May 31, 1999

Song of the Open Road (excerpt)

by Walt Whitman

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: May 31, 1999

Poem: Lines from "Song of the Open Road" by Walt Whitman.

It's the anniversary of the BRITISH RAID ON COLOGNE, 1942. The Royal Air Force sent about a thousand bombers to hit Cologne, the rail and industrial center on the Rhine in Nazi Germany. The RAF caught the Germans off-guard and for about an hour and a half straight, one plane every six seconds dropped its bombs. The city was flattened — with the exception of the ancient Cologne Cathedral with its big twin towers. The British lost only 44 planes in the raid, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it "a herald of what Germany will receive city by city from now on."

It's the birthday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1894, of comedian FRED ALLEN, John Florence Sullivan. When he got into vaudeville he took the nameFred Allen in honor of the American Revolutionary war hero Ethan Allen who, he said, was no longer using the name. He was on radio in the '30s and '40s and had a skit called Allen's Alley, where characters like poet Falstaff Openshaw; Pansy Nussbaum, a Jewish housewife from Brooklyn; and the bombastic Southern senator, Beauregard Claghorn, all lived.

It's the birthday in Buffalo, New York, 1893, of the children's author ELIZABETH COATSWORTH,, author of The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930); Enchanted (1968); and Under the Green Willow (1971).

It's the birthday in West Hills, Long Island, 1819, of WALT WHITMAN, who described himself in his poetry as "turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding." He worked as a printer, journalist, editor, carpenter, Realtor, teacher — most of which failed — before coming out in 1855 with a little book of poems called Leaves of Grass. He couldn't find a publisher for it so he printed it himself — no name on the cover, just a picture of Whitman standing with a cocked hat and his hand in his trouser pocket.

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




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