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.”
November 22 in history:
On the last day of his life, John F. Kennedy was thinking about the 1964 election. President Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, were making a political trip through Texas on November 22nd, 1963. The president had appearances scheduled that day with Vice President Lyndon Johnson in Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin. Kennedy only got to attend the breakfast in Fort Worth. Gunfire broke out as the president’s motorcade was leaving downtown Dallas on the way to a luncheon. Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, riding with their wives in an open car, were hit by bullets, and taken to Parkland Hospital. Within a short time, Kennedy was dead, Johnson was president, and the world was in mourning.
While in Fort Worth, Kennedy made a phone call to wish John Nance Garner a happy 95th birthday. Texas native Garner served two terms as Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt. French President Charles de Gaulle turned 73 on that Friday in ’63. The following Monday, de Gaulle was in Washington to join other world leaders at Kennedy’s funeral.
A future “King” who became a queen of the tennis court turned 20 on the day JFK was shot. Billie Jean King was still single, and known as Billie Jean Moffitt, in 1963. That summer, she had reached the finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, finishing second in the women’s singles at Wimbledon.
A few hours before the Kennedy shooting, “The CBS Morning News,” anchored by Mike Wallace, aired a story about a new rock-and-roll band creating a stir in England. That may have been the first time many Americans heard about the Beatles. The story on CBS coincided with the release that day of a new album by the Fab Four in the UK, called “With the Beatles.” An album with most of the same songs was sold later in the US under the name “Meet the Beatles.”
In later years, the Beatles recorded songs with references to politicians such as British Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. The first English woman to serve as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, stepped down because of a political power struggle on November 22nd, 1990. Thatcher had held that post for 11 years.