Category Archives: Antiques

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.

 

 

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.

It helps…to have a sense of humor…

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Double click for a larger image…

Have you got a sense of humor? It may be a weird one, a strange sense of humor, but do you have one? I think it is very important in order to be able to get on with life.

My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was English from the word “go”. I can only remember her laughing one time – and that wasn’t at a joke. It was when we were in a car on our way to a diner for a meal. It was a fairly cool day, but it was warm inside the car. My wife was sitting next to my grandmother and noticed my grandmother’s arms were crossed over her chest. My wife asked her if she was cold, to which my grandmother replied, “No, why do you ask?” My wife told her that it was because she had her arms crossed as if she were trying to stay warm. My grandmother, staid, stoic English person that she was, exclaimed, “Well, I do!”, and then burst out laughing!

That was innocent enough. But with much that goes on in the country and world today, I believe it’s more important than ever to have a sense of humor because it helps keep us S-A-N-E! I’d go nuts if I couldn’t find numerous things each day that brighten my day by their silliness, or by a clever turn of phrase or an image that says more than a thousand words could ever duplicate!

I thought these signs from a flea market were pretty funny and they helped make my day when I shot them and again today when I posted them. Just imagine the possibilities…

Go ahead…laugh a bit. Loosen up. Let it out a bit. You’ll feel better in the long run!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in1981, fifteen-year-old Eric Witte shot his father, 43-year-old volunteer firefighter Paul Witte, in the family’s Indiana home. Although Eric admitted to shooting his father, he claimed that the gun had accidentally gone off when he tripped on a rug. The bullet hit his father, who was lying on a couch across the room, in the head. The shooting was ruled an accident, and Eric was released.

Three years later, Eric’s grandmother, Elaine Witte, 74, was killed with a crossbow. A few months after the murder, the entire family was arrested in California for forging Elaine’s signature on her Social Security checks. In the subsequent trial, the bizarre story behind the murders came to light.

Eric’s mother, Hilma Marie Witte, had tried to kill her husband, Paul, by lacing his food with rat poison and Valium. When this proved unsuccessful, she convinced her son to shoot his father by telling him that Paul was going to divorce her and that they would end up living in the streets. She later persuaded John “Butch” Witte, Eric’s younger brother, to kill his grandmother by convincing him that Elaine planned to kick them out of the house. John, who witnessed his father’s murder at the age of 11, was 14 when he killed Elaine Witte. At the trial, John stated, “My mom said I could strangle her or use my crossbow. It was up to me.”

A few hours after killing his grandmother, John went to court with his mother to inquire about receiving disability benefits from his father’s death. When they returned home that night, they began cutting up Elaine’s body with a knife and a chainsaw. Marie and her two boys then scattered the dismembered body throughout California.

John and Eric were given 20- and five-year sentences, respectively, and were released in 1996. Hilma Marie Witte received a 90-year sentence.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Ramses II (1279-1212 B.C.) is often considered the greatest pharaoh (“great house”) of the Egyptian empire. He ruled Egypt for 60 years and was the only pharaoh to carry the title “the Great” after his name. He had over 90 children: approximately 56 boys and 44 girls. He had eight official wives and nearly 100 concubines. He also had red hair, which was associated with the god Seth. (GCD: I named a dog after Ramses II.)

Ancient Shrine

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Do you remember the movie Gladiator?  (My all time favorite, by the way!)  In that movie, Maximus (played by Russell Crowe – for which he won an Oscar), has tiny figures that he uses when he prays to his Roman gods for his family.

In many different parts of the world, shrines are common and part of the local religious worship.  Some of the shrines are quite large, while others, like those in Gladiator, are quite small.   They were meant to be dwelling places for the gods.

During my recent trip to Israel, we want to the museum in Tel Aviv one morning.  It was a very interesting place, and they had an amazing collection of small shrines that were used thousands of years ago by the inhabitants of Canaan (what was to become Palestine).  If you are biblically literate, the names of Ashera, Ashtoreth, Molech, Baal and others may come to mind.  Families might have miniature shrines and idols in their homes that they used to worship these “gods”.

Today’s photo is of one such shrine that is thousands of years old.  I thought they were fascinating.  Some were very well preserved and decorated (like this one) while others were much more crudely made.  Still, I found them fascinating!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  the year was 1945 when the USS Missouri hosted the formal surrender of the Japanese government to the Allies. Victory over Japan was celebrated back in the States.

As Japanese troops finally surrendered to Americans on the Caroline, Mariana, and Palau islands, representatives of their emperor and prime minister were preparing to formalize their capitulation. In Tokyo Bay, aboard the Navy battleship USS Missouri, the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, and the chief of staff of the Japanese army, Yoshijiro Umezu, signed the “instrument of surrender.” Representing the Allied victors was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, and Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, now promoted to the newest and highest Navy rank, fleet admiral. Among others in attendance was Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, who had taken command of the forces in the Philippines upon MacArthur’s departure and had been recently freed from a Japanese POW camp in Manchuria.

Shigemitsu would be found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison subsequent to the surrender. The grand irony is that he had fought for concessions on the Japanese side in order to secure an early peace. He was paroled in 1950 and went on to become chairman of Japan’s Progressive Party. MacArthur would fight him again when he was named commander in chief of the United Nations forces in Korea in 1950.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In 1994, Warner Brother’s 1957 classic “What’s Opera, Doc?” featuring Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny in a parody of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle operas, was voted #1 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons. It was also deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Smithy

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These are the opening verses of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith:

“Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man. ”

It is an occupation that is vanishing from the world…at least from much of the United States.

On a recent visit to Columbia, California, an old mining town, I took today’s photo of a working blacksmith shop.  The forge was fired up and the smithy was busy hammering out horseshoes.  They weren’t destined for horses (at least these weren’t), as he was using some type of die to hammer a person’s name onto one side of the horseshoe iron.  They made cute gifts…which in this smithy shop, was the prime product.

Being a smithy had to be a hot and bone-tiring occupation.  Picture the heat of a Texas town in the summer, a forge blazing red hot, hammers ringing on the anvil as they forced the red-hot metal into the desired shape.

I don’t know about you, but if I was a horse, I’d not want a metal shoe hammered into my hoof.  I suppose there were advantages, but I’m just sayin….it doesn’t sound like much fun.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, spoke these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

The American effort to send astronauts to the moon has its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy’s bold proposal.

In 1966, after five years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination. Then, on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed in the fire.

Despite the setback, NASA and its thousands of employees forged ahead, and in October 1968, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, orbited Earth and successfully tested many of the sophisticated systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing. In December of the same year, Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the dark side of the moon and back, and in March 1969 Apollo 9 tested the lunar module for the first time while in Earth orbit. Then in May, the three astronauts of Apollo 10 took the first complete Apollo spacecraft around the moon in a dry run for the scheduled July landing mission.

At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”

At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the lunar module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He then planted his left foot on the gray, powdery surface, took a cautious step forward, and humanity had walked on the moon.

“Buzz” Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11 p.m., and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M. Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind.”

At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51 p.m. on July 24.

There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. The Apollo program was a costly and labor intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was justified by Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished ongoing missions lost their viability.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the night vision of a tiger is six times greater than that of a human being.

HodgePodge?

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It is interesting how we use phrases as part of our vernacular without knowing where they came from or how they came into being.  I, for one, find the origins of such things interesting.

Take today’s picture.  It’s of an old wagon festooned with flower pots, flowers, buckets, wash tubs, planter boxes, etc., a veritable “hodge-podge” of items.  But what is a “hodge-podge” anyway?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

Hodgepodge and its older form hotchpotch are part of a group of words that rhyme all by themselves. Hobnob and willy-nilly are others. In the case of hodgepodge and hotchpotch,the rhyme is not an accident. These words came to English from early French in the form hochepot.The spelling was changed to make the second half of the word rhyme with the first. In French hochepot was a stew of many foods cooked together in a pot. Perhaps the pot was shaken instead of stirred since hochepot was formed from hochier, meaning “to shake,” and pot, which had the same meaning in early French as it does in English now. Before long hotchpotch and hodgepodgewere used not just for a mixture of foods cooking in a pot but for any mixture of different things.

So, I guess in the strictest sense of the word, this isn’t a hodge-podge because you wouldn’t eat it (unless you were a termite, perhaps), but we use the term today to describe any odd collection of things.  Kinda like the way my mind works, I guess…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1870, a drunken brawl turned deadly when “Wild Bill” Hickok shot two soldiers in self-defense, mortally wounding one of them.

William Hickok had earned his reputation as a gunslinger a decade earlier after shooting three men in a gunfight in Nebraska. He parlayed his standing as a sure-shooting gunman into a haphazard career in law enforcement. In 1869, he was elected interim sheriff of Ellis County, Kansas. Hays City, the county seat, was a rough-and-tumble frontier town, and the citizens hoped Hickok could bring order to the chaos. Unfortunately, after Hickok had killed two men in the line of duty after just five weeks, they concluded that he was too wild for their tastes and they elected his deputy to replace him in November.

Unemployed, Hickok passed his time gambling, drinking, and occasionally working as a hunting guide. He quickly became bored and was considering taking work at the nearby Fort Hays as an army scout. On this day in 1870, Hickok had been drinking hard at Drum’s Saloon in Hays City. Five soldiers from the 7th Cavalry stationed at Fort Hays were also at the bar. They were drunk and began to exchange words with the notoriously prickly “Wild Bill.” A brawl broke out, and the soldiers threw Hickok to the floor. One trooper tried to shoot Hickok, but the gun misfired. Hickok quickly pulled his own pistols and opened fire. He wounded one private in the knee and wrist, and another in the torso. The three remaining soldiers backed off, and Hickok exited the saloon and immediately left town

A clear case of self-defense, Hickok was cleared of any wrongdoing. Yet, one of the soldiers, Private John Kile, later died of his wound and Hickok’s chances of becoming an army scout evaporated. He spent the next six years working in law enforcement, gambling, and appearing in Wild West shows. He was murdered in a Deadwood, South Dakota, saloon in 1876.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Why is someone who is feeling great ‘on cloud nine’?  Here’s why: types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.

Blast From the Past

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There are iconic symbols and names in every country and culture, things that just “ring a bell” with us and capture our attention.  Let me give you an example:

How many of you recall this jingle: “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the big, bright Texaco star!”  Ring any jingle bells with you?

For those of you who don’t recognize what is in today’s photo, it’s a gas pump from a Texaco station.  But this particular gas pump was from an iconic location: does the phrase “Route 66” ring bells?

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. Though Route 66 was officially established on November 11, 1926—with road signs erected the following year, its origins go much further back: in 1857, Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a Naval officer in the service of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, was ordered by the War Department to build a government-funded wagon road along the 35th Parallel. His secondary orders were to test the feasibility of the use of camels as pack animals in the southwestern desert. This road became part of U.S. Route 66. The highway, at one time perhaps the most famous road in America, eventually ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas,  Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles.  It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the Route 66 television show in the 1960’s.

Route 66 was major path for those who migrating west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. People doing business along the route prospered due to the popularity of the highway, and they later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat posed by the new Interstate Highway System.

Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, and it was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985, after it was replaced in its entirety by the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name “Historic Route 66”, which is returning to some maps. Several states have adopted significant bypassed sections of the former US 66 into the state road network as State Route 66.

We recently saw a lot of the route, and it is no longer in good shape for the most part as upkeep has been greatly reduced or eliminated, but it runs parallel to the interstate system for miles.  In a way, the iconic nature of the road has only increased by its dilapidated and aged appearance.  (Sorta like me!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: the John Hughes-directed movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” was released on this day in 1986.  A young Matthew Broderick played a popular high school student in suburban Illinois who faked an illness in order to have a day off from school, then led his best friend and girlfriend on an eventful day through Chicago. The cast also included Mia Sara and Jennifer Grey, but the most memorable performer may have been an automobile: (in keeping with the Route 66 theme today!) the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a custom-built car revered by auto collectors.

In the movie, the Ferrari—with the license plate NRVOUS—belonged to Ferris’ depressive best friend’s dad, and Ferris convinced his friend, Cameron, to liberate the car from its museum-like home and drive it to Chicago. The teens leave the car with garage attendants, who take it for a high-speed joyride. On the way home, Cameron goes into shock when Ferris notices that hundreds of miles have been added to the odometer. As they attempt, unsuccessfully, to remove the miles by running the Ferrari backwards, Cameron starts venting his anger at his father by kicking the front end of the coddled car. His tantrum dislodges the blocks holding it in off the ground while the wheels spin in reverse, sending the Ferrari through the glass wall of the garage and into the ravine behind the house.

According to Motor Trend, the first Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California—colloquially known as the “Cal Spyder”—was produced in 1957 and the last was built in early 1963. In addition, Ferrari produced a sportier, short-wheelbase model. Estimates vary as to how many were made—Cameron says “less than a hundred” in the film—but approximately 46 LWB and between 50 and 57 SWB Spyders were produced in all. For “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the filmmakers used a modified MGB roadster with a fiberglass body as a stand-in for the Ferrari. The filmmakers reportedly received angry letters from car enthusiasts who believed that a real Ferrari had been damaged.

One 1961 250 GT SWB Spyder California, with chassis number GT 2377GT, belonged to the actor James Coburn (“The Magnificent Seven”), who died in 2002. On May 18, 2008, at the second annual Ferrari Leggenda e Passione event at Maranello, Italy, the British deejay Chris Evans bought that car at auction for 6.4 million Euros, or $10,894,400 (including fees), the highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  one suicide victim who committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge left behind a note saying: “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”

What Stories They Might Tell!

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Do you ever think about inanimate things being able to speak?  I have wandered through groves of mighty, ancient redwoods and have thought about what they have witnessed during their hundreds of years of life.  Don’t you wish that they could talk to us and describe the lives of those people and animals and weather that passed beneath their lofty boughs?  Or what of a  mountain?  They’ve been there for not just hundreds of years, but much, much longer!  How would they describe how it feels to have the wind and rain carving away part of their “skin”, or of the fire that ravaged their flanks?

There are stories in almost everything if we only knew what they were.  Take the car in today’s photo for instance.  Was it bought by some young couple who were in love?  Or was it bought by someone as a gift to a son or daughter or wife or husband?  Were the hours that were spent in this car happy and care-free, or were they burdened with heartache and sadness?

What was the cheapest price for a gallon of gas that this vehicle ever drank?  What was the strangest place it ever traveled?  Where would it go again if it could find the energy?  Was it happy with its owners?  Did someone famous every ride in it?  (Or infamous?!)

You have a story.  I have a story.  For those of us who are getting farther along in years, we need to record those stories for those who follow after us.  There is heritage in story.  There is wonder and emotion in your experiences.  It is important that stories are told and shared.  It is part of the fabric of family!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1881, on the streets of Dodge City, famous western lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson fought the last gun battle of his life.

Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson had made a living with his gun from a young age. In his early 20’s, Masterson worked as a buffalo hunter, operating out of the Kansas town of Dodge City. For several years, he also found employment as an army scout in the Plains Indian Wars. His first shootout in took place in 1876 in Sweetwater (later Mobeetie), Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded.

Found to have been acting in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his ways and become an officer of the law. For five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a tough and reliable lawman. However, Masterson’s critics claimed that he spent too much as sheriff, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1879.

For several years, Masterson drifted around the West. Early in 1881, news that his younger brother, Jim, was in trouble back in Dodge City reached Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Jim’s dispute with a business partner and an employee, A.J. Peacock and Al Updegraff respectively, had led to an exchange of gunfire. Though no one had yet been hurt, Jim feared for his life. Masterson immediately took a train to Dodge City.

When his train pulled into Dodge City on this morning in 1881, Masterson wasted no time. He quickly spotted Peacock and Updegraff and aggressively made his way through the crowded street to confront them. “I have come over a thousand miles to settle this,” Masterson reportedly shouted. “I know you are heeled [armed]-now fight!” All three men immediately drew their guns. Masterson took cover behind the railway bed, while Peacock and Updegraff darted around the corner of the city jail. Several other men joined in the gunplay. One bullet meant for Masterson ricocheted and wounded a bystander. Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung.

The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns to stop the battle when a brief lull settled over the scene. Updegraff and the wounded bystander were taken to the doctor and both recovered. In fact, no one was mortally injured in the melee, and since the shootout had been fought fairly by the Dodge City standards of the day, no serious charges were imposed against Masterson. He paid an $8 fine and took the train out of Dodge City that evening.

Masterson never again fought a gun battle in his life, but the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson’s lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Modesty laws were very strict in the early 1900s. In 1919, a woman was detained at Coney Island for wearing a bathing suit in public—under her street clothes.

Rustbucket

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When you hear the term “Rustbucket”, you probably picture an old car that is lacking paint, the floorboard may be corroding (Fred Flintstone would find that handy for applying his “foot” brakes!), the upholstery is ripped and torn…in short, something of not much value.

Well, you know, as I’m getting older I find the terms “rustbucket”, “geezer” and other such terms not so offensive any more.  It tells me that something has had a long life – it has been used, it had purpose that it fulfilled.  And that, folks, ain’t bad!

This old “rustbucket” has certainly had better days, but one could argue that it has a beauty all its own still.  It may be more photogenic now than the day it rolled out of the factory.  Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder (and the camera!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1865 at 7:22 a.m., President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, died from an assassin’s bullet. Shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington the night before, Lincoln lived for nine hours before succumbing to the severe head wound he sustained.

Lincoln’s death came just after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Lincoln had just served the most difficult presidency in history, successfully leading the country through civil war. His job was exhausting and overwhelming at times. He had to manage a tremendous military effort, deal with diverse opinions in his own Republican party, counter his Democratic critics, maintain morale on the northern home front, and keep foreign countries such as France and Great Britain from recognizing the Confederacy. He did all of this, and changed American history when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, converting the war goal from reunion of the nation to a crusade to end slavery. 

Now, the great man was dead.  Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said, “Now, he belongs to the ages.” Word spread quickly across the nation, stunning a people who were still celebrating the Union victory. Troops in the field wept, as did General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Union commander. Perhaps no group was more grief stricken than the freed slaves. Although abolitionists considered Lincoln slow in moving against slavery, many freedmen saw “Father Abraham” as their savior. They faced an uncertain world, and now had lost their most powerful proponent. 

Lincoln’s funeral was held on April 19, before a funeral train carried his body back to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. During the two-week journey, hundreds of thousands gathered along the railroad tracks to pay their respects, and the casket was unloaded for public viewing at several stops. He and his son, Willie, who died in the White House of typhoid fever in 1862, were interred on May 4.

How fitting that on this same day, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.  Some things take far too long…

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Scientists estimate that anywhere from five million to 100 million unique species of plants and animals currently live on Earth. However, only about two million of these species have been identified.

Where Did That Come From?

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Have you given any thought to names these days?  I mean, there are some really weird names out there these days!  Here’s a case in point (believe it or not, this is a true story told to me by a nurse in a hospital): It seems that a mother had to take her daughter in to the hospital for some kind of treatment.  When she had to fill out the paperwork for the girl’s name, the mother wrote “A-A”.  The nurse in question was perplexed and pronounced it “AA” (kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?)  Well, the mother got furious!!!  She went ballistic and said something to the effect of, “I don’t know what’s wrong with people that they can’t pronounce my daughter’s name!  It happens all the time and I’m sick and tired of it!”  The nurse replied, rather calmly to the mother who’s veins were bulging and who’d been yelling about the mispronounciation: “Would you please pronounce it correctly for me?”  “Her name is AdashA!!!  Can’t you see?!?!?”  (I could tell you some others that she mentioned to me that she’d encountered which we spelled like dirty words but pronounced differently!)

It isn’t just the names of people, though.  I remember when a large petroleum company changed their name to Exxon.  I remember when cars were named after people or animals or something that was obvious…but no longer!!!!  I mean, what is a Daihatsu Charade and why would anyone want to buy something called a “charade”?  Or what about a Ford Probe?  (I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor, probes are not something I look forward to!)  The Chevrolet Nova  was a poor choice because in Spanish, Nova meant “it doesn’t go”.  The Dodge Swinger sounds like something you might find in the red-light district in Amsterdam (no, I’ve never been there!) The Nissan Moco was, fortunately, only marketed in Japan, because in Spanish, “moco” means “booger”!  The Oldsmobile Alero?  It’s not even a word in the dictionary, and the same goes for Chevrolet Lumina.  I guess if you can’t think of real names, just make one up.  That’s what people seem to be doing with their kids these days, right A-A?

Maybe I’m just getting old and nostalgic, but I recall the good old days when cars were named things that made sense…like the car in today’s photo, shot at Old Car City near White, GA.  The Ford Fairlane.  It evokes images of a nice lane to drive in, doesn’t it?  But the AMC Gremlin (as it turns out, it had gremlins).  Remember the Volkswagen Thing?  Talk about U-G-L-Y!

Thankfully, some cool car names have persevered: Mustang, Cobra, Corvette, Phantom.  Now you’re talkin’!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY:  in 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sinks in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost when the sub unexpectedly plunged to the sea floor 300 miles off the coast of New England.

The Thresher was launched on July 9, 1960, from Portsmouth Naval Yard in New Hampshire. Built with new technology, it was the first submarine assembled as part of a new class that could run more quietly and dive deeper than any that had come before.

On April 10, 1963, at just before 8 a.m., the Thresher was conducting drills off the coast of Cape Cod. At 9:13 a.m., the USS Skylark, another ship participating in the drills, received a communication from the Thresher that the sub was experiencing minor problems.

Other attempted communications failed and, only five minutes later, sonar images showed the Thresher breaking apart as it fell to the bottom of the sea. Sixteen officers, 96 sailors and 17 civilians were on board. All were killed.

On April 12, President John F. Kennedy ordered that flags across the country be flown at half-staff to commemorate the lives lost in this disaster. A subsequent investigation revealed that a leak in a silver-brazed joint in the engine room had caused a short circuit in critical electrical systems. The problems quickly spread, making the equipment needed to bring the Thresher to the surface inoperable.

The disaster forced improvements in the design and quality control of submarines. Twenty-five years later, in 1988, Vice Admiral Bruce Demars, the Navy’s chief submarine officer, said “The loss of Thresher initiated fundamental changes in the way we do business–changes in design, construction, inspections, safety checks, tests, and more. We have not forgotten the lessons learned. It’s a much safer submarine force today.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Bears have been known to eat almost anything, including snowmobile seats, engine oil, and rubber boots.