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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds

Labor Day Weekend- 49 years ago
1964 ad for President Lyndon Johnson's campaign

September 7, 1964. The Monday Night Movie, David and Bathsheba, was on NBC. An Academy Award winner from the early 50s starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward, it portrayed the Biblical King David. People all over America were watching it when a startling political campaign commercial came on, just before 10:00 PM. 
A sweet little girl, with long hair and freckles, stands in a field of flowers pulling petals off a daisy. She counts, "One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, nine" and the petals are all gone. The little girl looks sweetly up at the sky while the camera zooms in on her face, blacking out as the screen is filled by her eye. A male voice intones, "nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one" then the sound of a huge explosion and the flash of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear detonation.
 Then the voiceover: President Johnson's voice telling the viewer we should love each other or die. The words appear on the screen, "Vote for President Johnson on November 3." An announcer reads the words, then adds, "The stakes are too high for you to stay home."

The commercial played only that one time, but ABC and CBS covered it on their newscasts the following week because it was so different from previous political commercials. Fifty to one hundred million viewers saw it that night or as it was replayed as news. It likely was an important factor is the reelection of President Johnson that November. It changed political campaigning. Check out this discussion between Robert Mann, author of the book Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds, Jerry Ceppos of Louisiana State University, Sidney Meyers who was one of the creators of this commercial and Monique Luiz, the little girl grownup.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

See this movie. You'll be glad you did.

This afternoon I had the inspiring experience of seeing the movie: Lee Daniels' The Butler.

Lee Daniels' The Butler
President Kennedy meets the Negro staff of the White House
Scene from the movie Lee Daniels' The Butler
I generally refrain from recommending movies, for I feel my taste in films is personal, but Lee Daniels has put a history lesson for us all into a few short hours of entertainment.  It is difficult to watch the pain Cecil Gaines's family suffers, beginning with his father's murder and his mother's rape in the cotton fields of Georgia.

Gaines served as a White House butler through three decades and six administrations at the same time that laws and attitudes were changing toward integration of the races in our country.

The audience sees the pomp and formality of White House dinners juxtaposed with sit-ins and Freedom Riders working to break down the barriers between white and colored citizens in the South.

You must see this film to remind yourself (or if you are too young to remember, to inform yourself) of where we were fifty years ago when Martin Luther King. Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15, 1945-- VJ-Day

Me with my little sister
4 months after the end of World War II
"The end of the war was the beginning of our troubles. As soon as President Truman made the announcement at 7:00 PM, August 14, 1945, that Japan had surrendered, millions of people worldwide went joyfully crazy with the news. Everywhere people were celebrating. War over! Boys coming home! End of food shortages, gas rationing, news censorship, the blackouts, the scrap and war bond drives! Loved ones stationed far away would soon be home. Gone were the fears of a costly invasion of the Japanese homeland. The war-weary nation exploded in a frenzy of joy and thanksgiving. It was V-J Day." --Too Much Left Unsaid by Lee Collins

These words from my novel are right out of my life experience. I was eleven years old in 1945 and had spent most of the years I could remember deep in "the war effort." I was a Junior Commando, collected newspaper and scrap metal, saved my allowances to buy War Bonds- later Victory bonds. I celebrated the day the war ended with my cousins parading around the block and banging on pots and pans, yelling with excitement over the good news.

The characters in my novel were celebrating, too, until word came that Josh Connors, U.S. Navy, was one of the last casualties of the war. The joy that should have filled all hearts was quickly swallowed up in sorrow.

Plans for a joyous future can evaporate so quickly. So much of our lives is not under our control.

Writing fiction is a way for me to exert control over at least the world I create in my imagination.

What life circumstances have led you to where you are today?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Joyful August news

"William Lawrence or Elizabeth Jane,
Every baby must have a name.
But what can it be? We're in a whirl.
Is it a boy or is it a girl?"

These are the words that began the birth announcement sent out sixty-eight years ago announcing the joyful news that my little sister was born. My dad wrote the verses he sent to friends and colleagues that the long-awaited baby had arrived.

Original calculations predicted this baby's birth in late June of 1945. Imagine everyone's concern and frustration when June and then July passed and my mother continued to grow and wait. I was eleven. My brother Bruce had just celebrated his thirteenth birthday on August 2 and Mom still waited for signs that our baby would make his/her appearance and the riddle would be solved.

"Patiently waiting, buying clothes and toys.
At that age it doesn't matter whether girls or boys.
Is it Billy Larry, or is it Betty Jane?
Who? What? When? What is the baby's name?"

America was in a war, with the whole nation involved in the war effort: collecting scrap metal, paper, and fat; using ration cards for shoes, tires, meat, and more; buying up Victory stamps and bonds. The war in Europe had ended in the Spring, but the war in the Pacific was still to be won. Then on August 6, 1945, the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later dropped another on Nagasaki. The Japanese Empire surrendered a week later ending the war.

Between the two bomb drops, my mother finally delivered the baby she had been carrying--a girl--Elizabeth Jane Marcus.

Happy birthday, dear little sister. Many happy returns of that welcome day of your birth.

Love, Big Sister Lee