Today is the day we observe Memorial Day.
In 1868, Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Old Republic, proclaimed Memorial Day as a day to place flowers on the graves of soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.
For years, Memorial Day was celebrated May 30. Then, in 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act moving most federal holidays to Mondays to ensure a three-day weekend. Since that time, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May.
Originally, the day was to honor soldiers who died fighting the Civil War. However, since World War I, it has been a time to honor all members of the military who have died in war.
This editorial published in The Oklahoman on May 30, 1912, refers to those who died in the Civil War, but the message the anonymous writer expresses of honoring the dead and the hope for peace still rings true.
“Today a mighty nation pauses to put wreaths on the graves of soldiers. It is a day of thoughts that pertain to the bivouac of the dead.
Flags will be displayed at half mast; mourning will be in use; bells will toll.
Over on the hill where marble shafts mark the resting place of those who fell in the conflict where brother was arrayed against brother, flowers will be placed. The living will not forget the dead.
It is a day of sorrow. The older among us can realize the horrors which the day recalls. The younger generation cannot understand.
Today we should be reminded of peace. If the peace movement had been as strong in 1860 as it is today the nation would not have been plunged into civil strife. Memorial Day should impress upon us the horrors of war, it should make that impression so deep that the peace of the world will be assured.”
Since the Civil War, Americans have lost their lives serving in the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War and now the Afghanistan War.
In December of 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act into law designating 3 p.m. local time as the moment for a grateful nation to pause and remember.
This is a part of the statement released at the signing:
“Each Memorial Day, the Nation honors those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While these heroes should be honored every day for their profound contribution to securing our Nation’s freedom, they and their families should be especially honored on Memorial Day. The observance of a National Moment of Remembrance is a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”
Please take at least a minute today and remember the husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who have given their lives for their country.
Let us never forget.
The Oklahoman has been chronicling the events of Oklahoma history large and small, earthshaking and pedestrian for more than 100 years.
Newspapers do that.
They provide a permanent reminder of what has happened in the past, near and distant.
For some of us, The Oklahoman has printed our birth announcement, perhaps a marriage announcement, obituaries of family and friends, and, in my case, a story about the perfect school attendance (kindergarten through 12th grade, eight years apart) of my sister, Martha (Young) Vickery, and myself.
Sometimes the newspaper might report about someone, and then we wonder later, what next, what happened to them.
In 1941, The Oklahoman told us about Eddie Nakayama, an 18-year-old senior at Central High School who had been selected for the silver Letzeiser medal as an outstanding example of citizenship and achievement.
Through his three years of high school, he had maintained grades of A’s in all classes with the exception of two B’s while daily helping “his father Lloyd, a native of Japan, on the 20-acre truck farm which supports the family.”
“Ed wants to get a job at the University of Oklahoma so he can study engineering and enroll in classes offered by the naval reserve department. Some day he hopes to get an appointment to the United States naval academy,” the story went on to report.
Eddie next appears in the newspaper the day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, when The Oklahoman interviewed his father, Lloyd Nakayama, who expressed shock over the bombing and his pride “when he announces his children are native-born citizens of the United States.”
The story mentions that Eddie is a freshman ROTC student at the University of Oklahoma.
More stories follow. Eddie pledges Tau Omega fraternity, is initiated and in 1944, he receives his diploma for a mechanical engineering degree.
We catch up with him in September of 1945, home on leave from the Army, after serving six months overseas.
“Of all things to happen to a soldier girded for action. Measles quarantine and lost papers!
It’s enough to embarrass a guy, and that’s exactly what it does for Pvt. Eddie U. Nakayama. But those two minor (?) details kept him from seeing any front-line action until the war was over.”
After the quarantine and finding of those lost papers, he was sent to guard German prisoners. Eddie joined the service in July 1945 after graduating from OU. After his leave, he was expecting to be assigned as an interpreter.
In 1958, The Oklahoman listed Eddie U. Nakayama as one of 50 Oklahomans to be licensed to practice engineering by the state.
“The final entry for Eddie is a death notice in The Oklahoman Jan. 28, 2009, under Bartlesville: “Nakayama, Eddie Utaki, 85, retired mechanical engineer, died Jan. 24.”
While The Oklahoman has no entries Nakayama between 1958 and 2009, we would not be surprised to find that The Bartlesville Examiner might have picked up his story.
Tornado season is upon us, and already we’ve had two bouts with them, resulting in deaths, injuries and destruction.
Weather experts tell us to take cover in our “storm caves” when a dark cloud appears on the horizon.
Storm cave is a term for tornado shelters that has been used every decade from 1901 to 2008 in The Oklahoman.
Not being familiar with storm caves, I have heard the tornado shelter called a cellar, a storm cellar, a storm shelter, a fallout shelter and, of course, my favorite, the “‘fraidy hole.”
Storm caves were most often mentioned in The Oklahoman’s classifieds as a selling point for houses and land, but this editorial published June 3, 1947, gives some history.
“Some years ago when the pioneers were moving out into the prairie country in quest of permanent homes many of them (a great many of them) were careful to dig storm caves even before they began to build their houses.
“One reason was there was abundant space for cave digging and the only cost entailed was the labor of the digger, while the material required for house building was back on the nearest railway, some times several days’ journey away. Many of the pioneers lived in their primitive dugouts for several years.
“But there was another reason for that pioneer day digging-in operation. The first settlers were well aware of the possibility of an unexpected visit from a spiraling storm cloud.
“So they prepared what the cowboys in their vernacular called their ‘fraid holes,’ both as a place of temporary residence and as a safe harbor if a tornado should appear on the scene. And unquestionably many a pioneer survived to a ripe old age who might have been blown into the next county if it had not been for some convenient hole in the ground.
“Civilization conquered the prairie country some years ago. Handsome homes have taken the place of the old sod house and storm cave.
“Cities and towns now mark the plains country with their elevators and churches and schools and business blocks.
“Long familiarity with the possibility of the tornado’s visit has rendered a lot of people indifferent to the danger.
“But in spite of progress and in spite of change of outlook a good, safe storm cave is not even yet a useless possession. It is a means of safety to many times 10,000 people.
“Considering the reasonableness of their cost and their priceless value in the day of crisis it is almost strange that every home on the plains and every school house is not equipped with a good storm cave.
” It may be needed no more than once in a lifetime, but when it is needed, it is needed terribly.”
So, when the Oklahoma winds blow strong and the warnings become incessant, listen to the experts and go to your safe place, be it a tornado shelter or storm cave or, in my case, the bathtub or an interior hallway, away from all windows.
News from the Titanic disaster dominated newspaper pages 100 years ago.
State headlines told of ships returning with bodies from the Titanic, U.S. hearings on the accident and news stories of the deadly tornadoes that struck five western counties, leaving 15 dead and at least 39 injured.
The following article from The Oklahoman of April 29, 1912, introduces Mrs. Fannie Dubois and gives her story of how the sinking of the ocean liner, Titanic affected her life.
“LOCAL LADY WINS IN WIRELESS BUY
“When Marconi Stock Soars She Sells Hers at Fancy Margin of Profit”
“As the result of the Titanic disaster and the decision of the English courts in favor of the Marconi patent for wireless, Mrs. Fannie Dubois, 1305 North Shartel Boulevard, has sold twenty-four shares of Marconi stock, which cost her $100 per share eight years ago, for $220 per share making her a snug little profit of more than one hundred percent.
“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good and the late horrible Titanic disaster was no exception to the rule. That accident which cast a gloom over the whole civilized world, also caused attention to be called to the workings of the wireless telegrapher, for had it not been for the distress call sent out by the Titanic’s hero of the wireless, many more would have found their graves in icebound waters with the magnificent ocean giant that is now only a sad memory.
“Just about that time the courts of England sustained the Marconi patents for wireless and it is expected that the United State courts will follow their example. As Marconi was the first with his invention, every other wireless company is infringing, to some extent or other, on his patent and the United Wireless even now is attempting to gain control of the Marconi company.”
Fannie Dubois was born in Belgium, immigrated to the United States at age 19 and moved to Oklahoma in 1909. The 1912 city directory lists her as proprietor of the Marquette Hotel.
In 1904, Mrs. Dubois bought 24 shares in the Marconi company. She held onto her shares even after the value dipped to about $28 a share and no dividends had been paid.
Little did she know that a Marconi wireless was installed on the Titanic and was responsible for sending the messages requesting help as the ship sank.
With the sinking of the Titanic and rumors that all ships would be required to install several wireless operators, Marconi stock suddenly became valuable.
Almost immediately, brokers began sending Mrs. Dubois telegrams with offers for her stock. She held out until the price reached $220 a share, and she sold for a total of $5,280. In today’s currency, the value of her shares would be about $13,200.
Not a bad return at all.