October 18 in history:
The tale of a big whale was introduced on this date in 1851, when Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” was published in England.
The U.S. made a big purchase from Russia on October 18th, 1867: Alaska. The Alaska territory was more than half a million acres, about twice as large as Texas. The acquisition arranged by Secretary of State William Seward was derided with nicknames like “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.”
Nicknamed after something else big and cold, Chicago Bears rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry became an overnight star during a Monday Night Football game against Green Bay in October 1985. The two head coaches in that contest both celebrated their birthdays that game week, on October 18th: Mike Ditka of the Bears (1939), and Forrest Gregg of the Packers (1933).
Both Gregg and Ditka were still active players in the NFL during the 1970 season, when “Monday Night Football” made its debut. Announcer Keith Jackson, who handled the play-by-play for the Monday night games that first season, was born on this date in 1928.
August 16 in history:
Several “kings” in different fields have connections to August 16th…
This is the day in 1977 that Elvis Presley, “King of Rock and Roll,” died at the Graceland Mansion in Memphis. Elvis was just 42.
Babe Ruth, who’s been called the “King of Swat” and the “Home Run King,” died on August 16th, 1948. And it was the day former Ugandan leader Idi Amin died in 2003. Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for playing Amin in the movie “The Last King of Scotland.”
Director James Cameron declared, “I’m king of the world!” when his movie “Titanic” took the Best Picture Oscar for 1997. Cameron was born on August 16th, 1954. It’s also the birthday of Fess Parker (1925), who became famous in the ’50s for playing Davy Crockett, “king of the wild frontier.”
And many men dreamed of becoming rich as kings when they headed to the frontier of Canada and Alaska in search of gold. The Klondike gold rush began on this date in 1896, when three men discovered the precious metal in the Klondike River.
July 7th in history:
On this date in 1958, President Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act, making Alaska the 49th state – and the biggest state in size. Alaska was admitted officially the following January.
Construction of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) began on July 7th, 1930. At the time it was completed, the 700-foot high dam on the Colorado River was the largest concrete structure in the world.
Was Boulder Dam “the greatest thing since sliced bread”? Maybe not, but pre-sliced bread was considered a big thing when it was introduced on July 7th, 1928, by a bakery in Chillicothe, Missouri. That innovation was advertised as the “greatest forward step” in baking since wrapped bread.
March 27th in history:
Two Easter season disasters on this date: March 27th was Good Friday in 1964, when Alaska was hit by the most powerful earthquake ever in the country’s history. It measured 9.2, and caused more than 100 deaths. In 1994, Palm Sunday fell on March 27th, and a Methodist church in Piedmont, Alabama, was struck by a tornado which killed 20 people.
March 27th of 1513 was Easter Sunday, and explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first sighted a mass of land which he later named in honor of Easter, “Pascua Florida.”
A Florida resort was the main setting for the cross-dressing comedy “Some Like It Hot”, written and directed by Billy Wilder, who died on March 27th, 2002. Actors Milton Berle and Dudley Moore also died on the same day as Wilder. Berle made a habit of dressing as women on his hit TV show “Texaco Star Theater,” and Moore wore a nun’s habit during part of the comedy film “Bedazzled.”
Another of Billy Wilder’s major hit movies was Sunset Boulevard, which represented a comeback for Gloria Swanson, playing fictional silent-film star Norma Desmond. Swanson was born on March 27th, but the year is in dispute (1897 or 1899).