Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bereridge's Wild West Show - The Year the Indians Came to My Hometown

Chief Little Bear of The Cree Nation
On June 9, 1895, the Cincinnati papers announced that Beveridge's Wildest West Show was coming to Cincinnati.  It would perform on the old Campus Grounds of the Order of Cincinnatus at the foot of Bank Street; what today is near Spring Grove Avenue just south of the Western Hills viaduct.

The Enquirer noted that “several attempts have been made to foist fake shows of this kind on the public” and the Gazette seconded that, saying “The public of Cincinnati has been fooled frequently by Wild West announcements.”  Both papers assured, however, that this was the real deal, and featured 178 Cree Indians as the feature of the shows.

There would be three shows only, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  The show would feature, in addition to the Cree, according to the Gazette, a “team of crack shots; a score of cowboys, each of whom has won distinction by his skill and bravery; several cowgirls; all sorts of Western rough riders; Salem Nassar's troupe of Arabs, said to be by far the best troupe ever brought to this country, and to contain a genuine whirling dervish, or spinning Mohammedan priest; a complete card of Hippodrome races; [and] many legitimate circus features that have been lent to add variety.”

The Enquirer said their tent would hold 8,000 people, and would be the largest ever erected in Cincinnati.

The Cree 
A little background on the Crees:  The Cree were Native American Indians originally from Manitoba, Canada.  Under Chiefs Wandering Spirit (who, as the white Canadians hung him, sang not a death song, but a love song to his wife) and Big Bear, they found their beloved buffalo in fewer and fewer numbers.  The local Indian agent was only interested in helping them if they agreed to settle down, raise crops, and embrace Christianity, but the Cree were having no part of that.

The Cree believed that since the Whites had destroyed all of the Cree's food source, the buffalo, the Crees were entitled to eat from the plentiful stores of the White man.  The standoff's got violent, most famously during the Riel Rebellion . Ultimately, the Cree fled to Montana, where the US refused to recognize them, since they were not native to the USA.

Big Bear was the Chief who led them in Manitoba, but his capture by the Canadians put his son, Little Bear in charge of a tribe that was hungry and homeless, adrift in Montana with no food.  They were, the Enquirer noted, the only Indian Tribe to have never signed a treaty.  Read more about the Cree at this site.

To eat, they joined Beveridge and his Wildest West Show.  They had seen Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and figured they could do that.  They also may have been led to believe that going east would eventually enable them to talk to authorities in Washington.

The first Monday morning they were in Cincinnati, June 10, 1895, they were paraded to the Cincinnati Zoo.  They got to ride the elephant, and the Enquirer wrote that the big lions and tigers, upon glimpsing the Indians, were caused to growl violently.  Little Bear said his people wanted to know if there were Buffalo on display, and the Indians were able to “stroke the mangy hair through the bars of the enclosure.”  Little Bear told the head of the zoo “My heart is smiling.  My people shall talk of your wonderful place at their council fires when they are old men.”

The march to and from the zoo was used as a promotional tool, and the “parade through the principal thoroughfares of the city attracted the curious in such crowds that many of the streets were fairly blocked.”

That afternoon and evening were the first of the shows, and the local papers went into a frenzy of Manifest-Destiny-ism and yellow journalism that would last for weeks.  The Gazette said that the Cree's “feathers are of the primmest and best; their red blankets are the proper shade of carmine; their war paint is sufficiently brilliant, and their war dances so inspiriting;” adding that folks should see the show twice.  The Enquirer said “The entry of the Indians, under command of their chiefs, 10 men with each, was an impressive sight.”  They noted “Little Bear, Buffalo Coat, Long Hair, and Sun each conducted 10 warriors into the arena, each in full war paint, and they certainly looked fierce and ugly enough to to fulfill the claims of the most sensational Indian story writer.”

Tuesday's Enquirer, the 12th, ran another very positive if less detailed review.  The Gazette ran no review, but did have a small piece about the ownership of the show being changed.

A story in the Gazette on the 13th about the death of one of the Cree children, named Ho-te-ot-te-na-wish, one and a half years old, and said to have died from “pulmonary tuberculosis.”  The child was to be buried in the “Wesleyan Cemetery.”

And Then It Gets Real Interesting So three scheduled days of shows took place on June 10-12, and the press remains silent until we get to June 15, that Saturday, when most of the Cree have ended up at Taylor's Bottoms in Bellevue.

The Post reported that the promoters of the wild west show were furious, because between when the show's advance men came to Bellevue and the time the show was due to open, there was passed an ordinance passed calling for a $30 fee to be levied on circuses.

By Monday, the Gazette was reporting that  “The tied up circus, with its squad of Indians, drew a large crowd to Taylor Bottoms yesterday, and what, with the wild men of the west and the rag-tag and bob-tail element which makes Taylor Bottoms a gambling hole from craps to poker every Sunday,

Chief Ratliffe and his officers had a busy time of it.  Fights were frequent and there was a perfect riot among a lot of young sports at one time during the day over a game of craps.” While in Bellevue, it seems that the Sheriff, Jake Plummer, attached the receipts of the show based on a claim by Donaldson Lithographing.  And after the Saturday show, Bellevue Constable Albert Ashmoor had attachments totaling $173.

The Indians were also not being paid, and refused to go on again until they were paid. On Saturday night, the Indians had been told that if they persisted, and went to Washington, they could get their own land.  Further, they were told that they could get a corps of soldiers from Fort Thomas to go with them.

The show left town for Greensburg, Indiana with some Indians, but 142 (or maybe 80, or 150, sources vary) of the 178 stayed in Bellevue.  And then at midnight on Sunday the 16th, the Crees show up at Fort Thomas.

The sentry sent for the base commander, Major Cochran, who was told that six sick Indians were wanting in.  The Colonel ordered them sent from the Fort, but Campbell County Sheriff argued that they should be admitted.

While they were arguing, 87 Indians with their ponies marched into the Fort, and complained loudly about their treatment in Bellevue, and their fear of the place. Little Bear related his dissatisfaction with Beveridge's payments to the Cree, and the Sheriff outlined the attachment issues.  Mayor Nogel of Bellevue had ordered the Indians out of town as a nuisance.

Also, a group in Bellevue masquerading as Kentucky's Governor Brown had told the Indians that if they were not out of the State in 10 hours they would be jailed.

Ultimately, Fort Thomas took them in.  Because, as the Gazette noted, “If anything is natural to the soldier of the regular army, it is the protection of the Indian.”  Right.  Anyway, negotiations with the wild west show Monday morning were broken by that afternoon, and the Indians refused to leave the Fort. They pitched their teepees accordingly.

On Tuesday, Everything Changes It was on Tuesday the 18th that the Fort was inspected by the touring Secretary of War, The Hon. Daniel S. Lamont.  The press does not report Major Cochran's reaction to being inspected by the Secretary of War after agreeing to take in 100 stranded Indians, but you can image it was not one of his better days.  After viewing a number of war dances put on by Little Bear and his retinue, Lamont washed his hands of the whole mess, saying “Pshaw! There's nothing to it.  The War Department has nothing whatever to do with Indians.  We only see them as enemies.  They get no supplies from us, nor can we issue any without orders of the Secretary of the Interior.”

Cochran and Lamont agreed to let them stay as long as a week, until they could get on their feet, at which point they would have to go home.

There were two other developments on Tuesday.  First, the Beveridge show, without the Crees, and now in Greensburg, Indiana, was served with a number of additional attachments.  The Enquirer reported that shows proprietors were in “a good hotel,” and that the rest of the show were “desperate” from “hunger.”

A man who had come to take the Indians back to the rest of their group in Cincinnati was accused of horse-theft by the cowboys with the show, but he was found not guilty.

The Beveridge show was originally funded by Montana's Colonel Beveridge, a man of wealth in Helena, Montana.  He turned it over to his son, and the show started performances in Joliet, Illinois.  On the 11th, the Enquirer names E. D. Colvin as the manager of the show, while the Gazette on the 12th reports a change of ownership in the show.

On the 18th the Gazette refers to Allen and Davenport as the owners, and Hamilton as the manager, but on the 21st, the Enquirer quotes Beveridge, who, as alleged owner, says he only leased the show, from a man named Wallace.

At the very least (and we apologize for the coming sentence), the shows management was a case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians.  The Beveridge Wildest West Show ceased to be in Greensburg, Indiana.

From the Greensburg Saturday Review, of Saturday, June 22, 1895:  “Beveridge’s Wildest West Show went to pieces here.  The show has not been a paying investment, it seems, as the projectors of the enterprise claim to have lost over $25,000 on the undertaking.  Notwithstanding this great expenditure, the actors and other attaches say they have not received their salaries for six weeks.  The show lost most of its Indians at Cincinnati, and has been having hard luck since.”

Four days later, the same paper said “This has been a stormy week so far as peace and quiet were concerned, the stranded Indians, cowboys, and general utility men of the wild west show seeing to it that the serenity did not grow oppressive.  There have been fights and lawsuits galore and the end is not yet.

The show has been attached by Cpt. A. H. Bogardus, and Clinton D. DeWitt for money due on salaries, and the prospects are that it will be tied up here until the September term of the Court.  The tents, poles, etc., have been moved to the Fair grounds to await results.”

The second event of Tuesday, was that the Cincinnati Zoo agreed to take the Cree.  87 Cree with their 65 ponies marched from Fort Thomas to the zoo about 6 pm on Tuesday evening, where they were to perform until they could afford to go home.  Secretary Lamont was reported to be pleased with the turn of events.  

At The Zoo
The zoo saw the exhibit as being in line with their mission.  In their 1896 annual report, the zoo noted “The exhibit of wild people is in line with zoology, and so, when we exhibit Indians, or South Sea Islanders, or Esquimaux, [sic - sound it out] or Arabians, or any wild or strange people in existence, we are keeping within our province as a zoological institution.”

The press reports nothing but idyllic pastoral scenes from the Indians at the zoo. The Cree performed every stereotypical scene the managers could think of, wearing “pseudo Plains clothing in untraditional ways,” wore feathers from the birds at the zoo, and the public response was enthusiastic.

They performed from mid-June to July 15, when they had made enough to return to the west. The zoo had had to sell of 25 acres of its location in 1886 to make ends meet, and operated close to the edge ever since it opened in 1873. But the Cree made $25,000 for the zoo, a serious sum in those days.

It was the best year, financially, the zoo had ever had to that date. The next year, 1896, the Zoo imported a number of Sioux to replicate the success with the Cree, but there was another Indian exhibit in town by then, it was a rainy summer, and that was the end of Indians at the zoo. The Cree returned to Montana, and remain, to this day, the only tribe to never sign a treaty with the white man.

All of the information above is from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, and the Kentucky Post from June 9 through June 24, 1895. A shout out to Rachael Richardson for bringing this story to our attention.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Larry Noman's Funeral (A Remembrance)

Larry Norman April 8, 1947 - February 24, 2008
I originally posted this on March 2nd, 2008. Larry had passed away a week earlier on February 24th, 2008. This was from an article posted by Dave Hollandsworth on the Yahoo Jesus Music board on March 1st, 2008. He wrote "Someone (Greg from Portland) just sent me this... "

Larry Norman

"What a gathering! Perhaps 500 (?) of us poured into a church in Salem, Oregon this morning to pay our respects to Larry.

The Program

As we entered we were handed 'circus programs' (instead of a boring pamphlet) that read:

Admit One Ticket to
 Larry's Going Away Party

"Larry Norman Presents: A Going Away Party." We were also handed an "admit one" ticket, a sheet of paper on which we were to write notes to Larry's family, most notably any future grandchildren.

Only Visiting This Planet
 In Another Land
Also, depending on which door you entered by we were given an  Only Visiting this Planet CD,  an album that was Inducted Into The Gospel Music Hall Of Fame, the 2001 version or In Another Land,  the 30th Anniversary Edition CD. It was a gathering of friends, family and fans alike.

Inside of The Program

As people caught up with one another organ music filled the air. Then, all of a sudden...

SCREEEEEEETCH! It was the sound of a record player needle ripping across vinyl.

And then his voice that brought to mind these words he wrote:

"I ain't knocking the hymns, 
Just give me a song that has a beat. 
I ain't knocking the hymns, 
Just give me a song that moves my feet." 

The organ music was designed to be a "funeral march". So much so that I commented on it to a friend who attended the service with me.

The screech was followed by Larry's voice singing:

"I don't like none of those funeral marches I ain't dead yet!" 

Larry's Mother

What followed was a wonderful montage of music, photographs, and videos of Larry throughout his life. Friends and family spoke and there were a few performances.

After it was all over we ate hot dogs, popcorn and Cracker Jacks and M and;M's. A party! Just like Larry wanted.

Larry's Family
Thanks to Charles and Kristin for your efforts! I'm thinking of you.

There were few industry people there. I recognized Alex McDougal (drummer on Larry's 1979 tour) and Dan the keyboard player from his 1986 tour. Donnie and Michael Gossett from Salvation Air Force were also in attendance. I also saw one reporter.

Larry's Sister and Mother
Some of the most memorable moments for me were: A pastor from Portsmouth who started his first speaking segment with a word given to him by the Lord: phenomenal.

"Larry was phenomenal because he served a phenomenal God. He also sang (he was the first to admit that he doesn't sing well) the first song he heard Larry Sing "Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation."  He encouraged us to join him on the choruses.

An old school friend of Larry's, said, "...that we live life as a dash. When you look at a gravestone you see the birth year and year of death separated by a dash. The years are not important, it's the dash that is important. Larry had a great dash."

Larry Norman Obituary
Kristin Norman (Charles' wife) and her musical partner in the Fjord Motor Company sang a few Norwegian folk songs that Larry enjoyed accompanied by a saw player and later Larry's brother, Charles Norman.

Larry's sisters, Nancy and Kristi sang a song that Larry wrote about a trip to the circus to end the tributes.

The pastor from Portsmouth closed the speaking moments off reminding us that we need to live our lives out loud.

After this, we got to do a karakoke (following a bouncing ball until the guitar solo) to "The Rock That Doesn't Roll".  Everyone was singing, and a few tears were flowing as well.

The closing photo and video montage was amazing. "The Sun Began to Rain" was played over photos of a Larry up to about age five.

Then a photo of a  slightly older Larry was backed by one of Larry's rare songs, I can't recall the title.

This was followed by "Looking for the footprints" backed late teens/late 1960s photos.

Then the seventies and eighties and photos and video footage began. The photo that they left us with was one taken from behind Larry during a performance, from about where the drum kit should have been.

Larry Norman

It was black and white and all you could see was spotlight on Larry and Larry standing with his guitar. I suspect it was from the seventies but could have been any time early in his career.

See you there Larry.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Wolverton Mountain

This song was a hit record on the Country and Pop charts back in 1962. And this was the year my Uncle Clyde passed away, and I can vividly recall the day of his burial.

Woolverton Mountain, Arkansas 
I was 10 years old, and Mom had lathered my hair up with Vitalis to make it lay down. It was a hot summer day, and a long drive from northern Kentucky to the cemetery in Augusta, Kentucky in a car that was built before air conditioning was a feature. It seemed like we were at the graveside for hours, with Mom, Dad, my grandmother, siblings, my Aunt Margaret, Clyde's wife, and my cousin Peggy.. My head felt like it was on fire from that oily hair tonic. This was the first funeral I had been to in my young life, and I was scared. When we left, I was ever so glad.

Dad liked to have the radio on during the drive to a back, and I appreciated that. I knew a lot of songs at a young age. We stopped for dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and Dad put a couple of nickels in the jukebox above the table. One song was call Put another Nickel in the Nickelodeon, which I had heard many times. The other song was called Wolverton Mountain. It peeked my interest.

"They say don't go on Wolverton Mountain if you're looking for a wife.
Cause Clifton Clowers has a pretty young daughter,
He's mighty handy with a gun and a knife.

Her tender lips are sweeter than honey and Wolverton Mountain protects her there.
The bears and the birds, tell Clifton Clowers, if a stranger should enter there.
All of my dreams are on Wolverton Mountain I want his daughter for my wife.

I'll take my chances and climb right up that mountain,
Though Clifton Clowers, might take my life.
Her tender lips are sweeter than honey and Wolveton Mountain protects her there.
The bears and the birds, tell Clifton Clowers, if a stranger should enter there.

I'm going up on Wolverton Mountain it's too lonesome down here below.
It's just not right to hide his daughter from the one who loves her so.

And I don't care about Clifron Clovers I'm gonna climb up on his mountain I'm gonna take the girl I love.
I don't care about Clifron Clovers I'm gonna climb up on that mountain and I'll get the one I love."

The song was about a mean old, overly protective father, that would not let his young daughter out of his sight, for the selfish reason that he needed her companionship, and he needed her as a farm hand.

I was fascinated by the singer's deep baritone voice, and the story. It would not be until 50 years later I found out more about it, so here is the real story behind that song.  I found this story on a Facebook page by a person identified only as JH.

Songwriter Merle Kilgore
Songwriter Merle Kilgore often said that, although he was born in Oklahoma and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, his real roots were planted in the Arkansas Ozarks. His mother and grandmother had been born in those mountains, and most of his relatives called those wooded lands home.

Kilgore started playing guitar at a very young age, and began writing songs as a teenager. By the time he turned eighteen in 1954, one of his songs made it into the hands of Webb Pierce. “More and More” became a #1 hit for Pierce, and reached #7 when Charley Pride covered it in 1983.

Obtaining a spot on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Merle not only sang, but became the top accompanist for many of the show’s best-known acts. A master showman, he was a crowd favorite. Very outgoing,

Kilgore made friends easily, and soon found himself on the road with the likes of Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Jim Reeves and Elvis Presley. He continued to work the Hayride through the fifties, but by the end of the decade was contemplating taking a big chance and changing the course of his career.

In 1959 Kilgore took some time off and drove up to Arkansas to visit his uncle and aunt. He wasn’t sure if he should give up the career that he had built thus far. He had just to move to Nashville and was trying to make a career there. Merle wondered if that was too big a risk. He trusted his Uncle Clifton a great deal and wanted to discuss his predicament with him. Merle’s

Clifton Clowers plowing on his farm
Uncle Clifton lived on the same mountain where Kilgore’s mother and grandmother had been born. There was a peace as well as a sense of belonging that Merle felt when he walked the long trails and studied the picturesque vistas of Woolverton (the mountain’s actual spelling). Here, the pace was slow and the people were honest. It was the perfect setting not only to reflect on life, but also to gain insight and inspiration.

As Kilgore spent time at the old place, he began to think about the mountain and his uncle’s simple, but rewarding life. Grabbing his guitar and a pen, Merle wrote a song that he called “Clifton Clowers” (his uncle’s name). When he finished the piece, he went looking for his uncle, finding him out in a cane field making sorghum molasses.

Kilgore sat down right there and played him the new song. When he finished, Uncle Clifton smiled and told Merle, “Son, you just wrote yourself a hit.”

Johnny Horton
Confident that everyone else would have the same reaction as Uncle Clifton, Kilgore raced back to Shreveport and played it for one of his best friends, Johnny Horton. Johnny listened to “Clifton Clowers,” shook his head and said “that is probably the worst song I have ever heard.” Kilgore was taken aback by Horton’s response. Usually Johnny loved his material. Still, Merle didn’t give up on his latest composition.

George Jones
The songwriter simply went looking for someone else with a recording contract. The next singer Merle ran into was George Jones.

He started playing it for Jones, but this time Kilgore didn’t even finish before George cut in. “I hate mountain songs,” he said. Again and again Merle tried, but no one wanted to take a chance on “Clifton Clowers.”

In 1960, Merle finally took the plunge and moved to Nashville, bringing along his guitar, his songs and his uncle’s blessing. Quickly landing a recording contract at Starday Records, Merle managed to chart with three releases. One of those records even landed in the top ten, but none of them established Kilgore as a solo act, so Merle went back to songwriting and opening for better-known performers.

He also began to dabble in acting. One day Kilgore received a call from Tillman Franks. Franks had previously managed Johnny Horton, but after Johnny was killed in a car wreck on November 5, 1960, Tillman had picked up another young singer from Shreveport named Claude King.

Claude King
Merle was familiar with King, as he had been a local sports star while Kilgore was still in high school. After college, King returned home and had become a fairly popular folk singer in the area. He was a solid performer who had even scored a couple of Top Ten hits in 1961 on the Columbia label: “Big River, Big Man” and “The Comancheros.”

Tillman Franks told Merle that he was planning to do a folk-style album with King. Folk music was really hot at the time and with the right songs, he was hoped that a top-selling album might be produced. Franks asked Kilgore if he remembered a mountain song that he had once played for Johnny Horton.

Merle fabricated the story somewhat and said that not only did he remember it, but Johnny had loved it! So Kilgore dug up “Clifton Clowers” and took it over to Franks. Claude King listened to it and thought it had some potential, but he wanted to make a few changes. Merle gave King the authorization to proceed.

After Claude adjusted some of the lyrics, he decided to record the number. When Kilgore found out that he was going to cut it, Merle gave Claude half of the songwriting credit because of the changes he made. One of the most noticeable changes King made was the song’s title. No longer was it “Clifton Clowers.” He had retitled it “Wolverton Mountain,” (removing one of the o’s from the mountain’s actual spelling).

1962 45 RPM of Wolverton Mountain
Released in mid-spring of 1962, it grabbed the top spot in June, holding it for nine weeks on Billboard’s country chart. On the pop listing, the record also made a strong showing, peaking at #6. Not only did “Wolverton Mountain” become the most important country folk song of its era, but it captured the imagination of thousands of people worldwide.

Suddenly the state of Arkansas was being flooded by calls from people all over the world wanting to know how they could get to Wolverton Mountain. It was a media frenzy and the reporters made the most of it.

Kilgore’s Uncle Clifton was not only receiving scores of phone calls and letters, he did interviews with correspondents from all over the world. He had his picture taken with literally thousands of tourists. The song made him a celebrity and created a rush of traffic on U. S. Highway 65 for years afterward.

"Mike" singing for
Clifton Clower's 102nd Birthday

The mountain is located just north of Morrilton, Arkansas in Conway County. Clifton Clowers would continue to live on Woolverton Mountain for the rest of his life. When he died at age 102 in 1994, newspapers all over the world ran his obituary.

Merle Kilgore singing
Ring of Fire on Hee Haw 1987
His nephew Merle Kilgore toured the globe, singing, acting and lecturing. He wrote another country classic soon afterward – Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” in 1963, in which he shared songwriting credit with June Carter, although it’s generally known that Kilgore composed the song himself, written about the burgeoning romantic relationship between Carter and Johnny Cash. As a favor to his friend Cash, Merle authorized June’s name to be placed on “Ring of Fire” as co-writer because of her strong link to Johnny’s career.

Later, Kilgore also became the longtime manager of Hank Williams, Jr., receiving the “Manager of the Year” award from the Country Music Association in 1990.

The song which Kilgore wrote about his uncle warned, “They say don’t go on Wolverton Mountain.” Yet, it seems few people took those words seriously. “Wolverton Mountain” was revisited several times after Claude King first took listeners there.

Dickey Lee had a record on it just weeks after King’s version came out. Bing Crosby also cut the song, as did Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. Hank Williams, Jr. included a reference to it in one of his own hits (paying homage to writer Kilgore).

And, before his death in 2005, Merle often went back there to reflect, find a little peace and a lot of inspiration. – JH

The Autumn leaves, 
  they make me sneeze. 
The Autumn leaves, 
  of red and gold. 

My allergies,
 I cough and wheeze, 
and constantly, 
 I blow my nose. 

The Summer's gone away. 
 the Fall is here, 
My eye's are watery, 
 and filled with tears. 
And I miss you most of all, 
 the sunshine, 
when autumn leaves, start to fall.

Like in Black and White

Television in the 1950's
Black and White,  Black and White (Under age 45? You won't understand) You could hardly see for all the snow, Spread the rabbit ears as far as they go.

Huntley and Brinkley
'Good Night, David. Good Night, Chet.'

My Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get food poisoning.

My Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter and I used to eat it raw sometimes, too. Our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brown paper bag, not in ice pack coolers, but I can't remember getting E.coli.

Almost all of us would Have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), no beach closures then. If we didn't have a swimming suit with us...well we went skinny dipping.

The term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA system.

We all took gym, not PE.. and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked's (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now. Flunking gym was not an option... Even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.

Speaking of school, we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention. We must have had horribly damaged psyches. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything. I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself.

I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, Play Station, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations Oh yeah... And where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed! We played 'king of the hill' on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites.

When we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome (kids liked it better because it didn't sting like iodine did) and then we got our butt spanked. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $99 bottle of antibiotics, and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

We didn't act up at the neighbor's house either; because if we did we got our butt spanked there and then we got our butt spanked again when we got home. I recall Donny Reynolds from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop, just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a jerk.

It was a neighborhood run amuck. To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that? We needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes. We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills, that we didn't even notice that the entire country wasn't taking Prozac! How did we ever survive?


Monday, December 24, 2018

Silent Night is 200 Years Old

One of the world’s most famous Christmas carols, “Silent Night,” celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.

Over the centuries, hundreds of Christmas carols have been composed. Many fall quickly into obscurity, but not “Silent Night.”

Translated into at least 300 languages, designated by UNESCO as a treasured item of Intangible Cultural Heritage and arranged in dozens of different musical styles — from heavy metal to gospel — “Silent Night” has become a perennial part of the Christmas soundscape.

Its origins — in a small Alpine town in the Austrian countryside — were far humbler. As a musicologist who studies historical traditions of song, the story of “Silent Night” and its meteoric rise to worldwide fame has always fascinated me.

Fallout from war and famine The song’s lyrics were originally written in German just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars by a young Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr.

In the fall of 1816, Mohr’s congregation in the town of Mariapfarr was reeling. Twelve years of war had decimated the country’s political and social infrastructure. Meanwhile, the previous year — one historians would later dub “The Year Without a Summer” — had been catastrophically cold. The eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora in 1815 had caused widespread climate change throughout Europe. Volcanic ash in the atmosphere caused almost continuous storms — even snow — in the midst of summer. Crops failed and there was widespread famine.

Mohr’s congregation was poverty-stricken, hungry and traumatized. So he crafted a set of six poetic verses to convey hope that there was still a God who cared. “Silent night,” the German version states, “today all the power of fatherly love is poured out, and Jesus as brother embraces the peoples of the world.”

The original handwritten text of the poem Silent Night
Mohr, a gifted violinist and guitarist, could have probably composed the music for his poem. But instead, he sought help from a friend.

In 1817, Mohr transferred to the parish of St. Nicholas in the town of Oberndorf, just south of Salzburg. There, he asked his friend Franz Xaver Gruber, a local schoolteacher and organist, to write the music for the six verses.

On Christmas Eve, 1818, the two friends sang “Silent Night” together for the first time in front of Mohr’s congregation, with Mohr playing his guitar.

The song was apparently well-received by Mohr’s parishioners, most of whom worked as boat-builders and shippers in the salt trade that was central to the economy of the region.

The melody and harmonization of “Silent Night” is actually based on an Italian musical style called the “siciliana” that mimics the sound of water and rolling waves: two large rhythmic beats, split into three parts each.

In this way, Gruber’s music reflected the daily soundscape of Mohr’s congregation, who lived and worked along the Salzach River. But in order to become a worldwide phenomenon, “Silent Night” would need to resonate far beyond Oberndorf.

According to a document written by Gruber in 1854, the song first became popular in the nearby Zillertal valley. From there, two traveling families of folk singers, the Strassers and the Rainers, included the tune in their shows.

The song then became popular across Europe, and eventually in America, where the Rainers sang it on Wall Street in 1839.

At the same time, German-speaking missionaries spread the song from Tibet to Alaska and translated it into local languages.

By the mid-19th century, “Silent Night” had even made its way to subarctic Inuit communities along the Labrador coast, where it was translated into Inuktitut as “Unuak Opinak.”

The lyrics of “Silent Night” have always carried an important message for Christmas Eve observances in churches around the world. But the song’s lilting melody and peaceful lyrics also reminds us of a universal sense of grace that transcends Christianity and unites people across cultures and faiths.

Perhaps at no time in the song’s history was this message more important than during the Christmas Truce of 1914, when, at the height of World War I, German and British soldiers on the front lines in Flanders laid down their weapons on Christmas Eve and together sang “Silent Night.”

The song’s fundamental message of peace, even in the midst of suffering, has bridged cultures and generations. Great songs do this. They speak of hope in hard times and of beauty that arises from pain; they offer comfort and solace; and they are inherently human and infinitely adaptable.

Sarah Eyerly is assistant professor of musicology and director of the Early Music Program at Florida State University. This column was first published by The Conversation.

Literal Translation of German lyrics (blessed boy in curly hair)

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, 
Alles schläft; einsam wacht 
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar. 
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar, 
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh! 
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh! 

 Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, 
Hirten erst kundgemacht 
Durch der Engel Halleluja, 
Tönt es laut von fern und nah: 
Christ, der Retter ist da! 
Christ, der Retter ist da! 

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, 
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht 
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund, 
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'. 
Christ, in deiner Geburt! 
Christ, in deiner Gebur

Sunday, June 24, 2018

I Will not drink the Blue Kool-Aid or the Red Kool-Aid

Blue and Red Kool-Aid
I remember back in 1973, when I worked at Jewish Hospital as an orderly. Every patient had their television tuned to the Watergate hearings. Richard (I am not a crook) Nixon resigned the presidency before he could be impeached.

Nixon had a few great accomplishments; he was the first president to begin a working relationship with China. He set up the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks with Russia. He expanded the Environmental Protection Act. Most importantly, he signed the Paris Peace Accord that ended American involvement in the Vietnam War. Perhaps the one accomplishment that Nixon accomplished was to open the public’s collective eyes to the corruption, and lies that come out of Washington. He hired a team to break into offices in the Watergate Hotel and steal incriminating records. Despite his objection, Nixon was a crook.

Through the years we had to live through both Bush Presidencies, and the disastrous Clinton, and Obama years.

Aside from being a serial rapist, Clinton fudged the bond index figures to make the economy appear to be rosier then it really was.

Obama gave away our hold on Iran, the country who’s motto is Death to America. He also brought us the Obama phone, gave away money to the failing automobile industry, investment firms, that started the mess, and bolstered up failing banks by handing out cash.

Some of Obamas accomplishments were wonderful. Osama bin Laden was captured and killed during his days in office, he supposedly ended the Afghan War, but we are still maintaining a presence there.

But the world view United States was diminished during his presidency. Obama lied about his past.

In  2016 the United States held a presidential election. The Republicans has some great candidates, and so did the Democrats. But the choice came down to a couple of bullies.

Hillary Clinton pounded her little fists, and stamped her feet, then screamed, cursed and yelled until the Democratic National Committee gave into her demands, told Bernie Sanders to take a hike, and chose the wife of a lying bastard, and rapist, instead of doing the right thing and putting forth a worthy candidate.

The Republicans gave into Donald Trump, the guy with the money and the power, even though they had some good candidates. The American people spoke and elected Trump as president.

Now there is a a concerted effort to thwart Trump on everything he does. I believe we have not seen this type of effort since the Civil War.

Who is leading this, is a mystery. But there are two many coincidences to think the Democratic Party, or the promised "shadow government" Obama spoke about is not pulling the strings.

I am not pro-Trump. But I am impressed that he has brought to an end The Korean War, that started in 1950. He has improved the United States economy. He is trying to get people to work, and off of welfare, and he is trying to protect the borders from the fallout of illegal immigrants, some of whom have criminal records.

Because I am not pro-Trump, and I am fed up with the Democratic Party ideals. I will not drink the Blue Kool-Aid or the Red Kool-Aid.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Short History of Memorial Day

After the Civil War, our nation was staggered by the tremendous loss of life on both sides, and the need for memorial services - then called Decoration services - was felt in both the North and the South.

One of the first services was in Columbus, Miss.in 1866 when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed flowers on those graves as well.

In 1868 in Washington, D.C., it was declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30 because flowers would be in bloom all over the country to use to decorate the graves and honor those who had died in the war, both in the North and the South.

This first observance was held in Arlington National Cemetery. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today.

Decoration Day expanded to become Memorial Day after World War One to include those who had recently died in that war, and now honors all Americans who have died in service to their country.

In December 2000, the “The National Moment of Remembrance Act" was passed. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

School Shootings

The faces of those killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School
I do not have an answer.

Friends, and pundits argue about gun control.

A recent video is going viral from a student at Douglas High School in which every other word is the "F" word. I can appreciate that anger is part of the grieving process, and those students have every right to be angry; hurt and angry.

I went to school at a time when no one would think of bring a gun on school premises. If you had a beef with someone, you went behind the stadium bleachers and duked it out.

Christians lament the fact that we have taken prayer, and God out of school. They have a point. But in this era, God is no longer allowed or spoken of in most homes.

What I want to know, how is it that kids get access to expensive and high powered weapons? An AK-15 costs on average $650 to $1200. I have no idea how much the ammunition costs.

By law, in some states a person can buy a gun when they are 18 years old, but they cannot buy beer or liquor.

Are parents so caught up in their own lives that they are not paying attention to what their children are doing? We have gotten to the point that for most families, it takes two incomes to maintain a decent standard of living. This means little or no adult supervision.

Many children grow up in a one parent home, due to divorce, or parents that never marry. There may be friction between the responsible adults over money or supervision. 

There is so much prurient violence in television shows, movies, and video games that leads to desensitization. Death has become meaningless.

Look at our inner cities. We come to expect that at least one gang-banger is getting killed on a nightly basis. This usually has to do with drugs. We don't see the fact that this was someone's child.

A White supremacy claims that the Douglas High School shooter was a member. Are the police going to look into these morons to corroborate that claim?

But the fact remains that 17 precious lives were snuffed out.

It is easy to point the finger at Congress, or the President of the United States, and the FBI, but what about clues this boy left behind. He was expelled for disruptive behavior, and the police were at his home 36 times.

I don't have an answer.

In 2005 I went to a concert to see Buddy and Julie Miller perform. Both are singers and songwriters. Buddy is a Nashville legend and a record producer.

Julie is a very sweet soul, and stopped the show to talk about a song she had written called Rachel.

Rachel Scott
Rachel Scott was the first one of the 13 children killed at Columbine High School in 1999. This precious child was gunned down and murdered after the two shooters asked her if she believed in God.

Julie read a book that Rachel's parents had written and was inspired to write about this sweet young lady, then wrote this song.

It is heartbreaking that. 19 years later the words of this song still ring true.

Seventeen years, how could we know? 
And thirteen years to make a flower grow 
Tears that fell from your eyes 
Were the ones heaven cries 
For the children left to walk alone 

There is a life no one can take 
There is a chain of love no one can break 
In all the world there is No life greater than this 
To lay down your life for your friends 

And did you feel the longing? 
And did you hear a sacred song? 
And did you sing it out to the dark? 
And did you follow the footsteps? 
Did you shine a light and did 
You dance with all of your heart? 

And did you feel the longing? 
And did you hear a sacred song? 
And did you sing it out to the dark? 
And did you follow the footsteps? 
Did you shine a light and did 
You dance with all of your heart? 

Shine like a star beloved child 
Upon you the angels all have smiled 
God takes you by the hand 
Dance for joy little lamb 
In the arms of God forever more 
Dance in the arms of God forever more.