Thoughts for Memorial Day

Memorial Day began in 1868 as Decoration Day, promoted by General John Logan on behalf of Northern Civil War veterans, designated May 30 as a day for “the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

The day of remembrance became Memorial Day during the Great War – later to become known as World War I – to honor veterans of all the nation’s wars. The commemoration was changed to the last Monday of May in 1971 to conform to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, passed by Congress in 1968.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial beginning of summer in the U.S.

 

18th Street & Vine

In the first half of the twentieth century, the 18th & Vine District was the thriving African-American community in segregated Kansas City. Just east of the main downtown, the area was a self-contained neighborhood of myriad black-owned businesses. The south edge of the area was residential; clubs and theatres clustered on the north.

Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Lester Young, Joe Turner are among the many jazz and blues performers who built their reputations in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Monarchs, a mainstay of the Negro Baseball League, drew crowds to its games until the arrival from Philadelphia of the major-league Athletics (now in Oakland, and trying to move to Santa Clara.) The 2015 World Series champion Royals make their home in Kansas City.

Arthur Bryant’s, once named by Calvin Trillin as the best restaurant in America, and categorized by Jane and Michael Stern in Roadfood as “Legendary – worth driving from anywhere,” (and described as having “all the decorative charm of a bus station”) still sells its smoked meats and lard-infused sauce from its close-by location.

The end of Jim Crow shopping dispersed customers from the 18th & Vine neighborhood. As in other cities, so-called urban renewal bulldozed much of the area. The district is trying to make a comeback. The American Jazz Museum and the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum are must-sees. The city belatedly recognized the historical significance of 18th & Vine and is promoting a more clear-headed redevelopment, but so far, with mixed success.

Musical Interlude with the Dankworths

Cleo Laine will turn ninety years old this year. She was born to an English mother and Jamaican father. With her multi-octave voice, she and jazz-musician husband John Dankworth became musical royalty, entertaining audiences around the world for decades.

Years ago at a show in Portland, Dankworth introduced an instrumental number, telling the audience it was in an unusual time signature – 7/8 or something. He went on to say we would know the band performed it correctly if they all finished at the same time.

John Dankworth died in 2010 at age eight-two.

Oregon and California and James G. Blaine

James G. Blaine represented the state of Maine in the House of Representatives – where he served as Speaker – and the Senate. He later became Secretary of State and ran for President in 1884, losing narrowly to Grover Cleveland. In that campaign, Blaine visited every state except one, Oregon.

Eighty years later, Oregon author and journalist Stewart Holbrook, with tongue in cheek, founded the James G. Blaine Society. Concerned about environmental issues and population growth, Holbrook took Blaine as namesake of his non-organization. He felt that Blaine, having never set foot in Oregon, should serve as a model to others.

Tom McCall, Oregon’s governor from 1967 to 1975, earned notoriety when extolling the state’s natural beauty, he urged people to come visit, but added, “For heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.”

Since that time, Oregonians have blamed the influx of Californians for everything from escalating home prices to crowded freeways. (Oregon universities encourage Californians to come. In this age of diminishing financial support for higher education, Oregon universities like out-of-state tuition.)

California has begun doing its part to help. An article in my former hometown newspaper reports that for various reasons, the area is suffering a shortage of workers. In fact, it’s so bad that “Jackson Family Wines just offered a job to an Oregonian because it couldn’t find anyone in California with the skills to program the computers that control high-speed bottling lines.”

Honoring Mothers

Mother’s Day became an official U.S. holiday in 1914, after years of effort by Anna Jarvis. Anna’s mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis,  initiated “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in West Virginia to teach women how to care for their children. After the Civil War, she promoted “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” to connect mothers with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Within a decade, Anna Jarvis was fighting against the commercialization of the holiday. She was even arrested for protesting at a Mother’s Day carnation sale.

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.”

Stevie Wonder

 

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

Abraham Lincoln

 

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” 

Calvin Trillin

 

“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation.”

Pope Francis

 

“I don’t mind if two men fall in love, fine. Two women, fine. But I flinch when I think of two Jewish women getting together and having a child because the idea of having two Jewish mothers makes my head explode. I have one; I couldn’t handle two.”

Gary Shandling

 

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”

Mark Twain

 

“June Cleaver didn’t keep her house in perfect order; the prop man did it.”

Barbara Billingsley

 

Overheard at a family gathering

Jesus: “Coming, mother.” [What does she want now.]
Mary: “They’re out of wine.”
Jesus: “Didn’t they know how many people were coming to this wedding?” [And you expect me to do something about that?]
Mary: “Don’t be a smart guy. They need your help.”
Jesus: “Ma, I’m not ready to start doing that kind of stuff.”
Mary: “I know son, but can’t you do this one thing for your mother?”
Jesus: “But… mom!”
Mary: “Just this one time?”
Jesus: “Well, okay. For you, mom.”