Did Bruce Springsteen Steal His Idea for “Darkness on the Edge of Town” from a Lutheran College President?

Probably not.  But when my friend John Haas sent me this reprint of a December 1941 column in The Cresset I couldn’t resist writing this post.

The author of the piece is O.P. Kretzmann, a Missouri-Synod Lutheran pastor and the president of Valparaiso University (IN) from 1940 to 1968.  (Full disclosure, I had an office in Kretzmann’s house when I was a Lilly Fellow in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso from 2000-2002).

Here is how Kretzmann began his column:

Tonight at dusk the first snow of the new winter fell on my town… Driven almost horizontally by a wind from the north, it whirled through the cone of light thrown by the lamp across the street, from darkness to darkness… On the edge of town, where the road crosses the railroad tracks, the shocks of corn which I had seen brown in October were now white on the side toward the wind… At this hour every day as night falls over my town, the air is alive with the moan of our mainline trains rushing toward New York… These are the last romantic sounds of our clattering age, the only sounds which still remind us of time and distance… All day my town has gone about its work… Later it will sleep… Just now, in this hour between day and night, it is joined for a moment to the city eight hundred miles toward the rising sun and beyond it to Europe, where soon it will be dawn, to the world beyond the end of the rails and the beginning of the sea, where men do not like snow this year, because it makes shooting and bombing more difficult… But here now, the wind and the trains make a solemn concert and the hills are reverent in silence… If I stand close to this tree and raise my collar against the wind, I can think for a while about Christmas…