One_Armed_BanditCustomers lined up outside Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York, on September 2, 1969, to try their luck at the new one-armed bandit that was generously dispensing cash. They quickly realized that this was not a traditional slot machine finally making its way into New York. It was much more dependable at handing out its goodies than the gambling machine that had preceded it by a good 80 years. The new device was called an automated teller machine (ATM) or banking machine or cash machine. (In Britain, they call it a hole in the wall.) This new contraption did have one drawback; it required customers to have money in the bank in order to withdraw it.

lockhornsA similar device had appeared in London a couple of years earlier, the brainchild of an inventor who, while soaking in the tub imagined a vending machine that dispensed cash instead of chocolate bars.

Today there are well over a million ATMs located in holes in the wall practically everywhere. In some places, they’re conveniently right alongside one-armed bandits.


Folks can’t carry around money in their pocket. They’ve got to go to an ATM machine, and they’ve got to pay a few dollars to get their own dollars out of the machine. Who ever thought you’d pay cash to get cash? That’s where we’ve gotten to.  — Bill Janklow


September 2, 1935

“I think the music is so marvelous, I don’t believe I wrote it,” said George Gershwin as he signed his name to the 700-page completed orchestral score of the opera, Porgy and Bess on September 2, 1935. Critics pretty much agreed, calling it the first and finest American opera.

In February 1934, George and Ira Gershwin along with DuBose and Dorothy Heyward began their collaboration on a libretto, songs, and music for DuBose Heyward’s novel, Porgy, about African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the real-life Cabbage Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.

porgy1During the summer of 1934, Gershwin spent several weeks at the Heyward’s beach cottage on Folly Island off the coast of Charleston, observing local customs and music, and joining in such rituals as “shouting” which involved rhythms created by hands and feet as accompaniment to spirituals.

The play opened at the end of September in Boston and early October in New York . The cast included the Juilliard-trained singers Anne Brown as Bess and Ruby Elzy as Serena; Todd Duncan, a Howard University music professor as Porgy; and vaudevillian John W. Bubbles as Sportin’ Life. The music, a brilliant synthesis of jazz, blues, and folk elements, has found a permanent spot in the American folk and popular repertoire – “I’ve Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” “Bess, You is My Woman Now,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “Summertime.”

The play had a Washington D.C. run, during which Todd Duncan led the cast in a strike to protest the National Theater’s segregation policy, saying they would never play in a theater that barred them from purchasing tickets to certain seats because of race. Theater management gave in to this demand and for the first time an integrated audience attended the National Theater.

West Coast engagements proved a financial disaster, and the play folded, languishing in the United States for many years, while remaining popular in Europe and the Soviet Union. A complete production was not mounted on an American stage again until 1976, when the Houston Grand Opera staged a critically acclaimed revival.  In 1985, fifty years after its Broadway premier, the “folk opera” was performed by New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and has since become a permanent fixture in the American opera repertoire.


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