Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20: A Red Letter Day!

For many, the date of July 20 recollects the Apollo 11 moon landing, which took place in 1969. Neil Armstrong's famous "small steps for a man, a giant leap for mankind" occurred six hours later, on the 21st according to Greenwich Mean Time. I remember staying up late for the landing, but it must have been the moonwalk, which in the Eastern United States would have taken place between 10 and 11 pm. I was seven-and-a-half.

Personally speaking, the bigger significance of July 20 dates to 1932, which is my mother's birthday. She turned 79 today, and remains a vital, even formidable presence in an understated way.

Above, her wedding day in 1953. She still looks like this, if a little gray; the smile is just the same. Ideally, I'd show a picture from earlier in her life. I sorely wish I had a copy of a particular photograph taken when she was a girl. It reveals her to be the cutest little girl in the history of little girls. She's standing with her dad Cy, mom Olive and sister Judy on the docks in Fort Lauderdale (or Boca Raton, I can't remember) with a giant fish. The old man is grinning over the catch, Olive is stylishly deflecting, and smiling Joyce Carol Bevan is an electric little thing.

In the absence of that photograph, here's a differently notable image (and an index of how topsy-turvy things were in 1932): the March issue of Fortune with a cover illustration by Diego Rivera, of Red Square no less! I got this cover in an antique store in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. (Based on the prices I've seen online, I did well.) In the brittle politics of today, this is utterly unimaginable.

Here's hoping that her day has been out of this world. Happy birthday, Mom! Keep exploring!

Images: Moon Explorer, tin toy by Yonezawa, 1960s; and Capsule 6, tin toy by Masudaya, 1960s; both photographs by Yukio Shimizu, reproduced in Robots, Spaceships and Other Tin Toys, Taschen, 2006 (first edition 1996).

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