Category Archives: Historical Stuff

How to Beat the Tax Man

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Well, first of all, let me say that the title to this post might hold true if you were living back in New Orleans in the late 1800’s, but I’m pretty doggone sure that what I’m about to tell you won’t work in these modern times. Sorry…

I took today’s photo a couple weeks back when my wife and I went to the Lakewood 400 Flea Market. I normally don’t like going to flea markets, but this one is different. It’s 95% indoors and takes place in a very large building that has numerous “halls” and each hall is jam-packed with crafts, furniture, trinkets, and all sorts of fascinating stuff. Some of it is even worth buying, but that’s not typically why I go. I go because it’s a photographer’s delight. It is held once a month and starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. And, get this, you an even buy food and popcorn there! Yippee!

Anyway, this last time we were there we came across an old antique wardrobe from New Orleans. It was clearly old and had been painted over a number of times, but the paint job on it was still very interesting though there was a patina of yellow to it. Someone had clearly loved this piece of furniture (as we did!)  The person who was selling it gave us a bit of the story of how folks back in the day tried to beat the tax man in New Orleans. Here’s the story:

Apparently, back in the 1800’s when this piece of furniture was created, in New Orleans they taxed your home based on how many rooms your house had in it. It didn’t matter too much how big the rooms were, but it was the number of rooms that mattered. In order to try to keep their tax bills down, people started getting smart and they stopped building closets in their house because the taxing agents considered a closet a “room”. And wardrobes, like the one we were looking at, became the rage because they weren’t rooms! Pretty clever, eh? I wonder how long it was before the tax assessor figured that one out!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: one hundred and one years ago today, during a punishing snowstorm, the German army launched a new attack against French forces on the high ground of Mort-Homme, on the left bank of the Meuse River, near the fortress city of Verdun, France. The Battle of Verdun itself began February 21, 1916, with a German bombardment on the symbolic city of Verdun, the last French stronghold to fall during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Though the Germans had advanced speedily since the start of their advance, capturing Verdun’s major protective fort, Fort Douaumont, on February 25, the French were by no means ready to give way, and the battle soon settled into a stalemate, with heavy casualties on both sides. On the night of Douaumont’s capture, General Philippe Petain took over the French command of the Verdun sector, vowing to hold the fort at all costs and inflict the maximum number of German casualties in the process. The German objective was similar: in the words of General Erich von Falkenhayn, chief of the general staff, they aimed to bleed the French white.

Knowing the Allies planned to launch a major offensive at the Somme River that July, the German high command was determined to keep French troops and resources devoted to the defense of Verdun throughout the spring. To do this, Falkenhayn determined that he needed to change the focus of the German attacks, shifting them from Verdun and the inner ring of forts that protected it—the core of Petain’s defensive strategy—to the flanks of the French lines surrounding the city.

To that end, on March 6, after receiving fresh artillery supplies, the Germans attacked along the west bank of the Meuse, beginning the so-called Battle of the Flanks with a preliminary artillery bombardment every bit as intense as the one of February 21. Although under heavy fire from French artillery positions, the Germans managed to cross the river at Brabant and Champneuville to step up their assault on Mort-Homme, which held, though 1,200 French soldiers were captured over the course of two days’ fighting. The Germans made good progress in the area in general, however, capturing nearby positions before the French began their aggressive counterattacks. The struggle for Mort-Homme itself went on for more than a month, with thousands dying on both sides of the line, but the Germans never captured the position.

Fighting at Verdun would continue for 10 months, making it the longest battle of World War I. Paul von Hindenburg—who replaced Falkenhayn that summer—finally called a halt to the German attacks on December 18, after more than a million total casualties had been suffered by German and French troops.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Consumers spend about $662 million on fireworks each year. Sparklers are considered one of the more “sane” fireworks, but are deceivingly benign. They can actually burn as hot as 2,000° F.

 

 

Healthy Teeth and Gums…

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In Charleston, SC, there are many lovely homes from years gone by. Each and every one has stories to tell and I’m sure that most of us will never hear many of them.

When we were there and on our horse-drawn carriage tour, we went by this house. It was painted pink and white…and it has been that way for at least decades, if not over a century. There is a reason, though, for the somewhat unusual color on the home.

You see, this home was owned by a dentist. He decided that he wanted people to know what color healthy gums and teeth should be, so he painted his house pink and white. And now, many years later, they continue the practice to recognize and celebrate the history of the city and the home.

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY: General James Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), hero of the daring “Doolittle Raid” on mainland Japan and later the unified commander of Allied air forces in Europe in World War II, once offered the following high praise to one of his staff officers in 1944: “Next to a letter from home, Captain Miller, your organization is the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations.” The Captain Miller in question was the trombonist and bandleader Glenn Miller, the biggest star on the American pop-music scene in the years immediately preceding World War II and a man who set aside his brilliant career right at its peak in 1942 to serve his country as leader of the USAAF dance band. It was in that capacity that Captain Glenn Miller boarded a single-engine aircraft at an airfield outside of London on December 15, 1944—an aircraft that would go missing over the English Channel en route to France for a congratulatory performance for American troops that had recently helped to liberate Paris.

It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of Glenn Miller’s success in the years immediately proceeding America’s entry into World War II. Though he was a relatively unspectacular instrumentalist himself—he’d played the trombone in various prominent orchestras but never distinguished himself as a performer—Miller the bandleader came to dominate the latter portion of the swing era on the strength of his disciplined arrangements and an innovation in orchestration that put the high-pitched clarinet on the melody line doubled by the saxophone section an octave below. This trademark sound helped the Glenn Miller Orchestra earn an unprecedented string of popular hits from 1939 to 1942, including the iconic versions of numbers like “In The Mood” (1939), “Tuxedo Junction” (1939) and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1941), as well as Miller’s self-penned signature tune, “Moonlight Serenade” (1939).

The Glenn Miller Orchestra played its last-ever concert under Miller’s direction on September 27, 1942, in Passaic, New Jersey, and shortly thereafter, Miller entered the Army. After nearly two years spent stateside broadcasting a weekly radio program called I Sustain The Wings out of New York City, Miller formed a new 50-piece USAAF dance band and departed for England in the summer of 1944, giving hundreds of performances to Allied troops over the next six months before embarking on his fateful trip to France on this day in 1944.

The wreckage of Miller’s plane was never found. His official military status remains Missing in Action.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: burying coffins also means that 90,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and over 30 million feet of hard wood covered in toxic laminates are also buried per year. However, a British company called “Ecopod” offers coffins made from 100% recycled paper.

Don’t Worry…Big Brother Is Here

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The town of Mt. Pleasant, SC, is across the river/estuary from Charleston, SC. It is a fairly small suburb, containing both the old, historic houses near the waterline and newer structures in other places. It is a blend of old and new…a study, if you will, in contrasts.

I took today’s photo when we were on our way aboard a ship to visit Fort Sumter. The boat left from Mt. Pleasant and headed around the nearby marina to make its way to the fort in the middle of the bay that leads to Charleston.

The ferry started from a dock that was right by the USS Yorktown, a carrier that is retired and is now a floating museum of sorts. It contains aircraft on its flight deck, the Congressional Medal of Honor museum on the hanger deck and various other photographic and video displays about the ship and where she served.

As with any aircraft carrier – it is impressive in size. It isn’t as large as the carriers being built today, but it’s not of a size that you could put it into your bathtub, either!  And so, as we rounded the marina on our way out to the fort, I looked back toward where we’d come from and caught today’s photo. All the smaller boats in the marina stood in start contrast to the sheer size of the Yorktown. I couldn’t help but thinking of a bunch of baby ducklings or goslings swimming along behind a much larger parent…and feeling comforted that big brother was nearby. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the other large ship toward the right in the photo is a destroyer…again dwarfed by Big Brother.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In keeping with today’s photo, on this day in 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan in perhaps the most memorable speech of his career. The speech, in which he called Japan’s act a “deliberate deception,” received thunderous applause from Congress and, soon after, the United States officially entered the Second World War.

The day before, Japanese pilots had bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, decimating the majority of U.S. warships in the Pacific Fleet along with most of the Air Corps and Navy aircraft stationed on the island of Oahu. The bombing raids killed 2,403 people, including 68 civilians, and wounded almost 1,200.

Although Roosevelt and his advisors had received intelligence reports indicating an imminent attack by Japan days before, he had hoped that Japanese and American diplomats, then negotiating in Washington, would come to a peaceful solution. He was incensed to realize that while American and Japanese diplomats engaged in negotiations (over Japan’s recent military actions in China and elsewhere in the Pacific), Japanese aircraft carriers had been steaming toward Hawaii intent on attack. His words on December 8 relayed his personal indignation and fury.

Roosevelt had already proven his oratorical skills during the Great Depression when his “fireside chats” rallied the nation’s morale. The same president who once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” declared with equal conviction that the nation “would never forget the character of [Japan’s] onslaught against us” and vowed that the “unbounding determination of our people… will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”

The stirring speech was hardly necessary—Congress and millions of Americans, who had been hearing details of the attack in the news, shared the president’s outrage and commitment to defending the nation. Young men flocked to armed forces recruiting stations the next day and both houses of Congress quickly voted to declare war on Japan, with only one dissenting vote, that of Montanan Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist. She was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both World Wars, having been among those who voted against American entry into World War I nearly a quarter of a century earlier.

Rankin, however, believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack because he wanted to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany; she was determined not to cooperate with the president’s plan. After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House, a roll call vote began. When her turn came, Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

Rankin was vilified in the press, accused of disloyalty, and called “Japanette Rankin,” among other impolite names. She stood her ground, however, and never apologized for her vote.

When her term neared completion two years later, Rankin was certain she would not win re-election and chose not to run again. She continued to be an active advocate for pacifism, and led a campaign against the Vietnam War in 1968 when she was 87 years old.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the decapitated head of a dead snake can still bite, even hours after death. These types of bites usually contain huge amounts of venom.

From the Inside Lookin’ Out…

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It isn’t every day that you get to visit what was once a working cotton plantation here in the south. You can’t hardly find any cotton growing in the south anymore because it is being grown more cheaply overseas and there isn’t as much demand for it as there used to be. But the Boone Hall Plantation near Charleston, SC was once a booming cotton plantation.

Because of its location, there were no roads that they could use to get the cotton to the docks in Charleston. Instead, there were waterways that were plied by barges and boats that would carry the product from the cotton fields to the mills or ships for shipping.

I took today’s photo from inside the re-built cotton warehouse where they would store the cotton before carrying it out on the dock and loading it into the boats. As I stood inside the warehouse looking out through the window to the end of the dock, I could imagine how it would have looked to have a boat tied up there, I imagined the heat inside the warehouse and how even the slightest breeze coming through the windows would grant welcom relief to those laboring inside the wooden building. Sometimes, I think that I can almost imagine something so clearly that it is as if I were there. I had that feeling when I shot a series of pictures from inside the place.

I think that those working inside the building on those hot southern days were envious of those who were outside in the breeze, loading cotton onto the barge.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1964, the first Medal of Honor awarded to a U.S. serviceman for action in Vietnam was presented to Capt. Roger Donlon of Saugerties, New York, for his heroic action earlier in the year.

Captain Donlon and his Special Forces team were manning Camp Nam Dong, a mountain outpost near the borders of Laos and North Vietnam. Just before two o’clock in the morning on July 6, 1964, hordes of Viet Cong attacked the camp. He was shot in the stomach, but Donlon stuffed a handkerchief into the wound, cinched up his belt, and kept fighting. He was wounded three more times, but he continued fighting–manning a mortar, throwing grenades at the enemy, and refusing medical attention.

The battle ended in early morning; 154 Viet Cong were killed during the battle. Two Americans died and seven were wounded. Over 50 South Vietnamese soldiers and Nung mercenaries were also killed during the action. Once the battle was over, Donlon allowed himself to be evacuated to a hospital in Saigon. He spent over a month there before rejoining the surviving members of his Special Forces team; they completed their six-month tour in Vietnam in November and flew home together. In a White House ceremony, with Donlon’s nine surviving team members watching, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty.” Donlon, justifiably proud of his team, told the president, “The medal belongs to them, too.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Brains are unhealthy to eat because they are high in cholesterol and fat. For example, a single serving of a 140 g. can of “pork brains in milk gravy” contains 3,500 mg. of cholesterol, 1170% of the USRDA.

 

Walking into Holy Ground

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There are some places that just feel special. Then there are others that feel like holy ground. I had that kind of experience recently aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston recently.

The night we checked into our hotel, I saw that there was a Medal of Honor Museum in the area. I didn’t realize it was onboard the Yorktown itself. Right after entering through one of the large hangar bays off to the left of the reception desk that was staffed by docents is the Medal of Honor Museum. There are apparently several around the country…but this one was designed and apparently somewhat managed by recipients of this honor themselves.

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military honor that can bestowed by the United States. It is given to very, very few who have acted with incredible heroism and selflessness. Few live to receive it because they gave their lives to save others.

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And so, as I saw the entrance to the museum behind glass doors, I was almost afraid to go in. I hold those who have served in the military in such high regard in general, but the Medal of Honor recipients are deserving of an even higher position and honor in the esteem of every American. I finally opened the door and stepped inside…and I felt that I was on hallowed ground. We made our way through, reading some of the stories, watching some of the video clip interviews of those who knew these brave men and women. It was sobering to realize the bravery and sacrifice of those who received the honor. It was deeply moving. I felt so small and undeserving of the price they paid for my freedom.

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY: in 1864, legend holds that on this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln composes a letter to Lydia Bixby, a widow and mother of five men who had been killed in the Civil War. A copy of the letter was then published in the Boston Evening Transcripton November 25 and signed “Abraham Lincoln.” The original letter has never been found.

The letter expressed condolences to Mrs. Bixby on the death of her five sons, who had fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. The author regrets how “weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” He continued with a prayer that “our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement [and leave you] the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.”

Scholars continue to debate the authorship of the letter, and the authenticity of copies printed between 1864 and 1891. At the time, copies of presidential messages were often published and sold as souvenirs. Many historians and archivists agree that the original letter was probably written by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay. As to Mrs. Bixby’s loss, scholars have discovered that only two of her sons actually died fighting during the Civil War. A third was honorably discharged and a fourth was dishonorably thrown out of the Army. The fifth son’s fate is unknown, but it is assumed that he deserted or died in a Confederate prison camp. Despite its dubious origins, the letter’s text became even more famous when it was quoted in Steven Spielberg’s World War II film epic Saving Private Ryan (1998).

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Proportionally, hash browns have more fat and calories than a cheeseburger or Big Mac.

For Your Thanksgiving Preparations…

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I think that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I remember as a young boy that lived on the farm in Iowa how we would go to my grandparent’s home (also on a farm) on Thanksgiving for dinner. The weather in Iowa then was usually pretty cool so we’d dress in a warm coat, hop in the car, and my dad would drive us the 15 miles or so to my maternal grandparents (my paternal grandparents were both gone by the time I was born).

We’d get out of the car and grandpa’s big black dog, Midnight, would come to greet us and we’d walk up the sidewalk to their farmhouse (that always seemed so big and scary to me!) and enter through the back porch. The porch, though enclosed, was still pretty cold, but once you walked through the door into the kitchen – oh, my! – the warmth of the house and the smell of the turkey being roasted made the world a wonderful place! I shall never forget those sensations and smells as long as I live. They made an impression on me that made me love this holiday from my earliest years!

Not being a woman, I don’t do a lot of the cooking (and you really wouldn’t want me to because the little bit of cooking I do never seems to turn out that well!) but I do my share of eating. So I have a deep appreciation for those who prepare meals for others – and I hope we’ll give thanks for those people this week!

When we were in Charleston, we went aboard the aircraft carrier (retired) USS Yorktown. As we wandered through the canyons and crevices of the great ship, we came to the mess hall. Stuck up on the wall was a recipe for how to make 10000 chocolate chip cookies (when you have several thousand people on board, you have to make a lot of cookies for everyone to get even two each!)

Knowing that you might be making cookies this week and feeding a mass of people at your home, I thought you might appreciate having this recipe. Oh, and if you’re not planning to feed 10,000, you can reduce it by a factor of 10 and send me any left-over cookies you have. But please, if you’re making chocolate chips cookies for me, know that I love having walnuts in my chocolate chip cookies!  Yum!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1923, the U.S. Patent Office granted Patent No. 1,475,074 to 46-year-old inventor and newspaperman Garrett Morgan for his three-position traffic signal. Though Morgan’s was not the first traffic signal (that one had been installed in London in 1868), it was an important innovation nonetheless: By having a third position besides just “Stop” and “Go,” it regulated crossing vehicles more safely than earlier signals had.

Morgan, the child of two former slaves, was born in Kentucky in 1877. When he was just 14 years old, he moved north to Ohio to look for a job. First he worked as a handyman in Cincinnati; next he moved to Cleveland, where he worked as a sewing-machine repairman. In 1907, he opened his own repair shop, and in 1909 he added a garment shop to his operation. The business was an enormous success, and by 1920 Morgan had made enough money to start a newspaper, the Cleveland Call, which became one of the most important black newspapers in the nation.

Morgan was prosperous enough to have a car at a time when the streets were crowded with all manner of vehicles: Bicycles, horse-drawn delivery wagons, streetcars and pedestrians all shared downtown Cleveland’s narrow streets and clogged its intersections. There were manually operated traffic signals where major streets crossed one another, but they were not all that effective: Because they switched back and forth between Stop and Go with no interval in between, drivers had no time to react when the command changed. This led to many collisions between vehicles that both had the right of way when they entered the intersection. As the story goes, when Morgan witnessed an especially spectacular accident at an ostensibly regulated corner, he had an idea: If he designed an automated signal with an interim “warning” position—the ancestor of today’s yellow light—drivers would have time to clear the intersection before crossing traffic entered it.

The signal Morgan patented was a T-shaped pole with three settings. At night, when traffic was light, it could be set at half-mast (like a blinking yellow light today), warning drivers to proceed carefully through the intersection. He sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for $40,000.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Aristotle’s famous division between Greek and Barbarian was not based on race, but on those who organized themselves into community city-states and those who did not. The ancient Romans categorized people not on biological race or skin color, but on differing legal structures upon which they organized their lives.

Where it begins/began…

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There is an old Neil Diamond song from my youth called Sweet Caroline that has these lyrics:

Where it began
I can’t begin to knowing…

In spite of what some think, the words were not inspired by the young daughter of JFK (Caroline Kennedy at the time), but by the woman who was Neil Diamond’s wife at the time. Her name wasn’t Caroline, but he needed something with three syllables and that’s the name he chose.

But that’s beside the point..it’s that lyric that I’m after. He may not have known when his love for his wife started (it is rather hard to pin-point such a thing so I don’t hold that against him), but it is clear when the Civil War started in earnest.

Today’s photo was taken at Fort Sumter in the middle of the bay near Charleston, SC. It was taken from inside the fort and the encasement that was facing in the direction from which the Confederates fired the first shots at the Union held fort on April 12, 1861. (The fort actually figured in two Civil War battles).

On Thursday, April 11, 1861, Confederate general Beauregard sent three aides, Colonel James Chesnut, Jr., Captain Stephen D. Lee and Lieutenant A. R. Chisolm to demand the surrender of the fort. Anderson (the Union commander of the fort) declined, and the aides returned to report to Beauregard. After Beauregard had consulted the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy Walker, he sent the aides back to the fort and authorized Chesnut to decide whether the fort should be taken by force. The aides waited for hours while Anderson considered his alternatives and played for time. At about 3:00 a.m., when Anderson finally announced his conditions, Colonel Chesnut, after conferring with the other aides, decided that they were “manifestly futile and not within the scope of the instructions verbally given to us”. The aides then left the fort and proceeded to the nearby Fort Johnson. There, Chesnut ordered the fort to open fire on Fort Sumter.

On Friday, April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire, firing for 34 straight hours, on the fort. The Union batteries in the fort didn’t fire back until 2-1/2 hour later as they didn’t have the right kind of ordinance for such a battle (they only had solid shot, not explosive shells).  During the attack, the Union colors fell. Lt. Norman J. Hall risked life and limb to put them back up, burning off his eyebrows permanently.

Interestingly enough, not a single soldier in the fort died as a result of the hostile exchange of fire. However, when the fort was surrendered on April 13, 1861, a 100-gun salute was ordered to celebrate the end of the violence. It was on the 47th shot of the 100-gun salute that a Union soldier was killed. His name was Daniel Hough and the death came about as the premature discharge of a cannon. It earned him the dubious distinction of being the first person to die in the Civil War.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began his expedition across Georgia by torching the industrial section of Atlanta and pulling away from his supply lines. For the next six weeks, Sherman’s army destroyed most of the state before capturing the Confederate seaport of Savannah, Georgia.

Sherman captured Atlanta in early September 1864 after a long summer campaign. He recognized his vulnerability in the city, however, as his supply lines stretched all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. Confederate raiders such as Nathan Bedford Forrest threatened to cut his lines, and Sherman had to commit thousands of troops to protect the railroads and rivers that carried provisions for his massive army. Sherman split his army, keeping 60,000 men and sending the rest back to Nashville with General George Thomas to deal with the remnants of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee, the force Sherman had defeated to take Atlanta.

After hearing that President Abraham Lincoln had won re-election on November 8, Sherman ordered 2,500 light wagons loaded with supplies. Doctors checked each soldier for illness or injuries, and those who were deemed unfit were sent to Nashville. Sherman wrote to his general in chief, Ulysses S. Grant, that if he could march through Georgia it would be “proof positive that the North can prevail.” He told Grant that he would not send couriers back, but to “trust the Richmond papers to keep you well advised.” Sherman loaded the surplus supplies on trains and shipped them back to Nashville. On November 15, the army began to move, burning the industrial section of Atlanta before leaving. One witness reported “immense and raging fires lighting up whole heavens… huge waves of fire roll up into the sky; presently the skeleton of great warehouses stand out in relief against sheets of roaring, blazing, furious flames.” Sherman’s famous destruction of Georgia had begun.

Interestingly enough, Fort Sumter was finally recaptured from the Confederates as a result of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: McDonald’s Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. The company earns most of its profits not from selling food, but by collecting rent. McDonald’s Happy Meals have been served since 1979. In the mid-1970s, a Guatemalan woman name Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño invented the happy meal (which she called the “Menu Ronald”) to make it easier for mothers to feed their children. The concept was later co-opted by Bob Bernstein, CEO of an advertising agency, who ultimately named the small meal the “happy meal” and was given credit for the idea.

Strangely Apropos…

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Charleston, SC is on a peninsula that is bounded on two sides by fairly large rivers that dump out into the Atlanta that is visible in the distance. Being a seaport, it has had a colorful history that goes way back.

On the very tip of the peninsula is a park, called Battery Park by some. That end of the peninsula has seen its share of pirates and brigands. Did you know that the fearsome pirate, Edward Teach (or Edward Thatch as some claim) roamed those waters? Edward Teach lived between about 1680-1712 when he was killed in a battle in 1718 after being slashed across the throat when others rushing in and finished him off. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Edward Teach was better known as Blackbeard.

According to Wikipedia, there are no confirmed accounts of him ever having murdered anyone, but he may have. He certainly had opportunity. But his history with Charleston was fairly extensive. At one point, his ships entered the harbor and held the entire city hostage. What was his demand for ranson? One chest of medicine. Some believe it was for himself (he apparently had an STD), but he didn’t ask for gold or anything else. Once the medicine chest was delivered, he stopped the siege.

But back to the park: when pirates were captured, they would be tried and hung by the neck (if found guilty) from the trees in the park…and they’d be left to rot there hanging by their necks as warnings to any other pirates who might happen to come around.

That’s maybe why I thought the photo of the skeleton on the motorcycle was apropos (that’s one of the rivers in the background). Of course, it was nearly Halloween, but I thought more of the pirates!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1971, John Emil List slaughtered his entire family in their Westfield, New Jersey, home and then disappeared. Though police quickly identified List as the most likely suspect in the murders, it took 18 years for them to locate him and close the case.

John List was an outwardly normal and successful father. A Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout troop leader, List was a strict disciplinarian who insisted his children follow extremely rigid rules.

On November 9, seemingly out of the blue, List shot his mother Alma (above her left eye), his wife Helen (in the side of the head), and two older children in the back of their heads; he shot his youngest child, a son, several times in the chest and face. He then left the murder weapon alongside their carefully laid-out corpses. List had methodically devised a plan so that the bodies would not be discovered for quite a while, cancelling newspaper, milk, and mail delivery to his home in the days leading up to the murder. He then called the children’s schools to say that the family was going to visit a sick relative out of town. By the time authorities discovered the bodies, List had vanished without a trace.

Local law enforcement officials had essentially given up looking for List when the television show America’s Most Wanted began airing in the late 1980s. After a segment about the List murders aired on May 21, 1989, calls began flooding in. Although most of them proved to be unhelpful, one viewer claimed that John List was living in Virginia under the alias Robert Clark.

Indeed, List had assumed a false identity, relocated to the South, and remarried. In 1989, he was returned to New Jersey to face charges for the death of his family. The following year, he was convicted of five counts of murder and received five consecutive life sentences.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Holiday retailers use music to attract potential shoppers. For example,  if shoppers like the type of music retailers are playing, they will be more likely to enter the store and like the products. Additionally, the slower the tempo of the music, the slower people will walk through the store, and the more they will buy. A faster tempo will encourage shoppers to walk faster and, consequently, they won’t buy as much.

Gotta Watch Out for those Southern Gentlemen!

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The south has a reputation for being genteel and “propuh” (southern accent style). Manners matter here – through I’m sure not as much as they did in the years gone past.

All that brings me to today’s photo and story. Very recently, I took some time off from work and we went on a mini-vacation to the southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. We’d never been there before but we met up with some friends from CA who where there on vacation, too.  We had a great time and I came away very impressed with the history of Charleston!  (I’ll have numerous posts of photos I took there so will save a lot of those stories for later posts.)

One of the things you see on many of the buildings that date back to the 1700’s, etc., are balconies outside of upper floor doors. Those balconies usually face the street. Many of those balconies are semi-circular in shape and are made out of metalwork. Now here’s where it gets interesting: in days gone by, there was, of course, no air conditioning and Charleston gets hot and humid in the summers. One of the things that the southern belles used to do was to come out on the balconies all dressed in their several layers of clothing with their hoop skirts. That’s why so many of the balconies are semi-circular.

But it gets even better. The floors of those semi-circular balconies are typically made of solid metal, not metal grate. Why, you say? Well, the ladies would come out on their balconies and the southern gentlemen would engage them in conversations from the street below. If the balcony flooring was made of metal grate construction, the “gentlemen” could peek up the ladies’ skirts!!! So, the solution was that the flooring of the balconies would be made of a solid construction to maintain the modesty of the young ladies. Bear in mind that this was in the day and age when seeing a woman’s ankle was supposed to lead to a marriage proposal!  How things have changed…

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Today’s photo gives you an idea what I’m describing…but these were fairly small balconies compared to some of them.  And there were a few..not many, but a few…that were made with metal grate for the floors. I suspect those were constructed more recently, but who knows?  Maybe that was where the scandalous ladies met their scandalous southern suitors!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1983, David Hendricks, a businessman traveling in Wisconsin, called police in Bloomington, Illinois, to request that they check on his house and family. According to Hendricks, no one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When the police and neighbors searched the home the next day, they found the mutilated bodies of Hendricks’ wife and three children, all of whom had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife.

Because there was very little sign of a struggle or forced entry, police thought the crime scene was suspicious. In addition, though the killings were brutal, the murder weapons had been cleaned and left neatly near the bodies. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks’ alibi—that he had left for Wisconsin just before midnight on November 4—appeared solid.

Nevertheless, with no other leads, police began to examine Hendricks’ story more closely. He claimed that he had taken his family out for a pizza at about 7:30 on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30. Hendricks left for his business trip several hours later.

But after studying the children’s bodies, medical examiners concluded that Hendrick’s story did not quite fit. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30—while Hendricks was still at home.

Police charged Hendricks with murdering his family, but they still lacked a concrete motive. The Hendricks family was devoutly religious, belonging to a puritan-like group called the Plymouth Brethren.Hendrick’s defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. Still, the jury found Hendricks guilty of four counts of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 21, 1988.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The bird pictured on the American silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter. From 1830 to 1836, people who worked at the United States Mint adopted him to use as model for the drawings. When he died after getting his wing injured in the coining press, they stuffed him. He is still on display in the lobby of the mint.

Inside a “Moonshine” Car

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People love their luxury cars. To some people, luxury means “fine Corinthian leather” (those of you who are old enough will remember those commercials with Ricardo Montalban – those of you who aren’t old enough can just go wash behind your ears!) Some think of luxury cars as having all the bells and whistles you can imagine: power windows, power seats that tip and slide by pressing a button, rear-facing cameras, heated seats, headlight wipers, GPS systems, tire pressure monitors, self-parking and auto-braking. I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be added to that list, but you get the idea.

Today’s photo is of the inside of one of the cars at the moonshine festival. For those of you who may not have the sharpest of eyes, yep – that’s a beer can holder attached to the dashboard and a jug for moonshine sitting in the seat. But what caught my eye was the fine upholstery.

I grew up on a farm and knew quite well what a gunny sack is. If you look closely, you’ll see that they paneled the doors, covered the seats and even the dashboard with only the finest gunny sack upholstery. Nothing was too good for the moonshiners, I guess!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Taylor was not the first person to attempt the plunge over the famous falls. In October 1829, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper, survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side of the border. More than 70 years later, Taylor chose to take the ride on her birthday, October 24. (She claimed she was in her 40s, but genealogical records later showed she was 63.) With the help of two assistants, Taylor strapped herself into a leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to break her fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of the fast-flowing Niagara River and cut loose.

Knocked violently from side to side by the rapids and then propelled over the edge of Horseshoe Falls, Taylor reached the shore alive, if a bit battered, around 20 minutes after her journey began. After a brief flurry of photo-ops and speaking engagements, Taylor’s fame cooled, and she was unable to make the fortune for which she had hoped. She did, however, inspire a number of copy-cat daredevils. Between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of them survived. Among those who died were Jesse Sharp, who took the plunge in a kayak in 1990, and Robert Overcracker, who used a jet ski in 1995. No matter the method, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, and survivors face charges and stiff fines on either side of the border.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Moon dust is said to smell like spent gunpowder.