February 20th in history:
Congress was ready to end Prohibition in 1933. On February 20th of that year, members of Congress proposed the 21st Amendment, to repeal the 18th Amendment that banned liquor in the U.S. and led to the rise of gangsters such as Al Capone.
Chicago lawyer Edward Joseph O’Hare helped send Capone to prison. O’Hare’s son, Edward “Butch” O’Hare, became the first American flying ace of World War II on February 20th, 1942, by shooting down Japanese bombers over the Pacific. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is named after Butch.
Twenty years later, on February 20th, 1962, John Glenn became a different type of flying ace. That was the day Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7.
February 20th is also the birthday of some performers who have played high-flying characters:
Actress Sandy Duncan (born 1946) has played Peter Pan frequently on stage;
Comedian Joel Hodgson (1960) was stuck on a spaceship, watching bad movies with two wise-cracking robots, on the TV series “Mystery Science Theater 3000”;
And French Stewart (1964) was part of a “family” of space aliens posing as humans on the sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
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.
TV history was made again on December 7th, 1963…with the first instant replay during a live sports broadcast. Director Tony Verna from CBS set up videotape equipment to play back portions of the Army-Navy football game. The CBS announcers had to tell viewers that the replay was a recording of something that had happened earlier in the game.
Happy birthday! 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.
October 24 in history:
Here’s a holiday experiment that didn’t work: moving Veterans’ Day away from the traditional date of November 11th. The holiday, originally called Armistice Day, observed the date on which World War I ended in 1918. But starting in 1971, Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day all became Monday holidays for federal government employees. Veterans’ Day was switched to the fourth Monday in October…and was observed that way for the last time on October 24th, 1977, before being returned to November 11th.
October 24th of 1951 was designated the last day of World War II by President Truman. Germany and Japan both surrendered to the Allies in 1945, but the European war never officially ended with a peace treaty. Truman apparently got tired of waiting to reach an agreement with a divided Germany, so he declared the war to be over.
Over the falls in a barrel…that where Annie Edson Taylor went on her 46th birthday, October 24th, 1901. She became famous as the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls inside a barrel.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford went over a cliff in a famous scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which opened around the U.S. on this date in 1969. Both Redford and Newman won Oscars in the 1980s, as did two actors who were born on October 24th: F. Murray Abraham (1939), who starred in “Amadeus,” and Kevin Kline (1947), a winner for “A Fish Called Wanda.”
October 10 in history:
On October 10th, 1973, Spiro Agnew became the second U.S. Vice President to resign. He pleaded “no contest” to a charge of failing to report money he had been paid as a bribe while serving as governor of Maryland. Agnew’s resignation led to the first use of the 25th Amendment to fill a vacancy in the office of vice president.
The U.S. Naval Academy opened in Maryland on this date in 1845, at Annapolis. Commodore Matthew Perry helped establish the academy, years before he traveled to Japan to open formal relations between the U.S. and the Japanese.
Author James Clavell was famous for writing books set in Japan, including “Shogun” and “King Rat.” Clavell was born on October 10th, 1924.
And October 10th was the opening day of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.