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A King’s reach: My father’s take on the Royals

26 Feb

When I suggested to my daughter, Zuri, that she would love the Oscar winning The King’s Speech and that it would be great for her to see it in London, where she is studying abroad, she revealed that her drama professors were not so keen on it. “They see it as propaganda for the monarchy.”
There is also a lot of buzz in the American and international press about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the film. Bertie’s stutter was not really that bad, Winston Churchill was not really that fat and  he was not so forcefully opposed to King Edward VIII‘s relationship with a twice-married Wallis Simpson. More seriously, some argue that throughout the late 1930s the royal family and much of the British establishment favored appeasement of Hitler’s regime.
My father was a bit of a gusher when it came to the Royals.

“A King Dies,” Ebenezer proclaimed in a column on Feb. 1, 1936. The far-flung British Empire, with its approximately 500,000,000 inhabitants of all colors mourns today! George the Fifth, its ‘Sailor King’ is dead! He passed away in his 71st year of life and in the 26th year of his reign. From far-off New Zealand and Australia to the Dominion of Canada, from India to the remote Falkland Islands and the West Indies, flags are at half-mast; bells have tolled, theatres closed, night clubs darkened — business had come to a standstill, all in reverence to a departed monarch, loved by his people, and of whose greatness historian will testify.”
But in true fashion, Ebenezer brought the king’s death back home to America.

King George V

“The passing of the British monarch had its repercussion here in the House of Representatives when Speaker Byrns [Joseph W. Byrns, D-Tenn] put forward a resolution that the body adjourn out of respect to the dead king. Representative [Martin] Sweeney of Ohio was the dissenting voice. His objection was based on the grounds that his kin lost their lives during the time of the Blacks and Tans (Britain opposing the independence of the Irish Free State) and according to the New York Times Washington correspondent, Mr. Sweeney ‘is unwilling for the legislature of a democracy to honor the memory of a king in whose names the bullets went winging’  Speaker Byrns ignored Mr. Sweeney. Negroes might sympathize with Mr. Sweeney in the loss of his kin, but it is natural that they at the same time reflect on the atrocities which are committed under America’s ‘democracy” In the first place we have hundreds of lynchings which have taken place in the direction from which Mr. Sweeney hails and against which Congress up to its last session refused to enact legislation. Many a Negro has lost his innocent kin by these barbarous methods. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the constitution as they apply to Negroes are openly violated in the South. Under the shadow of the Capitol’s dome, Negroes have been denied use of the House Restaurant and even in the North Negroes are systematically and occasionally discriminated against in government and private institutions. Lastly, we come to the persecution of the nine Scottsboro lads. Within the columns of the issue of the New York Times which voices Mr. Sweeney’s objection we read that the trial was being conducted for the fourth time amidst the most prejudiced atmosphere perhaps known to any court in a civilized country.”

As for the brief reign of Edward VIII and the Wallis Simpson scandal, my father initially had high hopes for the young king whom he described as a “super-salesman, athlete, flier, sportsman and one of the most socially beloved princes, whose magnetic personality was already evident. “

But upon Edward’s abdication, he was less charitable. “I still think Edward strayed somewhat from the ‘manor born.'” he wrote in a later column. He was born heir-apparent to a throne when the world respected it. He could easily have lived closer to its shadow.  Love intoxicates a man; marriage sobers him up, someone once said. And what if the inevitable hand of retribution moves to arouse Eddie from his intoxication, brought on by Wallis Simpson’s potion of third-rate ‘love!'”

My father was wrong about that love affair. Edward and Wallis stayed together until Edward, who became the Duke of Windsor after his abdication, died of cancer in 1972.

A road map for a new year

1 Jan

Bruno Hauptmann

As the world welcomed 1936, the Lindbergh kidnapping case continued to capture the world’s attention.
“This writer individually but unequivocally thinks the State of New Jersey has the right man in Bruno Richard Hauptmann,” Ebenezer  wrote. He compared the Hauptmann matter with the case of Lloyd Price, a “Brooklyn Negro” who was “convicted and executed for the murder of a white girl. The prosecution’s strongest point, if we remember well, was  the fact that a pencil, supposedly the property of the accused Price, was found near the body of the murdered girl.”
My father also weighed in on Ethiopia, a recurring theme of his in 1935 and 1936, as well as FDR’s fitness for another four years:
“November next will decide whether the people of the United States want Franklin D. Roosevelt to guide their economic and industrial destinies for the next four years. In the meantime, records show a marked improvement in business and industry. the most recent Christmas shopping showed an increase of about ten per cent over that of last year, virtually all sources of individual income headed by wages and salary showed substantially higher yields n 1934 than in 1933, the U.S. Treasury announced last week. The Post office Department handled its biggest Christmas business since 1929. All in all, Prosperity seems to be turning that elusive corner of which we heard so much four years ago. People of the United States would do nothing better than to entrust their national destiny in the hands of Franklin D. Roosevelt for the next four years, even though the shiftless Herbert Hoover and a handful of disgruntled and personally interested Republicans think otherwise.”

The New York Age, January 4, 1936

 

Malvina Augusta Alkins

21 Dec

In a post last week, I noted that I found it interesting that the death of Malvina Alkins, my father’s mother, was featured in an obituary in the Barbados Advocate, the nation’s oldest newspaper. Turns out, her death was noted in three Barbados papers, the Advocate, the Herald and  the  Observer, which employed her other son, Noel Alkins. My father included these obituaries in his “Dottings” column on Sept. 5, 1936. In the two weeks preceding that column, “Dottings” featured guest columnists, which suggests that perhaps he’d made it back to Barbados.  Though the Advocate item mentions that Mrs. Alkins had lost her husband just a month earlier, none mention his name. I found a death record for a James Alkins, who died June 30 of that year. More on him later.

The New York Age, September 5, 1936

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