I’m sure you are aware by now that I really enjoy taking a particular date, and reading about what important things happened on that date earlier in history. Today is no exception, especially for one year in particular – I’ll get to that.
So, what’s the big deal about April 24? Well, over 3200 years ago, in 1184BC (that would have been almost 200 years before Jerusalem was established), the Greeks entered Troy with the Trojan Horse. Lots and lots of other wars, and popes and dictators came to power on this date through history – it must be something about Springtime. In 1800, however, The Library of Congress was established with a $5000 allocation. I’m sure someone also donated their collection of National Geographic at the same time. In 1888, Eastman Kodak was founded and for more than 100 years, they ruled photography. In 1913, the tallest building in the world at that time opened as the Woolworth Building in New York City. It was 792 feet (60 stories) tall. Today, the tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is 2,716 feet tall, or able to fit almost 3 ½ Woolworths in its height.
Just because it’s a cool name, in 1929, Thorvald Stauning was elected premiere of Denmark. He had a really cool beard, too. In 1954, 1955 and 1959, a number of television stations went on the air. In our neck of the woods, it was 1953 when WDAY went on the air here in Fargo.
In 1969, Paul McCartney told the world he wasn’t dead.
In 1990, the Hubble Telescope was launched – 31 years ago.
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI was inaugurated.
But the biggest thing about this date happened in 1898, when Spain declared war on the United States. The USS Maine had been blown up in Havana Harbor, leading an entire generation to call out, “Remember the Maine!” – which hardly anyone does anymore, which is also part of history. Anyway, the result of the war, which only lasted about four months, was that Spanish rule in the Americas was over, for the first time since Columbus landed.
What’s perhaps more important, however, was that a 15 year-old named Harry Serviss, born in late 1882, somehow weaseled his way into the Army, and fought with the US troops during what was one of the shortest wars in our history. The good news was, Harry survived his tour of duty, and then came home and in 1899, not quite 17 years old, he married a young woman named Winnifred Blanche Van Wie, who herself was only 16, and they were married until Harry’s death in 1970, almost 70 years. Of course, it didn’t hurt that their first child was born in January of 1900…
Harry and Winnie were my great-grandparents. They lived until I was 13, and I so I had a wonderful opportunity to get to know them as true grandparents. I only wish now, over 50 years later, that I would have had any presence at all to ask them questions about their lives growing up, to hear the stories of a couple who started even their adult lives in the 1800s. Unfortunately, that knowledge is gone forever, except for facts and dates in census rolls and marriage licenses.
Still, what can never go away is the fact that a kid, really, who loved his country, and was caught up in the drama and glory of a war was able to talk someone into letting him serve his country, even in Cuba. I have a yellowed picture of that 15 year-old, in uniform, certainly clean shaven because he probably hadn’t started shaving yet, with the three-button sleeves, knee high leather boots, a jaunty military hat with one side swept up, and what looks like his pistol on the floor behind him. This kid had calm, clear eyes, no smile, because it’s war and you don’t smile because you are pleased with yourself – and you don’t want anyone to ask whether a young smiling boy should even be in the army.
So, on this day, 123 years ago, nations put into place actions that must have changed my great-grandfather’s life, and life beyond that. When we are able to identify the stories and the tales of our ancestors, it doesn’t change anything, but I believe it changes us, at least a little, as we become more centered into a time we will never know.
I hope this is a good day for you – not necessarily life-changing, but at least one that would be worth remembering. Take a picture.
Word for the day: epoch. Pronounced EE-pock. It’s a word you probably are acquainted with, but often we don’t recognize it until it has already become history. From Greek, epi, meaning “on,” and ekhein, meaning “to hold,” it sounds like something you hold on to, right? Well, an epoch is a fixed point in time, where you can identify a particular period, or stretch of time that is significant and creates history of sorts. Like the Spanish-American War, for instance – a life changer and a moment in time. Right now, although we don’t really like to identify it, we are engaged in the CoVid-19 epoch – an historical moment that really has changed not only our lives, but the world as a whole. We will find in later years, the definition of time and history in terms of what happened before, and what happened after this “epoch” found its way into our lives.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.