March 8th in history:
Two U.S. presidents died on March 8th: Millard Fillmore in 1874, and William Howard Taft in 1930. Fillmore was not nominated for a second term by the Whigs in 1852, and finished third in the electoral vote in the 1856 election. Taft came in third in his 1912 re-election bid, behind Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Taft served as Chief Justice for nine years, and retired just weeks before his death.
Charles De Gaulle was still president of France when construction began on an airport near Paris that would be named after him. De Gaulle International Airport opened eight years later, on this date in 1974.
Arthur Dent began his travels through the universe when the first episode of the radio show “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was broadcast on the BBC on this date in 1978.
And March 8th is the birthday of the “Skipper” who led the S.S. Minnow on an infamous “three-hour tour.” Alan Hale of “Gilligan’s Island” was born on this date in 1921.
In its final season, “Gilligan’s Island” aired Monday nights on CBS, opposite “The Monkees” on NBC. Monkees singer and drummer Micky Dolenz was born March 8th, 1945.
December 31 in history:
The days of traditional street lamps were numbered after December 31st, 1879, when Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent street lamps in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
If it hadn’t been for Edison, maybe New Yorkers would still start the new year with fireworks in Times Square, instead of dropping a lighted ball. Fireworks were used during the first few year-end celebrations at the Times building in Manhattan, starting in December of 1904. But on the night of December 31st, 1907, a ball with electric lights was used for the first time to count down the final seconds of the old year.
England actually does “ring in” a new year by airing the midnight chimes of the bell “Big Ben” over BBC Radio. That broadcasting tradition was born on New Year’s Eve of 1923.
Another famous “Ben” from England was born on December 31st, 1943: actor Ben Kingsley, whose birth name was Krishna Bhanji. Kingsley won an Oscar for playing the title role in Gandhi, and he’s been featured in Schindler’s List and Bugsy.
Sir Ben Kingsley shares a New Year’s Eve birthday with Sir Anthony Hopkins (born 1937), best known for winning the Oscar as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins also has played real people such as Hitler, Picasso, Richard Nixon, and John Quincy Adams. Hopkins and Kingsley were among five Oscar winners who jointly honored the Best Actor nominees at the Academy Awards in February of 2009.
November 2 in history:
George W. was a third-generation cheerleader at Yale, and also led cheers at the Andover prep school. Modern cheerleading was invented at a University of Minnesota football game on November 2nd, 1898. Minnesota student Johnny Campbell was among a group of young men who usually started specific cheers in the stands. On that particular day, Campbell stood up in front of the home crowd and taught them cheers by shouting through a megaphone.
October 5 in history:
The city of Anaheim, California, was founded in 1857. It would become the site of Disneyland, and the home of the Angels baseball team, which won the World Series in 2002.
Another nearby franchise, the San Diego Padres, has played in the World Series twice without winning. The first time was 1984, the same year Padres owner Ray Kroc died. Kroc, who earned a fortune after buying the McDonald’s hamburger business from brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald, was born October 5th, 1902.
Comedian Larry Fine (pictured) was born the same day and year as Kroc. Larry teamed up with the Howard brothers (Moe, Shemp, and Curly) to form a successful comedy franchise…the Three Stooges.
Another popular comedy team made its debut on October 5th, 1969, when the first episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was aired on the BBC.