. . . and Happy New Year

My guess is that there's a good chance that your living room looked a lot like this earlier today, or maybe it still does.

This shot of Macy's Department Store in New York shows the aftermath of the Christmas rush. The photo was made by Nina Leen for Life in 1948.

I'm glad 2009 is almost over. Here's hoping that 2010 is a better year. And I do hope people will start calling it "Twenty-Ten" instead of "Two Thousand Ten."

Happpy New Year.


Merry Christmas

This video animation by Joshua Held of The Drifters' version of "White Christmas" has been making the rounds on the Net for several years now, but I never get tired of it. In my opinion, The Drifters' arrangement is the best version of this classic ever recorded.

The Drifters recorded their version in 1954, shortly after tenor Clyde McPhatter left The Dominoes and joined the group. McPhatter sang lead on most of the Drifters' recordings, but for "White Christmas" bass singer Bill Pinkney took the lead.

It was an inspired move. Pinkney's resonant bass does wonderful things with Irving Berlin's lyrics that Bing Crosby couldn't touch. And Clyde McPhatter adds his soaring tenor in a brief solo.

The backup vocals are provided by Jimmy Oliver, Gerhart Thrasher and Andrew Thrasher.


'Twas the Season, Part 12

In 1916, the U.S. Congress passed the first federal child labor laws in the U.S. But the Keating-Owen Act applied only to kids 16 or younger working in mines and factories. The law was aggressively opposed by textile mill owners in the South, however, and it was overturned by the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote in 1918.

It would be 20 years before another effort was made to regulate the labor of children. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 included restrictions on child labor that withstood a legal challenge in 1941.

This Christmas drawing makes a statement about child labor nearly a century ago. The drawing is from the December 1916 issue of Harper's magazine. The artist's name is Calvert, but I could not dig up his or her full name.


'Twas the Season, Part 11

Christmas 1861 was clouded by the war that had erupted eight months earlier at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. What caused the American Civil War – slavery, state’s rights, an inevitable clash of incompatible economic systems – is still being debated today. But before it ended in 1865, more than 620,000 American soldiers would die.

When the January 4, 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly was sent out to 120,000 subscribers, few Americans realized how prolonged, grim and bloody the conflict would become. Harper’s editors certainly didn’t have a clue. “A Happy New Year!” they wrote in that issue. “It can hardly fail to be that. The tempest upon our Southern horizon is already wasting itself away.”

This engraving by Winslow Homer was on the cover of Harper’s January 4 issue. It shows Union troops happily opening a crate of Christmas presents. Socks, food, books and booze are being handed out to the delighted soldiers.


'Twas the Season, Part 10

A junior executive makes merry with the secretaries at this office Christmas party in New York in 1948. If you look closely, you'll see that there are no wedding bands on anyone's fingers, so you have to wonder if he eventually steered one of them to the mistletoe.

Note the guy's tie. The 1940s were a classic era for men's ties. Hand-painted silk neckties were the style, and flamboyance was the norm. This guy's tie, with its geometric design, was the height of fashion for the day.

The photo was shot by Cornell Capa for Life magazine.


'Twas the Season, Part 9

December 1951. U.S. troops were mired in a politically unpopular war on foreign soil. Among the American casualties was Marine Corporal Richard E. deVilliers. He'd worked for Bell Telephone before being shipped off to Korea, where he was killed in action.

As a memorial to their former co-worker, a group of Bell employees in San Francisco sent Christmas packages to every member of deVilliers's unit. The grateful Marines found a South Korean tailor to create a Santa costume, turned a jeep trailer into an impromptu wheeled "sleigh," and celebrated Christmas far from home.

The above drawing depicting the Christmas 1951 celebration is from a Bell Telephone ad that was published in the December 1952 issue of Harper's magazine. If there's an artist's signature on the drawing, I couldn't find it.


'Twas the Season, Part 8

This is downtown Spencer, Iowa in 1936, in the middle of the Great Depression.

Times were very bad, but Spencer still managed, in a very modest way, to observe the Christmas season. How? You have to look closely for the town's seasonal decorations. There's a single strand of lights strung between streetlamps, and another strand from the roof of the Spencer Daily Reporter across the intersection to, presumably, another building on the other side of Main Street.

Click on the picture to enlarge it and get a better look at the lights.

The photo is from the website "Papa Ted's Place," http://www.papatedsplace.com/, and was posted by Ted Althof Jr. There's no information about who shot the photo.


'Twas the Season, Part 7

This photo of an anonymous young girl standing stiffly beside her family's Christmas tree is from the early 1930s. Things were much more formal back then. Getting your picture made was an Event and not an everyday casual occurrence.

The photo is from the website "Papa Ted's Place," http://www.papatedsplace.com/ and was posted by Ted Althof Jr. There's no info about who the girl is, or who shot the photo.


'Twas the Season, Part 6

There's not a lot of info about this photo in the Life magazine online archive. It's titled "Shantyman's Christmas," and it was part of a series of photos shot for Life by George Silk in 1953.

A shantyman is a sailor who leads the crew in sing-alongs. The word is derived from the French word "chanter," which means "to sing."

There's no info about where Silk shot this photo. I'm guessing maybe New England. What is clear, however, is that the captain and his crew or family are decorating his small craft for Christmas.


'Twas the Season, Part 5

The previous photo in this series showed Santa Claus with a problem: A scared little kid who clearly wasn't happy about sitting on Santa's lap. That's a serious problem for someone whose job is spreading the joy of the season.

But it looks like this Santa was up to the job. There's no record of what he said or did to calm the kid's fears, but whatever it was, it was exactly the right thing. The kid's faith in Saint Nick has been restored.

The photo was shot by Frank Scherschel for Life magazine in 1946.


'Twas the Season, Part 4

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as Santaphobia. And it looks like this kid might be a victim of the irrational fear of Santa Claus.

Some kids are really scared of Jolly Old Saint Nicolas. For starters, he’s a lot bigger than a little kid. And after all, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good.”

Yikes. And if that’s not enough to induce some deep-seated adult neuroses, there's also the fact that you can’t keep him out of your house.

Frank Scherschel shot this photo for Life magazine in 1946. It looks like this Santa had a public relations problem to deal with -- a little kid who did not like being picked up by a big hairy guy who knew his every thought and action and could come into his house at will.

How did he handle it? Check back tomorrow.


'Twas the Season, Part 3

This photo could be subtitled "The Creepy Side of Christmas." It shows an infamous and immediately recognizable dictator at his 1941 Christmas party, when he was approaching the peak of his power.

The photo was shot by Hugo Jaeger for Life magazine.

I'm posting old Christmas photos from the Web. Stay tuned for more.


'Twas the Season, Part 2

Here's a followup to yesterday's photo of the Santa seminar at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. This Santa is taking the seminar's final exam. Looks like he's working on an essay question.

The photo was made by Martha Holmes for Life magazine in 1948.

I'll be posting old Christmas photos as I come across them on the Web during the next few days.


2009 hurricane season was quiet, but 2010 season may be more active

The 2009 hurricane season, which ended yesterday, was very quiet thanks to an El Niño that created storm-suppressing wind shear over much of the Atlantic Basin. The Atlantic season produced nine named storms, three hurricanes, and two major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.

An El Niño is a weather phenomenon produced by unusually warm waters off the northwest coast of South America. The event causes prevailing upper level winds – known as the jet stream – to shift southward over the Atlantic. The winds disrupt hurricane formation.

But meteorologists think next summer could be more active than this year because the El Niño effect probably is going to dissipate before next spring. And while the El Niño kept the lid on the Atlantic season, it was a major factor in a very active hurricane season in the Pacific. The central and eastern Pacific saw 20 named storms, including powerful Hurricane Rick, the second-most-powerful hurricane on record for the Pacific.

Meteorologists at Colorado State University also noted a few other characteristics of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, including:

• A late-starting season. Tropical Storm Ana – the season’s first named storm – did not form until August 15. That’s the latest that the first storm formed since 1992. That year’s first storm was memorable, however, because it was Hurricane Andrew.

• The nine named storms that occurred during 2009 are the fewest since 1997 when eight named storms formed.

• There were 27.25 days during which a named storm was active. That’s the lowest number since 1991, when only 24.25 named storm days were recorded.

• Three hurricanes occurred in 2009 - the fewest hurricanes since 1997 when there were also three hurricanes.

• There were only 11.25 days during which a hurricane was active, the fewest hurricane days since 2002 when 10.75 hurricane days were reported.

• Only two major hurricanes formed during the 2009 hurricane season. The last time that fewer than two major hurricanes occurred in a season was in 1997 when only one major hurricane (Erika) formed.

• No Category 5 hurricanes developed in the Atlantic in 2009. This is the second consecutive year with no Category 5 hurricanes. The last time that two or more years occurred in a row with no Category 5 hurricanes was 1999-2002.

• No named storms formed in June or July. The last time that no storm activity occurred in June or July was 2004 (Alex formed that year on August 1). This is the 18th year of the past 66 years with no storm formations in June or July.