With the coming of the new year, educator, author and commentator Frank
Bryan reflects on year’s end a century ago – from a fondly personal
(Bryan) On December 27th I called my aunt, Corinne
Bryan, who lives in Waterbury Center expressing regrets that the
snowstorm meant I’d miss a family get-together for her birthday. Quick
as a wink she said. "This is a ‘no place like home’ night. You stay
right where you are."
So, What’s the point?
It was her 100th birthday.
1912, the year of Corinne’s birth, America had only 46 states. New
Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii had yet to be admitted. Basketball
games were still using real baskets from which the ball had to be
retrieved after each made shot and U.S. Senators were elected by state
legislatures, not by the voters.
The year of Corinne’s birth,
the Italians were at war, forcibly colonizing Libya. U.S. Marines
occupied Nicaragua, the Manchu dynasties were finally overthrown in
China, and wars in the Balkans finished off the Ottoman Empire.
The same year, the Titanic went down with the loss of over1500 lives as did a Japanese steamer The KichMaru drowning 1000.
John Cheever and Mary McCarthy, impressionist Jackson Pollock, composer
John Cage and French dramatist Eugene Ionesco were all born in 1912
along with Julia Child, Perry Como, Woodie Guthrie, Lady Bird Johnson,
Pat Nixon, Gene Kelly and Stan Kenton.
In science the theories of "stellar evolution," continental drift, and Gestalt psychology were established.
Woodrow Wilson was elected President with the largest electoral vote
margin ever to that date, 435; Progressive Teddy Roosevelt got 88, and
the Republican Taft got only 8 – all from Utah and Vermont.
In 1912 The National Woman’s Party was formed.
sports Fenway Park opened and the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
In football, Native American Jim Thorpe scored 22 points as Carlisle (a
Native American college) defeated Army 27-6 in football and became the
National Champion. The army team included future President Dwight
Also in 1912 Kewpie Dolls were invented, America’s
first dirigible exploded over Atlantic City, the first US postage stamp
picturing an airplane was issued.
History, it seems to me, is
memory refined. But, what T.S. Elliot called the mixing of "memory and
desire" in "The Wasteland," can be dangerous to those who seek a future
that improves upon the experiences of the past. I think it’s helpful to
begin with events relatively distant from our own time and yet close
enough to be imagined. Indeed, there is a utility in dropping back a
century – the shock of perspective.
Still, nothing can replace a
witness. How do we contrast the floods of Irene for instance with the
floods of 1927, when deaths were at least ten times higher? My aunt
Corinne was 15 years old in 1927. I guess I’ll drop by – and ask her.