A new history book about Lowell by Richard P. Howe Jr and Chaim Rosenberg to be published on March 11, 2013. To order a copy and to learn about local readings and book signings, check out our Legendary Locals of Lowell page.
On this day – July 30, 1942 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill creating a women’s auxiliary agency in the US Navy known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – WAVES. Mildred McAfee, President of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander in early August of 1942. She was the first female commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history, and the first director of the WAVES.
Massachusetts Fifth District Congresswoman Edith Nourse Roger’s Women’s Army Corps Bill, which granted official military status to the volunteers by creating the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) within the Army successfully opened the way for other uniformed women’s services in both the Navy (WAVEs) and then in Air Force – WASPs.
President Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare amendment. Former President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess are on the far right. Truman recieved the first Medicare card.
On this day July 30, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnsonsigned the Medicare bill into law. Congress created Medicare under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history. In 1972, Congress expanded Medicare eligibility to younger people who have permanent disabilities and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments.
At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.
We were lucky about the weather, given the unsettled skies all weekend. Twenty-six years later, the event feels more like a street festival than a music and dance festival, which is fine. The audience is determining what the experience will be. Food from around the world, sidewalk entertainers, storefront buzz, pop-up cafes, people as cast-members, and ambient music pumping out of the various stages—that’s a lively combination for a street festival.
The dance pavilion at the National Park parking lot continues to be one of the best recent innovations. I was there with Rosemary and friends for klezmer, polka, and cajun sets, all of which sparkled in sound and stampity-stamped in rhythm. Turning the parking lot into a party space has added a magnetic point on the festival compass—matching JFK Plaza and Boarding House Park in scale and energy. The venue also draws people to another section of the city for different views of the architectural game-board. Shattuck Street was jumping at 4 p.m. on Sunday; a wide circle of folks had formed around a magician or acrobat, some kind of street circus showman. Radio Disney was on Mack Plaza leading dance-offs of eager kids. Hoop games and box hockey had no trouble getting players. The Quilt Museum’s booth with make-your-own-paper-quilts kept busy. When the downtown core is closed to most traffic, you can really appreciate the “slice of nineteenth century life” concept of the urban design for the National Park as you take in the variety of preserved buildings from Market Street to French Street: mill, bank, storefront, canal gatehouse, church, town/city hall, more businesses, residences, school, mill agent house, cotton storehouse, boarding house, more mills.
What did I try on the food front? Brazilian skewered beef with rice-bean combo and later Jamaican curry (vegetable and chicken combo) on rice. The Greek baklava sundae was popular on French Street, opposite Boarding House Park, as was the fan-favorite Filipino booth offering small piles of noodles, rice, and more. Rosemary had top-of-the-line Thai food at the dance stage—bright yellow rice and large fresh spring rolls.
Lowell rolled out its best again for the world to enjoy. There’s an item going around Facebook about urban revival strategies involving the use of streets as public spaces. We’ve got that one down pretty well. Next.