Category Archives: World War One

Harry S. Truman 5.8.13 Thought of the Day

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”” Harry Truman

Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972), 1945 – 1953 the...

Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972), 1945 – 1953 the thirty-third President of the United States Deutsch: Harry S. Truman (1884–1972), 1945 bis 1953 33. Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Harry S. Truman was born on this day in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. today is the 129th anniversary of his birth.

He was the eldest of three children born to John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman. Father was a farmer and his family was of modest means. The family moved to Independence Missouri when Harry was six.

When he was eight he began his formal schooling. He liked music and took piano lessons. He also loved to read and enjoyed history. Truman was always interested in politics, and was a page for the Democratic National Convention in 1900. He graduated from Independence High School in 1901.

The Trumans didn’t have the money to send their children to College — Harry Truman is the only US President in the 20th Century with out a college degree — so Harry worked after graduating from high school.

“He worked a variety of jobs after high school, first as a timekeeper for a railroad construction company, and then as a clerk and a bookkeeper at two separate banks in Kansas City. After five years, he returned to farming and joined the National Guard.” []

In 1905 he joined the Missouri Army National Guard. He served in the Guard until 1911. After a few years break he rejoined the Guard to fight in World War One. He served as an Captain in the 129th Field Artillery.

At the end of the War Truman came home to Independence, and married Elizabeth (Bess) Virginia Wallace and opened a haberdashery with his fellow soldier, Edward Jacobson. Although the clothing shop failed his relationship with Jacobson lasted for decades.

“Active in the Democratic Party, Truman was elected a judge of the Jackson County Court (an administrative position) in 1922. He became a Senator in 1934. During World War II he headed the Senate war investigating committee, checking into waste and corruption and saving perhaps as much as 15 billion dollars.” [White]

Franklin Roosevelt choose Truman as his running mate in 1944. Truman served as Vice President less than 12 weeks before Roosevelt died of a massive stroke. Roosevelt had kept him largely in the dark. He didn’t even know about the Manhattan Project.

Presidential portrait of Harry Truman. Officia...

Presidential portrait of Harry Truman. Official Presidential Portrait painted by Greta Kempton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He said when he assumed office “I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”

While the war in Europe was winding down — he proclaimed “V-E Day” on his 61st birthday — there seemed no end in sight with the war with Japan.

“An urgent plea to Japan to surrender was rejected. Truman… ordered atomic bombs dropped on cities devoted to war work. Two were Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese surrender quickly followed.” [White]

Post war accomplishments included:

  • Witnessing the signing of the charter of the United Nations
  • Expanding the Social Security system (the Fair Deal),
  • The Truman Doctrine  (aimed at thwarting Soviet aggression)
  • The Marshall Plan (helping to rebuild the European economy)
  • The Berlin Airlift
  • NATO
  • Recognition of Israel
  • Integration of the Armed Forces

Challenges included:

  • Demobilizing the military while maintaining a healthy economy
  • The cold War
  • Labor disputes, especially with the Steel industry
  • Korean War
  • McCarthyism

Truman survived an assassination attempt on November 1, 1950. The first family was staying in Blair House — the White House was undergoing major renovations — when two Puerto Rican nationals attempted to enter the house and shoot him. There was gun battle outside Blair House, resulting in the death of a White House police man and one of the conspirators.

In 1952 he decided not to run for a second term (He has served most of Roosevelt’s’ final term and one full term of his own.) He supported Democrat Adlai Stevenson against Dwight Eisenhower.

He wrote his memoirs back in Independence. He worked to establish a presidential library. He toured the country with Bess in his Chrysler New Yorker.

Harry Truman died at the age of 88 the day after Christmas, 1972.

“My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”

English: US Postage stamp: Harry. S. Truman, I...

English: US Postage stamp: Harry. S. Truman, Issue of 1973, 8c (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Manfred von Richthofen “The Red Baron” 5.2.13 Thought of the Day

“Of course, with the increasing number of aeroplanes one gains increased opportunities for shooting down one’s enemies, but at the same time, the possibility of being shot down one’s self increases.” — Manfred von Richthofen

English: Photograph of Manfred von Richthofen,...

English: Photograph of Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Willi Sanke postcard #503 (cropped). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was born on this day in Kleinburg, Breslau, Germany in 1892. today is the 121st anniversary of his birth.

He was the second child and the eldest son born to Major Albrecht Phillip Karl Julius Freiherr von Richthofen and Kunigunde von Schickfuss und Neudorff. The family was part of the Prussian aristocracy and lived a life of privilege. Manfred enjoyed horse back riding, hunting and gymnastics. He was home schooled until 11 when he entered the  Royal Military Academy at Lichterfelde.

“He was a better athlete than he was a scholar, and applied his horseback riding skills to become a cavalry officer.  He was commissioned in April 1911 in the 1st Regiment of Uhlans Kaiser Alexander III, and promoted to Lieutenant in 1912.” [First World]

When World War One began he served as a reconnaissance officer for the cavalry. In May of 1915, after brief service as a dispatch runner in the trenches, he switched to the newly formed German Air Force. He was a natural aviator and “took his first solo flight after only 24 hours of flight training.” [Ibid] Richthofen flew an Albatross for a while, then he switched to the Fokker DR-1 Dridecker, a tri-plane with a  “Spandau” lMG 08 machine gun. His plane was painted red.

Deutsch: Nachbau der Fokker DR1 auf der ILA 20...

Deutsch: Nachbau der Fokker DR1 auf der ILA 2006. Manfred von Richthofen, genannt “Der Rote Baron”, flog dieses Modell im 1. Weltkrieg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“His success in the air led to his being named der Rote Kampfflieger by the Germans, le petit rouge by the French, and the Red Baron by the British.” [ Ibid]

In 1917 he was award the Pour Le Merite (aka “The Blue Max”) and was put in charge of an elite unit of German pilots nicknamed the Flying Circus. He personally racked up over 80 kills along the Western Front.

On July 6, 1917 He received a serious head wound. He passed out, but regained consciousness before the airplane hit the ground and was able to make a safe, if rough, landing in a farmer’s field. While recovering from the wound the German Airforce Press and Intelligence unit had him “write” an autobiography (that they promptly censored, polishing the image of the flying ace.) He was a national treasure and they didn’t want him to go up again (neither did the doctors), but The Red Baron ignored them, rationalizing that other German soldiers didn’t have the option of staying away from combat, and neither should he.

Manfred von Richthofen from Sanke card #450. T...

Manfred von Richthofen from Sanke card #450. The caption is Unser erfolgreichster Kampf-Flieger: Freiherr von Richthofen, which means “Our most successful fighter pilot: Baron von Richthofen”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He went back to active service at the end of July. On April 21 1918  he was shot down over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme.

“A British pilot flew over the German aerodrome at Cappy and dropped a note informing the Germans of Richthofen’s death.  Buried in France by the British with full military honours, Richthofen’s body was later exhumed and reburied in the family cemetery at Wiesbaden.” [Ibid]

Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day Part two

[Continued from Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part One]


The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush (1925) (Photo credit: quicheisinsane)

Having fulfilled his contract with National, Chaplin  was free to work on independent projects for United Artists, a group he formed with  Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D. W. Griffith in 1919. With the Gold Rush in 1925 he made the movie he wanted to be remembered by.


Through his work, Chaplin came to be known as a grueling perfectionist. His love for experimentation often meant countless retakes and it was not uncommon for him to order the rebuilding of an entire set. It also wasn’t rare for him to begin with one leading actor, realize he’d made a mistake in his casting, and start again with someone new…But the results were hard to refute. [Biography]


The Tramp working on the giant machine in the ...

The Tramp working on the giant machine in the film’s most famous scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Modern times

His later films include City Lights, 1931, Modern Times, 1936 and The Great Dictator, 1940. He made a half dozen more films (most noteably Lime Light co starring Buster Keaton) but they paled  in comparison to his earlier work. No one, it seemed, was interested in Chaplin sans bowler hat and mustache.


Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictat...

Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator (with “double cross” emblem in background and on cap). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chaplin’s personal life was always in the spot light. He was married 4 times to women decades his junior. He had numerous affairs with his leading ladies. He didn’t join the British Army in WWI (which caused a lot of controversy back home in England. –Chaplin had registered for the draft, but had not been called up. He also worked for the War effort raising money through Liberty Bonds and producing propaganda films — but it wasn’t enough to satiate the flag waving mania sweeping his home country.) He was never afraid to voice his political views and after The Great Dictator (with it’s brilliant, but preachy six-minute closing speech) he was branded a radical. In the 1950’s he was a target of the House Un-American Activities Committee who “saw him as a nonconformist and therefore a communist.” [] When he tried to return to the States after a trip  abroad he was denied entry. (He went to live in Switzerland.)


Charlie Chaplin, Vevey, Switzerland - Project ...

Charlie Chaplin, Vevey, Switzerland – Project 1/365 (Photo credit: Airflore)

He stayed away… until 1972 when he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award. He was given a 12 minuted standing ovation at the ceremony.


Chaplin also composed music. He wrote the songs “Smile” and “This is My Song” along with 500 other melodies.


After finishing his last film A Countess from Hong Kong … he composed the music to many of his silent movies, among them The Circus,… The Kidand A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate [IMDb]

Charlie Chaplin died of a stroke on Christmas morning 1977.




  • 1929 WON Special Academy Award “for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus
  • 1941 Nominated for Best Actor Oscar  for his dual role in The Great Dictator.
  • 1941 Nominated for Best Writing Oscar for The Great Dictator..
  • 1948 Nominated for Best Screenplay Oscar for Monsieur Verdoux.
  • 1972 WON Special Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he  has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”.
  • 1973 WON The Academy Award for Best Original Score for Limelight. (The film had not been released in the US until 1972).

CLICK HERE for Charlie Chaplin Part One


Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part ONE

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” — Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin The Tramp debuted in 1914 -- p...

Charlie Chaplin The Tramp debuted in 1914 — pre-1923 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born on this day in 1889 in London, England. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

He was practically born to the stage. Both his parents were musical hall entertainers. His father, Charles Chaplin, Sr.  was a singer and actor, his mother, Hannah Chaplin — her stage name was Lily Harley — sang light opera. The marriage didn’t last long, and Chaplin, Sr. abandoned the family when Charlie was an infant. He had two half brothers. Sydney Hill Chaplin was four years older than Charlie and was born to Hannah a year before she married Chaplin, Sr. (who was not his father.) Hannah had another baby, George Wheeler Dryden in 1892, by entertainer Leo Dryden. Sydney and Charlie hardly knew this brother, however, because Leo took the boy away when he was 6 months old. George didn’t resurface until his mid thirties.

Hannah continued her stage career for a few years, but…

in a performance that would introduce her youngest boy to the world of performance, Hannah inexplicably lost her voice in the middle of a show, prompting the stage manager to push the five-year-old Chaplin, whom he’d heard sing, onto the stage to replace her…[Biography]

The audience loved little Charlie, but it was a disaster for Hannah…

Her singing voice never returned and she eventually ran out of money. For a time, Charlie and Sydney had to make a new, temporary home for themselves in London’s tough workhouses. [Ibid]

Hannah was in and out of mental institutions until 1905 when she was committed permanently. With the exception of one disastrous stint with their alcoholic father, the boys were left to fend for themselves,  and, eventually, thrown into the workhouse. Sydney was trained as a seaman, but both boys wanted to act. Charlie charmed his way into a clog dancing group called the Eight Lancashire Lads in 1897.

It was a short stint, and not a terribly profitable one, forcing the go-getter Chaplin to make ends meet anyway he could…”I (was) newsvendor, printer, toymaker, doctor’s boy, etc., but during these occupational digressions, I never lost sight of my ultimate aim to become an actor,” Chaplin later recounted. “So, between jobs I would polish my shoes, brush my clothes, put on a clean collar and make periodic calls at a theatrical agency.” [Ibid]

His first play was  Jim, a Romance of Cockayne by H.A. Saintsbury in 1903.  Although the show closed after two weeks Chaplin’s comedic performance  as the newsboy received good reviews. Real stage experience came later that year with a 2.5 year run with  Sherlock Holmes in which Chaplin played the Page-boy.

He toured with a vaudeville outfit named Casey’s Court Circus and in 1908 teamed up with the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, where Chaplin became one of its stars as The Drunk in the comedic sketch, A Night in an English Music Hall. [Ibid]

Español: Esta es una fotografia del Sr. Charle...

Español: Esta es una fotografia del Sr. Charles Spencer Chaplin tomada en Estados Unidos, durante su juventud, en un momento en el que, como se aprecia, se encontraba al natural, tal como era, sin los clasicos caracteres que usaba para protagonizar a su recordado personaje de cine mudo Charlot. Français : Charles Chaplin, acteur américain, célèbre pour son personnage Charlot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He twice came to America on tour with the Karno troupe and film producer Mack Sennett promptly signed Chaplin to a contract for a $150 a week with Keystone Pictures. Chaplin didn’t like his first film, Making a Living, and it wasn’t a hit, but he was singled out for his comic timing and presence.

He wanted to create a persona that made him stand out from the crowd of comedic actors at Keystone, so he borrowed Fatty Arbuckle’s pants, Ford Sterling’s size 14 shoes and Arbuckle’s father-in-law’s bowler to invent the Little Tramp. The Tramp made his debut in  Kid Auto Races at Venice.

Chaplin with Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (...

Chaplin with Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (1917) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charlie yearned for more creative input in his film and finally got a chance to direct in 1914. With the caveat that Chaplin would return $1,500 to producer Sennett should the film fail, he helmed Caught in the Rain . (He did not have to return the money. )

When Keystone wouldn’t give him a raise (he wanted $1,000 a week)  he went to Essanay Film Manufacturing Company  (they gave him $1,250 a week.) He made 14 films with Essanay.

By the age of 26, Chaplin, just three years removed from his vaudeville days was a movie superstar. He’d moved over to the Mutual Company, which paid him a whopping $670,000 a year. The money made Chaplin a wealthy man, but it didn’t seem to derail his artistic drive. With Mutual, he made some of his best work, including One A.M. (1916), The Rink (1916), The Vagabond(1916), and Easy Street (1917). [Biography]

He got a million dollar deal with First National Exhibitors’ Circuit to make 8 films. (His brother Sydney was his financial manager by then, and he was instrumental in making the deal.) Two of the eight movies broke the old show business rule about not working with children and animals, and those films — The Kid and A Dog’s Life were two of Chaplin’s best.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click HERE for Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part TWO

Leslie Howard 4.3.13 Thought of the Day

“I hate the damn part. I’m not nearly beautiful or young enough for Ashley, and it makes me sick being fixed up to look attractive.”–Leslie Howard

[Image courtesy: The Rebel Reader]

[Image courtesy: The Rebel Reader]

Leslie Howard Steiner was born on this day in Forest Hill, London, England in 1893. Today is the 120th anniversary of his birth.

Both his parents, Lilian and Ferdinand “Frank” Steiner, were of Jewish descent. Leslie’s father was from Hungary. His mother’s grandfather immigrated from East Prussia and married into well to do English society. She wanted the family to assimilate into English society as seamlessly as possible. She raised Leslie as a Christian, and when World War One broke out the family Anglicized their name from Steiner to Stainer. Leslie changed his name legally to Leslie Howard on February 24, 1920.

Although clearly bright, Howard’s sheltered upbringing and severe near-sightedness made him extremely self-conscious. Never a good student, the young Howard loathed his time at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, London, preferring to lose himself in the comfort of books. Fiercely protective of her son, Lilian encouraged her boy’s participation in the arts, particularly theatre, as a means of improving his social and academic skills. []

The stage was good fit. By 14 he had written his first play and it wasn’t long before Lilian established the Upper Norwood Dramatic Club to showcase Leslie and his friends. His father, however, thought a more down to earth career was in Leslie’s future. At Frank’s insistence he took a job as a clerk at a London bank — which he hated. “When war finally did break out, Howard saw his chance to escape the monotony of his life and promptly enlisted with the British Cavalry.” [Ibid] He served on the front lines for a while before returning home in 1916 with a severe case of shell shock.

He returned to the theatre again as a kind of a therapy.

In a few years, his name was famous on the stages of London and New York. He made his first movie in 1914 (The Heroine of Mons (1914)). He became known as the perfect Englishman (slim, tall, intellectual and sensitive), a part that he played in many movies, and a part women would dream about. [IMDb]

He had a long career on stage and screen, with his top movies being:

Oh, Ashley! [Image courtesy: The Rebel Reader]

Oh, Ashley! [Image courtesy: The Rebel Reader]

  • Gone with the Wind, as Ashley Wilkes (a role he thought he was too old for — he was 46 at the time. He didn’t want to play another soft-spoken, dreamer. But the producer promised Leslie if he did the role he could co-produce Intermezzo  — a movie he’d been longing to make.)
  • Intermezzo, a Love Story , as Holger Brandt
Giving a smouldering look with Igrid Berman in Intermezzo [Image courtesy:]

Sharing a smouldering look with Igrid Berman in Intermezzo [Image courtesy:]

  • Pygmalion, as Professor Henry Higgins
In Pygmalion [Image couresty:]

In Pygmalion [Image couresty:]

Howard in Scarlet Pimpernel. He was nominated for an Academy Award for the role. [Image courtesy The Telegraph]

Howard in Scarlet Pimpernel. He was nominated for an Academy Award for the role. [Image courtesy The Telegraph]

He returned to England at the onset of WWII to help with the war effort. Leslie Howard died in 1943 when the plane he was flying in from Lisbon to England was shot down over the Bay of Biscay.

Artist Roy De Forest 2.11.13 Thought of the Day

De Forest with his dog [Image courtesy: UC Davis]

De Forest with his dog [Image courtesy: UC Davis]

Roy De Forest was born on this day in North Platee, Nebraska, USA in 1930. Today is the 83rd anniversary of his birth.

He grew up in  Nebraska and Yakima, Washington. He studied math and humanities at Yakima Junior College, receiving his associate degree in 1950.  Later he went to the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco to study art. After graduation he joined the Army. After serving in the Army he earned his master’s degree at San Francisco State University.

By 1955 he had his first show. He was a “founding father” of the UC Davis  Art Department. He started at the University in 1965  and worked there until he retired in 1992.

Young General George (1976) [Image Courtesy: ]

Young General George (1976) [Image Courtesy: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts]

His paintings are imaginative, colorful, and fun.  .

His artworks are populated with a menagerie of creatures – some identifiably of this world, others inhabitants of some purely imaginary land, all living narrative lives in some unbounded territory between reality and magic. In addition to the wonder and joy of his imagery, Roy was known as an artist’s artist. He constantly found new ways to apply paint/pigment/mark to paper/canvas/wood. [University of California memorial]

Today Roy De Forest’s canvases can be found at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (and more).

A “Roy De Forest Retrospective Exhibition” originated in 1974 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City the following year. [Ibid]

The artist died at the age of 77 in May of 2007.

Canis Prospectus (1986) [Image Courtesy: Preview Art]

Canis Prospectus (1986) [Image Courtesy: Preview Art]

Dogs were an important subject in De Forest's work. [Image courtesy SFMOMA]

Dogs were an important subject in De Forest’s work. [Image courtesy SFMOMA]

Trouble with Bovine Quarters (Image courtesy: )

Trouble with Bovine Quarters (Image courtesy: George Adams Gallery )

Goat Daze [Image Courtesy: George Adams Gallery.]

Goat Daze [Image Courtesy: George Adams Gallery.]


I kept this bioBLOG intentionally brief because a) I couldn’t find out a lot about DeForest and B) I wanted to spend more time showing you his awesome art than talking about him.

A.A. Milne 1.18.13 Thought of the Day

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”
–A.A. Milne

 A.A. Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear  by: Howard Coster

A.A. Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear by: Howard Coster

A. A. Milne was born  on this day in Kilburn, London, England in 1882. Today is the 131st anniversary of his birth.

Alan Alexander Milne  was the youngest of three boys born to John Vine and Sarah Maria Milne. John Milne ran a school, Henley House, and it was here that the boys took their first steps in the world of learning. One of the teachers at the school was H.G. Wells and he and Alan would remain friends for the rest of their lives. After Henley House Alan went on to Westminster School before attending Cambridge on a mathematics scholarship.

A.A. Milne’s first literary efforts came during his Cambridge days. He edited the college’s humorist publication, The Granta. Alan and his brother Ken worked together, by mail, on light verse that was published in The Granta under a mash-up of their initials A.K.M.

After graduation Alan moved to London and worked as a freelance writer. He had articles published in both newspapers, like the St. James Gazette, and in humor magazines, such as Punch.

In February of 1906 he became an assistant editor and weekly contributor to Punch magazine. His  contributions included stories on sports (especially cricket and golf), the exploits of the fictional middle class Rabbit Family, and children stories that he wrote with his niece Marjorie in mind.

In 1913 he married Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt. When World War I broke out he volunteered as a signalling officer. He saw action in France until returning to England in November 1916 with a fever. Once recovered he was

…put in charge of a company at a new formed signalling school at Fort Southwick. He stayed there until he was released from the army on February 14, 1919. [ — The Author]

A.A. Milne on the Western Front 1916. [Image courtesy]

A.A. Milne on the Western Front 1916. [Image courtesy]

While in the Army he wrote his first play Wurzel-Flummery. Alan didn’t go back to Punch after the war — his job had been given to some one else — and he preferred the freedom of not having a weekly deadline. He also liked writing plays and collaborating with the actors.

…he had several successes, both in London and in New York. Mr Pim Passes By… opened in London on January 5, 1920, and ran for 246 performances in London. It also had a successful run in New York…. Within the next year, Milne had another four plays running in London. Other notable plays include Belinda, The Lucky One, The Romantic Age, The Dover Road, and The Truth About Bladys. … At one time, A. A. Milne was England’s most successful, prolific, and best-known playwright. [ — The Author]

Ironically his biggest flop was called Success.

He wrote an adaptation of Mr. Pim Passes By and a mystery, The Red House Mystery. When he proposed writing Red House his agent bulked, suggesting the public wanted more humor stories. But Milne stuck to his guns, and The Red House Mystery was “his most successful book other than his four children’s books.” [Ibid]

The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alan and Daphne Milne had a son Christopher Robin in 1920. They called the little boy “Billy Moon”  at home and among friends (the first name was a nickname, the “Moon” came from Christopher’s mispronunciation of his last name). Alan wrote the first Billy Moon poem “Vespers” after watching the little boy say his prayers before going to bed. It proved so popular that Milne was

asked to provide another children’s verse for a new children’s magazine entitled The Merry-Go-Round. That poem was “The Dormouse and the Doctor“, and also became quickly famous. Alan toyed with the idea of writing a whole book of children’s verse, and the result was When We Were Very Young, published in 1924. To illustrate the book, Milne enlisted the aid of Punch illustrator, Ernest Shepard. The combination of Milne’s poetry and Shepard’s drawings proved to be a winner, as the book sold over 50.000 copies within eight weeks of its first publication. [Ibid]

The family moved to Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex, in 1925 and Alan used the bucolic setting as his backdrop for his next book,Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard was on board again as illustrator. Milne thought so highly of Shepard’s role in the success of the first children’s books that he insisted Shepard get an 80/20 share of the royalties of Winnie-the-Pooh instead of a flat rate. Winnie-the -Pooh was enormously well received.

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second Pooh book, The House at Pooh Corner was equally loved. (Except by Dorothy Parker who famously quipped in her Constant Reader column in the New Yorker that by page 5 of the book the “tonstant Weader fwowed up”. Milne was unfazed by Parker’s quip, noting that “no writer of children’s books says gaily to his publisher, “Don’t bother about the children, Mrs Parker will love it.””[Ibid])

Milne House at Pooh Corner1000

Alan wrote more plays. His Toad of Toad Hall, based on Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, got it’s stage debut in 1929. The play was hailed as a “family classic” and Milne was quickly getting painted into a corner. Especially in London, his works for adults were being ignored as the public clamored for more Pooh, or at least more children’s fiction. New York was more forgiving and his plays had longer runs on Broadway, including The Ivory Door and Michael and Mary. In 1933 his adult novel Four Days of Wonder sold moderately well, but he didn’t publish another novel for another 13 years.

At the dawn of World War II Milne, the pacifist, wrote Peace With Honour in which he outlined that nothing was

“worth repeating the Somme for. He would later change his mind and would write a pamphlet called War With Honour, in which he explained his changed views. ‘If anyone reads Peace With Honour now, he must read it with that one word HITLER scrawled across every page. One man’s fanaticism has cancelled rational argument.’ [Ibid]

The Milnes had moved away from the ‘Hundred Acre Woods’ and Cotchford Farm for London and New York, but with the War they moved back to East Sussex. Alan was Captain of the Home Guard for the area. His relationship with Daphne, which had waned, rekindled, but his ties with Christopher, which had always been strong, weakened. Christopher joined the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.

In 1946 Milne’s Chloe Marr, his last novel, came out to good reviews. It sold well. He continued to see success with his plays, which were now running in repertory.

[Image courtesy]

[Image courtesy]

But his relationship with Christopher — who ” had begun to resent his father and hated the books that made his name famous” [Ibid] — was crumbling. By the early 1950’s Christopher was married and living 200 miles away.

In October 1952, Milne had a stroke which left him an invalid for his remaining years. … A. A. Milne died on January 31, 1956. [Ibid]

J.R.R. Tolkien 1.3.13 Thought of the Day

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien

[Image courtesy Biography online

[Image courtesy Biography online

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on this day in Bournemouth, Orange Free State, South Africa) in 1892. Today is the 120th anniversary of his birth.

Tolkien is the older of two boys born to Arthur Reuel Tolkien and Mabel Suffield Tolkien. The family lived in South Africa where Arthur was head of the Bloemfontein office of a British bank. While he was in England on an extended holiday with his mother and brother Hilary his father passed away from rheumatic fever. Mabel Tolkien then moved in with her parents and a succession of relatives in the West Midlands. Mabel and her sister May caused quite a stir when they (and the boys) converted to Catholicism in 1900. Sadly, Mabel died in 1904, leaving her son’s well-being in the hands of a series of relatives and acquaintances until they were eventually taken in by a catholic educator, Father Francis. It was he who encouraged and refined Tolkien’s already blooming gift with words.

When he was sixteen, Tolkien met and developed a close friendship Edith Bratt. As friendship progressed to love, Father Francis forbade him from communicating with Edith until Ronald was 21 in order to keep his focus on his education. By the time they were reunited, Edith had converted to Catholicism, and Tolkien had completed his Oxford degree. They were together at the outbreak of World War I. [Tolkien Society]


J.R.R.Tolkien (Photo credit: proyectolkien)

Tolkien enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, but married Edith while still in England on March 22, 1916. The match resulted in four children, three boys and a girl: John Francis Reuel Tolkien (November 17th, 1917 – January 22nd, 2003), Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien (October 22nd, 1920 – February 27th, 1984), Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (born November 21st, 1924) and Priscilla Mary Anne Reuel Tolkien (born June 18th, 1929).  He was sent into active duty at the start of the Somme offensive, and after four months succumbed to “trench fever”[Ibid] He was sent back to a hospital in Birmingham, England, and was joined by Edith in Staffordshire. It is there that his work on the “Book of Lost Tales” (posthumously published) began. He was promoted to lieutenant and served out the rest of the war on home duty. [Ibid]

He floated through several postwar academic positions finally settling in the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon back at Oxford [Ibid]. He moved through several other posts, but always remained at Oxford until his retirement in 1959. It was there that he founded a group for those of similar interests called “The Inklings”. In 1936, Susan Dagnall, of the publishing firm of George Allen and Unwin, received and incomplete draft of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and implored the author to finish it.

J.R.R. Tolkien - illustration for The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien – illustration for The Hobbit (Photo credit: deflam)

“The Hobbit” was published in 1937 and has remained a staple of school reading lists since then. Stanley Unwin was so pleased by the work that he asked if Tolkien had any similar works [Ibid]. Tolkien initially submitted his current draft of “the Silmarillion” ( posthumously published in 1977), but it was rejected by Unwin, who requested something like “the New Hobbit”(2). Understandably disappointed, Tolkien then began work on what would become The Lord of the Rings“.

English: A 3D model of the One Ring Italiano: ...

English: A 3D model of the One Ring Italiano: L’Unico Anello di Sauron da Il Signore degli Anelli di J.R.R. Tolkien. Immagine 3D realizzata da Hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He continued to write through the outbreak of World War II, the duration of which he served as an Air-Raid Warden, a job, it is said, he participated in with great zeal and enjoyment [“J.R.R. Tolkien: Master of Fantasy” by David R. Collins – Lerner Publications Company – 1992].

“The Lord of the Rings” was published as six books in three parts from 1954 through 1955. The work’s success was as unexpected as Bilbo’s journey in the Hobbit, Tolkien soon received an occult following, as well as a deal to make a highly condensed BBC radio adaption [Tolkien Society].

Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, two years after Edith. Both are buried beneath the same headstone in the Catholic section of Wolvercote cemetery, just north of Oxford.

[Image courtesy: Geeks of Doom]

[Image courtesy: Geeks of Doom]

Author’s Note: The majority of today’s blog was written by Maggie (Rita’s kid), so if there are mistakes, they are her fault. However, if you really, really like it, Maggie is partial to tea and dark chocolate, so you ought to convince Rita to gives her exorbitant amounts of both.


Rita’s Note: Done! Thanks Maggie!

C.S.Lewis 11.29.12 Thought of the Day

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the ward...

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither”
C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born on this day in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. Today is the 114th anniversary of his birth.

When he was four years old he adopted the nickname “Jack” (short for “Jacksie”) in honor of a beloved neighborhood dog who got hit by a car and died. As a child he and his brother Warren (also known as Warnie) created a fantasy world with talking animals called “Boxen.”

Lewis and Weldon Borland

Lewis and Weldon Borland (Photo credit: Kevin Borland)

When Lewis was nine his mother died of cancer. In 1910 he was sent to Campbell College, a boarding school in Belfast. He withdrew after a year because he developed a respiratory condition. In 1913 he attended Malvern College for a year. There he abandoned his Christian faith and became an atheist.  The following year he left Malvern and was privately tutored.

Lewis received a scholarship to University College Oxford. He started there in 1916, but took a leave of absence to join the Army when World War One broke out. He was injured at the Battle of Arras on April 15, 1918. After his release from the Army in December of 1919 he went back to Oxford. Where he received Firsts in Greek, Latin, Philosophy, Ancient History and English.

He was appointed Fellow and Tutor of English Literature at Oxford University in 1925 (a position he held until 1954 — for 29 years). In 1954 he became chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge.

In 1931 after an evening of discussing Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dawson  Lewis converted to Christianity. The following day he and Warnie took a motorcycle ride to the Whipsnade Zoo. ” I did not believe that us Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the Zoo I did.” [Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis]

At Oxford he was one of the founders of the literary group The Inklings.

He wrote more than 30 books including novels, fantasy literature, Christian literature, literary criticism, and essays. He is best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves and Mere Christianity.

English: Map of Narnian world as described in ...

English: Map of Narnian world as described in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

C.S. Lewis died on November 22nd, 1963 in England.

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