HISTORY OF FLAG DAY
June 14 is the day the United States celebrates Flag Day. While it may not be as widely celebrated as other American holidays, it is one of the oldest. It was resolved by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, even before the conclusion of the American War of Independence, the Revolutionary War.
In 1885, BJ Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher, initiated a “Flag Birthday” for his students on June 14. His continual promotion of this “Flag Day” inspired New York kindergarten teacher George Balch in 1889 to have similar observances for his students. The State Board of Education for New York followed suit. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia had a Flag Day in 1891, and the following year so did the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution. Other state organizations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois followed suit.
HISTORY OF D-DAY
Why has D-Day captured the imagination of American consciousness for over three-quarters of a century?
Seventy-eight years ago, on June 6, 1944, the Allies launched an offensive on the Normandy coast of France to liberate continental Europe from the Nazi German occupation. On Twitter, the hashtag is #DDay78
D-Day was the largest invasion by sea in all of history, literally turning the tide. It was the beginning of the end of the War. General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, sent the troops out that day:
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.”
Progress of D-Day Campaign
Within two months, the 77-day Normandy campaign led to the liberation of France and, in less than a year, to the defeat of the Nazi forces and the end of World War II in Europe. Between these two events, my father visited Paris while his US Army division was moving through France toward the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
HISTORY OF PENTECOST
The Feast of Pentecost is taken from the Greek word πεντηκόστη which means “the 50th,” referring to the fiftieth day after Passover and Easter. This would coincide with the harvest festival Shavuot the “Feast of Weeks in the Jewish calendar.”
In the Christian calendar, Passover played a part in several visits Jesus made to Jerusalem; but most famously, it marked the coming of the Holy Spirit, as “tongues like as of fire” upon the Disciples of Jesus along with the sound of rushing wind, as told in the New Testament Book of Acts Chapter 2.
Pentecost in Church History
This marked the beginning of the work of the Church following the Resurrection of Jesus. As the New Testament tells us that Jesus remained with his Disciples for 40 days following his Resurrection before his Ascension into heaven (celebrated last Sunday), this would mark ten days following the Ascension of Jesus. This event was associated with the Disciples speaking in other languages.
Many visitors to Jerusalem, who were likely there at the time for the Feast of Passover, were curious about the meaning of the flames, wind, and foreign tongues — some familiar to them. The Apostle Peter gave his first sermon, and the Church in Jerusalem grew in size from 120 believers to 3,000.
HISTORY OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Queen Elizabeth II of the UK has ruled for 70 years, marking her Platinum Jubilee celebration. While she took the throne on February 6, 1952, she was not coronated (officially “crowned”) until June 2, 1953, or 69 years ago today at Westminster Abbey. But what’s a year between friends?
She is the longest-reigning British monarch in history but not yet the longest-reigning monarch in the world or even in Europe. The longest-reigning monarch was Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, who came to the throne just short of six years of age and ruled for 72 years, 110 days.
For all of America’s Republic-loving rhetoric, we are envious of the UK and its royalty. We have artificial royalty, marked by either film, finances, or even people who are celebrities for being celebrities.
HISTORY OF JUNE
June represents the year’s halfway point, the sixth of the twelve months of both the Gregorian calendar, which we currently use in the West, and the earlier Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, the namesake of July. Where do we get the name for June?
What’s In A Name?
Ovid, author of that bi-millennial best-selling magnum opus “Metamorphoses” — where he takes the Greek myths and gives them Roman names — suggests two possible etymologies.
- The first and more likely origin is the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who was referred to as Hera by the Greeks. She is the patroness of marriages, and most marriages happen during June. It was considered good luck to get married during June, though the good weather and school vacation could have something to do with it now.
- Ovid also suggested that the month was named for Iuniores, Latin for “young people,” in the same way that May is named for “elders” or Maiores. And as we all recall from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” there was no J in Latin in the 1st century.
HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY: WHY WE FIGHT
The world is different from what it was two decades ago as we celebrate Memorial Day. We have troops in countries that we didn’t have then, and after 9/11, we now remember why we fight. The History Channel often re-runs the HBO series Band of Brothers, the T.V. adaptation of the Stephen Ambrose book about a company of soldiers from the landing at Normandy through the end of World War II in Europe.
Band of Brothers and Why We Fight
During WWII, my father crossed paths with Company E, mentioned in “Band of Brothers,” while liberating the Dachau Concentration Camp.
My father’s story was originally told in part on HBO’s website during the 2001 premiere (via Internet Archive) regarding the episode entitled “Why We Fight” on the liberation of Dachau and its many sub-camps.
HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY: BOALSBURG, PA
The city of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, an American village on the National Historic Register, claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, as do at least 24 other towns in America. I first visited this hamlet near State College, home of Penn State University, decades ago. Boalsburg’s claim goes back to a practice at the end of the Civil War. The town does have a local museum and a history that stretches back over two centuries. The 19th-century feel of the village persists. A Memorial Day Festival is held there every year.
Memorial Day Custom
Its claim is stated on a large sign near the center of town:
An American village on the National Register
BIRTHPLACE OF MEMORIAL DAY
The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves was begun here in October 1864, by Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller, and Elizabeth Myers.
Named for David Boal who settled here in 1798. Village laid out in 1808. Boalsburg Tavern built in 1819. Post Office established 1820. First church erected 1827. Home community of three United States ambassadors.
HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY: WHICH WAR?
Memorial Day was not universally recognized as a shared American Holiday until after World War I. But that’s not how it started in the United States.
When did it begin?
Civil War and Memorial Day
Following the American Civil War or the “War Between the States,” as it was known in the South, various locations began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags, as I’ve written previously. This started in the mid to late 1860s across the country, as almost every community had been touched by loss from the country-wide conflagration. Over 600,000 men and women had died, more than any war that Americans were involved in, including the combined losses suffered in WWI and WWII — because we were both sides of the Civil War.
HISTORY OF THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
This week we celebrate the 84th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. On May 27, 1937, the bridge opened to traffic after taking over five years to build. I remember asking my father when I was young:
“Why isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge golden?”
He didn’t have an answer other than his observation that it was expensive to paint.
Color of Golden Gate Bridge
What he didn’t know is that the steel for the bridge, which came from Bethlehem Steel foundries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, originally came coated with a red led primer. Color studies by consulting architect Irving Morrow arrived upon what’s now become known as Golden Gate Bridge International Orange, a unique “red terra cotta” version of the International Orange standard. But there were other competitors, as pictured above. “Warm grey” was a distant second choice. If you like the color, you can obtain it from Sherwin Williams, the supplier as “Firewood” (color code SW 6328).
HISTORY OF TOWEL DAY
May 25 celebrates Towel Day as a day to honor Douglas Adams, the author of the five (or six) book trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Created in May of 2001 to mark the passing of English science fiction humor author Douglas Adams, the day is set aside for fans of his writings to carry a towel throughout the day in honor of the author.
Why a towel? Stay tuned
Although it occurs on the same day as the anniversary of the premier of the first Star Wars movie, and the original radio version of tHGttG came out the year after Star Wars, Star Wars did not inspire The Hitchhiker’s Gude to the Galaxy.
I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Adams about twenty-five years ago when he spoke at a special Sun Microsystems event. I recall noting that he talked at 19,200 baud (fast in those days), meaning he spoke the English language more quickly than any other person I had heard before. Erudite, clever, and mind-stretching — his talk was much like his writings, at times laugh-out-loud funny. He has appeared on Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV show and wrote a skit for the album of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He had also written for the TV show Doctor Who.
HISTORY OF STAR WARS
The original Star Wars movie premiered on May 25, 1977.
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
in Berkeley, in November 1976, I picked up a new science fiction novel called “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” by George Lucas. I did not know at the time that it was ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster, a popular sci-fi writer.
The following May, the movie initially debuted in only 40 theaters around the country, with little of the advanced fanfare we are used to today. But word of mouth spread fast, and when I heard it was showing at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco, I went the first week it was out with my buddies. The line to get in stretched around the block, even during that first week.
When I first saw the Imperial Star Destroyer come across the screen after the title scroll, I yelled out, “I’m impressed!”
A reporter stopped me for a radio interview on my way out of the theater. “Did you think it was fun?” As I began to explain its relative place among Science Fiction novels and films, he interrupted again and asked,
“But was it fun?”
“Yes, it was fun,”
I said, but it was so much more. I would return several times to see it again. Star Wars ran there at the Coronet for 29 weeks. The new Star Wars movies now open in over 10,000 theaters in the US. How times have changed.
HISTORY OF THE WHO’s TOMMY
Fifty-three years ago today, on May 23, 1969, the British rock group The Who released the double-album rock opera, Tommy. Commercially the record went Gold in the UK and Double Platinum in the US.
Several of the songs were released as singles that charted in the Top 20 in both the UK and US. Its success signified a breakthrough for the band and elevated The Who to a world-class touring and studio band. The album has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, representing about a fifth of their total records sold.
The rock opera tells the disturbing story about an apparently “deaf, dumb, and blind boy” who following a childhood trauma becomes the Pinball Wizard. Despite several attempts to cure him, he has a spiritual awakening and becomes a sensational religious leader. “Tommy” is a common English name as well as a nickname for British soldiers during World War I.
The late 1960s was a time of spiritual enlightenment and revival. In addition to the counterculture rock and hippie scene at that time — especially in New York’s Greenwich Village, San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury, and Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue — we saw the rise of the Jesus Movement with its attendant Jesus Music, as well as the secular rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Peter Townsend, the lead guitarist, and writer of Tommy claims that the rock opera came out of his exposure in 1968 to Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba. The 1971 song “Baba O’Riley” was named in part after the leader. Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was also inspired by a popular quote from Baba. (more…)