The Voice of Christmas

By | Nov 20, 2016

When one thinks about Christmas and all of the songs and the artists who have recorded them, the one person who nearly everyone thinks about is Bing Crosby and “White Christmas”. He has even been called the Voice of Christmas.

And it’s hard not to agree with this fact. Although nearly every generation has a singer who is associated with Christmas. It could be Perry Como, who along with Crosby had a number of Christmas Special on broadcast TV during his life. Or Andy Williams, who along with his Brothers and another set of brothers, The Osmonds, enjoyed a run of Christmas shows on his variety show of the 1960’s. Even today Michael Bublé is beginning to look like he is the Voice of Christmas for this generation.

But it’s still the songs of Bing Crosby that many remember hearing during the Christmas of their youth. It could be “White Christmas” which he first recorded in 1942 for the film “Holiday Inn”. But that wasn’t the only one. In 1943 he released “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, which if not for the success of “White Christmas”, would be considered his classic Christmas Song. He also had a recording of “Silent Night” that reached the top of the charts as was a duet with the Andrew Sisters, “Jingle Bells” also in 1943.

Crosby also has had a few improbable Christmas pairings. One of his last recorded performance was the duet he recorded with David Bowie, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” for his 1977 Christmas Special. This year there will be an impossible duet, made possible by the wonders of modern technology, with him singing with Michael Bublé in his new Christmas Special slated for Monday December 10, 2012 at 10pm on NBC.

Bing Crosby was the biggest recording act of the 1930s and 1940s. Even though Billboard used a different method of charting Crosby had separate charting singles in every calendar year between 1931 and 1954. In all 383 chart singles, including 41 No. 1 hits. Some of these were “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” (1938), “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Swinging on a Star” (Both 1943).

It’s his Christmas songs that is remembered and played. And will probably still be in a hundred years from now.

The Path to Independence

By | Jun 30, 2016

How much do you actually know about what happened on and around July 4, 1776?

We all know that July 4th is the birthday of the United States, but is it really?

Events that led up to the birth of the United States started in 1774 when 56 representatives from 12 of the British Colonies meet in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26. They created a Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress in response to the Intolerable Acts.

A second Continental Congress was called to convene on May 10, 1775. Letters of invites to this congress was supposed to be issued to Georgia, Quebec, Saint John’s Island (now Prince Edward Island), Nova Scotia, Georgia, East Florida, and West Florida. It appears that only Georgia and Quebec actually received these invitation letters.

The 12 colonies came together on May 10, 1775, Georgia didn’t arrive until July. By the time this congress convened the Battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought and war had begun with Congress to take charge of the war effort. On June 14, 1775, the Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and appointed George Washington, at the time a delegate of Virginia, as commanding general of the Continental Army.

While Congress was moving towards declaring independence from the British Empire many delegates lacked the authority from their home governments to take this action. That was until Richard Henry Lee, a representative from Virginia received from The Virginia’s House of Burgesses instructions that on May 15, 1776 they resolved that “the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress” be instructed to propose to that respectable body to “declare the united Colonies free and independent states.”

Lee presented on June 6, 1776, a resolution to congress that read;

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Debate began on the resolution, but it was decided to wait for three week so that the delegates could send the resolution to their home colonies and receive direction on voting. It also appeared to those present that the resolution would pass and that there needed to be a suitable declaration for the resolution.

On June 11, 1776 a committee, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, was formed. They were known as the Committee of Five.

The committee delegated that Jefferson would write the draft. Jefferson and the committee worked on it from June 12 until June 27. Franklin and Adams made several minor corrections and the entire committee made additional changes and additions, a total of forty-seven alterations including the insertion of three complete paragraphs from Jefferson’s original draft. Jefferson then produced another copy incorporating these changes and the committee presented this copy to the Continental Congress on Friday June 28, 1776.

On Monday July 1st, congress began debate on the Lee Resolution.

Delaware had three delegates representing the colony. Delaware had just recently declared their independence not only from England but also from Pennsylvania with whom they shared a Royal Governor. The three delegates were Thomas Mckean and Caesar Rodney who were for Independence and George Reed who was against. When debate began Rodney was in Dover Delaware who as a Militia General was seeing to the command of his troops. (Some stories are that Rodney was on his death bed. While it is true that he had a rare form of facial cancer that left him disfigured and in constant discomfort he was not at his home due to the disease. In fact Rodney lived for nearly 8 more years).

Thomas McKean, who was on the side of independence, sent a dispatch to Caesar Rodney who received it on July 1st, the day before the vote would be taken. He quickly mounted his horse and began the 80 miles trip to Philadelphia. He rode throughout the night. While he rode he encountered a severe thunderstorm. He continued to ride through the rain that turned the road to mud. He arrived shortly after the delegates returned to the Congress after their lunch break, just before the final vote was taken on Tuesday July 2nd. When Delaware was called he rose and voted in favor of Independence. George Read, the Delaware delegate who was against Independence, did sign the Declaration.

South Carolina still wasn’t in favor of independence, but Edward Rutledge, who opposed independence and had made many motions to delay the vote, convinced the delegation that for the sake of unanimity, they should vote in favor. The New York delegation abstained, since they did not have instructions from their home government. The Vote for Independence had passed.

In a letter that John Adams sent to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776 he said;

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

Finally at a little after 11 o’clock on Thursday morning July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved. Again the New York delegation abstained from the vote, but did approve the Declaration five days later. This was after many hours of debate during the two days leading to the vote. There were thirty-nine revisions to the committee’s draft, including the deletion of language that denounced King George III for promoting slave trade.

John Hancock, as President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress signed the document.

It wasn’t until July 19th that congress ordered that the Declaration to be officially inscribed and signed by its members. Congressional delegates began to sign the officially inscribed copy on August 2. It was even signed by some members who had not voted for its adoption and some who were not present at Congress when the vote was cast.

This was originally written in 2006 and has been revised and republished on various sites each year since then.

40 Years Gone

By | Jun 10, 2016

This past weekend I attended the graduation ceremony at the High School where I graduated. I attended it as a reporter, not as a guest of a graduate. But as I was watching the graduates walk across the stage to receive their diplomas it hit me that 40 years ago I was one of those young innocent youths.

When I think back on it, it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been 40 years. I, most of the time, don’t feel 40 years older. Other times, well that’s a different story. As we get ready for our 40th reunion later this summer I wonder where the time went.

Life is so much different than it was in 1976. Gerald Ford was President and Jimmy Carter was running against him. And it was going to be my first time to vote. Which at the time it was only the second presidential election where those at the tender age of 18 was eligible to vote for the nation’s leader. Since then there has been 9, this year makes 10, Presidential Elections. With 7 men (counting Ford) as our President. And this year it’s possible that the next President may be a woman.

Technically the Internet existed, but only for specialized function mostly used by the Military and some universities. Now it would seem we can’t exist without instant communications. Then it was the house phone and when you rang a friend you hoped they were home to get your call. There were Car Phones, but again for very specialized services. When you said Apple, you thought of the fruit or maybe the record company created by the Beatles. The computer company was just a few months old.

Even transportation was different. Many young men had a love affair with their cars. Even more than with the girl they were dating. Maybe that’s not all that different, some guys still have that old hot rod to take out for a ride to show off at a Car Show.

Where will these students be in 40 years? I imagine some will be watching as a child, or grandchild graduates, perhaps at the same High School they did, and wonder like me where the days have gone.

The Kent County High School (Maryland) Class of '16 celebrating their graduation. Photo: SG Atkinson

The Kent County High School (Maryland) Class of ’16 celebrating their graduation. Photo by SG Atkinson

Memorial Day

By | May 26, 2016

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 and organized by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of former sailors and soldiers. It was inspired by local observances during the 3 years after the end of the Civil War.

After World War I the observances began to honor those who had died in all of America’s Wars.

With the passage of the National Holiday act of 1971 the National Memorial Day is the last Monday in May. Some states still have an additional separate day for honoring their state’s war deaths. January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years with many Americans forgetting or not understanding the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. Towns and cities still hold Memorial Day parades, however many have not held a parade in decades. It’s even thought by some people that the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

Some, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), advocate returning to the original date of May 30. In a 2002 Memorial Day Address the VFW stated, “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

The traditional date of May 30th, which is the date it’ll be this year (2016). The earliest that Memorial Day can be is May 25th.

Please take a moment with us as we honor those who have made the greatest sacrifice for their country.

May Day

By | May 1, 2016

May 1st is a holiday in many countries. One such holiday is International Workers’ Day (a name used interchangeably with May Day) a celebration of the achievements of the international labor movement. In the United States many view it as a socialist or communist celebration, although the day is the commemoration of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) of the United States and Canada had set the date of May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become the standard work day. In the Chicago area of Haymarket Square on May 4, a riot broke out between strikers against employers who did not grant the 8 hour work day. The strikers lost.

May Day is also a holiday that was celebrated in pagan Europe. It was a festival day to celebrate the spring planting. For the Druids it was the second most important day in the year when they celebrated the festival of Beltane.

From this May Day celebration comes the May Pole and the May Pole Dance. In the Middle Ages the villages would bring a pole to the center of the village from the adjoining forest. At times neighboring villages would even have contest to see who had the tallest pole.

In the bigger towns, such as London, the poles would become a permanent structure. This custom came to America with the English colonist. One such structure in the center of New York was renamed the Liberty Pole just prior to the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

At Washington College, a small Liberal Arts College located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the first of May has become a day when the students celebrate the coming of the end of the semester and the beginning of summer with an unique liberating May Day tradition.

Springing Ahead

By | Mar 10, 2016

For those who don’t know the rhyme we spring ahead an hour in the spring and fall backward one hour, in the fall. Some people mistakenly call it Daylight Savings Time, but it is Daylight Saving Time. There is not ‘S’. In 2007 with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that President George Bush signed into law in 2005, the new dates for Daylight Saving Time will begin on the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday of November.

Daylight Saving Time is not a modern idea. Benjamin Franklin first mentioned it in a letter to the Journal of Paris in 1784. He didn’t really say that the clocks should be changed, but that to take advantage of the extra daylight, one should arise from bed earlier.

It wasn’t put into practice until the German government put it in place in 1916 between April 30 and October 1. In the same year the United Kingdom adopted it from May 21 to October 1.

The U.S. Congress established it at the same time they formally adopted the Rail Road Time Zones in 1918, observing it for seven months in 1918 & 1919 It became so unpopular that the law for DST was repealed in 1919.

In 1942, during World War II, DST was reinstated in the U.S. although from the end of the war in 1945 until 1966, there wasn’t a Federal Law that addressed DST.

In 1966 DST was established and has been in place since, although the law gave states the capability to exempt themselves and a few, such as Arizona and Hawaii have. Many countries follow some sort of DST plan.

United Artists

By | Feb 5, 2016

Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith incorporated United Artists on February 5, 1919. Each of them own 20% of the corporation with the remaining 20% by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo serving as general counsel for the founders.

The first agreement allowed the principles to release four pictures a year. A number that soon they found they could not reach. They did turn to others such as Buster Keaton, King Vidor and Samuel Goldwyn to fill the schedule.

One of the reasons it was formed, perhaps the single most important reason, was that these artists didn’t like the practice of ‘block booking’ that the movie studios of the era had developed. This practice required movie houses to take a block of motion pictures, whether they wanted all of them or not, just to get the ones they may want. United Artists would deal with the exhibitors with each single picture.

The first United Artist released movie was Douglas Fairbanks “His Majesty, the American” on September 1, 1919

By the late 1940s, United Artists existed mostly in name only. Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford was contacted by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, two lawyers, in 1951 asking if they could run United Artists. They agreed, even though Chaplin at first was against the idea changing his mind only after US government revoked his re-entry visa in 1952.

Krim and Benjamin’s management and then ownership changed the direction of the corporation. United Artists became one of biggest movie corporations of the 1950s into the 1960s. In 1967 they sold their interests to Transamerica Corporation.

Today it is part of MGM Holdings and movies are still being produced as United Artist films/

I Don’t Like Mondays

By | Jan 29, 2016

On Monday January 29, 1979 the day was starting as usual for Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California. Then all of a sudden shots rang out. They were coming from the house across the street. During the 6 hour shooting spree and standoff Principal Burton Wragg and head custodian Mike Suchar were killed. Eight children and a police officer also sustained wounds.

When the shooter was arrested it was 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer. The rifle she used during the shooting had been given to her as a Christmas gift from her father, only a few weeks before.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Her sentence was 25 years to life in prison and is currently at The California Institution for Women in Chino, California. She is up for parole in 2009.

When asked why she did the shooting one of her responses was, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

Bob Geldolf, who was the lead singer for the rock band Boomtown Rats, heard about the shooting and the statement of Spencer and wrote the song, ”
I Don’t Like Mondays.”

It was only a minor hit in the US but, it was a number 1 hit in the United Kingdom. Throughout the 1980s many album rock stations played the song as the anthem for Mondays. Since some stations only played the chorus many people had no idea the true subject of the song was a school shooting.

Bad Week for NASA

By | Jan 28, 2016

Yesterday I wrote about the fiery death of the first three NASA Astronauts to die in the United State’s quest for Space. I didn’t realize then how close together the three major Space Accidents actually occurred.

The first happened on January 27, 1967 when afire in the command module sitting atop a Saturn IB rocket, just weeks before the first manned Apollo mission was set to blast-off killed three astronauts. Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward Higgins White, II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee.

Nineteen years later the Space Shuttle Challenger as being the first shuttle to be destroyed, when it exploded 1 minute 13 seconds into its flight on January 28, 1986. Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Commander, Michael J. Smith, pilot, mission specialist Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald McNair, payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe, all of the members of its crew, lost their lives that day.

Then in 2003 on February 1st there was the last space shuttle accident. On re-entry Columbia broke apart in flames about 203,000 feet over Texas. This was 16 minutes before it was supposed to touch down in Florida. All seven aboard were killed: William McCool, Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, who was Israel’s first astronaut.

Technically none of these died in space. They all died within the Earth’s atmosphere, either on the ground, during take-off or re-entry. The beginning of space is defined at 100km.

I hope that everyone will take a few moments between January 27th and February 1st, this year and every year, to think about those who gave their lives in Space Exploration.

A Fire in Space Exploration

By | Jan 27, 2016

President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s was well on scheduled until January 27, 1967. On that day the project was put on hold. A fire in the command module sitting atop a Saturn IB rocket, just weeks before the first manned Apollo mission was set to blast-off killed three astronauts.

Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward Higgins White, II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee.

Gus Grissom, born on April 3, 1926 in Mitchell, Indiana, was one of the first astronauts selected in 1959 for the Mercury Program. He was the second person to fly in space on Liberty Bell 7 launched on on July 21, 1961. He also flew in the Gemini program as the Command Pilot on Gemini 3 launched on March 23, 1965.

Ed White, born November 14, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas, was chosen as one of the second group of astronauts in 1962. He was the pilot of Gemini 4 launched on June 3, 1965 and during that mission 4 hours after lift-off he performed the first Spacewalk by an American. He was outside of the capsule for 15 minutes 40 seconds.

Roger Chaffee, born February 15, 1935 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, had been chosen as one of the third group of astronauts in 1963. This would have been his first mission into space.

Chaffee and Grissom are both buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. White is buried at West Point Cemetery. These three fallen men were heroes in every sense of the word and even in death helped the United States become the only nation on earth to sent men to the moon.

750px-apollo1-crew_01 From left to right; Grissom, White and Chaffee

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