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Nostradamus

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference DepartmentNostradamus_1846

Michael de Nostradame (Nostradamus) was born on December 15, 1503 in the south of France. His family bout and sold grain, and was originally Jewish (several generations before his birth, the family converted to Catholicism and changed the name to Nostradamus).  At the age of 15, in 1518, he became a student at the University of Avignon.  Yet only a year after he came, the plague came to the city and the school closed to keep the disease far away. This was not the only time that Nostradamus would come close to the plague.

Since he was interested in medicine, he traveled the French country-side collecting folk remedies and helping sick people. This became a problem for him later, though. After over seven years of traveling and healing, he went back to school to get a doctorate in medicine. He was quickly expelled after the faculty found out he had practiced “folk medicine.” When he was twenty-eight, he was invited to the Aquitaine area by a scholar and physician. While there he married, and had two children, all of whom died, most likely from the plague. He continued traveling after the death of his family through France, and (probably) Italy. In 1545, he helped a physician fight off a plague outbreak in Marseille, and then again in Provence, close to his home area. In 1547 he married a rich widow, and had another family of six children.  He he died from complications of gout in 1566.

His Books

Nostradamus’s books also reflected his medical interests. He translated a book by the famous Roman physician Galen, and wrote a medical cookbook with recipes for medicinal treatments, including the plague, which he is considered to have been somewhat successful at treating. It also included how to make various kinds of cosmetics.

However, during this time period, everyone was writing almanacs, at least many literate Renaissance men were (this continued up through Benjamin Franklin’s time. And yes, Franklin wrote an almanac too.) So in 1550, Nostradamus joined the trend and wrote an almanac for the year.  Once he realized how successful the almanac could be, he decided to write one a year (even though he often published more than one a year). He published them annually from 1550 until his death. In all, we know he wrote at least eleven almanacs—at least that’s all we know about, that still exist. These annual books contained over 6,000 prophecies. Is it any wonder he started getting requests for horoscopes from prominent people near and far?   His greatest and best seller, The Prophecies, was the compiled collection of his major predictions.

The PropheciesNostradamus_Centurie_1557

He wrote his greatest and best seller, The Prophecies, as a book of quatrains—poems with four lines. Each quatrain was a prophecy for a future time, but they were not in chronological order.  He often wrote in prophetic code; sometimes using mixed words from other languages, puns, word games and more. He must have worried about threats from the church, but he was never charged or arrested by the Inquisition for his writings. According to the work’s preface, a letter from Nostradamus to his son Cesar (a child from his second marriage), the verses were intended to be mystifying; plus he wanted return customers!

They were published over a period of three years by his secretary, who oversaw the entire collection’s publication in 1568. Nostradamus’ major work of prophecies is often referred to as “The Centuries.” It was published in installments and consisted of about a thousand quatrains , collected in groups of a hundred , which gave the title its other name. The Centuries refers to the organizing structure of the work, not to periods of time. Nostradamus said he was able to predict the future through a combination of astrological study and divine inspiration. He was well-known for his astrological charts and was popular with both nobles and royalty. He said that sometimes an angelic spirit helped him figure out the charts and influences. He sought out inspiration through various forms of meditation, usually focusing in on fire or water. He claimed he could see and understand events in the near and distant future. Most quatrains refer to deaths, wars or natural disasters, events that are sure to occur again and again. This is a lot like modern horoscopes. Horoscopes typically detail things a wide range of people experience regularly, such as “conflicts at work,” “happiness in relationships” or “exciting new changes.” Chances are, these predictions will line up with your life, at least some of the time.

 

Interesting facts:

  1. The house where he grew up still exists, and has a plaque next to it indicating that this house is where the seer Nostradamus was born.
  2. The document about his being expelled from the University of Montpellier still exists, archived in the school’s library.
  3. He was buried in the local Franciscan chapel in Salon (legend says he was standing up!), which is now part of a restaurant. He was re-interred during the French Revolution in the Saint-Laurent Church, where his tomb remains to this day.

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Anti-Santa: The Krampus

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Krampus is a new movie coming out in December that’s rated PG-13; the story is based on the Germanic legend of Krampus. It could be scary for the little ones. Read below and you’ll see why. And if you’re wondering what is a Krampus? It’s not a what; it’s a who.krampus_by_give_dreams_wings-d5oumri

Gruss_vom_KrampusKrampus, a kind of bogeyman, is most often found in Germanic and Austrian legends and is a terrifying companion of St. Nicholas, usually seen as a black or dark figure with horns, (and often a very long tongue) shadowing the good Santa Claus. He walks behind Saint Nicholas on St. Nicholas Day Eve (December 6) and leaves ashes or sticks for the naughty children, while St. Nicholas leaves sweets or fruit for the good little girls and boys. Krampus is the one who punishes the bad children, those who misbehave or are mean to others. He carries a large sack with him, and legend has it that he carried bad girls and boys (those on the naughty list) away to store in a tall tree for eating later.   You wouldn’t want to be on this naughty list! In some towns, not too long ago, he followed Saint Nicholas from town to town and quizzed children on their deeds, whether they were good of bad that year, whether they did well in school and their chores.

Some think that the word Krampus comes from the Germanic word for talon, similar to crampon, the device climbers use when climbing icy mountains.   Some folklorists say that Krampus is the god of the witches, brought low to serve Saint Nicholas. Others say he is a pagan god, greatly diminished. Perhaps this is why Krampus celebrations were banned by the Catholic Church for centuries. He is similar to the horned god the witches in colonial New England were accused often of consorting with!

Nikolaus_und_KrampusHe is mostly known in Europe, Austria and Germany, and is popular in Christmas parades in those countries. In Holland, he’s known as Black Peter, or Zwarte Piet. In Germany, he’s known as Knecht Ruprecht and in some parts of Germany, Hans Trapp. When the Pennsylvania Dutch came to America, they brought the name Fur Nicholas (Pelz Nicholas) with them. This name became Belsnickel down through the years. Also, in Philadelphia, there is still a Mummer’s parade on New Year’s Day, often with people in Krampus costumes. In Austria, sweets made out of dates and nuts are made to look like Krampus are sold in markets. At one time, people could send Christmas cards with Krampus on them. Who’s to say they won’t make a reappearance? In Ypsilanti, they put on a Krampus Ball. People can come in costume and dance. One of the organizers has called it “Halloween for Adults,” even though it’s a Christmas party.

Many families brought the legend of Krampus with them when they came to the United States. Perhaps Brom was from one of those families? The legend of Krampus became more widely known in the United States from the book Krampus the Yule Lord by the author and artist Brom. The cover of his book is quite arresting. If something looking like that was asking me if I was a good child, I’d say yes no matter what. In Brom’s story, Krampus has been imprisoned by Saint Nicholas, and is working on getting free to take his revenge. He has a few servants, called belsnickels, who carry out his orders. Whether or not he succeeds, you’ll have to find out yourself.

He was known to carry with him a whip, a stick, a bell or a sack.

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Sir Francis Drake

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference DepartmentSir_Francis_Drake_(post_1580)

419 years ago Sir Francis Drake died of dysentery on a ship near Puerto Rico; it was his last voyage. It was fitting that this privateer, naval captain and hero to the English died at sea, on his ship. He was almost always at sea.

Francis Drake was born in 1540, probably, since no recorded date exists. When he was nine, his family moved to Kent. It was a lucky break for Francis. His father was appointed as chaplain for the King’s Navy, which brought Francis to the sea. He was apprenticed to a family neighbor who had coastal ship, and thus his training started. He was such a natural at sea that the ship’s owner, being so impressed with his abilities, willed Francis his ship. And so he got his first ship.

In 1563, when he was twenty-three, Drake made his first voyage to the Americas with his cousin, whose family owned a fleet of ships. One must suppose that from the age of nine to at least his mid-teens, he was learning the ropes, so to speak, probably working his way up from the lowly cabin boy. History doesn’t say, but he did well enough to sail with his cousin several times.

In 1572, commanding his first fleet, he sailed to the Isthmus of Panama (where the Panama Canal is now.) During the raid, Drake was badly wounded, and the crew, wanting to save his life, left the treasure they had liberated. He recovered and then set about liberating some more gold and treasure from Spain. He had a close call later; his partner was captured and beheaded. With the Spanish hot on his trail, he and two volunteers built a raft and sailed on it to meet up with the rest of the fleet. (Wow!)

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1570 map of the Americas

After Panama, he was asked by Queen Elizabeth to raid the Spanish along the American Pacific coast, but bad weather stopped him. He tried again, and lost several ships. He ended up wintering in the Argentina area, or what was later to be Argentina. With his last ship (the Golden Hinde), he made it to the western coast of South America. He captured a ship here, a ship there, adding to his fleet and obtaining more accurate maps of the area. He liberated a ship of wine and a treasure ship carrying 25,000 pesos. He also captured a ship with 80 pounds of gold and 25 tons of silver! He sailed all the way up to California, calling it New Albion; he may have been the first white man to see the San Francisco Bay!. In 1580, after sailing across the Pacific and around India and Africa, he sailed into Plymouth. The queen’s share of the treasure was more than the income of the nation for the whole year! He was knighted the next year, by a French diplomat, as Elizabeth watched.

King Phillip II of Spain had declared war, so the British government ordered Drake to attack the Spanish colonies. In 1585, commanding twenty one ships, he did just that. With twenty-one ships under his command, he sailed to Spain and then the colonies of Santa Domingo and Cartagena. He even sacked St. Augustine (in Florida) and stopped by Roanoke and took all the colonists back to England. Could this be what happened to the lost colony? He returned to England in 1586 to be hailed a hero. In another raid later that year, he raided Cadiz, destroying 37 ships. Based on these continued attacks and raids Phillip II ordered a planned invasion of England. Spain was truly feeling the pinch from the English privateers.

The Spanish Armada off the English coast

This invasion, now called the Spanish Armada, was to overwhelm, defeat England and overthrow Queen Elizabeth and bring back Catholicism. In July 1588, this fleet of 130 ships was planning to sail to the Flemish coast and meet up with Flemish troops. The fleet never met with the Flemish soldiers, since the Protestant Dutch were blockading the port. Drake, who was now Vice Admiral of the English Navy captured one of the Spanish flag ships; the next morning the English brought out fire ships, which dispersed most of the fleet. Finally the weather took over and one third of the fleet was lost to storms and the rocky coasts on England (Cornwall) and Ireland. The Spanish Armada was no more.

In 1589, Drake was ordered by the queen to sail to Portugal to help support the Portuguese in their uprising against King Phillip II (he ruled both Spain and Portugal at this time), and also to find and destroy any remaining Armada ships. They were also to try to capture the Azores. This proved disastrous, since they lost twenty ships and over 100 men. He continued with the navy, but his glory days were behind him. During the attack on San Juan, 1596 (still a Spanish colony at this time) his cabin was badly damaged by a cannon ball shot. He survived, but succumbed to dysentery a few weeks later. He was buried at sea in a leaded coffin; he was 55. Although many people have tried to find his coffin, no one has yet been successful.

 


Drake’s famous ship – The Golden Hind

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Drake’s famous ship the Golden Hind was originally known as Pelican, but was renamed by Drake mid-voyage in 1578, in honor of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden ‘hind’ (a female deer). Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake’s world voyage.

After Drake’s circumnavigation, the Golden Hind was maintained for public exhibition for nearly 100 years at Deptford. This is the earliest known example of a ship being maintained for public display because of her historic significance. She eventually rotted away and was finally broken up. Two replicas have since been built over the years; the first of them was permanently on display in Brixham after 1963, when it was built for a TV series about Francis Drake, but was wrecked by a storm in 1987. The next replica was built in Devon soon after, in 1973, using traditional methods. She sailed from Plymouth on her maiden voyage in late 1974, arriving on May 8, 1975 in San Francisco. Between 1981 and 1984, she was berthed in England and was established as an educational museum, but in 1984–1985 she sailed around the British Isles and then crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean. In 1986, she passed through the Panama Canal to sail on to Vancouver. In 1987, she began a tour of the US Pacific coast. In 1988, she passed back through the Panama Canal to visit Texas. In 1992 she returned home to tour the British Isles again. The oceangoing Golden Hinde has been featured in several films; since 1996 she has been berthed in London where she hosts visits from schools.


Other interesting items:
There is a board game called Francis Drake, which came out in 2013. Here is the description: Return to a bustling Plymouth Harbor in 1572 as an aspiring Elizabethan captain makes preparations for three exciting voyages to the Spanish Main in search of fame and fortune! The object of the game is to see who can set sail and reach the Spanish Main first. The riches of the Aztec and Inca Empires await the swashbuckling captains.

There is a Sir Francis Drake hotel in downtown San Francisco. Perhaps it is named after Drake since he sailed to this city? It was built in 1928 and although it has been refurbished it still tries to have an older, more historic feel to it. The doormen are Beefeaters, and the place gets four star ratings. It’s even pet friendly!

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Robert Louis Stevenson

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

RLS

Robert Louis Stevenson

The well-known author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson was born 165 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland on November 13. We are very lucky that he didn’t go into the family business of building lighthouses!! He left us with children’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses, many other lyric poems, and of course, his novels, Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Louis (he was never really called Robert) was sickly as a child, and continued to struggle with ill health all his life. His mother and father had lung problems and he inherited his breathing problems from them both. His family often moved to warmer climates during the colder weather, which he and his family continued later on in his life. His parents were well-off and well-read and moderate Presbyterians. His nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) was fervent in her beliefs and scared young Louis out of sound sleep many nights with her scary stories of sinners going to hell, and supernatural beings coming to get him. It’s no wonder he had such a great imagination!

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Fannie van der Grift Osbourne

He was tutored at home often, attending school sporadically, because of his ill health, and only liking playing games at recess. He wrote stories throughout his childhood, but his father determined he needed to have a career, so he was sent to Edinburgh University to become a lawyer. He did pass the bar, but never practiced. His father came to understand that Louis would have to be a writer, and continued to support him from time to time until his death. Louis travelled and wrote about his travels. He traveled and met people, most of them ended up helping him with publishing or editing his works. When he was 26, he met an American woman, Fannie van der Grift Osbourne, while they were staying at a hostel in France. He fell in love but she was still married (with two surviving children) and unsure about her feelings. She returned to America to gain a divorce and Louis, desperate to see her again, sailed across the ocean in steerage, and then traveled across county to Monterey, California. He nearly died- his health was never very good after this trip. They married and began to try to find the best places for his health to live. It was while happily married with Fanny that he wrote his most famous books. Lloyd, Fanny’s son helped him with Treasure Island. He was a teen at the time and found the story involving. He helped make the map.

The Stevensons found the best place for Louis’ health were the South Sea Islands and ended up living in Samoa. Louis became involved in his adopted country and wrote a book about the history of the Islands that was well received. The natives called him Tusitala (Teller of Tales). He died in Samoa at the age of 44, after a massive brain hemorrhage in 1894. He wrote his own epitaph, his poem Requiem.

For bit a of levity, Nancy Horan, who recently wrote a fictionalized biography about Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about things you never knew about Robert Louis Stevenson.

  1. 9780486266886_custom-de4c7597f325d5e33e1fa15b18393c9e335c34a5-s400-c85He invented the sleeping bag – too bad he never got to see one for sale in a store. Wonder who saw his and went on to invent a better version?
  2. He wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in eight days, while bedridden and recovering from a bout of illness.
  3. He used a pseudonym when he published Treasure Island in monthly chapters in a children’s magazine. He probably thought Captain George North would be more seaman-like.
  4. He gave away his birthday to a twelve-year old girl. They were talking and she said she’d never had a birthday since she was born on Christmas Day. He was appalled that she’d never had an actual birthday and wrote a legal letter giving her his birthday. (This makes me think he must have been a fun person to be with!)

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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In Uprooted, Novik turns to her Polish heritage for a change of pace from the world of Temeraire. Don’t worry, though, another book in that world is due out next year.

Agnieszka grew up in a valley that borders The Wood. Every ten year, the Wizard Dragon picks a young girl as the price for keeping the valley safe from The Wood, which is corrupted, dangerous and unpredictable. Things that go in The Wood don’t come out, or come out changed and mad (insane, not angry.) Agnieszka’s best friend Kasia is perfect at all she does. Everyone assumes that Kasia will be chosen by Dragon. Nieshka can’t keep clean, she can’t cook, plus since she knows she won’t be chosen, she didn’t bother to learn to cook or sew. She’s totally unprepared. But when the time comes, Dragon does choose Agnieszka, no Kasia.

For several months Nieshka is terrified and lonely. Dragon is brusque and either ignores her or complains about her messiness. Then Kasia’s mother frantically asks for her help; Kasia has been abducted by beings from The Wood. Nieshka runs to rescue her friend, learns that she has magic herself, and meets the prince determined to free his mother from The Wood. The Queen was taken twenty years ago – no one believes it possible to rescue anyone from The Wood.

Can Nieshka succeed?? What will the Wood do if she and Dragon can free the queen?

I listened to Temeraire, but never read the rest of the books about fighting on dragons during the Napoleonic Wars. But this book, I fell right in. It took me a while to realize that Jaga, who Agnieszka was most like, was Baba Yaga, a witch from Slavic mythology. Her mobile house walks around on three chicken legs… When talking with a friend, we both agreed it will make a great movie. Let’s see if someone makes an option on the book to make a movie.

Leif Erikson Day

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Departmentimages

It’s Leif Erikson Day! Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone! Turns out this what Spongebob Squarepants wishes everyone on Leif Erikson Day. It’s his second favorite holiday, after April Fool’s… He even has a costume!

Leif Erikson (pronounced Layf, like some of us of a certain age remember the actor Leif Garrett) was a Norwegian traveler, voyager, explorer and sailor who is considered the leader of the first boat of explorers to visit North America. It’s generally considered that he landed at Newfoundland and later Labrador. Leif had a very adventurous father, Erik the Red, who established a colony on Greenland, after being kicked out of Iceland—but that’s another story.

cPMaA9b68CKpHW3LzRXGywdHThere was no place for Leif there, since Erik the Red was a larger than life person himself, so he set his eyes on the West. There had been rumors of a far-away land full of wonders, (specifically from Bjarni Herjólfsson, another Viking explorer who some believe is the true first discover of North America.) He decided to go exploring, heading west across a great body of water. Artifacts excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland have been dated to around 1000 A.D., which is considered the only confirmed Viking settlement in North America. According to sagas, the Norse called the area Vinland, because they found grapes growing there.

It wasn’t until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge, after learning of the research done by Norwegian-American researchers, recognized Erikson as the “Discoverer of America,” even though the first book written about the Norse having discovered America was published in the late 1800s. Wisconsin was the first state to make Leif Erikson day an official holiday—not surprising since it was mostly settled by Scandinavians. Over the years, other states made the day an official holiday. In 1963, a U. S. Congressman from Duluth introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson day across the nation. In 1964, L B J started the tradition of proclaiming October the 9th as Leif Erikson Day. Every year, it’s at least one thing Congress can agree on!

Why is it October 9? Since there were no records available from the Viking visitation in 1000, any date could have been chosen for Leif Erikson Day. How was October 9th chosen? The Norwegian ship Restauration, bearing the first official waive of Norwegian immigrants, arrived in New York on October 9, 1825.

So have a happy holiday, and remember that it’s because of Leif Erikson and the Restauration that Congress is actually agreeing once a year.  Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone!

(As always, the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and in no way reflect upon the beliefs and principles of Williamson County Public Library, its employees, or the Norwegians.)


Sources:leif

DH Lawrence: More than just “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

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lady-chatterley

David Herbert Richards Lawrence was born 130 years ago this September, on September 11. Most people only know the name DH Lawrence because two of his novels, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, were censored. A few people would probably admit to reading these two books under the covers with a flashlight! He was much more than just a novelist though– he was a noted poet, playwright, literary critic and painter.

Lawrence was born in Newcastle, England. His parents were from the working class—his father was a miner and his mother was a tutor. Early on, he contracted tuberculosis, which plagued him all his life. This disease made him sickly and he often bullied at the schools he attended. He did go a local school early on, won a scholarship to primary school, and then won another scholarship to Nottingham High School. He had to be a writer after this—he kept winning scholarships! He didn’t do so well at the high school though, and dropped out to go to work. His mother, realizing his intelligence and looking for someone to teach, began tutoring him at home. Her attention paid off; he was hired as a student-teacher at the University College, Nottingham. He also started writing in his spare time. He always wrote.

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Click to see his his interesting fact***

During his first job, teaching at a school in Croydon, which he surprisingly did well, his first works of literature, poems, were published in the prestigious English Review. He was asked about other works he had, and soon became known for his writing. His mother passed away, which devastated him and had a major impact upon his life and writing—directly influencing his novel Sons and Lovers. While reconnecting with a former professor of his, he fell in love and ran away with the professor’s wife. She left behind three small children! Since the former Mrs. Weekley (Frieda) was German, they had a hard time finding a place to live during World War I—they fell under suspicion constantly. After the war, he nearly died from influenza, got fed up with hateful reviews (and the suspicion) and moved out of England for good. He was living in Italy when Women in Love was published.

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Frieda von Richthofen

He and Frieda, the former Mrs. Weekley, tried living in Sardinia, then Ceylon. He was working his way toward the United States, where they wanted to live. He figured they would be easier on him—or at least not as cruelly critical. They stayed in Australia for a time then finally made it to North America. They found a place in Taos, New Mexico, which is known as The D H Lawrence Ranch. It belongs to the University of New Mexico, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

They visited Mexico, where he contracted three horrible diseases, one after another—typhoid, pneumonia and a recurrence of tuberculosis. He nearly died again. A recurring theme… He returned to Italy, where he wrote and edited Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Failing health kept him from traveling back to the United States. He spent the rest of his life vehemently defending his censured works, especially Lady Chatterley’s Lover.   He died on March 2, 1930.

Frieda, the former Mrs. Weekley, and now Mrs. Lawrence, continued living at the ranch until her death in 1956.

***Interesting fact: D H Lawrence has a Facebook page! Truly! It is maintained by http://www.dh-lawrence.org.uk/

 


Sources:

National Spirit of ’45 Day

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department70thAnniversarylogo.REVISEDjpg

This year Williamson County Public Library is having a program on Saturday, August 15 in conjunction with Spirit of ’45 to commemorate the end of World War II and the soldiers who fought, served, returned or died during the war.

Why August 15th? The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw so eloquently named them, would know immediately. Japan surrendered on august 14, and August 15 immediately began to be celebrated as V-J Day (as June 6th was V – E Day.) 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As those who served in World War II and those who lived during it pass away, many people began to realize that as they pass away, so does our connection to World War II and remembering the cost and sorrow of the war.

Led by Susan Collins, Senator from Maine, supported by Senators Daniel Inouye and Frank Lautenberg, who co-sponsored this resolution, Congress in 2010 voted unanimously to create a national day to preserve and honor those who served in World War II. Spirit of ’45 Day is observed on the second Friday of August this year, aligning with August 14, 1945, when spontaneous celebrations broke out across America at the news that the most destructive war in history was over. The purpose of Spirit of ’45 Day is to renew the sense of community, national unity, shared sacrifice and “can do” attitude that were the hallmarks of the generation that endured the difficult times of the Great Depression, fought to defend democracy in the largest mobilization of manpower since the building of the pyramids, and led an unprecedented effort to assure a better future for their children and their children’s children, for both former ally and foe alike.

Spirit of ’45 Day has been steadily gaining traction each year, and is now being celebrated throughout the country with events and activities organized by museums and community history associations, WWII heritage groups, senior living communities and care providers, veterans’ organizations, youth leadership organizations, and others.  This year, Scarlett Johansson and Elton John both are stepping up in a big way to help commemorate this generation. John’s mother manned an anti-aircraft gun during the Battle of Britain, and Johansson’s great uncle was the last soldier to die in combat on August 15, 1945.

WWII in Images: Remembrance and Reflection


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Music of World War II

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Library


Music and movies were two of the best and least expensive forms of entertainment during World War II. Ballrooms were packed as people got together to listen to music, dance, and forget about the Depression and the War for a while. Music pulled communities and nations together, and could be used symbolically to remind everyone what the soldiers and armies were fighting for.

Remember, there was no television yet, only radio, and people gathered around their radios to listen to news and radio programs, and the music they loved. Sometimes groups of people danced in living rooms, “cutting a rug,” others danced at school dances, in ballrooms and clubs. The famous Savoy Ballroom opened in 1926; it had a huge dance floor and a raised bandstand and was an immediate hit—that’s where the song “Stompin’ at the Savoy” came from. Prices were low; everyone was doing what they could to contribute to the war effort. It was a release to have fun and dance.

Many in Europe used Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a secret code to show support for the Allies. The first five notes of the symphony are exactly the same at V (for victory) in Morse code – dit dit dit dah. Even though Beethoven was a German, he was known to have stood up for individual rights and was against Napoleon’s empire-building, which was enough for many Europeans. The Germans, under the leadership of Hitler, were big fans of Wagner, which made Wagner’s comeback after World War II take much longer than normal.

World War I vets had fallen in love with Paris, and the “Lost Generation “of the 1920s followed suit. Many soldiers had fond memories of Paris and wanted to remember France in better days. Starting with “As Time Goes By” (by Max Steiner) in Casablanca to “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein) showed that men fighting abroad and other Allied countries mourned the Nazi occupation of France.

As for popular music, Hitler was rumored to detest jazz – perhaps because it was played (written and sung) by non-Aryans? The response to this belief was definitely to listen to more jazz, jive and swing music. Big bands and swing music were popular before World War II, and continued to be popular throughout the war. It was a nice diversion from thinking about the war and worrying if your special someone would be coming back. This was the time of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman and their orchestras. Also included in this popular craze were Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. “Swing, Swing, Swing, Swing” was a popular song, instrumental with lots of brass. “Deep Purple” (not to be confused with the band that came later!–guitarist Richie Blackmore named the band after the song because it was his grandmother’s favorite) was such a popular piano piece that words were quickly written for the song. Other popular swing music songs were “Begin the Beguine”, “In the Mood”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Sentimental Journey”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Midnight Serenade”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.


Big bands became less and less big as there were fewer and fewer men to play the instruments. Glenn Miller was rumored to have been a spy for the United States. He was flying over the English Channel when his plane went down in bad weather in December 1944. No one on the plane was ever found. So we’ll never know if he was a spy or just a musician going to another USO gig to remind the GIs of home. The music of the 1930s and 40s will always be remembered as a background to war, and a time when all people of the Greatest Generation were connected by music and patriotism. The fact that swing keeps coming back is a testament to its beat, its popularity and a true sense of nostalgia. Read the rest of this entry

Harper Lee’s publishing a new book: Go set a Watchman

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department harper-lee-main-lHarper Lee has published a new book, after over 50 years of saying she would never write another book!

There has been some discussion as to whether Go Set a Watchman was published without Ms. Lee’s consent. Her lawyer, for most of her adult life, was her older sister, who passed away a couple of years ago. She did a valiant job of protecting Harper Lee’s legacy. And now with failing sight and hearing, many were questioning whether or not someone was taking advantage of her ill health. The state of Alabama actually investigated claims of elder abuse and interviewed Ms. Lee, but found the claims unfounded. The last we’ve read and heard is that Ms. Lee has all her faculties and does indeed know what’s what and she did indeed authorize the release of her new book.

According to HarperCollins Publishers, which purchased the North American rights to publish Go Set A Watchman, Ms. Lee’s new book was written in the 1950s. “In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.” It was found by Ms. Lee’s friend and lawyer Tonja Carter last fall, in what was described as a secure place. Reportedly, she found the new manuscript attached to an older edition of To Kill a Mockingbird. She thought it was Lee’s first novel; then realized the story was set later, and the characters were older as well.

Harper-LeeGo Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s, twenty years after To Kill A Mockingbird. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. She has to face both personal and political issues as she tries to understand her father better and her own feelings about Maycomb. The title comes from the Bible – Jeremiah 21:6 “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, “Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” “ Most critics have said that this quote alludes to Atticus who Scout sees as the watchman or caretaker of Maycomb.

The Wall Street Journal will publish the first chapter online on July 10, four days before the July 14th publication date. For those who’d rather listen than read, WSJ will also be publishing the first chapter of the audiobook, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, that day as well.

And yes, we will have copies of the book available for check out on July 14. You can put a hold on the book now. Read the rest of this entry

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