Aug. 13, 1998

Reinventing the Reunion

by Leo Dangel


Today's Reading: "Reinventing the Reunion" by Leo Dangel from HOME FROM THE FIELD, published by Spoon River Poetry Press (1997).

The IOWA STATE FAIR gets underway today in Des Moines, and runs through the 23rd. And in Sedalia, it's the MISSOURI STATE FAIR, through the 22nd.

Construction of THE BERLIN WALL began in the early hours of August 13, 1961. The communist East German government built it to stem the flood of people moving to the West – about 2 million since WWII ended. "Die Maurer", as the Germans called it, started off as a strand of barbed wire, but by the end of the week was replaced by a five-foot high cinder block and concrete wall. And by the time it fell in 1989, it was a fifteen-foot-high wall running 28 miles through the middle of Berlin, topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers, machine guns, and mines. Another set of walls ran 75 miles around West Berlin, separating it from the rest of East Germany. In all, about 5,000 people made it across The Wall in its 28 years, another 5,000 were captured, and nearly 200 were killed trying.

It's the birthday in London, 1899, of director ALFRED HITCHOCK. He went to school to become an engineer, but got a job in 1920 with a London film company writing out titles. He got his first shot at directing in 1925, with Pleasure Garden, and the next year came out with his first thriller, The Lodger, about a family who suspects their guest is Jack the Ripper. He moved to Hollywood in 1939 and the next year his Rebecca won the Academy Award for best picture. He followed that with another movie about every year, including Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, and North by Northwest.

It's the birthday in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1867, of GEORGE LUKS, one of the American painters who went off to study the great masterpieces in Europe when he was young, but came back to America and started a different style of painting: mostly real-life, urban scenes, many of them set in New York. Other painters studied under him and together they came to be called the Ashcan School.

It's the birthday in 1818, West Brookfield, Massachusetts, of the abolitionist and women's suffrage pioneer, LUCY STONE. Her father was a successful farmer, but disapproved of higher education for women, so she had to pay her own way through Oberlin College, teaching for nine years after graduation to finish clearing up all the loans. She and her husband founded the American Suffrage Association in Boston, fighting to put referenda for women's voting rights on state ballots, and they ran the weekly newspaper, The Woman's Journal, for a long time known as "the voice of the woman's movement." She kept her own name when she got married, to protest women's rights. Others after who did the same were sometimes called "Lucy Stoners."

It's the birthday of the man who invented the clarinet, JOHANN CHRISTOPH DENNER, born in Leipzig, Germany, 1655. His father made horns and animals calls for hunting, and the boy picked up the trade, then specialized in making oboes and bassoons, both of which used two reeds for a mouthpiece. The instrument he started making sometime in the 1690s had only one, and it got its name from the clarino, or trumpet. Back then the clarinet was played with the reed up; about 100 years later players started turning it down, gripping the mouthpiece with the top lip or teeth, and the reed against the lower lip.

It's the birthday in Kent, England, 1415, of WILLIAM CAXTON, the first English printer. In 1469 he began translating into English a long French book entitled The History of Troy. Caxton set up a press in Bruges, Belgium, about 1474, and his translation of The History of Troy was published there in 1475, the first book printed in English.

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