Today is the 328th birthday of one of the greatest musicians of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was a composer of some of the sublimest music of all time as well as an organist, harpsichordist, violist and violinist. His music has the power the enthrall the listener. Eric Siblin, music critic of the Montreal Gazette, attended a recital of Bach’s Cello Suites and fell in love with this music. He wrote a book about the search for this piece of music: The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece.
William Francis Gibbs (1886-1967) was a naval designer who was widely considered the foremost naval architect in the United States. Gibbs and his brother Francis started their own firm which was called Gibbs and Cox in 1929. During World War Two they designed 63% of all merchant ships over 2,000 tons as well as 73% of all American naval vessels. But the crowning achievement of Gibbs’ career was the design of the SS United States. During her maiden voyage in 1952 she captured the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic averaging 35.59 knots. She remained in service from 1952 until 1969 and completed 400 problem-free voyages. Gibbs indeed was a designer of genius.
Before the British A Night to Remember and the James Cameron blockbuster Titanic there was a German version of the story which was made by the Nazis during World War Two. Joseph Goebbels, mastermind of propaganda, hand-picked the director, Herbert Selpin, and gave him a staggeringly large budget to make the movie. Selpin in turn picked the screenwriter (who was also his best friend), a man named Walter Zerlett-Olfenius. The two men eventually clashed and Selpin made the fatal mistake of disparaging the German naval personnel who were helping out on the film. Olfenius reported his remarks to the Gestapo and Selpin was arrested and died while in custody. Another victim of the Titanic!
Lake Kenosia Amusement Park was largely the work of a visionary named Leo Leisseur. He came to Danbury in 1895 and wanted to make Lake Kenosia into Danbury’s “Coney Island.” To a large degree he was successful in his efforts. He partnered with the Danbury Trolley Co. and the Park opened officially on Memorial Day in 1895. The Park also included a theatre where the Danbury populace could view a play, concert or dance contest for a 25 cent ticket. There was also the Victorian Kenmere Hotel. Sadly Leisseur passed away in 1918 and the Park did not fare as well without his leadership.
It is with great sorrow that we note the passing of local author Jennings Michael Burch. He passed away on January 15, 2013 at the age of 71. He was the author of They Cage the Animals at Night. This was his harrowing account of his five year stint in foster homes. But he rose above his troubled start in life and worked as a taxi driver as well as a New York City Policeman. He was a regular visitor to schools and drove home his message to students: “Please Don’t Hurt Me!”