Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Besides May Day, Wednesday is Law Day and Lei Day

Everyone knows that May 1 is "May Day," the workers' holiday, intended to commemorate the labor movement and the quest for an eight-hour workday, but hijacked by the Bolsheviks when they came to power in Russia. After World War II, May Day parade-goers in the so-called "Workers Paradise" were treated to endless displays of military hardware, designed to scare the West. (More than once, we understand, the Soviet leadership borrowed from Czarist history, sending planes or other hardware back to the start of the parade and sending them down the route again, all the better to give any observer at any one location an exaggerated picture of Soviet military inventory. Potemkin would have been proud.)

But May Day was not always about workers. It was, for centuries, a perfectly respectable pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of summer (which is the only way that June 21, the longest day of the year, and the generally accepted first day of summer, can also work out to be Midsummer's Day). As Wikipedia explains, "The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane.

Of course, returning May Day to its pagan roots would not have appealed to America in the 1950s in general or to the Eisenhower Administration in particular. So the Eisenhower Administration came up with Loyalty Day and Law Day instead. Law Day has been picked up and promoted by many bar associations around the country as an opportunity to teach civics, something that too seldom happens in schools these days. In Hawaii, May Day is celebrated as Lei Day.

If you'd rather not get involved of any of this, Wednesday is also Mother Goose Day.

Moses Fleetwood Walker
And we've highlighted a number of events recently concerning Jackie Robinson's debut in major league baseball. Robinson, we are taught, smashed the "color barrier" in baseball -- and that's true, as far as it goes. However, the color barrier did not exist from time immemorial; rather, it was erected because of the small-minded bigotry of such baseball "greats" as Cap Anson. Anson figures prominently in the sad story of Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first African-American to play in the majors (in 1884) -- or at least the first African-American to play more than a single game in the majors. Walker's Wikipedia biography recounts a couple of encounters between Anson and Walker, the second of these in September 1888, when Walker was catching for the Syracuse entry in the International League (footnotes omitted):
When Chicago was at Syracuse for an exhibition game, Anson refused to start the game when he saw Walker's name on the scorecard as catcher. "Big Anson at once refused to play the game with Walker behind the bat on account of the Star catcher’s color," the Syracuse Herald said. Syracuse relented and someone else did the catching.

Walker remained in Syracuse until the team released him in July 1889.

Shortly thereafter, the American Association and the National League both unofficially banned African-American players, making the adoption of Jim Crow in baseball complete.
Anyway, Moses Fleetwood Walker made his major league debut on May 1, 1884.

The fictional Charles Foster Kane, the subject of the movie Citizen Kane, closely resembled William Randolph Hearst, whose 150th birthday we noted here for April 29. Citizen Kane is widely regarded as one of the greatest motion pictures of all time but -- not surprisingly -- the Hearst papers were less than effusive in their praise when Orson Welles' masterpiece premiered on May 1, 1941.

Francis Gary Powers was shot down on May 1, 1960, flying a U-2 spy-plane over the Soviet Union.

There really was a Calamity Jane. Martha Jane Canary was born on May 1, 1852 in Princeton, Missouri.

There are only two of the original Mercury 7 astronauts still with us. One is John Glenn. The other, Scott Carpenter, turns 88 on Wednesday (born May 1, 1925).

Last Year on TBOD: May 1 is also "Loyalty Day" in the USA

No comments: