September First

TO THE BYZANTINES, SEPTEMBER 1 WAS the anniversary of the creation of the world. For citizens of Poland, it was the beginning of the end of the world in 1939 when the Nazis invaded.
  The poet W.H. Auden thought it was the end of a world, too, the end “of a low dishonest decade,” when he penned “September 1, 1939” upon hearing the news of Nazi tanks smashing Polish cavalry.
  September 1 is also the anniversary of the death of Louis the Fourteenth of France. Mission San Luis Obispo was founded on September 1. Aaron Burr was acquitted of treason on this day, and Martha, the last passenger pigeon in America, died in the Cincinnati zoo.
  King Idris I of Libya was overthrown by Moammar Kaddafi in a coup on September 1. And three television shows were aired for the last time—“I Dream of Jeannie,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Skipper!,” the Ward Craven vehicle.
  Korean Airlines Flight 007 was shot down off the Kamchatka Peninsula by Soviet MIGs on September 1. And the remains of the RMS Titantic were finally discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
  Since it was an “R” month, September 1 is the first day one can eat oysters. And there are two notable birthdays on September 1—those of Dr. Phil, the television psychiatrist, and Mohammed Ata, an unknown Egyptian living in the United States.
September 1 is also—and fortunately—the annual date of “The Blessing of the Salamanders and Gnutes Festival” held at Mission Carmel.
  This particular Friday was bright blue. The fog had neglected to come in as an offshore wind ruled. The temperature was a breezy seventy-degrees and local children from the parish and their parents were getting ready for the small parade that would start in a matter of hours. The padre would lead the children, all brightly dressed, some in gnute and salamander costumes, down to the creeks where holy water and blessings would be bestowed upon the local amphibian population.
  On the mission grounds food tents and craft tables were being set up. Mariachis were warming up on the small wooden stage that would be shared by local and out-of-town performers. Ward Craven and Ksen would perform Episode 24 from “Skipper!” as they had every year, and last minute entry, Coast Guard volunteer Ed Mister and the Orange Seamen, were collecting their instruments near the stage where they would spoof all over everyone.
  Such was September First.


Copyright © 2008, The El Fornio Historical Society
          Contact John Graham at john@elfornio.com