Category Archives: History

One of dozens of stories told at lunch yesterday

Here is the Statue of Albert Woolson the last living soldier to survive the Civil War parked in Gettysburg National Park. Its likely I heard that that the statue rested there but, if so, I’d long forgotten it. The statue came up in a three and half hour catch-up conversation I had yesterday with an old political sympathizer. We talked about our respective trips to France, Republican history, Duluth politics and Albert Woolson.

When John was a kid living near Mankato, Minnesota, my old haunting grounds, he found himself taken to Duluth in the 1950’s and some occasion honoring Mr. Woolson the last soldier and a resident of Duluth. The two of them shook hands. This honor was not unlike the several decade long mania at the turn of the 19th century to find someone who had shaken President Lincoln’s hand in order to shake hands with them. It must have been like passing some invisible torch of democracy through the generations. “I shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of President Lincoln.” I’ve googled the phrase for you. Long before our current Chief Executive became famous for firing people Americans wanted to touch a real piece of Americana if only by proxy.

Years later when John was taking a tour of Gettysburg he found his tour guide leading his group to this statue about to explain its significance. John was so excited that he blurted out that he had shaken the old soldier’s hand. The young tour guide and all the group looked at John as though he had claimed to have Roman flogging scars on his back and the stigmata on his palm. He was too flustered to say anything else as everyone in the crowd began edging away from him.

As we parted company John offered his hand so that I could claim to have shaken the hand of a man who had shaken the hand of the last living Civil War soldier. Of course, the way things are coming unglued in America today I may end up someday shaking hands with all sorts of survivors of a new Civil War.

And here’s the Woolson statue in Duluth and a short KDAL TV STORY about the man.

Its a considerably happier honor for our dear city than the fact that Duluth hosted the the most northerly lynching of innocent black citizens in all of the United States. John also met a man who’s Dad took him there to see all three of the men swinging from a lamp post.

The long game of Harry Welty – Watch out Federalist Society

I know such a peculiar picture may seem an odd way of following such a heady blog headline but sometimes life is absurd.

The Congress of the United States just bent over backwards NOT to find out if an attempted rapist was about to be placed on the near sacrosanct United States Supreme Court. My owl and Nappy don’t even begin to compare.

The – at this moment – imminent bare minimum vote of approval for the aggressive dick is about to take place. So let me tell you about what I brought back from France.

To grace my office I bought a couple small items of memorabilia. First, an eyeglass holder from Dijon France whose symbol is a lucky little owl that is half worn away from centuries of people rubbing it for good luck. Second, a shot glass with the iconic image of Napoleon on it which I will use to hold toothpicks. I acquired this at his shrine and burial site at Paris’s Museum of the Armee. My wife and I are not big shoppers but we bought some fun items a few of which we share with our family (meaning mostly our two grandsons)

My acquisitions are book heavy with at least four for me. One is a deliciously smart and brief life of Napoleon. Its the third book I recall reading about the little dictator. Another is about the archaeology of digging up World War 1 battlefield sites. Two more are in French to help me with my french language studies should I decide to persevere. One of these is french translations of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and the other is one of my grandson’s favorite Wimpy Kid books translated into French.

By the way, my attempts to use French were few and semi-futile. My greatest achievement came in the last few minutes of France when our taxi drive asked us which gate in the terminal two we would be flying out of. We had told him AY (2-A) which is how the French pronounce the letter E. I quickly corrected this to a as in at so we didn’t get taken to the wrong gate. I need another year of study to overcome the many English speaking service workers who found it much easier to use their Anglais than deciphering my mangled French. If I do continue studying I’ll probably replace the two hour daily sessions for 45 minutes a day. I have other priorities which the continuing discord in America has intensified but which my year’s study of France has helped given nuance.

I need to be more patient like the Republican Party, the Koch Brothers and the Federalist Society all of which have just gotten gotten their way. (Remember the old maxim “When the gods wish to punish us they grant us our prayers.” Undoing this by revolution will only do more damage in my estimation. That’s the moderate in me…..the moderate ridiculed and purged by the amoral ne’re-do-wells who have taken over the GOP.

I hope that my contribution to the battle will be some longer form writing than my short pithy blog posts. It remains to be seen if anything I write will be worthy of note or noticed. Wish me well but don’t turn your back on my blog just yet. It may have a few more surprises left in it. I fudged for the past month by reposting my Facebook entries but I hope these did not too badly disappoint my “eight loyal readers.” My heart is still in a good place……..And by the way. The Good Place is a superlative hoot. Watch it……from the beginning on Netflix. Its about one of my favorite ideas – redemption.

The America that Bret Kavanaugh helped make..


…elected Donald Trump.
………

At the moment it is 4:30 am in France. I am only miles away from where another man – who was helping to make the America that really is great – fought and was awarded the nation’s highest military honor. My eight loyal readers know him as my grandfather – George Robb.

Whether I fall asleep again or not tomorrow – today- I will walk over some of the ground he trod as his friends and fellow soldiers were being blown to dust and blood all around him. And I can’t sleep because I woke up thinking about that smarmy little skunk Bret (pay no attention to that frat rat rapist in the closet) Kavanaugh is invading my pilgrimage to remind me what’s at stake back in the land my Grandfather helped make!

Well, I have a lot to say on that account but having mostly bit my tongue about Trump World to write about my pilgrimage I had to go find a quiet place in my latest hotel room to get that off my chest. I am going to try to get a little more shut eye before walking the path of heroes who’s blood once soaked into this land.

A. Ham

2018-08-05_08-32-26

My family posed under the marquee but they weren’t wearing 3D shades so I cropped them out for this post.

Hamilton the musical was worth every penny of this weekend extravagance. The history it is based on, authored by Ron Chernow, has been on my bookshelf waiting for me for about ten years. After I return from France I may tackle it.

My breath is taken away by the audacity of Lin-Manuel Miranda to have envisioned this as a subject for the musical stage.

Moral clarity in the age of “deplorables” running amok

I’ve woken up to a second day’s fallout concerning the latest scandal over Rick Nolan’s coddling of a long-time buddy and butt grabber. Nolan’s gaffe has left a field of victims like that duckboat sinking yesterday in Branson. Both pilots should have seen the storm coming but were too preoccupied to avoid disaster. I’m still ruminating on the news and practicing my french so I’ll tackle it later today for my “eight loyal readers.” Before I return I’ll leave them with proof that I’m no prude. (I kinda doubt that there is such a thing as a prude anymore. I suspect most of them are hypocrites.) Continue reading

Abood today

I got a question from WDIO today on the case which guts public employee unions. I returned one email reaction. Then I returned a second email with additional comments.

Email from WDIO:

Hey, Harry!

Just checking if you want to weigh in with your thoughts on the Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME ruling. I’m trying to get all the CD08 candidates in our story on the Web.

Let me know if you can pass along a statement.

Thanks,

MY FIRST RESPONSE:

This decision threatens to eviscerate public employee unions by treating even legitimate negotiation expenses as speech. It violates fair play and past compromises and demonstrates that the Republican Party has succeeded in making the Supreme Court a partisan branch of the federal government. 

MY SECOND RESPONSE:

BTW my father was the president of the Mankato State college faculty union and taught contract negotiation in their business school. I wrote about it once in the Reader. It has a pretty accurate prediction in it.

http://snowbizz.com/Diogenes/NotEudora06/CollectiveBargain.htm

AND ONE MORE THING I FORGOT TO TELL WDIO:

My Dad was a life long Republican.

At Hibbing last night

My computer just died so I am composing this on my cell phone. I hate doing this.

I attended a fascinating debate in Hibbing last night at which all the congressional candidates sans one appeared. Trump’s toadie.

From what people told me afterward I made an impression…a good one.

Two people caught my attention. One was a former union man who spent 3 years taking his corrupt union to court in a court system weighted heavily Democrat and pro union. We both patted each other on the back for our valiant if fruitless battles.

The other was a Hibbing teacher who had taken my father’s contract law class and who told me my Dad was beloved in the business school. If it wasn’t for my dead computer I would write more. HOWEVER. Check out my next post. It’s about Abood…….

A little of my Dad’s influence bookwise

My Dad, Daniel Marsh Welty, died shortly after we moved to our snow sculptor’s palace thirty-one years ago. He never got a chance to see it although I shot a VHS tape of it to show him where we had moved to. His Vietnam was the Good War and for years after he read the memoirs and histories written by men who had fought in it. I kept a bunch of the paperbacks after his death and today I’ve got them arranged in a modest glass case with other mementos of his life which as you can see includes a sketch my Mother made of him when he was in his late twenties. In life he never looked that fierce.

I plucked one of the books from the shelf a couple days ago to begin reading to Claudia in anticipation of our trip to France and more specifically to the hallowed coast of Normandy. Its Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day.” After beginning its chapter ten in the first section I had to put the book down and shoot a 6 minute video of me reading and commenting on a passage that talked about the modesty of my fellow Kansan Dwight David Eisenhower. The depths that we have sunk to politically with the Trump Presidency led me to shoot another video to share my thoughts with my blogs treasured but tiny audience. I’ll upload it tomorrow.

Willy Makeit and the Kunst Brothers

After a day spent far away from Donald Trump’s ego boosting rally at the arena (that one insider gives me credit for talking Duluth into voting for) I woke thinking about something unifying and faithful to the Minnesota I moved to in the Era of Hubert Humphrey. You might have heard of him. In 1948 he helped drive the Dixiecrats out of the Democratic Party at his party’s national convention. He had the temerity to cry out for an end to “state’s rights” and new future of Civil Rights:

“To those who say — My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say — To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

I woke trying to recall the names of the young Minnesota brothers who walked around the world not long after I moved to Minnesota. Thank goodness for Wikipedia. Their entry is short.

They were the Kunst Brothers. I don’t know when I’ve seen a remembrance of them in a newspaper – maybe not for thirty years. However, when David and his brother John set out from tiny Caledonia, Minnesota in Minnesota’s southwestern corner of Minnesota (see map above) in 1970 with a mule they called “Willie Makeit” in the middle of the Vietnam War to walk around the world they caught a lot of attention. That only doubled when they got halfway around Earth to Afghanistan and John was murdered by mountain bandits. After four months recovering from the gunshot to his chest Dave continued his trek with a third brother Pete from the spot in Afghanistan where they were ambushed. John ended his trip solo in October 1974 a few weeks after I’d married and moved to Duluth, after Richard Nixon’s helicopter flight out of the Presidency and half a year before the end of America’s debacle in Vietnam.

Remembering this small shard of history when a couple young American’s went out in search of the world rather than trek to an Arena in Duluth to hear a man preen before an audience of folks who follow him like pimple faced kids at a professional wrestling match was a reminder that greatness is not measured in mouth. It is measured in deed.

To Conquer Hell

I discovered another book of mine pertinent to my upcoming visit to France. Its To Conquer Hell by Edward G. Lengel. The author is a cousin of that battle’s most famous soldier Alvin York a war hero that has not escaped mention in my blog.

The book came out in 2008 but I’m not sure when I acquired it. Quite possibly I bought it after seeing that it mentioned my Grandfather but I’ve not read it yet.

Yesterday I found my Grandfather’s chapter. I discovered it after checking the index for the New York unit he was attached to – the 369th infantry, made up of African Americans. To my surprise there was scant mention of the composition of the unit; just a short description of my Grandfather’s heroism. That seemed a huge over-sight.

Its only been recently that I’ve come to appreciate the battle’s name “Meuse Argonne.” It was the last battle on the Western Front and brought an end to the war. It was THE American battle with Sgt. York its most storied veteran. It began on September 26, 1918, and we plan to arrive at the battleground exactly one hundred years to the day afterwards. We will stay until Sept. 29th the day my Grandfather, shot to hell, was ordered back to the aid station to get himself patched up.

The Meuse-Argonne is said to have been the bloodiest battle in American History. Even so, it pales compared to some of the horrendous slaughters earlier in the war inflicted by and on French, German and English forces.

Violence on MLK Boulevard

Today I will crank out my next Not Eurdora column. I have so many topics to choose from. I’ve gotten in the habit of jotting them down in a “notebook” in my cell phone and was going through the notes early this morning. One thing led to another and I began going through my old emails to purge them. Some, like my jotted down notes are meant for later reference and possible mention in the blog. One of them was linked to this excellent five-minute explanation of the segregated housing patterns in the US. Thank God for National Public Radio.

BTW. As a kid in 1950’s Topeka, Kansas, I walked to school past a neighborhood that had a high concentration of African-Americans and that was quite likely red lined. And when my wife’s family moved from Des Moines, Iowa, in the mid sixties a realtor brought a black family to look at their home causing panic in the neighborhood. It may simply have been a ruse to threaten home prices and get the neighborhood to pony up to buy the house and prevent a black family from moving in.

I was an 18 year old senior in High School when Martin Luther King was murdered and only senility or death will make me forget its aftermath. Have things improved. Sure they have. But this video also touches on policing and I had a recent experience with non color blind policing in the West End where my wife and I first moved when we came to Duluth. Coincidentally, our starter home, purchased in the same West-End neighborhood in 1978, had been owned by a black family before we moved in.

300 years and counting

Longer than England and France were united African Americans have worn dark skins which make their lighter shaded neighbors fret. American Catholics suffered for about a hundred years of abuse but unless they genuflected in public or were from Mexico they looked like other European settlers to America. Irish-Americans also had their “no Irish need apply” signs but that was mostly about Catholicism. The telegenic John Kennedy put most of that paranoia to rest. What his charm couldn’t smooth over the Republican Party’s appeal to the Catholic clergy and the South’s adoption of an issue where they could reciprocate Northern scorn – abortion – built a bridge between the once uneasy allies of the FDR coalition Catholics and Southern Baptists.

But blacks were still black and kept at the margins despite the election of Barack Obama after a disastrous Bush Presidency. This remarkable achievement convinced most white Americans that black grievance was at and end and I can not deny the progress. On the other hand I never once sat my white son down to tell him obey all police to avoid being shot. Three stories related to this crossed my path this weekend.

The first of the three stories appealed to my love of geography. It concerns a map that Abraham Lincoln poured over during the Civil War and which helped him devise a successful stratagem to woo some southern states away from the rebellious confederacy. The original story is in Slate here:

The second story came from the PBS program History Detectives. It was a follow up on a previous story that suggested some black slaves fought for the Confederacy. In the case first examined a few years ago the answer to one such example turns out to be no. The fellow below was from Mississippi which had a law preventing slaves from fighting for the state. In this case the black slave was more of a valet to his master.

The third story involved the gifted Nora Neale Hurston one of the famous writers of the Harlem Renaissance in the Jazz age. I’ve had her book “Their Eyes were watching God” for a couple years. I handed it to Claudia who told me it was a very good book but for the time being, like so many other of my books, its circling the airport awaiting for clearance to land.

The New York Times story was about the publication of her work Barracoon. Her subject was the fellow below, Cudjo Lewis. She interviewed Mr. Lewis about 1930 when she learned he was was a slave brought over on the last ship, a Barracoon I presume, to bring slaves to America. (I presume the operative word here is “legally.”)

Hurston wrote some of her stories of African-Americans speaking in their southern patois much as Mark Twain famously did. The publishing houses demanded that Hurston alter the pidgeon English dialect that she faithfully transcribed and she refused feeling that it denied Mr. Lewis his true voice. Today that slight has been rectified and the book will soon be on the shelves of America’s bookstores.

And finally a forth related item that I was reminded of in the Times story. Cudjo Lewis told author Hurston how strange it was to be placed with long time slaves who he could not understand and who no doubt regarded him with some perplexity. This reminded me of a movie I thoroughly enjoyed long ago. The movie Skin Game came out in 1971 when I was a sophomore in college. It starred my parents favorite actor James Garner and Lewis Gosset Jr.. Ed Asner plays a cruel slave catcher.

Its set in the pre-civil war south. Its about two friends who defraud southern slave owners by selling them Louis Gossett Jr. over and over. Each time Gossett is rescued by his seller Garner and then they skip off to grift new victims. As you can imagine its a dangerous game and in the climax the tables are turned on the con men. Gossett finds himself housed in a barn with three or four African warriors, who like Cudjo Lewis were straight off the slave ship. I suspect this movie still stands the test of time although I noticed it was not listed as one of the best movies about slavery on at least three Internet lists I found. Here’s the IMBD list. I think this is an oversight.

BTW – James Garner was one of the Hollywood actors who championed Civil Rights. My parents loved him for his TV western Maverick.

Whatever happened…..My latest Not Eudora Column

Whatever Happened to the Magnificent Seven

Thanks to the Reader for the nice graphic.

It begins:

In 1966, at age 16, I discovered pop music which was then a witch’s brew of pop, country, and rock about to go their separate ways. One of my early favorites was a song by the Statler Brothers “Flowers on the Wall.” It was about a guy who was dumped by his girlfriend. In the lyrics the fellow claims not to mind “playing solitaire alone with a deck of 51.” Seven years later, after the horrors of 1968 and Vietnam, the Statlers – now confirmed red necks – sang a new song that pined for the days of rugged cowboy heroes. I couldn’t stand it. The lyrics and chorus began:

You can read it all here.