Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Do the Bell: The remarkable career of Evan Dobelle

Presented to the Club on Monday evening, March 24, 2014 by John H. Spencer

Evan Dobelle during his presidency at the University of Hawaii
In my ninth-grade classes I used to give lollypops for various things: first A-minus, most footnotes. One student actually got one for misspelling his own name, but also I gave one, each time a paper was assigned, for best title (even though some students worked harder on the title rather than the content of the essay).

Megan Cort was the best I ever had and I told her she would one day make a fortune in advertising (she is now 23; I need to find out what she is doing). She was so good I had to ban her for a while. I am sure she will groan at the title I came up with for tonight — although she might smile.

Who has a guess what it means?

I am a political junkie and what makes people tick, especially in the use of power — from all the King's Men with its view that man is conceived in sin; to the marvelous biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro, three volumes complete and the fourth to come; to Citizen Kane and Rosebud.

So, I pick a person not as powerful, not as complicated, but still remarkable and with local connections — Evan Dobelle. ("Do the Bell" — sorry, Megan.)

Did he have his Rosebud? Did he have a fatal flaw? Or has his journey through life been overlooked by the fact that he, at times, lived that journey high on the hog and loved credit cards other than his own? As I tell his tale, you judge.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Norman Rockwell and the Monday Evening Club

The Club's secretary, Rabbi Harold Salzmann, has been a faithful member since 1955, missing only one or two meetings during that time. His friend Norman Rockwell joined the Club in 1961 and remained a member until his death in 1978. Here are a few items of Rockwelliana from Harold's collection:

A note confirming a 1969 date to deliver a paper:


A meeting notice announcing a meeting of the Club in 1969, at which Rockwell delivered his paper "Lunacy," about the U.S. space program.



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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Words to live by: The King James Bible and its legacy to the English language

Photo by Jonathan Schmid, used under Creative Commons License
Presented to the Club by Richard L. Floyd on Monday Evening, April 28, 2014

The story I want to tell is the story of the creation of the King James Bible, and its enormous influence on the English language. For over 400 years this was the Bible for the English-speaking world, the best selling book of all time, and still the most frequently purchased translation.

It lasting legacy to English is incalculable. It is the Bible that Abraham Lincoln learned to read with, and its sounds and rhythms can be heard in his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address, as it can in Melville’s Moby-Dick, the poetry of Walt Whitman, and the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

How did we get this extraordinary work of literary art that has made such a place in the story of English? It was published in 1611, but there is considerable backstory that needs to be shared before we get there, and so we need to go way back. The English still refer to it as the Authorised Version (AV), but I will use the more popular American title, the King James Version and its abbreviation (KJV).

Our first question is, what is the Bible? The word itself comes from the Greek Ta Biblia, which simply means “the books.” That seems simple enough, but which books?

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Club's historic membership roster, part VII: members joining 1942-1961

Editor's note:  In previous installments of our historic membership roster, we've been able to provide a biographical paragraph on most members, largely thanks to the powers of Google to locate sometimes obscure data sources. It turns out, however, that our members joining before 1920 or so are far more Googleable than those joining in 1920 and later, so some of these bios are very brief indeed. As in prior installments, some of the basic information here comes from Harold Hutchins' research in city directories at the Berkshire Athenaeum. If any reader can supplement the information listed here, we would be much obliged — contact Martin Langeveld, the Club historian/webmaster, at the "Contact Us" link at the top of the right column.

1942


Philip C. Ahern — 1907-1987 — Born in Boston; grew up in Newton, Mass.; graduated from Bowdoin College in 1932; upon graduation, he became a consultant to the National Municipal League on a study of the city manager form of government. In 1935 he was the first employee hired by George Gallup for his polling service. After two years, with the Gallup organization, he worked for four years with at New York advertising firm of Young and Rubicam before moving to Pittsfield, where he became executive director of the Pittsfield Taxpayers Association. In 1950, he became Pittsfield's director of administrative services, and in 1957 he became the first executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, a post he held until his retirement. He was also a founder of the Franklin County Resource Conservation and Development Council. He died in 1987 in Wiliamstown at the age of 80.

Rev. James Gregg — retired clergyman. This was Rev. Gregg's second period of membership in the Club. See his biography posted at his first date of joining in 1916.

1943r


Frederic Parker —Berkshire Woolen Co. executive, Born Sept. 20, 1890; died Oct. 15 1969.

Lawrence W. Peirson — 1889-1968 — Ferry Lumber Yard executive, graduated from Williams College in 1912; died in Pittsfield, January 1968

Jay C. Rosenfeld —1895-1975 — owner, with his brother Stanley, of Rosenfeld's Clothing Store. An amateur violinist, he served at music critic for The Berkshire Eagle for 55 years. He died of cancer at the age of 80 in 1975.


Joseph C. Nugent —1898-1973 — Principal of North Junior High School (now Reid Middle School); served as Secretary of the Club.

Rev. Christian B. Jensen —Pastor of the First Baptist Church

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

The happiest people: How Denmark's Jews were saved in World War II

Presented to the Club by Erik Bruun on Monday evening, January 20, 2014

1. Do Tell A Lie

The author's father, Bertel Bruun, drawn by a
 Latvian refugee in a camp overseen
 by his grandfather.
When the German army invaded Denmark virtually unimpeded in the early morning of April 9, 1940 in World War II, my father was 2 1/2 years old. He lived in a fishing village called Skaelskor about 60 miles from the nation’s capital Copenhagen. His father, Erik Valdemar Marie Andre Ley Bruun, was the town doctor.

Unlike many Danes who at first accepted the German occupation with quiet resignation, my grandfather (Bedstefar to me) opposed the new turn of events. He headed a family with four children and was the only doctor in town so he carried a heavy weight of responsibilities. Nonetheless, Bedstefar was among the many doctors and nurses in Denmark who joined the Resistance.

The Danish medical community developed an elaborate system of transportation networks, secret hiding places, passwords, and links to fishermen who shuttled men, women and children on the run across the Oresund straights to safety in Sweden. Copenhagen’s hospitals served as a clearinghouse for downed American and British pilots who were shuttled to Sweden, and played a central role in the historic and nationwide rescue of Danish Jews. Doctors such as my grandfather received extra gas rations and so were in a position to transport refugees and rescued airmen.

Danish Resistance members, Odense, 1945
By 1943 Danish public opinion had turned very strongly against the German occupation. An active Resistance emerged. My father (now aged 5) eagerly joined the effort by wearing red, white and blue beanie caps designed to resemble the British Royal Air Force insignia. This, he liked to say, was his contribution to the war effort.


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Land Ho! — The Gold Rush voyage of Henry Weld Severance

"Barque" by Thomas Somerscales (detail)
Presented to the Club on Monday Evening, November 18, 2013 by Charles F. Sawyer

It is December 31, 1848. A young man of 19 from Augusta, Maine boards a sailing ship in Boston Harbor, bound for San Francisco, some 10,000 miles away. He is among 25,000 who will take that treacherous journey around Cape Horn in 1849. Between 1848 and 1850, San Francisco grows from a sleepy little town of 1,000 to a bustling city of 35,000. By 1852, California's non-native population increases from 14,000 to 250,000.

This great migration is, of course, occasioned by the discovery of gold at John Sutter's saw mill on the south fork of the American River. The young man from Augusta is my great -grandfather, Henry Weld Severance, who, in his own words, was "leaving all most near and dear, to seek a fortune among strangers in a distant land." He kept a journal of that journey, which I recently discovered among some family papers. I found the journal fascinating, even beyond the fact that this was my great -grandfather speaking. It provides a look into a very different time, when The world, and especially America, were young and expansionist. When self reliance and self improvement were critically important. When colonialism and the idea of manifest destiny were redefining political and geographic lines.
So my paper this evening will be to join Henry on his 10,000-mile adventure on the high seas.

He begins.
To you, my dear parents, I now dedicate my journal, and although its various incidents may not be so interesting, as while detailing them gives me the hope that they will be, still I know that wherever I am, you feel interested in my welfare, and especially so at the present time. There may be trifling scenes connected with the voyage, which you will probably ascribe to me folly in detailing them, but still, any occurrence, however minute, seems to me worthy of note. Our voyage thus far has not been entirely monotonous, but some parts deeply fraught with peril, aye with danger from which we knew we could not escape, without the aid and guidance of him whose home is on the mountain wave, whose eye o'er spreads the deep.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

First of all: The terracotta army

Photo by Frank Kehren, used under Creative Commons License

Presented to the Club by Ronald Trabulsi on Monday Evening, May 13, 2013

My topic tonight is one on which I’m certainly not an expert. In fact, some of you may know a good deal to add, so I’m looking forward to our discussion after my talk. But I have been fascinated for several years by the life-size terra cotta warriors that have been unearthed in the last quarter century in China and by the man who ordered them built.

These are four miniatures of them produced by the National Geographical Society that my wife gave me for my last birthday.

Their story and that of the Emperor who ordered their creation – so he could take his army with him for protection after he died – because he clearly believed you could take it with you is one of history’s remarkable tales.

The future First Emperor of China was born in 259 B.C. He was the eldest son and heir of the King of “Chin,” spelled QIN or sometimes Q’in. His mother was a concubine and he was given the name of Zheng which means upright or correct.

His father’s domain was along one of the great rivers in western China, the Wa, spelled Wei, which flows to the east into the Yellow River, which then flows farther east to the Yellow Sea. The kingdom was about 500 miles southwest of today’s Beijing.

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