1836 Bret Harte was born.
1916 The National Park Service was established.
1918 Leonard Bernstein was born.
Today is the National Park Service’s birthday. In 1916, this department was established to protect tracts of our nation’s wilderness from development. The first National Park Service director was paid $4,500 a year. That says a lot about inflation. It also says a lot about the increased popularity of our national parks. These protected areas get more crowded each year, and the job of maintaining and protecting them gets more and more difficult. The wide open spaces just aren’t as wide or as open as they used to be. But we can all breath a little freer because of the job well done by this worthwhile governmental department.
One of America’s most famous composers and conductors was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on this day in 1918. At the age of twenty-five, Leonard Bernstein was already known as the famous symphony conductor who brought the New York Philharmonic to new glory. He was also an accomplished composer. His Jeremiah symphony brought him public acclaim. And, in his spare time, he wrote the scores for popular musicals like West Side Story and Candide. Bernstein moved with ease between these two facets of the music world, proving that the classicism spans all forms of music from symphonies to songs if placed in talented hands.
Some talented people rise and shine brighter as the years go by, while others rise like meteors and fall the same way. One of writing’s meteors was Bret Harte, who was born on this day in 1836, in Albany, New York. Harte wrote exciting and grubbily humorous accounts of Western life like “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat.” Within a decade, he burned himself out as an author, while friends and colleagues like Mark Twain kept shining, burning brighter with each new work. Bret Harte, however, described how his audience eventually felt when his star began to dim on the
Literary horizon when he wrote: . . he smiled a kind of sickly smile, and curled up on the floor, / And the subsequent proceedings interested him no more.”