Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wednesday Feb 6

Wilson laid to rest
May he rest in peace.

Attended meeting in evening
of S.N.Y. Zionist Central Comittee
Enjoyed speeches of Lipsky
& Dr. Thon


The New York Times archive has an article from February 7th, 1924 about the unusual measures taken to broadcast Woodrow Wilson's memorial services on the radio, which involved carrying the broadcast via land line from New York to Providence to ensure adequate East Coast coverage. In the cheerfully exploitative, gung-ho style peculiar to the period, it recounts "the heroic act" of an American Telephone and Telegraph Company lineman who stayed out in an ice storm to keep a tree from falling onto the line:

Williams was alone when he found the danger spot and he attached a rope to the tree, took several turns around a neighboring tree and swung on the rope with all his might. The damaged tree swayed wildly in the gale, despite the efforts of the lone lineman. Williams clung to the rope from 3:30 o'clock, when the company began broadcasting the services, until 5. When he knew that the broadcasting was over, Williams let go of the rope that held the tree. Robbed of its last support, the big tree fell across the line and snapped it. A rescue party then was sent out from Providence for the courageous lineman, who was benumbed by his long vigil.
I read this while trying to figure out how my grandfather stayed abreast of Wilson's funeral (it was broadcast on WEAF, which I know Papa listened to, so he probably tuned in at some point) and it's a good example of the odd little things I come across while working on this project. (By the way, did the rescue party really wait until after Williams let go of the tree to go out and find him? Why didn't they join him earlier and help him hold the rope? Is the venerable Times playing loose with the facts for the sake of a good yarn?)

The "Lipsky" and "Dr. Thon" Papa mentions are Louis Lipsky and Dr. Jacob Thon, two major Zionist figures who Papa had seen speak three weeks earlier. That had been a bittersweet day for Papa; it was his Hebrew birthday and he felt particularly homesick because he'd received a wedding photo of his niece from the old country. I've speculated that Papa might have been especially attached to Wilson and upset by his death, so if this were a novel I would interpret Thon and Lipsky as some sort of ominous chorus who only show up when Papa feels saddened by events he can't control. In reality, on a day when one of his heroes was laid to rest, it probably helped for him to see and hear two other men he admired, alive and well and in the flesh.

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