Category: Today in history

TRAVELS WITH THE PRESIDENTS

August 2 in history:

President Warren G. Harding died suddenly on August 2nd, 1923 in San Francisco, less than two-and-a-half years into his term. The 57-year-old Harding became ill while on his way back to Washington, D.C. from a visit to Alaska. The cause of death was thought to be a stroke at the time, but many experts now believe that Harding had a heart attack.

John F. Kennedy was another U.S. president who died less than three years after taking office. Twenty years before his death, Kennedy had a close call while commanding a PT boat in the Navy during World War II. The Japanese destroyer Amagiri smashed into the PT-109, on August 2nd, 1943.  Lt. Kennedy was able to save most of his crew.

After Kennedy became president, Warner Brothers decided to make a movie called “PT-109.” Studio head Jack Warner (born August 2nd, 1892) reportedly wanted Warren Beatty to play the young JFK, and so did First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The president had the final choice, and picked Cliff Robertson to play him.


LONDON / BRIDGES FALLING DOWN

August 1 in history:

A new London Bridge over the Thames opened on August 1st, 1831. The 900-foot bridge replaced another span that had been used for about 600 years. When this London Bridge was being replaced in the 1960’s, the city of London sold it to businessman Robert McCulloch, who partially rebuilt the bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

A big-city bridge disaster occurred on August 1st, 2007, when a bridge on Interstate 35-W in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour. Thirteen people died, and more than 100 others were injured. The bridge had been used for 40 years. A design flaw and excess weight on the span were blamed for the collapse.

Major TV networks and cable channels sent their top anchors to Minneapolis to cover the I-35-W collapse, including Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News.”  “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” changed its name to “NBC Nightly News” on August 1st, 1970, a day after the retirement of co-anchor Chet Huntley.  John Chancellor was the main anchor of Nightly News during the 70’s, followed by Tom Brokaw in the 1980’s, and Williams in 2004.

A pioneering cable TV channel made its debut on August 1st, 1981, when MTV (Music Television) signed on in the U.S.  At the start, MTV mostly played music videos.  The very first video shown on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and the first hour of programming also featured songs by Pat Benatar, the Who, and the Pretenders.

The Pretenders song “My City Was Gone” introduced America to a new radio star on August 1st, 1988, when “The Rush Limbaugh Show” debuted as a nationwide program.  The success of Limbaugh’s program led to a resurgence in national talk shows on AM radio, especially politically-oriented shows with conservative hosts.

…AND FROM THE SPORTS PAGE

July 31 in history:

Michael Phelps RecordAmerican swimmer Michael Phelps set the individual record for Olympic medals on this date at the London Olympics of 2012, with a gold medal in a freestyle relay.  By the end of the London Games, Phelps had won 22 Olympic medals in all.

On July 31st, 1936, the International Olympic Committee announced that Tokyo would host the summer games in 1940. By 1938, the Japanese government cancelled plans for the Olympics, because the country was at war with China.

More than one-third of the 1981 major league baseball season in the U.S. was cancelled because of a strike by the players’ association over the free agent system. The strike was settled on July 31st, and the season resumed with the All-Star Game in Cleveland.

Wesley Snipes played ball for the Cleveland Indians in the movie “Major League.” Snipes, born in 1962, shares a July 31st birthday with long-time baseball announcer Curt Gowdy (1919), and the inventor of the fictional sport Quidditch, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling (1965).


MEN AND THEIR CARS

July 30 in history:

Selig Ad

The last of the traditional Volkswagen Beetles came off an assembly line in Mexico on this date in 2003. The Beetle had been sold only in Mexico since 1998.

Former Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa disappeared on July 30th. 1975. Hoffa was declared legally dead seven years later. His car was abandoned in the parking lot of a restaurant outside Detroit.

Henry Ford’s name is synonymous with Detroit, the car industry, and the assembly line. The founder of the Ford Motor Company was born July 30th, 1863.

Allan “Bud” Selig ran a Ford dealership in Milwaukee before becoming the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, and later commissioner of baseball.  Bud Selig was born on this date in 1934, one year after the birth of actor Edd Byrnes, best known as hot-rod driver and parking attendant “Kookie” on the TV series “77 Sunset Strip.”

HERE COMES THE MCBRIDE

July 29 in history:

Two famous brides in British history on this date…

On July 29th, 1565, Mary, Queen of Scots married for the second time. Her new husband was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.  The marriage lasted less than two years.  There was an explosion in Henry’s bedroom, but some sources say he died of strangulation, not from the blast.

Lady Diana Spencer became the Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles on this date in 1981.  Their marriage ended in divorce 15 years later.

The TV comedy “How I Met Your Mother” centered around architect Ted Mosby’s search for a bride.  Ted was played by Josh Radnor, born on July 29th, 1974.  Radnor also starred in the Broadway version of “The Graduate” as Ben Braddock, who disrupts a wedding and runs off with the bride, his girlfriend Elaine.

In the movie “Rumor Has It,” Jennifer Aniston’s character believes her family inspired the story for “The Graduate.”  “Rumor Has It” was released in 2005, the year Aniston divorced Brad Pitt.  They were married on this date in 2000.

July 29th also is the birthday of a “McBride”:  country singer Martina McBride (born 1966).

DISASTER HIGH ABOVE AND FAR BELOW

July 28 in history:

Until the September 11th attacks of 2001, perhaps the most famous case of a plane crashing into a skyscraper was the accident at the Empire State Building on July 28th, 1945. A B-25 bomber headed to Newark slammed into the building at the 79th floor level on a foggy Saturday morning. The three men on the plane died, along with 11 people inside the building.

A mining disaster in Pennsylvania was coming to a much happier end on this date in 2002. Nine coal miners were brought to the surface at the Quecreek mine, four days after they were trapped below ground by flooding. Many Americans spent Saturday night of that weekend watching live TV coverage of the efforts to rescue the miners.

Two women who became familiar faces on Saturday night TV in the 1970s have birthdays on July 28th.  During the 70’s, Sally Struthers (born 1947) played Gloria on “All in the Family,” and Georgia Engel (1948) was Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Georgette married Minneapolis TV anchorman Ted Baxter, whose boss was news director Lou Grant.  When the Lou Grant character got his own spinoff, he became a Los Angeles newspaper editor whose staff included reporter Billie Newman, played by Minneapolis native Linda Kelsey, born July 28th, 1946.

 

SEOUL ON ICE

July 27 in history:

The armistice ending the Korean War was signed on this date in 1953.

South Korea eventually hosted the Summer Olympics at Seoul in 1988. The Summer Games then went to Barcelona in 1992, and Atlanta, Georgia…where a bombing occurred at the Olympic Village on July 27th, 1996. One person was killed by the blast, and more than 100 others were injured. Eric Rudolph pled guilty to the bombing years later, claiming he intended the attack as a protest against abortion.

Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming was born on July 27th, 1948.  Fleming won the only gold medal for the U.S. at the 1968 Winter Olympics, and later appeared in TV specials that featured her performing on ice to popular songs.

“A Song of Ice and Fire” is the series of fantasy books by George R.R. Martin which inspired the TV series “Game of Thrones.”  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister on “Game of Thrones,” was born on this date in 1970.