The Daily Agenda for Monday, May 27

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2013

Navy recruitment poster by JC Leyendecker, 1917

I remember, as a child, going to the cemetery of my hometown with my relatives — my parents, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great aunt — to decorate the graves of other family members. That’s what we called what we did: decorating the graves, for what my older relatives called “Decoration Day.” I always thought it odd that my older relatives called it that.

I also remember that before we got to our family’s grave sites, we passed, a circular drive near the cemetery’s main entrance. At the center of that drive stood a Civil War statue surrounded by the graves of Union soldiers who had died more than a hundred years before. It turns out that Decoration Day — and that is what it was called — began in the years immediately following the Civil War, as something of a spontaneous national observance in both the North and the South. After the Spanish-American War, Decoration Day became the day to honor all of those who gave their lives regardless of the war they fought in. It wasn’t until after World War II that the day became known as “Memorial Day,” and over time and then only slowly did that name replace “Decoration Day.” It wasn’t until 1967 that the day was officially declared Memorial Day by federal law.

As a Federal Holiday, Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who gave their lives for this country. It also marks the unofficial start of the summer season. Americans aren’t the only ones getting a start on summer today, as today is also the Spring Bank Holiday in the United Kingdom.

Pride Celebrations Today: Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Pensacola, FL.

Other Events Today: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

65 YEARS AGO: Homosexual Ring Broken Up: 1948. A veteran University of Missouri journalism professor was arrested and charged with sodomy as Prosecutor Howard B. Lang, Jr. described to reporters fantastical tales of “mad homosexual parties” in Columbia, Missouri. According to the Associated Press on the day of his arrest:

The prosecuting attorney said he had issued a warrant for the arrest of E.K. Johnston, for 24 years a member of the faculty of the university’s school of journalism, after a long investigation into abnormal sex orgies here and other central Missouri cities. Two other men were held in the Boone County jail on similar charges. They are Willie Coots, a gift shop employee here, and Warren W. Heathman, 35, Rolla, Mo., an itinerant instructor for the veteran administrations’s farm training program.

Lang said both had signed statements, implicating Johnston as a principal in what he called a homosexual “ring” at Johnston’s apartment which Coots had shared for the last 15 or 16 years. At least of score of University of Missouri students and other residents here, Lang said, also are implicated in the ring. No charges have been filed against any one except Coots, Heathman and Johnston, but several are being held in jail for investigation or as material witnesses.

Heathman, Lang reported, told a near-fantastic story of “mad parties” at Johnston’s apartment and at a cabin near Salem, Mo., in which as many as 30 members of the “ring” gathered to boast of conquests and to indulge in homosexual practices.

Johnston was fired the next day. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of sodomy, but after the other two testified against him, he changed his plea to guilty in exchange for four years’ probation under a $2,000 bond. Terms of the probation included “cessation of homosexual practices.” The others also pleaded guilty and were placed on probation.

20 YEARS AGO: Russia Decriminalizes Homosexuality: 1993. President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality on this date,. Since 2006, Moscow gay rights advocates have attempted to commemorate the anniversary of this historic event by conducting a gay pride march in Moscow. And every year, Moscow authorities have suppressed the march, usually violently. This year was no different, as police arrested at least thirty marchers in Moscow.

Chris Colfer: 1990. If you watch Fox’s “Glee,” you know him as Kurt Hummel, the fashionably gay kid who is routinely bullied in school. He had auditioned for the wheelchair-bound Artie Abrams, but the show’s creators were so impressed with Colfer that they created the role of Kurt especially for him. Colfer, who is gay himself, says that he was accepted by his family but often bullied in school. You can see Colfer’s video for the “It Gets Better” project here.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?


May 27th, 2013

My father died two years ago Saturday from black lung, the last time I went back to WV he took my son and I to all the family cementaries and told my son the family stories by pointing out the graves of different people. The week of memorial day he would go out and clean all of those cementaries. The connection was strong between the past and the present. Thanks for sharing.


May 27th, 2013

I have similar memories of the day from my childhood. Dad kept a huge bed of peonies and they would open at this time of year in Iowa. Every flower was cut and wrapped in wet newspaper and packed in the car along with a few pots of geraniums and off we went to the cemeteries. In some ways it seems a strange memory to retain from my childhood but as I near the end of life, it is oddly comforting even though I will never have a grave site to be decorated.


May 27th, 2013

I have the impression that any kind of meeting between gay men was seen as an orgy/sex party back then. Even if people just talked.


May 27th, 2013

I have a British WWI poster in our bedroom. It has an orange background and it says:

“Thumbs up!
Patron of the fund
Queen Alexandra
Wounded soldiers and sailors “FAG” day.
Tuesday, May 29th 1917″

A friend gave it to me because my birthday is on May 29th. (Actually JFK was born on May 29th, 1917.)

Of course the poster refers to a day when soldiers recovering from wounds, etc. were to be given free cigarettes.


May 27th, 2013

Here’s a picture of the poster from the Imperial War Museum, no less.

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2013

Great poster! I hope I remember to use it next year!

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