Everything else on the 27th day of January in 1945 paled (as it should) next to the Russian troops throwing open the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau while radio stations in this country were playing “Don’t Fence Me In” by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. While the troops were finding 468 dead inmates, folks in New York were catching Martha Graham and Dance Company at Jordon Hall performing “Appalachian Spring” at the Saturday matinee. While the troops were liberating 2800 people abandoned by the SS without any provisions to survive, William “Willie” J. Glunk was being born in Astoria, New York, about the time Noah Berry, Jr. was preparing for an opening and run of 504 performances in Up In Central Park at the Century Theatre with book and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. While Lois Ada Comfort was being born in Doniphan, Maryland, Raymond Cothern in Baton Rouge, David Hermes in Baraboo, Wisconsin, while these and countless others were being born, hopefully with joyous cries at new life, the Soviets were inventorying the storage buildings and finding 836,255 women’s coats and dresses, over 368,000 men’s suits, and human hair totaling seven tons. While Oscar Schindler was saving 85 Jews from a train in Brunnlitz that had been locked for a week, in Bound Brook, New Jersey, William Hennessy was being born and would live 67 years to the day, the 27th of January, both his birth and death date.
In Baton Rouge and other places in Louisiana that day, there were no ironic newspaper headlines, only straight-forward reporting during war-weary times and the seemingly necessary one-sided reporting of race. Harold Joseph, Negro, died that Friday in New Orleans Charity Hospital of an abdominal gunshot wound received while resisting arrest during a jewelry store robbery Thursday night. His partner, Robert Guidry, Negro, was also shot while escaping with the goods and was in serious condition. No doubt Patrolmen Jay Sedgebeer and Paul Oestricker were busy filling out reports about Joseph and Guidry refusing to halt while fleeing and how many shots were fired and by whom. Also in New Orleans, Rock P. Scallan was sentenced to 60 days in jail by Judge George Platt for driving a truck while drunk earlier on December 23rd. In Baton Rouge, despite objections from the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the sale would go forward of 22 horses and mules no longer fit for duty at Angola, the state penitentiary. The Society cited a law prohibiting the sale of “debilitated, diseased and lame horses and mules in cities of 10,000 or more.”
On that winter day in January, while Robert Guidry, Negro, struggled to survive his gunshot wound and the family of his partner prepared for a funeral, while Patton’s Third Army was crossing the Our River and capturing Oberhausen and while the 6th Ranger Battalion and the 6th Army Special Reconnaissance Unit began a rescue behind enemy lines of 500 American, British, and Dutch prisoners-of-war in the Philippines, Onetia Mae Wilson Cothern was 31 years old and giving birth shortly before noon at the Baton Rouge General Hospital, right across Florida Boulevard and two short blocks west of Bernardo Street. Willie Talmadge Cothern was 33 years old and waiting with other expectant fathers for the birth of his child. Willie Von and Wayne Harolyn at ages 12 and 6 were in school, perhaps with vague inklings that the attention they had been receiving was being splintered into unequal time, that the balance of power was shifting under them much like the uneasy alliance among all armies, all families.