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Milestones: Tuesday, September 26, 2023

September 26, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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EARLY NATURALIST— JOHNNY APPLESEED, BORN ON SEPT. 26, 1774, as John Chapman, was an early conservationist and missionary. Born in Massachusetts, he went out west to the region around Ohio, Indiana and part of present-day West Virginia. He planted nurseries of apple trees — gaining the moniker Johnny Appleseed — and proved himself a capable businessman in purchasing much of the nursery land where he had planted the seeds. A friend to wild animals, Appleseed also gained the respect of the region’s native peoples, who regarded him as a great medicine man.

Appleseed later in life became a missionary, distributing literature on the New Church, a form of Swedenborgianism (named for Emanuel Swedenborg) that taught all people who remain constant and perform good deeds within their respective religion’s truths will get to heaven.


NOBLE PRIZE LAUREATE — NOTED POET, DRAMATIST AND EDITOR T.S. ELIOT, BORN ON SEPT. 26, 1888 AS THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT, became one of the 20TH century’s foremost poets, both in the United States and England. Born of a New England family who had settled in Missouri, T.S. Eliot was confirmed in the Church of England and became a British subject, both occurring in 1927. His first poem after his confirmation service was titled “Ash Wednesday,” and it marked an entirely different style from his earlier poetry. Among T.S. Eliot’s most notable works is “The Waste Land,” a poem about the disillusionment and despair of the period following World War I, and is structured as a series of vignettes. He was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

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T.S. Eliot’s plays, “The Family Reunion” and “Murder in the Cathedral,” are both in the Christian tragedy genre, dealing with themes of revenge and pride. “Murder in the Cathedral,” a modern miracle play on the assassination of Thomas Becket, utilizes the literary-dramatic device of a Greek chorus.


TV WAS GAME-CHANGER — THE VERY FIRST TELEVISED PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, took place on Sept. 26, 1960, and transformed elections by enabling more citizens to witness the interpersonal dynamic between candidates. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS network) broadcast the debate, with Howard K. Smith moderating, which brought in 70 million viewers and focused on domestic policy, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s website. Nixon, who was vice president at the time (in the Eisenhower administration) and Kennedy, a charismatic U.S. Senator, were both experienced debaters. However, Nixon’s recent hospitalization and his refusal to wear stage makeup made him hook sickly, a stark contrast to the youthful and wholesome-looking Kennedy, with the TV broadcast underscoring their appearances. Those who viewed the exchange on TV — including Nixon’s running mate Henry Cabot Lodge — deemed Kennedy to have won this first of four debates.

That experience soured Nixon on doing any more debates, and it wasn’t until Gerald R. Ford succeeded him as President that the campaign debates were revived.


CONTINUED VATICAN II REFORMS — POPE PAUL VI, BORN ON SEPT. 26, 1897 as Giovanni Battista Montini in Brescia, northern Italy, was the 262nd pope. Named as the archbishop of Milan 1954, he became known as the “archbishop of the workers,” for bringing back to Catholicism laborers who were alienated from the Church, and for helping a local church that had been severely damaged during World War II. Montini was one of the first cardinals whom Pope John XXIII elevated upon his becoming pontiff in 1958; the two worked together on planning the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) which would introduce reforms to the Church. When Pope John XXIII died in June 1963, Montini was elected the next pontiff in enclave. Taking the name Paul VI, the new pope continued his predecessor’s reforms, and began the practice of Apostolic Journeys, beginning to the Holy Land. He was Pope for 15 years and 2 months before his death on Aug. 6, 1978.

Pope Paul VI was canonized a saint in 2018 (by current Pope Francis) after a medically unexplainable miracle took place in the United States. An unborn child diagnosed with serious brain defects was born normal and healthy after his mother prayed to the late pontiff, after receiving a prayer card with his artifacts.


SHOWCASED BLENDED FAMILY — THE TV SITCOM “THE BRADY BUNCH” PREMIERED ON SEPT. 26, 1969, and focused on the blended family of a widower with three sons (who married Carol (Florence Henderson), the mother of three girls. They also had a housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis). The show focuses on sibling dynamics and solving school problems. The program stayed clear of the wider social issues of the time and focused instead on the importance of family and childhood. The show ran for five seasons and continues in syndication.

There was some discord as to whether Florence Henderson’s character, Carol, had been widowed (like that of husband Mike Brady (Robert Reed) or divorced; but the mystery was left unspoken.


BROADWAY’S “WEST SIDE STORY” — THE BROADWAY PRODUCTION OF WEST SIDE STORY HAD ITS PREMIERE on Sept. 26, 1957. Based on the Shakespearean tragedy Romeo & Juliet that takes place in 16th century Verona, but contemporized to New York City streets and a violent rivalry between two street gangs — one white-ethnic and the other Puerto Rican, who are fighting for the same turf and at the same time warding off the local police officers. The lyricist was Stephen Sondheim; the playwright was Arthur Laurents and the choreographer was Jerome Robbins. The Broadway production ran for 732 performances; the more famous movie released in 1961 won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

A new movie version of “West Side Story” premiered in 2021 — on the 60th anniversary of the first movie. This version was essentially an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway production, bringing the setting back to a Hispanic neighborhood that was being torn down and gentrified to make room for Lincoln Center. It also incorporates more Puerto Rican culture.

See previous milestones, here.

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