Mixing it up (Gene's Books) - March 11, 2014

Hello, and welcome back to the American Treasure Tour blog.  We know that you have come to look forward to your daily dose of Tour memorabilia, history, and human interest stories,  But we also know that you don't want to get caught up in routines, which is why we want to mix things up a little today.  Rather than highlight record albums or movie posters or celebrity photographs, we would like to address some of the hanging signs scattered throughout the tour.  The places we "advertise" in warm, friendly, often-lighted letters.  Today, we will talk about Gene's Books.

It is highly unlikely most of you are familiar with Gene's Books.  It was a mom and pop business located in the Plaza at the King of Prussia Mall in southeastern Pennsylvania for many, many years.  It was one of those tiny stores that was packed to the ceiling with all sorts of cool stuff - books, magazines, movies, you name it.  When they closed in 2000, it was after prestigious visitors including First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and actor Charlton Heston had visited.  Gene's Books' loyal clientele had to find other bookstores to fulfill their intellectual needs only a few years before the digital book began to take off and make a huge impact on traditional book sales.  Now, their sign hangs boldly, virtually anonymously, on the wall in the Toy Box.  Some of us truly miss you, Gene's Books!

QUESTION:

The King of Prussia Mall complex is over 2.7 million square feet, and the second largest shopping mall in the United States.  What is the first largest?

a)  Aventura Mall in Aventura, Florida

b)  Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota

c)  South Coastal Plaza in Costa Mesa, California

d)  Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, California

e)  West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta

Answer Below.

HISTORY TODAY:

It has been a tough winter this year.  It seems unlikely anyone would argue with that.  Cold, cold, cold temperatures, lots of snow, too many homes have lost power this season to count.  It may come as small comfort that it is not the worst winter ever, though.  On this day in 1888, a blizzard hit the northeastern coast of the United States that lasted for three solid days and proved truly devastating.  As many as sixty inches of snow fell on parts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Because very few homes even had electricity this long ago, they did not suffer the loss of power Americans on the east coast have been dealing with, but many were stuck in their homes, sometimes under fifty-foot snow drifts that completely covered their houses.  Transportation stopped, and over four hundred people died for various reasons.

Bill Clinton was inaugurated the 42nd President of the United States on January 20th, 1993.  The first thing a new president has to do is surround himself with qualified, capable staff who will work with him (her? one day?) to make the country the best it can be.  On this day in 1993, Janet Reno was confirmed as his Attorney General.  She was the first woman to ever hold the post and she kept it for the entirety of Clinton's eight-year administration - it is a very unusual thing for even a one-term president to retain a cabinet member their entire presidency!  In fact, only one other Attorney General held their office longer than Reno, and that was William Wirt, who served between 1817 and 1829 under Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.

BIRTHDAYS:

Raoul Walsh was born today in 1887.  If you have never heard of him before, we at the ATT blog are a little sad, since we talked about him not too long ago.  He was an actor before he directed movies, starring most famously in D.W. Griffith's controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation as John Wilkes Booth before moving behind the camera.  During the filming of In Old Arizona, Walsh was driving a car when a jackrabbit lunged through the windshield and blinded him in one eye.  Fortunately, it didn't stop him from making many classic films, and one of the films he directed was 1930's The Big Trail.  For that film, he cast a young man named Marion Morrison in this western for whom he saw a strong future.  Walsh was the one who convinced him to change his name to John Wayne.  

We here at the American Treasure Tour blog feel that March 11th should be officially renamed "Lawrence Welk Day"! Mr. Welk entered the world today in 1903 outside the small town of Strasburg, North Dakota.  One of our bloggers has had the opportunity to visit the Welk Homestead, and says that the word "town" may be exaggerating the size of Strasburg (no offense intended to our Strasburger readers!).  It is really a small collection of houses that, in 1903, would have been hours away from its closest city - the state capitol of Bismarck.  Welk's love of music got him off the family farm and into the limeligt, though, and he lived the dream.  He was married to his wife Fern for 61 years, until his death in 1992.  He wrote books, recorded record albums, and of course starred in The Lawrence Welk Show for twenty-seven years.  Not bad for a guy who grew up in a backwater mid-western town! 

QUOTE:

There are good days and there are bad days, and this is one of them. - Lawrence Welk

Answer:  b) The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota is over 3.7 million square feet, while the largest mall in the world is the New South China Mall in Dongguan, China, measuring in at an insane 7.1 million square feet!