Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie Matinee #4: Janie (1944)

Lobby Card with Scooper, Dick Lawrence and Janie
Janie Conway is a pretty typical 16 year old girl living in the small town of Hortonville.  She has a high school boyfriend named Scooper and lots of girlfriends, a wiseacre little sister named Elsbeth, a dad, Charles Conway, who is the editor of the town paper and a mom, Lucille Conway, who does war work.

Life looks pretty good for the Conways despite the war.  Until now, that is.  After learning that the Army plans to open a base nearby, Mr. Conway had written an editorial opposing it, worried that so many soldiers around so many impressionable, young energetic, boy crazy girls might not be such a good idea.  Now, he is trying to get special priority from Washington for a new printing press, and his requests are being ignored.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Conway's old friend, Thelma Lawrence, is arriving in Hortonville with her son, a private in the Army and needs a place to stay.  Of course, once they arrive at the house, and Janie meets Private First Class Dick Lawrence, it is instant attraction, much to Scooper's distress.

When Janie's parents make plans to go out for an evening with Mrs. Lawrence, Janie decides to seize the opportunity to see Dick Lawrence alone in the Conway house.  But now some of her girlfriends also have boyfriends in the Army and no place to see them, and since they know Janie is home alone, they all drop by.

Elsbeth, always in the way, is sent off to her grandmother's on what should have been a short bus ride with Dick, but she gets the on the wrong bus intentionally because she likes riding buses.  Dick runs into his old chemistry professor, who also likes to ride buses and hands Elsbeth over to him so he can get back to his evening with Janie.

Scooper, jealous of Dick, calls the Army base and tells them to send over more soldiers, that there is a party going on at the Conway house for them.  Before long, the house is filled with servicemen and their girlfriends, more of Janie's girlfriends, music, singing and dancing.  There are even plenty of wieners to eat and pop to drink.  Before long, the furniture is pushed aside and a long conga line forms.  Janie's quiet evening with Dick turns into the biggest and best party Hortonville has ever seen.

Lobby Card
But all good things must end, especially when the base commander shows up, followed by the police and then your parents.  But this is a light domestic romantic comedy, so all's well that end's well.

I watched Janie on a gloomy, rainy, chilly Sunday afternoon and it really was a fun thing to do.  It is a very fast paced film, and a lighthearted war movie.  Janie, played by Joyce Reynolds, is a bubbly teen, always up to things she would rather her parents didn't know about, like going off to a blanket party (a party where everyone brings their own blanket to sit on, to "smooch" with their boyfriends.  Janie speaks a mysterious lingo with her friends, really just the slang of the day, but it totally bewilders her dad.

This was definitely a feel good movie made for a war weary audience, released on September 2, 1944.  It was highly recommended by movie editors in magazines like Child Life, Calling All Girls and Life, having appeal for both adults and teens.  As much fun as Janie is, though, I can't say it reflects the life of the average American teenage girl in 1944.  And the feminist side of me did bristle somewhat at how boy crazy girls were portrayed.   

Originally a successful Broadway play, Janie was made into a movie by Warner Bros., and directed by Michael Curtiz, who had already won an Academy Award in 1944 for directing a film you may be familiar with called Casablanca.

Hattie McDaniel, another Academy Award winner for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind, plays April, the Conway's maid.  Unfortunately for this favorite talented woman, playing the role of a maid was the part she was always cast as during the war.

Other well known actors who appeared in Janie were Robert Hutton as Dick Lawrence, Edward Arnold as Charles Conway, and Ann Harding as Lucille Conway.  Ironically, it turns out that the irrepressible, but annoying younger sister Elsbeth was played by Clare Foley who made only two movies in her film career: Janie and the 1946 sequel Janie Gets Married.  I could not find any more information about her.

And here is some real trivia:  I used to watch reruns of the original Mickey Mouse Club when they were on late at night and I was still writing papers for grad school.  If you remember the Mickey Mouse Club and happen to catch Janie on TMC, see if you can find Jimmy Dodd, head Mouseketeer and song writer (Hint: he is an uncredited soldier during the party scenes).

This movie is recommended for viewers age 11+
This movie was watched onTurner Movie Classics (it isn't available on DVD yet, but runs pretty frequently on TV.

Enjoy the trailer for Janie after the annoying 30 second ad:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Across a War-Tossed Sea by L.M. Elliott

It's September 1943 near Richmond, Virginia and Bishop brothers, Wesley, 10, and Charles, 14, have been living with the Ratcliff family for over three years now, after being evacuated from war-torn London.  And there is nothing Charles, called Chuck by his American family, would like more than to return home and do his bit for the war, but his parents still refuse to let him.  Besides, Wesley still has frequent nightmares about firebombs hitting their home during the Blitz and about the possibility of being torpedoed by Nazi submarines while crossing the U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic and Charles feels responsible for taking care of him when they happen.

The Ratcliffs are a large farming family.  Patsy, the only girl, is 16 and has a boyfriend named Henry flying missions overseas, next is Bobby, 15, who has become a great pal of Chuck's, followed by Ron, 12, Wesley's real nightmare, and lastly are the twins, Jamie and Johnny, 7.  The war is a constant presence in this novel, making it truly a home front story.

Life isn't always easy for the Bishop brothers.  Ron has always jumped at every opportunity to bully Wesley.  So when Wes ends up skipping two grades and, much to Ron's annoyance, lands in his 7th grade class, the bullying only intensifies.  Charles, who has become quite muscular from farm work, has made it onto the football team along with Bobby.  Everyone must help out on the farm and the work is long and difficult, because of a dWes has a fascination for Native Americans that he has read about and longs to meet one, but when he does, much to his surprise, Mr. Johns is nothing like what he expected.  Wes also befriends a young African American boy, and learns first hand about segregation and prejudice.

And Chuck must come to terms with his feelings about the German POWs that are brought into the area and used to help on the farms, and, ultimately, on the Ratcliff farm as well.  The more he sees them, the angrier he becomes and the more he wants to go home and help.  Chuck is also dealing with a crush he has on Patsy, which is especially hard on him, since he knows that her heart belongs to someone doing just what he wishes he could do.

Across a War-Tossed Sea follows the Bishop boys and the Ratcliff family through the year up to and a little beyond the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France in June 1944.  It is a nice home front book that gives a good idea of what life was like for people in the United States, interspersed with letters exchanged between the boys and their parents, giving the reader a good picture of life in England under siege.  In fact, this is really like a series of vignettes all connected to each other.

Given all the things that happened in this novel, I thought it was odd that after living with the Ratcliffs for over three years, the boys would feel like new arrivals and make the kind of mistakes that would most likely happen in their first year.  But that didn't diminish my feelings about the story.

I thought Across a War-Tossed Sea was an exciting, interesting, thought provoking novel documenting life on the home front and the adjustments that had to be made by everyone during World War II.  At the end of the book, there is a very informative Afterword giving a short recap of what was going on in Europe, the evacuation of children overseas that sometimes ended in tragedy and further explaining many of the things referred to in the novel, such as U-boats, V-bombs and secret air bases (a particularly amusing part of the novel, even though it involves a runaway German POW).

Across a War-Tossed Sea is a companion book to Across a War-Torn Sky, which follows what happens to Patsy Ratcliff's boyfriend, Henry Forester, after he is shot down over France on a flying mission for the Air Force.  And, bringing things full circle, they are both companion pieces to A Troubled Peace, and the end of the war.  Luckily, I have not read the two companion books yet, so I have them to look forward to.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an eARC received from Net Galley

Across a War-Tossed Sea will be available on April 1, 2014, meantime have a look at this very nicely done trailer:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Molly Takes Flight by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes

Ever since the war began, Molly has been having a hard time dealing with all the changes it brought in her family.  Her dad is still in Europe with the army, her mom is busy with her Red Cross work, Jill has been volunteering at the Veteran's Hospital, even Ricky has a job mowing lawns in the neighborhood and younger brother Brad is off to camp every day.

Now, it is August and Molly is visiting her grandparents farm by herself for the first time.  Now, here with grandpa, grammy and the familiar smells of her grandmother's kitchen, it feels more like old times to Molly.  Until she realizes that her favorite Aunt Eleanor isn't there and when she asked where she is, Molly is told she is away, "as usual" according to grandpa.

But when Molly and grandpa return to the house after picking a melon from the garden, Aunt Eleanor is home.  Still, Molly's excitement that she will be able to do the same things with Aunt Eleanor this year that they have always done together on the farm quickly turns to disappointment when she is told that her aunt won't be home the next day.

Later that night, while stargazing, Aunt Eleanor tells Molly she has applied to join the WASPS, or Women Airforce Service Pilots, and that, if accepted, she will be testing and transporting planes for the Air Force, and even helping to train pilots.  Molly is not quite as happy about this as Aunt Eleanor would have liked.

Aunt Eleanor leaves early every morning, returning home at suppertime.  Molly spends the next few days alone, feeling lonely without her family at the farm,  angry at the war and now angry at her aunt, and maybe even a little jealous that she wants to spend Molly visit flying instead of with her.  Then, one night, Aunt Eleanor doesn't get home until Molly is already in bed.  When she goes in to see if Molly is awake, Molly's anger gets the best of her and she snaps at her aunt, accusing her of not caring about anything anymore, except flying.

The next morning, Aunt Eleanor wakes Molly up very early and tells her to get dressed.  In the car, when Molly asks where they are going, all she is told is that she'll see.  Arriving at the airfield, Molly and Aunt Eleanor walk over to the plane her aunt has been practicing with.  To her surprise, Molly is handed a helmet, told to put it one and the next thing she knows, she and Aunt Eleanor are flying over grandpa's farm.

Can Molly and Aunt Eleanor be reconciled, now that Molly has had a taste of the exhilaration that flying gives her aunt?

Molly Takes Flight is actually a very small book (just 47 pages), one of five separate short stories that were originally published by the Pleasant Company in 1998 about Molly McIntire, an American girl growing up in WWII (the stories has since been combined into a single book, one for each historical doll).

Written by Valerie Tripp, and illustrated by Nick Backes, who have done a number of the original American Girl stories together, Molly Takes Flight is a well written, well researched short story.   It follows the same format that all the stories about the American Girl historical dolls have - a story followed by several pages giving information about the main theme - in the case the WASP program begun in 1942 and organized by Jacqueline Cochran.

Stars also play an important part in this story.  Molly looks at the North Star each night, just as her dad told her to, and thinks about him.  And she and her aunt star gaze whenever Molly visits the farm.  At the end of Molly Takes Flight, there is a simple, but fun craft project for making a star gazer out of a round oatmeal container.

This copy of Molly Takes Flight is my Kiddo's original one, and it doesn't feel like that long ago we were reading it together, but now I have it put away with her Molly doll and her other American Girl books for the next generation, whenever that happens.  And even though Molly has been retired, her books are still available.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was purchased for my Kiddo's personal library

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

For Alfie Summerfield, the first five years of his life had been grand.  He was a happy little boy, and his dad and mum were happy with each other and with him.  His father, Georgie Summerfield, delivered milk and drove a milk float every morning pulled by a horse name Mr. Asquith.  It was Alfie's dream to some day be big enough to ride along side his dad and help.  Alfie's Granny Summerfield, who lived right across the street, always liked to come around for a bit of a gossip.  And Alfie had a best friend, Kalena Janáček, whose father came from Prague and ran the sweet shop.

But all this changed on Alfie's fifth birthday, because on July 29, 1914, World War I officially began and a few days later England joined in.   And even though he promised he wouldn't, Alfie's father immediately enlisted anyway.  Then, Mr. Janáček's store windows were broken and someone wrote on the shop door "No Spies Here!"  Soon enough, the government came and took father and daughter away to an internment camp on the Isle of Man.

At first, letters from Alfie's father arrive regularly, but then they begin to dwindle down and down and after two years, no more letters arrive.  Alfie's mum tells her son it is because his dad is on a secret mission for the government.  But times get hard and Mrs. Summerfield, who already takes in laundry, becomes a Queen's Nurse, which means most of the time Alfie is on his own.  And so, he decides it is time to do his bit.  He steals Mr. Janáček's prized shoe shine box, walks over to King's Cross Station and begins shining shoes three days a week (Alfie still attends school two days a week).

Then one day, almost four years after the war began, something amazing happens.  While shining the shoes of a doctor, the papers he is reading get blown out of his hands.   As he and Alfie scurry around King's Cross to retrieval the papers, Alfie discovers on one of them that his dad is alive and is in a hospital, the same one the doctor works at.  From that point on, Alfie decides that he is going to go get his dad and bring him home.  He is convinced that all that his dad really needs is to come home to recuperate and soon things will be happy again, just like they were before the war.  But on his first trip to the hospital, Alfie is not prepared for what he discovers.

Alfie is one of those quirky characters that Boyne seemed to write so well.  He reminded me a little bit of Barnaby Brocket (The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket) and he was certainly a more realistic 9 year old than was Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  It felt as though Boyne's third boy protagonist has more depth and is a more well developed character than the other two.

Georgie Summerfield is not a well developed as Alfie, but he in interesting nevertheless.   Georgie has the same blind enthusiasm for the war that so many young men had when it first began. The war, the government told them, would be over by Christmas, but by jingo, they didn't say which Christmas and four years later, the reader sees how Georgie's enthusiasm has spiraled down as he lives the realities of the trenches and then suffers the consequences of the enthusiasm.

I did think that the first three quarters of the novel did a really good job of presenting life during World War I on the home front, rather than the trenches, although there is some of that in Georgie's letters home.  The last quarter became a little preposterous, and the end a little predictable, but I thought other things made up for that.

Boyne addresses two issues in Stay Where You Are & Then Leave.  The first is that of conscientious objectors.  As enthusiastic as Georgie was to get into the war, his best friend Joe Patience feels just as strongly about not wanting to fight.  Joe is a compassionate person, who strongly believed that he was not put on earth to kill anyone cost him dearly - loss of lifetime friends, jail time, and beatings.  Boyne delicately presents it all at the same time as making the reader understand Joe's position.

The other issue is that of shell shock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it is called nowadays.  In the novel, the reader sees how skeptical people were about shell shock, believing it to be more cowardice than illness, until it hit home personally for them.  On Alfie's two visits to the hospital his dad is in, as he goes through the wards looking for him, Boyne gives us a very clear picture of what shell shock can do the a person's mind.  I think this part of the story will resonate with many of today's children whose loved one returned from Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from PTSD.

Though somewhat flawed, this is a nice book for anyone who is interested in historical fiction, and especially the impact of WWI on the people left at home.  And yes, you will discover the meaning of the title if you read the book.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an eARC received from Net Galley

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave will be available on March 25, 2014

A person who drives a milk float delivers milk to customers and in 1914 would be delivering it is something that looks like this:

This is my World War I book for my 2014 War Challenge with a Twist hosted by War Through the Generations.
This is book 6 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (a Flavia de Luce Mystery #6) by Alan Bradley

After I finished Speaking from Among the Bones, the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery, I had a hard time keeping myself from reading The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, especially since it was sitting on my eReader already, thanks to NetGalley.

And I already knew that although it was set in 1951, the mystery had something to do with WWII.  So, I caved…

When the previous book ended, Flavia de Luce, still 11, and her sisters Feeley (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne) had just received the stunning news from their father that their mother was coming home to Buckshaw.  Harriet de Luce had left on a hiking trip through the Himalayas a year after Flavia was born and had fallen to her death.  Now, her body has been found in an icy crevice and is being returned for burial.  And accompanying Harriet is none other than Winston Churchill.

Two odd things occur while Flavia is standing on the train platform after Harriet's coffin arrived accompanied by much pomp.  First there is Churchill whispering in her ear, cryptically asking if she have developed a taste for Pheasant Sandwiches yet, and second, just as a tall man whispers to her that the Gamekeeper is in jeopardy, he is pushed to his death on the train tracks.

Now, Flavia has two mysteries to solve while trying to sort out her feelings about the mother she never really got to know.  And on top of that, Flavia may have met her match when her younger, smart-as-a -whip cousin Undine arrives accompanied by her mother, Cousin Lena de Luce from Cornwall.

If you are a Flavia follower, you already know that Buckshaw, the rundown family estate owned by Harriet and bled dry by His Majesty's Board of Inland Revenue or the Forces of Darkness, as Flavia's father, Haviland de Luce, calls them, is up for sale, since no will of Harriet's was ever found.  So when Flavia gets the cockamamie idea that she can resurrect her dead mother through chemistry, the only thing she manages to accomplish is finding a copy of Harriet's until now missing will in a pocket before she must leave the room.  Can the will save Buchshaw from being sold?

It doesn't take Flavia long to figure out that Harriet didn't have an accidental fatal fall, but like the man on the station platform, she was pushed to her death.  Who pushed Harriet and why they did it add to the mystery of the cryptic Pheasant Sandwiches comment, discovering who the Gamekeeper is and why they are in jeopardy, who pushed the man off the platform and why.  And it all harkens back to World War II.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is a difficult book to properly review without giving too much of the mysteries away, even though by the time I finished reading, I realized that the mysteries were not the central part of the story, merely a vehicle for what was to come next.  Because Book #6 in the Flavia de Luce series is really a transition novel.

And while the mysteries aren't great, the tone of the book is much more serious than usual.  Cousin Undine and her antics happily provides some relief from that.  Undine starts out rather bratty, but ends up as a much better character and a bit of a foil for Flavia.  Which is good since Flavia is not her customary smart-mouthed self.

So, all of the open questions that have followed Flavia throughout the series are answered in this novel.  Flavia is just about ready to turn 12, and not only do we see Flavia changing, but her circumstances do too.  It is the end of the series?  No, indeed.  Bradley has 4 more Flavia de Luce books planned.

Even though The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches was not the usual Flavia mystery, it is still really good.  But, and it's a big BUT, I don't know that it would work well as a stand alone novel.  It might be better to read an earlier Flavia novel first, to get more information and a better feel for recurring characters and circumstances, even though now change is in  the air.

What will the future hold for our young heroine?  I can't wait to see what happens to Flavia de Luce once she turns 12.

This book is recommended for readers 14+
This book is an eARC received from NetGalley

This is book 2 of my 2014 Crusin' Through the Cozies Reading Challenge hosted by Socrates' Book Reviews
This is book 5 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett

With the fall of France and the war becoming worse for Britain, it was time for the Lockwood children, 12 year old Cecily and Jeremy, 14, to leave London.  So it was off to Heron Hall, to their Uncle Peregrine Lockwood's estate, with their mother, Heloise.

Traveling on the train to the same village were groups of school children also being evacuated from London by the government.  These school children are taken to the town hall and as Cecily watches them leaving one by one with women who were to care for them for the duration, she asks her mother if they couldn't also have a child.  May Bright, 10, seems to fit the bill, despite her indifference towards Cecily.

Feeling powerless and picked on by her brother, Cecily wants someone that she can control and have power over.   But May is an independent child with a mind of her own.  And though she isn't impressed that her new luxurious surroundings at Heron Hall are more than she is accustomed to, it is the vast fields and woods that attract her.  And in among it all are the remains of Snow Castle, a once beautiful castle made of white marble, where she meets two young oddly dressed boys.  At first, believing they are evacuees running away from an unpleasant placement, it soon becomes apparent that something else is going on with these two boys.

When May and Cecily ask Uncle Peregrine about the castle, he begins to tell them, little by little each evening, the haunting story of Richard III, of his brother King Edward IV's death, of his two sons, the eldest of whom is next in line for the throne and how Richard had hidden the two boys in the Tower of London in order to make himself King.

Meanwhile, Jeremy, frustrated that he can't do anything to help the war effort but hid out in the country,   he wants so very much to make his mark on the world.  Each day, Jeremy reads the newspaper accounts of the war, becoming more and more exasperated that he is not there help.  And so one night, he runs away to London. There, he discovers a burning, war torn London that he could never have imagined.  Stunned by what he sees, feeling smaller than ever, Jeremy manages to do the very thing he sets out to do - help the war effort.  It is his coming of age moment and Jeremy returns to Heron Hall a very different boy.

No one can turn a phrase, creating a hauntingly brilliant story quite like Sonya Hartnett can. Gracefully creating lyrical phrases, and characters that are hard to forget as you begin to recognize parts of yourself in each of them.  There is spoiled, selfish Cecily, who, the reader thinks, will grow up to be just like her shallow, socialite mother, Heloise, but who surprises us so often; May, quiet and thoughtful, careful but unafraid, she becomes a favorite of Uncle Peregrine (kindred souls? maybe); Jeremy, on the cusp of becoming a young man and wanting to get there way too soon - all so realistically and captivatingly drawn.

The Children of the King is the story of the powerlessness of children and the people who want to control them - of the two princes at the hands of Richard III who craves power and control, of England's children at the hands of German bombs, sent by a dictator who also craves power and control.  But it is on a smaller scale that we see how little power and control others really have over us unless we let them.  Despite all Cecily's attempt at controlling May, she is the one who remains an independent spirit.  And it is by running away, that Jeremy discovers the power each of us has to change another person's life.

Just as she did in The Midnight Garden, Hartnett once again uses the device of magical realism and of a story within a story.  Here, they is used as a means of connecting past and present, reminding us that the past is never past, it lives in the present or as May tells the two boys in the castle "Everything is connected…We are here because you are here."And the dialectic that Hartnett creates in The Children of the King is just wonderful.

I should tell readers that there are a few graphic descriptions when Jeremy goes back to London, giving a sense of realism, but not graphic enough to scare away middle grade readers.  And one does not need to already know the story of Richard III to understand Uncle Peregrine's story, he weaves in enough of it for readers to understand it perfectly well.

I put off reading this novel because I was afraid that I would be disappointed.  The Midnight Garden was such a brilliant book, had Hartnett set her own bar too high?  No, the bar is high but The Children of the King is right up there.   But, in the end, all I can says is fans of Sonya Hartnett, rejoice!  To those who will be reading her for the first time with this novel, you are lucky ducks.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was and eARC from Net Galley

The Children of the King will be available on March 25, 2014

This is book 4 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Victory Through Kilowatts: Daylight Saving Time (The Most Wonderful Day of the Year - for me, anyway)


Tomorrow we go back on daylight saving time, with the exception of Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation which does observe DST), Hawaii and other overseas territories.  Not everyone welcomes Daylight Saving Time, but for people like me who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) it is the most wonderful time of the year.  And this winter has been a SAD winter of epic proportions, by now affecting even those who normally don't have SAD.

From: Wikimedia
But of course Daylight Saving wasn't instituted so that people with SAD could begin to feel better.  In fact, a dayligh saving scheme of sorts was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin, who observed 1- that each day the sun rose earlier and earlier and 2- that Parisians who stayed up late and slept late into the morning were wasting daylight in the morning and candles at night.  Around 1784, Franklin proposed a rather tongue in cheek idea of how Parisians could save candles and utilize daylight.  Remember, Franklin was the guy who gave up the adage  "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

From: Wikimedia
The next person to suggest saving daylight was an Englishman named William Willett in 1905.  Now it was Londoners who were observed sleeping late on beautiful summer mornings.  His idea was simply to advance the clock in the summer so it would be lighter longer and he wouldn't have to end his golf game so early when dusk came.  Willet's idea didn't meet with much support, though.

But, during World War I, the Germans decided to institute Sommerzeit (Daylight Saving) on April 30, 1916 as a means of saving coal for the war effort.  It didn't take long for the Britain and other Allied countries in Europe to follow the Germans.  Despite entering the war in 1917, the US, however, didn't change their clocks until 1918.

Changing clocks results in all kinds of problems in farming, manufacturing, railroad schedule, etc., so when World War I came to an end, Daylight Saving pretty much did as well - quickly.

From: Library of Congress
World War I
But soon the world found itself at war again and the idea of Daylight Saving came to the fore again.  In Britain, the clocks in winter were set one hour ahead of GMT(Greenwich Mean Time) and in the summer, they adopted British Double Summer Time or BDST, setting the clocks two hours ahead of GMT (and I must confess, an idea that has a great deal of appeal to me).

In the US, President Roosevelt signed a law the created "War Time" which would advance time by one hour for the duration of the war.  War Time lasted from February 9, 1942 until September 30, 1945.  The aim was to save energy in order to speed up war production and it was estimated that 736,282,000 kilowatt hours of electricity for the war.  In fact, at the end of the war, it was estimated that 4,800,000,000 kilowatt hours were saved.  I don't know much about kilowatts, but I guess this is a pretty impressive amount.

While War Time ended, Daylight Saving didn't.  It continued in a haphazard manner until 1966, when President Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act.  This made the beginning and end of DST uniform in the states that chose to observe it.  DST began the last Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday in October.

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act which changes the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time again.  Since then, there have been a few other changes, but now we spring forward the second Sunday in March, and my fellow SAD sufferers, more daylight is ours until the first Sunday in November.

From: Library of Congress
World War I
If Daylight Saving Time is about to begin, can Spring be far behind, despite the forcast of more snow and cold next week?

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

When the United States went to war in 1941, a lot of people immediately signed up to serve their country.  After all, they were Americans and their country was now in peril.  And so millions of Americans went to war to fight to defend the freedoms they enjoyed so much.  African Americans signed up to defend their country as well, but things weren't quite the same for them.  Instead of receiving the honor and respect they deserved, African Americans faced the same discrimination and segregation in the armed forces that they had lived with in civilian life.  And, naturally, they were given the lowest jobs available.  In the Navy, that usually meant serving in the mess as a cook or being on permanent clean up detail.

But in 1943, the Navy sent a group of African Americans to Port Chicago in northern California.  There, they loaded huge cargoes of ammunition onto waiting ships.  The men immediately noticed that only African Americans were doing this potentially dangerous job, although they had to be supervised by white Naval officers, since the Navy didn't have an black officers.

Then, on July 17, 1944 at 10:18 PM, as a second shift of men were loading the ammunition, an explosion occurred that was felt for miles around and which killed 320 men instantly.  Among that number were 202 African Americans.  At first, everyone thought the explosion was an enemy attack, but they soon realized what had happened.

A few weeks after being moved to another port, the surviving men were ordered back to loading ammunition.  Afraid of what had happened to their friends at Port Chicago, 258 African American sailors refused to obey the order.  In fact, they were willing to obey any other order, but that one.   After being told to pack their gear, they were crowded onto a prison barge.  Eventually, most of the men would return to their jobs.  In the end, 50 sailors would be charged with mutiny and court marshaled.  And in the trial that followed, they would be found guilty, even though it was clear that the trial was biased, the judge taking the word of the white officers over that of the black sailors.

NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall watched the trial closely and when the guilty verdict was announced, immediately started preparing an appeal.  And though the appeal was not successful, the 50 sailors were eventually returned to active service, though they carried the stigma of mutiny throughout their lives.

And yet, Steven Sheinkin contends, these 50 sailors did more for changing the civil rights of African Americans serving their country than they are given credit for, eventually helping to remove the practice of discrimination and segregation in ALL branches of the armed services.

Sheinkin has done it again.  First with Bomb: the Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, now with The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights.  The moment I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  Sheinkin has once again written an exciting nonfiction narrative about a little know part of American history.  In The Port Chicago 50, he brings to life many of the men involved, especially Joe Small, whom the Navy considered to be the ringleader of the mutiny.  You will meet other unforgettable men in this book, some heroic, some a bit scoundrelly.   But they will all rivet you to their story.

As with all good nonfiction, there are plenty of photographs throughout the book, along with the names of each of the 50 sailors listed in the front matter.  Back matter includes extensive source notes, as well as works cited, a list of oral histories and documentaries used and the records of the U.S. Navy regarding the Port Chicago explosion and subsequent trial.

The Port Chicago 50 is a well written, well documented addition to the history of African Americans, their history of the Navy and the history of Civil Rights and a book not to be missed.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL