April 1st in history:
A historic day for the Air Force in two countries: The Royal Canadian Air Force was founded on April 1st, 1924. Exactly 30 years later, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the establishment of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Clearing the “air” of smoke: Eisenhower’s vice-president, Richard Nixon, was president himself in 1970. On April 1st of that year, Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which would take all radio and TV commercials for cigarettes off the air in early ’71.
A popular substitute for smoking – chewing gum – has made a fortune for the William Wrigley Company, founded in Chicago on April 1st, 1891. Wrigley’s didn’t start selling gum until a year after the company was in business. Free samples of gum given away with packages of baking powder became more popular than the powder.
Fictional 19th century critic Jebidiah Atkinson from “Saturday Night Live” could have been an early customer of Wrigley’s gum (but he might not admit to liking it). Atkinson is a popular SNL character performed by Taran Killam, born on April 1st, 1982. Killam played another 19th century character in “12 Years a Slave,” and in the Broadway musical “Hamilton” (as King George III).
SNL is produced at New York’s Rockefeller Center, which also houses the MSNBC cable news network. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was born on this day in 1973.
NBC aired the sitcom “The Debbie Reynolds Show” in 1969-70. Reynolds, born April 1st, 1932, was better known for movies, including “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Reynolds’s personal life also kept her in the public eye. Her first marriage, to Eddie Fisher, ended when Fisher left her to marry Elizabeth Taylor. Debbie and Eddie’s daughter, Carrie Fisher, played Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movies. Carrie died unexpectedly in December 2016, and Debbie died the next day.
March 29th in history:
The juries in two famous murder trials reached verdicts on March 29th, 1971. One jury convicted Lt. William Calley of murdering Vietnamese civilians in 1968, in what became known as the My Lai massacre. The other jury recommended death sentences for cult leader Charles Manson and three of his female followers.
Two men born in England on March 29th, 1943, took very different paths to fame. John Major went into politics and served as British Prime Minister for seven years. Eric Idle became a comedian and writer, and one of the stars of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
Two famous Americans were born on March 29th in the same year, 1918: singer and actress Pearl Bailey, and Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.
And two people who were in the news in early 1964 died on this day in 1985. One was Luther Terry, the U.S. surgeon general who released a report in January 1964 that linked lung cancer to cigarette smoking. The other was Jeanine Deckers, the “Singing Nun” whose record “Dominique” was a top 10 hit when Terry’s report was issued.
January 11th in history:
Doctors made a medical breakthrough on January 11th in 1922, when they used insulin from animals to treat diabetes for the first time. The first diabetic to get an insulin shot was a 14-year-old boy in Toronto.
Another medical milestone on January 11th came in 1964 — the day of the infamous “surgeon general’s warning” that cigarette smoking could cause cancer. That original warning from Dr. Luther Terry led to the disclaimer on every pack of smokes made in the U.S.
Something else considered hazardous to your health: LSD. The Swiss chemist considered the “father” of LSD, Albert Hoffman, was born on January 11th in 1906.
It wasn’t LSD that led to a “Freaky Friday,” but a strange body switch between a mother and daughter. The book “Freaky Friday,” which has inspired three movie versions since 1976, was written by Mary Rodgers, born January 11th, 1931. Mary was the daughter of Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, and she also wrote the music for the show “Once Upon a Mattress.”