Saturday, March 26, 2011

Robert Frost and the road he took: His meeting with Khrushchev in 1962

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I  took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost
From The Road Not Taken [1916)

Today is the 137th anniversary of the birth of Robert Frost, one of my favourite poets. Born Robert Lee Frost in San Francisco on March 26, 1874, he was the son of William Prescott Frost, the editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin, and Isabelle Moodie, a homemaker. Robert’s early years were difficult. His father died of tuberculosis in 1885 when he was 11 years old. Left with very little money, the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts with the support of William Frost, Sr. (Robert’s grandfather). In 1892, young Robert graduated from Lawrence High School and shared valedictorian honours with Elinor Miriam White, his classmate and future wife.

Robert Frost sold his first poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy," for $15. It was published in the New York Independent on November 8, 1894 after which he proposed marriage to Elinor White. They wed on December 19, 1895. The first of their six children, a son named Elliott, was born on September 25, 1896. The following year, Robert entered Harvard University to study liberal arts. In 1899, he dropped out of Harvard without finishing his degree and returned to Lawrence, Massachusetts to support his growing family. On April 28, 1899, the Frost’s second child, and first daughter, Lesley was born.

Lesley Frost Ballantyne died in 1983. It is interesting to note that of the six Frost children only Lesley and her younger sister Irma outlived their father. Elliott Frost, the eldest child, died of cholera on July 8, 1900, about two months before his fourth birthday. After Elliott’s death in October of 1900, the Frosts moved to a poultry farm in Derry, New Hampshire that was purchased for Robert by his paternal grandfather. Their third child, a son named Carol, was born on May 27, 1902. Sadly, Carol Frost committed suicide in 1940 at the age of 38.

On June 27, 1903, Elinor gave birth to the fourth Frost child, Irma. Irma was committed to a mental hospital in 1947 and died about twenty years later in 1967 (There appears to have been a strain of mental illness among the Frosts as Robert’s sister Jeanie died in a mental hospital at the age of 52, on September 7, 1929).The family’s fifth child, Marjorie, was born March 29, 1905. She died on May 2, 1934 at the age of 29, of puerperal fever after childbirth.

Robert Frost began teaching English at Pinkerton, Academy in Derry in 1906.  On June 18, 1907, the sixth and final Frost child, Elinor Bettina, was born. She died just days later. In 1911, Robert quit farming and took a position teaching English at New Hampshire Normal School in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Robert Frost and his family moved to Britain in 1912, living first in Glasgow, Scotland and later in Beaconsfield, outside of London. His first collection of poetry, A Boy’s Will, was published in 1913. He followed that with a second collection titled North of Boston, published the following year. Both were well-received and successful. During his years in Britain, Robert Frost became friends with such literary notables as Ezra Pound and Edward Thomas.

In 1915, as World War I raged, the Frost family returned to the United States, purchasing a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire. This former Frost homestead is now a museum dedicated to Robert Frost. It is called The Frost Place and is also a centre for poetry and the arts.

Frost’s "The Road Not Taken" was first published in 1916 in a collected titled Mountain Interval. It is not a long poem as it consists of only four stanzas, but it is one of Frost’s most well-known and oft-quoted works. Its theme, about the choices and paths in life, resonates strongly with many people. The poem is provocative and open to interpretation. The speaker sighs about the path he has chosen, but is it a sigh of contentment and relief, or is it a sigh of regret? Is The Road Not Taken a stirring rejection of conformity? Does it advocate individualism and self-reliance?

Of "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost stated, “You have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poem – very tricky.” According to Frost, the poem was written about his friend Edward Thomas. The two men had often walked in the woods near London. Frost said that during their walks, Thomas would fret about the path they had followed and speculate about what they had missed by not choosing the other path.

In 1920, the Frosts relocated to Shaftsbury, Vermont. They resided in a home named Stone House, but retained the farm in Franconia as a summer home. In 1923, Robert was honoured with the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes for a collection of poetry entitled New Hampshire. The collection included “Walking By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which gained him much recognition and acclaim. The famous final lines of the poem have been quoted by politicians such as John F. Kennedy (during the 1960 presidential election campaign) and Canada’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In February of 1980, Trudeau ended his electoral victory speech with Frost’s ”But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep.”

Frost went on to win his second Pulitzer Prize in 1931 for his book Collected Poems. He won his third Pulitzer for a poetry collection called A Further Range in 1937.  His fourth and final Pulitzer Prize was awarded to him in 1943 for A Witness Tree.

On March 20, 1938, Elinor Miriam White Frost, Robert Frost’s wife of 42 years, died of heart failure in Gainesville, Florida  at the age of 65.  In 1941, the widowed poet purchased a house on Brewster Street  in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It became his home for the remainder of his life.  He lived alone there but enjoyed the companionship of his dog, a black-and-white Border collie named Gillie.

In 1943, Frost began a six-year appointment as the George Ticknor Fellow in the Humanities at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  The fellowship included a stipend of $2,500 and $500 for expenses,  Back in 1892, at the age of 18, Frost had entered this same Ivy League university as a student.  Bored with college life, the young man had abandoned his studies at Dartmouth within several months.

In 1959, Robert Frost predicted that fellow New Englander John F. Kennedy would be the next President of the United States. On March 26 of that year, prior to his 85th birthday gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, Frost was asked to comment on the alleged decline of New England. He replied, “The next President of the United States will be from Boston. Does that sound as if New England is decaying?”

At the age of 86, Frost was invited to perform a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Due to the strong sunlight, he was unable to read “Dedication,” the poem he had prepared for the occasion. Instead, he recited “A Gift Outright” from memory, a poem he described as “a history of the United States in a dozen (actually 16) lines of blank verse.”

To listen to Robert Frost as he recites "A Gift Outritght," click on the link below.

In 1962, at the urging of JFK, Frost accepted an invitation from Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, to meet with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. On August 30, a frail and elderly Frost embarked on a goodwill tour of the Soviet Union. For most of the trip, his meeting with Khrushchev was in doubt. Near the final days of his tour, he received word that the meeting had been arranged. Determined to meet the Soviet leader, an excited Frost flew to Crimea to meet with him at the premier’s summer resort on the Black Sea. When the 88-year old poet fell ill with severe stomach cramps, there was talk about cancelling the meeting. Frost, however, insisted that it take place – and it did!

At the height of the Cold War, on September 7, 1962, Robert Frost discussed U.S. Soviet relations with Khrushchev at Frost’s bedside in the guest house where he was resting. The two men conversed for an hour and a half and Frost told the Soviet leader that “A great nation makes great poetry, and great poetry makes a nation.” During the course of their discussion, the aged poet even implored Khrushchev to reunite East and West Berlin. Not surprisingly, the premier declined, telling Frost that it was important for the Soviet Union to maintain the status quo.

Robert Frost died in Boston on January 29, 1963 of complications from prostate surgery at the age of 88. After learning of his passing, then-President Kennedy said, “The death of Robert Frost leaves a vacancy in the American spirit.” He great poet was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont. He wrote his own epitaph. It reads, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”

- Joanne

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Praise of Libraries and Librarians : Who was the real Marian the Librarian?

I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.

- Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Argentinian writer
From Seven Nights [1984]

Jose Luis Borges

In 1937 Jorge Luis Borges found employment as a cataloguer at the Miguel Cane branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library. There were not enough books to catalogue and Borge would often disappear into the basement to read, write and translate. When Juan Peron assumed power in Argentina in 1946, Borges lost his job. He was removed from his post due to his opposition to the Peron regime and his distaste for fascism. After the overthrow of Peron in 1955, Borges was appointed director of the National Library of Argentina. One of Jose Luis Borges’ most well known short stories, The Library of Babel (1941), portrays the universe as a vast, colossal library. It was inspired by his years of relentless cataloguing.

I have spent a large portion of my life working in a library. It is not surprising, therefore, that I have a great fondness for libraries and a tremendous appreciation for librarians. Most librarians possess a good sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves. Above all, they are truly dedicated to their profession.

Public libraries are more than storehouses of the world’s greatest literature. They are more than just rows of bookshelves. They are community centres, art galleries and free Internet Cafes. They have programs and displays for people of all ages and all walks of life. In this age of the Internet, they are needed more than ever.


No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes, than a public library.

- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English poet, critic and lexicographer
In The Rambler, March 23, 1751

What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists.

- Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), American poet and public official
From “Promise of Meaning” in American Scholar, June 5, 1972

A library is thought in cold storage.

- Lord Samuel (1870-1963), British politician
From A Book of Quotations [1947]


Barbara Gordon/Batgirl

In Batman comics, Barbara Gordon is the librarian daughter of Gotham City’s police commissioner, James Gordon. Barbara’s alter ego is Batgirl. Yvonne Craig played the role of Batgirl in the 1960s Batman television series. In 2004, the American Librarian Association (ALA) launched a “Librarians are heroes every day!” campaign featuring Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. The campaign included posters and bookmarks promoting the work of librarians. Here is how the ALA described the red-headed librarian superhero.

Gifted Barbara Gordon works at the Gotham Public Library during the day then takes to Gotham City’s crime-ridden streets as Batgirl at night. As a crimefighter, information is Barbara’s true weapon. Her near-perfect memory and never-ending energy make her a critical ally of Batman and all crimefighters.”

Desk Set

Katharine Hepburn played a reference librarian in the 1957 film Desk Set. Hepburn portrayed Bunny Watson, the head of the research department at a major television network. Bunny’s life is turned upside down when Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) arrives on the scene to observe daily activities in her department. Unknown to Bunny, Sumner has been assigned by the network president to introduce computers into some of the department’s functions. He has been given orders to keep his mission a secret. It is interesting to note that Desk Set opens with a grateful acknowledgement to International Business Machines (IBM) for its cooperation and assistance.

Marian the Librarian

Marian the Librarian is the central female character in Meredith Wilson’s musical, The Music Man. The character’s full name is Marian Paroo. Marian the Librarian is based on Marian Seeley of Provo Utah. Seeley and her husband, Frank, were in California during World War II. Composer Meredith Wilson (full name Robert Meredith Wilson) and Frank Seeley, long-time friends in New York, were both stationed with the American Radio Service. Seeley’s wife was a medical records librarian and every time Wilson saw Marian Seeley, he declared, “There’s Marian the Librarian!” It was not until The Music Man debuted on Broadway in 1957 that she became aware that Wilson has used her nickname The Music Man went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1958.

Meredith Wilson died on June 15, 1984. As for Marian Seeley, the most recent information I have found on her dates back to a November 16, 2008 article by Erica Hansen in the Desert News of Salt Lake City, Utah. In the article, the then 89-year-old Seeley is quoted as saying that she sometimes “gets tired of being “Marian the Librarian,” but generally “feels great” to have unwittingly contributed to the world of musical theatre. “How else could I feel? I’m a librarian and my name is Marian,” she told the Desert News.

To watch a video of Shirley Jones as Marian the Librarian in the 1962 film version of The Music Man, click on the link below.


Believe it or not, there is a Librarian Action Figure. Introduced in 2003 by Angus McPhee, it was designed to cash in on the stereotype of the librarian with horn-rimmed glasses and hair in a bun. Modelled after Nancy Pearl, a real-life librarian in the Seattle area, the Librarian Action Figure even has “amazing push button shushing action.” It is also comes with a little plastic book, an authentic-looking check-out card in a library sleeve, book marks and a Nancy Pearl trading card. Note: When I checked the Angus McPhee website, there was a message indicating that the product, which was selling for $8.95, was no longer available.

Nancy Pearl agreed to an interview with Angus McPhee. When asked about the shushing stereotype, she replied, “Every time that I think that we’re finally done with that, I meet someone who wants to tell me how awful she/he thinks it was, but at least it’s happening mush less often now than it did at first. Most librarians, and most people, I am glad to say, see the LAF as what it was – a real tribute to librarians and the work they do.”

To watch a video on the Library Action Figure, click on the link below.


Let me state my bias. I am much more comfortable with the Dewey Decimal System than the Library of Congress System. Introduced by Melvil Dewey in 1876, it has been expanded and modified through the years. I prefer Dewey because, for example, if I need a history book, I simply go to the 900 classification. If I want works on philosophy and psychology, I go to the 100 classification. Yes, I realize the Library of Congress has many advocates, but my heart belongs to Dewey.


Library groaners

How come the librarian slipped and fell in the library?

Answer: Because she strayed into the non-fiction section.

What do you do when pets start eating your library books?

Answer: Take the words right out of their mouth.

- Joanne

Monday, March 21, 2011

Witty campaign slogans: Are they a lost art?

A campaign slogan is like a soufflé. A good one rises to perfection. A bad one falls like a stone off a ledge.

- American political analyst Ron Faucheux

I’ve got to ask. Whatever happened to the soufflé? Whatever happened to fun-filled, hard-hitting and provocative political slogans? Songs and ditties seem to be passé and negative advertising is definitely on the rise. In the 2008 Canadian election campaign, we were bombarded with ads telling us that Stephane Dione is not a leader. How witty is that?

South of the border, Republican John McCain used the rather flat and stodgy Country First in his 2008 bid to become president. But wait! A crowd at a McCain rally chanted Use your brain. Vote McCain. That was more fun, but how does it compare with some slogans and ditties of the past?

Let’s look back at some memorable and not-so -memorable campaign songs and slogans. These election ditties were often witty, effective and highly amusing. They could also be disastrous, especially if the timing was wrong.

In 1972, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals boldly proclaimed that The Land is Strong. The slogan failed to resonate with Canadians. It felt flat because it was the wrong message during a time of high unemployment and rising inflation. Unimpressed voters reduced Trudeau’s majority government to a slim minority.

Back in 1935, with the country having suffered through the worst years of the Depression, Mackenzie King’s Liberals came up with a much more successful slogan. They offered voters a choice between King or Chaos. Canadians, feeling that Prime Minister R.B. Bennett was insensitive to their hard times, overwhelming chose King.

One of the most famous and effective presidential campaign slogans in American history was based upon Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nickname. Eisenhower, the Republican candidate in 1952, used the slogan I Like Ike. Voters liked him so much that he twice prevailed over his Democratic rival, Adlai E. Stevenson.

In 1956, Dwight Eisenhower ran for re-election. With the Korean War ended, Eisenhower campaigned on a platform of peace and prosperity. Adlai Stevenson, Eisenhower’s opponent for a second time, campaigned under the slogan All the way with Adlai. It turned out, however, that Americans still liked Ike - at least enough to return him to the White House.

In 1872, Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican, also sought a second term as president. He urged Americans to Grant us another term. His request was granted (pun intended) and he won the election handily.

Rhymes sometimes make very potent election slogans. A case in point is William Henry Harrison’s well-known 1812 presidential motto, Tippecanoe and Tyler too. This catchy little ditty served to remind voters that Harrison led United States forces to victory in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe. It even included the name of Harrison’s vice-presidential running mate, John Tyler.

It’s interesting to note that Benjamin Harrison resurrected his grandfather’s old slogan when he ran for the presidency in 1888. His motto was Tippecanoe and Morton too. That doesn’t have quite the same ring too it, but it was still good enough to help Benjamin Harrison win the election.

During the 1852 presidential race, Franklin Pierce ran under the slogan We Polked you in ’44, We shall Pierce you in ’52. The 1844 reference was to James K. Polk, a fellow Democrat, who was elected president that year. Pierce himself went on to become the fourteenth president of the United States.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election declaring that He Kept Us Out of War. During the campaign, Wilson spotlighted his ability to keep the peace. By April of 1917, a matter of months later, the United States had officially entered the First World War.

Some campaign songs are unintentionally amusing. During the1908 presidential contest, William Howard Taft’s supporters sang a ditty entitled Get on a Raft with Taft. His detractors must have pointed out gleefully that it wouldn’t have been very safe to get on that raft. Taft was a big, portly man who weighed over 300 pounds, but his campaign, however, did not go overboard. He won the 1908 election over his Democratic adversary, the great orator William Jennings Bryan. Bryan’s campaign song was called Line Up For Bryan. Not enough Americans joined the queue.

When it comes to lyrics, it’s difficult to top John Quincy Adams’ 1824 presidential campaign song. Based on a Scottish melody Little Ye Know Who’s Coming, it was a litany of all the apocalyptic disasters that would befall voters if they failed to elect John Quincy Adams. This happy little ditty warned of fire, swords, famine, slavery, plunder and plague. Even "hatin’ and Satan" would be coming if John Quincy "not be comin’."

Sometimes campaign slogans contain no deep message. Far from being profound, they merely play on a candidate’s name. In the 1924 presidential campaign, Calvin Coolidge’s slogan was Keep Cool with Coolidge. In 1928, Herbert Hoover asked the great rhetorical question Hoo but Hoover? Both Coolidge and Hoover succeeded in winning their respective elections. Fellow Republican Alfred M. Landon was not so fortunate.

In 1936, Republicans called upon Landon to prevent the wildly popular Franklin D. Roosevelt from winning a second term in office. It was a Herculean task and Landon bravely campaigned under the slogan Let’s Make It a Landon-Slide. He had no chance against the formidable FDR.

Some slogans just beg for a retort or a parody. During the British election campaign of 1957, Harold Macmillan’s Conservatives told voters that they had Never had it so good. In response, the Labour Party suggested that Britons had never been had so good.

Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate for president in 1964, used the slogan In Your Heart, You know He’s Right.  Goldwater’s Democratic opponents responded with In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts. They also countered with In Your Heart, You Know He Might, an allusion to Goldwater’s hawkish reputation and his musings about the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

One of the most popular political buzzwords seems to be “change.” In 1984, Walter Mondale ran for president with the slogan America Needs a Change. Americans, however, disagreed and re-elected Ronald Reagan. In 2003, Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty urged voters to Choose change. The province was decidedly in the mood for change and McGuinty’s Liberals toppled the Progressive Conservative government of Ernie Eves.

In the American presidential race of 2008, Hillary Clinton advised voters that if we’re ready for change, she’s ready to lead. The Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama, spoke incessantly of change and renewal. Obama’s campaign slogan was originally Change You Can Believe In. It was later altered to Change We Need. Obama insisted repeatedly that “change is coming to America,” and he set himself up as the agent of that change

Obama’s strategy worked for the Democrats in 2008. History shows that political themes are usually successful if the time is ripe. To be effective, campaign slogans must strike a chord with the electorate. If, they don’t, they end up in the ash heap of losing campaigns – unless they are recycled. Remember Stevenson’s All the way with Adlai? In 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s slogan was All the way with LBJ. 

- Joanne

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here's to the Irish on Saint Patrick's Day


When Irish eyes are smiling,

Sure, ‘tis like the morn in Spring.

In the lilt of Irish laughter

You can hear the angels sing.

When Irish hearts are happy,

All the world seems bright and gay.

And when Irish eyes are smiling,

Sure, they steal your heart away.

- The lyrics to When Irish Eyes are Smiling were written by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr. and set to the music of Enerst Ball for Ocott’s production of The Isle O’ Dreams.  The music was published in 1912.

A Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all! Everyone is Irish on this day. I’m no Maureen O’Hara and I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, but today I can share in the spirit of the Irish.

On St. Paddy’s Day, Number 16 presents some amusing and thought-provoking quotes about Ireland and the Irish.

In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.

- John Pentland Mahaffy (1839-1919], Irish writer
From Mahaffy; W.B. Stanford and R.B. McDowell [1971]

Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.

- James Joyce (1882-1941), Irish novelist
From Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [1916]

I'm Irish. We think sideways.

- Spike Milligan (1918-2002), Irish comedian
In Independent on Sunday, June 20, 1999

God made the grass, the air and the rain; and the grass, the air and the rain made the Irish; and the Irish turned the grass, the air and the rain back into God.

- Sean O’Faolain (1900-1991), Irish writer
From Holiday {June 1958}

English, Scotchmen, Jews, do well in Ireland – Irishmen never; even the patriot has to leave Ireland to get a hearing.

- George Moore (1852-1933)
From Ave [1911]. Overture

I am troubled. I’m dissatisfied, I’m Irish.

- Marianne Moore
From Spenser’s Ireland [1941]

And if ever ye ride in Ireland,
The jest may yet be said,
There is the land of broken hearts,
And the land of broken heads.

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
From The Ballad of the White Horse {1911], book V

I could wish that the English kept history in mind more, that the Irish kept it in mind less.

- Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), Anglo-Irish novelist
From Notes on Eire, November 1949

The moment the very name of Ireland is mentioned, the English seem to bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and common sense, and to act with the barbarity of tyrants, and the fatuity of idiots.

- Sydney Smith {1771-1845, English clergyman and essayist
From Letters of Peter Plymley [1807]

* For an island with a small population, Ireland has produced a number of the world's most acclaimed writers and poets.  Among them are William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Moore and the great James Joyce.  It has also produced great actors of the stage such as Siobhan McKenna and Peter O'Toole.

* According to its Central Statistics Office, the Republic of Ireland has an estimated population of just under 4.5. million people.  A new census will  be conducted in the Republic of Ireland on April 10, 2011. 

* According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, the estimated 2011 population of Northern Ireland is 1.8 million.  A 2011 census will be carried out in Northern Ireland on March 27.  It will be possible to complete the questionnaire online


On March 17, 1845,  Stephen Perry patented the rubber band in England.  Perry, of the London manufacturing company Messers Perrry and Co., invented the rubber band to hold papers or envelopes together.  His corporation made products from vulcanized rubber.  Hence. the first elastic bands were made of vulcanized rubber.


On the feast day of  St. Patrick, the great patron saint of Ireland, I leave you with an Irish blessing.

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.      

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March!


Caesar: The Ides of March are come.

Soothsayer: Aye Caesar, but not gone.

- William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, Act III, scene i

Yes, today is the fateful Ides of March. The mighty Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15 in 44 B.C. in the Roman Senate. He was stabbed to death in the Theatre of Pompey by a group of conspirators probably led by Marcus Junius Brutus and his brother-in-law Gaius Cassius Loninus, a Roman senator. Caesar was 55 years old at the time of his death.


In the time of Julius Caesar, March 15th was a festive occasion dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war. The term “ides” was used to describe the 15th day of the months of March, May, July and October, and the 13th day of all the remaining months.


Penny Lancaster

British model and photographer Penny Lancaster was born on March 15, 1971. She turns 40 years old today. Penny, the wife of singer Rod Stewart, was born in Chelmsford, Essex, England. Lancaster and Stewart were married on June 16, 2007 at La Cervara near Portofino, Italy. They have two sons, Alastair Wallace Stewart (born November 27, 2005 and Aiden (born February 16, 2011).

David Cronenberg

Canadian horror film director David Cronenberg was born in Toronto, Ontario on March 15, 1943. David celebrates his 68th birthday today.



Well, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been playing much better lately, although not last night (They lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 6-2). A large part of the credit goes to goaltender James Reimer. Some Leaf fans think the Leafs still have a chance to make the playoffs. Forget it! It’s too late in the season. If they had played this well earlier, they would be on their way to post-season play.

- Joanne

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Secretariat follow-up and photo of winning ticket: What was Big Red's number in his final race?


Eddie Maple

Nobody could run like him . . . still can’t.

- Jockey Eddie Maple on Secretariat
as quoted in the American Press

He might have taken to the air and flown.

- Heywood Hale, television commentator, on Secretariat

On Sunday October 13, 2010, I wrote about the great Secretariat and his last race in the Canadian International at Woodbine Racetrack here in Toronto, Canada. I mentioned that I was at Woodbine on that cold and rainy day to witness Big Red’s final race. I have received a great deal of response to that posting and many people seem to be interested in Secretariat’s number in that race. I can tell you that it was number 12.

I have since viewed the movie Secretariat. I enjoyed the film immensely.  I was disappointed. although not surprised, that the legendary racehorse’s final race was not depicted in the film. I guess the race was not deemed of great importance to American audiences.  John Malkovitch, wo played trainer Lucien Laurin, didn't quite suit the part.  He appeared too tall to be a former jockey and he failed to convince me that he was a francophone from Quebec.

Secretariat’s regular rider, Canadian Ron Turcotte, did not ride Secretariat in his farewell race on October 28, 1973 because he was under a five-day suspension for a riding infraction in New York. Turcotte was replaced by Eddie Maple who guided the Triple Crown winner to a 6 1/2 length victory. According to an Associated Press story by Ed Schuyler Jr., Maple, now retired, remembers being nervous on that October day in 1973. Although Maple says he “wasn’t any more nervous than anybody else would have in that situation,” he admits that before the race he thought, “If he doesn’t win, they just might tar and feather me." 
Eddie Maple, a native of Ohio, retired in 1998 with 4,398 career wins to his credit.  He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in  2009.  Eddie will always have the distincton of being the last jockey to ride Secretariat.  Nothing and no one can take that away from him. 

- Joanne

Friday, March 11, 2011

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, NHL! Bettman and the league bury their heads in the sand

FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2011

I grew up in Toronto as an avid hockey fan and an ardent supporter of the Maple Leafs. The Blue and White have always been my team. Now, however, I am thoroughly disgusted with the National Hockey League and its Commissioner, Gary Bettman. I am also appalled by the ownership, management and coaching style of the Leafs, but that’s another story.

During Gary Bettman's 18 year tenure as head of the NHL, the number of teams in the NHL has grown from 24 to 30.  Overall revenues have increased significantly. The league has also lost its soul.  Something is rotten at its very core.

The Almighty Buck has ruined professional sport to a great extent, but hockey more than most. There are too many teams and too many games and the playoffs are far too long. Unlike baseball, hockey is not designed to be played four or five times a week. Baseball moves at a slower pace and starting pitchers play every fifth game.

The product has been diluted and it is often watered down to a shadow of its former glory. As long as money controls the game, that is not going to change. Those of us of a certain age, however, remember a time when almost every game was special and important.

Professional hockey has always been rough, but now it is becoming downright perilous. It is quickly and inexorably turning Roller Derby on ice. For me, this latest incident involving Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara is the final straw. On Tuesday, March 8, at the Bell Centre, Chara, a 6 foot 9 inch giant of a man, hit Montreal Canadiens left winger Max Pacioretty into the boards. Pacioretty was severely injured. His head slammed into the metal support holding up the glass. He was knocked out cold and collapsed to the ice.

Max Pacioretty found himself in the hospital with a broken vertebra and serious concussion. He was released yesterday. Zdeno Chara received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. He was not, unfortunately, suspended by the league. On Wednesday, the NHL ruled that Chara would receive no further discipline.

Commissioner Bettman does not see a problem. According to Bettman, “Our hockey operations people are extraordinarily comfortable with the decision that they made.” Yesterday, during an appearance before a U.S. congressional panel, he declared that there is no need to “over-legislate” head hits. He also suggested that the increase in reported concussions is a result of accidental collisions, not head hits.

Well, of course, Mr. Commissioner, that has to be the reason. Under your stewardship, Gary, the NHL has no problems whatsoever. Its franchises in Atlanta and Phoenix and Nashville are doing extraordinarily well. It’s unfortunate Sidney Crosby, the league’s biggest star suffered a concussion, but it’s all part of the game. Don’t worry, be happy! 

Despite the NHL’s delusions, the Pacioretty/Chara story is far from over. Montreal police are investigating the incident and there is the possibility that Chara could be charged with assault. In a letter addressed to Bettman, Air Canada has expressed its extreme displeasure with the NHL. I am pleased that the airline, which just happens to be one of the NHL’s largest financial corporate backers, has threatened to remove its sponsorship of the league if it doesn’t take “immediate” and “serious” action on headshots.

Geoff Molson, chairman and owner of the Montreal Canadiens, has stated that he does not agree with the NHL’s decision. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to his credit, has urged the league to assess the “growing number” of serious injuries and headshots.

What has to happen for the NHL to take this seriously? What will it require to awaken Gary Bettman and the league from their stupor? Does a player have to die? Is that what it will take? Sadly, I’m beginning to think so. Then again, maybe even a death won't wake them up. They may just repeat their usual mantra that it’s part of the game.

- Joanne

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zelda Fitzgerald: Her marriage to Scott and her mental illness


Anyone who met the beautiful, young Zelda was immediately struck by her spirited self-confidence, energy, and determination; a person so absolutely sure of her herself that anything seemed possible. Spontaneous and exciting, she shone in any situation. With talent and the will to succeed, she should have accomplished much. How was it, then that in an age of opportunity she failed to find her own voice?

 - Kendall Taylor
From Sometimes Madness is Wisdom - Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage

Zelda circa 1918

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, were the golden couple of the Jazz Age. Together they were the embodiment of the Roaring Twenties. In an age of prosperity, they were young, talented, wealthy and brash. Scott referred to Zelda as “the first American flapper” and the New York newspapers adored them. Behind the scenes, however, things were not as rosy. Today, on the 63rd anniversary of the death of Zelda Fitzgerald, let us explore how and why everything went so wrong.

Born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama on July 24, 1900, she was the youngest of six children. Her father, Anthony Sayre, was a highly respected judge of the Alabama Supreme Court. Soon after finishing high school, Zelda met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a dance in Montgomery during the summer of 1918. World War I was still raging and Fitzgerald, a northerner from St. Paul Minnesota, had left Princeton University to join the U.S. Army. He was stationed at a training camp in Montgomery when they met.

Zelda was very popular and had many suitors, but Scott was different from her Southern beaus. He was an aspiring writer and he oozed Ivy League charm. Still, Fitzgerald faced much competition for Zelda’s attention and affection. After his discharge from military service in February of 1919, he returned home to Minnesota to rewrite the manuscript of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which dealt with the post-World War I flapper generation. With This Side of Paradise slated for publication by Charles Scribner and Sons in the spring of 1920, Scott was able to achieve the measure of financial success needed to persuade Zelda to accept his marriage proposal.

The wedding took place at Manhattan’s St. Patrick Cathedral on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1920. On October 26, 1921, their only child, a daughter, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. They named her Frances Key Scott Fitzgerald, but she was commonly called “Scottie”.

This Side of Paradise became a bestseller and the Fitzgeralds spent the early part of the 1920s as literary celebrities in New York. For some time they settled in Long Island, the setting for Scott’s acclaimed novel, The Great Gatsby. They lived extravagantly and held lavish parties in a fashion similar to the characters in his 1925 classic.

Later in the decade, Scott and Zelda relocated to Europe and became representatives of the celebrated “Lost Generation” of that era. They moved to France and socialized with other expatriates such as author Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. Spoiled and self-indulgent, by 1924 the Fitzgeralds were living like royalty on the French Riviera.

The marriage of Scott and Zelda was tempestuous and filled with jealousy and acrimony. Scott had always been a heavy drinker and his increasing alcoholism put additional strain on their relationship. Throughout her life, Zelda sought to establish an identity of her own. Through the years, she wrote many articles, short stories and a novel, most of which were published in the 1930s. She also enjoyed painting which she found it to be relaxing and soothing. Her art was displayed in museums and sold to friends.

Scott and Zelda

While in France, Zelda Fitzgerald rediscovered her love of ballet. She had danced as a child, but quit at the age of 17. In 1925 she signed up for lessons with Lubov Egorova (Princess Nikita Troubeska) who had opened a studio in Paris. By 1927, ballet had become Zelda’s obsession. She practised incessantly to the point of exhaustion.

As the years passed, Zelda’s behaviour became increasingly unstable and erratic. In April of 1930, at the age of 29, she had a complete mental breakdown in Paris. She was hospitalized and diagnosed as a schizophrenic. In July of 1931, after Zelda’s release from Prangrins, a clinic in Switzerland, the Fitzgeralds returned to the United States permanently.

Back in the U.S., Zelda Fitzgerald continued to struggle with mental illness and was confined to sanatoriums for the rest of her life. She had a second breakdown in February of 1932 and was admitted to the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. While at Phipps, Zelda wrote her only published novel, Save Me the Waltz. She completed the semi-autobiographical novel in just six weeks and sent it to Scott’s publisher, Maxwell Perkins. Scott was incensed at the manner in which his wife’s book portrayed their marriage and their personal lives. He drastically altered the novel and forced her to leave out the section which portrayed him as an alcoholic. Save Me the Waltz arrived in bookstores in October of 1932 and quickly fell into obscurity.

Fitzgerald, however, went on to publish his own thinly-disguised account of their marriage in Tender is the Night, his fourth novel. Published in 1934, Tender is the Night it is the story of Dr. Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst whose wife, Nicole, suffers from mental illness. It was written at a dark time in Fitzgerald’s life and often reflects a bleakness of outlook. Experiencing financial difficulties at the time, Scott was forced to borrow money from his editor and agent. During this period, he also wrote short stories for magazines in order to raise money.

After a third breakdown in 1934, Zelda became a patient at the Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. In April of 1936, she was transferred to the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Scott eventually moved to Hollywood and became a screenwriter. It was there that he began a romantic relationship with the movie columnist Sheilah Graham. In November of 1940, Scott suffered a minor heart attack in Schwab’s Drug Store on Sunset Boulevard. On December 20, 1940, after attending the premiere of a film with Graham, he experienced a dizzy spell. He decided not to see a doctor because he had an appointment with his physician the next afternoon. The following morning, however, he collapsed to the floor and Graham called the fire department.

F. Scott Fitzgerald died in Hollywood of a massive heart attack on December 21, 1940 at the age of 44. His final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, about the Hollywood motion picture industry, was unfinished at the time of his death. Literary critic Edmund Wilson edited the manuscript and it was published as The Last Tycoon in 1941.

On the night of March 10, 1948, a fire broke out in the kitchen of the main building of the Highland Mental Hospital. The flames spread rapidly to every floor of the premises. Despite the efforts of firefighters to evacuate everyone from the building, nine women perished in the fire. Among them was Zelda Fitzgerald who was identified by her slipper. She was 47 years old at the time of her death.

Frances Scot Key “Scottie Fitzgerald” became a writer and journalist for such publications as the Washington Post and The New Yorker. Scottie had four children with her first husband, Samuel Jackson “Jack “ Lanahan, whom she married in 1943 and divorced in 1967. In 1975, her eldest son Thomas (known as Tim) committed suicide at the age of 27. The surviving children are Jack Jr., Eleanor (Bobbie), an artist and writer, and Cecilia. Scottie’s second marriage to C. Grove Smith ended in divorce in 1980. The daughter of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald died of esophageal cancer on June 16, 1986 in her mother’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. She was 64.


On May 10, 1934, the Toronto Maple Leafs achieved the longest undefeated streak in home games in their history – 18 games. The 18-game streak began on November 28, 1933 and consisted of 15 wins and 3 ties.

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reflections and Quotes on International Women's Day


Today is International Women’s Day. We’ve come a long way, baby, but there is still a long way to go. Millions of women live in abject poverty. Millions of women are victims of violence and sexual assault. There are still some countries where females are treated like third class citizens and denied a decent education. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women’s rights are severely restricted. As long as these conditions exist, an International Women’s day is necessary.

Here are some points to ponder on this day.

* Remember that it wasn’t until 1920 and the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution that American women had the right to vote in federal elections. Remember too that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has never been ratified. Although the ERA passed both houses of Congress in 1972, it did not succeed in gaining ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline. The amendment guarantees American women equality of rights under the law.

* Wyoming is known as the “Equality State” due to its record on women’s rights. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state in the Union to grant women the right to vote. “Equality” is also the state motto.

*  On May 24, 1918, female citizens, aged 21 and over, were granted the right to vote in federal elections in Canada.  Manitoba was the first province to give women the right to vote in provincial elections on January 27, 1916.  Saskatchewan followed suit on March 14, 1916 and Alberta on April 19, 1916.  British Columbia continued the trend on April 5, 1917 and Ontario suffragettes won their victory on April 12, 1917.  Women became eligible to vote in Nova Scotia on April 26, 1918, New Brunswick on April 17, 1919, Prince Edward Island on May 3, 1922 and Newfoundland on April 13, 1925.  Quebec women were not eligible to vote in provincial elections until April 25, 1940, after exercising their franchise for over twenty years in federal elections.  The hard work and determination of Therese Casgrain was largely responsible for the victory in Quebec. 

* There are still too few women in positions of power in politics and in business. On March 14, 2011, Christy Clark will be sworn-in as the premier of British Columbia. Clark will become only the third female in over 143 years of Canadian history to lead a province. Only one of those three women, Cathereine Callbeck of Prince Edward Island, has led her party to electoral victory. Clark and Rita Johnston, both of British Columbia, won the leadership of their respective parties after the resignation of a premier. In Clark’s case, Premier Gordon Campbell resigned as leader of B.C.’s Liberal Party and Clark was subsequently chosen as party leader. In Rita Johnston’s case, it was Premier Bill Vander Zalm who resigned as head of a scandal-plagued government. Johnston was deputy premier at the time and she was named interim leader of B.C.’s Social Credit Party. As such, she was sworn in as Premier of British Columbia and Canada’s first female premier on April 2, 1991. Yes, it was not until 1991.   

By the way, Catherine Callbeck is now a member of the Senate of Canada. 

* Google is marking International Women’s Day with a colourful logo featuring a woman graduate and physician in place of the last two letters of “Google”. Google has also added a female sidekick- Pegwoman - to its Google Maps’ icon Pegman.

Number 16 presents a selection of  interesting and provocative quotations on women. 

Charlotte Whitton in 1951

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half so good . . . luckily, it’s not difficult.

- Charlotte Whitton, 1951

How appropriate that Charlotte Whitton, the first female mayor of a major city in Canada, was born on International Women’s Day. She was born on March 8, 1896 and she was mayor of Ottawa from 1951 until 1956 and again from 1961 until 1964. A colourful and controversial figure, she was an outspoken proponent of women’s rights. Sadly, she also held anti-Semitic views.  Charlotte Whitton became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1967.  She retired from politics in 1972 and died in Ottawa on January 25, 1975 at the age of 78.

But if God had wanted us to think just with our wombs, why did He give us a brain?

- Clare Booth Luce
In Life magazine, October 16, 1970

The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights’, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety.

- Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
Letter to Theodore Martin, May 29, 1870

Women have, commonly, a very positive moral sense; that which they will, is right; that which they reject, is wrong; and their will, in most cases, ends by settling the moral.

- Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)
From The Education of Henry Adams [1907}, Chapter 6

You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman.

- Jane Galvin Lewis

If you have any doubts that we live in a society controlled by men, try reading the index to a volume of quotations.

= Elaine Gill

Fraily, thy name is woman!

- William Shakespeare
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.

- Camille Paglia
Intrnational Herald Tribune, April 26, 1991

The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer , despite my thirty years of research into feminine soul, is 'What does a women want?'

- Sigmund Freud
to Marie Bonaparte
Sigmund Freud: Life and Work; Ernest Jones [1955]


Tuesday Palindromes

Here are the usual ten palindromes for a Tuesday.
1  Anne, I vote cars race Rome to Vienna.
2. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

3.  Go deliver a dare, vile dog!
4. Do geese see God?
5.  Eva, can I see bees in a cave?

6.  T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad.  I`d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot-toilet.     

7.  Hey, Roy!  Am I mayor?  Yeh!

8.  Some men interpret nine memos.  

9.  Oh, cameras are macho.   

10.  peep
- Joanne

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Magnificent Patsy Cline: Her Tragic Death


Country music star Patsy Cline died on this day 48 years ago. On March 5, 1963, she perished in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee. She was only 30 years old and at the pinnacle of her career when she lost her life.

Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932 in Winchester, Virginia, the eldest of three children. Her father, Samuel Lawrence Hensley, was a blacksmith, and her mother, Hilda Patterson Hensley, was a seamstress. The young Virginia was commonly called “Ginny”. In 1947, when Ginny was 15 years old, Sam Hensley abandoned the family. After her parents divorced, the teenager was needed to help pay her family’s expenses. She dropped out of high school and began toiling at various jobs such as waitressing at a diner and working as a soda fountain attendant at a drug store. By night, however, she could be found singing at an assortment of local nightclubs, wearing Western stage outfits that she herself designed. Her seamstress mother made the costumes.

Her voice was remarkable. It was a silky, contralto voice, perfectly suited to torch songs. She first began singing in a Baptist church choir. At the age of 13, she became seriously ill with rheumatic fever and her doctor placed her in an oxygen tent. When she recovered, she discovered that the fever had affected her throat and left her with a booming voice, similar to that of Kate Smith, a singer she admired greatly.

In 1952, Ginny Hensley performed with Bill Peer and His Melody Boys at Moose Lodge in Maryland. Bill eventually became her manager. It was he who encouraged her to use the stage name “Patsy”, from “Patterson”, her middle name and her mother’s maiden name. That same year Patsy met a construction industry mogul named Gerald Cline, a man considerably older than she. They married in 1953 when Patsy was 20 years old. In September of 1954, Patsy signed a contract with Four Star Music Sales. Gerald was not supportive of her career ambitions at all.  In fact, he wanted her to give up singing and reamin at home.  The unhappy couple separated in 1956 and divorced in 1957.

In 1956, Patsy was presented with a song for her first album, Patsy Cline. It was titled "Walkin’ After Midnight", written by Don Hecht and Alan Block. Although the song did not originally make a strong impression on Cline, its writers and Four Star Music insisted that she record it.

In the summer of of 1956, Patsy Cline went to New York City to audition for a second time for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.  It turned out to be her big break.  She was accepted to appear as a contestant on Godfrey’s CBS television program on January 21, 1957. Her rendition of "Walkin’ After Midnight" won first prize and Patsy became a regular on the show for the next two weeks. On February 11, 1957, "Walkin’ After Midnight" was released as a recording. It reached Number 2 on the Country Charts and Number 12 on the Pop Charts.

In 1956, Patsy met “the love of her life” while singing at a local dance. His name was Charles Allen Dick. Charlie Dick worked as a linotype operator at the Winchester Star newspaper.  In March of  1957, Charlie left to join the Army.  His separation from Patsy, however, was brief.  They married on September 15, 1957, a week after Patsy's 25th birthday.  The groom was 23.  After the wedding, the newlyweds moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina because Charlie was stationed at Fort Bragg. 

Patsy with Charlie Dick

In the summer of 1958, Patsy returned to Winchester, Virginia to give birth to the couple's first child.  On August 25, 1958, their daughter Julie was born.  When Charlie's two years of draft service ended in March of 1959, they returned to Winchester but did not stay there long.

In 1959, Patsy and her family moved to Nashville. That same year, Patsy met Randy Hughes who became her manager. In 1960, Patsy’s recording contract with Four Stars came to an end and she signed with Decca-Records - Nashville. Clline’s first release on her new Decca label was “I Fall to Pieces”. “I Fall to Pieces” was a great success. It was a crossover hit and was promoted on both country and pop music stations. Patsy’s career began to thrive under the direction of manager Randy Hughes and legendary Decca producer, Owen Bradley. Her dream of joining the cast of the Grand Ole Opry came true and she became one of its biggest stars.

The year 1961 started off well for Patsy Cline. In January, she and Charlie welcomed their second child, a son, Allen Randolph “Randy” Dick. On June 14, 1961, however, disaster struck! Patsy and her brother, Sam, were involved in a near-fatal car accident on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville. The head-on collision took place in front of a high school and Patsy almost lost her life from the impact of hitting the windshield. Her injuries included a jagged cut across her forehead, a broken wrist and a dislocated hip. She was required to spend a month in the hospital in order to recuperate. Patsy miraculously survived the crisis, although she did incur a visible scar on her forehead. After the accident, she wore wigs and used makeup to conceal the scar during her performances.

After the success of “I Fall to Pieces”, Patsy Cline was in need of a worthy follow-up. She found it in “Crazy”, a song composed by Willie Nelson in 1961. "Crazy" was an immediate country pop crossover hit, and her most successful pop hit.  It became a classic and Patsy’s signature song.  With the popularity of “Crazy” and the rise of “She’s Got You” and “Imagine That” on the charts, 1962 turned out to be a banner year for Patsy Cline.  In February, she made an appearance on American Bandstand and then headlined a 35-day show in Las Vegas in November.

On March 3, 1963, Patsy travelled to Kansas City to perform three shows as part of a benefit concert for the family disc jockey Cactus Jack Call who had recently lost his life in a car accident. Cline gamely took the stage in Kansas City although she was suffering from the flu. Singer Dottie West offered to drive Patsy  back to Nashville, but Patsy declined because she was anxious to get home to her family and had decided to fly home instead in her manager’s yellow Piper Comanche. The plane flew into severe weather and crashed near Camden, Tennessee on March 5, 1963. Cline and three others died in the crash. Grand Ole Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins were also victims of the accident. Patsy Cline’s manager, Randy Hughes, was the pilot of the ill-fated aircraft.  

After Patsy's death, Charlie Dick considered returning to Virginia.  Loretta Lynn and Dottie West and their husbands persuaded him to remain in Nashville.  On July 4, 1965, he married country singer Jamey Ryan.  They had a son, Charles Allen Dick, Jr., known as "Chip", and divorced in 1972. 

Were she alive today, Patsy Cline would be spending time with her 4 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren (as of July 2006). 

To watch a video of an interview with Charlie Dick, click on the link below.

To watch a video of Patsy Cline singing "Crazy", click on the link below.

- Joanne

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field

In Brooklyn, it was as though you were in your own little bubble. You were all part of one big, but very close family, and the Dodgers were the main topic of everybody’s conversations and you could sense the affection people had for you. I don’t know that such a thing exists anymore.

- Don Drysdale


On March 4, 1912, the groundbreaking ceremony was held for Ebbets Field, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ new stadium. The ballpark was named in honour of Charles Ebbets, the Dodgers’ bookkeeper. In 1905, Ebbets went deeply into debt to purchase the Dodgers and keep them in Brooklyn.  The new stadium was constructed in just over a year at cost of $750,000.  The first game was played there on April 9, 1913.

Fans of the Dodgers fondly referred to them as “dem bums”. The Brooklyn team, however, had its moment of glory. “Dem bums” actually won the World Series in 1955 over the New York Yankees. Just two years later, in 1957, the club was moved to Los Angeles. Real estate business man Walter O’Malley, who had acquired majority ownership of the team in 1950, decided to relocate the team westward.

By 1957, the beloved home of the Brooklyn Dodgers had deteriorated badly. It appeared worn and outdated. Attendance was sagging badly. When Los Angeles officials offered O’Malley what he wanted – an opportunity to purchase land suitable for a ballpark, ownership of the new stadium and control over its revenue – he accepted the deal. The loss of the Dodgers was quite a blow to Brooklyn. Comedian Joe Flaherty said that when they left, “it was not only a loss of a team, it was the disruption of a social pattern. A total destruction of a culture.”

The Brooklyn Dodgers played their final game at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957. They defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 2-0. It was the end of an ear so fondly remembered by so many people. That is why I wish I could have attended a game at Ebbets Field in its heyday. If I possessed a time machine, I’d arrange to be a fan there for just one game.  There was an unforgettable character at  Ebbets Field I would certainly enjoy watchng.  Her name was Hilda Chester and she sat in the bleachers ringing a brass cowbell.  Her face was pink and her hair was stringy.

I must admit that I had never heard of Ebbets Field until I studied Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in high school. Ebbets Field is mentioned frequently in the play. If you enjoy baseball nostalgia, especially concerning the Brooklyn Dodgers, I recommend the book Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is the childhood memories of a girl growing up in a New York suburb during the 1950s and her love for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It is one thing for journalists or even the public to use the more partisan “Harper government", but it is another thing for the state to equate the Government of Canada with the leader of the governing party.

- Jonathon Rose, a specialist in political communications at Queen's University.

According to a Canadian Press story yesterday by Bruce Cheadle, a directive went to public servants late in 2010 that “Government of Canada” in federal communications should be replaced by the words “Harper Government.”

Are you upset by this revelation? After what I’ve seen of the way the Harper government operates, it doesn’t surprise me one iota. It does, however. upset me considerably. I am appalled by such unmitigated gall. In fact, it makes my blood boil! “The Government of Canada” belongs to the Canadian people, not to any political party or prime minister. It is not the exclusive domain of Stephen Harper or the Conservative Party.

Back in 1979, when Joe Clark’s government formed a minority government, Clark was criticized and ridiculed for saying that he intended to govern as if he had a majority. About nine months later, his government’s budget was defeated in the House of Commons. An election was called and the Liberals were returned to power with a majority.

Well, Joe Clark, Stephen Harper is doing what you tried to do and failed. He has a minority government and he is governing as if he has a majority. The Harper government is a de facto majority government. Just imagine what Stephen Harper will do if he achieves his goal of forming a majority government? I shudder to think about it!



What’s going on with Sidney Crosby? How bad is his concussion? I hope he’ll be playing again soon, but I’m getting some scary vibes. The NHL can’t afford to be without Crosby for too much longer. The number of concussions in the league continues to rise. The NHL shamelessly refuses to crackdown. It refuses to stop the unnecessary brutality. We’ve just learned what happened to Bob Probert’s brain.

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Here's to the Welsh on St. David's Day!


Wales, Wales, sweet are thy hills and vales,
Thy speech, thy song
To thee belong,
O may they live ever in Wales

- Evan James, Welsh poet (1809 – 1878)
From Land of My Fathers {1856]
Today is March 1, the feast day of St. David. St. David is the patron Saint of Wales. Although his exact date of his birth is uncertain, David was born around the year 500 A.D. and is thought to have died on March 1, about 90 or more years later. He was a church official and a native of Wales. He gained recognition as a teacher and preacher who founded monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Dumnonia and Brittany.

* David is depicted as a bishop with a dove, usually on his shoulder.

* The remains of St. David were buried at what is now the Cathedral of St. David's in Pembrokeshire, west Wales.

* In 1120, David was officially recognized by the Vatican under Pope Callixtus II.

* In Cardiff, Wales, there is an annual St. David’s Day parade. It is a very colourful and enjoyable event.

Below is a depiction of St. David on a 19th century stained glass window in Jesus College Chapel, Oxford.  Notice the dove on his shoulder.

St. David


The land of my fathers. My fathers can have it.

- Dylan Thomas
In Adam, December 1953

‘I often think,’ he continued, ‘that we can trace almost all the disasters of English history to the influence of Wales.”

- Evelyn Waugh (1903 1966), English novelist
From Decline and Fall [1928]

There is no present in Wales,
And no future
There is only the past,
Brittle with relics . . .
And an impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding,
Worrying the carcase of an old song.

- R.S. Thomas (1913–2000), Welsh poet and clergyman
From Welsh Landscape [1955]

It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole word  . . .  But for Wales - !

- Robert Bolt, English playwright
From A Man for All Seasons [1960]

Everyday when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Welsh.

- Cerys Matthews, Welsh singer
From International Velvet (1998 song)


Here is a random list of the most famous Welsh men and women I can think of, living and dead.

Actor Richard Burton (1925–1984) was born in the village of Pontrhydyfen, Neath Port Talbot, Wales.

The poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) was born in Uplands, Swansea, Wales.

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones (1969- ) was born in Swansea. West Glamorgan, Wales.

Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins (1937- ) was born at Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales.

Singer Tom Jones (1940- ) was born at Treforest, Pontypridd, Wales.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945), former British Prime Minister, was born in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, England. He was, however, a Welsh-speaker and of Welsh descent – the only British Prime Minister so far to have that distinction.

Designer Laura Ashley (1925-1985) was born at Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.


* Wales has a population of approximately 3 million based on findings of the last population census (2,903,085 in 2001).

* The Welsh flag has two equal horizontal stripes, white above green, and a large red dragon passant.  The red dragon is probably of Roman origin.

 * Wales has two major emblems:

1. The Leek

The leek is known to have been displayed as a Welsh emblem in 1536 and in Henry V, Shakespeare acknowledged this as an ancient custom.

"On the evidence of Shakespeare (Henry V, VI 1), the leek was the recognised emblem of his day, and there is written evidence that it became the Welsh emblem considerably earlier. Entries in the household accounts of the Tudor Kings include payments for leeks worn by the household guards on St. David's Day. According to one legend, the leek is linked to St. David because he ordered his soldiers to wear them on their helmets when they fought a victorious battle against the pagan Saxons in a field full of leeks. It was more likely, however, that the leek was linked with St. David and adopted as a national symbol because of its importance to the national diet in days of old, particularly in Lent."

- The Welsh Tourist Board

Leek soup on St. David’s Day, anyone?

2. The Daffodil

The daffodil is another emblem of Wales. The reason is obscure because the daffodil does not have any distinctive literary or historical link to Wales. It does look attractive on a lapel on St. David’s Day.


In the year 2000, I had the pleasure of touring Wales. I rode a train on Snowdon Mountain and I visited Cardiff Castle. I also walked around the seaside town of Tenby. I remember having problems pronouncing many of the Welsh place names.


Palindrome Day

Tuesday is palindrome day on Number 16 and ten palindromes are presented for your enjoyment and edification. A palindrome is defined as a word, phrase, verse, sentence or number that reads the same backward or forward.

1. Sit on a potato pan, Otis.

2. Draw nine men inward.

3. Too bad - I hid a boot.

4. Ed is on no side.

5. Stella won no wallets.

6. Some men interpret nine memos.

7. Murder for a jar of red rum.

8. Go hang a salami. I’m a lasagna hog.

9. Rise to vote, sir.

10. Bombard a drab mob.



I’m glad that Grapefruit League baseball is underway. It’s only exhibition baseball, but the Toronto Blue Jays have lost their first 3 games. They were defeated twice by the Detroit Tigers and scored nary a run. Yesterday, they lost 6-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies and Roy Halladay. Doc pitched two shutout innings.

R.I.P. Duke Snider

Another one of the greats is gone. Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider died on Sunday (February 27, 2011) at the age of 84. The Hall of Famer and Brooklyn Dodgers legend was a contemporary of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. He was the last prominent survivor of the renowned “Boys of Summer” Brooklyn Dodgers’ teams of the 1950s.

Snider broke in with the Dodgers in 1947 and retired after the 1964 season with 407 career home runs. In 1980, he was voted into the baseball shrine at Cooperstown, New York. His health had been failing in recent years and he suffered from diabetes.