A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1910 – Bonnie Parker, folk heroine and psycho. She and her buddy Clyde Barrow spent a couple of years in the 30s running around the country, robbing grocery stores and gas stations. Along the way, they managed to kill at least 9 policemen and various other citizens. Oddly enough, some people think this is cute.
1935 – In the late 50s and early 60s, the hills were alive with the sound of Julie Andrews. She played the female lead in My Fair Lady (1956) and Camelot (1960) on Broadway. She starred in Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965) in Hollywood. She won tons of awards and was given a DBE by Queen Elizabeth II. Unfortunately, when squeaky clean went out of fashion, so did she, but she’s still around in animation. She is Queen Lillian, Princess Fiona’s mom, in the Shrek movies.
1890 – Yosemite National Park was created by an Act of Congress — and not a moment too soon. The problem then was the same as it is now: the place is so beautiful everybody and his friend wants to go there. Because it was rampled by enthusiastic tourists looking for nature, visionary 19th century conservationists wanted to preserve the area for 21st century tourists looking for nature. They succeeded, and as an extra inadvertent bonus, gave Ansel Adams a job.
1961 – New York Yankee Roger Maris hit his 61st home run off Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox and broke Babe Ruth’s 34 year old record of 60 home runs in a season. The media, especially in New York, had never liked Maris and created mountains of controversy over the accomplishment. Regardless, Maris’ record would stand for 37 years — until a new crowd of hopped-up, hotshot hitters started consistently hitting way above their abilities. I will say no more about these lying, cheating, bags of….you get the idea. A neat trivia question is: Whose record did Babe Ruth beat when he hit 60 homeruns in 1927?
1864 – Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a remarkable Confederate spy who used her social connections in Washington to pass military secrets to the Confederate Army. In 1861, she was arrested by Allan Pinkerton and sent to Old Capital Prison with her 8 year old daughter. She continued to send out messages while in prison and was repatriated south in 1862. She was returning from a diplomatic mission in Europe in 1864 when the ship she was on ran aground. Legend has it that she drowned because she was carrying a bag of gold intended for the Confederacy.
1990 – General Curtis LeMay, whose strategic bombing of Japan during World War II has come under some criticism in recent years. Significantly, most of the criticism has come from people who weren’t even born in 1945. Of course, his cachet was not enhanced when he became George Wallace’s American Independent Party running mate in the 1968 presidential election. He is largely forgotten today, occasional resurrected by documentary film makers who have an axe to grind.