Archived Story

So what’s going on with February?

Published 9:59pm Tuesday, February 5, 2013

You have to feel sorry for the month of February — slighted by the number of days it is allotted. Every four years it does get to pick up another day, but that makes for confusion, and the people born then seldom have a birthday.
Of course, it all started with the Romans, who, early on, messed around with the months and the number of days in each.
However, February can be a bit smug about the birthdays it harbors. We all know presidents Washington and Lincoln were born in February, but did you recall presidents William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan and want-to-be-president Wendell Willkie were also born this month?
A notable I knew born in February was my father. His birthday was Feb. 19, duly celebrated by our family. Then, as an adult, he applied for a passport; official records showed his birth date as Feb. 22. Such records were supposed to be accurate, but if Grandma (Dad’s mother) said he was born Feb. 19, we believed her. She was there.
The famous aviator Charles H. Lindbergh was born in February, as were homerun king “Babe” Ruth, novelist Charles Dickens, inventor Thomas A. Edison, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, actor John Barrymore, women’s-suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony, mail-order merchant Montgomery Ward, singer Marian Anderson, Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell and numerous others.
Charles John Huffman Dickens’ father failed to support his family and went to prison for bad debt. At 12, Charles was working at Warren’s blacking factory and enduring appalling conditions — an excruciating experience he later refused to talk about. Attending school off and on, he left for good at 14, and in a few years acquired a job as a newspaper reporter. From there, he began to write his novels, and by the age of 24 found himself famous. A true story of rags to riches.
The World Book Encyclopedia and Google contain all this good stuff, and more.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, St. Vincent derived from the New York hospital where her uncle’s life was saved just before she was born, was the eldest of three outspoken sisters. After their parents divorced, the girls and their mother Cora moved frequently, living in poverty. They finally settled in Camden, Maine.
Cora inspired her daughters by reading to them from her trunkful of classical literature. When in grade school, Edna asked to be called Vincent, but the school principal refused. In high school she started a literary magazine and soon won the St. Nicholas Gold Badge for poetry.
Said to be a beautiful redhead and known for her many love affairs, Vincent never married.
Robert Stepheson Smythe Baden-Powell (Stephe) was one of the youngest children of the Rev. Baden Powell’s third marriage. The father died when Stephe was 3; he credited his mother Henrietta with his success in life. She changed the family name to Baden-Powell as a tribute to her late husband and to set her children apart from their half-siblings.
Early on Stephe joined the British army, in which he distinguished himself. Through his experiences, he saw the need for more physical training and outdoor activity for British boys. In 1907, he founded the Boy Scouts of England.
Biographies of the man, including that of
Tim Jeal, refer to him as a “repressed homosexual.”
Montgomery Ward sounds as though it should be two individuals; not so. The mail-order king’s full name was Aaron Montgomery Ward; he was born into a poor Michigan family. At 14, he was running a cutting machine in a barrel-stave factory for 25 cents a day; this increased to 30 cents when he stacked brick in a kiln. Later, he worked in a shoe store and, being a fair salesman, was soon earning $6 a month plus board.  Within three years that shot up to $100 a month.
Seeing a need, Aaron came up with the idea of a mail-order business. His friends scoffed at the revolutionary plan, telling him it was outlandish. They were wrong.
These are mini-stories of famous people — but famous, infamous and not-so-famous, everyone has a story to tell. So button your lip, clean your ears and listen up!

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