It's a weird week for me. I don't mean Post-Conference-the Banditas-have-gone-home-Lonliness, I mean general universal weirdness.
Walter Cronkite died.
Its the anniversary of a moon landing.
My Dad turns 90. (Yes, he IS a much older Dad...)
Weird, I tell you. I began looking at famous events and happenings in 1919, in preparation for the big nine-oh birthday celebrations and I am amazed at what's happened in a mere 90 years. I started by looking at what's happened in history in this week in July.
Did you know that today, in 1875, Mark Twain copyrighted The Adventure of Tom Sawyer? Neither did I. Then again, I also didn't know that in this week, in varying years, Penicillin was patented, Louis Pasteur patented a revolutionary process for making better beer, America the Beautiful was copyrighted, and the totally unknown and now long forgotten Emily Tasser patented a new device for raising sunken ships.
Taken all together, I guess it means that to celebrate, we should read Tom Sawyer while drinking a beer, get a pennicillin shot (or eat moldy bread!), sing a favorite American tune and contemplate raising the Titanic. Grins.
They didn't mention the Titanic in the retrospectives on Walter Cronkite, but in watching several of the programs on Cronkite's life, I was humbled by just how much CHANGE has happened. My father wrote his memoirs and reading them is a far better view into the path of global change than any dry history book.
In 1919, 99% of Americans did NOT have a car. A statistic now reversed.
It was the year the pop-up toaster was invented, but 70% of households still were unelectrified. There were only 48 States in the Union and New Mexico and Arizona were brand spanking new to Statehood.
The parachute was invented and successfully tested. Now...who thought this was a good idea in the first place and who was stupi...brave...enough to give it a go?
Prohibition passed, and World War I unofficially ended. Civil War General and President Ulysses S. Grant died.
In an important milestone for writers, the typewriter was invented.
The Senate and House passed the Women's Suffrage Bill, though the offical 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the vote didn't pass until 1920.
A plane crossed the Atlantic for the first time.
1919 is the first observation of National Book Week.
US-born Lady Astor became the first female member of the British Parliment.
Weird stuff happened too. A wall of molassas, a veritable "tidal wave" of sugar syrup oozed through Boston, killing 21 people. A dirigible crashed in Chicago. The Philadelphia Phillies beat the then-Brooklyn Dodgers nine-to-nothing, but it took 'em 20 innings to do it. (Before electrified lights on the field! Yikes!) There was plague (influenza, polio), famine, a wave of race riots, and a whole lot of war still going on.
Miracles happened too: postage actually DROPS from three cents to two cents. The Cincinnati reds go from ten and a half games back, to the World Series, and win.
That guy with the parachute actually survived.
When you look at 1919, you can already see the stage being set for the world to begin moving with digital speed. Planes. Lots of trains, mostly steam, but a rare few "new" diesel. And the beginning of the worldwide love of the automobile. And books. Books on life, books on hope, war, disease. In Flanders Fields hit the NYT list. So did Joseph Conrad's Arrows of Gold. Zane Grey hit the charts with Desert of Wheat. In the next decade, it became an almost fifty-fifty split, women to men on the "Chart Toppers" of the New York Times list.
Other than book rankings, it took a while for voting and college and Rosie the Riveter to bring women along with this progress, but in the main, the 20's, 30's and 40's were a blur of change. World War II brought more change and my Dad and Walter Cronkite were both there. Radio tunes everyone in to Korea, TV brings both entertainment and Vietnam into our homes, two Kennedy's assasinated and one wonderful minister named Martin Luther King, after another reformer, was killed as well.
They saw it all.But good stuff happened too. We landed on the moon too. Global cooling was predicted, then global warming, then mass kill-offs of ocean going creatures but none of that happened, thank goodness.
The massive room-sized computer was invented. (My Dad then ran that silly contest I blogged about before!) Remember punch cards? Now we have pocket sized computers and text friends who live in Tomorrow - think time zones here, people - in real time.
At the end of the twentieth century, my Dad and Walter Cronkite faced a new era. BOTH of them get interested in computers, both men share a love of the new, the fascinating, the changing and improving of the world.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
It boggles my mind to think about it. My Dad rode to school on a horse. I drop my kids off in a mini-van. My Dad learned to read, write, and do math, my kids learn all that plus computing and world affairs brought to their living room every night by TV. My kids know about DNA sequencing, something barely dreamed of in 1919.
What an amazing life. What an amazing world.
In looking all this up, and thinking about what it was like for my grandmother and mother, I realized that if a woman in those days, a woman like Mary Roberts Reinhart for instance could pen - literally - a bestseller in 1919, coining the phrase "The Butler Did it!", then I'm not doing too badly in 2009. After all, she couldn't even VOTE and she hit the Times list!
It's a brave new world, guys and dolls. What on Earth (or space!) will it be like in 90 more years? Care to guess? Will it be Jetsons? Will we live on other planets? Will they finally find a cure for the common cold, or cancer?
BTW, tell me too, who's the oldest person you ever met? My father remarried ten years ago. His mother in law lived five years after they married and died at nearly 105.
Weird, I tell ya!