July 12th in history:
On this day in 1862, members of Congress authorized the Medal of Honor to be given by the U.S. Army for acts of valor. More than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded, with nearly half going to people who served in the Civil War. As of 2018, Civil War physician Mary Edwards Walker is the only woman to receive the medal.
Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro made history on this day in 1984, when Walter Mondale announced that she would be his running mate in the presidential election. Ferraro was a former school teacher who became a lawyer and eventually a representative from New York. She became the first woman nominated for vice-president by a major party.
Political activist Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan has traveled the world, advocating education for young girls. Malala, born on this day in 1997, survived being shot in the head during an assassination attempt to stop her campaign to let girls attend school. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her, at age 17, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.
The sons and daughters of the King of Siam are taught by governess Anna Leonowens in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I.” Oscar Hammerstein II, born on July 12th, 1895, wrote the book and lyrics to “King and I” and other famous musicals, including “Show Boat,” “The Sound of Music,” and “South Pacific.”
December 19 in history:
Bill Clinton became the second U.S. president to be impeached, when the House approved impeachment charges against him on December 19th, 1998, halfway through his second term. Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, for lying about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The scandal threatened to sink the Clinton presidency, but Clinton was acquitted by the Senate and finished his term.
A romantic epic about a famous ocean liner that sank in 1912 opened in movie theaters on this day in 1997. The James Cameron film Titanic, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, tied the record 11 Oscars won in 1959 by Ben-Hur. Titanic also set box office records which were broken a decade later by another Cameron movie, Avatar.
Unlike the Titanic, three ships that left England for America on December 19th, 1606, did reach their destination. The ships brought more than 100 settlers to the Virginia colony, where they established the community of Jamestown.
The city of Jamestown, New York, has a museum dedicated to hometown celebrity Lucille Ball and her first husband, Desi Arnaz, who were married for 20 years. Lucy’s second marriage, to comedian Gary Morton, lasted 28 years until her death. Morton, who produced Lucy’s TV series after “I Love Lucy,” was born on this date in 1924. It’s also the birthday of actress Elaine Joyce (1945), known for many television appearances and stage shows including the musical “Sugar.” Like Morton, Joyce also is famous as the spouse of a comedy legend, playwright Neil Simon.
Before becoming a playwright, Neil Simon wrote for popular TV variety series including “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar, and “The Garry Moore Show.” On this date in 1961, the Moore show featured Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things,” perhaps one of the earliest times that the song from “The Sound of Music” became associated with the Christmas season. Andrews did not appear in the original Broadway production of “Sound of Music,” and did not make the movie until three years after the Garry Moore Christmas show.
December 13 in history:
When Francis Drake sailed from Plymouth, England, on December 13th, 1577, it was the beginning of a three-year trip around the world. One of the main purposes of Drake’s voyage was to explore the Pacific coast of the Americas, and to raid Spanish settlements along the ocean.
A crew led by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first Europeans to see New Zealand on this date in 1642. Tasman briefly stopped on the South Island, but when some of his crewmen were killed in a confrontation with the Maori natives, the ship quickly moved on.
A Navy pilot is stranded on an island in “Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N,” one of a series of Disney movies in the 1960s that starred Dick Van Dyke, born December 13th, 1925. Besides having TV success on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the ’60s and “Diagnosis: Murder” in the ’90s, Van Dyke also had several hit movies including “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and Disney’s “Mary Poppins” with Julie Andrews.
A year after “Mary Poppins,” Andrews starred in “The Sound of Music” with another actor born on December 13th, Christopher Plummer (1929). Plummer’s other movies include “The Insider,” “Up,” and “Beginners,” for which he won an Oscar at age 82. In 2017, Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey as tycoon J. Paul Getty in the film “All the Money in the World,” in scenes that were quickly re-shot after Spacey’s work was cut from the movie following sex-related accusations against him.
Julie Andrews has done three TV specials with Carol Burnett. They aired in the U.S. in 1962, 1971…and on December 13th, 1989, the day that singer Taylor Swift was born. Swift acted in young people’s theater productions (once playing Maria in “Sound of Music”) before launching a country music career as a teenager. Swift has won more than 200 awards for her country and pop recordings, including seven Grammys before the age of 25.
November 16 in history:
On November 16th, 1907, Oklahoma was admitted to the Union. The U.S. flag would bear 46 stars after that, until New Mexico and Arizona became states in 1912.
The 50th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood, on November 16th, 1957, was not a happy day for fans of the Oklahoma Sooners football team. The Sooners’ 47-game winning streak, dating back to 1953, was ended with a 7-0 loss to Notre Dame.
“Oklahoma!” was the first hit musical written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Their last show, “The Sound of Music,” opened on Broadway on November 16th, 1959, with Mary Martin as Maria.
Another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Carousel,” was based on a Hungarian play called “Liliom.” Actor Burgess Meredith played the title role in “Liliom” on Broadway in 1940. Meredith’s long career included the “Rocky” and “Grumpy Old Men” movies, appearances on “The Twilight Zone,” and the role of the Penguin on “Batman” in the ’60s. Meredith was born on this date in 1907, the same day Oklahoma became a state.