Grin and Bear It

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It’s fixed format so it’s better with a tablet, laptop, or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog here.

Grin and Bear It

“On Whit-Tuesday, 1786, there was celebrated at Hendon, Middlesex, a burlesque imitation of the Olympic games. One prize was a gold-laced hat, to be grinned for by six candidates, who were placed on a platform, with horse collars to exhibit through. Over their heads was printed:

Detur Tetriori;
or
The ugliest grinner
Shall be the winner

Each party grinned separately for three minutes, and then all united in one grand exhibition of facial contortion. An objection was lodged against the winner on the ground that he had rinsed his mouth with vinegar.”
— All the Year Round, Charles Dicken’s weekly, 1888.

Grinning matches, making grotesque faces for a prize standing on a table with your head through a horse collar, had been going on for more than a hundred years before this account.

Image

A mocking essay by Joseph Addison in his paper The Spectator September 18, 1711 notes an advertisement in The Post-Boy for an event on October 9 featuring a horse race for a prize of a plate worth 6 guineas, a lesser value plate for a race of asses, and “’a gold ring to be grinn’d for by men’” Continue reading

In Flanders Fields

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Inktera for $9.99.  Also from Tolino in Germany. It’s fixed format so it’s better with a tablet, laptop, or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog here.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. — In Flanders Fields

This haunting poem was written by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McRae in 1915 after the funeral of a friend who died in battle and became the elegy for that terrible war.

Moina Michael, a professor at the University of Georgia, on leave during the war to work for the YWCA was inspired by McRae’s poem. After the war, when teaching a class of disabled servicemen, she came up with the idea of selling silk poppies to raise funds for veterans. Due to her efforts, the red poppy is now the iconic symbol for Veterans Day.

But the Flanders poppy at the time was considered a weed. Continue reading

Izzy and Moe

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Inktera for $9.99.  Also from Tolino in Germany. It’s fixed format so it’s better  with a tablet, laptop, or computer.

Izzy and Moe

After the 18th amendment went into effect at 12:01 A.M. January 17th, 1920, 16,000 saloons in New York City went out of business and were replaced by anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasies. With only 1500 agents in the whole country, a woefully understaffed Bureau of Prohibition was tasked with enforcing the unenforceable. But Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith, prohibition agents extraordinaire, made a comic opera and highly successful attempt.

“Dere’s sad news here. You’re under arrest.” Those were the words used by Izzy and Moe when they pinched violators of the Volstead Act. The sad news was heard by 4932 people between 1920 and 1925, with an extraordinary 95% conviction rate.

Isador Einstein was born in Tarnow, Poland, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, circa 1880 and emigrated to New York in 1901. The 1920 census shows him as a mail sorter for the Post Office. He applied for a job as a prohibition agent in 1920. Five foot five and 225 pounds he didn’t look the part but he convinced James Shevlin, head of the southern New York Bureau that he could blend in. He was fluent in Yiddish, Polish, German, and Hungarian, and could get by in French, Russian, and Italian. He could play the violin and trombone, too. Continue reading