Little Bits of History

Virgin Territory

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 31, 2012

US Virgin Islands

March 31, 1917: The US takes possession of lands purchased from Denmark. The Danish West Indies were sold to the US for $25 million ($493.75 million in 2009 USD). The sale itself was concluded with the exchange of signed treaties on January 17, 1917. Danish administration ended and the US took possession of the renamed US Virgin Islands (USVI) on this day. This grouping of islands contains Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas, and Water Island along with numerous minor islands of the Virgin Island archipelago. They are part of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. The latter is also called the Caribbees because of its location in the Caribbean Sea.

With the transfer of ownership, the islands became a US Territory. The residents were granted US citizenship in 1927. The islands cover a combined total of 133.73 square miles. The real estate therefore cost $186,943.80 per square mile. The Louisiana Purchase cost $15 million for 828,800 square miles or $18.10 per square mile. The Alaska Purchase cost $7.2 million for 586,412 square miles or $12.28 each. The biggest concern in the Caribbean was not real estate. During World War I there was fear the Germans might seize the islands if they invaded Denmark and then use them as submarine bases.

The islands themselves were inhabited by the Ciboney, Carib, and Arawaks long before Europeans “discovered” them. Christopher Columbus “found” them on his second voyage and named then for various saints. For the next three centuries they were ruled and used by a variety of European colonialists. Spain, Britain, the Netherlands, and finally Denmark-Norway. The Danish West Indies Company took over St. Thomas in 1672, St. John in 1694, and St. Croix in 1733. The economies were based on sugarcane crops. Being labor intensive, the crops were grown by slaves.

Today the islands are home to about 109,750 people. Most (74%) are Afro-Caribbean while 13% are Caucasian, 5% are Puerto Ricans and the remainder are classified as “other.” The capital is Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. It is also the largest city with a population of ≈ 19,000. The Governor is John de Jongh and head of state is President Barack Obama. Although US citizens, residents cannot vote in presidential elections although they can vote in primaries. The economy is based on some manufacturing but the major economic activity is tourism.

Visual surprise is natural in the Caribbean; it comes with the landscape, and faced with its beauty, the sigh of History dissolves. – Derek Walcott

I love Caribbean food. It’s a great melting pot of so many cultures including the Native Americans. – Bob Greene

I think the Caribbean countries face rising oceans and they face increase in the severity of hurricanes. This is something that is very, very scary to all of us. – Steven Chu

Let us work toward greater cooperation with all Caribbean Countries, whether we speak English, Dutch, French or Spanish, whether we are independent or not, and whether we be island or continental territories. – Said Musa

Also on this day:

Equality – In 1886, Abigail Adams pleads with her husband to include women as voting adults.
How TALL Are You? – In 1889, the world’s tallest structure was inaugurated.
Spring Forward – Fall Back – In 1918, DST was first used in the US.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 30, 2012

Yonge Street subway under construction

March 30, 1954: The Yonge Street subway opens. In 1861 Toronto Street Railway Company (TSRC) was granted a 30 year franchise by the City of Toronto. The private company would provide public transportation. Horse drawn streetcars were available during warmer months and horse drawn sleighs were used in the winter. Thirty years later, the City took over the service for a short time before writing another 30 year franchise to the still privately owned TSRC.

In 1892 the first electric streetcar was put into service and by 1894, all of Toronto was using them. In 1912 Toronto Civic Railway (TCR), a city department, began operation and expanded streetcar routes as Toronto itself grew. In 1920 Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) was established as TSRC’s franchise was coming to term. TTC took control in 1921 and added 575 new Peter Witt streetcars and began to rebuild streetcar tracks. That same year the first motor buses were introduced.

TTC took over control of many of the greater metropolitan area transport systems and by the end of the 1920s was running bus lines, ferry services, and the streetcars. Services kept expanding and by 1933 new markers were used (white poles with red bands at top and bottom) and placed to identify stops. During World War II usage increased as women entered the job market. More traffic meant upgrades – again. After five years of construction, Canada’s first subway line opened on this date. Later that afternoon, the last streetcar was taken out of service.

Today called the Yonge – University – Spadina line, it is still in service and operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC – renamed in 1954). It runs weekdays from 6 AM to 1:30 AM with changes in schedules for weekends and holidays. The line is 18.8 miles long now and has 32 stations. In 2009 a sweeping plan was announced to upgrade the system. Newer trains and more stops would be built and environmental concerns would be addressed. The plan will take about a decade to complete. There are many ways to pay for your trips on the subway: Metropass, weekly or daily passes, or a conventional pass. Fares are $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for seniors and students, and 75¢ for children.

No one is asking what happened to all the homeless. No one cares, because it’s easier to get on the subway and not be accosted. – Richard Linklater

You don’t look at each other on the subway. – Simon Pegg

Her logic was a combination of half-truths and clichés, her worldview a compound of misconceptions deriving from a history of our nation as written from the perspective of a subway tunnel. – John Kennedy Toole

I would solve a lot of literary problems just thinking about a character in the subway, where you can’t do anything anyway. – Toni Morrison

Also on this day:

Pencil plus – In 1858, erasers were added to pencils.
Seward’s Folly – In 1867, the US purchased Alaska from Russia.
It’s a Knock Out – In 1842, a general anesthetic was first used for surgery.

New Sweden

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 29, 2012

Johan Björnsson Printz

March 29, 1638: The first Swedish colony is established in the New World. New Sweden included portions of what are today Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Realm of Sweden was reaching its peak during this period. Through a series of wars, Swedish forces ruled several areas of Europe. Colonization in the New World was a logical move. The first Swedish expedition left for America in late 1637. The voyagers left from Gothenburg with Clas Fleming, a Finnish admiral in charge. Peter Minuet, a Dutchman, was to lead the expedition.

Kalmar Nyckle, a pinnace, and Fogel Grip, a smaller ship, sailed past Cape May and Cape Henlopen and into the Delaware Bay. They anchored at a place today called Swede’s Landing. Their first order of business was to build a fortification which they named after their queen. Fort Christina was built at present day Wilmington. The Dutch had previously attempted to settle along the Delaware River and counted the regions as their territory. The Dutch and Swedes divided the area north and south of the river, leaving each with access to the lucrative beaver pelt trade.

The Swedish colony began with holdings which included most of present day Delaware and then moved up the river to include sections of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They eventually established four forts in Pennsylvania, one in New Jersey, and a second one in Delaware. They also founded seventeen permanent settlements. They were some of the early European settlers (along with the Dutch and British) to reside in the Philadelphia area. The Swedes controlled the area from 1637-1655 when the Dutch took over. The British took on nominal control of Philadelphia in 1664 and William Penn really changed things in 1682.

New Sweden was governed by Johan Björnsson Printz from 1643-1653. Under his leadership, the colony expanded. In May 1654, the Swedes captured a Dutch fort without being fired upon – the Dutch were out of gunpowder. Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, led a reprisal action (apparently with gunpowder) and retook the fort along with Fort Christina. The Swedish colony was incorporated into Dutch New Netherlands on September 15, 1655.

Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. – Frank Borman

For three hundred years we have had our focus on the individual. We have distinguished him from the objective world as the Middle Ages did not think of doing. We have given him the world and the universe as a playground for exploration and discovery. – John Grierson

America has been discovered before, but it has always been hushed up. – Oscar Wilde

Each colony became accustomed to planting new settlements and to claiming new boundaries. – Albert B. Hart

Also on this day:

Rationing – In 1948, rationing of items increased to include more food products.
Ice Jam – In 1848, the Falls at Niagara stopped flowing.
Vesta – In 1807, Vesta was discovered.

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He Changed the Way We Live

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 28, 2012

Victor MillsMarch 28, 1897: American chemical engineer, Victor Mills, is born. This man has changed our lives in so many ways. Mills really wanted to be a civil engineer and longed to build bridges. He served in the Navy in World War I and after the war he was encouraged to enter the new field of chemical engineering. He enrolled at the University of Washington to be near his fiancée. After graduation in 1926, he went to work at Proctor and Gamble (P&G). They had been established in 1837 by a candle maker and soap maker. Making soap was laborious, until Mills showed up.

Mills devised a way to cut the time from several days to just a couple hours. He created a process to continuously superheat liquid soap that allowed the goo to be sprayed through an extruder giving us 99.4% pure Ivory soap. Inexpensive bars of soap were great. Mills changed the processing for Duncan Hines cake mixes and the results were smoother cakes and the brand escalating in sales. He figured out a way to keep the oil from separating in the peanut butter giving choosy mothers smoother Jif. Really great products, every one of them. But there’s more.

In 1956 P&G acquired a paper pulp plant. They asked Mills for suggestions. He was, by that time, a grandfather. He hated changing diapers. He began working on a way to use the clean, absorbable paper pulp and solve the diaper dilemma. He invented the disposable diaper. Pampers were introduced in 1961 after Alfred Goldman came up with the name. The early diapers were more cumbersome and they have been redesigned several times over the years. They are now thinner, more absorbable, less leaky, and easier to get on and off. The diaper business is a $3 billion a year venture.

There is, of course, some debate over the product. Environmentalists point to the 3.4 million tons of waste being tossed into landfills each year. It takes 80,000 pounds of plastic and 200,000 trees to produce the 27.4 billion diapers used yearly. Users of the convenience product point out how much less water and soap they are using because they aren’t laundering the 6,000 diapers each baby wears (on average) before being potty trained. Pampers remains one of the 24 billion dollar brands (sales reach at least one billion dollar in a year) marketed by P&G.

The essence of engineering is to make a product people want for a price they can afford to pay. Victor Mills is the quintessential engineer. – Bruce Finlayson

Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! – Dr. Seuss

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person. – Frank Barron

Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’  And then do it. – Duane Michals

Also on this day:

Ragnar, the Viking – In 845, Ragnar sacked Paris.
Tornado Outbreak – In 1920, a series of devastating tornadoes swept the US.
Three Mile Island – In 1979, a partial nuclear meltdown began in Pennsylvania.

Little Blue Pill

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 27, 2012


March 27, 1998: The US Food and Drug Administration approves a new blue pill. Sildenafil citrate inhibits cGMP specific phosphodiesterase type 5, an enzyme that regulates blood flow. The drug is used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) and is produced by Pfizer under the trade name Viagra. The drug was first synthesized at a research facility in Kent, England. It was initially studied as a method for controlling high blood pressure and/or angina or chest pain. The vascular effects did little to ease chest pain, but an interesting feature popped up.

The new compound was marketed as a treatment for ED. It was patented in 1996 and was the first oral treatment approved in the US. Viagra went on sale later in the year. It was and is available only by prescription but an advertising campaign was launched directed toward consumers. Pfizer was the number one pharmaceutical company in the world as rated by Fortune magazine in 1997. That was even before Viagra hit the market.

Viagra has been prescribed to over 15 million men. Today’s pharmacopeia includes tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) which can also both be given for treatment of ED. Rivatio is used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension. It is the same chemical as Viagra but given in different doses. According to Viagra’s website, there are three factors involved in a satisfactory erection: hardness, timing, and ability to maintain the erection. The little blue pill can help with all three issues. It does not immediately cause an erection. The man must still be aroused. The pill usually works within thirty minutes and effects last for four hours. After sex, the erection fades.

Erectile dysfunction or male impotence is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. The physiology involved can be adversely affected by a variety of causes. There are neurogenic, hormonal, arterial, and cavernosal disorders resulting in ED. There can be psychological reasons along with certain life choices (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and obesity) which can create problems as well. If the cause of ED is based on the blood flow, Viagra may help. It is ineffective for other causes. There are other treatments available up to and including surgical interventions.

A new Viagra virus is going round the Internet. It doesn’t affect your hard drive, but you can’t minimize anything for hours. – Joan Rivers

I am a sexual machine now. Raring to go every second of the day. I’m human Viagra. I am Will-agra.  – Will Smith

I’m taking Viagra and drinking prune juice – I don’t know if I’m coming or going. – Rodney Dangerfield

Bob Dole revealed he is one of the test subjects for Viagra. He said on Larry King, ‘I wish I had bought stock in it.’ Only a Republican would think the best part of Viagra is the fact that you could make money off of it. – Jay Leno

Also on this day:

Long Distance Communication – In 1899, the first international radio communication occurred.
Tenerife Disaster – In 1977, the worst aviation disaster took place at Tenerife.
Earthquake – In 1964, Alaska was struck by a powerful earthquake.

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Mother Ship

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2012

Marshall Applewhite of Heaven's Gate

March 26, 1997: The Heaven’s Gate suicides are discovered. Heaven’s Gate was a UFO cult based in San Diego, California. The group was founded in the early 1970s. Marshall Applewhite, born in 1931, had a heart attack and claimed to have a near-death experience. He was on a psychiatric ward when he first met Bonnie Nettles, a nurse. They ran into each other several times outside the hospital. Applewhite decided they were “the Two” mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Revelations. They became known as “Bo” and “Peep” and later were called “Ti” and “Do.”

The two co-founded Heaven’s Gate and mixed together some aspects of Christianity and added some New Age evolutionary doctrine. The cult’s core beliefs centered on Earth’s impending reformation. According to Do/Applewhite, the planet was scheduled for an overhaul. Do compared himself to Jesus with both beings given the mission of raising Humanity to the “Level Above Humanity.” The Luciferian program was waged by Lucifer and the fallen angels. These evil spirits were ruining the planet. The “lower focus” used “norms” to degrade humans.

Heaven’s Gate members were against suicide. The “physical vehicle” or body was needed at this level of existence in order to learn the lessons needed to transition to the next level. Bodies were to be cared for as members awaited the spacecraft approaching from the distant heavens. Suicide did not mean killing oneself but rather “to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered.” The cult members were not committing suicide, but rather they were availing themselves of this special opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Heaven’s Gate members gave up possessions and lived a Spartan life. They rented a 9,000 square foot house. The lease was for seven people but 39 people lived there. Applewhite and six other men underwent castration as a method of maintaining their ascetic lifestyle. The house was labeled and wired (and crowded) and no cult members were ever alone or unmonitored. As the comet Hale-Bopp approached (hiding a spacecraft behind it) the 39 members dressed in black and donned new Nike running shoes. They each had five dollars and three quarters in their pockets. They ingested Phenobarbital and vodka. They tied plastic bags over their heads. They died in shifts with later suicides cleaning up after the previous members. Each body was covered by a purple square cloth.

We fully desire, expect, and look forward to boarding a spacecraft from the Next Level very soon (in our physical bodies). There is no doubt in our mind that our being ‘picked up’ is inevitable in the very near future. But what happens between now and then is the big question. – Marshall Applewhite

I am in the same position to today’s society as was the One that was in Jesus then. My being here now is actually a continuation of that last task as was promised, to those who were students 2000 years ago. – Marshall Applewhite

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so. – Robert A. Heinlein

What’s a cult? It just means not enough people to make a minority. – Robert Altman

Also on this day:

Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Cruising Legally – In 1634, Britain began testing drivers.
Dr. Death – In 1999, Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of second degree murder.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 25, 2012

Coxey's Army encamped

March 25, 1894: Coxey’s Army begins their march to Washington, D.C. The march was organized by Jacob Coxey. The country was in the midst of an economic depression – the worst to date. The Panic of 1893 began with the fall of two of the largest employers in the nation. The collapse of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and National Cordage induced a panic in the stock market with cascading effects. Banks called in loans forcing many businesses into bankruptcy. The Panic lasted four years. In that time, over 15,000 businesses closed along with 600 banks, 74 railroads, and many steel mills.

Nationwide unemployment reached 20-25%. Ohio was especially hard hit with unemployment reaching 50% of industrial workers. Without income, families became homeless and lacked money for food. The men wanted to work; to provide for their dependents. Jacob Coxey lived in Massillon, a steel town in northwest Ohio. He called for the unemployed to join forces and march to Washington, D.C. to demand jobs. He was seeking government created jobs for the “involuntary idle.” The official name for the protest march was Commonweal in Christ but the marchers became known as Coxey’s Army.

About 100 men gathered at Massillon and set out on foot for Washington, D.C. The shortest distance over today’s roads is 350 miles. The route used would have covered closer to 450 miles. The army slowly picked up supporters along the way. Other contingents from various parts of the country also marched and the armies converged. By the end of April there were 500 men approaching Washington. The armies arrived at a 260 acre farm in Maryland. Eventually there were 6,000 unemployed men camped out. Coxey led several hundred into the capital and he and several other leaders were arrested for walking on the grass of the United States Capitol grounds.

While not a resounding success by itself, the Coxey Army was the first noteworthy popular protest march. After Coxey’s arrest the men dispersed but Washington had taken notice. Populism was seen as a threat and was feared by politicians. The economy improved slowly. Coxey led a second march on Washington in 1914. He ran for a variety of political positions from state and federal congressional seats to a run for the Presidency itself. He lost most of his bids. He was elected as mayor of Massillon from 1931 to 1933 but could not manage to be reelected. His last bid for any election came in 1941. He died in 1951 at the age of 97.

In dreams he sees an army. Then Coxey awakes and sees only fifty tramps. – from the New York Times

Nearly 100 recruits … arrived. … Most of them are tramps who camped in the woods surrounding the town during the night. A number of them slept in the lock-up, but were released this morning. – from the New York Times

A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun. – Thomas Carlyle

The shock of unemployment becomes a pathology in its own right. – Robert Farrar Capon

Also on this day:

On Your Marks – In 1668, the first horse race was run in the American colonies.
Titan Discovered – In 1655, Christiaan Huygens discovered one of Saturn’s moons.
First Passenger Train – In 1908, the Oystermouth Railway began service.

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Beating a Killer

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2012

Robert Koch

March 24, 1882: Robert Koch announces he has discovered the causative agent for the killer disease – tuberculosis (TB). Koch discovered the disease was caused by a bacterium. It was named Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease has been around for thousands of years. The earliest finding of M. tuberculosis is in the remains of a bison dating form 18,000 years ago. How the disease came to infect both cattle and humans is unknown. TB has been found in the 9,000 year old skeletal remains of humans as well as in Egyptian mummies dating from about 5,000 years ago. It didn’t reach South America until about 2,500 to 3,000 years ago.

The Greeks called the disease phthisis. In ≈ 460 BC Hippocrates noted it was the most widespread disease and usually resulted in death. TB produces various symptoms and it was the 1820s before it was found to be all one disease. It was also called consumption and those with the disease were often consumed by it. The most frequent site for the bacterium to attack is the lungs, but it can and does attack all the major body systems. TB is spread through the air as victims cough and sneeze. It remains endemic in African and Asian countries with 1.9 million people succumbing to this killer in 2009 alone.

Robert Koch announced his findings of the causative agent of this horrible disease in 1882 when one out of every seven deaths was caused by TB. He was already famous in the study of bacteriology, being named as the co-founder of the science with Louis Pasteur. By 1881 he was advocating for heat sterilization of surgical instruments. He won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905 for his work with TB. He formulated Koch’s postulates which form the basis of bacteriology studies.

Today, about one-third of the world’s population has been infected with TB. The disease can be latent, meaning the bacteria exists in the body but in small numbers and does not produce symptoms. Active TB does cause symptoms and if untreated is usually fatal. People are more susceptible to the disease if their immune system is compromised. The US has 25,000 new cases per year with about 40% of those occurring in immigrants from endemic regions. It was once hoped we could eradicate the disease completely. However there have been drug resistant strains developing, some resistant to multiple drugs.

In high school, I won a prize for an essay on tuberculosis. When I got through writing the essay, I was sure I had the disease. – Constance Baker Motley

The answer to old age is to keep one’s mind busy and to go on with one’s life as if it were interminable. I always admired Chekhov for building a new house when he was dying of tuberculosis. – Leon Edel

Dying of tuberculosis: The earth is suffocating…. Swear to make them cut me open, so that I won’t be buried alive. – Frederic Chopin

Whatever happened to the good old days: you know, dirty attics, tuberculosis and general all-round suffering? – Arnold Wesker

Also on this day:

Alaska Mess – In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to spill oil.
Cruising – In 1898, the first American built automobile was purchased.
Metropolitan Life – In 1868, the insurance company was formed.

Row, Row, Row your Boat

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 23, 2012

An old Woolwich Ferry

March 23, 1889: The free Woolwich Ferry begins service in east London. The River Thames (pronounced tems) runs for 215 miles from Gloucestershire to the North Sea. It is the second longest river in the UK and the longest completely in England. It is a tidal river at its eastern end with a rise and fall of 23 feet at London. There are more than eighty islands amid the waterway. The width of the mighty river varies. At the London Bridge it is 870 feet wide, but at Woolwich the width increases to 1,470 feet. The life-giving river has lured inhabitants to its shores for thousands of years. Relics from the Bronze Age have been found.

While the river has sustained settlements since Neolithic times, it has also been a barrier. Getting from one side to the other is difficult, but often necessary. Today, there are over 100 bridges spanning the River Thames. But that only helps part of the problem. Ferry service is another method still in use to get back and forth. Ferry service at Woolwich began in the 1300s. at that time, Woolwich was a fishing village and the town ran the ferry. In 1308 the business and the owner’s house sold for £10. In 1320 the business without the house sold for 100 silver marks.

Woolwich rose in status under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The area became the royal dockyard and grew in prominence while London itself grew in size. By 1810 the British army established their own ferry service running between Woolwich Arsenal and Duvals Wharf. The next year, an Act of Parliament was passed to establish service between Woolwich at the Old Ballast or Sand Wharf and Chapel Street where the dockyard ended. It ran until 1844 and was dissolved after years of mismanagement.

The London River Services licensed and financed a new ferry service in the late 1880s. It still is operated by the Serco Group. The Woolwich Ferry transports foot passengers and vehicles with some restrictions on size and weight. There are two boats leaving at ten minute intervals. They can each hold 500 passengers and 200 tons of vehicles. During off peak hours only one boat runs and service is every fifteen minutes. There are weather conditions, usually dense fog, which limit or halt service. There is a nearby foot tunnel and a light railway station is also close. The nearest vehicle alternatives are the Blackwall Tunnel two miles to the west and the Dartford Crossing, a bridge, ten miles to the east.

I have always loved to sit in ferry and railroad stations and watch the people, to walk on crowded streets, just walk along among the people, and see their faces, to be among people on street cars and trains and boats. – Ella R. Bloor

How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Some people drift along like a cork on a river, feeling that they cannot do anything except drift, moment to moment. This is an attitude of mind. Everyone can be constructive even in tiny ways. – Edward de Bono

Only the man who crosses the river at night knows the value of the light of day. – Chinese Proverb

Also on this day:

The Man Who Would Be Pope – In 752, Pope Stephen was elected but he died before taking his seat.
Safety First – In 1857, Elisha Otis installed his first passenger elevator.
Patrick Henry – In 1775, Patrick Henry spoke to the Virginia House of Burgesses.

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Preschool Predicament

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 22, 2012

The McMartin Preschool

March 22, 1984: The McMartin Preschool indictments are brought. The preschool was located in Manhattan Beach, California – a small, upscale beach town near Los Angeles. The preschool was established by Virginia McMartin who was in her 70s at the time the accusations were put forth. Judy Johnson first dropped her two-and-a-half year old son, Billy, at the school on May 12, 1983. The first inkling of trouble was when Billy had a painful bowel movement. The cascading effects resulted in the “longest and most expensive case in the history of the US legal system.”

On August 12, 1983 Judy claimed Ray Buckey, Virginia’s 25-year-old grandson, had sexually molested Billy. Judy met with Detective Jane Hoag on August 18 and Billy was interviewed at the police station on August 30. Ray was arrested on September 7 and the next day the police chief sent out 200 letters to McMartin Preschool parents concerning suspected abuse and asking for information. In October, Children’s Institute International was consulted. In November, Kee MacFarlane began interviewing children to find those who were abused.

By March 1984, there were 360 cases of abuse uncovered. The abuse was not only sexual in nature, but bizarre in practice. The children were being used as part of a satanic cult. On this date Ray, his sister, mother, and grandmother, and three other employees were indicted on 115 counts of child sexual abuse. The numbers kept escalating for both the victims and the perpetrators. By August there were an additional 397 charges brought. Investigations continued for three years. Judy Johnson died of alcohol poisoning in December 1986 before she had a chance to testify.

The trial for Ray and his mother began July 14, 1987 (all the other defendants had been freed). The end result was all charges were dropped; there were zero convictions. Ray had spent five years in jail, his mother had been jailed for two years. The children’s testimony was questionable. The method of extracting information proved to be coercive with interviewers using suggestive questioning. The children were giving false memories in answer to questions in order to placate the adults. The case cost $15 million to prosecute. The preschool was destroyed while looking for secret rooms used for satanic rites – in vain. This was only one of many cases of false memories being elicited and victimizing innocent adults. Some of those accused spent decades in prison.

I said a lot of things that didn’t happen. I lied. … Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn’t like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. … I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do. – a child witness, speaking as an adult

When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again. Maybe that is why it is easier for most of us to forget, rather than to try and explain, the Satanic-abuse scare that gripped this country in the early 80s. – Margaret Talbot

…the kids involved in this hysteria have indeed suffered, but not at the hands of their teachers. And the abuse perpetrated against them by the child-protection movement gone mad are every bit as awful as the tyranny of incest. – Debbie Nathan

I felt everyone knew I was lying. But my parents said, ‘You’re doing fine. Don’t worry.’ And everyone was saying how proud they were of me. – Kyle Zripolo, a child witness speaking as an adult

Also on this day:

Laser – In 1960, the laser was patented.
Hockey is Rough – In 1989, Clint Malarchuk was hurt during a hockey game.
Flying Wallendas – In 1978, Karl Wallenda died from a fall.