and English. The population remained low, about a hundred or so, until 1872, when a spur of the Milwaukee Road Railroad came, thanks to the vision of New York businessman and financier, Levi Parsons Morton. The grateful residents named their locale after him.

[Morton would go on to serve as Vice President of the country, getting elected in 1888 with president Benjamin Harrison. Oddly, Morton would be much better remembered than he is – even better than the town that bears his name – had he accepted an earlier offer to run for Vice President with James Garfield, in 1880. For, in September 1881 Garfield was killed by deluded assassin Charles Guiteau. Morton would have ascended to serve as 21st president; instead it was Chester Arthur.]

After the railroad came, the Morton Grove area began to attract a few more settlers, and commercial businesses, including the Poehlmann Brothers greenhouse company. They achieved worldwide attention and acclaim when their Poehlmann Rose won First Prize at the 1904 World’s Fair, in St Louis. This would not be the first star Morton Grove sent to St Louis.

The community had grown to about 500 when it was formally incorporated as a municipality, the Village of Morton Grove, in 1895.

____________________________

A couple years before I arrived, another lad moved to Morton Grove, adding to its ’50s boom. James “Jim” Warren Hart was born just north of Chicago, in Evanston, in 1944. His father died when he was only seven. His mother remarried and they moved in with his stepfather in nearby Morton Grove. A bit on the small side for a football player, his stepdad encouraged him to give it a try – even forcing him out of the car on one occasion to partake in a junior football skills competition. Jim first started playing football as a freshman at Morton Grove’s high school, Niles West. A competitive athlete, Jim earned letters in baseball and track, although, conspicuously, not in football.

Undeterred, Southern Illinois University offered him a scholarship to play football. A small school that competed in lower divisions at the time, Jim was their quarterback for most of the years 1963-65, amassing, at that time, a school record 3,780 passing yards.

Coming from a small school, playing a short, weak schedule — and with a losing record — it was no surprise that Jim was undrafted by any National Football League team. He signed a contract to try out with the nearby Saint Louis Cardinals.

Jim Hart, St Louis Cardinals (Displayed under the Fair Use Doctrine).

Jim Hart, St Louis Cardinals (Displayed under the Fair Use Doctrine).

In sports, it is as near a certainty as possible that undrafted free agents don’t make the team in the NFL, especially at quarterback. Jim made the team.

___________________________

Jackie Smith was born in 1940, in southern Mississippi, in tiny Columbia (thirteen years later Walter Payton was born there). As a boy, his family moved a few miles south, across the state line to Louisiana, to another small obscure town, Kentwood, LA.

It was at Kentwood High School that Jackie ran track; he began trying out for football as a sophomore. Due to injuries, his entire high school football career amounted to a mere five games. Most of the time, he admitted later, his play was so goofy that the other teams never knew what he was doing. He didn’t learn any fundamentals of the game.

He was recruited to run track at Northwestern Louisiana State University (now Northwestern State University). They could only offer him a half scholarship. If he played football too, he could get a full scholarship. So he played football.

He did not have an impressive college career, but he displayed enough speed and determination that he impressed a Saint Louis Cardinals scout. They took a chance and drafted him in the 10th round in 1963. 10th round draft choices have as much chance of making the team as an undrafted free agent. Jackie made the team.

________________________________________________

By 1967, Jim Hart had worked up from sixth string to starting quarterback for the Cardinals. Jackie Smith was the regular tight end. Two unheralded athletes, with unimpressive football backgrounds, competing at the highest level of football.

Jackie Smith, St Louis Cardinals

Jackie Smith, St Louis Cardinals (Displayed under the Fair Use doctrine)

For eleven seasons they played together, putting up electrifying numbers. During this period they helped transform the game of football. With contemporaries like quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath, and other tight ends like Mike Ditka and John Mackey, they showed how exciting and entertaining a more wide-open style of offensive football could be.

Unfortunately, Saint Louis often had poor talent teams in that era, but with a wide-open air attack that thrilled fans (they were then known as the “Cardiac Cards”) the league saw what football could be. At that time receivers were mauled at the line of scrimmage, their legs often cut from under them at the line. Quarterbacks were regularly severely roughed well after the ball was thrown. Tight ends were for blocking.

Jackie Smith was strong enough and fast enough to block linemen and linebackers. Yet with his track speed he could get open, and with his soft hands he could catch passes. With his physical and mental toughness he punished defensive backs who tried to tackle him. This is the prototype of tight ends we know 40 and 50 years later, but it wasn’t always like that.

For three successive magical seasons, 1974-76, under head coach Don Coryell and his “Air Coryell” approach, the Cardinals won 10, 11 and 10 games; at that time the regular season was only 14 games. Still, the Cardinals only made the playoffs two of those seasons, and never won a playoff game with either Hart or Smith on the roster.

Jim Hart was inducted to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He was a four-time All Star and NFL Offensive Player of the year, in 1974.

Jackie Smith is in the NFL Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and the St Louis Walk of Fame. He was a five-time All Star.

If and when you watch a football game these days, and you see receivers getting open off the line, tight ends catching passes, when you see a defensive holding call on a receiver, when you see a roughing-the-passer call, know that this goes back to the Smith-Hart era, and other similar brave players of the ‘60s and ‘70s, who showed how fun and exciting a wide-open game could be – even when they got physically punished for doing it. It wasn’t until later that rules were changed to protect players and promote this more exciting style of football.

_______________________

I guess if there’s a moral it’s that your past doesn’t define your future. And anyone – anyone – can change the trajectory of history. Sports can be a great metaphor for life that way.

A corollary is that when choosing teammates, when hiring to fill a position, — and you have the long term in mind — choose for potential and heart, not for how impressive the resume looks now.

If there’s a second moral, I guess it’s that Americans’ appetites for excitement and freedom in life (cars, travel, suburbs) are reflected in their desire for excitement, creativity and freedom in sports, however they choose to enjoy them.

Wishing you peace and bravery. If you can have only one, pick bravery.

Cheers,

Joe Girard © 2015

 

[1] Jim Hart went back to Southern Illinois for several years to serve as Athletic Director, after a short career as a sportscaster. He remains married to his wife, his college sweet”hart”, for nearly 50 years.

[2] At the time of his retirement, Jackie Smith was the NFL’s all-time leading receiver for tight ends. He was only the third tight end inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, after Ditka and Mackey. He’s led a quiet retirement, and started a small business building one-man fishing boats.

[3] This essay is a (very rambling) response to Adam’s comment to an earlier essay: Week in New England, and a Quandary

[4] The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. The current NFL franchise in St Louis is the St Louis Rams.

[5] Morton Grove lies within Niles Township, and is/was part of the township’s school district.

Beautiful Miss Audrey


Beautiful Miss Audrey

Guest Essay.  By John Sarkis 2015 ©

Few today are familiar with the name Audrey Munson, but depending on your age and location, it’s likely you’ve seen her image hundreds, if not thousands of times.

Audrey Munson, the "American Venus"

Audrey Munson, the “American Venus”

In today’s terminology, Audrey would be considered a supermodel, and quite possibly, the first in America. Born in upstate New York, her divorced mother moved the two of them to New York City when Audrey was fifteen. After a chance encounter with a local photographer, she soon found herself modeling for the top civic artists in the country. And as a result, her likeness can be found in museums and municipal buildings around the country, on canvas and in sculpture. But it was Adolph Weinman who immortalized her. A sculptor by trade, Weinman produced two of the most iconic coin designs in U.S. history, using Audrey Munson as his model.

1916-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar, obverse (w/ Audrey Munson as Liberty)

1916-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar, obverse (w/ Audrey Munson as Liberty)

The Walking Liberty half dollar, minted from 1916-1947, shows Lady Liberty, draped in the American flag, striding toward the rising sun and a bright future. His other coin, which many mistakenly called the Mercury Dime because of its wings, was actually a Winged Liberty, with Lady Liberty wearing a hat with wings, symbolizing one of our basic rights, freedom of thought.

Utilizing her fame, Audrey went to Hollywood, where she starred in four silent films [1]. This was before the industry adopted the Motion Picture Code, and many films of the day, including Audrey’s, featured nudity. Which finally leads us to the local [St Louis] connection of this story.

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1916 Mercury Head (Winged Liberty) Dime, Obverse

1916 Mercury Head (Winged Liberty) Dime, Obverse

October 1, 1921 — 94 years-ago this month, Audrey Munson was appearing at the Royal Theater, 210 N. Sixth Street, St Louis, Missouri, where her movie, “Innocence” was being shown. The movie began by showing many of the statues for which she had posed nude, including some which had been exhibited at our 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. [2] Following each statue, were scenes of Miss Munson dancing, fully clothed. But in her personal appearance, she wore a gauzy drapery, posed on a platform under spotlight, in front of the screen. She remained fully covered until the last pose.

Seated, with her back to the audience, she lowered her drapery, exposing her back. She and the theater owner were arrested; the film confiscated. They were charged with conspiracy to commit acts injurious to public morals. Unbelievably fast by today’s standards, the trial was held later that week. After viewing the film, and hearing testimony, the Jury was only out five minutes before returning a verdict of not guilty. Afterward, Munson said, “Clothes we began to wear only when guile and evil thoughts entered our heads. They do harm to our bodies and worse to our souls.”

Sadly, Audrey’s life unraveled when she could no longer find modeling work, and the following year she attempted suicide. Spiraling into depression, she was committed to a psychiatric facility at the age of 39, where she remained for the last 65 years of her life. She passed away in 1996, at the age of 104.

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John Sarkis posts regularly at the Facebook page for “St. Louis Missouri. History, Landmarks & Vintage photos”
John is a native Saint Louisan, is retired, and now lives in Kirkwook, Missouri, a suburb of Saint Louis.

Editor notes:

[1] IMDB lists only three movies for Miss Munson, failing to include Heedless Moths, a sort of autobiography of Miss Munson herself (although she doesn’t play herself) and in which she appears in several scenes in various stages of undress.

Audrey Munson in "Innocence"

Audrey Munson in “Innocence”

The movie cited here (Innocence) does not show up on IMDB or her biography. But surely it was filmed and presented, for here is an advertisement I found from a 1922 Duluth, Minnesota newspaper, the Duluth Herald.

So, perhaps she was in at least five movies.

[2] Also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
Audrey Munson could not have posed for the actual statues seen at the 1904 Fair; she was only 12 or so as the sculptures were being made, and hadn’t yet been “discovered.”  As most statues were made of temporary materials, including staff, she had likely posed for re-sculpturing of many of them.
Munson did model for statues at the 1915 San Francisco world’s Fair, the Pan Pacific Exposition.

About Us; About You

Writing History; Recreating and Creating History

My mother, God rest her saintly soul, took up writing the last decade or so of her life.  She made a serious study of it, even joining writing clubs and taking experienced mentors.  Over the next several years she crafted a series of essays about her life: from growing up on the plains of Alberta, to raising a flock of six wild kids; plus moving from Canada, to Chicago, to Milwaukee, to Arkansas and finally to Colorado.  Eventually she compiled a few dozen of those essays into an autobiography which she self-published just two years before she passed away.  I’m so very glad she did.

Many authors have written stories and essays by incorporating elements of their own life into their works, in semi- or even full-autobiographical form.  The characters of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” closely resemble herself, her family and acquaintances as a youth.  The fictional town of Maycomb, AL closely resembles her own girlhood hometown of Monroeville, AL.

Samuel Clemens’ novels – particularly those about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer – include many adventures and characters from his boyhood hometown of Hannibal, Missouri – although he places them in fictional St Petersburg, complete with a cave.

The list of authors who have created this way is near endless.  Hunter S Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Charles Dickens: David Copperfield.  And we recognize: Aleksander Solzhenitsyn; Roald Dahl; Ernest Hemingway; Charlotte Brontë  Theirs are timeless and often moving works.

Question: Will you write about your youth, your life, your experiences? Our literary works don’t have to be moving or timeless; but we should all write.  Why? To express ourselves.  To leave a legacy to our posterity about our lives and our thoughts.  Somewhere in the decades and generations hence, a child or young adult descendant will wonder what their ancestors were like.  What YOU were like. Send them a message.

But don’t just make it up.  As Harper Lee said: an author “should write about what they know, and write truthfully.”

“Literature transmits incontrovertible condensed experience — from generation to generation. In this way literature becomes living memory ….” – Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

 

“Home is where your story begins” — Annie Danielson, Colorado CEO of the year, 2009

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My dear friend Kevin Shepardson is now in a rehab hospital in Phoenix. Reports I get are that he is doing well; in fact – miraculously well.  Although now safe from terminal danger, he still has “a very long row to hoe.”  He has great loving support from his family and many friends.  Still, he can use all the prayers, good wishes and thoughts you can send his way.

I’d written recently that – until his New Year’s Eve day cardiac arrest episode – Kevin published a daily news letter, often with musical tributes to some event or holiday.  Each year in December he includes a daily musical tribute. Every day’s inbox has a new Christmas or Winter Holiday Seasonal themed musical delight, right up to Christmas Eve Day.

This past December 23 his musical selection was “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – which has to be one of the saddest Christmas carols ever.

Just the title conveys a lack of joy: Little Christmas? It’s like you’re being spurned by a lover: Farewell shot: “Well, have yourself a merry little rest of your life.”

The slow sadness of the song is actually appropriate.  The lyrics — composed by Hugh Martin in 1943 — were for the otherwise cheery musical movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”, to be sung by the beautiful and gifted Judy Garland during the only really sad part of the movie.  The plot at this point has her family tormented by an imminent move to New York just as big things are happening in their lives. Young ladies are falling in love and the 1904 World’s Fair is about to occur in St Louis!

In Kevin’s Dec 23 newsletter, he described a bit of the song’s history.  It was originally even much sadder. Its lyrics went:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last.
Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Pop that Champagne cork.
Next year we all may be living in New York.

No good times like the olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us … no more.

But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas … now.

(Most dreary lines in blue)

 

Wow. Makes me kind of weepy just reading and humming to myself now.

  • This Christmas “may be your last.” That’s just morbid.
  • “No good times”??? How sad.
  • “Faithful friends who WERE dear to us will be near to us NO MORE.”

Oh my.  No wonder Garland refused to sing the song that way.  She just couldn’t do that in the saddest scene in the movie to poor little 6-year old co-star Margaret O’Brien, who nearly stole the show as Ester’s (Garland’s) younger sister, Tootie.

Fortunately, the movie’s lyricist Hugh Martin eventually relented and re-wrote the song closer to the carol we know so well:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light.
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Make the yuletide gay.
Next year all our troubles will be miles away.

Once again as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us … once more.

Someday soon we all will be together,
If the fates allow.
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas … now.

Much better, but still rather somber when sung at ballad tempo, less than 80 beats per minute.  And it still has that line “have yourself a merry little Christmas” … and ends with “We’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Muddle through?? Geepers. It was enough to help Margaret O’Brien gin up a few tears … to set her off to a fit of downright bawling – and destroying snowmen. And yet: It’s the original recording and still a very good one.

Well, there have been many covers of “Merry Little Christmas”, most notably by Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra asked Dean Martin to help him lighten up the song for his album “A Jolly Christmas.” It just wasn’t “Jolly” enough.

Martin changed the line with “muddle through” to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.” Dean and Frank made several other changes, which are shown in the notes below. You can hear it from the album here:  {Click the button or skip to 14:05 on the playback}

That’s a long way of getting to say this: Sally Benson’s story has had a heck of a ride over the last 111 years.  And … any way you look at it, we’re very, very glad this past Christmas didn’t fit the original two lines of “Merry Little Christmas” for Kevin.  It certainly was not your last, buddy!!  Stay strong my friend.  Peace and much healing to you.

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During World War II Americans craved entertainment that distracted them from the woes and worries of everyday.  Through much of the war, most news was not pleasant, even when the allies were winning.  For almost four years, US military service personnel perished at a rate of over 300 per day.  Casualties were over 800 per day.

The home front craved entertainment that had light, joyful stories that weren’t terribly deep. Something to take their minds off the awful news, both local and from around the world. Everyone was affected by death and severe injury in their family and among dear friends. The war was fought on the home front as well as in Africa, Europe, the Pacific.  So, who can blame them?

And the entertainment industry stepped up to meet those desires. Many entertainment creations of that era met these criteria. But two in particular share several remarkable coincidences.  These are the musical play “Oklahoma!” and the musical movie “Meet Me in St Louis.”

Coincidences?

  1. First, they are period productions, placed during jauntier times, in the first decade of the 20th century; during the Edwardian/pre-war era.

    • >“Oklahoma!” is placed in 1907, in Indian Territory just as Oklahoma is about to become the 46th star on the flag.
    • “Meet Me in St Louis” is placed in 1903-4, in, … well …, St Louis, just as the World’s Fair is about to come to St Louis.
  2. Second, each production originally contained the Rogers and Hammerstein song “Boys and Girls Like You and Me”. Producers dropped the number, twice, at the last minute due to running time.
  3. Finally, each was based on another story. In both cases, that other story was substantially autobiographical.
    • “Oklahoma!” is based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs”, written by Lynn Riggs. Riggs was born in 1899 near Claremore, Indian Territory. He was 1/16th Amerindian*.  He grew up and went to school in, and near, Claremore — which is also the closest significant town to the setting of “Oklahoma!”
    • “Meet Me in St Louis” has a bit more history that I’m familiar with. It’s based on the book of the same title. That book, in turn, is slightly expanded from a series of semi-autobiographical essays that Sally (Redway) Benson wrote for The New Yorker magazine, from 1941 to 1942.
      • The essays were called “5135 Kensington”, which was her family’s address in a middle class neighborhood, located just over a mile from the main entrance to Forest Park, St Louis, where the 1904 World’s Fair occurred.

 

*: I have concluded that, sadly, there is not a perfectly appropriate term for this race of people.  “Native American” fails, since there are generations upon generations of other races dwelling here in the Americas who have no other place to call their native land.  “Indian” fails since that clearly belongs to the Indian subcontinent.  They are worthy of their own clear and distinct name, so I have accepted what some others have proposed: Amerindian.

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Leaving “Oklahoma!” for another time, let’s skip over to what became of Benson’s autobiographical essays: Meet Me in St Louis.Promo1

MGM was casting about for possible cheer-you-up movie plots wherein they could cast their greatest rising star – Judy Garland – when they came across Benson’s essays.  They decided it could be made into a screenplay for a musical movie, in order to showcase Garland’s beauty, grace and voice.

Only 21 at the time, Garland initially refused the role. She didn’t want to play a teenage “girl next door.” She was an adult now.

Indeed she was an adult.  During production, she and director Vincente Minnelli fell in love – resulting in the second of five Garland’s marriages.

“Meet Me in St Louis” is full of music, song and gay dancing  (duh, it’s a musical!). As full of music as it is, the movie’s songwriters — Hugh Martin (lyrics) and Ralph Blaine (music) — only composed three original tunes for the movie. These were: “The Boy Next Door”, “The Trolley Song”, and the aforementioned, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

These were written specifically to be sung by Judy Garland – (although she doesn’t come in on “Trolley” until over a minute — almost halfway through — after she sees her potential beau make it to the trolley.)

Both “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are among the American Film Institute’s top 100 movie songs of all time: “Trolley” coming in at #26 and “Merry Little Christmas” at #76.

No surprise, especially to Judy’s many fans, that she also holds AFI’s #1 spot with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Meet me in St Louis” ranks as AFI’s 10th best musical movie of all time.  Easy guess that “Singing in the Rain” is #1.

Although screenwriters took some liberty with Benson’s original texts, much of it remained faithful to her writings of her childhood memories.

  • The address of the Smith home is exactly the same as that of her childhood: 5135 Kensington Avenue
  • The names of all the family members (mother, father, four girls, one boy) and the maid are all exactly the same as Benson’s family — even the nicknames. The family’s surname, Smith, is actually Benson’s mother’s maiden name.
  • Opportunities to show what else was going on in St Louis at the time were skipped – for example Scott Joplin lived and performed just a couple miles away. Ragtime was very fresh and popular. Benson didn’t write about these because, as a young child of six years old, she didn’t remember it. She wrote about what she knew.

Today we remember “Meet Me in St Louis” for much more than “Sally Benson first wrote her essays based on her childhood memories.” She certainly had no idea where it would go – that it would be garnished with famous actresses and memorable songs.

It’s probably most remembered for the Christmas carol that Martin and Blaine wrote.  The song immediately became popular with servicemen abroad – and their loved ones at home.  Why? It heralded a happier time in the near future – next year – when we all “will be together”, “all our troubles will be miles away” and “out of sight.”  And indeed, the war ended the year after the movie’s release.

When you write your memories, no one can know what will become of them.  They probably won’t be adorned with beautiful actresses, showy songs and marquis lights.

But I can assure you this: somewhere, sometime, someplace, someone will be interested in them.  Perhaps your descendants, or a friend’s grandchild, or a grand-niece or nephew.  When they read your rambling musings, your journals, your essays – well – those works will indeed become timeless and moving works of art.

If it’s daunting, start slow and easy.  Keep copies of the notes, letters and cards you send and receive.  Start a journal, or a blog.

Write about your experiences and thoughts. Therein will lie your  memories, your “you”. Write about as many of your yearnings, loves, disappointments and successes as you dare. Yes, there — wherever you put them — available and preserved, for future generations.

As true as that is for you and me, I know this.  Last Christmas was, miraculously, not Kevin’s last.  Nor was it yours.  As soon as Kevin recovers enough to write – he will.  It seems it may be soon. And now he has so much more to write about.  I can’t wait to read it all.  And some day, his grandkids and great-grandkids will be glad that he did.

Live well. Be inspired. Write. Create.

Peace.

Joe Girard © 2015

Note: Sally Benson is also well known for writing “Junior Miss”, which was also made into both a play and a movie. The movie starred Peggy Ann Garner.  It was also based on a series of semi-autobiographical stories that she first published in – yes – The New Yorker.

Most of her New Yorker essays were published under the nom de plume of “Esther Evarts.”

 

Bibliography:

Taylor, Mike: CEOs of the Year, Mark & Annie Danielson; Cobizmag: https://www.cobizmag.com/articles/ceos-of-the-year-mark-and-annie-danielson1

 

AFI top movie songs
http://www.afi.com/100years/songs.aspx

AFI top musical movies
http://www.afi.com/100years/musicals.aspx

NPR: The Story behind Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas
http://www.npr.org/2010/11/19/131412133/the-story-behind-have-yourself-a-merry-little-christmas

Some good back story on movie Meet Me in St. Louis. And a lot of detail on the plot.
http://www.filmsite.org/meetm.html
http://movies.amctv.com/movie/1944/Meet+Me+in+St.+Louis

Notes: comparing the versions of the song: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Garland v. Sinatra (changes for Sinatra version – 1957 – in Blue)

 merry-little-christmas

Meet me at the Fair

Looking back to a time of promise and the dawn of a new century, with new inventions and American — not to mention Midwest — pride; when we were an emerging world power; when the world looked to America and said “That’s how to do it.”  Let’s take a look at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, AKA the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair.

That Fair was the most massive, magnificent, opulent, ostentatious and over-the-top world’s fair, ever. Period. This 47-slide picture show (link below) doesn’t even show Germany’s huge re-creation of the Tyrolean Alps, or much of “The Pike” where you could ride elephants, camels or ostriches … see street performers of magic and musicians of all sort, walk the streets of Cairo … or, see a working hospital complete with new inventions like incubators with actual “struggling-for-life” premature human babies.

Consider what you could see from the 265-foot tall Ferris Observation Wheel — the one that had 36 cars carrying 60 passengers each, for a total of 2,160 riders at once:

  • Fourteen Palaces, up to 21-acres each;
  • 1,576 separate buildings;
  • …lit up with electric lights like the Emerald City, visible for miles and miles, unheard of!;
  • Underwater lighting of huge cascading waterfalls;
  • … powered by a 14,000 hp motor that drove electric generators;
  • that also powered chillers (air conditioning — ah!!) so they could enjoy ice cream and ice skate through the summer;
  • total area of 1,240 acres with 75 miles of walkways (for comparison, Disneyland is 85 acres; Disney World’s Epcot Center; and Magic Kingdom combined are only about 400 acres);
  • 20-million visitors;
  • Over 1,000 new huge sculptures;
  • Daily parades with the likes of John Phillip Sousa;

Walking around you could see and enjoy:

  • Exhibitions and speaking engagements by personalities from Will Rogers to Helen Keller;
  • Food treats made popular or first coming to public view: the newly ‘invented’ hot dog, ice cream cone, cotton candy, hamburger, puffed rice, puffed wheat, and Dr Pepper;
  • A real working hospital, a real oil well and a real coal mine;
  • And, somehow they had the great idea to hold the 1904 Olympics at the same time and place, at Washington University, on the western edge of the Fairgrounds.

— just one of the biggest extravaganzas in human history.  An exclamation mark to president Teddy Roosevelt’s bold proclamation: “This will be an American century.”

Enjoy the tour!  http://www.crawforddirect.com/worldfairtour.htm#start

Cheers,

Joe