December 23, 1997: Festivus is celebrated on television. Editor and author Daniel O’Keefe’s family celebrated Festivus as early as 1966 but in their family, the holiday was celebrated as family tensions rose and any time between December and May. In 1982, O’Keefe wrote a book dealing with rituals and the social significance found in them, a theme relevant to his family’s made-up holiday. The name of the holiday is not based on the Latin for festival which is also festivus. The first Festivus was celebrated in February 1966 when O’Keefe went out on his first date with the woman who would eventually become his wife. Today, the holiday is celebrated each year on December 23 because his son wrote an episode on this holiday for Seinfeld.
“The Strike” was written by Daniel and his son, Dan, O’Keefe and aired on December 18, 1997. It was the 166th episode of the NBC sitcom and appeared in the last season of Seinfeld’s ten year run. In the episode, Jerry, George, and Elaine discussed the holiday which George’s father had created – Festivus. Kramer learned of the holiday when George’s father visited the bagel shop where Kramer had recently returned to work and described the alternative to Christmas. He had created the holiday as a protest to the commercialization of Christmas.
Meanwhile, George didn’t wish to buy any presents and created a fake charity, The Human Fund. George’s boss donated $20,000 to the fund and when he found out that is wasn’t a true charity, questioned George. George, who had a knack for turning something a little bit bad into something awful, decided to use Festivus as his excuse and explained that he was fearful of repercussions due to his beliefs. George’s boss didn’t actually buy the idea and went with George to his home to see the holiday celebration in action. Kramer became upset when his boss didn’t give him time off from work for his Festivus celebrations and went out on strike. He was seen picketing the bagel shop. George convinced his friends to help him out and they had a Festivus celebration in order to show George’s boss how real the holiday was.
According to Seinfeld, part of the celebration was the “Airing of Grievances” which took place while eating dinner. Each person got to tell the others how they have disappointed the raconteur during the past year. After dinner, the “Feats of Strength” were performed and if the head of the household could be pinned, the holiday ended. A Festivus pole was an aluminum pole of specific tensile strength which was unadorned and dinner was a meatloaf concoction served on a bed of lettuce. None of these were part of the original O’Keefe celebration. Festivus can be celebrated today and many people are able to have a bit of fun on December 23 thanks to the sitcom.
The real symbol of the holiday was a clock that my dad put in a bag and nailed to the wall every year…I don’t know why, I don’t know what it means, he would never tell me. He would always say, ‘That’s not for you to know.’ – Dan O’Keefe
Festivus yes! Bagels no! – Cosmo Kramer
It’s Festivus… for the rest of us! – Frank Costanza
Kramer: Is there a tree?
Frank: No. Instead, there’s a pole. Requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.
Also on this day: Jolly Old Elf – In 1823, Twas the Night Before Christmas was first published.
Survivor, The Real Story – In 1972, the Andes flight disaster finally came to an end.
Tokyo Tower – In 1958, Tokyo Tower was dedicated.
Around the World in Nine Days – In 1986, the Voyager landed at Edwards Air Force Base and completed a non-stop trip around the world.
Another One Bites the Dust – In 679, King Dagobert II was murdered.
December 22, 1944: General Anthony McAuliffe responds to an order for surrender. The Battle of the Bulge was a German offensive campaign during World War II. The battle line was through the dense forests of the Ardennes region of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. Allied forces were caught completely off guard and woefully out gunned. At the time of the initial attack, the German forces were about 200,000 strong while the Allies had about 83,000 men with which to defend their positions. The Allies were able to resupply their lines with men and munitions while the Germans were not able to move in as many men. The American forces took the brunt of the action and suffered the most casualties at 89,500 with 19,000 killed and 47,500 wounded. Another 23,000 Americans were captured or missing.
Allied forces were led by Dwight Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery from Britain. Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, and George Patton were in command of various US Army division while McAuliffe was in charge of the 101st Airborn Division. The German assault began on December 16, 1944 at 5.30 AM when the Germans began a 90 minute artillery barrage in which they launched 1,600 artillery pieces across an 80 mile front. Heavy snowstorms made the battle even more chaotic. The snows kept the Allied planes grounded but it also caused severe traffic jams for the Germans who were then faced with shortages on their front lines.
The Siege of Bastogne is often credited as the point at which the German advance was stopped. The battle at Eisenborn Ridge was another major component of the Battle of the Bulge and may have been even more of a turning point. It was at the Siege of Bastogne, fought between December 20-27, 1944, where General McAuliffe was in charge, supported by William Roberts and Creighton Abrams. The Germans were driving for the harbor at Antwerp in order to stop supply lines for the Allies. The Allies were determined to keep the supply lines open as they desperately needed the men and supplies to combat the still superior German forces.
On this day, under a flag of truce, a German major, lieutenant, and two enlisted men entered the American lines southeast of Bastogne. They carried a message from General von Lüttwitz to General McAuliffe. The message follows in the quotes and demanded a surrender of the US troops. McAuliffe read the message and issued a one word response. Others around him tried to sweeten the response but instead, decided it was the best response possible and so they sent a message to the German Commander. NUTS! And signed it from the American Commander. When the German major received and read the message, he was confused so an American translated it for him, “In plain English? Go to hell.” The Americans eventually won the Siege of Bastogne and the Allies were victorious in the Battle of the Bulge which was called a German operational failure.
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity. – The German Commander.
Also on this day: March to the Sea – In 1864, General Sherman finished his march into Savannah, Georgia.
First PM – In 1885, Ito Hirobumi became the first Prime Minister of Japan.
Fly Ash – In 2008, the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant’s dike collapsed.
Under Water – In 1937, The Lincoln Tunnel in NYC was opened.
Heavens! – In 1891, Brucia was discovered.
December 21, 1118: Thomas Becket is born. Although his date of birth is known because it was the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle, the year is a bit uncertain. He may have been born in 1120, as later tradition stated. What is known about him comes from historians of the era. He was born in Cheapside, London and his father came from Normandy. The elder Beket was either a small landowner or a petty knight, having moved up from his start in the business world as a textile merchant. By the time his famous son was born, he was able to make a living from collecting rents on the properties he own in London. He served as the sheriff and was able to accrue some wealthy friends. This allowed Thomas to spend time in Sussex at the estates of Richer de L’Aigle.
Thomas was sent to Merton Priory to study when he was ten and was then educated in London, perhaps at St. Paul’s Cathedral before taking a year to study in Paris, about the time he was 20. He did not ever study canon or civil law and his Latin was never as good as he might have hoped. His father suffered some financial difficulties and Thomas was forced to work as a clerk rather than continue his schooling. Thomas was given a position in the household of Theobald of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald sent Thomas on several important missions to Rome and also sent him to the continent to study canonical law. In 1154, Theobald named Thomas Archdeacon of Canterbury which entailed other ecclesiastical offices.
Thomas was appointed as Lord Chancellor in 1155 and in that capacity was in charge of collecting revenues. He also hosted King Henry II’s son in his home, as was customary of the times. Becket was elected as Archbishop of Canterbury on May 23, 1162 and King Henry may have hoped Thomas would continue to put King before God. However, Becket’s conversion into an ascetic took place shortly after his election. The King and Archbishop’s relationship unraveled beginning almost immediately. By 1164, the Constitutions of Clarendon pitted the King against his one-time friend and Henry had Thomas brought to Northampton Castle to face charges of contempt. Becket fled to the continent.
The King’s men pursued him there and the Church helped to protect and hide the Archbishop. Early in 1170, Thomas was permitted to return from exile and took up residence in Canterbury once again. In June 1170, the next Henry was crowned as heir apparent without Thomas’s presence. In November of 1170, Thomas excommunicated all the participants, as was his right. Thomas began to excommunicate all of his enemies and Henry learned of this. Henry’s comments were interpreted as a command to kill Thomas. On December 29, 1170 he was killed as he was on his way to pray. Thomas Becket is revered as a saint by both the Catholic and the Anglican Churches.
Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered… the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith… All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown. – Thomas Becket
Many are needed to plant and water what has been planted now that the faith has spread so far and there are so many people… No matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what is planted is the faith of Peter and unless he agrees to his teachings. – Thomas Becket
Who will rid me of this troublesome priest? – King Henry II, traditionally
What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric? – King Henry II, according to Edward Grim
Also on this day: Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.
Four in One Year – In 69 AD, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome.
Honor – In 1861, the Medal of Honor was instituted.
Cooperatively – In 1844, the Rochdale Society opened their first store.
December 20, 1951: EBR-I works. About 18 miles away from Arco, Idaho, the experimental Breeder Reactor was built out in the desert. Designed by Walter Zinn’s team from the Argonne National Laboratory, construction began late in 1949. The initial stages of the building had the reactor plant called Chicago Pile 4 or CP-4 or sometimes Zinn’s Infernal Pile. It was part of the National Reactor Testing Station, now known as the Idaho National Laboratory. EBR-1 installation was done in early 1951 and it was the first reactor in Idaho. It began power operation on August 24 of that year. On this day, atomic energy was successfully harvested and the power was used to generate electricity – enough to light four 200-watt bulbs. It was a beginning. The first time electricity was produced from nuclear power.
The following day, the reactor was able to produce enough power to light the whole building. It was able to produce 200 kW of electricity out the 1.4 MW of heat generated. The design and purpose of ERB-I was not to produce electricity. It was built to validate nuclear physics theory in the hopes of producing true breeder reactors by 1953. Tests proved the theory correct. Experiments revealed it produced additional fuel during fission, just as was hypothetically predicted.
On November 29, 1955 while running a test on coolant flow, the EBR-I had a partial meltdown. The test was trying to find the cause of unexpected reactor responses when there were changes in the coolant flow. This, one assumes, was one of the unexpected responses. It was repaired and further experiments were carried out. Thermal expansion of the fuel rods and the plates supporting them was the cause of the unexpected response. While ERB-I was the first to produce usable electricity, it was only for in-house use. BORAX-III, a nearby power plant, was connected to external loads and was sufficient to power the entire city or Arco in 1955, the first time nuclear power was able to power a city.
ERB-I had many firsts- the first to produce electricity, the first to use plutonium to generate electricity, and many other useful experiments. Enrico Fermi’s breeding principle was proven. But the reactor was not built for more than experimentation and was decommissioned in 1964. It gained national landmark status on August 25, 1966 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and an IEEE Milestone in 2004. The site is open to the public and has been since 1976, but only during the summer months. You can visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day and see the two prototype reactors from the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Project of the 1950s as well.
Nuclear power is a young technology – there’s so much more to be discovered. That’s what makes it so exciting to me. Yes, there are problems, but innovative people are going to be able to come up with solutions and bring the technology to its full potential. – Leslie Dewan
Nuclear power plants must be prepared to withstand everything from earthquakes to tsunamis, from fires to floods to acts of terrorism. – Ban Ki-moon
Nuclear power is not a miracle key for the future. – Tarja Halonen
Nuclear power will help provide the electricity that our growing economy needs without increasing emissions. This is truly an environmentally responsible source of energy. – Michael Burgess
Also on this day: Secret Police – In 1917, Lenin formed the first of a series of secret police, used to terrorize the citizens of Mother Russia.
Cardiff, Wales – In 1955, Cardiff became the capital of Wales.
Petrol on Fire – In 1984, the Summit Tunnel fire began.
Just Wonderful – In 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life was released in New York City.
Flying Tigers – In 1941, the Flying Tigers first saw combat.
December 19, 1983: The Jules Rimet Trophy is stolen – again. Jules Rimet (1873-1956) was a French soccer administrator and the third President of FIFA. He served in that capacity from 1921 to 1954, the longest tenure for that position. He also served as the president of the French Football Federation between the years of 1919 and 1942. It was at his instigation that the first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930. The trophy awarded to the winners was called “Victory”. It was designed by Abel Lafleur and was a 14 inch high statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. It was made of gold-plated sterling silver and was placed on white/yellow marble base. In 1946, the trophy was renamed the Jules Rimet Trophy. In 1954 the marble base was replaced with one made of lapis lazuli.
The first time it was stolen was just prior to the 1966 FIFA World Cup games held in England. The trophy was placed in an exhibition and on Sunday, March 20 it was found missing. Shortly after noon, the case was found forced open as were the back doors to the building. The thieves had removed a padlock from the back of the display case and left the building via the same doors they had forced open to get in. None of the guards had noticed anything amiss while the theft was in progress and it was only at 12.10 PM when a guard came to check the room that the crime was discovered. Scotland Yard took over the case and when a ransom demand came the next day, they were prepared. The trophy was recovered by March 27 and one man was convicted for the theft.
In 1970, Brazil won the Jules Rimet Trophy for the third time and got to keep the prized award perpetually. Sérgio Peralta, a banker and football team agent, was the mastermind behind the theft. Francisco Rivera (alias Chico Barbudo) was a former policeman and José Luiz Vieira (alias Luiz Bigode) was a decorator and both men were accomplices to Peralta. Rivera and Vieira invaded the Brazilian Soccer Confederation (CBF) building and stole three items: the Jules Rimet as well as the “Equitativa” and the “Jurrito”. Investigation brought in Antonio Setta, a safecracker, who admitted Peralta had tried to hire him to steal the trophy, but due to patriotism and the fact that his brother had died of heart attack when Brazil won the Jules Rimet Trophy, he declined.
Peralta and his accomplices were arrested but the trophy was gone. It had been melted into gold bars by Juan Carlos Hernandez. He was then arrested as well. When they were found guilty and received their sentences, they fled. Rivera was killed in 1989 in a barroom brawl. Vieira was captured and freed from jail in 1998. Hernandez was captured in France when he was arrested for drug trafficking. He was released from prison in 2005. Peralta’s sentence was complete in 1998 and he died of a heart attack in 2003. Setta died in a motor vehicle accident in 1985. A replica of the original trophy was made and presented to CBF in 1984.
I’m attracted to soccer’s capacity for beauty. When well played, the game is a dance with a ball. – Eduardo Galeano
Watching soccer is my main hobby, really. I’m no tactician or coach, but I enjoy watching the free flow of it, the different styles, and the histories behind clubs. Like Barcelona vs. Madrid – it’s not just a soccer game; it’s a geopolitical struggle. There are great storylines and no commercials. – Andrew Luck
I like tricks; I like to dazzle. Dribbling and leaving your opponent on his backside is what life is for. If I achieve what I want to, then I’ll mark a distinct era in football. I’m the Che Guevara of modern soccer. – Sergio Aguero
Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple. – Johan Cruyff
Also on this day: Monumental – In 1960, the San Jacinto Monument was declared a National History Landmark.
Believe – In 1918, Ripley began his carton series.
Tiny Tim – In 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol.
What’s Up, Doc? – In 1956, Dr. John Bodkin Adams was arrested.
Presumed – In 1967, Harold Holt was presumed dead.
December 18, 1888: Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason set out to find some missing cattle. Wetherill was part of a ranching family in Colorado as well as an amateur explorer. On this day, while out looking for some cattle, he and his partner found Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde. Little is known of the peoples who built and lived there as they disappeared around 1300 without leaving a trace. The term Wetherill used to name the people who had built the place came from the Navajo for ancient enemies. That is why they were called the Anasazi. While atop an adjacent mesa, the duo looked down into a valley and noticed the city carved into the native rock.
Tree ring dating gives the time of construction and habitation from about 1190 AD to 1260 AD with most of the building taking place during a twenty year period. The Ancestral Pueblo were thought to have built the cliff dwellings as a defensible position against their encroaching enemies or possibly due to climactic changes in the region. It was completely abandoned by 1300 and the reasons for that are disputed. It is thought that possible megadroughts caused such a drop in food production that the people needed to leave their safely built city.
The dwellings are built from sandstone, mortar, and wooden beams. The sandstone was shaped by using harder rocks as tools while the mortar was made from soil, water, and ash which held everything together. Smaller stones were often placed inside the mortar in order to level out or shore up construction. The walls were decorated with colored earthen plaster but it faded over time. The size of the doorways was a mystery but the average height of a man at that time was about 5’6” and women were about 5’ tall. There are 23 round sunken rooms which seem to be of ceremonial importance and 150 other rooms at Cliff Palace. It is thought about 100 people lived there.
Wetherill and his family (fathers and brothers) not only named the people who lived there, but they “excavated” the area extensively. The family and their friends and neighbors came to the site and dug around, knocking down walls and roofs. They also gathered many of the artifacts remaining at Cliff Palace. The Wetherill family did donate some of these artifacts to the Historical Society of Colorado but they kept the majority of their finds for themselves. Frederick H Chapin, a photographer and friend of the Wetherills was included in exploration and he was able to produce pictures and eventually wrote a book about the exciting archeological find in the middle of the desert. Wetherill went on to discover the Kiet Seel ruin which is today included in the Navajo National Monument.
Look for light
Listen for inspiration on the wind
Let water cleanse your soul
Set yourself on a firm foundation
Serve as the plants
Do not offend your fellow creatures
Live in harmony with all creations. – all from the Anasazi Foundation
Also on this day: The Grinch – In 1966, the Dr. Seuss tale came to television for the first time.
Ancient Pueblo Housing – In 1888, Cliff Palace was discovered.
Nuke Power – In 1957, the first nuclear power plant in the US began producing power.
NFL Playoff – In 1932, the Chicago Bears beat the Portsmouth Spartans.
Land of Sweets – In 1892, The Nutcracker was first performed.
December 17, 1961: The Niterói fire takes place. Niterói is a city located in southeast Brazil. It is across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro and has a population of about a half million living in about 80 square miles. It is considered to be part of the Rio de Janeiro greater metropolitan area and is the sixth most populous city in the state. On December 15 the Gran Circus Norte-Americano premiered in Niterói. It was advertised as the most complete circus in all of Latin America. There were about 60 performers as well as 150 animals. About another 20 people were employed by the circus which was owned by Danilo Stevanovich.
The owner had purchased a new tent for his fantastic show. The tent was said to be made of nylon and came from India. It weighed in at six tons, which helps explain why these performances were hosted under the “big top”. The circus had come to town a week before their first show and set up the tent and all the necessary items for the grand production. They were located in the Praça Expedicionário in the city center. The first two day’s performances went well and the Sunday performance was a thrill for all the local children. They were eager to see the various entertainment acts and the wild animals. The show was packed.
There were about 3,000 people in attendance. The show had been delighting the youngsters and their parents. With only about twenty minutes left to day’s performance, the trapeze artists took to the air. From that vantage point, one of the them noticed a fire. It took only about five minutes for the entire circus to be completely enveloped in flames. Unlike some other disasters of this nature, the doors had not been barred, but due to the number of people inside and the quickness with which the fire spread as well as the limited number of exits, there were 372 people who died in the flames. Many more were injured and by the end, over a hundred more died from their injuries bringing the total of dead to 500. Another 800 people were injured. About 70% of the victims were children.
Investigation found the tent was not made of nylon as advertised. It was instead made of cotton covered with paraffin wax. This made the fire spread even more quickly. The cause of the fire remains under debate. One theory is that a couple of disgruntled circus workers started the blaze. However, an independent investigation laid the blame on electrical problems. Two other circus fires claimed many lives, but not even the Hartford (Connecticut, United States) fire in 1944 nor the Bangalore (India) fire in 1981 came close to the number of dead or injured as this disaster in Brazil.
Ceremony, circus, farce, melodrama, tragedy, … nothing else offers all at once the whirl, the excitement, the gaiety, the intrigue, and the anguish. – Arthur M Schlesinger Jr.
Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool. – Ambrose Bierce
To me clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad. – Jack Handey
I remember in the circus learning that the clown was the prince, the high prince. I always thought that the high prince was the lion or the magician, but the clown is the most important. – Roberto Benigni
Also on this day: Wilbur and Orville – In 1903, the brothers took the Wright Flyer up to the skies.
D’oh – In 1989, The Simpsons premiered.
Decree – In 1807, Napoleon I issued the Milan Decree.
Hot Time in the Old Town – In 1837, the Tsar’s home in St. Petersburg, the Winter Palace, caught fire.
Trendy – In 1892, Vogue’s first issue was published.
December 16, 1903: The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel opens in Bombay. It is the flagship property of the Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces held by the Tata Group. Located in the Colaba region of Mumbai, India, it is next to the British built Gateway to India. Jamsedji Tata was born in Bombay in 1839 and is known as the “Father of Indian Industry”. He was the founder of the Tata Group, which is a multinational conglomerate concerned with almost all industries including the hospitality business. The Group was founded in 1868 and owned by the Tata Sons and has 600,000 employees.
It was once believed that Tata decided to build his magnificent hotel after he was refused entry at the Watson’s Hotel which was restricted to whites only. This tale has been criticized as Tata would have little need for revenge against the British. Instead, it is thought he was encouraged by The Times of India to build a hotel “worthy of Bombay” and so took on the challenge. Indian architects were Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and DN Mirza designed the magnificent seven story building. The project was completed by WA Chambers, an English engineer and Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor built it. The contractor was the person who designed the famous central floating staircase. The cost of building was £250,000 which is about £127 million today.
The Taj Mahal Tower is a free standing building which opened in 1973. It is part of the system, but is not directly connected to the older portion of the hotel. Each was built independently and in a different style with the tower much more modern in design. It has 22 floors. The hotel system has a total of 560 rooms and 44 suites. There are 11 restaurants in the complex. There are about 1,500 staff working there with 35 butlers included. The hotel is said to provide the highest level of service in all of India and many famous people from politicians to show business stars have stayed there.
On November 26, 2008 the historic hotel came under attack. It and the Oberoi were the targets of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Muslim terrorist group. During the Mumbai attacks, at least 167 people were killed and at least 31 of them were from the Taj. Most of the casualties were Indian citizens, but foreigner with Western passports were singled out and killed. At the time of the attacks, about 450 people were staying at the Taj. Tata chairman Ratan Tata said the hotel had been warned prior to the attacks and had taken some countermeasures although over time they had been relaxed. Even so, the terrorists were able to easily sidestep the measure that were in place. The building took significant damage which included the destruction of the building’s roof. The less heavily damaged areas were able to open on December 21, 2008 but it took several months to completely repair the historic building. On August 15, 2010 the restoration costing 1.75 billion rupees (about $27 million) was finished and the building was officially reopened.
In a free enterprise the community is not just another stakeholder in the business but in fact the very existence of it. – Jamsetji Tata
The ultimate of being successful is the luxury of giving yourself the time to do what you want to do. – Leontyne Price
Living in the lap of luxury isn’t bad, except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up. – Orson Welles
People have declaimed against luxury for 2000 years, in verse and in prose, and people have always delighted in it. – Voltaire
Also on this day: Mississippi River Flowed North – In 1811, after a series of earthquakes, the Mississippi river flowed in the opposite direction for a time.
Mr. Music – In 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven was born.
Tea for Two – In 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place.
Protector – In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became the first Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.
Science of Bank Robbery – In 1930, Herman Lamm died.
December 15, 1939: Gone with the Wind premieres in Atlanta, Georgia. The movie was based on the book of the same name written by Margaret Mitchell. Her book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1936 and was picked up for the movies. The 221 minute movie (longer if including overture, intermission, entr’acte, and exit music) was produced by David O Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming. The screenplay was written by Sidney Howard. The movie starred Clark Gable in the role of Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. Leslie Howard played Ashley Wilkes and Olivia de Havilland had the role of Melanie Hamilton. The romantic-historical epic shows the lives of the four main characters against the backdrop of the US Civil War.
It took years to bring the movie from the drawing board to the theaters. Selznick was determined to have Gable in the film and it took a two year delay in order to secure the leading man for the role. There was no preconceived idea of who to have has the leading lady and so about 1,400 women were interviewed for the part of Scarlett. Howard wrote the screenplay and was tragically killed in an accident on his Massachusetts farm prior to the completion of the film. There were many revisions by many writers as it was necessary to cut scenes to shorten the entire film which is still 3 hours and 41 minutes long. Director George Cukor was fired shortly after filming began and Fleming took over, but had to leave production for a while to recover from exhaustion.
At the 1940 Academy Awards, the movie received ten Oscars, eight for competitive categories and two honorary). Best Supporting Actress went to Hattie McDaniel, the first time an African-American won an Academy Award. The number of Oscars won and the number of nominations garnered was a record at the time. The enormously successful film cost $3.85 million to create and brought in $390 million at the box office, making it the most successful film in box office history after adjustments for inflation. While not without criticism, especially about the revisionistic treatment of slaves, it also has been credited with the way African-Americans have been portrayed on the screen since.
The issue with the cast was that actors and actresses held contracts with studios who were often reluctant to lend them out. There were often prohibitively expensive strings attached. This was the issue with Gable. While 1,400 women were interviewed for the role of Scarlett, only a handful of famous and soon-to-be-famous women were actually given a screen test. Of the 31 women tested, Margaret Mitchell liked Miriam Hopkins the best, although she refrained from publicly claiming so. Hopkins was already in her mid-30s and was considered too old for the part. Leigh, 11 years younger, got the part after she was one of two actresses screentested in Technicolor. Paulette Goddard almost got the part, but her marriage to Charlie Chaplin was too controversial. Filming finally began on January 26, 1939 and ended on July 1 with post-production finally complete on November 11. Gone with the Wind opened on this date in Atlanta and has remained an iconic American film ever since.
As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again. – Scarlett O’Hara
Dreams, dreams always dreams with you, never common sense. – Scarlett O’Hara to Ashley Wilkes
Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing badly. Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara
Scarlett: Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?
Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Also on this day: James Naismith – In 1891, the game of basketball was invented.
Back Up Is Essential – In 1836, the US Patent Office’s records were lost in a fire.
JFK Assassination – In 1960, an attempt was made on President-elect Kennedy’s life.
Push Comes to Shove – In 1905, the Pushkin House was established to hold Alexander Pushkin’s works.
Bill of Rights – In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified.
December 14, 1958: The 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition reaches the Pole of Inaccessibility. The International Geophysical Year (IGY) lasted from July 1, 1957 to December 31,1958. Scientific sharing had been interrupted by Stalin’s control over the USSR. After his death in 1953, a break in the Cold War was possible and the scientific community came together to celebrate. There were 67 countries participating in the IGY which covered eleven Earth sciences. Belgian Marcel Nicolet was elected secretary general of the association which was able to increase the world’s knowledge base tremendously in this short time. For instance, both the USSR and the US were able to launch satellites during this time frame.
The 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition was part of the IGY push even though it was not completed during the time frame. IV Maksimov led the marine expedition which had two ships which held 445 men. Of them, 183 were scheduled to winter in Antarctica with Yevgeny Tolstikov leading the land expeditions. Their first task was to continued the IGY program and relieve the 1956-58 continental expedition. But they were also supposed to organize the Sovetskaya station at the pole of relative inaccessibility.
This is problematic to find as it is the point on the Antarctic continent most distant from the Southern Ocean. The issue comes from how to measure for such a location. Because of this, a number of coordinates have been given for the exact point. It is possible to create a point based on the land mass itself. It is also possible to base the position based on the ice shelf covering the land mass, but even in the 1950s, that was not a constant configuration. The ice shelf moves and icebergs are calved. And then there are the measurements themselves and the typographical errors possible. Today, the location of the Russian research station established during this first visit is given the name. The southern pole of inaccessibility is 548 miles away from the South Pole and is at an elevation of 12,198 feet.
This area is far more remote and is much harder to reach than the South Pole which was also reached on this date in 1911 (see below). Tolstikov’s team arrived and set up a temporary station before returning. In 1967, a second Soviet team returned and built a structure which still stands today. In 2006, a team of men took a trip to the historic pole of inaccessibility without direct mechanical assistance. They traveled by traditional man hauling and kite skiing. They reached the abandoned building on January 20, 2007 and discovered not only the building, but a statue of Lenin left there 48 years before. Due to improvements in technology and more accurate measuring, the pole of inaccessibility has been found to be located in a slightly different position.
It is difficult to live in the present, ridiculous to live in the future and impossible to live in the past. Nothing is as far away as one minute ago. – Jim Bishop
Better do a good deed near at home than go far away to burn incense. – Amelia Earhart
Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold. – Andre Maurois
If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it. – Lucy Larcom
Also on this day: Queen of Gems – In 1656, the first fake pearl was made.
Strong Men; Great Leaders – In 1751, the first military academy was begun in Austria.
Bushidō – In 1702, the 47 Ronin avenged their daimyo.
Up, Up and Away – In 1782, the Montgolfier brothers took to the air in their flying balloon.
South Pole or Bust – In 1911, Roald Amundsen made it to the South Pole.
* “Southern Pol of Inaccessibility Henry Cookson team n2i” by Cookson69 at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Southern_Pol_of_Inaccessibility_Henry_Cookson_team_n2i.JPG#/media/File:Southern_Pol_of_Inaccessibility_Henry_Cookson_team_n2i.JPG