May 18, 1998

328 A Bird came down the Walk

by Emily Dickinson


Today's Reading: "A Bird Came Down the Walk" by Emily Dickinson.

MT. SAINT HELENS erupted on this day in 1980, blowing off the top 1,300 feet of its peak and spewing over a half-billion tons of ash into the sky. Dozens of people on the mountain lost their lives, and 96,000 acres of forest were either incinerated or simply blown over by landslides.

It's the anniversary of a heroic action in World War II, the Italian Campaign in 1944 when Polish troops captured Monte Cassino, the Benedictine abbey the Germans were using as a bunker.

Today is the birthday of Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), born in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920; the 246th pope and the first non-Italian pope in almost 500 years.

English ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn, who danced for audiences for 45 years, was born in Surrey, England, on this day in 1919.

It's the birthday of JOSEPH VERNON TURNER &emdash; BIG JOE TURNER &emdash; born in Kansas City, Missouri, 1911, the blues singer famous for his "shouting" style of singing. He got his start as a singing bartender in Kansas City saloons, and in the late 1930s made his way to New York where he teamed up with boogie piano player Pete Johnson, then with Duke Elington and Count Basie. He had a string of big songs in the early 1950s, like "Chains of Love," "TV Mama," "Sweet Sixteen," and "Corinna, Corinna."

Composer and lyricist Meredith Willson (THE MUSIC MAN) was born on this day in Mason City, Iowa, 1902.

It's the birthday in Palermo, Sicily, 1897, of FRANK CAPRA, director of "It's a Wonderful Life," "Mr Smith Goes to Washington," and other films. His family came to the U.S. in steerage when Capra was six and landed in Los Angeles. His degree from California Institute of Technology was in chemical engineering. In his early 20s he was broke and unable to find work, and he talked his way into directing a short film in San Francisco. His big break came in the early 1930s, when he paired Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert together in "It Happened One Night," which won him the first of three Oscars for best director. He followed that with a string of films that usually told the story of a naïve idealist threatened by evil forces &emdash; like "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," or "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" &emdash; movies that Depression-era audiences loved and that earned him the right to have his name above the title on the marquee, one of the first directors to do so.

It's the birthday of English philosopher Bertrand Russell, born in Ravenscroft, Monmouthshire, 1872. Once asked whether he would be prepared to die for his beliefs, he replied, "Of course not. After all, I may be wrong."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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