June 22nd in history:
A deadly train wreck occurred near Hammond, Indiana, on June 22nd, 1918. The engineer of one train reportedly fell asleep and was unable to stop his train from striking the rear of a circus train on the same track. The wooden cars on the circus train caught fire quickly, and 86 people died. The engineer blamed for the accident was hanged a few days later for causing the disaster.
Hanging was the method of execution in Canada, until that country abolished capital punishment. The Canadian House of Commons voted on June 22nd, 1976, to end the death penalty.
The actor who played Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Fenwick in the “Dudley Do-Right” cartoons, Paul Frees, was born on this date in 1920. Frees also was famous for providing the accents of animated characters such as Professor Ludwig Von Drake and Boris Badenov.
June 22nd is also the birthday of another performer skilled at accents…three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (1949). Streep used foreign accents in two of her award-winning roles…as the Polish heroine of “Sophie’s Choice,” and as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”
April 27th in history:
The 1967 World’s Fair, the “International and Universal Exposition,” opened in Montreal on this date. It was better known as Expo ’67, marking Canada’s 100th birthday. The fair site remained open as a theme park until 1981.
The British East India Company was granted a monopoly on the tea trade in North America on April 27th, 1773, when the British Parliament passed the Tea Act. That decision led to the original Boston Tea Party later that year.
Born on April 27th: U.S. Grant (1822), Union Army commander in the Civil War and 18th president of the United States, and Cuba Gooding Sr. (1944), lead singer of the ’70s group The Main Ingredient.
March 18th in history:
On March 18th, 1850, businessmen William Fargo and Henry Wells combined their express mail businesses to start American Express. They started another famous delivery and banking company a short time later, known for its wagons crossing the American frontier, with Wells getting first billing.
Aleksei Leonov stepped into space (the final frontier) on this day in 1965. The Soviet cosmonaut was the first human to take a “space walk,” lasting 12 minutes, as part of the Voskhod 2 mission.
The governor-general of Canada became a pioneer on this date in 1893, when he pledged to donate a silver challenge cup to the best hockey team in Canada. The cup still exists, only now it’s awarded to the best team in the National Hockey League. And it still bears the name of its donor, Lord Frederick Stanley.
Stanley was appointed to the Canadian post by England’s Queen Victoria. March 18th is the birthday of Mary Tudor, Queen of France (born to the King and Queen of England in 1496)…singer and actress Queen Latifah (born Dana Owens in 1970)…and a beauty queen, former Miss America Vanessa Williams (born 1963).
February 15th in history:
The red-and-white Maple Leaf flag first flew over Canada on February 15th, 1965.
That same year, the last piece of the Gateway Arch was put in place, 600 feet over the city of St. Louis, Missouri. The Arch has become the most visible symbol of St. Louis, established on February 15th, 1764.
Another arch was immortalized in a tune by songwriter Harold Arlen, born on this day in 1905. He wrote the music to “Over the Rainbow” and the other songs in “The Wizard of Oz.”
If you wanted to sing “Over the Rainbow” over the Internet, you might post a video on YouTube. February 15th, 2005 was the first full day of operation for the do-it-yourself video website, but there were no videos to watch until the following April, when founder Jawed Karim posted a clip of himself visiting the San Diego Zoo.
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 1st in history:
Canada celebrates its version of the 4th of July on this day, marking the date it became a dominion of the British Empire on July 1st, 1867.
It was on Dominion Day of 1980 that “O Canada” officially became the country’s national anthem.
Twenty-year-old Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales by his mother in a ceremony at a Welsh castle on July 1st, 1969. On that same day, future Princess of Wales Diana Spencer was celebrating her eighth birthday.
In a 1982 TV movie about Charles and Diana, the Queen Mother was played by two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland. At the time of her 100th birthday on July 1st, 2016, de Havilland — best known as Melanie in “Gone With the Wind” — was the oldest living winner of an acting Oscar.
It’s also the birthday of Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold (born 1942) who received an Oscar nomination for playing a royal wife, Anne Boleyn, to Richard Burton’s Henry VIII in “Anne of the Thousand Days.” Fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd was an Oscar nominee for “Driving Miss Daisy.” Aykroyd was born on this day in 1952, and became famous as an original cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” His most popular characters include Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers, alien driving instructor Beldar Conehead, and Ray Stantz in the original “Ghostbusters” films.