Reading Old News
Packing away the Christmas decor-ations is a part of the holiday routine that I don’t particularly enjoy.
Like almost everything that “has to be done,” that job is not a whole lot of fun.
But, there is a small part of the process that I like and even look forward to. I enjoy looking through and reading some of the old papers used to wrap everything up before it is put in boxes to go back in the attic.
Since we use the same papers for a few years, until they are useless, it is an opportunity to jog my memory, news wise.
A story about celebrities observing their 60th birthday during the year ahead was the feature article on a newspaper page dated Jan. 6, 2006. President Bill Clinton, Dolly Parton and former Yankee Reggie Jackson would all turn 60 in 2006 according to the article.
The next day, on Jan. 7, 2006, President Bush shrugged off a report showing weaker than expected job growth and declared that “the American economy heads into 2006 with a full head of steam.”
Some of the pages that have been wrapped around our ornaments for a couple of years include a tattered half page from a Jan. 5, 2012 newspaper. One of the half stories on that page is about Alexander Gardner, a Civil War era photographer.
Gardner is credited with taking some of the Civil War’s most famous photos – photos of the Civil War battlefield at Antietam, stark pictures of the hanging of the Lincoln conspirators, and portraits of Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and George McClellan.
The well-worn comics page from another 2012 issue features the antics of Garfield, Mother Goose and Grimm, Gasoline Alley, Blondie’s Dagwood and his boss, Mr. Dithers, Beetle Bailey and Charlie Brown.
On Dec. 3, 2008 a front page headline wondered “Do Weather Forecasters Really Have a Clue About This Winter?” The answer: “Nope, Not This Year.” So what’s new?, or in this instance, “What’s Old?”
A Trip Back in Time
I enjoy going to the jazz concerts hosted by the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse (J.A.S.S.). The musicians are usually familiar to the club’s members – Sunday it was the “Djug Django” group from Ithaca, well known for their Django Reinhardt arrangements. Reinhardt is often regarded as the greatest guitar player of all time.
Concert attendees are always happy to hear the band’s stylized renditions of old standards.
“Two Sleepy People” was written in 1938 by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser. It was recorded by Carmichael himself, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and others and was performed in the film, “Thanks for the Memories,” by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.
“Nagasaki” was a popular Tin Pan Alley hit written in 1928 by Harry Warren and Mort Dixon. The most famous rendition of the song at the time was by the Benny Goodman Quintet.
“Straighten Up and Fly Right” was written in 1943 by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills, performed by the King Cole Trio featuring some great lyrics by Cole – with a monkey telling a buzzard to “Straighten up and fly right, Cool down Papa, don’t blow your top.”
A Tribute to the “Emperor”!
The band also offered their versions of other favorites – “Brazil,” “Frankie and Johnny,” “Get That Jive, Jack,” “Creole Love Song” and “Take the A Train,” two Duke Ellington hits; “Sleepy Time Down South,” Louis Armstrong’s longtime theme song, ”Emperor Norton’s Hunch,” and a lot others.
“Emperor Norton’s Hunch” is one of my favorite traditional jazz songs. It is alive and peppy, a real rouser which tells a story through music of a real person.
The real person was Joshua Abraham Norton, an Englishman who came to San Francisco, accumulated a fortune, lost the fortune, left San Francisco; he returned to the city several years later a little bit “mentally unbalanced”, and claimed himself as the “Emperor of the United States”.
His “reign” over the city lasted 21 years; the city’s residents loved him and when the Emperor died in 1880, up to 30,000 of them lined the streets of the city in a two-mile funeral cortege to pay homage.
It’s all portrayed in this happy, peppy musical tribute without words – which even contains a chance for some audience participation.
It was a good time with good friends and good music.
When I called John Florek at the Fulton Water Works on Tuesday to ask about snow figures, I told him that I had been calling him for facts and figures for many years.
“This is our 39th season of keeping track,” John said. “Sam Vescio was here in ’75-’76, and I came on for the ’76-’77 season.” I knew that it had been a long time, but I’m not sure that I wanted to know exactly how long.
Getting back to this year, I was talking to John for the first time this winter, and quickly learned that as of Jan. 13, 75.8 inches of snow had been recorded at the Water Works.
He also told me that the normal amount for that date is 78.0 inches. Well, I thought, we’re doing okay in that department.
Last year on the same date that total was 53.9 inches and the city finished up with a total snowfall amount of 206 inches. Oh, oh.
I knew from experience that once John starts talking about Fulton’s snowfall he doesn’t need a lot of encouragement to keep going. He talked along enough Tuesday to tell me that the lowest amount of snow Fulton had received by Jan. 13 during the years of record keeping was 15.25 inches in 2002. During 1996, the city had received 169.25 inches through that date.
So far, we seem to be doing okay, but . . . keep those shovels handy.
. . . Roy Hodge