This Day in History

September 30th.

1888 – Jack the Ripper commits two more murders. The bodies of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes are found in the early morning hours of the 30th. From April, 1888 to February 1891, there were 11 murders in the Whitechapel district of East London. This was an area that had scores of brothels and 1,200 prostitutes. Perhaps not all of the murders were related but at least five, including Stride and Eddowes, were linked to one serial killer. The name “Jack the Ripper” was coined by the press and a letter purportedly written by him is widely considered to be a hoax generated by that press to increase newspaper circulation. The crimes were never solved nor the identity of Jack the Ripper ever known.

This was back when the sun still never set on the British Empire. When there was still a great in Great Britain. Yet prostitution was a desperate necessity for so many. That should be viewed as much a crime as some evil serial killer.

 1919 – Elaine, Arkansas race riot begins. AKA Elaine Massacre. Black sharecroppers had gathered to form a union in order to demand better payments for cotton from white plantation owners. Some white men showed up to monitor the event. Who fired first is uncertain but gunfire erupted and one white man was killed. An armed white mob of 500-1000 retaliated. An army unit was sent in but instead of dispersing the mob, aided them. In the ensuing three days five white men were killed and the estimate for black victims was anywhere from 100 to 250. Over 100 black men were brought before the court with 73 being charged with murder. There were no indictments against any whites.

It was reported that there was violence on many sides…many sides.

 1981 – Last baseball game at Metropolitan Stadium. The stadium was home to the Minneapolis Millers before the arrival of the Twins. The last game was played before 17,000 fans on a cold, rainy afternoon. The Twins lost 5-2 to Kansas City.

As a boy I first went to Met Stadium with my father to watch minor league baseball. Then I spent many a game there watching and cheering for the Twins. So I had to be there that last day to bid a reluctant farewell. At the top of the ninth all the fans spontaneously stood and clapped, yelled, whistled and stomped their feet. Bewildered players emerged from the dugouts to see what was going on. It was the only time in my life I witnessed a standing ovation for a stadium.


1631 – William Stoughton. Judge at the Salem Witch Trials. He not only acted as Chief Justice but was also the prosecutor. (Talk about a stacked deck.) Stoughton’s claim to fame was that he allowed Spectral Evidence to be used against the accused. Spectral evidence being a witness could testify that the accused shape appeared to her or him in a dream at the time the accused body was somewhere else.

That just about out-Kafka’s Kafka.

 1921 – Deborah Kerr. Scottish born stage and film actress. Kerr was nominated six times for the Academy Award as best actress but never won.

Kerr starred in two of my favorite films, “From Here to Eternity” and “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.”

 1931 – Angie Dickinson. Hollywood actress born in Kulm, North Dakota. Her family moved from Kulm to Burbank, California when she was 10 years old. In addition to numerous Hollywood movies, Dickinson starred in the very successful TV series “Police Woman”. That series was said to have been responsible for many women entering the law-enforcement field.

Of Dickinson’s many movies, the one that stands out the most for me is “Captain Newman, MD.”

I’ll be taking a hiatus from this blog. Gathering new stories hopefully. Expect the next posting to be around the last week of October.




September 25th

September 25th

1775 – Ethan Allen captured by the British. Allan led a poorly planned attack on the city of Montreal leading to his capture. Allen, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, earlier in the year was victorious in the taking of Ft. Ticonderoga. Allen was shipped to England and for a while was under the threat of execution. While a prisoner the English tried to insult him by saying they used pictures of George Washington as toilet paper. He replied he understood, that a picture of Washington would scare the shit out of any Englishman. In 1778 he was returned to America in a prisoner-of-war exchange. After the war, for the rest of his life he fought for the statehood of Vermont. He died in 1789 at the age of 51.

This American hero is honored by having high-end furniture after him.

1957 – Nine black students enter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were escorted past an angry mob by 300 soldiers of the 101st Airborne. “Troops remained at Central High School throughout the school year, but still the black students were subjected to verbal and physical assaults from a faction of white students. Melba Patillo, one of the nine, had acid thrown in her eyes, and Elizabeth Eckford was pushed down a flight of stairs. The three male students in the group were subjected to more conventional beatings. Minnijean Brown was suspended after dumping a bowl of chili over the head of a taunting white student. She was later suspended for the rest of the year after continuing to fight back. The other eight students consistently turned the other cheek. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green, the only senior in the group, became the first black to graduate from Central High School.” (1)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The angry mob gathered to stop the students were guided by the principle that some are more equal than others. A twisted concept that somehow has now reached to the highest powers of our land.

 1974 – First scientific report that ozone layer being destroyed by Freon gases released from aerosol cans. “Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), including Freon, were used extensively as aerosol propellants. Beginning in the 1970s scientists noticed a massive decrease in the amount of ozone present in the ozone layer, part of the upper atmosphere around the earth that shields the earth from harmful solar radiation. Ozone levels had been constant throughout geological time, but over Antarctica the levels had dropped so low that there appeared to be a “hole” in the ozone layer. As the ozone hole grew larger, scientists began to suspect that CFCs were responsible. CFCs react with chlorine and break down, thereby destroying the ozone layer and allowing more radiation from the sun than is normal to reach the earth.” (2) By 1989 there was an international treaty signed by 93 nations agreeing to stop producing CFCs. The alternatives now used as a propellant in aerosol cans are more expensive.
With the climate change deniers now in control, I wonder if the U.S. will be removing our signature from that treaty.


1764 – Fletcher Christian. Head mutineer aboard the HMS Bounty. After setting Captain Bligh adrift, he and his fellow mutineers, along with some Tahitian men and women, settled on previously undiscovered Pitcairn Island. What exactly happened after that is uncertain, other than disharmony broke out and most of the inhabitants died, probably in conflict. There are unsubstantiated rumors that Christian, in disguise, made his way back to England. The one surviving member of the mutiny crew however reported he was killed on the island.

Hollywood can thank Fletcher Christian for a ready made story line. He was rewarded by being portrayed by such romantic leads as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Mel Gibson.

 1929 – Barbara Walters. A pioneer in the world of TV journalism in that she was the first female co-anchor of a network evening news program. In addition to “ABC Evening News”, she also hosted “Today”, “20/20” and “The View”. She encountered and fought through the resistance and patronization from her male colleagues. Even on camera from Harry Reasoner. On the Today show she was relegated to asking guests questions only after the male host had first asked his.

I can’t say I was ever a fan of Walters but I have nothing but respect for what she accomplished in the face of insults, slights and barriers in the male dominated industry.

 1943 – Robert Gates. Secretary of Defense under both Republican and Democrat administrations. Gates previously had served as Director of the CIA. He also served as Deputy Director of the CIA during the Iran-Contra Scandal. The CIA was selling arms to our enemy, Iran, and funneling the proceeds to support the right-wing Contras who were trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. Gates was investigated by the Counsel for Iran-Contra Scandal and although they determined he was in a position to have known of the affair, the evidence did not warrant his indictment.

On the surface, receiving bi-partisan support, Gates seemed like one of the good guys. But in the shadows of the CIA, who knows.


(2) › A-An


Gettysburg Address

Freshman Week

1963 – St. Cloud State College. Beginning of fall quarter. I was back home in Minnesota, on military leave, having just spent 13 months on Kodiak Island. Two of my hometown friends, Dale and Rick, were students at St. Cloud. Dale was starting his 3rd year in college, Rick his 2nd, and I was just finishing 2 years in the Navy. They had both signed up as counselors, or guides, for freshman week. Their duties were to show an assigned group of freshman around, answer questions, and help them acclimate to the campus and college life. Dale did it because he liked nothing better than pontificating in front of an assembly of confused people. (He went on to become a teacher.) Rick thought it would be a great way of meeting freshman girls.

At their suggestion I showed up for Freshman Week. There were indoctrination events and other scheduled activities such as dances and concerts. Since I had nothing better to do I thought why not. There also would be girls and I had just spent 13 months in a place where there were none. Dale lived off campus so I could sleep on his couch.

It was determined the best course of action was for me to pretend that I was an incoming freshman. That seemed reasonably innocent enough. To make it more plausible, Rick suggested I have a major, or at least be thinking about one. A group discussion ensued. I opted for Animal Husbandry. It was successfully argued it might not be the best choice to impress girls. (I’m still not so sure, but…) I think we landed on something safe, like English or History. Next I needed a list of courses I was taking that fall. Dale and Rick picked them for me, then got into an argument over which professors I should take them from, who was the best. I had to point out that, “Ah guys, I’m not actually taking these classes.”

Along with about a dozen or more real freshman, I followed Rick around campus. He had fed me some questions to ask him so he could look wise and worldly, and me insightful. Now as harebrained as this scheme may seem, it worked. I was a very shy young man and nearly paralytic around the opposite sex, but having a phony persona, for some reason, gave me a newfound sense of confidence. I talked, to girls without worrying about being a klutz. With nothing at stake, being I was somebody else, it worked. I met a girl. Medium length brown hair, blue eyes, pretty, Linda was from Little Falls, Minnesota. She asked me my major and what classes I was taking. Prepared by Dale and Rick, I was able to respond. She was excited to find out we had some of the same classes. “We can study together!” She said. I said sure.

I was 19 at the time and going on 15 socially, so this turned out to a very innocent affair. Living in the moment, I played my role as a college student and all thoughts of the Navy vanished from my mind. Linda and I sat together at a concert in the auditorium in Stewart Hall. We saw a folk singing group, I think it might have been the Chad Mitchell Trio. We shared a chaste kiss in front of her dorm at the end of the evening.

Then reality set in. The start of classes coincided with my leave, and my ruse, ending. I had to report back to the Navy. My next place of residence would be a ship, not a college dorm. This cold realization made me revert back to form. My mind became paralyzed. I could not find my way to telling her the truth. The words, “Hey Linda, I’m really a swab jockey, not a college freshman,” sounded so preposterous they could not come out of my mouth. The distance from where she was in life to where I was going grew wider in my mind. And probably due to immaturity, some anger surfaced. Anger at having seen, briefly experienced, a life so unlike the one I had been living.

A year and a half earlier I had been in radio school. At the time President Kennedy gave a speech about those in the military being the cream of the American crop. To us the words rang hollow. We knew the reality of why we were there. Bad grades, trouble with the law, poverty, lack of any other options had landed us in the service. Some had joined for adventure and maybe a few out of patriotism. I remember more a sense of bitterness rather than pride in the barracks that day in response to JFK’s speech. We knew who we were. And we knew there was a life out there, a better life, than the one we were living.

Linda and I were in different worlds. I did not say goodbye to her, I simply disappeared. Dale took me to a highway where I stuck out my thumb to hitchhike back to my hometown. My parents would drive me to the airport, I’d fly to San Diego, and then report aboard the USS Jason. Accompanying me as I stood on the highway awaiting a ride were anger and resentment. The taste of that different world made it harder to go back to mine. St Cloud was a state college, not an institution where children of the privileged went. Yet there was such a wide disparity of privilege between what I had just experienced and where I was going. I think I may have even rationalized that I didn’t owe Linda anything, that’s why I had said nothing.

That divide still exists in America, even more pronounced now. There is a segment of the population resentful of those they see as privileged. Resentful of those who have had more breaks, have gone to college, and presumably in control. It was more than a little responsible for the results of the last election. The American dream has eluded the grasp of many and they are angry, much as I was that day standing on the highway with my thumb out, of those they see as having it made. So they are more than willing to follow someone they think will stand up for them. Without agreeing, but out of experience, I do understand where they are coming from.

Several days after I left Dale saw Linda. She asked what happened to me, where was I. He told her the truth. I would have expected her to be angry, she wasn’t. She simply said, “Well, why didn’t he tell me?” It wouldn’t be my last blunder regarding the opposite sex. And so Linda, wherever you might be, on the remote chance you might see these words, I apologize for my silent retreat back to my side of the divide.

This Day in History

September 16th

1810 – Grito de Delores. English translation: Cry of Delores. Mexican Independence Day. The small village of Delores was the site of the beginning of Mexico’s fight against Spanish rule. A priest, Miguel Hidalgo, had the church bells rung and then gave a speech to his gathered congregation urging rebellion. It signaled the start of Mexico’s successful war of independence against Spain. Hidalgo was later captured and executed. “Hidalgo’s “cry” became the cry of independence. In commemoration, each year on the night of September 15—the eve of Mexican Independence Day—the president of the republic shouts a version of “el Grito” from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City: “Viva México! Viva la Independencia! Vivan los héroes!” (1)

Sadly, like most citizens of the U.S., I know little of the history of our neighbor to the south. Other than Davy Crockett and the Alamo.

 1968 – Richard Nixon appears on “Laugh-In”. He was on for five second and he delivered the line, “Sock it to me.” VP Hubert Humphrey declined an invitation to be on the show. Nixon barely defeated Humphrey and both men later concluded that those five seconds may have been the difference in the election.

The power of television. And this despite the fact that Nixon had the comedic timing and delivery of a kumquat.

 1978 – 25,000 die in Iranian earthquake. The powerful quake, 7.7 magnitude, became known as the Tabas earthquake. Its center was at the town of Tabas where only 2,000 of the 17,000 residents survived. The quake was felt in the capital city of Tehran, almost 400 miles away. There are possibly one hundred fault lines that run beneath Tehran, and the whole country is susceptible to earthquakes.

If it is necessary to make Iran an enemy, instead of attacking them, why don’t we just let God make the call? I mean, he is on our side, right? Why else are all those fault lines there?


1910 – Erich Kempka. Member of the SS and Hitler’s personal chauffeur. After Hitler and his mistress committed suicide, Kempka carried Eva Braun’s body outside to where the corpses were burned. He later referred to Braun as the “unhappiest woman in Germany.” (What a surprise) Kempka managed to elude the Soviet forces overrunning Berlin and he made his way to southern Germany. There he was captured by U.S. troops and later testified at the Nuremberg trials. He was the first witness who could confirm that Hitler was dead. Kempka was never charged with any criminal offenses and was released from custody in 1947.

Just following orders.

 1916 – Julius Richmond. Surgeon General during the Carter administration, he was also one of the founders of the Head Start program. He served as its first director. He did studies on how poverty threatened the normal development of children, putting them at a disadvantage their whole lives. Head Start was designed to combat that disadvantage.

There is considerable discussion and argument whether Head Start is a success or not. There are studies and statistics on both sides of the issue. One main argument against seems to be that is a government program, supported by tax dollars, so therefore, by design, it is doomed to failure.

Indeed. Why put money into some government program when it can be used more effectively to combat something like, say, crime, and insure that privately owned prisons are operating profitably.

1927 – Jack Kelly. Actor. Best known for his role as Bart Maverick in the “Maverick” TV series. He later became a city councilman and then mayor of Huntington Beach, California.

It was always a bit of a disappointment to tune into the show and discover it was a Bart Maverick (Kelly) rather than a Bret Maverick (James Garner) episode.




This Day in History

September 11th

I’ve decided to focus on some lesser known events rather than one of the most horrendous days in American history.

1850 – Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, gives first U.S. concert. “In September 1850, P. T. Barnum embarked on a nationwide tour with a Swedish opera singer that would bring him a vast fortune and create a new cultural phenomenon: the celebrity. Barnum succeeded in building such great public anticipation about the “Swedish Nightingale” that 40,000 people showed up to greet the arrival of her ship in New York harbor.”(1) In addition to the concerts Barnum also promoted Jenny Lind brands of clothes, furniture and pianos. The Jenny Lind phenomenon made him a lot of money

“Mad Men” couldn’t hold a candle to P.T. Barnum. He was a marketing genius. I mean, 40,000 for an opera singer? And whoever came up with the moniker “Swedish Nightingale” gets some major marketing points also.

1919 – U.S. troops sent to Honduras. “U.S. troops invaded in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924, and 1925, usually at times of political turmoil. They were ‘protecting U.S. interests’ like banana plantations, banks, and railroads.”(2) The welfare of the poverty stricken workers of Honduras was not a consideration. The only consideration, it seems, was money. The July 30th edition of This Day in History featured Smedley Butler, a Marine Corps general who participated in some of these invasions. Later in life he bemoaned being a pawn for corporate America and in the setting up of the so-called Banana Republics in Central America.

The economic model created was that of a few very wealthy families owning much of the land and an impoverished population, with no middle class, subservient to them. Which is why the increased wealth and power of the top 1% and the shrinking middle class in America should be alarming.

 1961 – Hurricane Carla hits Texas. A category 5 storm, stronger even than Harvey, it caused hundreds of millions in damages and took 43 lives. Unlike Harvey, however, it already began to weaken by the next day. Whereas Harvey stalled in place and continued to drop record amounts of rain causing immense flooding.

There is more cement and pavement in the world now than there was in 1961 (I can attest to that) with less ground, swamps and wetlands to soak up water, so this naturally leads to more flooding. I think for the good of America we should all individually produce more dirt.

Another hurricane, Irma, is raging as I write these words.


1862 – William Sydney Porter, pen name O. Henry. Prolific writer of short stories, including such gems as “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief.” North Carolina was his home state but as a young man he moved to Texas for health reasons. Henry was a gifted musician and artist and worked many jobs including pharmacist, sheepherder, journalist, draftsman and banker. The last got him in trouble and he was charged with embezzlement. Released on bail, he fled to Honduras. It was then that he started writing. O. Henry returned to Texas to be with his wife who was dying of tuberculosis. Jailed, he spent five years in a prison in Ohio. In 1902, after his release, he moved to New York City and his writing career flourished. At one point, for a period of over a year, he wrote a short story a week for a New York magazine. Unfortunately he was a heavy drinker and he died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 48.

Seems like a man I would have liked to have had a beer with. But, given his eventual fate, that’s probably not altogether appropriate.

1885 – D.H. Lawrence. British writer. His most famous, or infamous, book is “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” The book was banned in the U.S. until 1959 and in Britain until 1960. Sexual mores were changing by the time, as evidenced by the lifting of the ban. Or as poet Philip Larkin wrote in one of his poems: “Sexual intercourse began/In 1963/Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban/And the Beatles’ first LP.”

I was in high school when the first copy of the banned book surfaced in our sophomoric ranks. Various passages of the book certainly opened new avenues of sexual fantasy for me.

 1899 – Jimmie Davis. Popular singer/songwriter and twice governor of Louisiana. “You Are My Sunshine” is his most popular song. Davis, as governor, combatted the corrupt policies of Huey Long. Davis was known as “A man of the people.” That is if the people were white for he was an avowed segregationist. George Wallace had considered him for Vice President when he made his independent presidential run.

An enduring song, and with racism gaining new traction now, a sad but enduring legacy.





This Day in History

September 5th

1925 – Temperature reaches 112 degrees in Centerville, Alabama. A record that has stood for 92 years.

So, there you go, proof that global warming is nothing more than a liberal media inspired hoax. Well, I wish it were a hoax. I predict (and sincerely hope I’m wrong) the record will be broken within the next decade.

 1937 – City of Llanes, Spain falls to Franco’s fascist forces. The Asturias Offensive pitted 90,000 men of the Nationalist side (Franco) against the 45,000 man Republican Army. In addition the Nationalists had air support from Hitler’s Condor Legion. The Republican held Asturias region was isolated from the rest of Republican Spain. Much of the Republican Army was made up of Anarchists and members of the CNT union. The CNT membership requirement:  “We make no distinction at the time of admission, we require only that you are a worker, student or unemployed. The only people who cannot join are those belonging to repressive organisations (police, military, security guards), employers or other exploiters.”

The superior firepower of the Fascists finally forced all of the Asturias region to capitulate.

The Spanish Civil war has been called “The Last Great Lost Cause.” A romantic, idealistic war with the passionate forces of democracy arraigned against the dark evil of fascism. Of course it wasn’t as simple as that. Not with anarchists, socialists, and especially communists on the democracy side. And unlike the Civil War in America, which was geographical in nature, the division in Spain was in every city and town. A bloodbath erupted across Spain. There was indiscriminate killing by whichever side emerged victorious. The fascists murdered elected public officials and union leaders while the Republicans killed priests and nuns. The Catholic Church in Spain, historically siding with the rich landowners and aiding in the suppression of the peasants, was vilified as a systemic problem. These killings didn’t exactly gain the Loyalists any public relation points.

There were exceptions, where the Catholic clergy sided with the Republicans. I was in Zaragoza Spain about six years ago. Through a friend I met a number of Spaniards who aided me in my quest for more knowledge about the war. I was taken to a small village where I met a man who had fought against Franco. Antonio was in his nineties when I met him and had been a teenager when the war started. He described how the local priest was with them and was the best shot in town. The priest stationed himself in the bell tower of the church and would pick off fascists as they attacked the town.

I was more interested in Antonio who truly was an amazing man. Over ninety he was still working as a carpenter, volunteering at the local church. After the war was lost he escaped over the Pyrenees into France. Once WWII began he joined and fought with the French Underground. He lived most of his life in France and married a French woman. Antonio was in his eighties before he felt it was safe for him to return to Spain. Antonio had a constant twinkle in his eye and although we had to communicate through a translator, he still revealed a sly sense of humor. He was one of the more remarkable men I have met in my life.

 1944 – Mad Tuesday. Many Dutch people took to dancing in the street upon hearing the news that Holland was to be liberated. The rumors were premature but still had a positive effect. 60,000 Dutch Nazi collaborators panicked and fled the country.

Those fleeing were the kind of people Antonio spent his life fighting.


1905 – Arthur Koestler. Hungarian born writer and journalist. He fled Hungary as a youth, began his career in Palestine, and over the years became a journalistic nomad. He had the distinction of being imprisoned in three different countries, Spain, France and England. He wrote biographies, essays, novels, “Darkness at Noon” and memoirs, “Scum of the Earth.” (Two of my favorite books).

Koestler favored the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and was captured by the fascists in Malaga. A death sentence hung over his head but eventually he was exchanged for some Nationalist prisoners. Due to his wide range of activities, he attracted the attention of the Gestapo, the M.I.5, the NKVD, and the CIA.

Koestler was very political and was a secret member of the Communist Party. There is some suspicion he was acting as an agent for the party rather than a journalist in Spain. His views and interests were wide and varied and included some that were a bit different, such as the belief in the cosmic significance of coincidence. (One that I share). Koestler, stricken with both Parkinson and leukemia, committed joint suicide with his third wife in 1983.

Another writer I’ll have to go back and re-read.

   1912 – John Cage. Avant-garde music composer. Cage, along with Merce Cunningham, with whom he was romantically involved, was instrumental in the development of modern dance. An innovator, always pushing the boundaries, he once had a piece that included 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.

According to Cage “concluded that all the activities that make up music must be seen as part of a single natural process. He came to regard all kinds of sounds as potentially musical, and he encouraged audiences to take note of all sonic phenomena, rather than only those elements selected by a composer.”

I was never musically sophisticated enough to appreciate his art. Although I do agree that all sounds are potentially musical.

 1960 – Willie Gault. Wide receiver in the National Football League. Gault was also a sprinter on the 1980 Olympic team. The U.S. boycotted that Olympics, held in Moscow, because of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. (A decision by President Carter that I did not support.) Gault was also an alternate on the 1988 Olympic bobsled team.

So close to competing in both the summer and winter Olympics. Not many have done that.



This Day in History

August 31st

1745 – Jacobite Uprising reaches Blair Castle, Scotland. Charles Stuart, otherwise known as Bonnie Prince Charles, led an uprising to try regain the English throne for the House of Stuart. This was the fifth Jacobite uprising, the first being in 1689. Much of the English army was on the continent, fighting another war, so the Jacobites had some initial success. They were expecting help from the French but that never materialized. The Bonnie Prince invaded England and was 130 miles from London before recalled English army forces caused him to retreat. Defeated, he fled to Rome where he died at age 67. This was the last of the Jacobite uprising. In the aftermath there was a law banning the wearing of the kilt.

So who says nothing good comes of war?

1864 – Battle of Jonesboro. Sherman’s army defeats the rebel forces at Jonesboro leaving Atlanta undefended. 1944 – Free French military units liberate Bordeaux from Germans. 1944 – Russian troops march into Bucharest, Romania.

The losers in all three of these instances were waving either the Confederate flag or the Swastika. The same banners that another group of losers were carrying in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 1939 – Operation Himmler. This was a staged attack on a German radio station on the Polish border. German SS agents dressed in Polish uniforms, supervised by Heinrich Heydrich, attacked the station. Left behind after the “attack” were the bodies of Poles also dressed in the uniform of the Polish army. They were inmates of a concentration camp who were killed earlier and then shot so it would look like they had fallen in battle. Hitler used this manufactured incident as a provocation to invade Poland and launch the beginning of WWII.

If there was any investigative journalism reporting the questionable nature of the attack, one must wonder if it was decried as fake news.


 1822 – Fitz John Porter. Union general at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. Porter was a protégé of General George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, and an open critic of General John Pope, commander of the Union forces at Bull Run. Porter received conflicting orders from Pope so he chose to ignore them. When the angry Pope issued the orders a second time he felt compelled to comply. By obeying he left the Union flank exposed, which is what he feared, and the Confederates rolled through to victory. Porter was blamed for the defeat, relieved of command, court-martialed, and dismissed from the army. Edward Alexander, an officer in the Confederate Army, wrote “Confederates who knew Porter respected him greatly and considered his dismissal ‘one of the best fruits of their victory’”. Years later Porter was exonerated and President Grover Cleveland commuted his sentence.

General McClellan fell into political disfavor, with good reason, and was relieved of command. The effect of this however left Porter with no one to protect him, and unfortunately sealed his fate. More often than not politics trumps reality.

1907 – Augustus Hawkins. 1st African-American from California to be elected to the House of Representative. Hawkins served in the House for 28 years. He worked with LBJ on the Civil Rights Act, supported Johnson’s Great Society, but thought the Civil Rights bill was only the start. “From the beginning of his career on the Hill, Hawkins worked to improve the quality of life for minorities. In 1964 he toured the South with three white Representatives to champion African–American voter registration and to observe discrimination. Praising the volunteers who risked their lives to fight oppression, Hawkins recalled, “Being congressmen didn’t exempt us from the constant terror felt by anyone challenging established racial practices.” (1)

And there are those who want to take us back to that America.

 1945 – George Ivan Morrison. Better known as Van Morrison. Singer, songwriter from Northern Ireland. Van Morrison, with his unique voice and singing style, has been described as being in a genre of one. Morrison has been influential on the music scene since the late 60’s with hits like “Brown-Eyed Girl”, “You’re My Woman” and “Tupelo Honey.” He had an absolutely stirring performance in Martin Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz.” Morrison suffered from stage fright and that night his manager had to almost push him on stage. The Band understood for they too suffered from stage fright.

Personal note to friend and music enthusiast Greg Foley. WATCH THIS MOVIE!

I was watching the movie late one night on television. Storm warning kept scrolling across the bottom of the screen, which I ignored. At that time I was living on the second floor of a three-story apartment building. It was raining but I didn’t think too much about it. Just as Van Morrison started to perform there was a roar, the proverbial freight train roar, lights went out, windows exploded, a rush of wind thundered through the apartment, and I hit the floor. Unhurt, I huddled behind a sofa until the wind subsided. Part of the roof was gone from the building, trees were down, cars crushed, (not mine) and we didn’t have power for five days. It wasn’t until several years later that I saw Van Morrison finish his act and the second half of “The Last Waltz.”



This Day in History

August 25th

1835 – The Great Moon Hoax Story. Published in the New York Sun, six daily articles purported there was life on the moon. They were falsely attributed to a famous astronomer of that era, John Herschel. The articles were written by the Sun’s editor, Richard Locke. He had intended them as satire, to poke fun at the astronomical community for some of its wild and unsubstantiated claims. The articles instead were taken seriously, despite descriptions of blue-tinted unicorns, biped beavers and winged humanoids, and caused a sensation.

The New York Herald, on August 31st, challenged the story, calling it a hoax. Still, many peopled believed it. One who didn’t was Edgar Allan Poe who thought it plagiarized from a story he had written. But even he was amazed, saying “For a time, not one person in ten discredited it.” Despite having the articles exposed as a hoax the Sun’s sales continued to be high. Even P.T. Barnum was impressed, and probably a little envious. John Herschel, a respected astronomer, felt the opposite and was frustrated that his name was linked to it. It wasn’t until five years later that Richard Locke confessed and regretted his part in it.

A good example of how fake science and fake news can undermine real science and real news. A lesson that’s being re-learned at this very time.

1967 – Dean Chance pitches a no-hitter for the Minnesota Twins. Chance pitched 11 years in the majors and won 128 games. Interestingly he became a carnival barker after his professional baseball career was over. Not out of down and out necessity, he was very successfully at it and eventually owned over 40 carnival games and employed 250 people.

Although a very avid baseball and Twins fan, I completely missed Chance’s no-hitter. At that time I was still engaged in the Summer of Love.

1970 – Bomb scare at Metropolitan Stadium. A Minnesota Twins theme today. On a beautiful, warm August evening, during a game between the Twins and Red Sox, a call was received that a bomb was going to explode at 9:30. This was during a period of civil unrest and there had been prior bombings in the Twin Cities so the threat was taken seriously. It was then that Twins announcer, Bob Casey, shouted out one of his more famous public announcements. “Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t panic but there’s going to be an explosion in 15 minutes!”

I was there. There were four of us, Bunk, Babe, Zerk, and Trick, college buddies and recent graduates. We were happily watching the game and drinking beer when the announcement was made. We looked at one another with amused disbelief. The evacuation of the stadium was quite orderly, with no panic despite the rather strange announcement. Babe and I became separated from Trick and Zerk. The idea was to exit the stadium into the parking lot. It occurred to me there were no restrooms in the parking lot so I suggested a pit stop to Babe. He agreed, and then laughed. “If somebody going to plant a bomb, it’s probably in the can.” Good logic, but I still had to go. “Well, one thing,” I offered, “I bet there’s nobody else in there.” We entered the restroom and I was almost right, there were only two others in there, Trick and Zerk were at the trough urinal. They looked over when we entered and started laughing. “We were wondering if anybody else would be dumb enough to come in here,” Zerk said.

In the parking lot, beer vendors were calling out, “Last chance for a beer!” Zerk finished his beer, placed the plastic cup upside down on the pavement to stomp on it and make a popping noise. Then he stopped, laughed, and said, “Probably not a good idea at this time.” Later we learned some fans simply went onto the field and mingled with the players during the delay. We were disappointed we hadn’t done that.

As far as the nicknames, as silly they are, the story just seems to work better than if I had used Gary, Leon, Lowell, and Richard.

The Twins eventually lost the game 1-0.


1819 – Allan Pinkerton. Born in Scotland, Chicago policeman, and founder of the famous detective agency. His agency foiled an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln in 1861, acted as a spy agency for the North in the Civil War, and on the other side of the ledger, was a labor union buster. His agency was also responsible for breaking up the Molly Maguires. The Molly Maguires were a secret, Irish organization in coal-mining Pennsylvania who were fighting (violently) for the rights of the miners. Ironically, Pinkerton fled Scotland because there was a warrant for his arrest for being involved in Chartism. Chartism was a working class movement protesting the injustices of the social and political system in England.

Before he became a detective Pinkerton was a barrel maker in Illinois and it is rumored his shop was a stop on the Underground Railroad. He also went to war with the James gang, and gave up. An undercover agent in the gang was exposed and killed, and in a raid on the James house, a bomb was thrown through a window and Jesse and Frank’s mother (they weren’t home at the time) lost part of her arm and an eight-year- old half brother was killed. The Pinkerton’s were an effective force working for the government, partly because they sometimes operated outside the law and were not held accountable to it.

Why does the name Blackwater come to mind?

 1913 – Walt Kelly. A cartoonist best known for his comic strip “Pogo.” A famous line from one of his cartoons was: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

That line, written during a turbulent time, is still apropos today. “Pogo,” along with “Calvin and Hobbes,” are in my opinion the two best comic strips of all time.

 1930 – Sean Connery. Scottish actor who first came to fame as James Bond. He was in many films and won an Oscar for his role in “The Untouchables.”

Interestingly Connery had a leading role in the film “The Molly Maguires.”




This Day in History

August 21st

1680 – Spanish flee Santa Fe. Spanish military forces, priest and settlers had occupied the area since 1540, to the dismay of the Pueblo Indians. Various uprising were put down, usually with much cruelty. After one failed attempt the Spaniards cut off the right foot of 24 Pueblo men. The Catholic religion was forced upon the Indians, they were forbidden to practice their cultural traditions and many were enslaved. In the late 1670’s an uprising was planned by an Indian leader named Pope. Prior to that over 40 “medicine men” were jailed and charged with sorcery. Three were hanged and the rest publicly whipped before being released. Pope was one of them. The uprising became known as Pope’s Rebellion. He successfully organized 46 Pueblo towns and they rose up in unison. Over 400 Spaniards were killed, including two-thirds of the priests. After the Spanish fled, Pope ordered the churches burned and all Christian symbols, such as crosses, etc., destroyed. A drought had been plaguing the area and was one of the reasons for the uprising. Pope said the Gods were angry with the Spanish and once they were gone it would rain. It didn’t and his influence waned. What eventually happened to him is unknown. The Spanish returned in 1692 and re-conquered the area.

I wonder if the Spanish at the time were puzzled and aghast that the native population was rejecting their just and merciful god.

1841 – Patent issued for the venetian blind. John Hampton of New Orleans was granted the patent. However the original idea dates back to…drumroll please…yes, you guessed it, the Venetians! And they in turn brought the idea back from Persia.

If only someone could patent an easy way to clean them.

1911 – Mona Lisa stolen from Louvre. The theft of the world’s most famous painting created a media sensation at the time. At first it was thought that critics of traditional art, Modernists, were responsible. Picasso was even briefly a suspect. The mystery wasn’t solved until two years later. The culprit turned out to be Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian who believed the masterpiece belonged in Italy. The theft turned out to be a wash for him in that he never received the huge payoff he expected, but neither did he receive a long jail sentence, and briefly he was a hero in his home country.

Nighttime in Paris. The Left Bank. We, Rick and I, were wandering aimlessly. On the other side of the river we saw the Louvre, brilliantly lit up. Dead broke, hungry, no place to sleep that night, a cultural experience was not high on our list of priorities. And unfortunately that is as close as I have ever gotten to the Mona Lisa.


1904 – Count Basie. Jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. Basie quit school after junior high and went to work operating lights on the vaudeville circuit. He graduated to playing piano for silent films, learning to improvise to accent the plot lines. He played and led several musical combos until he had his own orchestra during the Big Band era. Basie received nine Grammy Awards and in 1958 was the first African-American to win a Grammy. That also was the first year the Grammy’s were awarded.

1932 – Melvin Van Peebles. Actor, director, writer. He is most famously known for acting in and directing “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song”. Supporting himself by driving cab in San Francisco, Van Peebles made several short films. He took them to Hollywood, hoping for a career. Instead he was offered jobs as an elevator operator and a dancer. He went to France where he began writing and became more involved in filmmaking. He made a film about an affair between a black American soldier and white French woman that gained the notice of Hollywood. He was hired to direct “Watermelon Man”, a story about a white bigot who becomes black. He was to shoot two endings, one where the protagonist becomes a black militant, and the second where he wakes up from a dream. He “forgot” to shoot the second ending. Van Peebles never compromised his integrity and while the film industry is still far from open, his success helped black actors and directors get more work.

1936 – Wilt Chamberlain. 7’1” Basketball player. He was a near unstoppable offensive force in the National Basketball Association. He once scored 100 points in a game, led the league in scoring 7 straight years, was top rebounder 11 times and even had one year where he had the most assists. His teams won 2 NBA championships and he was voted MVP 4 times. As Oscar Robertson put it in the Philadelphia Daily News when asked whether Chamberlain was the best ever, “The books don’t lie.”

Sharing the same birth date, three legendary African-American success stories in the world of music, film and sports.


This Day in History

August 16th

1812 Fort Detroit captured. The Americans in the fort surrendered to a much smaller combined British and Indian force. Through subterfuge, Tecumseh, chief of the Shawnee, made the Americans believe his force was much larger than it was. The commander of the fort was charged with cowardice and sentenced to be executed. President James Madison later commuted the sentence.

Wonder what our National Anthem would be if Francis Scott Key had been at Fort Detroit instead of McHenry?

 1869 – Battle of Acosta Ñu. A battle between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Militarily defeated, Paraguay refused to surrender. In a last ditch effort they sent young boys into battle wearing fake beards, hoping it would frighten the enemy. Thousands of children were slaughtered in the battle.

Hard to say who had a more ignoble military reputation, the commander of Ft. Detroit or the commander of the Paraguayan army.

1987 – Harmonic Convergence.

From “The Harmonic Convergence is the name given to one of the world’s first globally synchronized meditation events, which occurred on August 16–17, 1987. This event also closely coincided with an exceptional alignment of planets in the Solar System. The selected date marked the end of twenty-two cycles of 52 years each, or 1,144 years in all. The twenty-two cycles were divided into thirteen heaven cycles, which began in AD 843 and ended in 1519, when the nine hell cycles began, ending 468 years later in 1987. The very beginning of the nine hell cycles was precisely the day that Cortes landed in Mexico, April 22, 1519 (coinciding with “1 Reed” on the Aztec/Mayan calendar, the day sacred to Mesoamerican cultural hero Quetzalcoatl). The 9 hell cycles of 52 years each ended precisely on August 16–17, 1987. The timing of the Harmonic Convergence was allegedly significant in the Maya calendar, with some consideration also given to European and Asian astrological traditions. The chosen dates have the distinction of allegedly marking a planetary alignment with the Sun, Moon and six out of eight planets being part of the grand trine.

So, you got all that? Me neither. I remember the day well, if not the significance of it. I was working at the New Riverside Café, a workers’ owned vegetarian café. “No meat, no bosses” was its motto. Some referred to is as “The Communist Café.” Given that my last column was about being at Haight-Ashbury, I guess it was an appropriate place for me to land. The staff at the New Riv was an eclectic and wonderful collection of activists, anarchists, socialists, communists, old hippies, a couple of guys on the run, and a coven of lesbian witches. We also had several café lizards in the basement. The belief being they would help control pests without having to resort to chemicals. No workday there was ever the same, or boring. As would be expected, the Harmonic Convergence was viewed with a great deal of anticipation. I don’t know what I was expecting, some kind of world transformation? I remember being disappointed, feeling the whole thing was a bit of a dud. Maybe I just wasn’t properly indoctrinated.


1888 – T.E Lawrence. Or better known as Lawrence of Arabia. A British subject, Lawrence, as a young man lived and traveled in Syria, Palestine and Turkey, studying archeological sites. He both learned the language and adopted the Arabic wardrobe. During WWI he led Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire who had sided with Germany. His raids were very disruptive to the Turks and he even successfully captured Damascus. Lawrence promised Arab leaders that once the war was victoriously ended they would have their independence from European control. At the Paris Peace Conference after the war, ignoring Lawrence’s advice, the powers-that-be reneged on those promises. Shattered at being unable to keep his word Lawrence withdrew from public life. He wrote a book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, enlisted in the RAF under an assumed name, and at age 46 died in a motorcycle accident.

Perhaps if Lawrence’s advice had been heeded, the unrest, war and terrorism that plague the region and the world might have been averted. A very good book, “Lawrence in Arabia” covers his involvement and the political intrigues of the period quite well. It should be no surprise that money and oil prevailed over any promises.

 1894 – George Meany. Powerful labor leader and first president of the AFL-CIO. He fought corruption and communism in unions. While he was president of the American Federation of Labor, it was accused of being too conservative and racist. Meany openly fought with other labor leaders such as John L. Lewis and Jimmy Hoffa. He also supported America’s war effort in Vietnam.

From “Meany viewed the labor movement as more than a “special interest” it was rather the only organization in American life that spoke for the common citizen. He termed it the “people’s lobby.” He believed strongly that free trade unions were an essential part of a democratic society.”

Although generally conservative in his policies, based on the views stated above, Meany in today’s world would probably be regarded as a raging liberal demagogue.

 1940 – Bruce Beresford. Australian born film director. Among his more popular films are “Breaker Morant,” “Tender Mercies,” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Breaker Morant” makes my personal list for all time great movies. The story line for the movie is credited to a book called “Scapegoats of the Empire.” I tried to find the book which has long been out of print. The cheapest copy I found in an Internet search has been $2,500. I guess I won’t be reading it.