May 10, 2001

Our Town

by Ann Stanford

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Poem: "Our Town," by Ann Stanford, from Holding Our Own (Copper Canyon Press).

Our Town

This is the village where we grew
Our fathers and their sires in line
The trees they planted shade the view
And the white houses shine.

The families here had come to stay
The preacher was the parson's son
And if one brother moved away
We kept the solid one.

We tended order in the town
Our lawns were trim, our hedges green
And in the countryside around
The furrows straight and clean

We went to church, obeyed the laws
And voted on election day.
The peaceful farms surrounded us
The battles always far away.

And when the soldiers came to town
With drums and our flag overhead,
We watched them from the commons lawn
Until they shot us dead.

It's the birthday of playwright Arthur Kopit, born in New York City (1937). At the age of 25 he came out with his absurdist comedy, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad (1962). Other plays include Indians (1968), and Wings (1977).

It's the birthday of author Barbara Taylor Bradford, born in Leeds, England (1933). Her 17 novels have sold more than 55 million copies in 88 countries and 26 languages, and almost all have been adapted to TV mini-series.

It's the birthday of musician "Mother" Maybelle Carter, of the Carter Family, born in Copper Creek, Virginia (1909). When she was 18, she, her cousin Sarah, and her brother-in-law A.P. Carter, cut an audition record at a small recording studio in Bristol, Tennessee. The tunes they recorded there are known as the Bristol Sessions, and are considered to be the beginning of country music in the United States. The Carters recorded many traditional folk songs, including "Wabash Cannonball," "Wildwood Flower," and "Will the Circle be Unbroken." Maybelle was the guitarist - the main instrumentalist of the trio.

It's the birthday of producer David O. Selznick, born in Pittsburgh (1902). His father produced silent films in New York City, but the family lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929. Selznick moved to Hollywood and married the daughter of the head of M.G.M. Louis B. Mayer did not approve of the marriage, but he felt better about it when Selznick began to produce hit movies for M.G.M., including Dinner at Eight (1933), and Gone with the Wind (1939).

It's the birthday of Fred Astaire, born Frederick Austerlitz, in Omaha, Nebraska (1899). He and his sister, Adele, danced as a team in vaudeville, starting when she was six, and he was four. They danced in a series of hit musicals on Broadway, and then, after Adelle married and left the act, Astaire went to Hollywood for a screen test. He made a picture called Dancing Lady (1933), and then his big hit Flying Down to Rio (1933), with a young dancer named Ginger Rogers.

"The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."

It's the birthday of author Ariel Durant, born in Prosurov, Russia (1898). She came to this country and married her teacher, Will Durant, and together they set out to write The Story of Civilization, a history of the world.

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