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Posts Tagged ‘Smithsonian

Datebook: September 15 – John Bull becomes oldest operable steam locomotive 30 years ago

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On September 15, 1981, the John Bull became the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world when the Smithsonian Institution operates it under its own power outside Washington, D.C. John Bull is a British-built railroad steam locomotive that operated for the first time on September 15, 1831 and operated heavily in the United States between 1833 and 1866. Smithsonian had purchased the locomotive in 1884 and was the museum’s first major industrial exhibit. It is still on display today in the National Museum of American History.

It’s Thursday, September 15

Mayfield’s Gourd Patch Arts Festival celebrates the national art exhibition All about Gourds at the Ice House Gallery and includes a gourd-mobile racecar derby. Festival activities center between Regions Bank on North 7th and the Gallery at North and North 8th from 9 to 4:30 Saturday. Vendors, crafters, and a farmer’s market are part of the day.

There’s a Run for Recovery 5KRun and Walk Saturday at Murray State’s Arboretum. VStar, or Voices for Substance Abuse Recovery opens registration at 8:30, with the run at 9. $25 registration includes a tee. The Arboretum’s at the Pullen Farm, 300 Hickory Drive off West Main.

There’s a Doggie Day Spa and Pet ID Clinic Saturday from 9 to 2 at Carmen Pavilion on College Farm Road across from Calloway County High School. Dog baths are $7. Bath, ear cleaning and nail trim together go for $10. The Humane Society microchips for $10 and has a free lost pet photo registry.

See wkms.org community events for details and for your own events. Thanks!

Black History Month: the Greensboro Sit-ins

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by Angela Hatton

February 1 marked the golden anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins. Four African-American young men walked up to a Woolworth’s lunch counter an hour before closing time and asked for service. They were denied, but they stayed until close of business. The groups action launched a string of sit-ins across the country by both black and white supporters of the Civil Right movement. Six months later, Woolworth’s integrated their lunch counter, and the actions of the sit-in participants were heralded as a landmark non-violent protest.

Below is a picture of the Woolworth’s lunch counter in the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington D. C. Todd and I saw this relic from the Civil Rights Movement when we visited there last week. Nothing in the Smithsonian’s statements say this is a reproduction, so I am assuming this is an actual slice from the counter. However, if anyone knows for sure, feel free to dispute that statement.

 This week, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum opened in Greensboro on the anniversary of the first sit-in. Launching the museum has been a challenge in itself; NPR covered the story

With all the attention around this event, I’ve thought more about what it might have been like to be at Woolworth’s on that day.  While I can’t say the below is a completely historically accurate depiction (warning: may contain anachronisms), it is at least inspired by history.

Greensboro, Fifty Years Later

First day of the shortest month, they began the longest wait with a breezy 
             idea: time for a cup, a bit of pick-me-up.
They swung into seats set up pink, blue, pink, blue, leaned their elbows on 
            the Formica and asked for four, black, with sugar on the side.
No dice; the waiter flipped past them like a boring newspaper page, and 
            zipped to the end of the line to fill an empty glass.
Someone sidled up (not too close) and grunted, “Ya’ll gotta go,” but they 
            were stone, hunched over with nothing to protect.
A man slammed his burger half-eaten on his plate, chucked a pocketful of
            change on the counter, and cut out.
A woman steered her children towards, then away, her heels clip-clopping
            double-time over their dismay. 
The steam from the coffee, the smell of the fries, the gluttonous motion of
            syrup slobbered over sundaes not for them, indictments all—
Chicken bones swung before a rangy, mangy dog. But they spread their
            shoulders, making their coats like the capes on watchmen, set to 
            guard the walls until  
Closing time and they slipped from their seats and out the door, surprised
           they were still alive, and knowing they’d be back tomorrow and 
           tomorrow.
A busboy wiped their scent from the vinyl stools; a slight impression
           lingered in the foam.

Half a century later, a section stays behind glass, four seats where no one
           sits. Shutters snap  family photos, a memory for the scrapbook.
Before we know this, we swing in your mother’s stools, trying to spin      
           ourselves sick. You scream, I scream for ice cream.
Little giggle-boxes naïve that they are two mismatched scoops: we beg for
            extra cherries on top.

Written by Angela Hatton

February 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

At Last, the Next to Last Washington Post

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By Todd Hatton

By the time anyone reads this, Angela and I will have returned from our vacation to Washington, D.C.  We survived the 795 trip from D.C., through Maryland and West Virginia, then across the length of the Commonwealth to return safe, sound, and very, very tired.

So, if you happened to read my last post from the road, I’ll catch you up.

By Wednesday morning, we were already hitting what I like to call National Historic Fatigue.  Washington is a town full to bursting with history, gargantuan, multi-storey marble and granite history.  And by the time you’ve seen your umpteenth marble edifice or National Historic Site, they tend to blur together.  Their rapid-fire momentousness numbs the brain and before you know it, it’s “oh look, the Apollo 11 command module.  Oh look, the red-sequined shoes Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz. <yawn>  Oh look, the Hope Diamond.  Oh look, etc.”

We gamely kept to our rather loose schedule of places and things to see, but we slowed the pace.  The fewer forced marches, the better.

On Wednesday morning, Angela and I split up.  She went to the Botanical Gardens while I headed off to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Angela had toured it before, and was understandably reluctant to do it again.  I felt obligated however, so I went.

I’m not really sure what to say about it.  Part of me thinks the less said, the better.  After all, how can words measure the magnitude of the horrors documented within the museum’s walls?

Another part wants to list every name lost to the crematoria, every place, home to Jews for centuries, destroyed by sheer mechanical hatred.

When Angela and I got back together, we took the train to Arlington National Cemetery.  We visited the Kennedy gravesites and located the final resting place of one of my literary heroes, Mr. Samuel D. Hammett of Maryland.  If you’re among the uninitiated, he wrote a book called The Maltese Falcon.

After a rather grim day, we headed back to the B&B and put a hurtin’ on a bottle of good Riesling, some excellent cheese, and a pair of lemon curd bars.

At 10 am, Thursday, we took a tour of Ford’s Theater on 10th Street NW.  As grim as its subject was, I was riveted to every exhibit: the suit Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was shot, Booth’s Spencer carbine, and the derringer he used to kill the President.

I did think it was either a genius of design or a remarkable coincidence that when one stood before the tiny murder weapon, an image of John Wilkes Booth stared back, reflected from a photograph on the wall behind.  A little spooky, really.

Upstairs, we looked into the Presidential Box:

The rocking chair in the foreground is where President Lincoln sat.  It’s not the original however, that one is in a museum in Chicago, Illinois.  The small cane chair next to it is original.  It’s the same one Mary Todd Lincoln sat in, close to her husband, on that fateful night.

The museum has kept the theater as it looked on April 14th, 1865:

And the thing that struck me most was how small the box was.  The theater overall was not especially big, which is surprising considering that on the night Lincoln was shot, there were about 17 hundred people in the audience, most of whom would end up on the street.

Our next stop was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Believe me, nothing makes you more grateful we live in the 21st century than seeing what was running around millions of years ago.  Take for example the remains of this charming little fish:

May I introduce to you Carcharocles megalodon, or at least its jaws.  The fish attached to these teeth could grow up to 67 feet in length and scientists say, or rather hope, this shark became extinct some one and a half million years ago.  From their mouths to G-d’s ears, I say.

Then it was off to the font of all, or most, public radio, the Washington headquarters of National Public Radio and a tour from NPR Station Rep Gemma Hooley.

First, let me say that I have come to absolutely adore Gemma, who took the time to give a couple of public radio grunts the fifty cent tour of Where It All Happens.  She also let us observe about 20 or so minutes of All Things Considered, with Ann Taylor bustling back and forth between the director and the news reader’s booth, and Robert Siegel not 20 feet away doing what he does every afternoon.  We didn’t get the chance to hobnob, but it was inspiring and instructive to see these talented and extremely hard-working people in action.  I got tired just watching them.

For our last day, Angela and I headed over to the Chevy Chase area of D.C. to visit Politics and Prose, the second-best bookstore in the United States after The Strand in New York.  I’ve now come to the conclusion that a visit to Washington is incomplete without a trip to Politics and Prose.

We wrapped up our last day with a wonderful dinner at Mai Thai’s with a relative of Angela’s, Reuters Congressional correspondent Susan Cornwell.  Susan is a fascinating person, and an incredibly intelligent one as well.  I know who I’ll be angling to hang out with at that next family reunion.

Saturday morning, we began what turned out to be the arduous journey back through Maryland and West Virginia.  It was the kind of drive that made me wish I had flown.  And I hate flying.  But, the roads magically cleared when we crossed over into Kentucky near Ashland and we were heck-bent for leather all the way back to Murray.

Dang, it’s good to be home.

Written by thefrontblog

February 1, 2010 at 9:41 am

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