Daily Update: Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Cyril of Alexandria, The Lottery, and Hurricane Audrey

Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Cyril of Alexandria (died 444). We also note that today is Lottery Day, according to Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story “The Lottery”, and that it was on this date in 1957 when Hurricane Audrey made landfall in Eastern Texas and Western Louisiana.

Today’s Saint was born about 376 in the small town of Theodosios, Egypt, near modern day El-Mahalla El-Kubra. Cyril was the nephew of Theophilus, who became the Patriarch of Alexandria in 385. Cyril was well educated, receiving the formal education standard for his day: he studied grammar from age twelve to fourteen, rhetoric and humanities from age fifteen to twenty, and finally theology and biblical studies. He became a monk and priest, and accompanied Theophilus to Constantinople in 403 where his uncle presided at the “Synod of the Oak” that deposed John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople. On the death of Theophilus in 412, Cyril became the next Patriarch / Pope / Archbishop of Alexandria, one of the great Christian centers of the world. Cyril was a scholarly archbishop and a prolific writer. In the early years of his active life in the Church he wrote several exegeses, including Commentaries on the Old TestamentThesaurusDiscourse Against AriansCommentary on St. John’s Gospel, and Dialogues on the Trinity. In 429 as the Christological controversies increased, his output of writings was that which his opponents could not match. His writings and his theology have remained central to tradition of the Fathers and to all Orthodox to this day. He also became noted in Church history because of his spirited fight for the title Theotokos for the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Council of Ephesus (431). Cyril is controversial because of his involvement in the expulsion of Novatians and Jews from Alexandria and the murder of the pagan philosopher Hypatia. Historians disagree over the extent of his responsibility for these events, but the Roman Catholic Church did not add his Feast to the Church Calendar until 1882; he is counted among the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, and he is the Patron Saint of Alexandria, Egypt. Also, according to Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery”, “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” The story was published in the June 26th, 1948 issue of The New Yorker, and while it initially garnered a lot of negative criticism, it has been accepted as a classic American short story, subject to many critical interpretations and media adaptations, and it has been taught in schools for decades. On this date in 1957 Hurricane Audrey made landfall south of Sabine Lake on the Louisiana – Texas border, traversed the lake, and then passed over Bridge City, Texas. No one knows how strong the hurricane really was (the wind gauge broke at 180 miles per hour at the KPLC weather station in Lake Charles, Louisiana); some of the Audrey victims told reporters that winds were of Category 5 hurricane intensity.  The victims had no warning of the hurricane; they had been told the storm would not make landfall for four more days, but the storm had rapid intensification with a sudden forward speed increase overnight, bringing a much stronger hurricane to the coast far earlier than expected. Damage in Louisiana was catastrophic; 60 to 80 percent of the homes and businesses from Cameron to Grand Chenier were either destroyed or severely damaged. In all, there were over 300 people killed in Louisiana, while 40,000 others were left homeless by the storm. (Richard’s mother was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Richard at the time of the storm, which took half the roof off of the house on Fifth Street, where his older brother Slug now lives.)

Richard got up early (the air conditioning was still off), signed the Early Out List, and was done at the casino at 3:15 am, having worked a full twenty minutes. I woke up at 5:30 am at Liz Ellen’s house in Eastern Kentucky, posted to Facebook that today was Lottery Day, and did my Book Devotional Reading.

I said my goodbyes to Liz Ellen and her cats, and left at 7:15 am, taking Route 5 to I-64 East. I ate breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Morehead, Kentucky; they were out of papers, so instead I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Continuing on I-64 East, after Lexington and Castle Hill (which is a castle perched on a hill south of Lexington) I got on the Blue Grass Parkway. I got a call from Richard at 11:00 am (which is when I heard that the air conditioning was still out, as it needed a new capacitator). I then caught I-65 South. At 12:15 pm it became 11:15 am as I moved back into Central Time. I reached Tennessee at 11:30 am, called Nedra (I left her a voice mail; she never called back), and below Nashville I got lunch via a McDonald’s drive through in Brentwood. I reached Alabama at 2:45 pm, and Richard called me as I was getting on I-59 South at Birmingham (the Air Conditioner was now fixed). I checked into the Comfort Inn in Tuscaloosa, texted Liz Ellen, called Richard, and crashed. I may not make it to the end of the College World Series game, where Florida is ahead 2-0 over the LSU Tigers.

Tomorrow is the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (died c. 202), and tomorrow is the only date in the year where both the month and day are different perfect numbers. And I plan to get home tomorrow.

It is appropriate that on the same day we remember Hurricane Audrey, the worst storm to hit the western Louisiana coast in terms of loss of life (Hurricane Rita in 2005 caused much more property damage in the same area, but only one fatality), our Parting Quote comes to us from Gale Storm, American actress and singer. Born as Josephine Cottle in 1922 in Bloomington, Texas, she was raised by her mother, as her father died when she was just seventeen months old. When she and her mother moved to Houston she learned to be an accomplished dancer, became an excellent ice skater at Houston’s Polar Palace, and performed in the drama club in high school. When she was seventeen years old two of her teachers urged her to enter a contest on Gateway to Hollywood, broadcast from the CBS Radio studios in Hollywood, California. First prize was a one-year contract with a movie studio; she won, and was immediately given the stage name Gale Storm, and her performing partner (and future husband) Lee Bonnell from South Bend, Indiana became known as Terry Belmont. After winning the contest Storm made several films for RKO Radio Pictures; her first was Tom Brown’s School Days(1940), playing opposite Jimmy Lydon and Freddie Bartholomew. She worked steadily in low-budget films released during this period. In 1941 she sang in several Soundies, three-minute musicals produced for “movie jukeboxes.” Storm acted and sang in Monogram Pictures’ popular Frankie Darro series, and played ingénue roles in other Monogram features with the East Side Kids, Edgar Kennedy, and The Three Stooges. Monogram had always relied on established actors with reputations, but in Storm the studio finally had a star of its own. She played the lead in the studio’s most elaborate productions, both musical and dramatic. She shared top billing in Monogram’s Cosmo Jones in The Crime Smasher (1943), opposite Edgar Kennedy, Richard Cromwell, and Frank Graham in the role of Jones, a character derived from network radio. American audiences warmed to Storm and her fan mail increased. She starred in My Little Margie on television from 1952 to 1955. The show, which co-starred former silent film actor Charles Farrell as her father, was originally a summer replacement for I Love Lucy on CBS, but ran for 126 episodes on NBC and CBS. Storm’s popularity was capitalized on when she served as hostess of the NBC Comedy Hour in the winter of 1956. That year she starred in another situation comedy, The Gale Storm Show (aka Oh! Susanna), featuring another silent movie star, ZaSu Pitts. The Gale Storm Show ran for 143 episodes between 1956 and 1960. She appeared regularly on other television programs in the 1950s and 1960s. She was both a panelist and a “mystery guest” on What’s My Line?. Starting in 1956 she had a four-year recording career singing covers of popular songs; her first record, “I Hear You Knockin’,” a cover version of a rhythm and blues hit by Smiley Lewis, which was in turn based on the old Buddy Bolden standard “The Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” sold over a million copies. Her acting career took a sharp decline following the demise of her second series in 1960. Most of her focus was placed modestly on the summer stock or dinner theater circuit, doing a revolving door of tailor-made comedies and musicals such as Cactus Flower, Forty Carats, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and South Pacific. It was later revealed that her disappearance from acting was triggered by a particularly vicious battle with alcohol. After her recovery in the 1970s she took up tap dancing to keep herself physically and mentally young. She made occasional television appearances in later years, such as in Love Boat, Burke’s Law, and Murder, She Wrote. Storm continued to make personal appearances and autographed photos at fan conventions, along with Charles Farrell from the My Little Margie series. She also attended events such as the Memphis Film Festival, the Friends of Old-Time Radio and the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. In 1981 she published her autobiography, I Ain’t Down Yet, which described her battle with alcoholism. She was also interviewed by author David C. Tucker for The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms, published in 2007 (died 2009): “My successes have certainly not been without problems. During the 1970s I experienced a terribly low and painful time of dealing with alcoholism…I thank God daily that I have been fully recovered for more than 20 years. During my struggle, I had no idea of the blessing my experience could turn out to be! I’ve had the opportunity to share with others suffering with alcoholism the knowledge that there is help, hope, and an alcohol free life awaiting them.”

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