Daily Update: Monday, September 7th, 2015

Joseph Verbis Lafleur and Labor Day

Today is the Remembrance of  Reverend Lt. Joseph Verbis Lafleur (died 1944). And today is celebrated as Labor Day in these fifty United States.

Joseph Verbis Lafleur was born in 1912 in Ville Platte, Louisiana; in 1926 his family moved to Opelousas, Louisiana. From early in his life, he felt a calling to the priesthood; he entered St. Joseph’s Minor Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana (on the outskirts of Covington, Louisiana) in 1927. He prepared for the priesthood for eleven years, both at St. Joseph’s Seminary and at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was ordained as a priest in 1938, celebrating his first Solemn Mass at his home church of St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas. His first assignment as a priest was at the parish of  St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville, Louisiana, where he raised money for baseball equipment for boys in his parish by pawning his wristwatch. He joined the Army Air Corps in the summer of 1941, nearly one half year before the United States became involved in World War II. telling his mother he was volunteering for the service because the other men, those being drafted, “do not have a choice.” Father Lafleur was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group in July, 1941, and four months later the unit arrived at Clark Field in the Philippine Islands. Clark Field, like many other United States Bases in the Philippine Islands, was heavily attacked that December 8, 1941, just one day after the historic attack on Pearl Harbor. As Japanese planes bombed the Philippine Islands, killing many American soldiers and destroying aircraft, Chaplain Lafleur gave absolution to the wounded and dying, helping the doctors administer medical care to those who needed it. He dodged bullets and shrapnel for the sake of the men he referred to as “the best soldiers in the world.” When the bombardment group fell into enemy hands, Father Lafleur became a prisoner of war. Still, he was a priest. While he had the bread and wine, he could offer the Sacrifice of the Mass; and while he still had clothes on his back, he could give a more needy man something to wear. His personal possessions were traded off to obtain medicine. Even the little bit of soup and rice he was allotted was shared with the sick and wounded prisoners. Known throughout the camp as “Padre”, he performed extraordinarily selfless deeds, comforting, protecting and serving the fellow POW’s untiringly. In October of 1942 he managed to get himself attached to men detailed to build a new airfield so that the men would have a chaplain with them. New orders came from Japan to relocate the prisoners, so 750 hungry, sick, overworked, and nearly naked men were crammed into the hold of the Shinya-Marua, a Japanese vessel bound for Japan. Three weeks later the unmarked “hellship” was torpedoed by the American submarine U.S.S. Paddle. The Americans would have been trapped, with no hope of escape, but a kind Japanese officer hurried to open the door of the hold. The excited Americans urged their chaplain to climb the ladder to freedom. Chaplain Lafleur refused, remaining near the door helping the other men up; he could not know how few of the men would survive the short swim to shore. Some Japanese sailors began throwing grenades into the ship’s hold, and many Americans were shot on deck as they tried to reach the water. Only 80 Americans made it safely to land, and they are the one who drew the final picture of their young chaplain standing near the ladder to help others escape. His selfless and courageous activity won for the chaplain the Distinguished Service Cross; he was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his bravery and leadership as a soldier and a chaplain. A monument to Father Lafleur was dedicated in 2008 outside of St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas. Devotion to Father Lafleur is strong in Opelousas and in St. Landry Parish, and I am glad to add him to those who are not yet honored by the Catholic Church in this weblog. And since today is the First Monday in September, today is Labor Day. The holiday originated in Canada out of labor disputes in the 1870′s, which resulted in a Trade Union Act which legalized and protected union activity in 1872. The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. In the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US military and US Marshals during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with Labor as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons. The NCAA usually plays their first games the week before Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.

Last evening before he came to bed Richard bagged up our trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curve, as our local Sunday paper did not say that trash would not be picked up.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, then posted to Facebook that today was Labor Day. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Today was the first day of the new pay period; being Labor Day, it was also a Paid Holiday, meaning that we will be paid time and a half for the eight hours we worked today. Richard was at first the Relief Dealer for the second Three Card Poker table and for the second Mississippi Stud table; he then was the Relief Dealer for the Switch Blackjack table and the second Mississippi Stud table, before they put him on a Blackjack table for the rest of the day. I was on Pai Gow, and moderately busy all day. We were saddened to hear of the sudden death of the husband (whom we knew well) of one of our dual pits; he had been in bad health, but had back surgery scheduled for September 11th, so it was a shock to hear that he had died of a heart attack in his sleep before she got home yesterday from work. (I sent a text message to my friend Deborah; she and her roommate Virginia are off on Monday and Tuesday, and I wanted them to know.)

On our way home Richard stopped at Wal-Mart to get some groceries. Once home I read the morning paper, then finished my music project, cleaning up a few errors and organizing things just so. I now have all of my music (organized by artist / group, and within that by albums) on the hard drive of the computer, on the USB Flash Drive, on my Galaxy Note 4, and I have now set the computer to uploading all of it to Google Drive (aka “the Cloud”). So I will have all of my stuff in four separate places. Meanwhile, Richard mowed the grass. When I finished uploading my music to my Galaxy Note 4, I read in Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian until time for Jeopardy!. I then came to the computer to start today’s Daily Update, and got my plate of grilled steak, boxed garlic mashed potatoes, and baked beans. Alas, I took too large of a bite on my very first bite, and I am now in the grip of my esophageal dysphagia. This means one, that I cannot eat anything until this passes, and two, that I am scared that I will have to eventually go to the emergency room to get them to remove the errant chunk of beefsteak from my esophagus. When I finish this Daily Update I will lay down and try to relax, in the hopes that it will ease up. I so much hope that I won’t have to go to the emergency room; for one thing, I really need to go to sleep, as we will be working tomorrow. (Note to my Three or Four Loyal Readers: it eased up at 6:30 pm, after I laid down, listened to some of my new Gregorian Chant music to try to relax, and drank down a vile paste of meat tenderizer mixed with water from a shot glass.)

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also the birthday of my friend Charlene, last seen in Texas several years ago (1958), and of my daughter’s boyfriend Cody (1986). Tomorrow is our Friday at the casino, and I have nothing planned for tomorrow afternoon and evening.

Our Parting Quote this Labor Day afternoon comes to us from Fred Katz, American cellist. Born in 1919 in Brooklyn and raised in the Williamsburg section of the city, he was a prodigy on both the cello and the piano, he was performing in public by the time he was a teenager. He left high school without graduating, and as a young man he was a cello student of Pablo Casals and a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, but was also drawn to Communist ideals and the jazz music that he heard in clubs. During World War II Katz was an entertainment director with the Seventh Army in Germany, conducting concerts and writing arrangements for musical revues. Afterward he moved to the West Coast and turned his attention to popular music. He was one of the founding members of the Chico Hamilton Quintet in 1955, primarily playing the piano, and playing the cello with his bow only on ballads. Between sets, he often took his cello and sat onstage alone, playing a classical work like an unaccompanied Bach suite. One night, playing between sets at a small club in Long Beach, California, Katz, his eyes closed in reverie, did not realize that his bandmates had crept back onstage. The stage was tiny and crowded, and by the time the band swung into an up-tempo number and he realized what had happened, he could no longer get to the piano. So he stayed where he was, cello in hand, and played along, and with that the group had its new sound and went on to become one of the most popular in jazz. His great facility on the cello, combined with its capacious range of tone and pitch (its lowest note is two octaves below middle C, its highest note more than two octaves above it), made his cello a singular sonic addition to the Chico Hamilton Quintet. The quintet appeared in the movies Sweet Smell of Success (1957), with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, with Katz described in passing as the Quintet’s primary composer. Katz and Hamilton did write a score for the film which was ultimately rejected in favor of one by Elmer Bernstein. The quintet also appeared in Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960), Bert Stern’s documentary about the Newport Jazz Festival. As a pianist, Katz accompanied Lena Horne and Vic Damone. As an arranger and conductor, he was responsible for Carmen McRae’s 1958 album, Carmen for Cool Ones. As a composer, he wrote several songs sung by Frankie Laine, including “Satan Wears a Satin Gown,” written with Laine and with Jacques Wilson. He wrote music for Roger Corman’s film A Bucket of Blood in 1959. He ultimately wrote the music for six more Corman films, including The Wasp Woman (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), and Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), reportedly selling the same score he had used for A Bucket of Blood to Corman anew for every new film. Katz’s recordings as a cellist included Soul-o Cello (1957) and Fred Katz and His Jammers(1958). His albums as an orchestrator and conductor included Folk Songs for Far Out Folk, originally recorded in 1958. He then concentrated on graduate and post-graduate education, and held faculty appointments for over thirty years at California State University, Northridge, and Cal State, Fullerton, teaching world music, anthropology and religion. One of his students was John Densmore, who became the drummer for The Doors. His album Folk Songs for Far Out Folk was re-released in 2007 (died 2013): “You are so used to playing along, reading from the printed page. Then all of a sudden you come away from the page and you don’t know what to do.”

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