November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

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Left to Right: Dale Crabtree; my dad, Alfred Oglesby; Herman Taylor
circa 1944, US Base 3115, Hollandia, New Guinea


My dad enlisted in the Navy and left Praco, Alabama at the age of 17. This is him astride his Harley Davidson, with his '41 Ford coupe in the background. Further in the background is Alabama.

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He arrived at the Great Lakes training center on April 29, 1944. Sometime on the long train ride there, they had to stop because they'd run over a hobo on the tracks.

By the end of June 1944, there was a trip to Norfolk, then a long boat ride to the South Pacific.

Milne Bay, New Guinea is a long way from Praco.

He was assigned to the USS Amycus as part of its boat pool in August, then to the USS Blue Ridge, then the Henry T. Allen, and finally landed at Base 3115 in Hollandia.

This is a picture of him at the tiller of a whaleboat. He hated whaleboats. They were about as manueuverable as a whale.

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New Guinea was full of exotic things, like grass skirts. Best worn with slippers and white crew socks, apparently.

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The base at Hollandia had just been built when he got there. Not much time for tidiness, and burnt out Japanese planes where simply bulldozed off to the side of the runway.

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After the defeat of Japan, he took a "Magic Carpet" ride aboard the USS Hancock to San Diego, came back home to Alabama, finished school, got married, and had two kids.

He passed on to the next life on July 30, 1984. I miss him, and wish I better remembered the stories he told me of his life.

To all veterans, a salute to you on this day for your service, and my thanks.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:01 PM | Comments (4)

February 12, 2009

History Stuff

As an update to last month's family history roundup, my kinfolk encouraged me to submit an article to a couple of the smaller papers in the area to see if they might be interested in the family name story.

Nicely enough, both the Centreville Press and the Tannehill Trader decided to run the piece--the former running it yesterday, and the latter to run it next month. I haven't seen the actual print version yet, so just in case there is any editorial editing that got done between submittal and printing, following is the article as it was written. ALSO--an extra great big thanks to my editor, Dr. James Smith, noted professor of management at East Carolina University and a former denizen of Bessemer. Jim looked over the article and made some much-appreciated comments, so he gets full blame if anything goes horribly wrong.

NEW RESEARCH ON LOCAL SLAVE CEMETERY
Oglesby Family Members Seek to Correct Error in Cemetery Name at Tannehill


By Terry Oglesby

February 9, 2009BIBB CO., ALFor many years, history publications have stated that Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park is the site of the Oglesby Plantation Cemetery, a supposed resting place of 400 slaves owned by one of Bibb Countys early settlers. Family members familiar with their history disputed that idea, and set about to conduct their own research to determine what the real story is.

The Hickman Cemetery between Green Pond and Tannehill is the burial site of an early Bibb County settler, Sabert Oglesby. He had arrived in the New World from his native Scotland and originally settled in South Carolina. He was a veteran of the American Revolution, having served in the 4th South Carolina Artillery Regiment, and later still fought in the War of 1812. Sometime around 1820, he and his wife brought their large family of nine children to northern Bibb County, settling in the Green Pond area.

A host of Oglesbys descendents now live across the United States, including many in Alabama who remain in Bibb, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa countiesand an important part of the story of their history has now been corrected.

For some time, Saberts name has been erroneously associated with a cemetery of unmarked graves on property now belonging to Tannehill State Park. The misnamed Oglesby Plantation Cemetery is referenced in several publications as containing 400 unmarked graves of slaves who were workers at the Tannehill ironworks, and who were purported to have belonged to Sabert Oglesby, or to his Presbyterian minister son (also named Sabert, born in 1809).

However, recent research conducted by several Oglesby family members casts doubt on the identification of the cemetery.

They found that the actual number of graves is unknown, and could be as few as twenty-five. While there could have been 400 workers at the Tannehill Ironworks during the height of the Civil War, and slaves were part of that workforce, it is implausible to think such a large number died and were buried nearby.

Research of records from the time period up to the Civil War has not documented that Sabert (or his namesake son) owned any slaves, nor that they ever owned the land. Although the land was owned by another family member (probably Sabert Is son, George), no information has yet been found that ties him to the gravesites, either.

How this mistaken identity came about is still unclear. It appears Sabert Oglesby IIs name and the incorrect number of gravesites was first used in a story published in 1991 when the park was being developed. The error was then picked up by other published accounts of the parks history in the years afterward.

Three cousins, Kenneth Oglesby, Charles Adams, and the author, each descendents of the pioneering Sabert Oglesby, recently were able to gain a much-welcomed opportunity to present their research to Deb Vieau Haines, the Bibb County coordinator of the ALGenWeb Project (http://www.algenweb.us). Bibb Countys website (http://bibbcountyal.org) is a much-used genealogical tool that had originally carried the incorrect information in its listing of county cemeteries.

Ms. Haines reviewed the research information and created a new, corrected biographical entry for the cemetery. It is a hopeful first step in what promises to be a long task of undoing the error in other places and publications, but a step worth taking to ensure that the historical record is as accurate as possible.

(Additional information can be viewed online at
http://bibbcountyal.org/cemeteries/oglesbycem.htm)

So, there you go.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:02 PM | Comments (8)

January 09, 2009

Well, If It's In Print, It Must Be True

Or not.

To begin at a convenient point, namely the beginning, I'm related to a big chunk of everyone else here in central Alabama with the same last name as me through an early-19th Century immigrant to Bibb County named Sabert Oglesby, who was my great-great-great-(whew)-grandfather.

As most of you know, I've always been an avid history buff, and have a pretty decent handle on our family history, or at least I thought I did, until I heard from one of those many cousins of mine.

But more about that in a bit.

In any event, the original, proto-Sabert was born in Scotland sometime around 1740 and came to South Carolina with a couple of other brothers before the Revolutionary War, which he fought in (on the winning side). In 1790 he married a young lass named Phoebe Lindsay (who was 30 years his junior) with whom he set up housekeeping on land belonging to her father, and then went about farming and having at least nine children.

Industrious sorts, they.

Sometime around 1820, the whole family along with the family of his brother John packed up wagons with their belongings and began a trek that would end up near Green Pond in Bibb County, where they unloaded their baggage and their multitudes of children, all of whom soon enough grew up and began having children of their own, leading all the way to me.

I've been the beneficiary of many relatives who have taken the time over the past decades to compile not only this short biographical sketch, but numerous other stories and photos and newspaper clippings and lists of sons and daughters and such, all which came to me in a big loose-leaf binder that I've had now for over twenty years.

Then came the Internet, and I've had the chance to correspond with hosts of other unknown relatives, each time learning a bit more about our family. It's been quite a boon as a way of collecting and swapping genealogical information, although as I recently found out, just as easy for incorrect information to get out as it is for facts.

A couple of weeks ago one of those many relatives, Cousin Ken, ran across a blog post Id done several years back about the aforementioned Sabert, and Ken was kind enough to drop me a note and let me know he'd read it and enjoyed it, and that hed mentioned it to Cousin Charles, who was also kind enough to write a note.

Well, after being instantly reunited with a relatives I've never met, we all exchanged e-mails back and forth about Grampa Sabert and all the various blind alleys and wild geese that come with exploring your family history, until something was brought to my attention that was completely opposite of all that family history I'd read and heard about over the years.

In our conversations, it was brought to my attention that a local history website has cataloged in their master list of Bibb County cemeteries that a cemetery of unmarked graves on Tannehill State Park property is called Oglesby Plantation Cemetery, and that it holds the remains of 400 slaves of one Sabert Oglesby.

Talk about a surprise!

From what I knew of our history, Sabert the II, who was Original Saberts son born in 1809, was a Presbyterian minister in Green Pond, and later had two other sons, Sabert (that would be the third one) and Samuel, both of whom were also Presbyterian ministers, and I remember my grandfather (who was Sabert the IIIs son and Sabert IIs grandson) often mentioning that the family had never been slaveholders because it was against their religious upbringing. Of all that collected information in my three-ring binder, nothing ever pointed to anything to do with slavesnone of the scrawled notes copied from ancient family Bibles, no carefully transcribed Census recordsnothing. Of course, that doesnt mean it was impossible, but only that it seemed quite implausible

Ken said hed tried to get the web information corrected, but the site owner noted that the information was from the Historical Atlas of Alabama, and that all the information in it was the result of research done by professors from the University of Alabama. Cousins Ken and Charles were obviously frustrated by the inability to get at least some sort of explanation or changes made to the website.

And thus begins an even more convoluted tale, as I agreed to do some additional research to find out where the Atlas information had come from and see if maybe if I was going to have to add some more pages to that three-ring binder of mine.

First stop, I found a copy of the Atlas in my local library, and sure enough, plain as day, theres an entry on the Oglesby Cemeteryexcept it gave the owner of the land specifically as Sabert II, and the footnote said the information came from the book Place Names of Bibb County, written by a noted Huntington College professor and printed in 1993.

Okay, so where did THAT author get her information? Cousin Charles, it turns out, had been a friend of the author when she was alive and knew the source of her informationa quarterly newsletter published by the Park in 1991. And that information in the brochure came from a local amateur historian Charles knew, also since deceased.

Seems it was going to be very difficult to get any easy correction, since the chain of information in all the published accounts was dropping link-by-link into the grave.

But I still had some cause for hope, because in all of these conversations with my cousins, I found out they in turn had had conversations with others involved in the creation and management of the park at Tannehill. Based on what theyd been told, not only the name associated with the cemetery but also the number of graves and who was buried there was less the result of actual archeological and primary source research than it was conjecture. And conjecture is being charitable.

From what I knew, 19th Century Oglesby land holdings among all the descendents in the county were relatively smallthe idea that one of the relatives had at one time held over 400 slaves seemed to strain common sense. If these were the dead slaves, the live population necessary to support a dead population of 400 would have been enormous. Obviously, not an impossibility, but still improbable.

And how were all those graves identified as slave graves if they were unmarked? If they were unmarked, they could as easily held the remains of anyone too poor to afford a marker, not just slaves. And at least some of those graves could have been marked at one time, with the markers being moved or disturbed sometime in the intervening 140 years since the end of the Civil War.

In any event, it was time to do more research and try to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Next stop, the Linn-Henley research library in downtown Birmingham, where there is about half a yard of Bibb County related documentsCensus books, histories, court records, marriage and death information, and what turned out to be the most valuable, a handy listing of early Bibb County homesteads, cross-referenced with land patents granted in the County, including the date when each was granted.

Land patents are the way the United States would sell or grant Federal land to property owners, and they are a good starting point in many cases to find out who was the initial owner of a particular piece of property. Even better, many state land patents are accessible online, but I didn't know that at the time, so I set about looking through the whole stack of books and making copies of maps and lists, and found some interesting things.

First thing, the land containing the graves, a forty acre tract on the Bibb-Jefferson county line on Roupes Creek was first patented in the year 1858, and not to Sabert the I or the II, but to a George Oglesberry.

(As an aside, the Oglesby name has several variant spellings over the years, even in the previously mentioned copies from the family Bible, and I have seen it spelled as Ogilbie, Oglesbee, Oglesberry, Ogelsbe, and Ogilvie. Sort of like the mail that comes to my house. Same thing with the name SabertIve seen Seabert, Sayburt, Sabret, Sabardand as best as we can tell, they are generally talking about the same person. Spelling was much less precise in the past and education less formal, and people tended to rely on phonetics. Also, when I refer to Sabert II or III or any other number, that is my method of placeholding--none of Sabert's descendents troubled themselves with such things. Which tends to make for more confusion.)

But back to the storywho was George Oglesb(err)y!?

Not having much other information to go on, the most obvious George would be the four-year-older brother of Sabert II. In addition to the plot of land the cemetery is located in, he was also granted patents to an additional 80 acres across the county line, a total of 120 acres, all abutting much larger parcels of land belonging to Moses Stroup and Ninian Tannehill, partners in beginning the commercial furnace works at Tannehill. Park historians note that large-scale furnace operations did not begin until around 1859, which would agree with when most of the land was initially sold by the United States.

So the land initially belonged to George, probably the same George who was brother of Sabert II, and although its possible it could have been sold to Sabert sometime between 1858 and 1865, none of my digging and looking has produced any legal records that would indicate such a sale.

Next stop, the Census records for 1860, which showed Sabert II living in the Green Pond vicinity with his wife and their nine children, with a real and personal property value that was modest, and certainly not the wealth one would indicate vast slaveholdings. In addition, no slaves were listed in the household.

These pieces of information in and of themselves should be enough to at least warrant some caution in assigning ownership of the land, and they also point out some more inconsistencies in the description of the site.

Since we know that the land was not transferred from the government until 1858, that means that there was only a seven year time spanto the end of the Civil War (or at least until Wilsons Raid) when slaves would have been buried there. If the number of 400 graves seems overly large, consider if that amount of slaves died in only a seven year span! Something didnt add up.

Thats where Cousin Charles comes back into the conversation, and after Id mentioned to him what all Id found out, he recounted a recent conversation with one of the people associated with the administration of the park. It seems that when the park published that quarterly newsletter back in 1991, somehow what was accepted as the possible total number of workers at the furnaces400got transferred to how many gravesites there were. And no one knew how Saberts name became associated with it, aside from the (now dead) writer of the article.

Recent archeological research conducted by Dr. Jack Bergstresser has uncovered approximately 15 houses that were where slave workers had lived, and that the furnaces owner, Ninian Tannehill, had brought possibly 60 of his own slaves to the furnace as part of its initial work force.

So what does all this mean?

Well, to me a few things are clearthere are some unmarked graves on the Tannehill Park property, on land that was sold to George Oglesby (Oglesberry) in 1858. In 1991, a mistake was made by the author of a newsletter article in assigning the number of graves at the site when, in fact, no one had actually counted the gravesites, and no one had excavated them to determine exactly who could be buried in them. Although archaeologists have determined that slaves were part of the work force at the furnaces, Tannehill is the only owner definitely identified by name as supplying slaves to the work. Other slave owners obviously did, but there is no primary source information that has come to light to date that indicates that Sabert Oglesby II was a slave owner, nor that the land in question was ever his, and the only known source for this misidentification was also the source of the wrongly attributed number of graves on the property.

Could I be wrong about all this? Of course!

But the way historical research works is that you have to rely upon what is known, and work toward what is unknown. Conjecture is valid only so far as when it doesnt contradict facts, and when it is necessary to supply an educated guess, it should be noted as such.

It may very well be I am completely wrong, but the things I know right now point to a different conclusion, and one Im not willing to set aside without better evidence than Ive seen so far.

And what do I hope to gain from all this research? Nothing more than to ask that more research be done by those associated with the Park, and to respectfully dispute a notion that seems to have sprung up many years ago from nothing more than the imagination of one poorly informed person and has continued to be passed along as established fact.

In the interest of scholarship and truth, especially in a time when it has become so very easy for misinformation to spread quickly and perniciously around the world in seconds, it is important that we are diligent in making sure the record of our past is as accurate as possible.

UPDATE 1-10-09--Results! A few days ago, before I posted the above, I'd sent a recap of the information in an email to the Bibb County website administrator, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank her very much for taking the time to post all of the information as a separate page that will be linked back to the cemetery list. It's a welcome first step in setting the record straight!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:00 PM | Comments (15)

November 19, 2007

In the Mail...

Was minding my own bidness last week when I got a nice e-mail from a young lady named Rachel Patton with Turner Publishing asking if I'd like a complimentary copy of the book Historic Photos of Birmingham, by James Baggett, the head of the Archives Department at the Birmingham Public Library.

Apparently Ms. Patton hasn't heard that I shut this place down many years ago, since she wrote that she was sending the book for possible review consideration hereon. But hey, I'm a sucker for free stuff, especially picture books. So, I got Chet to come in from rewiring the transformer and let her know I'd be happy to receive the book and to offer my opinion.

A couple of days later, a big package was sitting at my place at the kitchen table, although I do wish I'd been looking for the shipment, because it apparently arrived a day earlier and sat on the front porch and got wet in the recent rains we had. Luckily, the book wasn't ruined, although it was a bit wavy around the edges.

The promotional blurb sent by Ms. Patton said, "This 10 x 10 book tell [sic] the pictorial narrative of Birmingham through culled-from-the-archives photography and informative text and captions."

Now most of you know I have a great affection for history and Birmingham and photos and historical photos of Birmingham, so I've got to tell you I'm already predisposed to give this thing a good review.

However.

I have to say that unless you are already well-steeped in Birmingham lore, you will probably be less than satisfied, unless you just like looking at old pictures for the sake of looking at old pictures. The captions are very short, and assume that the reader appreciates the history associated with place names such as East Lake, Avondale, Woodlawn, Ensley, or Lakeview, or Highland Avenue, or 1st Avenue and 20th Street, or with the names of the people such as Tutwiler and Jemison.

Each chapter is devoted to a different time period beginning from the City's founding in 1871 (although the earliest known photo is from 1873), and begins with a short introduction by Mr. Baggett. Now, again, these names and places are already familiar to me, and I dearly loved looking at the wealth of detail in these photos. But even if a picture IS worth a thousand words, photos this old, of people or places you might not know, means that a great deal of those words could just as well be in a foreign language.

I found myself longing for more exposition, even though I realize this isn't the point of the book. But in not providing a greater amount of textual clarification, it means that this book (or one of the 60 other similar titles offered by Turner) is destined to be limited in its appeal to the hometown crowd.

Second, although I appreciated the chapter breakdown by time period, within each chapter it seems as though more thought could have been directed at obvious groups of subjects. There are several photos of old motorcycles, for instance, that really begged to be more closely associated with each other. In another example, there are more than a few photos of the old St. Vincent's hospital and its staff. It seems a shame they weren't less randomly distributed--again, reading this as if I were a complete stranger to Birmingham, I might not have immediately understood they were related.

Another possible way of breaking down the subject was geographically. What was known in the old days as "The Birmingham District" was, and still is, a big, BIG area, and the randomness of the display of the pictures makes it difficult to grasp just how large of expanse of land is covered. I know it and appreciate it, but only because I'm already very familiar with where the locations are.

Having said all that, I still thoroughly enjoyed perusing the book. It really is amazing to see how quickly this old place sprung up from farmland to a real city. Another thing that's odd to me is just how big it looked. I don't know if it was the type of equipment used or what, but it's odd to look at photos from then and companion contemporary photos. The old grainy black and whites always look like they were taken in a huge metropolis, and the modern photos always make the place seem much smaller. And again, I just love looking at the details--the way a man wears his watch fob, the signs in the background, the piles of manure in the streets, the barely visible lettering on the fourth floor window, the old Studebakers and Nashes. Good stuff.

Another caveat, though. If you like old photos of Birmingham, it's really hard to go wrong by spending an afternoon browsing through the online digital collection of the BPL Archives. Many of the photos from the book are from this resource, and they are grouped and arranged and categorized in a way that makes gleaning the history and context of the photos much easier and more rewarding. The late (and perpetually mourned) Terminal Station gets its own section, even though I only recall seeing a glimpse of it once in the book. The book does present a short peek at Birmingham's once extensive network of public streetcar lines, but the website does it much more justice. And the Archives also maintains a blog site where they post recent updates to the collection.

All that's missing is that wonderful smell and portability of a book. Although it's worth remembering that these photos also exist in actual, real, holdable form. As someone who's made several treks across the park, I can attest that the Archives are a super place to spend time. The staff is helpful and friendly, and you can look through the old photos and clippings till your heart's content, and you can even order reproductions of just about anything for a nominal fee. One of my favorites is a reprint of O.V. Hunt's "Heaviest Corner on Earth" that I keep over in my history bookcase in the bedroom.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Historic Photos of Birmingham would be a good gift for anyone with a soft spot for Birmingham's photographic past, or anyone on your list who enjoys historic architecture. Just be aware that it's far from the whole story of this place, and that there are some companion resources that make reading it much more informative.

Photos of Birmingham.jpg

ISBN: 1596522542 / Publisher: Turner Publishing Company (KY) / Date: June 2006 / Page Count: 197

So there you go.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:52 AM | Comments (9)

July 03, 2007

On a more serious note.

I'll be at home tomorrow celebrating Independence Day. It's nice to have a day off, but it's worth remembering that had it not been for a brave few souls 231 years ago, you might be having to read this in English.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:46 PM | Comments (4)

June 21, 2007

Those archivists have been at it again...

Just dropped by the Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collection "weblog," (or "blog" as the teenagers call it) and see that they have recently added the 441-page first volume of A History of Birmingham and its environs: a narrative account of their historical progress, their people, and their principal interests, to their offerings. It was published in 1920 by George M. Cruikshank, and the job of scanning it fell to one Carole Castine. It's an interesting read, if you like this kind of thing.

Hard to beat that old time civic boosterism:

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The valley he goes on to use as a comparison? Mesopotamia, site of no small amount of interest even today.

Anyway, a host of information from 87 years ago, and thanks again to the folks over across the park who do such good work.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 1945

From the Marine Corps in Okinawa:

[...] Although America was acquainted with Okinawa in the early 1800s, for most Americans the small island nation went completely unobserved until the abrupt advent of World War II.

Situated on the southern approaches to Japan, the Ryukyu Island chain was geographically situated as to be virtually unavoidable in any American offensive strategy against mainland Japan. The inevitable soon became history when Okinawa became the arena for one of the most ferocious battles of the war. By June, 1944, the Japanese army arrived in force. Casualties mounted quickly as U.S. forces saturated military targets with bombs four months later.

In March, 1945, the first American troops landed on the Kerama Islands as the springboard for America's island leapfrogging strategy. Okinawa was next in line and, on April 1, 1945, the invasion began. After 11 weeks of fierce fighting, the battle of Okinawa was over June 20, 1945. Two months later Japan surrendered. Okinawa was one of the longest and hardest fought campaigns in the history of World War II. Total American battle casualties were estimated at 49,151, including 12,500 killed or missing. Japanese soldiers killed were about 60,000 while one-third of the Okinawan population, about 150,000 died in the "Typhoon of steel."

Because it was considered the key to the invasion of Japan, and because it is also considered a key geographical factor to the defense of the free world in the Pacific area, Okinawa now owns the nickname, "Keystone of the Pacific."

As relief funds, appropriated by the U.S. Congress, began to get pumped into Okinawa in 1946, the island began traveling the steady path to economic recovery. That same year, Okinawa set up its first general hospital, civilian newspaper, bank and courts. By 1950, the country had resumed its foreign trade lines and established a civil government system throughout the Ryukyu islands.

In 1951, a U.S.-Japanese peace treaty gave Americans complete administrative control of the Ryukyu for an indefinite period. By referring to the island as a "residual sovereignty," however, the United States still suggested recognition of Japan's basic ownership of the islands. In addition, the United States promised that, when international circumstances warranted, it would return administrative control of the chain to Japan.

Administrative authority of the Ryukyu Islands was transferred back to Japan May 15, 1972, and Okinawa became a prefectural district of Japan once again.

The island has been a favorite training area for the Marine Corps since post-war units were based here more than 40 years ago. Today, the Corps has eight different facilities on Okinawa to call home: Camps Gonsalves, Schwab, Hansen, Courtney, Lester, Foster, Kinser, and Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma. Beside a significant Marine Corps presence here, Okinawa is also home to a number of major Navy, Army and Air Force units and facilities.

Not to make too much out of it, but the next time a politician says we should withdraw from forward positions in the Middle East and operate out of Okinawa, the fact that anyone could even consider Okinawa as a base is that America took it by force, and have occupied it for 62 years. It certainly wasn't given to us out of the goodness of the Emperor's heart.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:44 AM | Comments (9)

June 08, 2007

Tennessee Goes Secesh...

...and the only American architect most Americans can name is born.

Via the Library of Congress, we find that June 8 seems to have a lot of stuff going on.

As a little brain-teaser, without looking on the Internets, just how many American architects can YOU name? (And obviously, if you're NOT American, how many famous architects from your country can you think of?)

And speaking of secession and Tennessee and such like, those wacky kids up in Vermont might want to read up on the the State of Franklin.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:26 AM | Comments (7)

June 06, 2007

. . . _

63 years have passed, but the memory of what took place should never die.

President Franklin Roosevelt address the nation via radio:

[...] Almighty God: our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day without rest - until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a countenance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons:

[...] I have also to announce to the House that during the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France. An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled. The obstacles that were constructed in the sea have not proved so difficult as was apprehended. The Anglo-American Allies are sustained by about 11,000 firstline aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of the battle. I cannot, of course, commit myself to any particular details. Reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the Commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen.

There are already hopes that actual tactical surprise has been attained, and we hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises during the course of the fighting. The battle that has now begun will grow constantly in scale and in intensity for many weeks to come, and I shall not attempt to speculate upon its course. This I may say, however. Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied Armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of the United States. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and his lieutenants, and als6 in the commander of the Expeditionary Force, General Montgomery. The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few days was splendid to witness. Nothing that equipment, science or forethought could do has been neglected, and the whole process of opening this great new front will be pursued with the utmost resolution both by the commanders and by the United States and British Governments whom they serve. [Editor's Note: Mr. Churchill added the following statement later in the day]: I have been at the centres where the latest information is received, and I can state to the House that this operation is proceeding in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Many dangers and difficulties which at this time last night appeared extremely formidable are behind us. The passage of the sea has been made with far less loss than we apprehended. The resistance of the batteries has been greatly weakened by the bombing of the Air Force, and the superior bombardment of our ships quickly reduced their fire to dimensions which did not affect the problem. The landings of the troops on a broad front, both British and American- -Allied troops, I will not give lists of all the different nationalities they represent-but the landings along the whole front have been effective, and our troops have penetrated, in some cases, several miles inland. Lodgments exist on a broad front.

The outstanding feature has been the landings of the airborne troops, which were on a scale far larger than anything that has been seen so far in the world. These landings took place with extremely little loss and with great accuracy. Particular anxiety attached to them, because the conditions of light prevailing in the very limited period of the dawn-just before the dawn-the conditions of visibility made all the difference. Indeed, there might have been something happening at the last minute which would have prevented airborne troops from playing their part. A very great degree of risk had to be taken in respect of the weather.

But General Eisenhower's courage is equal to all the necessary decisions that have to be taken in these extremely difficult and uncontrollable matters. The airborne troops are well established, and the landings and the follow-ups are all proceeding with much less loss-very much less-than we expected. Fighting is in progress at various points. We captured various bridges which were of importance, and which were not blown up. There is even fighting proceeding in the town of Caen, inland. But all this, although a very valuable first step-a vital and essential first step-gives no indication of what may be the course of the battle in the next days and weeks, because the enemy will now probably endeavour to concentrate on this area, and in that event heavy fighting will soon begin and will continue without end, as we can push troops in and he can bring other troops up. It is, therefore, a most serious time that we enter upon. Thank God, we enter upon it with our great Allies all in good heart and all in good friendship.


dday stripes.jpg

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2007

I believe...

...this particular theological argument was settled by St. Micturio at the Council of Ureter in 567CE.

At that meeting, the twelve bishops at the council agreed 11-1 (with St. Urea dissenting) after a very long discussion that it is indeed a product of Divine Providence, although in and of itself not the result of direct intervention, other than through the established natural laws that regulate all life functions. In essence (so to speak) the question was seen as not being one of if it is a result of Divine creation, (since indeed all things are His creation, including the self-perpetuating mechanism of life itself) but rather the extent of how far removed God was in the process.

The council also settled the matter that the pain associated with NOT going was obviously the work of Satan, as were embarrassing wet spots on light colored tunics, kidney stones, and that weird smell you get when you eat asparagus.

Left unsettled was the nature of the oddly satisfying post-shiver, i.e., if it constituted a visitation by unseen angelic or demonic beings, or was the result of small animals dwelling in the limbs having become disturbed and scurrying about.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2007

At ease.

arlington morning fog.jpg

ALONE AND FAR REMOVED

Alone and far removed from earthly care
The noble ruins of men lie buried here.
You were strong men, good men
Endowed with youth and much the will to live
I hear no protest from the mute lips of the dead.
They rest; there is no more to give.

So long my comrades,
Sleep ye where you fell upon the field.
But tread softly please
March o'er my heart with ease
March on and on,
But to God alone we kneel.

Audie Murphy



Photo caption and credit:
A foggy morning at Arlington National Cemetery.
Photo by: Nguyen Phan, ANC employee

To the family and friends of those who have given their lives in service to our nation, my thanks and prayers to you. I will be back Tuesday--all of you have a happy and safe holiday weekend.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:40 PM | Comments (1)

Drafty.

Yesterday I mentioned the newest set of government records placed online by Ancestry.com and my troubles in accessing any of it. Last night I was finally able to get everything working correctly, and found both of my grandfathers' World War I draft cards, and my dad's name on the muster roll for the USS Hancock.

So much other stuff to look at, too...

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:17 AM | Comments (4)

May 24, 2007

&!$^#

Sorry to be so brusque, but I noticed this article about Ancestry.com's posting of American military records that are free to view for a limited time (until this year's D-Day anniversary).

Being a fan of both researching family history and military history, I zipped over there and quickly found a link to my grandfather's WW1 draft card, clicked on it, and, well dern. You still have to register with them for the free look-see. Fine. Typed in my name and e-mail, clicked and got a note that someone was already using that e-mail address. Oh, yeahhhh.

I'd forgotten I had already signed up with them a couple of years back. Typed in what should have been my password.

No dice.

Grr.

Got them to send me my password, and the danged thing STILL WOULDN'T WORK!

Grr, grr, GRR!

Tried several more times, still couldn't come up with a combination that pleased the gatekeeper, and in frustration gave up and decided to redo everything. Used my work e-mail address, got a confirmation back, went and changed the inscrutable set of characters of the supplied username and password to something more easily rememberable, the computer then said that it was having a problem processing my new information, gave up and went BACK to the site and once more tried to get to that elusive draft card image. Used my newly renamed user name, hoping it would work, clicked, and the browser window shut down.

And now, it's a real mess and I get an error screen. I think the article caused more than just a few history buffs (and cheapskates) to overwhelm their servers.

Dern it all.

Y'know, maybe it's just me, but I would think that if I was going to unveil something like this, I'd have a pretty good idea that there might be several million people who'd want to take a look at it, and have some sort of plan for handling all that traffic. And even if I didn't have anything quite so spectacular, I still think I would update the way people access information on my site. And if I have registration, I think I would fix it to be relatively simple and not quite so frustrating.

Maybe it's just me.

UPDATE: Well, finally got back through to the military records--the long way--and clicked on the link to the image, got sent back to that login screen for freeloaders, signed in to the regular login with my new username and password, clicked it, and just as it was about to take me to the page, the browser window shut down again. In fairness, I think part of this is a problem with our security software here. Or maybe it's just me.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:56 AM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2007

And now for something compleatly different.

BASEBALL!

Kenny Smith e-mails with the following:

I've been asked to tell everyone I know -- because they need the meager traffic that I can produce -- that I sold some pics to espn.com so, if you like the baseball, or Rickwood Field, here ya are.

Caple is a fine writer, he's only held back a bit here by the photographer. There's a gallery with links at the top and the bottom of the page. Can't miss it.

Phew. Obligation fulfilled.

Actually the page one editors put it on their front page today. And as we all know, placement is everything.

Congrats to Kenny on the sale.

Good article, but it's probably worth noting that the vintage ads at Rickwood are not actually vintage ads, but recreations of vintage ads (as well as some faux ads intended to be recreations of period-typical ads) painted for the park prior to the filming of the 1994 movie Cobb. Additional info can be found at Wikipedia, including the name of the artist of the outfield ads, Ted Haigh. You might also recognize some of Mr. Haigh's work from the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou.

"I don't carry Dapper Dan, I carry Fop."

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:52 PM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2007

One of the great feats of American engineering.

May 10, 1869!

Officials and workers of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railways met on Promontory Summit, in Utah Territory to drive in the Golden Spike on May 10, 1869. This spike symbolized completion of the first transcontinental railroad, an event which joined the nation from coast to coast and reduced a journey of four or more months to just one week. [...]

It would be difficult to overestimate the impact this event had on the United States. An image-rich site that's worth exploring is this one--the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum.

Another historical event that may or may not be worth mentioning, today marks the anniversary of the capture of Jefferson Davis. Derided for trying to escape capture by dressing up like a woman, his wife wrote a huffy letter to a friend in the Lincoln administration attempting to take up for him, but it doesn't help her case any when she was the one who told the soldiers who captured them that the person with her--who just happened to be wearing women's outer clothing--was her mother.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:52 AM | Comments (2)

May 09, 2007

Join, or Die

On May 9, 1754,

Join, or Die, considered the first American political cartoon, was printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette. The impetus for the cartoon, which is believed to have been devised by Benjamin Franklin, was concern about increasing French pressure along the western frontier of the colonies.

I hope the estimable Mr. Franklin does not mind a bit of copyright infringement--

join_or_die.jpg

Pertinent for when we were British subjects wary of French depredations, and for the festivities that were to come down the road 22 years after it was published.

And still pertinent today.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:49 PM | Comments (2)

May 08, 2007

Parallels?

A disputed province, sectarian religious violence amongst people who are ostensibly of the same religion, terrorism funded as part of a larger proxy war--Afghanistan? Iraq? Kosovo?

No, Northern Ireland.

I noticed this article about the recent decision of the parties involved to work together as part of a longer peace process, a process that has now been going on for ten years, which followed a much longer time of periodic warfare between Catholics Protestants that has gone on with varying intensity since at least 1609 and the creation of the plantation of Ulster.

As always, you have to use a lot of caution when you attempt to compare one thing to another, especially when it comes to armed conflicts, but it is interesting to see just how difficult it can be to quell turmoil of this sort, even when the people involved share a common language, land, and history. And it's worth noting, too, that no matter how long and bitter the conflict, there is hope that it actually can be resolved.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2007

A whole lot better thing to celebrate...

...and you don't have to hang out with a silly bunch of ribbon-carrying Commies prancing around a pole--On May 1, 1931,

with the press of a button in Washington, D.C., President Herbert Hoover turned on the lights of the Empire State Building. This event officially opened the edifice, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street in New York City, to the public. At 102 stories, it reigned as the world's tallest skyscraper until 1974.

In 1929, a corporation which included Alfred E. Smith (former Governor of New York) and John Jacob Raskob (financial captain behind the growth of General Motors), and others formed to construct the Empire State Building. Excavation began in January of the following year, construction commenced in March, and Smith laid its cornerstone in September. The steel framework rose at a rate of 4 1/2 stories per week. The building's construction was completed in a phenomenal one year and 45 days.

Upon its completion, the 1454-foot Empire State Building became an icon for all things New York. Its Art Deco lobby presented 10,000 square feet of marble and its mast, currently a TV tower, was originally intended as a mooring for dirigibles. It has been featured in scores of stories and films, perhaps the most the most famous being the 1933 production of King Kong starring Fay Wray.[...]

What a building.

Official site can be found here.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2007

Fascinating

Yesterday I found a little gem via Cox and Forkum, namely a collection of World War II era political cartoons by none other than Dr. Seuss.

I'm still looking through them all, but a few things jump out as recurring themes of his work--the dangers of American isolationism, the craven nature and not so latent anti-Semitism of the America Firsters (and especially that of Charles Lindbergh), the damage caused to morale by constant fault-finding and nit-picking, the ineptitude of Congress, and contempt for both the weeping naysayers who said all was lost and we should surrender, AND the overconfident arrogance of those who thought our enemies were weak or disinterested and victory would be as simple as declaring it so. (Oh, and as for the ink-stained wretch crowd, this.)

One thing quite obvious from the cartoons is that Dr. Seuss was much more concerned (not without good reason, obviously) about the rise of Hitler, while discounting Japan as a power. At least in the early cartoons, you get the sense he believed that the Japanese were a reluctant ally of Hitler, and not nearly so weasely as even Mussolini. The same artistic arguments he made for reasons to fear Hitler, especially his rapacious appetite for invading neighboring countries, don't seem to have registered when it came to Japan and their brutal subjugation of China and the countries of Southeast Asia throughout the later 1930s. His attitude did shift somewhat after the US entered the war, and in one particularly graphic "war memorial" cartoon , he excoriates a man whose name I've never come across--John Haynes Holmes. Seuss, who is seen by many today as pacifistic himself based on The Butter Battle Book, was none too pleased with the pacifism of men such as Holmes, and even Gandhi.

In any case, it's a good way to spend several hours. Even though it's inadvisable to try to draw too many parallels between past events and those current, they are instructive if nothing else because they point out the nature of man has always seemed to either ignore evil or accomodate it, with the inevitable result.


My goodness--you think all our modern lefty cartoonists are bold and transgressive, let's see one of them try this gag in today's environment. It's not racist, although it uses the language of the racist as a dig against him, but I don't think you'd see anyone be able to accept that explanation today. If you look back through his cartoons, Giesel was very put out with prejudiced industrialists who ignored the large number of black workers to fill vacancies in war production factories, but I have a feeling that his actual views would have been ignored in today's upside down logicworld in light of his choice of wording.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:33 AM | Comments (4)

April 19, 2007

Speaking of which...

As Nate notes in the comments in the post below, today marks a special anniversary in America: On April 19, 1775

British and American soldiers exchanged fire in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord. On the night of April 18, the royal governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, commanded by King George III to suppress the rebellious Americans, had ordered 700 British soldiers, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and Marine Major John Pitcairn, to seize the colonists' military stores in Concord, some 20 miles west of Boston.

A system of signals and word-of-mouth communication set up by the colonists was effective in forewarning American volunteer militia men of the approach of the British troops. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride" tells how a lantern was displayed in the steeple of Christ Church on the night of April 18, 1775 as a signal to Paul Revere and others. [...]

At Lexington Green, the British were met by 77 American Minute Men led by John Parker. At the North Bridge in Concord, the British were confronted again, this time by 300 to 400 armed colonists, and were forced to march back to Boston with the Americans firing on them all the way. By the end of the day, the colonists were singing "Yankee Doodle" and the American Revolution had begun. Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789 includes a Time Line of the events that followed.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2007

April 18, 1906

At 5:12 A.M. on April 18, 1906, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck San Francisco . With thousands of un-reinforced brick buildings and closely-spaced wooden Victorian dwellings, the city was poorly prepared for the quake. Collapsed buildings, broken chimneys, and a shortage of water due to broken mains led to several large fires that soon coalesced into a city-wide holocaust. The fire raged for three days, sweeping over nearly a quarter of the city, including the entire downtown area.

In the early 21st Century, a vast conspiracy was discovered in which Karl Rove, George Bush, and Halliburton were named as prime suspects in a scheme to make California drop off into the Pacific Ocean. GOOGLE IT!

Over 3,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of the disaster. For those who survived, the first few weeks were hard; as aid poured in from around the country, thousands slept in tents in city parks, and citizens were asked to do their cooking in the street. A severe shortage of public transportation made a taxicab out of anything on wheels. Numerous businesses relocated temporarily to Oakland, and many refugees found lodgings outside the city. Most of the cities of central California were badly damaged. However, reconstruction proceeded at a furious pace, and by 1908, San Francisco was well on the way to recovery. [...]

Additional information from the USGS about the quake and its aftermath can be found here.

On the USGS site, it notes the estimated combined property value of the loss due to both fire and earthquake was 400,000,000 1906 dollars. That would have an equivalent purchasing power in current dollars of approximately $9,247,706,422. An interesting bit of information can also be found here, regarding Senate debate on the manner and amount of aid to be rendered by the Federal government to San Francisco.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2007

Mr. Seward retorts:

"Yeah, well who's laughing NOW, big boy!"

On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward agreed to purchase Alaska for 7.2 million dollars. Critics attacked Seward for the secrecy surrounding the deal with Russia, which came to be known as "Seward's folly." They mocked his willingness to spend so much on "Seward's icebox" and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden." [...]

According to this site, "$101221757.32 in the year 2006 has the same "purchase power" as $7200000 in the year 1867." A hundred and one million sounds like quite a bargain, especially if you read down this list of export values of Alaskan products.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2007

Shorpy

Thanks to Skillzy for finding an intriguing photoblog that goes by the name of Shorpy.

And this is Shorpy, too.

A hundred years ago wasn't a great time to be a kid.

Lew Wickes Hine's other photos of Bessie Mine can be found here on one of the Library of Congress websites, and here is where the mine was located. As you can see, it's actually closer to West Jefferson than Dora. If you follow that yellow road marked Flat Top Road, you will see it passes over a river, and there's a railroad trestle adjacent to it. Long time ago (although not quite a hundred years), my dad used to take me fishing at the foot of that trestle.

I never did catch anything.


Oh, by the way--one of the photos has a picture of a kid carrying what are called "spragging irons."

In case you ever wondered, this is where I get the slang term I use occasionally for when something gets jammed up--"a sprag in the wheel." Basically it's an iron rod you poke through the spokes of a wheel to keep it from turning.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:59 AM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2007

Happy Birthday!

On March 16, 1802

Congress approved legislation establishing the United States Military Academy at West Point, one of the oldest military service academies in the world. Strategically located on the west bank of the Hudson River 50 miles north of New York City, West Point has been continuously occupied by U.S. troops since January 20, 1778. George Washington established his headquarters there in 1779. In 1780, Benedict Arnold, then in command of the post, tried unsuccessfully to betray it to the British. [...]

More from the official website, here.

Best thing about West Point?

Female Cheerleaders! And they don't wear combat boots! (At least not all the time.)

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2007

Worse than being hoist by your own petard...

...is probably getting hung on your own gallows.

But then you figure Haman had it coming to him, acting the way he did.

Best wishes for a fun and festive Purim tomorrow to all of my Hebrew neighbors and bloggers!

(And no, this wasn't mentioned just so I could maybe get in on some of that mishloach manot action. Not much, anyway.)

As for my weekend, there is all kinds of stuff going on that I have little knowledge of, although I do seem to remember that Rebecca has soccer practice tomorrow, and I am going to once again try to get my oil changed in the Volvo. I feel very ashamed of myself--I checked it the other day and was 2 1/2 quarts low. I suppose I could just let it continue to go like that and it'll eventually change itself, but I don't recommend that. AND next week--as I said before, I've got jury duty, so Possumblog will be on hiatus until I'm released. All of you go and visit other places and see what they're doing instead. Just remember to come back and don't abandon me!! OH, and a certain East Carolinian donated some questions for the Thursday Three, so DO come back for that.

Anyway, all of you have a great weekend, and I'll see you again sometime next week, maybe.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2007

The perfect word for bloggers!

This via famed NASA scientist and Spitfire pilot Steevil, who sends along this:

Omphaloskepsis

According to the website--

(om-fuh-lo-SKEP-sis) noun: Contemplation of one's navel.

[From Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination). Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), despise, espionage, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]

I now go to contemplate.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

February 27, 2007

Heh.

I just took this test that I saw over at IMAO. Thank goodness I paid attention for five minutes one day in history class, and I can continue to be eligible to leave comments! One day I'll even start leaving them!




You Are a Smart American



You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.

Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.

Are You a Dumb American?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:51 AM | Comments (2)

February 23, 2007

Wow.

Declaration of Independence for $2.48

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A rare, 184-year-old copy of the Declaration of Independence found by a bargain hunter at a Nashville thrift shop is being valued by experts at about 100,000 times the $2.48 purchase price.

Michael Sparks, a music equipment technician, is selling the document in an auction March 22nd at Raynors' Historical Collectible Auctions in Burlington, North Carolina. The opening bid is $125,000 and appraisers have estimated it could sell for nearly twice that.

Sparks found his bargain last March while browsing at Music City Thrift Shop in Nashville. When he asked the price on a yellowed, shellacked, rolled-up document, the clerk marked it at $2.48. [...]

A little known fact is that the copies were made on an IBM Selectric with a special ball that makes those long-esses that look life effs-- f.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:23 PM | Comments (2)

That Zac--such a show off.

February 23, 1847

United States General Zachary Taylor was victorious over Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in the Battle of Buena Vista on February 23, 1847. Santa Anna's loss at Buena Vista, coupled with his defeat by General Winfield Scott at the Battle of Cerro Gordo in April of that year, secured U.S. victory in the Mexican American War. [...]

Samuel McNeil, an Ohio shoemaker who ventured to California, tells of General Taylor's bravery on the battlefield in his book McNeil's Travels in 1849, To, Through and From the Gold Regions, in California:

I must mention one circumstance that happened there, which shows the extraordinary coolness of Gen. Z. Taylor in battle. He saw a small cannon ball coming directly towards his person. Instead of spurring "Old Whitey" out of its way, he coolly rose in his very short stirrups and permitted the ball to pass between his person and the saddle. Col. Wyncoop has mentioned this circumstance in his book, and if he lies wilfully [sic], you may be sure that the shoemaker lies unwilfully [sic].

You know, I don't think I would be quite so sanguine were a small cannonball coming directly towards my person. Especially that particular part of my person.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2007

And you thought switching from Daylight Savings Time was a pain.

From the Library of Congress:

George Washington, the first president of the United States, was born on February 22, 1732. Americans celebrate his birthday along with Abraham Lincoln's on "Washington's Birthday" the Monday before Washington's and after Lincoln's birthday. How do we really know when George Washington was born? Tobias Lear, Washington's secretary and close friend, gave the world a clue.

Lear lived with George and Martha Washington at Mt. Vernon, and he helped the Revolutionary War general organize his papers. On February 14, 1790, Lear wrote that the President's "birth day" was on the 11th of February Old Style, referring to the Julian Calendar. Washington was born 20 years prior to the 1752 introduction of the Gregorian Calendar (intended to more accurately reflect a solar year). When the Julian Calendar was "corrected" to the Gregorian Calendar, February 11th became February 22nd. [...]

Well, Happy Birthday, whenever it is.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:22 AM | Comments (2)

January 26, 2007

The Churchill Wit

It's been a while since we've had a selection from one of the most prized items from my handy stack of desk references, so I thought I would turn to page 68 for this bit of wisdom:

War is a game with a good deal of chance in it, and, from the little I have seen of it, I should say that nothing in war goes right except by accident.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2007

And in other history news...

Steevil, famed NASA rocket scientist and elbow bender, says it's time for a celebratory meal of sheep guts and whiskey wiskie!

The occasion?

Well, upon this date in 1759 was born one Robert Burns. As this entry from The Writer's Alamanac notes (scroll down to the second item), he got his start the old-fashioned way--trying to impress chicks.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:41 PM | Comments (2)

It was a lot bigger then.

On January 25, 1890...

...police cleared a path through a cheering crowd for reporter Nellie Bly as she stepped off a train in New York just 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds after setting sail east to prove she could circle the globe in less than 80 days.

Bly, born Elizabeth Cochrane, challenged the fictional record of Phileas T. Fogg, hero of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, at the suggestion of her employer, the New York World. [...]

More on Miss Bly may be found here.


UPDATE! Dr. Smith sends along this bit of information about the indomitable Nellie Bly:

Ms. Bly reported that the rest of the world hates us and that she would have made the trip sooner if not for President Bush.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:13 AM | Comments (3)

January 18, 2007

History!

I don't know how I missed this, but I didn't realize until I read it in one of our local weeklies that the Birmingham Public Library has a online digital archive, full of old photos and newspaper clippings! And not only that, they've been keeping a blog for the past two years!

I am such a slow dunce.

I love looking at old downtown photos (I even have a copy of the Heaviest Corner on Earth photo in one of my bookcases at home) and this site is a grand way to spend several hours lost in the past. There are the obligatory old buildings, and then there's stuff such as the amazing Rucker Agee map collection and a retrospective of Birmingham's early streetcar system.

And an interesting aside--even with the newfound clamor to get streetcars again installed in major cities, there is some resistance. Oddly enough, this also seemed to have been a problem at the changing of the 19th to the 20th Century, but the delights of inexpensive public transport were trumpeted in a way that boosters of today might want to consider, seeing as how it appears temptations of a carnal nature have always been a particularly effective marketing technique.

Also, from the "Y'Learn Something New Every Day" File, I was looking through the section on the Alabama Theater, and came across this clipping, detailing a bombing at the theater the evening of December 26, 1932. Now I've lived here all my life, and have heard lots of stories about the Alabama, and thought I had a pretty good grip on various sad chapters of the town's past, but this is one thing I have never heard about. And not only THAT, but this was the SECOND time the theater had been bombed according to the article, the first happing on October 15, 1932. No indication is given what the motive might have been, and there are no other clippings online to look at, but it's certainly an odd thing. Given the time, it makes you wonder if it was some kind of labor dispute or the work of Red anarchists or a beef with the owner or something, but I suppose that's something to find out about.

Boy, history is interesting.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:42 PM | Comments (2)

January 17, 2007

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that celebrity birthdays...

...are just a bit on the stale side, especially for such a cutting edge blog as this.

But you know, there are celebrities, and then there are CELEBRITIES.

SO, Happy Birthday, Benny!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:57 PM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2007

Not news.

Reading diet articles could be unhealthy

Although this is supposedly new research, one might recall that this information was long ago established by a prominent American scientist, Mark Twain: "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2006

Nsse

A brief but excellent post on happenings on this date back in 1944, with thanks to Dr. Reynolds for the heads-up.

You know, it has become quite popular amongst stupid people to attempt to make political hay by the specious method of comparing the amount of time we have been engaged in Iraq to the amount of time we spent fighting World War II. It might be worth considering that in December of 1944, American involvement in the Second World War had already lasted three years.

Now maybe I'm wrong, but I don't recall reading commentary from citizens at the time that the war was going badly because we'd already been there almost twice as long as we'd been involved in the First World War--which from the official declaration of war on April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918, was about a year and seven months or so. We didn't fight either of those wars alone--in both cases the English and the French had been slaughtered for years before we got on the Continent. And in the case of the Second, the world had been at arms years before September 1939, with the Japanese annexing Manchuria in 1931 and invading China in 1937, with Germany taking the Sudetenland and annexing Austria in 1938, and with Italy invading Ethiopia in 1935.

Worth considering also the war that came on the heels of WWII, Korea. We're still fighting that one, you know. There is no peace treaty--only an armistice. It's a hot war even if there's not that much shooting. A 53-year-old quagmire, if we use the term the way our brothers in the Fourth Estate tend to use it.

All that to say I believe we'd be a bit further along in our current conflict if we had a few more people willing to say "Nuts" to our enemies, and not worry too much if large amounts of said enemies are sent to greet their Maker.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2006

A phrase everyone needs to know.

"Done flung a craving on..."

The Ledbetters are said to be jealous that the Clower boy got credit for the saying.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:42 AM | Comments (3)

December 11, 2006

December 11, 1919

From the Library of Congress American Memories collection--

On December 11, 1919, the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama erected a monument to the boll weevil, the pest that devastated their fields but forced residents to end their dependence on cotton and to pursue mixed farming and manufacturing. A beetle measuring an average length of six millimeters, the insect entered the United States via Mexico in the 1890s and reached southeastern Alabama in 1915. It remains the most destructive cotton pest in North America.

The infestation led to the introduction of the peanutan alternative crop popularized by the Tuskegee Institute's George Washington Carver. Peanut cultivation not only returned vital nutrients to soils depleted by cotton cultivation, but also proved a successful cash crop for local farmers. [...]

More on the history of "The City of Progress" may be found here, and here is a photo of the monument.

boll-weevil-monument.jpg

On this great day, the Axis of Weevil offer our own heartfelt salute to voracious insect pests and the beneficial changes they have wrought.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:35 PM | Comments (4)

December 07, 2006

Oh, and speaking of Br'er Jimmah...

...I noted in all my ramblings through the various rhetorical hotspots on the Internets that one of the assertions in his newest book is that Christian and Muslim Arabs have been present in the Palestine Metropolitan Statistical Area since Roman times.

Might be worth noting that Mohammed started receiving his visions in 610 and didn't stop getting them until his death in 632. Western Roman rule of Judea/Syria Palestine ended in the year 330, when control of the area passed to the Eastern Roman empire of Byzantium. Byzantium lost control of Palestine in 613 to the Persians (who weren't Arabs, since they were Persians, and weren't Muslims, since Islam was just then in the process of being revealed), who held it until they were defeated by the Caliph Umar in 638, who really was one of your full-bore Religion of Peace fellows.

Anyway, this only to point out that it's a stretch to say that Muslim Arabs managed to walk around in the Holy Lands during "Roman" times, unless they figured out a way to travel back in time. Which I suppose is possible in Jimmah's world.

But still, if someone with as weak a grasp of this particular time period as I do can figure this out, it makes you wonder if Jimmah has always been such a high-quality igmoranus, or if it's simply the result of getting hit in the head by too many dropped hammers at those Habitat For Humanity homesites.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Today marks the 171st natal anniversary of one Samuel Clemens, of Missouri. Typesetter, telegrapher, riverboat pilot, newspaperman, and author of several amusing tales, some of which were bound and sold to an unsuspecting public.

The reports of his death, alas, are not the least bit exaggerated.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:43 PM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2006

I sure hope the mother...

...had a C-section: Papers shed light on birth of basketball

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2006

Thank you.

Although this little corner of the web tends toward being nothing but a highly organized collection of silliness, every once in a while it is necessary to put that away and be serious about serious matters.

Saturday, November 11 is the day we have set aside to honor the men and women who have served this country in times of war, and recognize the sacrifices they have made. They fight in order to allow the rest of us the security and peace to explore and create and enjoy the benefits of life in a free country.

There is nothing I can say to adequately express my gratitude to those who have served, and to those who are in active service now, for the gift you give to my family and me of being able to lead a quiet and comfortable life. You are each in my prayers. I ask God to protect you and your families, for Him to strengthen you in times of fear, and to guide us in seeing to it that you are always led with wisdom and honor.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:05 PM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2006

October 24, 1861

America gets smaller--today marks the anniversary of the completion of the United States' first transcontinental telegraph line. A reprint of an 1881 article in The Californian magazine detailing the construction and the first messages can be found here, and if you like stuff like this, it is a great read.

Also, a neat little Java applet that lets you type in a message and hear it replayed in Morse code.

Pretty neat stuff--no telling what you could do with electronic binary code.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:01 AM | Comments (4)

October 19, 2006

October 19, 1781

A pretty good day, unless your last name happens to be Cornwallis:

On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, giving up almost 8000 men and any chance of winning the Revolutionary War. Cornwallis had marched his army into the Virginia port town earlier that summer expecting to meet British ships sent from New York. The ships never arrived.

In early October, some 17,000 American and French troops led by Generals George Washington and Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau surrounded British-occupied Yorktown. Off the coast, French Admiral Franois de Grasse strategically positioned his naval fleet to control access to the town via the Chesapeake Bay and the York River.

The Franco-American siege exhausted the British army's supplies of food and ammunition. With no hope for escape, Cornwallis agreed to the terms of Washington's Articles of Capitulation, signing the document at Moore House on October 19. Hours after the surrender, the general's defeated troops marched out of Yorktown to the tune "The World Turned Upside Down." [...]

Just remember, if the British had won, you'd probably have to be reading Possumblog in English.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:49 PM | Comments (2)

October 04, 2006

You know who you don't hear a lot about?

Rutherford B. Hayes. And strikingly enough, you don't hear a lot of people naming their kids Rutherford.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:33 AM | Comments (10)

September 29, 2006

No, silly!

Jury convicts Arab officer for soliciting sex from women

Not that kind of Arab!

"Arab" happens to be the name of the town, and is pronounced the way you think Southerners would stereotypically pronounce it-- Ā-răb.

The story I've heard is back when the town was big enough for a post office, the postmaster-to-be, Tuttle Thompson, put his son's first name down as a choice for the town name, and by some bureaucratic bit of spelling correction at the Postal Service office in Washington, it was changed from Arad to Arab.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2006

The Churchill Wit

From my favorite Little Red Book, this from page 81:

Upon receiving an honorary degree at the University of Miami, Mr. Churchill remarked:

I am surprised that in my later life I should have become so experienced in taking degrees, when as a schoolboy I was so bad at passing examinations.

In fact, one might almost say that no one ever passed so few examinations and received so many degrees.

From this, a superficial thinker might argue that the way to get the most degrees is to fail in the most examinations.

February, 1946

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2006

24 Seconds

Well, I'll be. I always kinda wondered, but never figured it out. But now I know.

And you can, too!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:34 PM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2006

Did You Look At Your Garters This Morning?

Was perusing the Library of Congress' American Memories website, and found a silly bit of mid-1920s social commentary about advertising.

"All Wrong" by Richard Connell is a short piece of farcical fiction which pokes fun at posters on New York City's subways. The author shows how subway ads stimulate feelings of fear and social insecurity in those who read them.

You can start reading it here.

I'll admit I had never heard of Richard Connell before, but according to his Wikipedia entry, he was quite the well-known sort, and was even nominated for an Academy Award for his story that was used for Capra's Meet John Doe. In fact, he wrote a BUNCH of stories--it seems his 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game" was the most enduring, though. Eight different movies used it, the latest being Lethal Woman in 1989. 1987's Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity sounds like a good one, too.

Anyway, I have a meeting to attend now, so all of you amuse yourselves with the amazing variety of stuff out there.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2006

More Mustin!

Frequent commenter Stan the Gummint Man noted in the first post of the morning that the famous character actor Burt Mustin never seemed to age. As I mentioned in my reply, I could never remember seeing him as a young man--every role he's ever had has seemingly been that of a mild old man.

Obviously, yet another opportunity to not do what I'm supposed to be doing!

As for not ever being young, that might have something to do with the fact that his first movie role came at age 67. Also noticed on IMDb that he'd attended Pennsylvania Military College.

AND, sure enough--the school still exists, although today it's known as Widener University. They have a nice collection of photos, including one of a YOUNG Cadet Mustin. Although, I do have to say he didn't look particularly youthful, even in his youth.

Anyway, quite a listing of information about a fine old gentleman.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:40 PM | Comments (1)

July 25, 2006

Fun Auburn History!

I got an e-mail from Kenny Smith this morning, who noted that he'd managed to snag a nice bit of Auburniana over at Reed Books--a blue pennant with the Auburn name on it, along with the old Alabama Polytechnic Institute seal.

Kenny wondered when people started calling the college located in Auburn "Auburn" rather than "A.P.I." or "A&M" or whatever, and I got to wondering myself. I told Kenny I figured the usage probably predated the official name change in 1959 by several years, but still, there's nothing like doing some research.

SO, off to the Auburn University Digital Library, where they have all kinds of good stuff available online. First stop was the photos, where I found a couple that seemed to indicate the interchangeability of Auburn and A.P.I was relatively old, such as this one of some guys loitering at the train station. As you can see from the modern caption that quotes a book written in 1901--

[...] A seasoned conductor on the Atlanta & West Point line might have doubted this picture. "I believe they is wuss than Injuns!" such a conductor told Professor James P.C. Southall, who was taking his first ride to Auburn and a teaching job there in 1901. "They don't mean no harm, they's jes' full of life an' up to all kinds of devilment from mornin' to night, and at night too. They never wait for the train to stop, but climbs on board and jumps off again. . . Folks say Auburn's the bes' all-'roun school in these parts, not excep'in the University at Tuscaloosa or even Georgia Tech in Atlanta. . ." (Quotation reprinted from Southall's Memoirs of The Abbots of Old Bellevue with the permission of the University of Virginia.)

--it appears that even by 1901 or so, "Auburn" seemed to be common enough for the train conductor to use it when talking about the school, rather than the town.

But an even better source might be the yearbooks--Auburn has a nice online collection of Glomeratas, including one from 1897.

There are probably many pages where it has similar language, but if you look at this page from the athletic section and read all the way down close to the bottom, you will see this quote:

"In looking back through all these seasons of good and bad luck, it may not be difficult to pick out a team that would well represent Auburn's development in football [...]"

(coached by none other than John Heisman, Ed.), and if you flip through to the following page, it has similar wording about the baseball team.

Another quote of interest can be found on this page, which not only uses the name "Auburn," but also gives us some insight on the students enrolled there:

"The average Auburn cadet is 19 years, 1 month and 10 days old, is 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall, and weighs 144 3/4 pounds. The average co-ed. is 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 109 pounds, and as to their age--well, for fear of trouble, we will leave that to be guessed." [...]

Heh. Indeed.

As I told Kenny, I think it's probably a pretty safe assumption that people have been using Auburn as the name of the school for a long, LONG time.

One place I also decided to look was the collection of old football programs, some dating back to 1938. None of them say anything other than "Auburn," and there's not an A.P.I. seal anywhere amongst them.

To spark a bit of controversy, many people express confusion over the term "War Eagle" and Auburn's official team name, Tigers. Want to make an Auburn fan mad? Say something like, "Boy, those War Eagles suck." They'll ignore the insult part and jump on you to correct you-- "HEY! We're the TIGERS! "War Eagle" is a battle cry!" or somesuch. Not that I have EVER done such a thing...

Anyway, what caught my eye was this program from the 1938 game against Birmingham-Southern. Look down there at the bottom--"The War Eagles."

Oops.

I think this was supposed to be the name of the program--The War Eagle--because it was corrected in subsequent programs, such as this cute one from the Mississippi State game. After the '38 season, it looks like they dropped that name for the more prosaic "Official Program" moniker.

To leave you with a final mystery, did Marilyn Monroe ever visit Auburn?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)

June 15, 2006

A mind is a terrible thing.

Weird what you think of sometimes. I was just now sitting here and a pang of nostalgia thumped me when, for some reason, I thought about those old black spherical metal kerosene lanterns they used to set out when they were doing street work. The looked like the fused round bombs that Commie anarchists and the Spy Vs. Spy guys were all the time throwing at each other.

Anyway, I don't know what made me think of those lanterns, but I remember seeing them as a little kid and thinking they looked really cool. I figured they'd be easy to find on the Internets, but I've looked for several minutes using several combinations of kerosene and round and lamp and road and warning, but came up empty, which is unusual. Aaaah--but then I searched on kerosene flare, and found out these things are called "Toledo flares." Also called smudge pots (as I later found out--thank goodness for eBay), many were made by the Toledo Pressed Steel Company (among others) and the company even had a Supreme Court case about patent infringement (I think--it required reading and that makes my head hurt). As you can imagine, there are collectors who know all about them, and the company was around at least until 1986, as this picture from Toledo's Attic indicates. Here's an ad from 1944 about their products (again, via eBay).

Don't know if they're still in business or not--how about it, Toledo?

(I love that Internets.)

UPDATE: Well, would you look at that. Apparently SOMEone is still making them. Some here as well.

Ahh--the lamp history guys have it--they ARE still being made, by a company called Fisher-Barton in North Carolina, but wouldn't you know it, the Chinese have a knock-off!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Such a thrill.

Well, not really, but still an odd little feeling. I was just now making some copies, and as I was idly standing beside the copier, I nosed around in the supply cabinet next to it.

Hmm.

Pens. Tape. Paper. Dymo label maker.

It's been in there forever, but something made me want to mess around with it today. The first clicksqueeze--gosh, do you remember when having a label-maker was the most exciting thing in school? I had a tiny plastic one from Radio Shack--just like this one on eBay--even though it was small, it made regular sized labels, and I labelled everything I owned. Even better was when you got to help the teacher make labels, and they had the BIG chrome one!

There is just something about the act of rotating that wheel and squeezing that lever and seeing those magical white letters pop out the end--it's slow, and the lables are unattractive, but for some reason the whole process is more fun than it should be, and it's something that I think few children today get to experience. Like dialing a phone, or only being able to watch three channels on television.

I did a bit of looking around--figuring this handy gadget had been around since Edison, but I was surprised to find out the company only got started in 1958, and from what I can tell, they still make a version similar to the one that they first started out with.

Now then, I'm going to go label my lunchbox. And my HR Puffinstuff binder.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:48 AM | Comments (4)

June 06, 2006

June 6, 1944

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

SOLDIERS, SAILORS AND AIRMEN OF THE ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United States have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Knowing how this crusade eventually turned gives many of a certain political stripe the false idea about the rightness of that cause, versus the rightness of conflicts that inevitably followed. It was indeed right, but victory was not assured simply because it was just, as we figure justness. But for some crucial miscalculations, the effort could have turned into a rout, and set back the eventual defeat of Germany by years--or possibly even allowed them the breathing room required to sue for peace on other than unconditional terms. Eisenhower understood that from the center of the conflict, the future was less than certain, and thus penned this in the event that the invasion did not work:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Harve area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

Providence allowed a victory against savagery 62 years ago, and we should be grateful for that. But the world remains a place full of evil men intent on doing evil--may we never overlook, placate, nor accomodate that evil. And may we be willing to call it evil when we see it.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:33 AM | Comments (6)

May 26, 2006

Well, that's pretty darned cool.

Via famous Rhode Island Red breeder and NASA rocket scientist Steevil, this story from his alma mater: RIMAP, URI discover four more Revolutionary War shipwrecks in Newport Harbor

Nifty article about the discovery of part of a squadron of British ships that were scuttled to block entry to Newport. Items of interest (at least to me):

[...] “As is the case with many eighteenth century shipwrecks, the newly discovered vessels were pinned to the bottom of Newport Harbor with their own ballast stones,” Mather said. “Over time, a complex series of biological, chemical and physical processes broke down the shipwrecks, leaving ballast piles onto which artifacts including cannons fell and below which there is almost certainly well—preserved sections of the ships’ lower hulls.”

According to the historical detective work conducted by Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project Director Kathy Abbass, the British sunk the transports to protect their stronghold in Newport against a French fleet that sailed into Narragansett Bay in July and August of 1778. The ships were sunk so they would act as a barrier against a French bombardment and amphibious landing in Newport.

Abbass said that one of the sunken ships was the Lord Sandwich, which had originally been called Endeavour and which was the ship that the famous explorer Capt. James Cook used on his first voyage of discovery to the South Pacific in 1768.

Previous to this discovery, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project had found two other shipwrecks in Newport Harbor. The six ships together means that Rhode Island can now boast that it is home to the largest fleet of Revolutionary War shipwrecks in the world. [...]

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2006

For those who believe--

--that Supreme Court decisions are inviolable and should never be overturned, from the Library of Congress website, the anniversary of a case that at the time a sizable portion of the electorate thought was just fine and dandy, and not just the ones south of the Mason-Dixon.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

HEY KIDS! What time is it!?

Steevil (who is awfully busy at the keyboard today) ALSO wants to know how many of you regular Possumblog readers remember Howdy Doody, prompted by news of the passing of bandleader and musician Lew Anderson, who played Clarabell the Clown.

Howdy Doody was a bit before my time, but the local television imitators of the format, such as "Cousin Cliff" Holman , Bozo, and Neal "Sergeant Jack" Miller are a strong part of my childhood memories.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:06 AM | Comments (2)

May 09, 2006

Speaking of journalists...

On May 9, 1754,

Join, or Die, considered the first American political cartoon, was printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette. The impetus for the cartoon, which is believed to have been devised by Benjamin Franklin, was concern about increasing French pressure along the western frontier of the colonies. [...]

join_or_die.jpg

Mr. Franklin was a clever fellow, in a time that seemed particularly full of that sort. I have a feeling were he alive today, he would be delighted to no end to see that this particular work is online.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

From Steevil...

Who asks if you know who in the following paragraph is being spoken of?

"[...] Not for nothing had [Mr. X] been mentioned in a dispatch, when he was on the British side during the Mau-Mau uprising, as "virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter." [...]"

The full story is here, and it's a good one.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:03 PM | Comments (2)

May 05, 2006

Catsup, Ketchup

Oddly enough, the Chinese and the Dutch are to blame.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2006

Remember the Maine?

On April 25,1898--

the United States formally declared war against Spain. The Monroe Doctrine, which since 1823 had viewed any European intervention in the Americas as a threat to U.S. security, coupled with the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor precipitated U.S. engagement. Coverage by both the Hearst newspapers and the nascent film industry solidified public support for involvement in Cuba's struggle for independence.

Within months Spain's overseas empire, which had begun with Columbus' voyages of discovery and been long in the unraveling, finally collapsed under the U.S.'s two-pronged war strategy. Commodore George Dewey sailed to the Pacific the day war was declared and on May 1st defeated the Spanish fleet in the Philippines. In Cuba and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Marines and other troops, including Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, helped defeat Spanish forces in the Americas. [...]

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:54 AM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2006

Well, I tried.

Tried my best to let by-gones be by-gones and make nice with all our British visitors, but none of them (as of yet) have stayed long enough to leave a comment.

Therefore, although I don't mean to taunt and such, I must make note that today marks a fateful anniversary--On April 19, 1775,

British and American soldiers exchanged fire in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord. On the night of April 18, the royal governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, commanded by King George III to suppress the rebellious Americans, had ordered 700 British soldiers, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and Marine Major John Pitcairn, to seize the colonists' military stores in Concord, some 20 miles west of Boston.

A system of signals and word-of-mouth communication set up by the colonists was effective in forewarning American volunteer militia men of the approach of the British troops. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride" tells how a lantern was displayed in the steeple of Christ Church on the night of April 18, 1775 as a signal to Paul Revere and others.

At Lexington Green, the British were met by 77 American Minute Men led by John Parker. At the North Bridge in Concord, the British were confronted again, this time by 300 to 400 armed colonists, and were forced to march back to Boston with the Americans firing on them all the way. By the end of the day, the colonists were singing "Yankee Doodle" and the American Revolution had begun. [...]

gadsden.jpg

I do still like Great Britain, though.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2006

Whew-ee, some morning.

Made all the more difficult by having to stay up until midnight-thirty last evening helping certain children of mine get some photos together for scrapbooks that they have to turn in this evening at church, as well as my own funtime activity of poking holes in a black sheet of foamcore board and threading fiber optic filaments through them.

I will say this--my stuff looks super pretty fantastic.

Then again, I didn't have it nearly so bad as Reba, who stayed up with Oldest doing stuff until 3 this morning. Yes, that's right, 3:00 ante meridian. I'm sure they'll both be fresh as daisies today at work and at school.

But, hey--it's all about me, so as long as I was able to get up at 5:30 and head off for my early morning meeting and function at my usual high mental level, then that's really all that matters, right!? Of course.

The meeting itself actually went quite well--we had 18 cases on the agenda, and STILL managed to wrap things up before 9:00, which is really good considering we've had half as many in past meetings and ran nearly an hour longer.

BUT, as usual, I now have much transcribing and typing to do, so in the interest of giving you something to ponder while I'm off doing work, allow me to note that although some dates in history are rather slim when it comes to interesting stuff, April 12 seems to be quite the opposite. From the AP, this is an excerpt of a listing of things that happened today, and it's pretty amazing to me what all happened on this date:

4/12/2006, 8:46 a.m. CT
The Associated Press
(AP) — Today is Wednesday, April 12, the 102nd day of 2006. There are 263 days left in the year. The Jewish holiday Passover begins at sunset.

To all my Hebrew blogmates (Skinnydan, Sarah, Meryl, Jeff, and more than likely a whole bunch more that I don't know about), I bid you Gut Yomtov, Chag Same'ach, and A Zeisen Pesach. Please be sure to send all of your leavened products to me as quickly as possible. And remember, I don't fall for that deal where your rabbi says he's selling it to a gentile, and the gentile never gets it, and you keep it locked up in YOUR house.

If I'm a'paying for it, I WANT it. Especially if baked into some nice babke.

Today's Highlight in History:

Four hundred years ago, on April 12, 1606, England's King James I decreed the design of the original Union Flag (also referred to as the Union Jack), which combined the flags of England and Scotland.

If I do say so myself, I think the Union Jack is the second-best-looking flag in all the world. Good job, Jimmy the One--and thanks for making sure Jesus and the rest of them guys spoke proper English.

In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

Immediately thereafter, the Union press began to blame George Bush for his reckless cowboy intransigence and for forcing a confrontation with the kind-hearted Jefferson Davis, thus leading to the destabilization and destruction of what was once a peaceful, harmonious, prosperous society.

In 1862, Union volunteers led by James J. Andrews stole a Confederate train near Marietta, Ga., but were later caught. (This episode inspired the Buster Keaton comedy "The General.")

Those wicked, wicked Yankees!

In 1934, "Tender Is the Night," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was first published.

Much liquor was then consumed.

In 1945, President Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Ga., at age 63; he was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

Afterwards, the American press vilified George Bush for his flagrant violation of international law for using nuclear weapons against Japan.

In 1955, the Salk vaccine against polio was declared safe and effective.

This really is a milestone of incredible proportion, especially considering what a battle had been fought against childhood polio and between the competing vaccine teams.

In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.

Yeah, well--second into space, FIRST TO THE MOON, BABY!

Five years ago: The 24 crew members of a U.S. spy plane arrived in Hawaii after being held for 11 days in China.

How many of you remember this? I do, and keep remembering then that I hoped that was the worst we could expect on the international front.

Anyway, now back to work.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:16 AM | Comments (5)

April 11, 2006

One for former bubblehead, Mr. Skillzy

April 11, 1900--

the U.S. Navy acquired its first submarine, a 53-foot craft designed by Irish immigrant John P. Holland. Propelled by gasoline while on the surface and by electricity when submerged, the Holland served as a blueprint for modern submarine design. By the eve of World War I, Holland and Holland-inspired vessels were a part of large naval fleets throughout the world. [...]

Here's a good website from the Naval Historical Center with photos and history of the boat, along with another from the Silent but Deadly crowd with information about its inventor and promoter.

As an aside, those of you who are all enamored with the current (no pun intended) fad of hybrid cars and think the technology is so new might want to consider that Holland's boat had something kinda sorta similar. It powered itself along underwater using electric motors connected to a big honking stack of batteries, which could then be recharged on the surface while using its gasoline engine. The next version (the "A" boats) were even better in that they could recharge their batteries while underway, rather than while idling.

And while we're at it, how about a shout-out to the crew of SSBN 731!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2006

Nostalgia

I'm a sucker for photo archives. I've mentioned it before, but every so often I like to ramble through Auburn University's library of digital images, especially of the old yearbooks they've copied. All sorts of interesting stuff--here's a bio of John Heisman, Auburn's first football coach, and here's a photo of the first sorority girls. In the Loveliest Village part of the archive, you can see The Bottle, which is still what the turn-off is called even though the bottle is long gone. There's proof that college life has changed little in the last 90 years, and that before the Captain, there were the Knights.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2006

Over There

On April 6, 1917,

the United States formally declared war against Germany and entered the conflict in Europe. Fighting since the summer of 1914, Britain, France, and Russia welcomed news that American troops and supplies would be directed toward the Allied war effort. Under the command of Major General John J. Pershing, over two million U.S. troops fought on battlefields in France. [...]

In the nineteen remaining months of the war, the United States suffered a total of 320,710 casualties; 53,513 died in combat, 63,195 died by other causes, and 204,002 were wounded.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2006

Trivia!

Jim Smith sends this to us:

Only once in our life time; an interesting fact:

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be

01:02:03 04/05/06

Well, that's just fine, except for those of us who use the Mayan calendar.

In a similar vein, what famous Bulgarian was born on April 4, 1916?

None.

Not only were there no famous ones, no Bulgarians at all were born on April 4, 1916.

In fact, there were no Bulgarians born from April 1-13, 1916.

This was the year that Bulgaria officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, so they went straight from March 31 to April 14, 1916.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:09 AM | Comments (6)

March 30, 2006

The best seven million dollars

...this country has ever spent.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

A more serious topic.

I read this article just now, and it just struck me wrong--Image of Jesus' crucifixion may be wrong, says study .

Read it yourself first. In my own reading of it, it seems to imply that since crucifixions were carried out in a variety of ways, that the traditional image was somehow just made up out of whole cloth with no basis other than wild speculation. Crucifixions were indeed a widely varied type of thing, and the article rightly notes that sometimes the person was upside down (as Peter was traditionally executed), and there's also the X-shaped cross, as Andrew was supposedly crucified using.

I realize that some scientists are loathe to accept anything other than actual evidence, and seeing that the faithful believe in Jesus' bodily resurrection, and seeing further how the art of photography wasn't quite fully mature at the time of his death, I suppose it's pretty much impossible by any see-it-to-believe-it standard to say exactly how Jesus' body was killed, but the traditional image does, in fact, have a basis in something other than just someone just coming up with something off the cuff.

Although I'm sure that science might not approve, the image of Christ's crucifixion has a rational basis, if you do as early Christians might have done and carefully read the New Testament. Now, you might not believe it's true, but the "tradition" does make sense if you read the Gospels with even the slightest bit of credulity.

To start--head up?

1) Well, in Matthew 22:37, it specifically notes that the sign that Pilate wrote about Jesus being king of the Jews was hung over his head. Not a detail that's likely if his feet had been over his head.

2) In Matthew 27:48, Mark 15:36, and John 19:29, when Jesus is near death and says he's thirsty, someone gets a sponge full of vinegar, puts it on a reed, and puts it up to his mouth. If his head was down, seems unlikely it would be necessary to use a sponge, nor to put it on a stick. Doing so seems to indicate that his head was higher than arm's reach.

3) In John 19:31-33, it recounts the method used to insure the victims were dead, namely to break their legs. This would only make sense if they had been crucified head up. If they had any strength, they could push up with their legs to get a breath of air, but if their legs were broken, they would expire much quicker, not having a way to push up. If they were hanging by their legs, it wouldn't make much sense to break them since they wouldn't have nearly the strength needed to pull up, and pulling up wouldn't make make them live longer anyway.

As for nailing, the most obvious clue is found in John 20:24-28, where Thomas (who hadn't been with the rest of the disciples when Jesus came to visit), said he wouldn't believe unless he could put his fingers in the nail hole in Jesus' hands, and the spear wound in his side. (And thereby giving us the term "doubting Thomas.") Jesus feet aren't mentioned as having nail holes, but the implication is understood that his feet would have had to have been secured to the cross in some manner, and since nails were already being used elsewhere, it's not unreasonable to assume they were used on his feet as well.

As a matter of faith, it really doesn't make a difference as the exact manner of Jesus's crucifixion, but the article's main point seems less about that, than in trying to imply that not only is the faith-based portion of the story wrong, so are the supposed reality-based details of it. Well, faith is faith, but our common image of the historical act itself is based in something other than unfounded and ignorant supposition--it is based upon what the Gospel texts say.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:49 AM | Comments (7)

March 15, 2006

Saying some of that there sooth.

SOOTHSAYER.
Caesar!

CAESAR.
Ha! Who calls?

CASCA.
Bid every noise be still.--Peace yet again!

CAESAR.
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry "Caesar"! Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

SOOTHSAYER.
Beware the Ides of March.

CAESAR.
What man is that?

BRUTUS.
A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.

CAESAR.
Set him before me; let me see his face.

CASSIUS.
Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

CAESAR.
What say'st thou to me now? Speak once again.

SOOTHSAYER.
Beware the Ides of March.

CAESAR.
He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass.

He should've listened to the old feller, because Brutus (not the same one who kept trying to steal Olive Oyl from Popeye, by the way) and that sorry bunch he run with all had themselves a bunch of cutlery up under their skirts and were going to do some mischief on Caesar, and when they done it, Caesar was still kind and good, because right there in the midst of bleeding out, he asked Brutus if he'd had his lunch yet with the other folks.

Anyway, ever since that time up until the IRS decided to make April 15th the day you're supposed to send in your taxes, the Ides of March has been the most fear-inducing 15th day of the month among all.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:46 PM | Comments (8)

March 06, 2006

March 6, 1836

From the Library of Congress "American Memory" collection:

Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna recaptured the Alamo, a former mission in the Mexican town of San Antonio, on March 6, 1836, ending a 13-day siege. No less than 183 of the 184 defenders of the structure were killed, as were an estimated 1,000 to 1,600 Mexican soldiers. Texans fighting for independence from Mexico had seized the Alamo and ousted Mexican troops from San Antonio the previous December.

The cost entailed in regaining San Antonio contributed to General Santa Anna's defeat less than two months later at the Battle of San Jacinto. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston, commander of the Texas army, led 800 troops, inspired by the sacrifice of their comrades at the Alamo, in a surprise attack on Santa Anna's 1,600 men. Houston's decisive victory at San Jacinto secured Texas independence from Mexico. [...]

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:08 PM | Comments (2)

February 17, 2006

For those who think American Presidential races...

...(until the year 2000) have always been polite, serene things marked by bipartisan respect.

From the Library of Congress, February 17, 1801:

Thomas Jefferson won support of a majority of congressional Representatives displacing incumbent John Adams. Jefferson's triumph brought an end to one of the most acrimonious presidential campaigns in U.S. history and resolved a serious Constitutional crisis.

Republican [sic--more precisely, this should read "Democratic-Republican" Ed.] Jefferson defeated Federalist John Adams by a margin of 73 to 65 electoral votes. When presidential electors cast their votes, however, they failed to distinguish between the office of president and vice president on their ballots. Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr each received 73 votes. With the votes tied, the election was thrown to the House of Representatives. There, each state voted as a unit to decide the election.

Still dominated by Federalists, the sitting Congress loathed to vote for Jefferson—their partisan nemesis. For six days, Jefferson and Burr essentially ran against each other in the House. Votes were tallied over thirty times, yet neither man captured the necessary majority of nine states. Eventually, a small group of Federalists, led by James A. Bayard of Delaware, reasoned that a peaceful transfer of power required the majority choose the President, and a deal was struck in Jefferson's favor.

Jefferson was inaugurated on March 4, 1801. Adopted in 1804, the Twelfth Amendment, to the Constitution provides that electors "name in their ballots the person voted for as president, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as vice president." [...]

More from C-SPAN, and Encylopedia Americana.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:41 AM | Comments (5)

February 16, 2006

Starts with the letter "N" REVEALED!

From II Kings 18:1-4--"1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.

3 And he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, according to all that David his father had done.

4 He removed the high places, and brake the pillars, and cut down the Asherah: and he brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; and he called it Nehushtan."

So, there you go--Skinnydan with his mad Hebraic skilz was closest (and therefore winner of a pat on the back) with, "Nahash (add the guttural in the middle, please)" which is Hebrew for snake. Read more here, or here, or here.


Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:31 PM | Comments (2)

Starts with the letter "N"

In between meetings at the church building last Sunday, I had sat down with a copy of one of the publications we mail out once a month. (Also the source for the "Fifty Dollar" joke from earlier in the week.) I don't like to call it "trivia," (being that I think that, well, trivializes, Scripture) but it has a feature each month where you test your knowledge of the Good Book with a series of fill-in-the-blank questions. The questions can get a bit obscure, so I was pleased that I had only failed to figure out 3 of the 20 or 25 questions without looking anything up. They give you a list of verses to consult if you have trouble, and so I managed to get two more of the answers with some reference.

But, there was one that was giving me a fit--'What was the name of the brazen serpent Moses made?' I couldn't ever remember it even having a name, and I looked at what I thought should be the normal place to find it--Exodus--but it turns out my problem was in not looking at all the references listed in the fine print. I kept looking for the references to the Pentateuch, but it wasn't in those.

One of the ladies at church had come and sat down while I was busily working the puzzle, and she was stumped, too. It got time for my next meeting, so I promptly forgot about it until last night when she came up to me and asked me if I had ever gotten around to naming my snake.

Of course, the reference flew right on by me and it took a minute or two of her coaxing my memory before the lightbulb ever lit up. Anyway, she gave me a sticky note with the reference verse on it, and I went and looked it up.

Well, I'll be!

So THAT'S what it is!

Since we're all about competitions today, the first person to correctly identify this "Starts With N" name 1) without looking on the Internet, and 2) without asking anyone else, gets a PRIZE! (Just don't be disappointed when you find out it is a virtual pat on the back.)

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:54 AM | Comments (9)

So you want some history with that barbecue?

Well, Cletus over at the B-B-Que Emporium has been reading again, and has several days' worth of interesting history-type things for you to peruse.

Although at first, I must admit I surely thought he was talking about Florida Gator coach Urban Meyer.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:13 AM | Comments (2)

How soon we forget.

I don't know how it slipped by me, but as I was reminded by fellow cargo-cultist Dr. Smith, yesterday marked John Frum Day, and I completely let it go by without comment.

To make amends, an article from this month's issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2006

Vanity of vanities;

all is vanity.

Subtitled: Them Internets is something else.

Long story on this one--and full, again, of way too much Faulknerian dysfunction for my tastes. But hey, that’s my family.

Anyway, my paternal grandmother’s side of the family was composed of Gastons and Grays, and according to what my folks and my aunt have said, at one time they were well off, having some land and slaves before the war, and continuing to have at least some semblance of wealth afterwards. My aunt relates that her mother (my grandmother, who shall from hereon be known as she was to me, “Big Mama,” and who entered the world in 1894) had told them she didn’t even brush her own hair until she was 16, because her family had a mammy to see after her.

She did, however, marry into a situation quite a bit less genteel, and although Big Daddy worked for the railroad, due to some bad personal decisions and the Great Depression, the whole lot of them--my grandparents, my dad, and his brother and sister--were all brought down to near destitution.

Times eventually got better, but Big Mama and Big Daddy remained quite poor the rest of their days. They held on to what they could, part of which seemed to be a rather strong remembrance of a proud past. Although I think this might have gotten a bit out of hand. Before I get to the point of the story, maybe a couple of episodes from the more recent past might be instructive.

My uncle apparently had a bit of the pride to him, too, and it seems what he could not rightfully claim for a heritage, he never really had a problem manufacturing in order to suit his need. Some men like this go on to become Presidents, but others are just seen as serial confabulators. I recall close to 35 years ago or so, my dad went up to visit him in Maryland, and came back with something I sensed was shame. His brother had served in the Army in World War II, and made sergeant, and went to college on the GI Bill--honorable things, one and all. No need to embellish, but I overheard my dad telling my mother that his brother had shown him “his old uniform” from way back then--which was full of ribbons, and oddly enough, all sorts of gold braid on the hat.

He’d gone and gotten himself an officer’s uniform. I’m not sure if he ever actually tried to impersonate an officer or not, but it turns out, he sorta had a history of big talk.

My mom and dad got to talking about the time sometime back during the early ‘60s when he’d come to Birmingham to visit them. He and my dad were driving downtown with my uncle's then wife, and they passed by the A.G. Gaston Motel, which during that time was quite a fancy place--modern and clean. And strictly for Negroes. For those who don’t know his history, Dr. Gaston was one of Birmingham’s wealthiest men, and made that fortune by managing to turn Jim Crow to his advantage with several large businesses catering to the segregated market.

Anyway, as they drove by, my uncle puffed up and proudly pointed and noted that we were kin to those Gastons.

Now, personally, I wouldn’t mind a bit if we were, but given the situation, my dad felt compelled to point out that although we might have shared a name, we probably weren’t directly related.

What made the whole thing even funnier in retrospect (well, to me, at least) is that Big Mama and Big Daddy weren’t what you would call great lovers of the African race--I still get tickled thinking about the time my mother took Big Mama shopping at the Pizitz store downtown, and Big Mama mortified her by attempting to accost a young black man to carry her bags by shouting “HEY! HEY BOY!” at him. My mother wouldn’t go shopping much with her after that.

Anyway, on to the part of the story that I’m actually trying to tell about.

It seems Big Mama’s familial pridefulness also found another outlet. As you recall, not only was she related to some less-pigmented Gastons, she was also of the Gray family. For as long as I’ve been alive, I have heard my parents say that the somewhat-famous ‘30s and ‘40s big band leader Glen Gray was somehow related to us. I’ve even told the kids before about it, although they have no real concept of what I mean by “big band,” or hardly even “the 1940s,” but I had always thought it was kind of neat. I even bothered one of the young women at church about it--her maiden name was Gray, and I’ve asked her if she might somehow be related to us down the line, or maybe even to that swingin’ hep cat Glen. She didn’t know.

But, no matter. I had no real reason to doubt it--I mean, who would make up stuff like that?

Well, obviously, given all the foregoing discussion, I was in for somewhat of an expected revelation. I have thought on and off over the years that I ought to use the mighty power of the Internet and look this dude up. It has always gotten lost in my mental pile of junk, though, until yesterday. For some reason, that name crossed my mind, and I set in to see what I could find.

Typed “glen gray” into the oracle of Google, and hey!--Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra! Wow--right off the bat a hit! “Rigid, concise style of big band jazz in early 1930s helped blaze a trail for other big bands. Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra never broke completely out of the drill type style but waxed some decent sides in the late 1930s and early 1940s” Cool, daddy!

Then the bio--

Glen Gray
Knoblaugh, Glen Gray (Spike)
leader
Born; Roanoke, Ill., 6-7-1906
Died; 8-23-1963

Knoblaugh?! What?!

Yep, after a few more searches, it turns out that Glen Gray is actually the stage name of Glen Knobloch, (or Knoblauch), (and, yes, even Knoblaugh). That last reference also says he was born in 1900, not 1906 as the first one has it.

In any event, I am saddened to note that barring the revelation of any heretofore hidden genealogical information, there are no Knoblochs (et al.) in my family tree. I fully intend to manufacture some, however, should the need arise.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:01 PM | Comments (6)

February 02, 2006

Actual Information!

Yes, I know you don't come here to find out much in the way of useful information, but I had an interesting search request this morning, and it piqued my interest to no end, dealing, as it did, with the subject of co-eds, and my beloved alma mater.

The inquiry: Names of the ladies admitted to Alabama Polytechnic Institute when it went coed

Now THAT'S the kind of Fun With Referrer Logs I like. So, first off I did a bit of messing around with the search term to put API in quote marks and took out a few extraneous words, and landed on the Wikipedia page dealing with Auburn University. As you can read, the University started out as a Methodist institution named East Alabama Male College, and was charterd on May 6, 1856, and opened its doors to students in 1859. The college closed during the Late Unpleasantness, and then reopened again in 1866.

In 1872, the college was tranferred from the Methodists to the State of Alabama, and it became the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, and then we finally find a bit of information useful to our task at hand:

[...] In 1892, two historic events occurred: women were first admitted to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, and football was first played as a school sport. Eventually, football replaced polo as the main sport on campus. In 1899, the school name was again changed, this time to Alabama Polytechnic Institute. [...]

Football AND girls! I bet those guys were happy as larks! Even if they were elitist polo playin' snobs up 'til then.

But, it was interesting to note that the college went co-ed seven years before it became API, and that gave me a little bit more to search around for. Well, the Internet is a marvel, that's all I got to say. In about five minutes I managed to find a truly remarkable paper written by Leah Rawls Atkins, entitled BLOSSOMS AMID THE DEEP VERDURE -- A Century of Women at Auburn 1892-1992. Absolute gold--well documented and well written, with excellent background information on Auburn as well as the long series of fits and starts that eventually led to the decision to allow "young ladies the privilege of becoming students of the college."

From Part 1, the answer to the inquiry:

[...] On the sunny fall morning of September 13, 1892, three young ladies walked briskly toward Samford Hall (called Old Main Hall until 1929) to take examinations for admission to the junior class at A.P.I., the agricultural and mechanical college. Kate Conway Broun led the group, her black hair twisted into a bun at her neck with her "straight-forward gray eyes" under heavy brows watching the path before her. Like her companions, Willie Gertrude Little and Margaret Kate Teague, she wore a long dark skirt and "a snow-white shirt-waist with high, boned collar and long sleeves puffed at the top." Mollie Hollifield recorded that Kate took the girls up the south steps of Samford Hall and into her father's office. President LeRoy Broun smiled, aware of the historic nature of the moment.(55)

For some time Kate had been determined to matriculate at Auburn, and the other two had joined her plea.(56) Willie Little's father was a businessman, farmer, and mayor of Auburn, while Kate Teague had come to Auburn from Arkansas after her mother's death to live with her aunt, Mary Teague Hollifield. Her Uncle Hal had helped prepare her for the examinations. The three girls were taken to a long room where many young men were taking entrance examinations for the freshman class. In order not to compete with the female seminaries of the state and to limit entrance to mature young ladies, A.P.I. had restricted admittance to those who were qualified to pursue the studies of the junior class, so it was necessary for the girls to do well on the exams.(57) They were required to stand examinations in mathematics and either English, History, or Latin.(58)

The three young women received good marks on their examinations and were admitted to the junior class. Strict rules excluded women from the campus except while attending class, but otherwise there were no rules since the girls all lived at home. They were required when they entered the campus to walk directly to class and to leave the campus immediately after class dismissed. No loitering or flirting with the cadets was allowed. Later a room in Samford Hall was furnished as a study and rest room where girls could stay between classes.(59)

Auburn male students made no objection to the addition of women to their classes, and "the general belief is that the association with studious, ambitious, earnest girls is very beneficial to a youth."(60) In 1893 President Broun reported to the trustees that coeducation at Auburn had been "widely published in the state" and recognized it as a movement in "the spirit of the age."(61) He noted that all the women who applied were accepted, and their rank was "with the best students" and their "influence eminently inspiring and beneficial." The Montgomery Advertiser wrote that the girls had proved "their ability successfully to cope with the best of their male competitors, and in some instances to obtain the mastery over them." (62) [...]

Each of the ladies have a residence hall named in their honor on the campus--here is a photo and short bio of Kate Conway Broun, and photos of Willie Gertrude Little and of Margaret Kate Teague.

Special thanks to Leah Rawls Atkins for writing their story. Dr. Atkins (API '58)seems to be a pretty interesting sort of woman herself, judging by her bio. In addition to being all smart and an author and historian and everything, she is also the first woman to have been inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Obviously, I must note that she looks pretty danged hot in a swimsuit.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2006

I must console Chet the E-Mail Boy

Era Ends: Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams

Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
LiveScience.com
Wed Feb 1, 10:00 AM ET
After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.

On the company's web site, if you click on "Telegrams" in the left-side navigation bar, you're taken to a page that ends a technological era with about as little fanfare as possible:

"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative."

The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn't help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.

Western Union has not failed. It long ago refocused its main business to make money transfers for consumers and businesses. Revenues are now $3 billion annually. It's now called Western Union Financial Services, Inc. and is a subsidiary of First Data Corp.

The world's first telegram was sent on May 24, 1844 by inventor Samuel Morse. The message, "What hath God wrought," was transmitted from Washington to Baltimore. In a crude way, the telegraph was a precursor to the Internet in that it allowed rapid communication, for the first time, across great distances.

Western Union goes back to 1851 as the Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. In 1856 it became the Western Union Telegraph Company after acquisition of competing telegraph systems. By 1861, during the Civil War, it had created a coast-to-coast network of lines. [...]

::sigh:: Yet another technological marvel thrown upon the scrapheap of progress. Poor Chet--he's downstairs at his little desk by the boiler right now, gently rubbing his old keyset.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:22 PM | Comments (2)

January 31, 2006

Melvil Dewey!

A very nice compendium of exactly what a great invention the Dewey Decimal System turned out to be.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2006

The Churchill Wit

From page 64 of my favorite Little Red Book:

Most of all, I shall refrain from making any prediction upon the future. It is a month ago that I remarked upon the long silence of Herr Hitler, a remark which apparently provoked him to make a speech in which he told the German people that Moscow would fall in a few days.

That shows, as everyone I am sure will agree, how much wiser he would have been to go on keeping his mouth shut.

House of Commons
November, 1941

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2006

Cool Tool!

Famed NASA scientist and regular Possumblog reader Steevil (whose brother is Dr. Weevil) sent me a link to a very interesting website--The Surname Profiler from the University College of London, which you can use to look up the geographic concentration of various surnames in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland). Steevil notes that it seems to be overloaded with search requests, and indeed it timed out a couple of times this morning with me--BUT, when it's working, it is very cool indeed.

It was quite interesting to me, because I have alway figured that since the original Oglesby of my family who entered the Carolinas back in the 1760s was from Scotland, that there should be by all rights a greater concentration of them still in that area of the UK. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the distribution for 1998, and saw that most of the few people with that name lived in the southern portion of the kingdom.

Oglesby1998.png

The bigger surprise? I looked on the 1881 map, expecting at least THAT one to be more to my supposition, and there were even fewer with that surname, and they were even MORE concentrated, most of them right around Lincolnshire.

Oglesby1881.png

Time to do more research!

UPDATE: IN A RELATED STORY, Steevil sends along this link describing the effort to reduce the consumption of haggis in Scottish nursery schools to only once per week. As the article notes, this is the same frequency recommended for turkey twizzlers.

Thanks, Steevil--now you've gone and made me all hungry!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:36 AM | Comments (16)

January 17, 2006

Hey! A mystery solved!

A few of you might remember a post from back in November, in which I recounted hearing a fellow on the radio talking about a former farm site out in Trussville, that had belonged to someone connected to the Britling's Cafeteria family, and that someone had the idea back in the mid-30s to turn the place into a rest home for old movie actors.

I had asked if anyone had heard of such a thing, but nothing ever came of it, until this weekend, when a gentleman named Tom Wright stopped by and left this comment:

I spent my summers between 1934 and 1954 on the Holcomb farm east of Trussville. It belonged to the wife of John H. Holcomb, owner of the Britling Cafeterias in Birmingham. It had a dam and a lake and was an operating farm up until it was sold sometime in the 1960s.

FINALLY! Someone who knows something! I thanked Tom in the comments, and contacted him for a bit more information, such as the location of the property, and particularly that part about it being a movie actor retirement home. Here's what Tom had to say:

Terry:

Coming east from Trussville, there is a road which turns right off US 11 just east of the old admin building (later a roadhouse called "Fred and Gene's). I believe this road now is called "Peggy Lane". This is the old farm road that led into the property.

The developer who built the dam planned a roadway across the top. The roadway was never completed because the Depression came along and the developer went bankrupt. The partially completed dam remained and produced a nice sized lake. My grandfather, who owned the Britling Cafeterias in Birmingham, used a modest inheritance his wife had received to buy the property south of US 11. Hence, she was the actual owner. After WWII, it was sold to the cafeteria chain. During the period from about 1931 into the 1970s, it was a working farm, raising oats, cattle, and hogs. BTW, on the maps, this lake is now named "Holcomb Lake". It is on the Little Cahaba Creek drainage.

I had never heard the story about the retired movie stars and I certainly would have. The road across the dam was graded up to the top of the ridge just south of the lake. For years there were traces of surveyor's stakes up there where I was told a "casino" was to be built. In the 80 years since then, all that has grown up in trees, but the graded contours of the road can still be traced.

Well, I'll be. Peggy Lane is indeed on the map--it's out beyond Deerfoot Parkway and just a bit past Amerex, although on the Carto-Craft maps I have around here, it's called Bethune Lake. Another mystery, huh?

Anyway, if the link works right, the lake is in the bottom of this aerial from Terraserver.

Sounds like it's time to do some exploring.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:22 PM | Comments (4)

January 11, 2006

Something new every day, it seems.

I love looking through Lileks' collections of ephemera, especially those old postcards. But the ads and illustrations are fun, too. I've found several sites before with such things (including this nifty Auburn University library website with old Alabama postcards). Anyway, quite by accident, I ran across a site I'd not seen before, Ad Art Gallery, which is just chock full of cool old stuff. Like this '53 Cosmo cover with Jackie Gleason; this ad for the 1955 movie Picnic, starring William Holden and Kim Novak, (and judging by the artwork, that's one crazy picnic, daddy-o); or this 1914 ad for Pabst Extract, a wholesome strengthening tonic made of the choicest hops and rich barley, which apparently is very good food for the nerves of airship pilots.

Anyway, great fun to peruse.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:19 PM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2005

December 15, 1791

From the Library of Congress:

On December 15, 1791, the new United States of America adopted the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, confirming the fundamental rights of its citizens. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights of peaceful assembly and petition. Other amendments guarantee the rights of the people to form a "well-regulated militia," to keep and bear arms, the rights to private property, fair treatment for accused criminals, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from self-incrimination, a speedy and impartial jury trial, and representation by counsel. [...]

Mr. Nitpick would like to point out that the Second Amendment does not give the people the right to form militias. It says that since properly trained militias are necessary to the security of a free state, people have the right to have their own firearms. And, despite the protestations of some, that right is not only a collective right, no more than any other personal right enumerated within the Bill of Rights. It is both an individual and a collective right, but most assuredly not a right of the government.

But, beyond that nitpick, it is worth noting (again) that the United States as we now know it did not come into being in 1776, but rather with the ratification of the Constitution in 1789 (and probably it could be argued not truly in its final form until the ratification of the Bill of Rights.) That's thirteen to fifteen years of turmoil before we ever got anything worked out. It's worth remembering that as the people of Iraq go to the polls, democracy is an ongoing process. And sometimes progress is slow. But we do everyone a disservice to insist upon immediate perfection.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

The Churchill Wit

It's been a while, and so I give you a couple of quick ones from page 50 and from page 51:

"What most people call bad judgment is judgment which is different from theirs at a particular moment."

"I have derived continued benefit from criticism at all periods of my life, and I do not remember any time when I was short of it."

(If you ever get a hankering for some online Churchilliana, there's hardly a better spot than The Churchill Centre. And, of course, the book I've been stealing these quotes from is still to be found in various places.)

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2005

Remember.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Franklin D. Roosevelt - December 8, 1941

[…] We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."

Winston Churchill - May 10, 1940

[…] The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. […]

John Kennedy - January 20, 1961

Today, the stakes of miscalculating our enemies are as great as they were when Germany marched across Europe, or Japan subjugated the people of Asia, or Communism sought to cover the globe.

Civilization depends upon a clear-eyed appraisal of those who oppose freedom and human rights, and who would seek to bring themselves closer to their God by climbing upon the slain bodies of the infidel. As opposed to the chatter of certain politicians, who would sacrifice the freedom of future generations for the sake of illusory, short-term political gain, we can win. More pointedly, however, we must win. For to lose--unlike when a politician cannot get himself elected--does not mean we simply go back to our comfortable homes and satisfying occupations, or slide ourselves into the pulpit as the leader of a political party. To lose in this conflict means to lose all.

We fight an enemy who sees no borders, who knows no worldly law, who holds himself sinless in his quest to kill the unbeliever, who will not stop unless first killed himself.

There is but one thing to say to this enemy.

No quarter.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:09 AM | Comments (3)

November 28, 2005

And how could a discussion of cars be complete without--

--The First American Automobile Race

At 8:55 a.m. on November 28, 1895, six "motocycles" left Chicago's Jackson Park for a 54 mile race to Evanston, Illinois and back through the snow. Number 5, piloted by inventor J. Frank Duryea, won the race in just over 10 hours at an average speed of about 7.3 miles per hour! The winner earned $2,000, the enthusiast who named the horseless vehicles "motocycles" won $500, and the Chicago Times-Herald, sponsor of the race, declared:

Persons who are inclined…to decry the development of the horseless carriage…will be forced…to recognize it as an admitted mechanical achievement, highly adapted to some of the most urgent needs of our civilization.

"The Future of the Motocycle", The Chicago Times-Herald, November 29, 1895.

No argument from me on that score. Yes, all that CO and NOx is bad, but the car guys have managed to get it down so low that in some places emissions are cleaner than the ambient air quality--but no matter what, you're never going to be able to reduce the amount of poop and pee a horse leaves behind. And it's a lot.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:04 PM | Comments (4)

November 10, 2005

11/11

To the men and women who have served this nation, may God grant you rest and comfort. To those who continue to serve, may God grant you protection from harm, and courage to fulfill your duty. To you all, my profound thanks.

See you Monday.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

What am I doing?

Research. I have an idea for something, and I have to know what I'm talking about before I commit anything to paper. Or pixels, as the case may be. Thus the astounding lack of real content.

But, by way of doing a little added research, are any of you ever curious about the secondary cast of people you read about in history? The ones who were there when an event unfolded, and although they are integral to the story, their names are lost? You ever wonder what sorts of lives they lived, or how their lives might have changed by being so close to history?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:38 AM | Comments (18)

November 04, 2005

A Mystery

I went to lunch earlier (after having to take a coworker over to the company garage) and was listening to one of the local talk radio duos. One guy called in with an interesting story.

Seems he does a lot of hiking and stuff, and had been out in an area near Trussville, and out in the middle of nowhere, came upon a lake, but not just any lake, one that had a nicely engineered concrete dam. And then he began stumbling over other stuff--concrete curbs. The place had streets under all the overgrowth. He related that he'd managed to locate the property caretaker, and the man related that the property had belonged to the family of the founder of the old Britling's Cafeteria chain, and somewhere along during the late 1930s, this man had gotten it in his head that he was going to develop a retirement resort for retired Hollywood movie actors. WWII intervened, the story went, and nothing ever came of it. The fellow told the hosts that the property was north of Highway 11, somewhere before the Carrington subdivision.

Now then--I've lived in the Birmingham area all my life, and in Trussville specifially for the last eight years, and had NEVER heard of such a thing, so as soon as I got back to the magic Google machine, I started seeing what I could see.

I typed in britling and trussville, and wouldn't you know, came back with several results, including one post I'd done on Possumblog about how spiffy I thought it was when I was a kid that Britling's had CLOTH NAPKINS! Obviously, not a lot of help to myself on that one.

I continued to type in several variations of the name, figuring that "Britling" was the family name of the owner.

Well, until I stumbled upon this 2001 article from Pitch.com. The article, ostensibly about a new old-style cafeteria planned for Kansas City, also included a short history of the cafeteria, including this bit of information:

[...] The cafeteria concept started as early as 1893's Columbia Exhibition in Chicago. It was meant to portray a Swedish-style "smorgasbord," although "cafeteria" is Spanish for coffee shop. But like every great idea, it needed a few years and some savvy entrepreneurs to kick it around. By the end of World War I, A.W.B. Johnson had started the Britling's chain in Alabama (Elvis' mother worked in the Memphis location). [...]

No WONDER I couldn't find anything--I had the family name wrong!

Armed with this, I went a'searching for Mr. A.W.B. Johnson.

I learned that the actual year of his restaurant chain's founding was in 1918.

That his father-in-law was a civil engineer and dam building from Illinois and named John Wilson who died in 1922, and in the same article that there is an A.W.B. Johnson, Jr.

That on December 11, 1914, a fire destroyed one of his buildings in Birmingham.

And that there's some guy in England by the same name who is credited with helping to develop the sport of squash.

And...

That's about it.

Time for a trip to the library. UNLESS, there's someone out there with a bit more information they'd like to share with everyone!

Have any clues? Leave 'em in the comments below.

Oh, and here's a postcard from the original, from back in the '20s.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:50 PM | Comments (2)

The Churchill Wit

It's been a while, so I thought I would get out the Little Red Book with which Jim gifted me, and dispense a few gems.

From Page 24:

One of Winston Churchill’s arch opponents in the House of Commons was the dynamic Labour Party leader Aneurin Bevan. Sir Winston’s comments on Mr. Bevan frequently came in the most unexpected circumstances, as when he was speaking on the recognition of Communist China:

As we had great interest there and also on general grounds, I thought it would be good to have diplomatic representation.

But if you recognize anyone, it does not mean that you like him. We all, for instance, recognize the right honourable gentleman [Mr. Bevan].

July, 1952

From an earlier time, but on the same page, this zinger:

Toward the closing days of World War II, Aneurin Bevan pressed Prime Minister Churchill for information about the alleged installation of “reactionary governments in the liberated countries.” Mr. Churchill’s reply was to the point:

I should think it hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2005

Publius.

Or, as I like to call him, Jimmy the M. Without whose work (marked today by the 218th anniversary of the publishing of Federalist Paper #1) the United States would be immeasurably weaker.

And he's even got his own cheerleading squad!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)

October 20, 2005

Important Dates.

In all of the recent flurry of non-blogging, I neglected to make note of an important event in our history--yesterday, October 19, marked the 224th anniversary of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, effectively putting an end to British rule.

It might be worth remembering for those folks who wonder why Iraq is taking so long to fix a constitution to remember that it was eight more years after the victory at Yorktown before the United States came into being in its current form, with the ratification of our own Constitution. Also, believe it or not, France was actually instrumental in advancing the birth of a democratic, constitutional republic!

And speaking of our friends the French, October 20 is the 202nd anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. That was quite a good deal, I must say, and I am quite grateful for it. Because, you know, if we had a bunch of states like Quebec just across the Mississippi, well, you know.

Anyway, there's your old-timey stuff for the day.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:57 AM | Comments (5)

October 10, 2005

Man, I love a parade!

And there's nothing better than having a front row, fifth floor seat to see all the wonders of the annual Columbus Day Parade here in the Magic City!

It must be chilly today, because the John Carroll High School cheerleaders all had on sweat pants. Bummer. But the band sounded nice.

Following them were the Knights of Columbus sailing down Short 20th Street in recreations of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Or, to judge by their prime motivators, they would be better named the Silverado, Avalanche, and Bronco. Not as many beplumed guys in capes this year for some reason. I'm not sure why. But one old fellow on there was throwing out bags of treats like he was trying to break into major league baseball. Nearly took some guy's head off.

Next up was an ancient Volkswagen Baja painted up by someone advertising a candidate for the District 5 seat. Also worked pretty well as an advertisement of the dangers of deliberately concentrating and inhaling paint fumes.

Then a group of motorcycle riders. They seemed awfully uncomfortable, given that their bikes were of the hunched-forward, crotch-rocket variety, which really aren't made for low-speed parading. But, I suppose celebrating the discovery of the New World by a Spanish-financed Genoan by riding expensive Japanese superbikes makes sense. Somehow.

OOOH! FIRE TRUCKS! I like shiny things!

This completes Possumblog's coverage of the 2005 Columbus Day Parade. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:05 PM | Comments (2)

September 23, 2005

Boy, I tell you what--

--you learn something new every day.

Whether you really wanted to or not.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:10 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2005

I don't know, just perspective, I guess.

I'm not trying to make a point about one or the other, or draw any conclusions, or diminish anyone's sense of loss, but something that happened in the very near past continues to nag at me. I don't know, maybe it's short memories, or an unwillingness to think beyond the present, but two years ago during the summer of 2003, Europe had a heat wave that wound up causing 20 to 35 thousand deaths, with more than 14,000 in France alone.

Sometimes it just seems we lose track of such things, and for the wrong reasons.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:05 PM | Comments (4)

September 13, 2005

The Churchill Wit

It's been a while since we've had a selection, so here is one from page 13:

I must say that this class of criticism which I read in the newspapers when I arrived on Sunday morning reminds me of the simple tale about the sailor who jumped into a dock, I think it was at Plymouth, to rescue a small boy from drowning.

About a week later, this sailor was accosted by a woman who asked, "Are you the man who picked my son out of the dock the other night?"

The sailor replied modestly, "That is true, ma'am."

"Ah," said the woman, "you are the man I'm looking for. Where is his cap?"

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005

Should be self evident, but just in case...

I had a visitor just a bit ago who came by here looking for an answer to a question: What did Booker T. Washington mean by "One man cannot hold another man in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him."

Possumblog comes up twice because I've used that quote twice up in the weekly quote space, but I've never actually commented on it.

I believe Dr. Washington was saying that that you are no better than your prejudices. If you think it's your job to keep someone else down, you'll never rise up yourself. It was directed at the culture of the South that made an industry out of marginalizing and demeaning black people--he realized that no one wins in such a situation. Even passive neglect would have been better than the overt effort to enforce inequality--at least that way, SOMEone could get on with life. As it was though, the South had trapped itself into a continuing morass of unproductiveness. The inscription on the monument to Dr. Washington at Tuskegee reads, "He lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry," but really, that is a promise that can hold true with all people--learn, and get to work. Understood is that true progress for all requires mutual assistance.

From the book of Ecclesiastes:

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.

10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up.

11 Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone?

12 And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.


Washington's collected papers can be viewed here.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

September 8, 1900

The Galveston Storm, from the Library of Congress American Memory website.

On September 8, 1900, hurricane winds of at least 120 miles per hour ripped across the Texas coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, killing over 5000 people and decimating the city of Galveston. During the eighteen hour storm, tidal waves swept through sea-level streets, destroying homes and buildings and wiping out electricity, roads, and communication systems. As news of the disaster spread, supplies, including tents for the nearly 8000 homeless, poured into Galveston from across the nation.

Rebuilding Galveston involved construction of a reinforced concrete seawall and raising the city above sea level. Eight miles long and seventeen feet high, the massive seawall repells Gulf winds and water. Equally impressive, sand from the Gulf of Mexico was used to lift the city far above its previous grade. Ultimately, portions of Galveston lay fifteen feet above former levels. These fortifications continue to help protect the city from hurricane damage.

Galvestonians also transformed the structure of their city government. During reconstruction, a five-man commission replaced the mayor and board of aldermen. Initially viewed as an emergency measure, the commission form of government was so efficient that Galveston permanently adopted the scheme. The "Galveston Plan" was widely imitated by other cities and became a benchmark of early twentieth-century municipal reform. [...]

One hopes that America remains a nation of builders and doers.

Later update--The solution that Galveston undertook was massive, but it has one advantage over coastal Louisiana in that it is an island, and it has a more regular shoreline. New Orleans sits amidst a giant river delta, making it several orders of magnitude more difficult to do something such as installing a wall on a relatively straight beach.

However, there is no reason to believe that New Orleans could not better protect itself in the future. As long as everyone remembers anything man builds can be broken.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:31 PM | Comments (2)

August 30, 2005

August 30, 1862

The date marking the end of the Battle of Second Manassas (or Bull Run for you Yankees). From the National Park Service's Manassas Battlefield website:

[...] The Battle of Second Manassas, covering three days, produced far greater carnage-3,300 killed-and brought the Confederacy to the height of its power. Still the battle did not weaken Northern resolve. The war's final outcome was yet unknown, and it would be left to other battles to decide whether the sacrifice at Manassas was part of the high price of Southern independence, or the cost of one country again united under the national standard.

At the time, victory was not the least bit assured. The (horrifyingly bloody) Union victory later in the campaign at Antietam was followed by yet another defeat at Fredericksburg. Although the NPS website notes that the Northern resolve didn't weaken, that's not quite accurate in that it makes it sound like everyone knew victory was certain even if it might be tough, but there was actually not a great well of "resolve" to draw upon--it's difficult to weaken what was already weak to begin with.

The question (however unlikely it might have been in reality) of whether France or England would recognize the Confederacy still hung unanswered. Within the government of the United States itself, there were loud and constant calls from the Peace Democrats to allow the Confederacy its independence, rather than risk more lives in an obviously unfruitful war against a determined foe that the North seemed unable to defeat, and these calls were amplified and broadcast to all via the newspapers of the time.

It's probably unwise to attempt to draw direct correlations between past and present, but it's worth remembering that the easiest victories for your adversaries are the defeats you visit upon yourself. The world would certainly be a much different place had the Confederacy been allowed its will.


Thanks to Dave Helton for pointing out the obvious switcheroo I did with the name of the battles! I believe my trouble started because the NPS calls it Manassas, and I figured it MUST be the opposite to what THEY called it! Thanks again, Dave.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:33 PM | Comments (5)

August 26, 2005

Ahhh, the good old days.

"Able Archer 83," eh? Amazing what went on back then. And more than a bit scary.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:07 AM | Comments (8)

August 18, 2005

It's very hard being a know-it-all.

Mainly because you keep finding out you're wrong.

Last night Ashley was talking about one of her classes. She's not afraid to state anything she believes, and state it unequivocally, and loudly, even if it's so dead-wrong that it's become an un-idea and singing with the chorus eternal.

I keep wanting to tell her--not to be mean, but to keep her from engendering the sort of eye-rolling disdain that high schoolers are so good at dishing out--that it would help if you're going to be a know-it-all, to remember that you actually have to know it all.

And if you do know it all, you don't have to go around blabbing about it all the time. People will figure it out. And when you occasionally find out you're wrong, don't get all defensive and angry and put-out and shrill and vicious and ugly. (Although I'm sure MoveOn.org is always looking for new members.)

ANYway, she was talking about one of her classes yesterday, and the teacher was asking questions about various social-interest type things (I think it's social studies, which would make some sense) and the topic of myths and stories and such came up, and about how some stories and songs had hidden meanings (i.e. Gulliver's Travels), and some myths were based on actual places (such as Hamelin). Then, the conversation turned to nursery rhymes, and a discussion got going on "Ring Around the Rosie."

Now, in the past, I'd heard the same charming things about it most of you have--Black Death, posies to cover the smell, everyone falling down dead. But several years back when I first got to looking around on the Internets for interesting things, I found Snopes.com, and, as you can probably guess by now, I found out then that the whole story is much less luridly gruesome than popular culture might dictate.

As you can read here, the whole bubonic plague angle is pretty much an urban legend.

Now, I COULD have said something last night about it, especially when Reba started trying to correct her and say that it wasn't bubonic plague but smallpox, but I wasn't really in the mood for a disputation with two girls at that particular moment, and I also figured that such things require documentation to keep it from seeming as though I was being mean and picking on anyone. Heaven forbid.

So, I printed out the article and will pass it along to them tonight as an FYI sort of thing.

And in my mind I will do the Mr. Knowitall Jig.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:20 AM | Comments (10)

August 12, 2005

Well, it's bad, but not historically so.

Everyone's talking about the high price of gasoline, and it is indeed higher in raw dollars than ever. But there's always a couple of different ways of looking at things. One of the most intriguing is a chart I've linked to on several other occasions that was put together by a fellow named Stuart over in Texas.

He's kept up with his gasoline receipts for 992 fill-ups, from April 1979 to July 26 of this year. Here's the graph, and as you can see, although gasoline prices have been trending upward since 1998, the actual cost as adjusted for inflation would be about the same as a gallon purchased in 1979 before the big spike in 1980, or about the same as the spike during 1990. Not to say that it won't go higher, obviously it can. But while it sounds horrible, it's not quite the worst shape we've ever been in.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:14 PM | Comments (4)

August 09, 2005

August 9, 1814

From the Library of Congress--

On August 9, 1814, Major General Andrew Jackson signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson ending the Creek War. The agreement provided for the surrender of twenty-three million acres of Creek land to the United States. This vast territory encompassed more than half of present-day Alabama and part of southern Georgia.

The war began on August 30, 1813, when a faction of Creeks known as the Red Sticks attacked a contingent of 553 American settlers at Lake Tensaw, Alabama, north of Mobile. In response, Jackson led 5,000 militiamen in the destruction of two Creek villages, Tallasahatchee and Talladega.

On March 27, 1814, Jackson's forces destroyed the Creek defenses at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Eight hundred Creek warriors were killed and 500 women and children captured. [...]

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2005

Those Wacky Masons

I wonder if back in George's day dozens of fez-crowned clowns would pile out of tiny little carriages drawn by Shetland ponies, instead of a King Midget?

'Cause, y'know, that would be pretty cool.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

I'm it?

So it seems--Dr. Smith tagged me last night to participate in a book meme that has been making the rounds. I'll do what I can, but I can never really do these things well, because there's so much I have forgotten. But, we'll give it a shot.

1. How many books have I owned? I don't know. Thousands? Still have stacks and stacks of them. And keep buying them. I'm like those little old ladies who keep cats.

2. The last book I bought was: Well, the last "book" I bought (in quotes, because it's not literature, but a technical manual) was a Haynes Volvo 240-series Repair Manual. Haven't gotten to read it yet, alas. The last literary sort of book I bought (sorta, it being not really a purchase by me, but by Miss Reba for my birthday) was Sun Tzu's Art of War. Still working on it.

3. The last book I finished was: I'm not sure, but I think it was Hampton Sides' Ghost Soldiers. This is supposedly some sort of a basis of an idea of a pitch of a story of an concept of a thought for the screenplay for an upcoming movie called The Great Raid. You can read a pre-release pre-review and commentary from noted moviemakers here.

4. What books made an impression on me? Well, the Bible (Jim posted his favorite version, and mine would have to be the ASV of 1901), and The World Book Encyclopedia (1959 Edition), and then everything else. I wish I could point to several out of all the books I've read over the years and be able to say with certainty that this one or that one had a profound influence on me, but it's hard to distinguish them, and they ALL had, and have, an influence on me. Maybe it would be easier with categories--I love history, especially military history and art history. I love architecture, and science, especially mechanical science. I tend to like straighforward storytelling in literature (no psycho mumbo-jumbo, no whodunnits, no bodice-rippers, just tell me the danged story and keep your plot points straight!), and humor, especially Twain and Thurber.

NOW THEN, who to tag next? I'm gonna tag Skinnydan--he needs something to take his mind off of computers. Heh.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:16 AM | Comments (7)

August 02, 2005

Birmingham Rewound

Good morning! Just got an e-mail from regular reader and contributor Stan the Gummint Man, who asked if I had ever run across the fine site Birmingham Rewound in my various Internettery.

Ashamedly, I must say I haven't, but it's a peach of a site (maintained by the wry Russell Wells) and includes all kinds of great photos and stories about the Magic City from back when it all seemed a bit more magical. If you like Lileks' rambles around old Minneapolis and Fargo, you'll enjoy Rewound as well.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:24 AM | Comments (5)

July 21, 2005

July 21, 1861

From the Library of Congress, an entry marking not only the birth of Earnest Hemingway in 1899, but also the First Battle of Manassas (what the Yankees term Bull Run.)

As always, it can be misleading to try to project onto the present the goings on of the past, but it's probably still instructive to consider that after the Federal defeat at Bull Run, many were further convinced that Confederate victory would soon come, and that it was best to sue for peace and allow the country to be divided up.

The battle stories in Harper's Weekly of the second week in August are quite a read (as is Edward Bulwer Lytton's new serialized novel), with tales of incompetent leadership, superior enemy resources, cowardice up and down the line, and a continual patter of defeatism.

We all know how it turned out. But the inevitability of the South's defeat looks certain only in retrospect, and things could have turned out much differently had the Copperheads (and many in the press) gotten their way, or if a few crucial battles had tilted differently.

Worth remembering today when we keep hearing about how we should be more open in trying to find "root causes" for the reasons radical Islamists hate us so much, or the odd necessity some of our fellow Americans feel in contradicting even the most common sense methods of fighting our current conflict, merely for political gain, and even if it strengthens the hand of our enemies.

Difference between then and now? Well, the Confederacy would more than likely have been satisfied with the territory it held, an uncomfortable thorn in the side of the United States, but generally not a further threat to the Northern border. The enemy we fight today will not be satisfied until everyone either bows to Mecca, or is dead.

It's best to make sure we win this one, possibly more than any other war we've fought.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2005

"It's made me realize people love me as much as I love them."

Well, I'll be. Regular reader and commentor Stan the Gummint Man sent me a link to this article this morning--Spivey to reopen toy and hobby shop.

This was the toy and model shop that burned up (or down) a couple of months ago, and it looks like Mr. Spivey won't let something like a fire get rid of him.

[...] "I knew the day it happened I wasn't ready to close," Spivey said. "I'm 78, but that doesn't mean my life is over." [...]

The new store will be housed in the building at 1509 Lomb Ave. that once served as his warehouse. Spivey and work crews are trying to get the building ready for a mid-August opening. Spivey said this new store will be even better than the original.

The longtime toy lover, a spark in his eye as he speaks, plans separate showcase rooms in the new store for model airplanes, helicopters, boats, cars and trains.

"I'm going to have the prettiest, most gorgeous hobby and toy store in North America when we're finished," Spivey said, even as work crews tore down walls to remodel the warehouse.

Spivey said he plans to open the store only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

"I'll make up for all those years I worked six days a week," he said. [...]

Fair enough.

Anyway, be sure to read both pages of the article, and best wishes to him on the new venture.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2005

A Good One, He Was

Historian, Novelist Shelby Foote Dies

He was a writer and storyteller, and equally accomplished at both, which is an increasingly rare commodity.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:04 PM | Comments (2)

What she said.

Britain marks anniversary of sea victory

By THOMAS WAGNER
The Associated Press

PORTSMOUTH, England (AP) — Two hundred years ago a daredevil naval hero by the name of Horatio Nelson led the British to a glorious victory over France and Spain. But that might not be clear from watching Tuesday's reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Wary of offending European neighbors who enjoy a close but sometimes testy friendship with Britain, organizers decided to dispense with details such as who won and who lost. Instead of depicting the battle as a contest between countries, they assigned the fleets colors — red and blue — and left it up to the spectators to figure out which was which.

Nelson's great, great, great granddaughter called it a "pretty stupid" idea.

"I am sure the French and Spanish are adult enough to appreciate we did win that battle," said Anna Tribe, 75. "I am anti-political correctness. Very much against it. It makes fools of us." [...]

Amen, sister. (Although I would be careful about overestimating the level of adulthood of the French and Spanish.) Then again, the same could be said of certain newspaper reporters. Buried deep toward the end is this howler of a sentence:

[...] In the 1800s, ships such as the HMS Victory were that era's weapons of mass destruction. [...]

Only if you are so stupid that you cannot understand the definition of mass destruction, or have even less than the normal thimbleful-sized dollop of history taught in school.

Prior to the advent of poison gas, there really was no historical antecedent for a weapon of mass destruction, with one possible exception--a large army on the march. Especially in the absence of secure supply lines, an army consumed huge amounts of food, water, horses, cattle, and firewood, all taken from the land it was marching through. This doesn't even account for the destruction of anything that might have the slightest use for the enemy. Large armies could leave a miles-wide path of desolation that could take years for to recover after it had been picked over and torn apart. This also doesn't take into account ancient armies who generally enslaved or killed any civilians they came across.

The one thing warships were great at, though, was projecting power to distant lands and keeping lines of trade open. Having a ready source of income and the ability to move cash and goods freely from one place to another was, and still is, the surest way to insure strength. England's naval victories ensured its ability to have an umimpeded access to markets around the world, and helped make it a world power.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:10 AM | Comments (5)

June 23, 2005

For your time wasting pleasure.

For all you history buffs, Kenny Smith e-mailed me a link to a neat collection of panoramic maps from the Library of Congress. I've linked to them in the far past, but they're worth seeing again. Here are some for Alabama, and you can search for anyplace to see if your town is in there. There's also a companion collection of panoramic photographs--again, here are some from Birmingham.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

Poor Vulcan

Was just trolling through the referrer logs and happened upon a search that (somehow) led a reader here: The Vulcan in Birmingham used to hold a

BADGER! Not really.

But as you can see from Vulcan Park's website, he has been called upon to hold a variety of demeaning, non-God o' the Forge things--

[...] In 1905, when the World's Fair had ended, Vulcan was taken apart and brought by train back to Birmingham. His pieces lay atop Red Mountain while city leaders tried to decide where to put him. Some wanted him in Capitol Park, now called Linn Park, in downtown Birmingham. Others thought he should stand atop Red Mountain. After a year and a half, he finally wound up at the Alabama State Fairgrounds. Although it was to be a temporary home, Vulcan stayed there for almost thirty years. Mr. Moretti was not there to help, and Vulcan wasn't put together correctly. He couldn't hold his hammer because his left hand was turned the wrong way. His left arm had to be supported by a timber. His right hand was put on backwards, so he could not hold his spear. Merchants began to use him for advertising, and over the years he held various objects, such as a giant ice cream cone, a pickle sign, and a Coke bottle. Later he wore a giant pair of Liberty overalls. In the 1930s he was repainted in flesh tones. Also, people only saw him for the few weeks the fair was open each year. [...]

The Birmingham Public Library has a whole set of historical photos of him--here's an archive photo of the old fellow from way back then--nothing in his hand at all in this one, no Coke bottle, much less a spear. Here's one taken in the '30s after he'd been dolled up in Lifelike Roman God colors, with his hammering hand held up by a stick. And hey, look--chariot races!

Anyway, he's had a lot of abuse over the years, but he's never seemed to mind too much. I'm just grateful that as Birmingham has moved away from its heavy industrial past to a present as a nationally-prominent provider of health care services, that no one has gotten the bright idea of using Vulcan as a shill for regular prostate exams.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

The Churchill Wit

From page 60--

Commenting on the hesitant neutral nations in the early days of World War II, Mr. Churchill made this acid comment:

Each one of them hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

June 21, 1945

Okinawa Surrenders.

On June 21, 1945, Japanese troops surrendered the Pacific Island of Okinawa to the United States after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War II. Having recovered the South Pacific islands from Japanese control, the United States was ready next to launch an onslaught on the Japanese mainland.

In September 1940, Japan allied itself with Germany and Italy to form the Axis powers and established a base in French Indochina. One year later, Japan moved troops to southern French Indochina and was poised to move against the Netherlands Indies, seeking to acquire an oil source.

When the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands placed an embargo on oil exports to Japan, Japan responded quickly with the attack against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. In rapid succession the Japanese military forces with their superior force, occupied the Philippines, the Netherlands Indies, Malaya, Singapore, and invaded Burma and Thailand. Japan had achieved its goal of complete control of the South Pacific. [...]

Ah, so it was all about OIIIIIL, eh? And obviously, we brought the war on ourselves by not respecting the needs of the Japanese. Oh, sure, that little escapade into Manchuria (and Peking, and Shanghai, and Nanking, and French Indo-China, and Burma) was naughty, but, hey, that reckless cowboy FDR was dead set on dragging us into a war to make his oil buddies richer.

Ahem. Anyway, the fight for Okinawa was one of the bloodiest and toughest engagements the United States has ever fought.

[...] Okinawa was the last critical outpost the United States needed to reclaim before launching an attack on the Japanese home islands. As in the progressive invasion of the other Pacific Islands, the U.S. began the onslaught with a series of air attacks on Okinawa and islands nearby, during the months from October 1944 to March 1945.

From this time until the end of the war, the Japanese responded with an intense and desperate effort, increasing the kamikaze attacks on American ships and other targets and introducing to these suicide missions a new weapon, the baka, a piloted missile. In these guided missiles, the pilot reached more than 600 miles per hour in his final dive, crashing into his target with more than a ton of explosives built into the nose of the aircraft. During the battle of Okinawa alone, the kamikaze pilots were directly responsible for the death of almost 5,000 American soldiers in 355 air raids. [...]

The ship my father sailed home on after the war, the USS Hancock CV-19, was struck by two kamikaze attacks, one during operations supporting the Okinawa invasion.

[...] On June 21, Lieutenant General Ushijima Mitsuru surrendered Okinawa to the United States. The next day he committed suicide. The United States had taken the island with the loss of 12,000 American lives and 100,000 Japanese lives. Still Japan refused to concede that the Second World War was in effect over. The ultimate surrender of Japan to the Allies would be, according to Japanese cultural norms, an unthinkable dishonor. [...]

Of course, it's really impossible to say for sure, but I think if you look at the history, it's safe to say the world would be a far worse place had this "cultural norm," or the one that had festered in Germany, been allowed free rein. Same goes for any sort of "cultural norm" today that preaches that all infidels must die.

It might also be worth noting that to this day, sixty years on, we STILL have Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors stationed there.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

June 17, 1775

The Battle of Bunker Hill

On June 17, 1775, American troops displayed their mettle in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston, inflicting casualties on nearly half of the British troops dispatched to secure Breed's Hill (the actual site of the battle).

More than 15,000 colonial troops defended Boston at Breed's Hill, Bunker Hill, and Dorchester Heights following the battles of Lexington and Concord. African-American soldiers comprised approximately one-third of the rebel troops.

Five thousand British troops under the command of General Gage stormed Breed's Hill, where colonial soldiers were encamped. In their fourth charge up the hillside, the British took the hill from the rebels, who had run out of ammunition. The last rebels left on the hill evaded capture by the British, thanks to the heroic efforts of Peter Salem, an African-American soldier who mortally wounded the British commanding officer who led the last charge.

After suffering 1,000 casualties during their charges on Breed's Hill, the British discontinued their assaults on rebel strongholds in Boston. When George Washington assumed command of colonial forces two weeks later, he garnered ammunition for Boston troops and secured Dorchester Heights and Bunker Hill. [...]

Just a reminder, but it might serve some purpose to remember that the war did not end until 1783, and the United States labored under the burden of the Articles of Confederation until the Constitution was fully ratified in 1789.

What we take for granted today did not simply spring into being overnight, at no cost.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:55 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2005

The Churchill Wit

I saw this entry from Cox and Forkum yesterday, commenting on the wonders of the Canadian healthcare system. There is a companion blurb from a Wall Street Journal article, and one line was rather pithy--

[...] The socialist claim is that a single-payer system is more equal than one based on prices, but last week's court decision reveals that as an illusion. Or, to put it another way, Canadian health care is equal only in its shared scarcity. [...]

Well, obviously it reminds me of a sage quip from Mr. Churchill--"The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Old feller was pretty smart.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2005

The Churchill Wit

From the Bill Adler book of the same name, today's entry is:

Winston Churchill was never fond of Ramsay MacDonald, and in a speech in the House of Commons in 1931, had this to say about him:

I remember when I was a child being taken to the celebrated Barnum's Circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the exhibit on the program which I desired to see was the one described as "The Boneless Wonder."

My parents judged the spectacle would be too revolting and demoralizing for my youthful eyes, and I have waited fifty ears to see "The Boneless Wonder" sitting on the Treasury Bench.

When MacDonald became Prime Minister, Churchill observed:

We know that he has, more than any other man, the gift of compresssing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 10:58 AM | Comments (2)

I suppose that in comparison...

..."867-5309" really wasn't quite as big of a problem.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005

I wondered what the smoke was all about.

It was just a part of my childhood, that's all.

Spivey's hobby store burns

It was a crappy old building, in a tough and crumbling part of town, but once inside it was a wonderland for kids like me who enjoyed building plastic models, or other kids who built rockets, or the ones who built radio control airplanes and cars.

Spivey's had anything you could think of, and never threw anything out. In with all the new stuff, you could find all sorts of kits that had languished on shelves for years--some that had once been hot, like maybe a Star Wars landspeeder from the real first movie, or a Six Million Dollar Man figure and diorama--and then had somehow managed not to get sold. Stuff like that was still there, dusty, waiting for some rabid collector or just some kid from the neighborhood to pick it up. Old Mr. Spivey, bless him, was always kind of scary to me. He had a gruff directness about him, but he was always patient and full of information.

I had seen some smoke off to the west yesterday afternoon, and figured it was a house fire of some sort. Little did I know what was gone now. It was hard to watch the footage on the news last night. Mr. Spivey was beside himself, wondering why the firemen weren't doing more to put the fire out; but surely he knew that with all that plastic, and all that glue and fuel and paper and mess, there was no way to save it. And there wasn't.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:23 PM | Comments (7)

June 01, 2005

I've noticed it, too--

and I only rarely get to watch it. That being the History Channel, and Dave Helton's notice of a distinct lack of concern on their part for accuracy.

It does seem there's an awful lot of that going around.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

The Churchill Wit

Another selection from my new old book, this time from page 59:

Nothing is more dangerous in wartime than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup Poll, always feeling one's pulse and taking one's temperature.

I see it said that leaders should keep their ears to the ground. All I can say is that the British nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are detected in that somewhat ungainly posture.

House of Commons
September, 1941

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:01 AM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2005

Memorial Day.

The weekend is drawing near, and given the day of remembrance to come on Monday, I leave you with this.


normandy.jpg
Normandy


manila.jpg
Manila


tunisia.jpg
Tunisia


cambridge.jpg
Cambridge


meuse-argonne.jpg
Meuse-Argonne


somme.jpg
Somme


arlington.jpg
Arlington


At ease.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:54 PM | Comments (4)

Rip van Winkle-san

Japan Says WWII Soldiers in Philipines

Friday that two former Japanese soldiers have been hiding in the mountains of the southern Philippines since World War II.

The health ministry, in charge of repatriating Japanese overseas, said it was sending an official to the southern Philippine city of General Santos on Saturday to join Japanese embassy officials attempting to reach the pair. [...]

Yu Kameoka, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's spokesman, said in Tokyo the two men apparently were reluctant to meet with officials because of the large number of people, including reporters, waiting to see them.

"According to a man who is mediating, the two men are rather worried about meeting with so many people gathered in General Santos, including those from the media," he said, adding no time has been set for a meeting.

Media reports in Japan said the two octogenarians lived on the southern island of Mindanao and used equipment suggesting they were former soldiers, with one report saying they were separated from their division and later wanted to return to Japan but feared they would face a court-martial. [...]

Well, bless their hearts if this is true. That's a long time to live in the woods.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:12 PM | Comments (6)

May 25, 2005

The Wit of Churchill

I told you we'd be having regular doses of this! From page 8, and apropos to all the mewling for Senatorial comity lately:

Mr. Churchill was once asked in the House of Commons about the importance of consultation with his political allies and foes. This was his reply:

Well, one can always consult a man and ask him, "Would you like your head cut off tomorrow?" and after he has said, "I would rather not," cut it off.

And one suitable for any former Klansman who might reach high office:

This conversation took place in the House of Commons in November, 1947.

Sir Winston: Mr Herbert Morrison is a master craftsman.

Mr. Morrison: The right honorable gentleman has promoted me.

Sir Winston: Craft is common both to skill and deceit.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005

From that to this.

May 24, 1844

On May 24, 1844, Samuel F. B. Morse dispatched the first telegraphic message over an experimental line from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. The message, taken from the Bible, Numbers 23:23 and recorded on a paper tape, had been suggested to Morse by Annie Ellworth, the young daughter of a friend. [...]

And to this day, blogging is still done in this exact same way.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:29 AM | Comments (13)

May 06, 2005

If you like old timey music...

...you might want to visit this event.

I sure wish the online edition of the paper would be more efficient in putting in some related links, such as this one to Tannehill, or maybe this one from a dulcimer maker.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:56 AM | Comments (3)

May 05, 2005

Chet the E-Mail Boy--

--our resident Linotype operator and telegrapher, was very familiar with this story, but it was a new one to me.

I went to the basement of the palatial Axis of Weevil World Headquarters Building just now and checked Chet's Merganthaler, and sure enough, it's a fact.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 02:17 PM | Comments (2)

May 04, 2005

Hey, have I got a bargain for YOU!

On May 4, 1626--

Dutch colonist Peter Minuit arrived on the wooded island of Manhattan in present-day New York. Hired by the Dutch West India Company to oversee its trading and colonizing activities in the Hudson River region, Minuit is famous for purchasing Manhattan from resident Algonquin Indians for the equivalent of $24. The transaction was a mere formality, however, as the Dutch had already established the town of New Amsterdam at the southern end of the island. [...]

It's probably worth at least twice that now.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

Here's one ...

...for the guitar players in the house.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:08 AM | Comments (6)

April 20, 2005

Say...that's pretty nice!

Just did my daily scan of the Library of Congress website, and they've spiffed up the front page slightly. Very nicely done--not too busy, easy to read, easy to get around.

Color me impressed.

OH--and don't miss the Shop--all sorts of cool stuff to waste time looking at, including photos of aviatrixes posed rather wickedly with their stockinged ankles exposed for the whole world to see. SHOCKING!

You can also get a tee-shirt with the Library of Congress' initials on it so everyone will know what a big geek you are. Unfortunately, it costs $16, which is a bit much for me, considering everyone already knows how big of a geek I am. Why advertise the obvious?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2005

April 19, 1775

And so the battle is joined--from the Library of Congress' American Memory website, a notation marking the beginning of the American Revolution with the battles of Lexington and Concord.

In 1836, only 61 years distant from that first shot (and only 53 since the end of the war), a monument was erected to commemorate the event and the following hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson was sung--

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world,

The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.

Spirit! who made those freemen dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid time and nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

The Michael Moores of the world may believe these men are no different from the bloody power-mad murderers the world now calls terrorists. The men who fought to leave their children free were not murderers, not be the context of our time, nor of their own. Even their foes saw them not simply as enemies, but as honorable enemies--weak, upstart, misguided--most certainly. But not men of dishonor.

That they persevered and were victorious made the world a better place, and by that grace allowed even the simpletons and buffoons of our land to show themselves freely for what they are. That such mockers and poltroons are given a place in our midst is not by the hand of their own idiocy, but rather is a gift from their fathers; the same fathers whom they hold in such low regard.

May those who unjustly equate the founding of this country with the deeds of evil men never have to live without the protection of her liberty.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at 09:54 AM | Comments (3)