Archive for July, 2007

Ken Burns, Live from the Sheldon

July 25, 2007

Our blog has become a little bit of a shrine to Ken Burns over the last few days, some might call it extreme but I’d call it well-deserved recognition. In the film world, Burns is recognized for how he’s changed documentary film but for public broadcasting Burns isn’t just our biggest celebrity, he’s also one of our biggest cheerleaders. During his visit on Monday I was really struck by his personal commitment to informative television. He reminded me that television, public or not, has the power to do more than entertain, it informs and even educates.

To that end, The War really does both. The brief hour’s worth of clips shown at the Sheldon Monday night captivated me. It might have been because I was in a room filled with veterans and World War II fanatics or because Burns himself was standing about 10 feet away from me but I was really moved. It wasn’t just me. Some of the audience members were teary-eyed during the hour screening. Others, during the Q & A session with Burns following the screening, asked about how to reach out the veterans in their lives. Every few minutes, the audience would burst into applause.

The icing on the cake came toward the end of the evening. One of the audience members asked Burns what made the World War II generation, the greatest generation, so unique: sacrifice. Burns said that our country uniquely banded together in the spirit of sacrifice not for a race, a religion, or national conquest but for an idea. Whether you call it liberty or freedom or by some other name, our citizens traded personal sacrifice for a collective identity. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

To see selections from the evening with Ken Burns webcast, visit our website at


Ken Burns, Part 2

July 24, 2007

Ken Burns at the SheldonA bit more on Ken Burns presentation from last night in St. Louis

First off, if you weren’t lucky enough to be in the audience at the Sheldon last night, or if you didn’t catch the live webcast, we now have an archive of his presentation available for you to view.

Unfortunately, we can’t show you the clip reel Ken showed last night. For that, you’ll have to wait until the series premieres on September 23 (7:00 p.m., right here on KETC). But let me tell you, when you see this series you won’t be disappointed. From what I’ve seen, it lives up to the hype and then some.

How’d the live webcast go? Very well, I’d say. Could we have had more eyeballs? Certainly. Will we do it better the next time? Definitely. What will that next time be? Stay tuned… 

Ken Burns

July 23, 2007

Ken Burns is in St. Louis today. The Your Stories project is a direct result of his upcoming series The War, so we are very excited to have him here to promote both the series and our efforts to tell the St. Louis story of World War II.

He will be giving a presentation about his film tonight, and to try and bring his insights to our community in new ways, we will be offering a live webcast of his presentation beginning at 7:30 p.m. (St. Louis time) tonight. This is exciting for us on a lot of levels. First off, this is our first live webcast ever, so we’ve all been learning new things as we’ve gone through the steps of putting it together. Secondly, it is exciting to think of what this might allow us to do in future.

So wish us luck and log on and take a look if you have a chance.


Orville Wright? He was snotty.

July 23, 2007

The thing about Your Stories–as in your stories–is that they are all good.  Get to be 80, 90 years old and the “live to tell” incidents stack up like cordwood.  Or spent birthday candles. 

In visiting lately with this most distinguished age group, I realize–far too late–that I have a long way to go until I might be considered interesting.  And if 91-year-old A. Russell Maier weren’t so polite and charming, I’d swear he was rubbing my nose in the fact.

It was his wife Virginia who told me about Mr. Maier’s work-related trips to Wright Field and his occasional run-ins with Orville Wright.  Highly charming in her own right, she added that they live in south St. Louis, not far from Ted Drewes.  I told her we’d be right over.

Mr. Maier was a civilian in the Air Force during World War II, chief structures engineer on the CG-10 cargo glider.  Yes, a cargo glider.  A huge thing that suspiciously resembles an oxymoron.  But for nearly three years of his life, for 72 hours a week, Mr. Maier worked and re-worked the nature of a plywood “beast” that, under his unremitting aegis, was eventually capable of transporting forty loaded-down troops and a six-ton half track truck.  Think of the Spruce Goose without the eight engines.  Without any engines.

The thing worked.  It made it as far as the Philippines but the loosing of the A-bomb saved the glider from testing its mostly metal-less mettle in combat by about a week.   Mr. Maier felt spared as well and though he is adamant in stating that he never voted for Harry Truman, he happily credits the man with saving his life.

From his frustrations with the mounting “inspirations” of the Navy as they tacked on bigger and more impossible cargo demands, to the first time he ever heard of a rice paddy, Mr. Maier’s candid accounts were reliably hilarious, albeit with a caustic edge that may or may not predate his encounters with government work.  In the Maiers’ living room, we were a bunch of hypnotised strangers and I almost forgot to ask him about Orville.  

Turns out “Orvy” was not one of his favorite people and Mr. Maier is proof that the slightest slight can thrive for over sixty years.  It was at this point in the interview that Virginia Maier deftly changed the subject by chiding her husband for not telling us about the sewing machine. 

Sewing machine?  Show them, said Mrs. Maier.  He lead us to a sort of study and there it was, a gleaming cabinet made of  mahogany plywood, leftover from a CG-10 glider. 

A. Russell Maier, builder of beasts and sewing machines.  Thanks for having us.  

Kate Shaw  

Facebook Frenzy

July 16, 2007

In addition to my newly-discovered blogging skills, part of my job working on The War is Facebook. Most of my friends are jealous (what other internship praises an intimate knowledge the ultimate college procrastination tool), but it’s harder than it sounds. Yes, World War II is a popular “interest” in the Facebook world but getting people to join your group when there are 23 others dedicated to the same or a similar topic is hard. It takes a long time to build a friend-list of other interested Facebookers without the aid of a college campus – no history classmates, few lectures, and let’s be real here, I don’t know of any World War II themed parties going on this weekend. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to up our group numbers without spamming other groups’ boards?


July 9, 2007

Sometimes it’s the little stuff and the little people who have the most impact. This morning, as usual, I was paging through some of our submissions and I came across a letter about celebration. The author was a St. Louis woman who was four years old when the war ended. In my experience most people, at best, can only remember snap shots of their lives at four but for this woman, that’s all it took to share something meaningful. She said she remembers the day the war ended: all of the kids in her neighborhood paraded up and down her street waving flags, celebrating.
 “The adults were smiling and waving, and hugging each other,” she said. “Of course I didn’t know what the hullabaloo was about. I just remember the happy, joyful faces and the excitement.”
 I’ve always felt that pure, true joy, happiness for happiness’ sake, is something that only a child knows, but we can all relate to it — having experienced it at one time in our lives. It’s quite comforting to me to know that even in the face of horrible tragedy, there was joy and eventual relief when it all came to an end.

Happy 6th of July

July 6, 2007

A couple of days late for Independence Day, but I wanted to share a Living St. Louis story by Jim Kirchherr on Omar Bradley. Bradley was from the central Missouri town of Moberly, and was famously called “the soldier’s general.” But now I’m giving away the story. Enjoy.



The shadow of WWII is everywhere

July 3, 2007

I just got back from a vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which of course required a trip to Mount Rushmore. The monument is impressive, and how it looks is largely a result of the America’s entry into World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, nearly all federal money went into the War effort, and projects like Mount Rushmore had to be put aside.

World War II isn’t the only reason Lincoln doesn’t have an ear on Mount Rushmore, but it is certainly among the reasons one of our grandest national landmarks looks like it does.