Dr. Seuss’ 100th Birthday Celebration

Published 03/06/04

On Saturday, March 6, 2004, I went to the Springfield Museums and Library complex in Springfield, Massachusetts, for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.

Let me begin by saying I was one of the few people at the Dr. Seuss birthday party without kids. By the end of the day, I felt much taller than I normally feel.

I walked around the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, which honors him and some of his characters. Then, I paid the admission to get into the musem complex to take part in the special activities for his birthday.

The Gerena Seuss Singers from the German Gerena Community School sang songs honoring the author and his characters and shared biographical information about him. They dressed in black with white gloves, white bibs with a red bow tie, and Cat-in-the-Hat hats. They seem to be well-known in Springfield.

Then, I went to the cafe of the Museum of Fine Arts for a cake display. Local bakers made birthday cakes for Dr. Seuss. Many were run-of-the-mill birthday cakes, but one was shaped like Cindy Lou Who holding a birthday cake for Dr. Seuss. Cindy was about 3 feet high and the cake for Dr. Seuss was about 9 inches in diameter. The baker, Stephanie, happened to standing there. She said it took her longer to do the engineering for the cake than for her to do the baking. Cindy’s head is a styrofoam ball, but her body and the cake she holds are cake. She was completely covered in icing making her look like she had just walked out of the pages of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”

Following that, I went to the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum to sign a birthday card for Dr. Seuss. I wrote:

“Hey Dr. Seuss,
A whole bunch of us librarians around the world have been praising you all week. I hope you’ve read all those e-mails. A colleague in New Zealand was sorry he couldn’t be here for your party. Thanks for inspiring so many around the world!”

I tried to to listen to some book readings in the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, but when I went over there, they weren’t reading any books and I got distracted by all the other activities and the museums and didn’t make it back to that building.

It turns out that the special traveling show “The Art of Dr. Seuss” is at the science museum. I contacted the museum a few weeks ago inquiring about it since I saw it on the tour calendar and didn’t find information about it on the museum’s Web site, but I received no response to my e-mail. (They haven’t fixed the broken links on their site I told them about, either.) It’s tucked away in an out-of-the-way place behind a display case in the museum gift shop. The show highlights Dr. Seuss’ career as an illustrator for advertisements and displays some art work he did while he was in the Army. (I think he served in something like their Office of Information, but I forgot to write it down.) It was neat to see some official Army memo pages with his illustrations on them, especially the one with the guy bent over backwards like he’s uh…looking at the seat of his pants, shall we say. There were also four previously unexhibited drawings that were, well, Seussical, but not typical for what we see in his children’s books. There was a female bird dressed like a woman in some kind of negligee holding a martini. Another female bird in a bikini licked ice cream while sunbathing on green grass. There was a really neat drawing of a waterfall that was Escheresque. He incorporated the printed images on the endpapers of one of his books in some drawings he did to autograph the book for some friends. The traveling show also kicks off the sale of a new book featuring some of his unpublished art with a foreward by another fabulous children’s book author, Maurice Sendak.

The Cat in the Hat and the Grinch were celebrating the birthday of their creator, too.

In case anyone cares about the museums: The museums are worth the $7 admission price. (One price lets you in all of the museums.) The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum features items from Asia and the Middle East and a collection of plaster casts of famous works, like Michelangelo’s Moses. I enjoyed looking at the Japanese suits of armor and weaponry. They also have lots of space set aside for special interactive activities for children and some exhibits geared towards younger children. The Museum of Fine Arts has a nice collection of American works, including modern art. I chose not to go upstairs to look at their European collection. I spent quite a bit of time in the Springfield Science Museum. They have an extensive collection of taxidermized animals from America and Africa and quite a few minerals. A section of the museum is devoted to the people and animals of Africa. Their dinosaur room has a few footprint fossils. Their Tyranosaurus rex looks like the one Boston’s Museum of Science replaced recently. Right now they’re hosting a special exhibit of mechanical dinosaurs. They also have human artifacts dating to early America and from the frozen north. The museum seems geared towards children. I didn’t make it back to tour the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, but the quick look I had inside revealed cars, motorcycles, and things from many periods of the river valley’s history.

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