Oct. 3, 1999

Crossing the Bar

by Alfred Tennyson

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: October 3, 1999

Poem: "Crossing the Bar" by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The annual BLESSING OF THE FISHING FLEET is observed today in San Francisco. It takes place the first Sunday in October every year. And Philadelphia holds its PULASKI DAY PARADE today, honoring American Revolutionary War Hero General Casimir Pulaski, known as "the Father of the American Cavalry."

It's the anniversary in 1990 of GERMAN REUNIFICATION, when after 41 years West and East Germany became one again. The Allies had split Germany up into four zones of occupation right after the war, but disagreements between the Soviet Union, on one hand, and the U.S., Britain, and France on the other led to the formation of the two countries in 1949. The one in the west was called the Federal Republic of Germany; in the east, it was the German Democratic Republic. Today's a national holiday in Germany — and it coincides with this year's ERNTEDANKFEST (AIRN-tuh-DAHNK-fest), or the German day of thanks for the potato harvest.

It's GORE VIDAL's birthday, born in West Point, New York, 1925, best known for the 1968 novel, Myra Breckenridge, and historical novels that came out in the mid-1970s and early '80s, like Burr, 1876, and Lincoln. He was born Eugene Luther Vidal, the grandson of T. P. Gore, a Senator from Oklahoma who flirted with the Presidency.

The cartoonist HARVEY KURTZMAN, creator of Mad Magazine, was born on this day in 1924, in New York City.

It's the birthday of writer and veterinarian JAMES HERRIOTT, author of the All Creatures Great and Small Series, born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1916.

THOMAS WOLFE was born on this day in 1900, in Asheville, North Carolina. Wolfe made a splash with his autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel — even before it was published. He wrote it when he was 26 years old, and it told in great detail nearly the entire story of his life, complete with dozens of pages devoted to family history. The manuscript was 1,100 pages long, and it became infamous as publisher after publisher turned it down because it was too long. Then Scribner's accepted it on condition that he make huge cuts. When it came out in 1929, his family scorned him, but the critics loved the book, and Wolfe. then wrote You Can't Go Home Again, and The Web and the Rock.

It's the anniversary of the 1895 publication of Stephen Crane's novel, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE. It's the story of Civil War private Henry Fleming who goes into the war with visions of glory, but after watching a friend's gruesome death has all his romantic notions cured. The book was the first to tell the war from the foot soldier's point-of-view, and to capture the confusion of battle.

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