Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Main Street in the Morning

For those of you who are morning people, the best place to be at in Walt Disney World is Main Street USA located in the Magic Kingdom.  There, you will enjoy some outstanding entertainment like the famous Dapper Dans, the Main Street Trolley show and other performances.  They are meant to slow people down instead of rushing to their favorite rides.  So, let me tell you a little about these acts that you don't want to miss the next time you are on Main Street USA in the Morning. 

The most famous barbershop quartet of all time that performs on a daily basis is the Dapper Dans. They made their debut when Walt Disney World opened in 1971. There are approximately eighteen singers and four at a time perform nine sets per day, seven days a week up and down Main Street USA to the smiles of many guests. Sometimes they sing Happy Birthday to guests that are celebrating their birthdays (of course when other members of their party tip off the quartet) and even allow guests to sing along with them.

When they sing, the Dapper Dans just do not stand still and sing but sometimes they tap dance, waive their arms, or play the Deagan Organ Chimes (made by the J.C. Deagan Company in Chicago, IL circa 1901) all choreographed to the song they are singing. The music library consists of over 100 songs that include 19th century American folk songs, turn-of-the century barbershop classics, ragtime, jazz, swing tunes, modern pieces from musical theatre and Disney animated films. The two most popular songs the guests enjoy listening to are "Mr. Sandman" written in 1954 by Pat Ballard and also "My Irish Rose" based off a musical from 1947.

What would a typical Main Street look like without a horse trolley? Not much. At Main Street USA there is more than a horse trolley clanging away but also part of a lively performance called The Main Street Trolley Show. It debuted on December 1, 2004 with twelve performers; six men and six women that dance and lip sings to an upbeat song entitled “Walkin' Right Down the Middle of Main Street, U.S.A." written by Stu Nunnery in 1978.  In 1980, Disneyland purchased it for the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration.  Decked out in red, white and blue, they start at the hub (the center of the Magic Kingdom) and perform three acts around the horse trolley finishing up at the front of the Walt Disney Railroad Station.  If you have watched it many times, like I have, then sometimes the song becomes an ear worm and occasionally might be humming it the rest of the day at the Magic Kingdom. So, next time that you are on Main Street in the Morning join they "right down the middle of Main Street USA" and you will not be disappointed.

How many of you either play the saxophone or have a desire to take it up? This next group of performers on Main Street in the Morning is right up your alley, the Toon Town Tuners.  Dressed up in matching overalls and hats with Mickey Mouse's face on the back, these five men each playing an alto, a soprano, a baritone, a tenor, and a bass saxophone entertain guests with a variety of Disney music like the "Jungle Book Medley." They sure put you "in the mood" (one of the songs they play) as you start your day at the Magic Kingdom.  Sometimes the Dapper Dans join in the fun with the saxophone quintet as they sing some Disney favorites.  So, the next time you hear a bunch of saxophones blaring on Main Street USA take the time to listen and who knows, you might get inspired to take up the instrument. 

You can see why Main Street in the morning is a special time of day in the Magic Kingdom.  Rather than rushing toward your favorite rides enjoy these great performances by the many talented men and women.  These acts may look easy to perform but they are not; just imagine wearing costumes that are made of wool dancing, playing an instrument or singing in front of thousands of people especially during the hot summer months.  For all of you early birds at Walt Disney World, get on over to the Magic Kingdom, grab some delicious baked goods at The Bakery and enjoy these spectacular performances on good old Main Street USA. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Who is Jim the Piano Man at Walt Disney World?

After my recent trip to Walt Disney World, it inspired me to resurrect my Dapper Dan Daily blog named after the famous barber shop quartet at the Magic Kingdom. One of our family traditions used to be on the first day of the trip. After checking into the resort we headed down to the Magic Kingdom and bought hot dogs and sodas at Casey's Corners at the end of Main Street USA. After finding a table, we were treated by a very talented pianist named Jim.  Who is this Jim that some people think that looks like me?

Jim, (I don't know his last name) came from Orange, CA and right after high school took some piano lessons and began his career playing in various pizza parlors and also at Disneyland. In 1983 he came over from CA and started playing this beautiful ragtime piano on Main Street USA that represents turn-of-the century small town America.  He plays a variety of Disney music, old ragtime pieces (my favorite, The Entertainer), and university fight songs. Each time I visit the Magic Kingdom on the first day of my trip, I tell Jim that I am from Wisconsin and could he play On Wisconsin. With a smile on his face, he gladly plays it well that the UW-Marching Band would fear his musical talent.

So, next time you return to WDW or the first visit ever, make sure you watch Jim playing the piano at the Magic Kingdom.  You will be amazed how fast he plays it and he does not use any sheet music; he memorized all of the notes and occasionally he let's guests hit the last note with some assistance by him of course.  I hope that Jim continues to play the ragtime piano as long as possible to provide smiles to the millions of guests that walk down Main Street USA. You will not be disappointed.

Here is a link to watch him play the piano.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day

Today marks the 92nd anniversary of Armistice Day formerly known to many as Veterans Day.  The origins date back to November 11, 1918 when the Allies and Germany signed a temporary peace treaty at Compiegne, France during World War I (the final  peace treaty was signed in 1919 at Versailles).  It took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month but some pockets of hostility persisted in parts of Russia and the Ottoman Empire. 

On November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, "To us in America, the reflections of armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." All businesses that day were required to close and observe two minutes of silence.  

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, several States made Armistice Day a legal holiday.  On May 13, 1938, Congress passed legislation declaring the day as a federal holiday.  After World War II and the Korean Conflict, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation on June 4, 1954 that formally changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor those vets from the recent wars. 

Unfortunately, many citizens often times forget about this day, except when they check their mailboxes and find no mail.  However, for our living veterans, they make an effort to remember this holiday by hosting various parades throughout the nation's cities, including here in Milwaukee that held its parade on November 6.  So, what makes this day different from Memorial Day? On that day, we remember those veterans who were killed in the defense of the country but today, we give thanks to both the living and deceased vets.  Finally, let us take the time, today, to thank our Veterans for their brave services in defense of our freedoms.  


Friday, November 5, 2010

Why is the electorate divided?

We just completed the 2010 Election Cycle and one of the questions I have pondered for the last couple of years was what divided the electorate? There are countless answers to that question but one of the biggest reasons might be how the media became innovative in providing political news to the American people.  About 40 years ago, Americans only received it from the Big Three Networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) along with their local newspapers.  That changed as the Internet exploded with political blogs, online news websites, the emergence of cable news channels, and the popularity of talk radio. 

Over the course of the last ten years, the 5:30 network news and newspapers started to decline when it came to delivering political news to the American public. Beginning with the 2000 Election Cycle, saw the growth of countless political blogs published by both professionals and amateurs.  They both took the conservative or the liberal side when discussing political issues and allowed the average citizen to post their comments that often times sparked further debate.

Today, most of us receive political news through the Internet or the cable news channels of our choice.  If you are conservative, then you tune into Fox News. If you are liberal, you tune into MSNBC and in between then CNN would be your choice.  Instead of quick hits like the Big Three Networks of years past, these news outlets provide in-depth coverage along with their opinions on the current hot button political issues that draw large audiences on any given day. Finally, do not forget about AM radio. Originally, it started out with entertainment programs that replaced Vaudeville and then started to play music with news coming only at the top of the hour. When FM took over the music, AM replaced it with conservative talk radio that continues today.  It provides in-depth coverage of the hot button issues and allow audience members to have direct participation. 

As you can see, the media became more sophisticated over the years that spark the great electoral divide in our nation.  No longer do we see the media just giving the “who, what, where, when and why's” of the news but also their opinions as well.  The way Americans get their news depends solely on their political perspective.  Finally, the best way to become a well-balanced and informed citizen is to receive political news from various sources that contain different opinions and then you can form your own conclusions. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

D-Day, Sixty-Six Years Later

June 6, 2010 marked the 66th anniversary of the Allied invasion, code name Operation Overlord, that started the end of World War II. Although this year’s anniversary did not have any significant remembrances, but each year on this date, it is important to remember those who gave their lives on the Beaches of Normandy that brought freedom to Europe. This post will tell a brief history of the D-Day invasion that took place on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 and how it led to the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Also, how the invasion is remembered historically through museums, movies and books.

At the beginning of World War II, before the United States entered, France fell quickly to the Nazis early in the conflict. In addition, the Soviet Union faced a fierce battle with Germany on their border and for the next couple of years, kept pressuring the U.S. and Great Britain to open a second front to alleviate pressure from the German forces. After years of debate, the Allies agreed the summer of 1944 was the best time to launch a massive invasion of Western Europe. The invasion was scheduled to start June 4 but constant weather problems delayed the operation and finally it began in the early hours of June 6. That morning, paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division landed behind enemy lines in France. It started out poorly as they over shot their landing zones, got stuck on rooftops of buildings, crashed into residential homes, and instantly killed by the Germans. Days leading up to the invasion, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower even acknowledged that he would take full responsibility if it failed. That changed as U.S. and British forces slammed into the Beaches of Normandy at dawn.

The Allies assembled the invasion in Great Britain with tremendous amounts of men and supplies, including hundreds of ships and thousands of landing crafts. Before they set out on the fateful, ninety mile mission across the English Channel, President Franklin Roosevelt urged Americans to pray for the safety and success of the troops. When the mother ships reached a couple of miles off the shores of France, the soldiers boarded the landing crafts that would take them as close as possible to the beaches. Nerves ran through the men along with uncontrollable shaking and some even coughed up their breakfast . When the doors flapped down, instant death struck the first wave as the Germans opened fire on top of the ten to twenty foot high cliffs. Their forces anticipated for the last couple of years that the Allies would open a separate front and prepared extensively by placing land mines, machine guns, and obstacles up and down the beaches and cliffs. When the first Allied wave became ineffective, they still pressed on with wave after wave to crack the German line. Then, by late morning to early afternoon, United States and Great Britain finally broke it and either captured or killed thousands of German soldiers.

The invasion worked and changed the course of World War II as France was liberated. In the following year, Allies marched towards Berlin engaging the German Army in battle after battle until it surrendered unconditionally in May of 1945. The D-Day invasion cost over 100,000 lives of the Allied forces. The historical importance of the invasion proved how it initated the beginning of the end of World War II and if it failed, Europe would have suffered severely for the next couple of years.

Historical memory has not strayed from remembering this significant event in history. In the 1960s, the film, The Longest Day, was the first movie that showed the story of the invasion. On the 40th anniversary, President Ronald Regean gave a resounding speech about the invasion and how it changed the course of history. He believed that the Allies where not conquerors but liberators that provided freedom to Europe. The late military historian, Stephen Ambrose, wrote a bestseller of the D-Day Invasion and founded the national D-Day Museum located in New Orleans. The film maker, Steven Spielberg, produced two movies that included the invasion, Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers which showed the 101st Airborne's role at Normandy and the rest of the War. I hope everybody takes the time every June 6 to remember the allies who gave their lives in the most important invasion in the twentieth-century that brought freedom to millions of Europeans after they were denied it for the last painful six years.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kent State, Forty Years Later

Several years ago, on the way to Washington, D.C. with my brother, I noticed an exit sign pointing to Kent State University. I told my brother to pull off because of the historical significance of that University and explained to him that back in May of 1970 National Guard troops killed four students and wounded nine during an anti-war rally. We drove around the campus to look for any memorials about that fateful day and found a small stone plaque with the names of the deceased under a tree. After we finished touring Kent, the idea of a massacre that occurred in this small Ohio town struck both of us as we continued our road trip. Today, May 4, 2010, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Kent State Massacre and in this post I will provide a brief history of that infamous day.

On April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon shifted course in the long Vietnam War ordering American troops to be stationed in neutral Cambodia to conduct attacks against Vietcong sanctuaries. This policy sparked new protests from the anti-war forces especially in the tiny small Ohio city, Kent. The next day, students staged a peaceful protest on campus but that evening protesters displayed civil disobedience inthe city's downtown which prompted Ohio Governor James Rhodes to call out the National Guard to restore order. On May 2, arsonists burned down the ROTC building on the campus of Kent State University and the following day, authorities decided to ban a noon rally planned for Monday, May 4.

About two thousand students showed up to the banned rally that Monday afternoon anyway and first the guardsmen used tear gas to disperse the crowd. For un-explained reasons, after that unsuccessful method, they fired about sixty shots into the crowed which killed four students, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Allison B. Krause, William K. Schroeder, and Sandra Lee Scheuer and wounded nine others. In a statement, Nixon said, “This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty, and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strongly against the resort of violence as a means of such expression” feeling terribly of what took place at Kent. (quoted from the NYT article dated May 5, 1970). Sylvester Delcorso, one of the Generals of the Ohio National Guard, defended the guardsmen said “that the guardsmen had been force to shoot after a sniper opened fire against the troops from a nearby rooftop” (Ibid) but the students denied there was a sniper.

The shootings sparked a national outrage and Nixon appointed an investigative commission that found the shootings to be “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” In 1979, the victims’ families filed a lawsuit against twenty-eight members of the Ohio National Guard and Governor Rhodes. The suit settled and the families received $675,000, collectively. Also, both the National Guard and the Governor accepted responsibility for the deaths and injuries that occurred. Marking the fortieth anniversary, Elaine Holstein, the mother of one the students (Jeffery Miller) killed in the massacre wrote her reflections (in the hard copy edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 4, 2010) on the events and speculates what kind of person he would become if he did not die an unjust death.

History showed that the guardsmen overreacted when they killed these students for exercising their freedom of speech rights cherished under the Constitution. The appropriateness of the National Guard and the Governor to show remorse by taking full responsibility displayed professionalism. Also, let us never forget the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam defending our freedoms, one of them the right to dissent government policy. Finally, if you travel to Washington, D.C. be sure to visit Kent State University on the way and say a pray for the victims of the massacre.

Here is the picture of John Filo's Pulizer Prize Winning Photo of a student grieving one of the dead students.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Waukesha Water War Revisited

For the last couple of years, the City of Waukesha is attempting to find new sources of fresh drinking water to comply with the federal standards of radium since its existing wells contain high levels of the potential cancer-causing element. The plan is to pipe water from Lake Michigan. In order to do so, it needs permission under the Great Lakes Compact where each of the eight states bordering the lakes have to approve Waukesha's plans since it straddles outside the Lake Michigan drainage basin. Before radium entered the Waukesha water system, shortly after the Civil War, the city entered the famous era of its young existence, the Springs Era (1868-1914), known nationally for its clean spring water that had miraculous effects.

The Springs Era of Waukesha started with an Irish immigrant who reluctantly travelled with his wife to the city to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law, Bridget Clarke, in August 1868. Colonel Richard Dunbar, who suffered from incurable diabetes, travelled one hot summer day with his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Clarke, to some real estate she recently purchased. Noticing some springs on her property, he took a tumbler and drank a couple rounds of spring water. Suddenly, he felt "a most grateful and refreshing sensation" as the water travelled throughout his body and declared "the most delicious, the most grateful beverage that entered my mouth in years." Did the water have any effect on his diabetes?

After he drank from the spring and surprisingly refreshed, Dunbar walked without discomfort to a nearby oak tree and thirty minutes later, drank another six tumblers of water. He sense that there was some sort of magic element in the spring water and perhaps help cured his diabetes. Dunbar returned to the East Coast and his diabetes relapsed so he returned to Waukesha to drink more of the water. Finally, he decided to move his family to the city in order to be close to the springs.

Initially, people were skeptical about Dunbar's claim that the spring water actually cured his diabetes. However, the Waukesha Freeman worked eagerly "to transform Dunbar's discovery into an event of mythic proportions." (David McDaniel, Spring City and the Water War of 1892).For the next twenty years, hundreds and then thousands of people, including the former President Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary, visited the springs and filled jugs of spring water. In addition, the city experienced a boom in population, the rise in new hotels and industries and turned this once quiet village west of Milwaukee into a thriving resort town. Then in 1891, a Chicago entrepreneur named James E. McElroy travelled to Waukesha and tried to win approval from the Village Board to lay pipes towards the site of the upcoming 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

McElroy arrived at Waukesha in July of 1891 as supposedly the "manager" of the Hygeia Mineral Springs Company that would be in charge of the project. The Waukesha Village Board granted approval to lay pipes from one of its springs to the site of the Expo. When news reached the Village, the citizens became outrage and the Board reconsidered his pipeline. With the first unsuccessful attempt, he then proceeded to buy Hygeia Spring and its hotel in September 1891 for $30,000. In another hearing about the project that took place on February 3, 1892, citizens flocked the meeting room with fierce opposition. Knowing that he will not get permission from the Board, McElroy's team secretly arrived by train late on May 7 and suddenly they were greeted by the locals. Fire bells began to toll and hundreds of citizens grabbed any weapons they could and threaten the workers, which abruptly boarded a train back to Chicago. Finally, despite many setbacks, James McElroy was able to sell spring water from Waukesha County at the World's Fair by trucking it from a pipeline that ended on land that he purchased in Big Bend.

The Springs Era ended around the time World War I broke out. Local Historian John Schoenknecht, author of the book, "The Great Waukesha Springs Era: 1868-1918," believed that fecal bacteria contaminated the springs but some of them are still flowing today with water but none are used for drinking. For the majority of the twentieth century, Waukesha received its drinking water from three large wells but they began to contain larger and larger amounts of radium that potentially causes cancer. In 2006, then Mayor Larry Nelson negotiated an extension of its December 2009 deadline to find new sources of water until 2018. I hope that Waukesha can begin a new era in obtaining fresh drinking water. If they do receive permission, the significance may not be as dramatic like the Springs Era but will be a good step forward to reduce the risk of cancer to its citizens. The residents of Waukesha deserve quality drinking water, a part of their heritage.

"Spring City and the Water War of 1892," by David P. McDaniel
"Spring City no More," by Don Behm of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 20, 2010