Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On this day in history...

I’m a sucker for those “on this day in history” lists. And who was born, who died. Not that the specific day matters, one way or the other. And do we really believe that they were keeping such excellent track back in 1370, that we have great certainty that the Battle at Radau: Germany beats Lithuania – sounds like a soccer match, doesn’t it? – took place on that very day.
Fast forward a few centuries, and we find that Myles Standish was elected the first commander of the Plymouth Colony. Greater likelihood of accuracy, but is that Julian calendar February 17 or Gregorian calendar? 
I like that on this date, in 1776, the 1st volume of Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” was published.  And that 19 years later, Thomas Seddal harvested 8.3-kg potato from his garden Chester, England. Way to go, Thomas! That’s one mighty pratie.
Even more interesting, in 1801, the House broke an electoral college tie to pick Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr. (Good choice, but let’s hope they don’t get to be tie breakers come November…) And in 1836, Charles Darwin and HMS Beagle left Tasmania.
On the music front, Verdi’s “Masked Ball” debuted in 1859. February 17th is apparently a good day for opera: in 1904, Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” premiered.
Opera’s not the only thing that debuts on February 17th. In 1876, the first canned sardines were introduced, in Eastport, Maine, no less. (Thanks but no thanks. On behalf of my husband, I wish it had been canned anchovies.)In 1896, the London County Council began enforcing its muzzling order. (Hiss-boo. Did dogs bite more back in the day? Were there no rabies shots? I always feel terrible when I see a muzzled pooch.) 
On a more pleasant note, in 1913, Oregon put the US’s first minimum wage law in place. And in 1924, not-yet-Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller set the 100-yard freestyle record.  In 1933, happy days were, indeed, here again when Prohibition was lifted, in plenty of time for folks to enjoy the first color TV, which was demonstrated in 1938. Too bad there was nothing on…
Not much happened in the forties and fifties on this date, other than World War II battles and figure skating championships. But in 1962, the Beach Boys released their first song. Surf was up! More importantly – at least my husband would say so – Wilt Chamberlain scored 67 points in a game against the St. Louis Hawks. A few years later (1968), the Basketball Hall of Fame opened in Springfield. (Jim loved basketball. We were always going to get there someday when we were out visiting family in Southwick…) 
1964 was a biggie: the House voted in the Civil Rights Act and the Supremes ruled that on one man, one vote. (Seriously, it took that long????) 
And in 1972, President Nixon left for China, opening up a new era in Sino-American relations and, I believe, prompting someone (neither Verdi nor Puccini: both dead) to write an opera on the subject. Seriously, what is up with February 17th and opera? 
Over the next couple of decades, a lot of what happened on February 17th had to do with skating, cricket, or NBA All Star games. 
Other stuff happened on February 17th.  For instance, many well-known people you never heard of were born. That includes French economist Pierre Le Pesant (1646). Not to mention Southern plantation owner, Haller Nutt (1816). At least I’ve heard of Montgomery Ward (1844), and Wally Pipp (1893). But Fyodor Sologub? Who curates these lists, anyway?
Football – and lacrosse – great Jim Brown was born on February 17, 1936. As was Gene Pitney (1941) who was born in Hartford, not, as one might have imagined, 24 Hours from Houston. Come to think of it, Hartford has always struck me as a town without pity. 
Rene Russo, an actress Jim had a crush on, was born on this day in 1954. Michael Jordan, a basketballer that Jim was not especially wild about – Jordan was no Bill Russell – checked in in 1963. Paris Hilton was born in 1981.
Many notables died on this day. Geronimo in 1909. Bruno Walter and the guy who played Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace both died in 1962.  Lee Strasberg, baseball umpire Nestor Chylak, and Thelonious Monk checked out in 1982. In 1994, Randy Shilts, who wrote And The Band Played On, a book that was turned into one of my husband’s favorite films, died of AIDS. In 2013, on this day, country signer Mindy McCready shot herself. And in 2014, Bob Casale, a musician I’d never heard of, died. 
Anyway, just as all politics is local, the real important history is personal.On February 2014, Bob Casale wasn’t the only one who died. So did my husband, Jim. 
Seems like just yesterday; seems like a million years ago.
Life is good. It’s just different. And it’s just plain not quite as entertaining and interesting as it was when Diggy was around. Sigh…


1 comment:

Ellen said...

Thinking of you on this tough day.