Keith Runyon

Arts and Humanities
6:46 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Former Kentucky Opera Leader Thomson Smillie Dies

Thomson Smillie
Credit Submitted photo

Thomson Smillie, who led the Kentucky Opera to become one of the nation’s leading regional opera companies, died at 10:30 Saturday night at his home. He was 71.

A native Scotsman, Smillie came to Louisville in 1981, where he spent a year working with the Kentucky Opera’s founder, Moritz Bomhard, before taking the reigns as Mr. Bomhard’s successor in 1980.

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11:54 am
Thu January 16, 2014

The White House and How It Almost Ceased to Be

Credit Submitted photo

Last Sunday afternoon I was reading The Washington Post and found a review for a new book, Robert Klara’s “The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence.” For those of you who are not students of Washington in the 1940s and 1950s, the near collapse of the White House in 1948 may be completely unknown. This new book—which I quickly bought and have been reading with interest—wittily lays out the crisis (and it was a crisis) which President Truman faced after he and his family moved into the presidential mansion following Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. The bad news came quickly. Days after FDR’s funeral, his widow, Eleanor, strolled over to Blair House—where the Trumans were staying during the early days of his presidency—to give them a bit of bad news:

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9:00 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Every Time It Snows in Louisville

Snow last year in the Germantown neighborhood.
Credit Joseph Lord/WFPL News

Every time it snows in Louisville, even when it just gets cold and doesn’t snow, everyone talks about how unusual it is, how amazing, how odd. But it really isn’t.

I have spent the last 63 winters, here, or nearby, and most of those have had plenty of wintry weather. What is different about Louisville is that nobody here ever expects there to be ice, or snow, or sub-zero temperatures. We always have this myth that we are in Natchez or Tallahassee, which is —shall I say?—idiotic.

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1:00 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

A Majestic New Year's Concert in Vienna, and Public Broadcasting's Yearly Reminder

Credit Submitted by Keith Runyon

As I am inclined to do from time to time, I would like to salute public broadcasting for one of the very special ways it brings seasonal joy and cultural benefits to all of us. Specifically, I am thinking of the annual broadcasts of the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, Austria. Every Jan. 1, at 11 a.m. in the Eastern time zone, National Public Radio airs the concert live. Then, that same evening, the Public Broadcasting System transmits the same concert, delayed via videotape, on televisions across America.

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11:58 am
Thu December 19, 2013

The Christmas Season in Louisville, From 1778 to 1960 to Today

Fourth Street in December 1960.
Credit Photo submitted by Keith Runyon

The picture you see is how it was. Dec.19, 1960, exactly 53 years ago. This is Fourth Street, the central shopping street of Louisville, at a time when our city was the 30th largest in America with a population approaching 400,000. It was also very much like other cities, all across America, in the year that John F. Kennedy was elected president, when the space race was in full swing, and when I was just a boy of 10. It was a grand time to be alive.

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1:02 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Kentucky's Intersection of Religion, Energy and the Environment

Sister Claire McGowan, one of the authors of the Energy Vision statement, speaking Tuesday at the Interfaith Prayer Ritual on Boone Farm in Nelson County, Ky.
Credit Courtesy of Diane Curtis/Sister of Charity of Nazareth

Most of the snow from a string of storms over the past week had evaporated in Nelson County, Ky., Tuesday afternoon when more than 60 concerned people, many of them Roman Catholic nuns, gathered on the Boone Family Farm to declare an Energy Vision, and with it they hope to launch a nationwide movement to oppose the practice of “fracking” for natural gas and the transport of its byproducts through pipelines. Their region known as the Kentucky Holy Land contains extensive land holdings by various religious orders. The stewards of these many acres understand that with land comes power, and a good number of them are dedicated to use that power to stop what they see as an onslaught against the earth’s sacred soil, sacred air and sacred water as well as the safety and well-being of human communities.

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12:19 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Remembering the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy
Credit Cecil Stoughton, White House

What follows is an attempt to explain to those who did not experience the events of 50 years ago why it is that we stop, remember and honor the young president who was killed on the streets of Dallas in 1963. Anyone else who was around back then might write a similar account, but I hope mine, and the conclusions I draw from it, can help to explain why even now the wounds remain fresh for many of us, and why it is essential that we mark the occasion in our own ways.

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11:52 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Living Life With Little Golden Books

A few weeks ago I was browsing the counters at Carmichael’s Bookstore and one title popped out at me. It was Diane Muldrow’s Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book.

I had to buy it.

I have been enjoying Little Golden Books—those inexpensive children’s books with the gold foil spines—since I was a small child. I later read them to my children—the copies my wife and I had owned and ones we bought later.

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6:48 am
Sun November 10, 2013

Hugh Haynie Gave Louisville Great Editorial Cartooning, Contributed to Public Debate

Credit Provided by the Frazier History Museum

Editorial cartooning may be one of American journalism’s best contributions not only to public debate, but also to graphic arts. From the time of Benjamin Franklin, the pen has often been mightier than the sword. Thomas Nast carried on the tradition in the 19th Century, but the art came into its full flower in the 20th Century, with such famous cartoonists as Herblock, Bill Mauldin, Jeff MacNelly and Pat Oliphant.

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11:02 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Saving Louisville's Records and History

Dr. Samuel W. Thomas researching in 1992 at the University of Louisville Photographic Archives. Dr. Thomas' papers now are all housed at the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections.
Credit Bill Carner

Four years ago, on a beautiful autumn afternoon, Judy Miller from the Filson Historical Society arrived at my office at The Courier-Journal with a surprise: A copy of Dr. Samuel W. Thomas’ long-awaited Architectural History of Louisville, 1778-1900. The Filson society, then celebrating its 125th anniversary, had selected Thomas’ book as its commemorative publication for the occasion.

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