Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Grandma G!

Yes, ye socks, it was on this date back in 1919, that a baby girl was born into a large Irish Catholic family in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Hard to believe that was 90 years ago today!

The world has changed an awful lot since then. And, yet, a lot of things were the same as they are today.

When my grandmother was born, an over-reaching Congress ushered in a disastrous new era of Prohibition.

And, the Nobel Peace Prize was foolishly awarded to the Democrat who was then occupying the White House.

To be sure, Woodrow Wilson was a more deserving recipient than the current occupant. At least he had forced thru the Treaty of Versailles.

I mention those two particular historical tidbits in the context of this birthday remembrance, because they both would have significant influence on the life of that baby born 90 years ago.

First of all, her father Tom Norton was good friends with a fellow named Joe Tumulty who just happened to be the private secretary (chief of staff) to President Wilson. Tom also began a very successful rum-running business the year his youngest daughter was born, the success doubtless due to his political connections. All of the fond memories she would have of making frequent trips to Manasquan on the Jersey Shore were actually designed to camouflage her father's illicit operation.

And, secondly, the well-intentioned but poorly-crafted Treaty of Versailles would eventually spark the Second World War--the seminal event of my grandmother's generation.

But, I doubt the Nortons of Jersey City were considering the impact of history on their lives on that cold winter day ninety years ago. I'm sure they were just excited about welcoming a new member to the family in time for the busy Christmas season.

Just for kicks and giggles, a list of other folks who were also born in 1919: writer J.D. Salinger; 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney; baseball legend Jackie Robinson; musicians Tennessee Ernie Ford and Nat King Cole; actor Jack Palance; Argentine first lady Evita Peron; mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary; and reformed segregationist George Wallace. Interesting generation, no?!

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