Capsule History

Americans have been launching time capsules into the future for over a century now, and today we’re creating more than ever. Why is it that so few reach their destination? And that so many merely bore their recipients?

Ever since it was dedicated in 1933, Cincinnati’s Union Terminal has been one of the city’s most stirring sights. It’s a museum center now, but when I was growing up in the 1950s, train trips with my parents began and ended in that vast half-dome rotunda. There’s one thing about being a kid, and a short one at that: You get to know what’s close to the ground. So it was that while most eyes were drawn up to the terminal’s majestic murals, I spotted a small plaque to the right of the entrance, just above the pavement.

 
 
Read more »

Real Work In Deep Snow

Connections with childhood, with a way of looking at life, and with a generation that remade our world

In his book The Greatest Generation , published this December by Random House, NBC’s anchorman pays tribute to the men and women who came of age during the Great Depression, fought and won the Second World War, and returned home to build the most prosperous, best-educated society in the history of the planet. Here, Tom Brokaw speaks of the passing of one of them.

 

Read more »

Texas Testament

A LIFETIME AGO A QUIET STRANGER passed through the author’s hometown and came away with a record of both personal and national importance

FOR HALF A CENTURY THE PICTURES HAD BEEN POPPING UP occasionally in books or magazines—razor-sharp blackand-white images of life in our little East Texas farm town in the thirties. The photos were usually captionless, the subjects identified merely by occupation—farmer, merchant, teacher, banker—but in San Augustine (population 3,026), where everyone always knew everybody else, recognition was immediate. Read more »

Sex Death And Ronald Mcdonald

ON THE ROAD DURING THE ERA OF GREATEST PERIL FOR THE ONE INDISPENSABLE AMERICAN SHOW

Last summer, while I was driving my daughter and son from Williamstown, Massachusetts, to Chatham, New York, we passed a billboard with an ad, Crayola red, blue, and yellow, announcing the arrival of a circus. My daughter, who is eighteen, has seen the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden, and both kids have been to the Big Apple Circus. In the early 1950s I went to Ringling Bros., when it still set up tents in fairgrounds. Read more »

The Little Diplomat

As a ten-year-old boy, the author had a role to play in bringing Douglas MacArthur’s vision of democracy to a shattered Japan

On August 30, 1945, just days after Japan capitulated, ending World War II, Douglas MacArthur first set foot on the island nation, to set up temporary headquarters at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama—and to set in motion a unique experiment that little more than three and a half years later would cause me also to spend my first night in Japan in the New Grand. Read more »

Normandy, 1994

This magazine’s publication of wrenching wartime letters between the author’s parents brought her to international attention. At the same time, it initiated some very heartfelt conversations with our readers.

I have always had a sense that a war claims many more casualties than those who perish on the battlefields. Each statistic, each white cross or star of David in a military cemetery suggests a mother, a father, a wife, a lover, a child left to grieve. I am sure of it, because I was one of the children. I was left with a hole in my heart and a sense of emptiness and vulnerability that comes from never knowing a father, wounds that will probably never totally heal.Read more »

The 36th Mission

He spent his tour of duty bombing German cities and made it home only to discover he could never leave the war behind him. Then, a lifetime later, he found a way to make peace.

My story begins in 1925. I was the youngest of nine children born to Frank and Leata Clark, factory workers in southern Wisconsin who were hit hard by the Depression. My father died when I was thirteen. In October 1943, as soon as I turned eighteen, I enlisted in the Army as a private, hoping to become a fighter pilot. Read more »

Passing

QUESTIONING THE MYSTERIES OF HER OWN FAMILY, THE AUTHOR FINDS ANSWERS THAT AFFECT US ALL

In 1916, when Margaret Morris was a little girl living in Washington, D.C., she lost her family and they lost her. First her mother died at the age of forty-one. Then her father, uncles, aunts, sister, brothers, cousins, and even grandmother vanished. This family cleaving left in its turbulent wake a frightened four-year-old who would become my mother. Read more »

Going Back

Forty years changed almost everything—but not the author’s gleaming, troubling memories of Miss Clark. So he went looking for her.

A stroller through the Nassau Inn down the block from Princeton University on a certain January day last winter would not have taken particular note of two people lunching in one of the Tap Room’s booths. Possibly a senior professor by the look of him, a passing student might fleetingly muse: gray hair and blue pinstripe suit. The opposite number, in slacks: a pleasant-looking woman of a certain age. Read more »

Chaplain Kidder’s Song

A D-DAY VETERAN’S GRANDSON ATTEMPTS TO FIND THE ANSWER TO THAT MOST IMPENETRABLE QUESTION: WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

The Reverend Maurice Kidder used to wake at five to write sermons in his dark study where the beagle slept; that early hour seemed to give him the clarity to compose his lectures, which he delivered in an unaffected but commanding baritone voice each Sunday at his All Saints’ Church in western Massachusetts. By the time I knew him my grandfather had been giving sermons for more than thirty years. He was a tall, powerfully genial man with blue eyes, a colonial-looking head of wavy white hair, and a long, squared jaw.Read more »