December 10 in history:
The Saturday night “Barn Dance” program on Nashville radio station WSM got a new identity on December 10th, 1927. The show’s host, George D. Hay, joked on the air about his program being aired immediately after a show that featured the music of grand opera. Hay said the next show would feature “the Grand Ole Opry.” The Opry name caught on, and the radio show developed into the most famous country music stage show in America.
A San Francisco-area band called “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions” changed its name to “The Warlocks” in 1965, but soon learned that another band was using that name. Band founder Jerry Garcia found a new name in a book, and on December 10th of ’65, the Warlocks played their first show under that new name: the Grateful Dead.
The Dead once opened for singer Otis Redding in 1966. On December 10th of 1967, Redding and six other people died when their small plane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wis., where Redding was supposed to perform that night. Redding recorded what would become his only #1 hit, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” three days before the crash.
“Dock of the Bay” was #1 the week that Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota won the Wisconsin presidential primary of 1968. McCarthy would run for president a few more times after leaving the Senate. He was 89 when he died on this date in 2005.
Eugene McCarthy did not run for re-election in the fall of 1970. The made-for-TV band “The Partridge Family” had the number-one song in America on this date in 1970: “I Think I Love You.” David Cassidy was lead singer for the Partridges on the TV series and on the records. Another member of the sitcom band, Susan Dey, was born on December 10th, 1952. Dey went from playing Laurie Partridge in the ’70s to the role of attorney Grace Van Owen on “L.A. Law” in the ’80s.
November 27 in history:
The mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, and city supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death at San Francisco City Hall on November 27th, 1978. Former supervisor Dan White was convicted of the shootings. White had resigned from the Board of Supervisors, but changed his mind and asked Moscone to reappoint him. The mayor refused to do so, after objections from Milk and others. Milk was the first openly gay man to win election to a public office in California.
U.S. government agents shot and killed several notorious bank robbers in 1934, including John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and “Baby Face” Nelson. On this date in ’34, Baby Face — real name, Lester Gillis — was shot during a gunfight with federal agents and died a short time later.
A 38-year-old woman got part of a new face in an operation performed in France on November 27th, 2005. It was the world’s first partial face transplant. The patient received a new nose and mouth from a deceased donor, to replace the portion of her face that was attacked by a dog.
Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman ever to receive an Oscar for Best Director, for making the Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker.” Bigelow also is known for directing the heist movie “Point Break.” Bigelow was born November 27th, 1951.
October 17 in history:
One of the world’s most famous golf tournaments, the British Open, was played for the first time on October 17th, 1860, at a course in Scotland. Contestants had to shoot 36 holes of golf in a single day.
Another world-famous championship, the World Series, was disrupted by an earthquake on this date in 1989. Sixty-three people died in the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco area. Most of those deaths occurred because of the collapse of a two-level viaduct on Interstate 880. As for the World Series, the quake struck 30 minutes before the scheduled start of Game 3 between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics at Candlestick Park. The series was postponed for 10 days because of the quake.
A 12-story metal globe of the world, called the Unisphere, symbolized the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, which closed on this date in ’65. The Unisphere and some other displays at the fair were preserved as local landmarks.
A large globe sits atop the Daily Planet newspaper building in the “Superman” comic books. Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of the Superman character, was born on this day in 1914…on the planet Earth, not Krypton. Two people who have played staff members of the Daily Planet in movies or TV shows were born on October 17th. Margot Kidder (1948) played Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films, and Michael McKean (1947), also known for “Laverne and Shirley” and “This is Spinal Tap,” appeared as Planet editor Perry White on the “Smallville” TV series.
August 11 in history:
Events and people from California stand out on August 11th in history…
On this date in 1934, the first civilian inmates arrived at the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.
The Watts riots in Los Angeles began on August 11th, 1965, when violence occurred after police tried to arrest an African-American man in the Watts neighborhood for drunk driving. The riots lasted nearly a week, with 34 people being killed and more than a thousand others injured.
The movie “American Graffiti” opened on this date in 1973. George Lucas’s film takes place during a single night near the end of summer in a small California town.
And California native Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, was born on August 11th, 1950.
May 27th in history:
Henry Ford stopped making the Model T on May 27th, 1927. It had been the first really popular American car model, bought by millions of drivers over the 19 years it was on the market. Ford replaced the Model T with the Model A.
Drivers in the San Francisco area had a new way to get across the bay when the Golden Gate bridge opened on May 27th, 1937.
“The Three Little Pigs” was considered a ground-breaking Walt Disney cartoon, paving the way for animated features. It opened on this date in 1933. Like many future Disney cartoons, “Pigs” introduced a popular song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”
And a couple of horror-movie actors who have scared countless audiences were born on May 27th: Vincent Price (1911) and Christopher Lee (1922).
January 24th in history:
The California Gold Rush was triggered on January 24th, 1848, when James Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill. Most of the U.S. didn’t hear about the discovery until late in ’48, when President James K. Polk mentioned the gold rush in his State of the Union message. The treasure hunters who went to California in the months afterward became known as ’49ers.
Today’s 49ers, the NFL team from San Francisco, played in the Super Bowl for the first time on January 24, 1982, at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. They won Super Bowl XVI by a 26-21 score over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The ring awarded to Super Bowl winners is made of gold and decorated with diamonds. January 24th is the birthday of Olympic gold-medal winner Mary Lou Retton (born 1968) and singer-songwriter Neil Diamond (1941).
The Super Bowl didn’t become known for clever and expensive TV commercials until Apple Computers did a parody of the book “1984” to introduce its new Macintosh personal computer. The Super Bowl ad ran two days before the Mac officially went on sale January 24th, 1984.