Sep. 28, 1998

Saturday Night

by William Kloefkorn


Today's Reading: "Saturday Night" by William Kloefkorn from COVENANTS, published by Spoon River Poetry Press (1996).

It's the birthday of the singer-songwriter BEN E. KING, born in Henderson, North Carolina, 1938, and best known for his hits in the early '60s with the Drifters, like "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Spanish Harlem," and "Stand by Me."

It's blues singer KOKO TAYLOR's birthday, in Memphis, 1938. She moved up to Chicago when she was 15 and began singing blues in the bars on the South Side. In the mid '60s she had her biggest hit on the Chicago blues label, Chess Records, with "Wang Dang Doodle."

Cartoonist AL CAPP, creator of the comic strip Li'l Abner, was born on this day in 1909, New Haven, Connecticut. In 1934, after a visit to Kentucky, he started drawing a strip for the New York Mirror: hillbilly characters he dreamed up from the town of Dogpatch, U.S.A: Li'l Abner himself, his parents, Mammy, who smoked a pipe, and her hen-pecked husband, Pappy. Daisy Mae was the blonde who chased Li'l Abner for 18 years until 1952 when they got married. Other characters: Hairless Joe, Lonesome Polecat, Moonbeam McSwine, and Joe Btfsplk — who was always drawn under a rain cloud. Capp drew Li'l Abner for 43 years, until he retired in 1977.

Playwright ELMER RICE, author of Street Scene, was born on this day in 1892, in New York City. He went to law school but as soon as graduated he started writing plays. His first, On Trial, came out in 1914, and was the first play to use the technique of flashback, in this case to show the memories of witnesses at a trial. His best-known play, Street Scene, came out 15 years later. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and Kurt Weill turned it into a musical, with lyrics by Langston Hughes.

It's the birthday in 1856 of the writer and the pioneer early-childhood educator KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN, born in Philadelphia. Her family moved out to California and Wiggin turned to writing just to make ends meet. That brought her enough money to enroll in a teacher-training course, after which she took over the Silver Street School in San Francisco, in a neighborhood she called "the wretchedest of slums," and described her kindergartners there as "street Arabs of the wildest type." But the Silver Street School became a model in the country for teaching little children, and Wiggin opened up a teacher-training school next door to it. And she continued writing, books for adults as well as children, and her best-known was the 1903 Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

RICHARD BRIGHT, who discovered the kidney disorder known as Bright's disease, was born on this day in Bristol, England, 1789. He became famous first for a little book he wrote in 1818, when he was 29 years old, called Travels from Vienna; he'd left England for medical study in Berlin and Vienna, and the book was a big hit as a travel memoir. Afterward, back in England, he began specializing in treating kidney problems. He discovered the relationship between certain blood proteins abnormally found in urine with a kidney disease called nephritis, that was later called Bright's disease.

It's the anniversary in 1066 of the NORMAN LANDING IN ENGLAND, beginning their conquest of the island. Two weeks later, they surprised the King's army at Hastings, then swept into London and on Christmas Day, 1066, William of Normandy was declared the new king. Norman rule was a mixed blessing for England: it brought England closer ties with western Europe, but it also nearly did away with English as a language; all the literature, legal, and government documents for the next few centuries were either in French or Latin.

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