September 29 in history:
Pope John Paul, formerly Cardinal Albino Luciani, died on September 29th, 1978, only 34 days after being elected. John Paul was immensely popular during his short reign as pope, prompting his successor, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, to choose the name John Paul II.
Construction on the Washington National Cathedral began on September 29th, 1907.
On that same day, “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry was born. Autry was famous for his movies and Christmas recordings, and later in life as the founder of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.
September 29th was the last day of the regular baseball season in 1957, and two franchises played — and lost — their last games as New York teams on that day before moving to California. The Giants, headed to San Francisco, lost their last home game at the Polo Grounds to Pittsburgh, and the Brooklyn Dodgers were beaten in Philadelphia in their final game before moving to Los Angeles.
A Martian had to settle in Los Angeles after his spaceship crashed, on the sitcom “My Favorite Martian,” which debuted September 29th, 1963 on CBS. Ray Walston was billed as “The Martian,” but he was called “Martin O’Hara” and “Uncle Martin” while living with a newspaper reporter played by Bill Bixby.
Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space” played the voice of Uncle Martin in a 1970s cartoon show based on “Martian.” On this night in 1963, the same Sunday night that “Martian” premiered, Harris appeared on NBC’s “Bonanza” as author Charles Dickens, visiting the Ponderosa. Harris was a regular cast member on another NBC series that aired that night, “The Bill Dana Show,” in which Dana’s popular character Jose Jimenez worked as a hotel bellhop.
September 13 in history:
New York City became the first official capital of the United States on September 13th, 1788. George Washington was sworn in as president there the following year. By 1790, the capital was moved to Philadelphia.
Margaret Chase Smith was a pioneer at the U.S. Capitol. Mrs. Smith had succeeded her late husband in the House, and on September 13th, 1948, she was elected to the U.S. Senate from Maine. That made her the first woman to be elected to both houses of Congress.
Maine was not a state yet during the War of 1812, so it was not represented on the “star-spangled banner” that flew over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore on this date in 1814. Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem about the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that continued to fly over the fort after a British attack.
July 9th in history:
On July 9th, 1850, Zachary Taylor became the second U.S. president to die in office. Taylor became sick after eating at a 4th of July celebration – and, to this day, some historians believe he was deliberately poisoned. His body was exhumed for testing in 1991, but the coroner did not find sufficient evidence of poisoning.
Another man who wanted to be president made a famous speech on this date in 1896. William Jennings Bryan delivered what was known as the “Cross of Gold” speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, opposing the gold standard. Following that oration, Bryan became the youngest presidential nominee in Democratic party history at age 36, and earned the nickname the “Boy Orator.”
Tom Hanks became a first-time Oscar nominee at age 32 for “Big,” in which he played a boy suddenly stuck in a man’s body. Hanks, born on July 9th, 1956, won back-to-back Oscars for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.” He has also played astronaut Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13,” commanded G.I.s in the WWII drama “Saving Private Ryan,” and romanced Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.”
“Big” was released in 1988, the same year that 11-year-old Fred Savage played a grown-up suddenly stuck in a boy’s body in “Vice Versa.” Savage, born on this day in 1976, also played Peter Falk’s grandson in “The Princess Bride” and starred as Kevin Arnold on the TV series “The Wonder Years.” As a grown-up, Savage has shifted from acting to directing.
July 8th in history:
We can’t prove it, but it’s possible that every item listed in “Triviazoids” is within six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The star of “Footloose” and dozens of other movies was born on July 8th, 1958.
Bacon had a role in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” And on July 8th, 1965, Ronald Biggs escaped from a British prison where he was serving time for his role in the “Great Train Robbery” of 1963. He stayed out of prison for more than 30 years before turning himself in.
Bacon played Jack Swigert, one of the three endangered astronauts in the film “Apollo 13.” The Apollo 13 flight of 1970 was supposed to be the third mission to land men on the moon. Pete Conrad of Apollo 12, the third man to walk on the moon, was another real-life astronaut portrayed in the movie. Conrad died on this date in 1999, at age 69.
In the movie “Frost/Nixon,” Kevin Bacon portrayed a Marine colonel. On July 8th, 1776, a colonel named John Nixon publicly read the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia for the first time since it was adopted.
Two governors who ran for president against Richard Nixon in 1968 were born on July 8th, one year apart. Michigan’s George Romney (born 1907) later served in Nixon’s cabinet, and was the father of future governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And Nelson Rockefeller of New York (1908) was chosen to succeed Gerald Ford as vice president in 1974, four months after Nixon resigned from the presidency.
November 29 in history:
The Army and the Navy met each other on the football field for the first time on November 29th, 1890, at West Point. The Army Cadets had the home field advantage, but they were shut out by the Navy 24-0. Now, the contest is usually played at a neutral site, Philadelphia.
The tradition of playing pro football on Thanksgiving began on this date in 1934, when the holiday was still celebrated on the last Thursday of November, instead of the fourth Thursday. The Lions had just moved to Detroit, and as a publicity stunt, the club’s new owner arranged to have the team play a Thanksgiving Day ball game. Detroit has hosted an NFL game on Thanksgiving ever since.
The Lions lost that first Thanksgiving game to the Chicago Bears. Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, was born on November 29th, 1959. Another famous Illinois politician born on November 29th was U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Paul Simon (1928).