This Day in History

March 23rd

1889 – President Harrison opens Oklahoma for “white” colonization. Five Indian tribes from the east, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, had been relocated to what is now the state of Oklahoma. According to

“In about 1879, Elias Boudinot began a campaign, perhaps at the behest of one of his clients, the M-K-T Railroad, to open the land “unoccupied by any Indian” to settlement by non-Indians. He pointed out in a letter published in 1879 that four of the Five Civilized Tribes, unlike the Cherokee, had extinguished their complete title to the lands ceded following the Civil War and received full payment. He also said: Whatever may have been the desire or intention of the United States Government in 1866 to locate Indians and negroes upon these lands, it is certain that no such desire or intention exists in 1879. The Negro since that date, has become a citizen of the United States, and Congress has recently enacted laws which practically forbid the removal of any more Indians into the Territory. He put forth the view that area was now Public Land and suggested the names “Unassigned Lands” and “Oklahoma” for the district.”(1)

President Rutherford B. Hayes, to his credit, issued a proclamation forbidding encroachment upon that territory. Too late, greed had had its eyes opened and the land grab began ultimately resulting in President Harrison’s act.

Legalese and semantics, or labeling, come into play here. Especially the term “Unassigned Lands”. Clever, justifying the desire, tacitly giving the right to go in and take that land. Similar to now in branding some benefits as “entitlements.” Without any discussion it already sets them up as a target.

 1919 – In Italy Mussolini forms Fascist movement while in Russia a five member Politburo is formed, including Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

On the same day, same year, 1,500 miles apart, totalitarian banners of a different stripe are being raised. There is a theory that life is channeled through synchronistic events, that nothing is a coincidence. March 23rd, 1919 might be an example. Two movements, destined to clash, and both predicated on a need to dominate, come to life. Each probably had a justification of that need in the mere existence of the other. And that collision would eventually cost over 60 million people their lives.

1987 – Willy Brandt resigns as chairman of the Social Democratic Party. Brandt, born Herbert Frahm in Lubeck, Germany, adopted the pseudonym Willy Brandt during WWII to avoid detection by the Nazis after he fled to Norway and Sweden. Brandt, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 was Mayor of West Berlin from 1957-1966. In 1961 the city was divided by hte building of the Berlin Wall. Later, in addition to being chairman of the SDP, Brandt was also Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

I was in West Berlin while Brandt was mayor and because of flaunting rules, came close to ratcheting up his Cold War tensions, albeit on a very small scale. My friend Rick and I crossed through Checkpoint Charlie for an afternoon in East Berlin. We were given stern instructions by the East German authorities on what was not permissible including taking pictures of any military personnel. The threat of arrest was clearly defined. No problem for me in that my camera had been destroyed earlier in the trip. Side note. If you intend to document a summer’s adventure, it is not a good idea to drop the camera down a mountainside in the Alps.

Both of us were twenty-one years old at the time and insufferably cocky, rules were nothing more than, at most, annoying suggestions. We were on a plaza in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Scattered about were soldiers with rifles and sub-machine guns slung over their shoulders. Rick began taking photos of the Gate and then started to frame them so he could include one particular soldier. I knew what he was doing and said, “Get him?” He nodded his reply. Then the soldier turned and looked directly at Rick, and the camera. We froze. As good a friend as Rick was, I was already separating myself from him by formulating an excuse that I didn’t even have a camera. Then the expression of the young soldier began to soften. And across the wide political chasm that divided our societies, three young men shared a conspiratorial smile. And thereby avoided an “incident” which may have even involved Willy Brandt.


1905 – Joan Crawford. Hollywood actress who is now probably better known for her public feuds with her own daughter and also fellow actress Bette Davis than her career. Crawford was one of the biggest Hollywood celebrities of her era and starred in many movies.

She was before my time and going back and looking at her work, except for “Mildred Pierce”, I can’t say that I was a fan.

 1929 – Roger Bannister. First man to run a mile under four minutes. On May 6, 1954, in Oxford, England, Bannister achieved that feat.

Big deal, that’s only two minutes faster than my personal best.

 1957 – Jan Marie Jenneke. Her brother was absolutely thrilled when their father gave him the news.

Happy Birthday, sis.



This Day in History

March 19th

1628 – Massachusetts Bay Colony issued land grant. “A land grant was received from the Council of New England, the successor to the ineffective Virginia Company of Plymouth, providing rights to the area between the Charles and Merrimack rivers and westward to the Pacific Ocean.”(1) Before they even left England for the Colonies, the Puritan businessmen received an okay on the land grant from the King.

All the way to the Pacific Ocean? The arrogance of both the grantor and grantee is, to me, amazing. Regardless of who might live there, the assumption that the land could belong to them. But then again, one was king and the others were Puritans who had been put on earth by God to make things right.

 1882 – Construction of Sagrada Familia begins in Barcelona, Spain

“Describing Sagrada Família, art critic Rainer Zerbst said, “It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art” and Paul Goldberger describes it as, “The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”(2)

Viewing it only from the outside, the line to enter was long and I don’t do lines well, I found the church to be both magnificent and a little creepy.

 1966 – Texas Western defeats Kentucky for the NCAA basketball title. The starting five for Texas Western was black, the entire Kentucky team was white. The significance of this was not lost on many people. There was an unspoken agreement among southern coaches at the time to start only two black players, play three during the game, and four were allowed at the end if the game was close. But never all five. Coach Don Haskins of Texas Western maintained he wasn’t a social crusader, his goal was to win basketball games. The team was not invited to either the White House or the Ed Sullivan Show after their championship, which was common at the time.

I remember that game and also what seemed like an effort to publicly suppress the significance of the victory.


1894 – “Moms” Mabley. Stand-up American comedian. Perhaps the first female stand-up comic and certainly the first African-American one. She led the way for other women comedians such as Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. She had a traumatic childhood in North Carolina, losing both parents before she was a teen, and being raped twice, once by a white sheriff. She became pregnant both times and the babies were put up for adoption. She not only survived but out of this trauma she developed the talent to make people laugh. She got the nickname “Moms” from mothering other entertainers on the vaudeville circuit. She also did a cover of “Abraham, Martin and John” that became a top forty hit in 1969.

I watched her on the Smothers Brothers show but I don’t recall the recording. Will have to look it up.

 1939 – Joe Kapp. NFL quarterback, most notably for the Minnesota Vikings in 1969 when he led them to the Super Bowl. Only to lose but as time would prove, the Vikings had a special talent for losing Super Bowls.

Unlike now, I was an avid football fan back in 1969. The game was played outside on dirt and mud and snow-covered frozen fields. And there was considerably less hype and know-it-all announcers. The Vikings were my team and Joe Kapp my favorite player. Not the most talented quarterback, perhaps even the least talented to ever lead a team to the Super Bowl. He threw weak, wounded-duck passes, taunted linebackers, hurdled cornerbacks, doing whatever necessary to win. He made the game fun to watch. Before coming to the Vikings he played in the Canadian Football League. Not too long ago I was watching TV one night and a news clip comes on. An altercation at a banquet honoring old Canadian football stars. Two old men in their seventies, former bitter rivals, get into a fight. After getting whacked with a cane, Joe pops the other guy, knocking him off his chair. Ah Joe, you still got it.

And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “The Play,” the last play of the California-Stanford football game of 1982. California won the game with quite possibly the wildest football play of all time. And the coach for California…Joe Kapp.

 1944 – Sirhan Sirhan. On June 8th, 1968 Sirhan shot Senator Robert Kennedy four times. Kennedy died the next day. A Palestinian, Sirhan said the reason for the attack was because Kennedy supported Israel.

I was not a fan of Robert Kennedy. I was for Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war senator from Minnesota who first had the courage to challenge a President from his own party. Only after McCarthy showed some success in the primaries did Kennedy join the race. I viewed it too calculatingly political. Yet when Kennedy was assassinated I just shut down. At the time I read nothing about the shooting. I was still troubled by Martin Luther King, Jr. being killed two months earlier and now more violence rupturing the political arena. It was a turbulent era and I truly wondered, as many did, if our nation was coming apart.







This Day in History

March 14th

1590 – Battle of Ivry. A decisive battle during the French Wars of Religion. A Protestant army (Huguenot) led by Henry IV of France, defeated the forces of the Catholic League.

Another war over religion. Seems like a silly thing to die for. And this one didn’t even have different gods, just a violent disagreement over interpretation of the bible. Or, you don’t think there was more at stake for the leaders, like power and money, and religion was just a guise to inspire their followers? Something akin to fighting over WMD’s rather than oil?

 1923 – President William Harding becomes the first American president to pay taxes. “On March 14, 1923, President Warren G. Harding filed his income tax return for the 1922 year, paying about $17,000 in tax on his presidential salary of $75,000, although further details were not released. The New York Times of February 15, 1921 reports that then-President-elect Harding spoke against a proposed bill that would make the President permanently immune from the income tax, effectively killing it.” (1)

Quite noble on his part. Why do I think such a bill would stand a better chance now?

1933 – CCC begins tree conservation. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a program initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt to address the nation’s massive unemployment problem. Camps were located throughout the country and eventually over half a million young men served in them. As its title would imply, the work was mainly conservation. Besides building roads, bridges and stocking a billion fish in lakes, the men were responsible for the planting of millions of trees.

Another noble act, conserving our planet rather than destroying it. Well, we got that antiquated notion out of our heads. Not to mention that the whole idea sounds more than a little communistic.


1854 – Thomas Riley Marshall. 28th Vice President of the United States, he served from 1913 to 1921 under Woodrow Wilson. He hated being VP, thinking it a superfluous position. He also did not get along with Wilson. Coming from Indiana he was considered provincial and was not accepted in Washington. He countered with wit. One of his useless duties was to be on a committee discussing whether to send an expedition to Guatemala to search for pre-historic man. Marshall suggested they save money by just digging in DC because based on what he had seen, pre-historic man could not be far beneath the surface.

A quote by somebody else about Marshall from “An unfriendly fairy godmother presented Marshall with a keen sense of humor. Nothing is more fatal in politics.”(2) And here is an excerpt from a book he wrote about his family. “There was not one of my blood, in or out of the Union Army who was not either serving and sacrificing at home or suffering and dying among the hills and valleys of the southland for the preservation of the Union. And yet, so bitter was the politics of the time that they had to undergo the suspicion of being disloyal to their country because they did not vote the Republican ticket. My grandfather and my father were notified by the Methodist preacher whose church they attended that he would have to strike their names off the roll if they continued to vote the Democratic ticket. My grandfather, as a fiery Virginian, announced that he was willing to take his chance on Hell but never on the Republican party.” (3)

I think I would have liked this guy.

 1914 – Lee Hays. Leftist folksinger and member of the banned singing group The Weavers. Rather than me picking and choosing a few items about him, I suggest you go to the website listed below. Whether you are a fan of folk music or not, it is a fascinating read of a man and a time in American history.

1933 – Michael Caine. Academy Award winning British actor. His real name was Maurice Micklewhite and he only recently officially changed it to Michael Caine due to airport security. Security guards would recognize him as Michael Caine and then see a different name on his passport and it became a time-delaying hassle. Caine also served in the British Army with the Royal Fusiliers and saw extensive combat action in Korea.

One of my favorite actors ever since I first saw him in “The Ipcress File” and “Alfie.”







This Day in History

March 9th

1831 – French Foreign Legion founded. The French Foreign Legion (FFL), heroic and romanticized in lore, provided fertile soil for novels and movies. One of the best was “Beau Geste.” The FFL was originally created to serve French colonial interests in Algeria. And for the most part, French imperialism was the reason for its continued existence.

Commanded by French officers, the Legion was open to foreign nationals. Soldiers served under an assumed name and the FFL became attractive to low-life criminals and those of a mercenary nature. A refuge or an escape for many. It is safe to assume that many ex-Nazis and SS found their way into the FFL after WWII.

I always looked at the FFL as a place to house dangerous riff-raff. And then maybe the world could get lucky and a lot of them would be wiped out in some silly battle. Like at Dien Bien Phu.

1942 – Construction of Alaskan Highway begins. With the advent of WWII the U.S. feared Japan might invade Alaska. It was decided that a supply route should be constructed to aid in Alaska’s defense. Obstacles included the distance, harsh weather conditions and Canada’s initial reluctance to grant access. They weren’t sure the U.S would relinquish control once the war was over. (Our reputation preceded us.)

The Army Corps of Engineers was assigned the task and one notable historical aspect of the project was that a large portion of the work force was engineer regiments made up of black soldiers. Most of these men were from the South yet they worked successfully in blizzards and temperatures that dropped to 70 below zero. The Army was still segregated then but there is an iconic photograph of a black soldier and a white soldier shaking hands as they celebrate success.

I spent 13 miserable months on an island in Alaska and have no great desire to relive that experience, but I must admit there is a lure of driving the Alcan Highway. I always love a good road trip and that might be the ultimate.

 1974 – Lt. Hiro Onoda surrenders in the Philippines. Onoda, a Japanese soldier, continued to fight WWII for 27 years after it was over. He was mostly alone in the jungle after his three men either surrendered or were killed in shootouts with police.

“On February 20, 1974, Onoda met a Japanese man, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling around the world, looking for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman.” (1)

These two guys seem made for each other.


1454 – Amerigo Vespucci. Italian explorer who figured it out that North and South America were not part of Asia. America is a Latin derivative of Amerigo so thusly our country is named after him.

It’s a good thing we used his first and not last name, otherwise we would be called Vespuccians and instead of the bald eagle, our national symbol might be something more along the lines of a motor scooter.

 1918 – Mickey Spillane. Pulp fiction writer. Famous for writing the hard-boiled Mike Hammer private eye novels. A prolific writer, read internationally, it is estimated that his books sold over 225 million copies. Things I didn’t know about Spillane. He was an acrobat with Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey traveling circus, a fighter pilot in WWII, friends with Ayn Rand, although they often disagreed, and a Jehovah Witness.

Not being a genre that appealed to me, I never read much Mickey Spillane. However he was wildly popular with my crewmates when I was in the service. Private eye paperbacks were second in popularity, closely edging out westerns, or shit-kickers in Navy parlance. The topical favorite was lurid trash otherwise known as fuck books. Kennedy was president at the time and his speed-reading prowess was in the news. One of my shipmates, in complete awe, said “Just imagine how many fuck books he can read in a day!”

 1943 – Bobby Fischer. Troubled genius who became both the youngest, at 14, U.S. chess champion, and international grand master at 15. He became world chess champion in 1972 when he defeated Russian Boris Spassky in a well-publicized match. Fischer’s personal life was not so shining. Anti-Semetic, despite his mother being Jewish, which he denied, he even admired Adolf Hitler. He also celebrated the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Although he was never officially diagnosed, there was speculation about a mental disorder. Fischer died in 2008 in Iceland.

In the 70’s, because of him, chess gained new players and fans, including myself. I never became a grand master.




This Day in History

March 2nd

1776 – Americans shell British at Boston. Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point had been captured by Colonials led by Benedict Arnold. Over the course of the winter, Col. Henry Knox, using oxen and sleds, managed to transport the captured armaments, including over 50 cannon, to Boston. Once the shelling began the British realized their position was untenable and they evacuated Boston on March 17th.

Way to go Benedict, Henry and George.

 1819 – Steerage Act passed. Signed into law by President James Monroe, this was the U.S.’s first immigration law. Ships captains, for reasons of profit, jammed their holds full of immigrants and many died during the passage. The law was an attempt to limit the number of passengers a ship could carry and its intent was for humanitarian reasons.

I’m sure that must be the real reason for the new travel ban. The person who received the second most votes in the last election must be concerned for the safety of refugees seeking their way to the U.S.


1936 – Cricket legend Donald Bradman scores 369 in 253 mins, SA v Tasmania, 46 fours, 4 sixes. Huh?

Hitchhiking in England, I was picked up by a guy who had the broadcast of a cricket match on his radio. While a droll announcer, his voice never once exhibiting a shred of excitement, rolled off indecipherable terminology for over an hour, my mind slowly leaked into alternate realms.




1860 – Susanna Salter. Mayor of Argonia, Kansas. The first woman to be a mayor in the state of Kansas, she might have also been the first female mayor in the U.S. Some men, angered over the intrusion of the W.C.T.U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) into politics, placed Salter’s name on the ballot as a joke, thinking the WCTU would be humiliated by her low vote total. At that time women had gained the right to vote in local elections in some states, Kansas included. Yes, there was a time when Kansas was progressive.

The joke backfired and Salter was elected. Her term of office was uneventful, other than two draymen being arrested for refusing to buy licenses and some boys warned about throwing rocks at a vacant house.

I wonder if the men in town were uneasy over a woman having to handle crises of such a magnitude.


1902 – Moe Berg. Major League baseball player and OSS spy. A graduate of Princeton University, where he encountered social exclusion because he was Jewish, Berg spoke eight languages including Japanese. He played in 15 Major League seasons, mostly as a catcher, compiling a modest lifetime batting average of .243.

In 1934 a team of All-Stars, including such big names as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx toured Japan for an exhibition series against Japanese All-Stars. Nowhere near the caliber of the other players, he was nevertheless invited along on the trip. In addition to his catcher’s mitt, Berg brought along a movie camera. One day, while the rest of the team was playing a game, Berg went to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo and filmed the city and the harbor defenses. This footage was later analyzed in the war effort.

During WWII he parachuted into Yugoslavia to evaluate the partisan resistance there. He also interviewed Italian and German physicists to investigate how close the Nazis were to developing an atom bomb. He concluded it was not within their grasp.

Major league baseball player, war hero, spy, what good red-blooded American boy wouldn’t want to grow up to be like Moe Berg. Other than he was a Jew. And what good red-blooded American boy wants to grow up being Jewish.


1908 – Fyodor Okhlopkov – A Russian Yakut born in Siberia, he became one of the more deadly snipers of WWII. Wounded a number of times, he still was credited with killing 429 German soldiers. He wasn’t honored by the Soviet Union for his heroics until 1965, many believed because of his indigenous ethnicity. Weakened by his war wounds he died in 1967 at the age of 59.

Use ‘em and lose ‘em. Nice to know we don’t have a monopoly on that practice.



This Day in History

February 25th

1941 – February strike in Amsterdam. Appalled by the German occupiers’ persecution of Dutch Jews, first the city’s tram drivers went on strike, followed by other trade union and ultimately the general populace. Of course the strike effort was eventually quelled and many leaders executed or sent to concentration camps.

An honorable, brave and desperate grasp for light in an otherwise dark period.

1947 – State of Prussia is dissolved. In existence since 1525, Prussia became part of Germany after the German Unification Wars of 1866 and 1871. Many inside Germany blamed Prussia for encouraging the militarism and blind obedience that helped the Nazis gain power.

“The formal abolition of Prussia: German Abschaffung von Preußen) occurred on 25 February 1947, by the doing of the Allied Control Council. Control Council Law No. 46: The Prussian State which from early days has been a bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany has de facto ceased to exist.” (1)

About time.

 1964 – Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, defeats Sonny Liston for the tile of Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Darrold and I were buddies, radiomen aboard the USS Jason. Following weeks of pre-fight hype, we became convinced the young challenger was going to defeat Liston. Odds against Clay/Ali were around 10-1, too good to pass up.

Some backstory. In radio school we were warned we would probably not be well liked once out in the fleet. Radiomen were privy to sensitive and secret information that would be desired by our shipmates but could not be shared. Also our communication jobs were considered essential so we were granted special privileges, like being able to go to the front of the chow line, or more relaxed liberty hours. We were told to not abuse those privileges and to stow any cockiness. Those last bits of advice were generally ignored by most radiomen.

When Clay/Ali came onto the scene, Darrold and I immediately embraced him. Emulating our new hero, we became even cockier. Receiving odds anywhere from 5-1 to 10-1 we still found those willing to bet against us. I think some just wanted to shut us up.

This was back when a heavyweight fight was still one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The night of the fight, aboard the Jason, clumps of sailors were gathered around transistor radios throughout the ship. About a dozen of us radiomen were jammed into the radio shack listening to the best radio the defense budget could buy.

Well, you know history. The next day, pockets full of cash, brazenly walking to the head of chow line, we were lucky to escape the same beating Liston had received. Not so oddly, other than Darrold, I have not kept in contact with anyone from the Jason.

I remained an admirer of Muhammad Ali throughout my life and consider him one of the greatest Americans of my lifetime.


1591 – Friedrich von Spee. A favorite activity of the 17th century was the burning alive of suspected witches. A German born priest, von Spee was a Jesuit who was among the first to speak out against the witchcraft hysteria. He also argued against torture as a way of obtaining the truth.

A raft of sanity in a turbulent sea of fear. We soon may be in need of another von Spee.

 1919 – Monte Irvin – 1921 – Andy Pafko. One black, one white. Both were Major League baseball players. Pafko, a four-time All Star from the tiny town of Boyceville, Wisconsin, played professional baseball throughout the war years of 1941-45. Irvin, a star in the Negro Leagues, was one of the first black players in the big leagues. During WWII he was with the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Bulge. While Irvin was serving in Europe, the South Carolina legislature passed a WWII resolution that American troops were “fighting for white supremacy.”

A line from a song we sang in grade school was ”And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!” Good little American that I was in third grade, I bought it. I wonder if “America the Beautiful” was ever sung in the South Carolina legislature.



Glove Stories – Dave Kindred

This Day in History

February 20th

1872 – Toothpick manufacturing machine patented by Silas Noble and J.P. Cooley. And this led to, “In September 2012 a world record was set in Ireland for the most toothpicks in a beard. 3,107 toothpicks were placed in Ed Cahill’s beard in just under three hours.” (1)

Mankind marches forward.

1943 – Paracutin Volcano erupts in farmer’s cornfield in Mexico. Dionisio Pulido was readying his field for planting when he heard the sound of thunder and then the ground began to shake. The ground grew to six feet in height and ash rose from a crack. “Immediately more smoke began to rise with a hiss or whistle, loud and continuous; and there was a smell of sulfur,” Pulido later told witnesses.” (2)

The volcano grew rapidly and by June the lava flow forced the town of Paracutin to evacuate. The life of the volcano was brief, by 1952 it was dormant. Because of the lava fields and ruined landscape, the villagers and farmers had to relocate. As Pulido departed he posted a sign: “This volcano is owned and operated by Dionisio Pulido.”

Not every day a volcano erupts in your cornfield, good thing he could still have some fun with it.

 1962 – John Glenn orbits the earth. In the capsule Friendship 7 Glenn took three trips around the planet. He was in space 4 hours and 56 minutes.

It doesn’t seem like much now but at the time it was a tremendous achievement. I remember people looking up into the sky, thinking they might see something. I may have looked up once or twice myself.



 1844 – Joshua Slocum. He was the first man to sail solo around the world. Beginning in 1895, the voyage took three years. He wrote a book about his adventure entitled “Sailing Around the World Alone.” The book received rave reviews. One reviewer, Arthur Ransome, wrote “Boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once.”

I’m not sure that’s a good way to get kids to read.

 1924 – Gloria Vanderbilt. Great-great granddaughter of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. Wealthy from birth on, she remained in the limelight her whole life with well-financed ventures into the arts and fashion and also marrying or dating a number of well-known men. Her date book included such luminaries as Errol Flynn, Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra. Newscaster Anderson Cooper is her son.

She lived a world away from anything I ever known in my life.

1941 – Buffy Sainte-Marie. Singer, songwriter, activist. Born to Canadian Cree parents, she was adopted and raised by an American white couple. Her activism concerned the rights of Native people in North America. Buffy’s most well-known song is “Universal Soldier.” She believed that she, along with other Indians, were blacklisted and kept off the airwaves in the 1970’s.

“She was blacklisted by the American government for her outspoken views on the Vietnam War and Indigenous rights. “Recognizing the power of her songwriting and activism, the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations considered her an ‘artist to be suppressed,’ and Sainte-Marie all but disappeared from the US music industry.” (3)

 I was a huge fan and wondered, at the time, why I wasn’t hearing her anymore. Our paths never crossed but her world doesn’t seem that far from mine.








This Day in History

February 15th

399 BC – Socrates sentenced to death. One of the charges against Socrates was impiety, or refusal to accept the Gods of the State.

Well, with our separation of church and state, it’s nothing we have to worry about here…Right?

 1898 – USS Maine sunk. Two explosions rocked the battleship and she sunk in Havana Harbor with a loss of 260 men. The exact cause of the explosion was unknown for years but Spain was suspected of having planted a mine. In 1976 a Naval inquiry concluded that a coal fire ignited the ammunition magazine.

At the time Spain controlled Cuba, and America wanted it. So Spain was indicted in the press. According to The yellow press, led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World, took every opportunity to inflame the situation with the exhortation to ‘Remember the Maine’, publicise the alleged cruelties of Spanish repression and encourage a belligerent hunger for action.” (1)

It was an early example of the effective use of alternative facts.

 1933 – Attempted assassination of FDR. President-elect Franklin Roosevelt was giving a speech from the back seat of his touring car when unemployed bricklayer Giuseppe Zangara fired six rounds. The incident took place in Miami, Florida. Chicago Mayor, Anton Cermak, who was with Roosevelt, was hit in the stomach and died three weeks later. Zangara was executed in the electric chair just five weeks after the incident.

Had Zangara been successful, how different our history might have been.


1564 – Galileo. Astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, physicist. Often referred to as the Father of Science, he had at first considered the priesthood. Given that he fathered three children out of wedlock he probably was not well suited for a career in that field.

A shaker and mover in the scientific revolution of the 17th century, he ran afoul of the Catholic Church. The all purpose word of the powerful back then, heresy, came into play. He spent the last two decades of his life under house arrest but continued to work and produced books and scientific advancements.

Then, as now, science seemed to make the church and state uneasy. They must see it as a challenge to their power and authority.

1710 – Louis XV the Well Beloved. He was King of France for 59 years, having ascended to the throne at age five. “He is best known for contributing to the decline of royal authority that led to the French Revolution in 1789.”  (2)

It was rumored but not substantiated that he insisted on being called “The Well Beloved” when “The Louis” seemed inadequate.

1956 – Hilda Beatriz Guevara. Daughter of Cuban

Revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, she died at age 39 of cancer. FromHilda Guevara always remembered her “Uncle Fidel” reading a letter from her absent dad in 1967 when she was 11 years old. “It said that, if he fell in combat, I shouldn’t cry,” she recalled. “Because you don’t cry for men who die for their ideas.”” (3)

A bit cynical on “Uncle’s” part because one of the reasons Che was in Bolivia was that there was a limited role for him in Cuba.





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This Day in History

February 9th

1861 – Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens elected President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America.

They would have done well to run that decision around the block another time or two.

 1871 – Federal fish protection office authorized by US Congress. The Act of February 9, 1871 (16 Stat. 593), provided for the appointment of a Commissioner of fish and fisheries to prosecute investigations and inquiries on the number of the food fishes of the coast and the lakes of the United States, what protective, prohibitory, or precautionary measures should be adopted, and to report upon the same to Congress. (1).

An example of excessive government overreach and an office that probably will soon be abolished, even though nobody respects fish more than our President.

 1886 – President Grover Cleveland declares a state of emergency in Seattle because of anti-Chinese violence due to intense labor competition. The local Knights of Labor organized committees to carry out forced expulsion of all Chinese from the city. Mobs forced their way into Chinese homes and drove the occupants to a pier to await transport aboard a steamship. Federal forces intervened to protect them but most of the Chinese citizens were still transported elsewhere.

“Because of the violence, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was expanded and this led to a dramatic decrease of the Chinese population in the U.S. in the 1890s and 1900s.” (2)

I wonder if the mob was chanting “USA! USA!”


1773 – William Henry Harrison. Harrison became 9th President of the United States in 1841. “His supporters used log cabin and cider barrel imagery on campaign memorabilia, including log-cabin-shaped bottles of whiskey from the E.C. Booz distillery, which led to “booze” becoming a common American term for alcohol.”(3)

Pro-slavery and anti-Indian, he was a popular frontier figure. Although portrayed as a frontiersman, he came from a prominent Virginia family and was raised on plantation. He became famous as an Indian fighter at the Battle of Tippecanoe River.

Shortly after being elected he caught a cold, it turned into pneumonia and he died after only 32 days in office, the shortest tenure of any President.

His campaign slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” ranks up there with “I Like Ike” as among the best.

1891 – Ronald Coleman. English born actor who started out in silent films, successfully made the transition to “talkies” because of his resonant, dignified voice and eventually won an Academy Award for his performance in “A Double Life” in 1948.

Coleman served in the trenches in WWI for Britain and was wounded in the ankle by shrapnel leading to his discharge and ultimately a career in acting.

There are various websites listing actors who have served in the military, including one at IMDb. It is a fascinating, and in some cases, a surprising read.

 1909 – Dean Rusk. President John Kennedy picked Rusk for his Secretary of State and after JFK was assassinated, Rusk continued in that position with President Johnson. He was a defender of America’s involvement in Vietnam and thus became a target of the anti-war movement.

I enrolled in college after my Navy tour was finished. Silly doofus that I was I thought having served my country might prove positive in interactions with coeds. Yeah right. This was the anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-military years of the Sixties. In some social situations I found it necessary to remove military service from my resume. Dean Rusk was one of those I held responsible for the necessity of that sad subterfuge.





(3) manners: as a s – p he is fluent, clear, forcible, and so

This Day in History

February 5th

Today’s entry will be a departure from the usual format in that only one event will be covered.

1964 – Unsolved murders.

“On Wednesday, February 5, 1964, Navy radio-man third class Johnny Ray Swindle and his newlywed wife Joyce were violently murdered along the Ocean Beach Boardwalk next to the Silver Spray Apartments. Swindle had married his childhood sweetheart on January 18, 1964 and they stayed in a three room cottage nine blocks from where they would eventually be slain. According to the San Diego Union Newspaper, five shots were fired from the sniper position above. Police said two more were fired at close range. Indicating that the killer fired the last two shots into their heads in a kind of coup de grâce.” (1)

A year and a half earlier I was fresh out of radioman school and assigned to the Holiday Beach Communication Station on Kodiak Island, Alaska. My first night on watch, nervous and unsure of myself, another radioman befriended me. His nickname was Twidge because of the way he operated the CW key. First his arm would jerk, then his shoulder, and finally his leg, all in time to his hand tapping out Morse code. His name was Johnny Swindle.

Twidge was from a small town in Alabama and I from a small town in Minnesota. Six-foot tall, dark wavy hair, handsome, Twidge was quiet to the point of not being noticed. If he got harassed about his herky-jerky sending style he’d respond with an “aw shucks” grin. Our complement was forty sailors, many of them loud, boisterous characters and Twidge did not stand out. He was just a quiet, nice guy. I was 18, he was 19 when one evening, off duty, standing on a cliff looking out at the gray expanse of the northern Pacific, he told me about his girlfriend, Joyce, back home, whom he intended to marry.

We served together for only four months before Twidge was reassigned and we lost touch. A year later I stationed aboard the USS Jason in San Diego. We were in port and had telephone lines hooked up to the outside world. I was on duty in the radio shack when the phone rang. Somebody answered and shouted that it was for me. A telephone call from the outside for me? That was unusual. The voice on the other end identified himself as Bump. Bump was a lifer and he had been my, and Twidge’s, watch supervisor up at Holiday Beach. I was immediately wary for Bump was more than a little off center, which is why I’m using a made-up nickname rather than his real name. He asked if I had read the paper today. There was one on the desk and I picked it up. The headline read: US Sailor and his bride murdered. That’s Twidge, Bump informed me.

Shocking headlines in the newspaper had always been abstract. Heinous crimes that took place in a parallel world. Until now. As I scanned the paper, verifying that it was my old friend Johnny Swindle…Twidge, Bump was talking rapidly.

Bump had driven me to distraction at Holiday Beach. While he was an adequate watch supervisor, he had some, well, peculiarities. Bump was short, wiry with sharp features that were mostly pinched in a frown of perpetual worry. He was concerned our unit had been infiltrated by communist spies and was also certain a Russian submarine was lurking in the bay just off our coast. This was the height of the Cold War and we were in an isolated location. Our barracks was a couple of miles from the radio station. A rough, narrow, gravel road ran between the two buildings. Part of the road was on a bluff that ran alongside the ocean.

We had a pickup with a canopy on the back that was used to transport the watch sections back and forth. Most of the watch section sat in back under the canopy, on side benches, while Bump drove. There was a little window that allowed us to see into the cab. One night, early in my tour, as we were heading up for midwatch, I looked through the window and saw that Bump was driving without the headlights on. The night was dark, the road narrow, and on our left there was a deep ravine. I voiced my alarm.

Twidge laughed and said Bump never used headlights. He didn’t want to give our position away to the Russian submarine. I made a joke about a torpedo taking out a pickup. They said that was Bump’s concern.

We had four dogs at Holiday Beach, Spud, Lady, Magnolia Blossom and Dits. It helped with our morale. Magnolia Blossom, A.K.A. Skank, was not well loved. When left outside she howled and whined until she was let in, and when inside she had a habit of passing gas. We all expressed displeasure with her, which was at least a break in our isolated boredom.

Then Magnolia Blossom was gone, she just disappeared. We thought maybe a Kodiak bear had gotten her. Shortly before he was re-assigned, Bump revealed he had taken action and relieved us of the problem. He had dispatched Skank to the big dog pound in the sky, via strangulation. He strangled a dog! At least that was the scuttlebutt. Bump was gone so I was not able to attest to the story’s veracity personally. But that so many of the crew were ready to believe it says something about him.

So now Twidge was dead and Bump was the one telling me. He said there were a half dozen or more of the old Holiday Beach crew now in San Diego on various ships. He wanted to form a vigilante posse to find Twidge’s killer. I didn’t answer, not seeing how that would work. He said we’d hang out in bars, go to places cops couldn’t go, and maybe overhear something.

Young and not wise to the ways of the world, I nevertheless was wise enough to realize that looking for a murderer with a guy who may have strangled a dog was not a good idea. Not to mention his fear of the Russians torpedoing our pickup. I didn’t have to concoct an excuse. I just pointed out that I was still too young to be allowed into a bar. But I promised I would call if I heard anything. That was the last I ever talked to Bump.

Neither Bump, nor the police, ever tracked down the killer. The murder case remains unsolved to this day. In research for this column I’ve read speculation that the Swindles were possibly the first victims of the infamous Zodiac killer. A number of books have been written about the search for that killer and there are numerous websites devoted to the topic. I’ve tried to contact various authors to inquire about possible connections between the Zodiac killer and the Swindle murders but did not receive any response. There was even a wild theory connecting Charlie Manson to Zodiac and the Swindles.

In trying to track down information what did become apparent to me is that a whole cottage industry has sprung up over the Zodiac killer. Acrimony and conflicting information flow more readily than anything I found helpful. I even found one website claiming the ghost of Joyce Swindle haunts the apartment building where she died. Joyce died at the scene, Twidge was still alive and didn’t die until later at the hospital. Ghost experts theorize that because they didn’t die together, they are separated in death and thus the haunting.

I wrote about this because it’s history and I was peripherally connected. Now I’m somewhat sorry I did. Decades removed from the event, I was detached as I began writing. However the details and memories uncovered left me troubled. After so many years it still remains an unsolved crime. I dug up the past and it had nothing to tell me. I’m left with no conclusions here, no summation, nothing other than…If I didn’t say it at the time, I offer it now: R.I.P. Twidge.