October 21 in history:
On October 21st, 1520, Ferdinand Magellan and his crew discovered the strait at the tip of South America which would later bear his name. The strait was the connection which took them from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Another famous ocean explorer was remembered on this date in 1892, when the Columbian Exposition was dedicated in Chicago. The fair designed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World actually opened in May of 1893. New products and inventions introduced at the fair included the Ferris Wheel, Cream of Wheat cereal, and Juicy Fruit gum.
October 21st was the day in 1797 that the U.S.S. Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” was launched. The ship (pictured), docked in Boston, is still maintained as an active Navy vessel.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge began writing his epic poem about the sea, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in 1797. Coleridge was born October 21st, 1772.
September 16 in history:
More than 100 “pilgrims” left Plymouth, England on September 16th, 1620, aboard the Mayflower. They were headed to Virginia, but landed instead at Cape Cod in Massachusetts that November.
When the sitcom “Cheers,” set in Boston, ended in 1993, a spinoff was created for supporting character Frasier Crane, who moved to Seattle and started a radio talk show. “Frasier” debuted on this date in ’93, and like “Cheers,” it lasted for 11 years.
Actress Amy Poehler, Boston College Class of ’93, shares a September 16th birthday (1971) with another veteran of “Saturday Night Live,” Molly Shannon (1964). Poehler joined “SNL” in 2001, a few months after Shannon ended a six-year run on the show.
June 12th in history:
Nelson Mandela was expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars, when a South African court sentenced him to prison on June 12th, 1964. Mandela and others were imprisoned for sabotage and other actions against the system of apartheid. Mandela was freed in 1990, and became president of South Africa a few years later.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” during a speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12th, 1987. The wall came down less than three years later, during the presidency of Reagan’s vice-president, George Herbert Walker Bush, born on June 12th, 1924.
And on this date in 1971, President Richard Nixon was father of the bride at the Rose Garden wedding of his oldest daughter, Tricia. It’s the most recent wedding to be performed at the White House.
“Who D’king of the whole wide world”? It could be Bun E. Carlos, the long-time drummer for Cheap Trick, who wrote the song “Who D’King.” Carlos (real name, Brad Carlson) was born on this day in 1951, along with another rock star named Brad: singer Brad Delp of the band Boston.
April 18th in history:
Paul Revere and other colonists rode through the Boston area during the ‘Midnight Ride’ of April 18th, 1775, to warn of movements by the British army. The American Revolution began the next morning.
The towns reached by the late-night riders included Brookline, Massachusetts, where late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien was born on this date in 1963.
The old Yankee Stadium opened on this date in 1923, with the Yankees defeating the Boston Red Sox, 4-1.
A group the U.S. never joined, the League of Nations, disbanded on April 18th, 1946.
And it’s the birthday of “Ugly Betty” star America Ferrera (1984).
January 15th in history:
Twenty-one people were killed and more than 100 others were injured by a flash flood in Boston on January 15th, 1919 — a flood of molasses. A 50-foot-tall holding tank owned by the Purity Distilling Company burst open, and more than two million gallons of molasses poured out in a wave that was said to be as high as 15 feet. The tank had sprung leaks before that day, and experts think the “Great Molasses Flood” might have been caused by unusually warm winter weather.
Another East Coast disaster 90 years later had a much happier ending. January 15th, 2009, was the date of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 from New York’s La Guardia Airport onto the Hudson River after birds flew into the engines two minutes into the flight. All of the crew members and the 150 passengers survived the water landing.
A Mississippi plane crash in 1977 killed three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, including the lead singer of “Free Bird,” Ronnie Van Zant — born on this date in 1948. And it’s the birthday of actor Lloyd Bridges (1913), who had a career revival after appearing in the disaster-film spoof “Airplane!”
December 29 in history:
The former Republic of Texas became the 28th state in the Union on December 29th, 1845.
The U.S. has had two presidents named Johnson…one from Texas, and one from Tennessee. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee was born on this date in 1808. Johnson made history as the first president to be impeached, and as the vice president who rose to the Oval Office after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
A 1988 mini-series about Lincoln starred Sam Waterston as President Lincoln, and Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Todd Lincoln. Moore, born on December 29th, 1936, is best known for her comedy roles as Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” She and Waterston also worked together in the 1986 movie Just Between Friends, in which Ted Danson played her husband. Danson, born on this date in 1947, has starred on the TV series “CSI,” “Becker,” and on “Cheers” as Boston bartender Sam Malone.
Boston was the home of the first YMCA founded in America. Thomas Sullivan established that YMCA on December 29th, 1851, modeling it after a Y in England.
December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.