May 26, 1998
Today's Reading: "Directions" by Joseph Stroud from BELOW COLD MOUNTAIN, published by Copper Canyon Press (1998).
The EVACUATION OF DUNKIRK began on this day in 1940, when about 700 boats of all shapes and sizes went across the English channel to rescue Allied soldiers. The Nazis had blitzed their way in 10 days across France and Belgium, backing about 380,000 British, French and Belgian soldiers up to the channel in the French city of Dunkirk. They were trapped there and under heavy fire, when military ships, ferries, fishing boats, yachts - basically anything that could float - began arriving to take them to England. The whole mission took about a week and a half, but around 335,000 Allied soldiers were saved.
Bram Stoker's novel DRACULA went on sale this day in London 101 years ago, 1897. Vampires had been around in literature before, most of them inspired by Greek folktales. But Stoker added some new twists that made the novel a hit: his Count Dracula cast no reflection in a mirror, didn't care much for garlic, and could only be killed with a stake through the heart.
DOROTHEA LANGE, the documentary photographer of the Great Depression, was born this day in Hoboken, New Jersey, 1895. She studied photography as a teenager and said, "It came to me that what I had to do was to take pictures and concentrate upon people, only people, all kinds of people, people who paid me and people who didn't." During the Depression she took pictures of homeless men wandering the streets, of men standing in breadlines, of poor migrant workers. In 1939 she came out with a popular book, a collection of her work called An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. After the Depression she worked for Life magazine doing photo-essays.
It's the birthday in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, 1837, of WASHINGTON ROEBLING, the engineer who with his father designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge. The foundations of the bridge were made by men working in watertight chambers at the bottom of the East River. Not much was known back in the 1870s about working underwater, especially the need for a slow decompression once you come up. One day Roebling stayed down for nearly 12 straight hours, was carried out unconscious, and brought up too quickly. He was a young man then, but this wrecked his health. He lived to the age of 89, but the bridge was his last big project.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®