Mar. 7, 1998

Ironing Their Clothes

by Julia Alvarez


Today's Reading: "Ironing Their Clothes" by Julia Alvarez from HOMECOMING, published by Penguin (1996).

It was on this date in 1945 that American troops seized a crucial bridge over the Rhine river at REMAGEN and began pouring into Germany. With the Soviet army closing in on Berlin from the east, the war in Europe would be over in a few months.

Robert Frost's poem, "STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING," was published in the New Republic magazine on this date in 1923.

THE FIRST JAZZ RECORD went on sale on this day in 1917. The Victor Company released a tune called "The Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step" recorded by Nick La Rocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Jazz caught on fast and got exported across the Atlantic to cities like Paris, where black American musicians found lots of opportunities to play. It was on a Paris backstreet where composer MAURICE RAVEL first heard jazz, stopping by a club on one of his habitual midnight walks.

Ravel, who was born on this day in 1875, had insomnia nearly all his life, and would walk the streets in the middle of the night writing music in his head. He fell in love with the new American sound and came to the U.S. in the mid-20s to play concerts and tour jazz clubs in New York, Kansas City and Chicago. He went back home to Paris to write classical pieces (like the G major Piano Concerto) blended with jazz.

It's the birthday of HELEN PARKHURST, the founder of the Dalton Plan of Education, born in Durand, Wisconsin in 1887. She got her start teaching in a one-room Wisconsin school house crammed with 40 farm boys of all ages. She managed it by dividing the room up into four areas one for math, one for reading, and so on and having the older boys help the younger ones when she couldn't be in that area. This was the basis of the Dalton Plan that she went on to formulate and champion, in which children directed much of their own learning; and curriculum became secondary to working within a shared community.

It was on this day in 1876 that the U.S. Patent Office wrote out patent number 174,465 to Alexander Graham Bell. His new invention was THE TELEPHONE. Bell was 29 and had been working on the phone by himself for nearly 6 years, then another four with Watson who was a mechanic and model maker.

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