This Day in History
1600 — Huaynaputina erupts. The eruption of this South American volcano began on February 19th and continued until March 6th. It buried entire villages in ash and killed 1,500 people. The eruption also caused world wide weather changes. Wine harvests were delayed in France and Italy, and Russia experienced one of its coldest winters on record. The eruption was the most powerful in South America history as it cooled the entire planet.
Sad to think that, barring common sense, a volcanic explosion might be the only way to combat global warming.
1942 — President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066. This order forced the relocation of 120,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast into internment camps. Although no evidence existed, fears over possible wartime sabotage prevailed. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt opposed the internment and lobbied her husband not to issue it to no avail. Eleanor’s lone voice was drowned out by the combined wartime hysteria of those such as military leaders, the American Legion, the governor of California and even future Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. It is believed racism played no small part in this action. An official of a California vegetable growers association used offensive language in making this quote. “We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It’s a question of whether the White man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over… If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we’d never miss them in two weeks because the White farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either.” A columnist for a Hearst newspaper wrote this: “I am for the immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don’t mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd ’em up, pack ’em off, and give ’em the inside room in the badlands… Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.”
Businesses and houses were lost or forced to be sold for less than the true value. Twice the Supreme Court upheld the order. Oddly, Hawaii, not yet a state, and much more militarily vulnerable, did not intern its 150,000 citizens of Japanese descent. They were deemed too important to the economic stability of the territory. Eleanor continued to pressure FDR and in 1943 he began to release some with work permits. By the end of the year one-third of the internees had been released. In January, 1945 the order was rescinded. Despite their treatment, thousands of Japanese-American young men volunteered to serve in the armed forces of America.
People make mistakes, FDR made a doozy here.
1968 — Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood debuts nationally in the United States. Created and hosted by Fred Rogers the TV show originated as “Misterogers” in Canada in 1962. It went through a couple of name changes before debuting in the U.S. The show ran from 1968 until August 31st, 2001. In 1997 the show, aimed at 2–5 year olds, surpassed “Captain Kangaroo” as the longest running children’s TV series. It has since been passed by “Sesame Street.”
I’ve never seen even the show once so I don’t know how Mr. Rogers dealt with the reality of the world. However I noticed that the last episode, luckily, was just a little over a week before 9/11.
1473 — Nicolaus Copernicus. Astronomer, mathematician, physician, economist, church administrator. Copernicus was born in a Prussian region of Poland and studied in Italy. Based on naked eye observations, no telescope, he concluded the sun was stationary and the planets, earth included, revolved around it. He also theorized the earth rotated on its axis, causing the seasons to change. His theories were being published about the time of his death and it took years for them to take hold, thus sparing him the wrath of the Catholic Church. A century later Galileo reached the same conclusions and was deemed a heretic.
Then, science could be viewed as dangerous when it challenged known “facts.” Now it’s considered dangerous merely for being inconvenient.
1902 — Kay Boyle. Writer. Her works include 14 novels, 11 books of short stories, poetry, essays and children books. Boyle was part of the Lost Generation of artists in Paris in the 1920s, although she detested that term. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, but unlike contemporary F. Scott Fitzgerald, she was not a child of the Midwest. Her family left when she was two and traveled extensively. She never had any formal education, schooled by her mother instead. As a young woman she married a Frenchman studying in the U.S., and moved to live in Le Havre. She fell in love with another man, became pregnant, but he died of TB before her daughter was born. She moved to Paris as a single mom and focused on the writing she had begun years before. She at first lived in a commune headed by the brother of Isadore Duncan. More of a cult actually where the members wore togas and subsisted on goat cheese and yogurt. She had to kidnap her own child when she made her escape. In Paris She had more success writing, twice winning the O. Henry award for Best Short Story. Poet William Carlos Williams regarded her as the next Emily Dickinson. Boyle married again, to the ex-husband of socialite and art collector, Peggy Guggenheim, and had three more daughters. Living first in Austria and then France, she witnessed the rise of Fascism. She later wrote a book about the French Resistance. Fleeing the Nazis Boyle and her family came to America, on the same ship as a man who would become her third husband, Joseph von Franckenstein.
In the U.S. she wrote and lectured about the reality of Nazi occupied Europe. Von Franckenstein joined the OSS, forerunner of the CIA, went back to Europe disguised as a sergeant in the German army and served as a spy. After the war the two of them lived in Europe, he as a member of the State Department and she as a foreign correspondent for the New Yorker. They would have two children, her fifth daughter and finally a son. They both lost their jobs during the purges of Senator Joseph McCarthy in his search of supposed communists. It took them ten years to clear their names, during which time she was blacklisted. Shortly thereafter von Franckenstein died from cancer and Boyle took a job as a creative writing teacher at San Francisco State University. She remained there until she retired in 1979. While there she lived two blocks from the intersection of Haight and Ashbury and witnessed another culture revolution. She joined the Vietnam anti-war protests and was arrested blocking the Oakland Induction Center, alongside singer Joan Baez. At the end of her life, living in a retirement community she created controversy by inviting friends of color to the otherwise all white community.
Her friend, writer Studs Terkel, said of her: “When I think of Kay Boyle, I think of someone who has borne witness to the most traumatic and shattering events of our century: not simply this particular era, but of the whole twentieth century.” He then added: “Why is Kay Boyle not better known? Things are out of joint when someone like Kay Boyle is not as celebrated as she should be.” Boyle died in 1992 at age 90.
I had never heard of her myself and may have gotten a bit carried away but I find her a fascinating story. She did seem to experience it all, wealth, poverty, Bohemianism, Fascism, McCarthyism, political activism, Hippies, plus being married to a spy. From the Lost Generation of Paris to the Summer of Love, from Hemingway of the 1920s to Baez of the 1960s Who knows, maybe I even passed her by in Golden Gate Park or on the streets of San Francisco during that enchanted summer of 1967. Going to have to try find her books, that’s for sure.