Little Bits of History

February 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2017

1912: Piedra Movediza falls. Tandil lies in the southeast portion of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. The town was founded in 1823 and today, almost 111,000 people live there. The name comes from a Mapuche word, the Mapuche being the indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina. Their word for falling, tan, and their word for rock, lil, are placed together to form the name of the town and the surrounding hills.

Piedra Movediza, “Moving Stone” was a local attraction. The 300 ton rock was precariously balanced on the edge of hill. It was said to slowly, imperceptibly move back and forth. While it was impossible to detect any motion with the naked eye, people would come to the site and place a glass object, usually a bottle, under the fulcrum of the rock only to find it shattered later in the day. The rock was such an important part of the local history, it remains as part of the town’s flag to this day.

No one really knows exactly what happened on this day as there were no witnesses to the event. There is speculation that vandals were present. There is a possibility that all the broken glass may have played a roll. Some say that quarry workers were tired of the people coming to look at the rock and they may have destroyed it in order to rid them of the tourists. And there is the possibility that explosions at the quarry may have cause enough vibration to actually tip the balance. Whatever the reason, the rock fell at some time between 5 and 6 PM. It crashed to the bottom of the hill and split into two pieces.

Some efforts were made to replace the rock. In May 2007, engineering students created a replica rock and placed it in the same spot. They were unable to actually recreate the mysterious moving rock and had to cement their replacement into place so it does not rock back and forth. There are other balanced rock in the area, such as El Centinela. These formations, while interesting and unusual, do not have the teetering effect known at Piedra Movediza.

If you are in the country, you should notice landmarks – that is, objects which help you to find your way or prevent you getting lost, such as distant hills, church towers, and nearer objects, such as peculiar buildings, trees, gates, rocks, etc. – Robert Baden-Powell

Geologists have a saying – rocks remember. – Neil Armstrong

We humans are here because nothing can be perfect. There always have to be some living things that are unsatisfied, itchy, trying too hard. If it was all just animals and rocks and lettuce, the gods wouldn’t feel like they had enough to do. – Miranda July

Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God, and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. – John Muir

Hey, Baby

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2015
Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks

Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks

February 29, 1936: Fanny Brice appears on Ziegfeld Follies of the Air with a new role. Fania Borach was born in New York City in 1891 and became an influential song model, comedian, singer, and actress (both theater and film). Her brother was also in show business and his stage name was Lew Brice. Fanny (sometimes spelled Fannie) dropped out of school in 1908 to work in a burlesque review and in 1910 joined Ziegfeld Follies. In 1921, she recorded “My Man” which became her signature song but she was also famous for “Second Hand Rose” which was also introduced in 1921. When she began working vaudeville, there was a child actress called Baby Peggy which she used as inspirations for her character, created on this day.

Brice was scheduled to appear on Follies and for a skit, Philip Rapp and David Freedman looked for inspiration in a public domain collection of sketches by Robert Jones Burdette, Chimes From a Jester’s Bells (1897). They adapted a piece about a child and his uncle. They changed the child from a boy to a girl and called the kid Snooks. Brice continued to play the role of Baby Snooks until her death in 1951 – first, on the Good News Show and then in 1940 on Maxwell House Coffee Time where Baby Snooks became a regular character. In the latter program, she co-starred with Frank Morgan (the wizard from The Wizard of Oz).

In 1944, Baby Snooks got her own radio show, having proven how many listeners would turn in to listen to her antics. Hanley Stafford played Snooks’ father taking over the role from Alan Reed who had played Lancelot “Daddy” Higgins for the Follies. Lalive Brownell was given the role of Vera “Mommy” Higgins between Lois Corbet and Arlene Harris who took over in 1945. Also in that year, Leone Ledoux got the role of Snooks baby brother, Robespierre. Danny Thomas played the daydreaming postman, Jerry Dingle who imagined himself in far more glamorous careers – e.g. circus owner or railroad conductor.

In 1945, Brice became ill and missed several shows. Instead of cancelling the show or using a stand-in of some sort, top stars of the day appeared and searched for the missing child. Robert Benchley, Sydney Greenstreet, Kay Kyser, and Peter Lorre all made guest appearances. The popular show moved to Friday nights at 8 PM on CBS. Then in 1949, NBC took over broadcasting and moved the show to Tuesday at 8.30 PM. The Baby Snooks Show continued with NBC until May 22, 1951. Fanny Brice suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died on May 29, 1951. She was 59. The show died with her.

Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?

Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustn’t get serious with people. They don’t expect it from you, and they don’t want to see it. You’re not entitled to be serious, you’re a clown.

I never liked the men I loved and never loved the men I liked.

Affectation is a very good word when someone does not wish to confess to what he would none the less like to believe of himself. – all from Fanny Brice

Also on this day: Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Leap Day – In 1584, the first Leap Day took place.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.
Run For Office – In 1932, Bill Murray was on the cover of TIME magazine.
At the Shore – In 1916, Dinah Shore was born.

At the Shore

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2014
Dinah Shore

Dinah Shore

February 29, 1916: Frances Rose Shore is born. People born on Leap Day are sometimes referred to as a leapling or a leap year baby. Each non-leap year, they may celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1. Some people only celebrate their birthday every fourth year when the actual date reappears. Most of the time, this doesn’t really matter. However, government entities have taken the time to officially sanction when someone born on February 29 can legally claim a certain age (this is usually associated with some landmark issue such as one is legally an adult or legally able to participate in certain behaviors). Some countries have stipulated February 28 while other have mandated March 1 as the date to celebrate. Two women, one in the US and one in Norway, gave birth on Leap Day three different times.

Frances was born to Russian immigrants in Winchester, Tennessee. When she was two, she was struck with polio which was not preventable at the time and had no real cure other than rest. Her parents worked diligently and Frances recovered. The disease however left her with deformed feet and a limp. She loved to sing and even as a child had a beautiful voice. When she was 14, she sang at a Nashville nightclub and to her horror saw her parents sitting ringside. They did not stop her, but did put her singing career on hold. Two years later, Frances’s mother suddenly died of heart attack. Frances finished her education at Vanderbilt University where she graduated in 1938 with a degree in sociology.

Frances sang at the Grand Ole Opry and then decided to pursue her singing career in New York City. She auditioned many times and one of her songs was a popular song called “Dinah”. When disk jockey Martin Block couldn’t remember the singer’s name, he simply called her the “Dinah girl” and the name stuck. Dinah Shore got hired as a vocalist at radio station WNEW where she sang with Frank Sinatra and others. She signed a recording contract with RCA Victor Records in 1940. For twenty years, she had a number of hit songs on the charts. Her last hit in 1960 was “I Ain’t Down Yet”.

But Dinah didn’t just sing, she also made appearances on television, the first taking place in 1937. She even had her own eponymous show on NBC in 1951. From 1970 through 1980, Dinah had two different daytime shows, as well. She was a supporter of women’s professional golf and played the game herself. She helped found the Colgate Dinah Shore golf tournament in 1972. She was married twice and had one daughter and adopted a son with husband George Montgomery. She had several high profile affairs, more assumed affairs, and more rumors about her affairs. She died on February 24, 1994 from ovarian cancer. She was 77 years old.

The best money advice ever given me was from my father. When I was a little girl, he told me, ‘Don’t spend anything unless you have to.’

Trouble is part of your life – if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.

Bing Crosby sings like all people think they sing in the shower.

I never wanted to set the world on fire. So I never had to burn any bridges behind me. – all from Dinah Shore

Also on this day: Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Leap Day – In 1584, the first Leap Day took place.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.
Run For Office – In 1932, Bill Murray was on the cover of TIME magazine.

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Leap Day

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2013
Leap Day

Leap Day

February 29, 1584: Due to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in many parts of Europe, the first Leap Day occurs. Calendars are used to order time for social, religious, or commercial purposes. Time units for calendars are divided into years, months, and days. Cultural groups needed to know when to plan for a viable harvest and that often included a need to know when to placate which gods in order to assure for a successful growing season.

Many different calendars have been created and many still exist today. Some religions maintain their own calendars while there are some held as sacrosanct by certain countries. Today, the world runs on the Gregorian calendar with many of these secondary means of tracking time, as well. Much of Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582-83 but many non-Catholic regions would not be persuaded by the Pope’s science. Turkey succumbed in 1926 and China completed the conversion in 1929.

While humans prefer things tidy and easily categorized, the fact remains that the Earth does not orbit the sun in an even number of days. Therefore, certain years are given an extra day, called “leap day” in order to realign the calendars with the Earth’s solar orbital position. The formula for the calendar is 365 + 1/4 – 1/100 +1/400 = 365.2425 days. The true length of the year is 365.242374 days and so after 8,000 years the calendar will be about one day behind.

The Gregorian calendar is simply a correction of the Julian calendar that was in effect from 45 BC. In ancient Rome, winter time was so useless that January and February weren’t even named until around 700 BC. February is named for the Latin term for purification, februum. It is also the only month that defies universal pronunciation, a fact Walter Cronkite playfully noted on a yearly basis. People born on February 29 are called leaplings and can celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1 during non-leap years. There are some countries that have gone to the trouble to legislate which day is the official “birthday” date for non-leap years, but it is usually left to the celebrant to decide.

“Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” – Jane Austin

“There are years when nothing happens and years in which centuries happen.” – Carlos Fuentes

“Some days are for living. Others are for getting through.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

“Each day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: We don’t just keep track of the passage of time by calendars, we separate the past from the future by the moment called the present. This passage is a dimension we call time. It has been the subject of religion, philosophy, and eventually science but there is difficulty in defining the term without using the term in the definition. Measuring the passage of time can be done with clocks. These are the one of the oldest human inventions and allowed for the measurement of smaller increments of time. Sundials and candle clocks were the first means of measuring time. Today, with ever smaller increments of time measured, we have atomic clocks tracking us. 

Also on this day: Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.
Run For Office – In 1932, Bill Murray was on the cover of TIME magazine.

Run for Office

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 29, 2012

TIME cover with "Alfalfa Bill" Murray

February 29, 1932: “Alfalfa Bill” Murray makes the cover of Time magazine. His full name was William Henry Davis Murray and he was born in 1869 in Texas. He left home at the age of twelve and worked on farms during the summer and went to school during the winters. He studied hard and graduated from College Hill Institute in 1889. He became a teacher and bookseller. He next grew interested in law and passed the Texas bar exam in 1895 and began to practice in Fort Worth, Texas. A few years later he moved to Oklahoma, still Indian Territory at the time.

He became interested in politics and got the nickname Alfalfa while working on a campaign for Palmer S. Moseley who was running for governor of Oklahoma Territory. He was a splendid orator and when the press commented on his speech, he was given the sobriquet and it stuck for the rest of his life. Murray was involved in the legal process of moving from territory to statehood for Oklahoma. When statehood was granted in 1907, Murray became the first Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He left the House after one term and did not seek re-election.

He next became the governor of Oklahoma winning the election with the largest majority of voters ever achieved in that state. He became the ninth governor of the state on January 12, 1931 amidst the Great Depression and the era of the Dust Bowl, both of which hit the Oklahoma region with a vengeance. He took office after his predecessor had racked up a huge deficit in an attempt to create jobs and provide welfare. There were mass foreclosures secondary to unemployment as well as a number of bank failures.

The State of Oklahoma was in crisis and the government was threatening to fail. Murray found a way to collect and administer taxes, licenses, and fees and to guard against tax evasion. He used the state’s National Guard to enforce these measures. He stated via Time, on this day, he would seek the Presidency, but lost his bid for the Democrat party nomination to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Murray remained governor of Oklahoma until 1935, calling out the National Guard on 47 occasions and enforcing martial law more than 30 times during his tenure. Friends said these events haunted him until his death in 1956 at the age of 86.

A dose of poison can do its work but once. A bad book can go on poisoning minds for generations.

But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
 – all from William H. Murray

Also on this day:

Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Leap Day – In 1584, the first Leap Day took place.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.

Child Labor Law

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2011

Factory workers

February 29, 1916: In South Carolina, a law is passed raising the minimum age for children factory workers from twelve to fourteen. Children have worked on the farm and in houses since time immemorial. However, with the Industrial Revolution, children were sent to the factories to work. They were employed in dangerous, sometimes fatal, jobs and were working as young as age four. Victorian England became notorious for hiring young, small children to work in mines and as chimney sweeps, as well.

Children would be pressed into work if their families were placed in debtor’s prison. The youngsters were expected to help with the family’s financial situation. They often worked long hours and were only paid 10-20% of an adult male’s wage. In 1788 about two-thirds of those employed in Scotland and England in their 143 water-powered cotton mills were classified as children. By the 1800s, one-third of households had children as the major breadwinners, either through neglect, abandonment, or death of parents.

Small children could crawl through narrow mine shafts which could not accommodate grown men. They also took jobs as errand runners or crossing sweepers [cleaning up horse manure and other detritus] in hopes of the wealthy walker offering them a tip. Small children would gain work as shoe blacks or selling cheap goods such as matches or flowers. There was better paid and more respectable work to be gained as either apprentices or domestic help. However, both of these types of employment could lead to abuse, physical and sexual. Even more sadly, a number of children would be put to work as prostitutes.

Apprentice construction workers could work 64 hours per week in the summer and a mere 52 hours per week in the winter. Domestic servants could work 80 hours per week. Many children [as well as adults] worked 16 hour days. In 1802 and 1819, laws were passed decreasing a normal workday to 12 hours. They were not, however, enforced. Today, in industrialized countries, there are much stricter labor laws, especially for children. In poorer or third world countries, child labor continues to be a human rights issue. According to UNICEF, there are still 158 million children aged 5 – 14 involved in child labor worldwide.

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.” – Grace Abbott

“Children do not constitute anyone’s property: they are neither the property of their parents nor even of society. They belong only to their own future freedom.” – Mikhail Bakunin

“These children and their parents know that getting an education is not only their right, but a passport to a better future – for the children and for the country.” – Harry Belafonte

“When the lives and the rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses.” – Carol Bellamy

Also on this day:
Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Leap days – In 1584, Leap Day first appeared on calendars.

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2011

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen title card

February 28, 1983: The final episode of M*A*S*H is televised to the largest audience in American television history. It is estimated that 106-125 million viewers watched the two-and-a-half hour program. The Neilson ratings show a 77% share for the program. It is far more difficult to get a majority of viewers in an age of cable and satellite television offering hundreds of channels.

M*A*S*H was first a book written by Richard Hooker in 1968 that was turned into a movie of the same name in 1970. Larry Gelbert brought the program to the small screen in September 1972. The show ran for 11 seasons and 251 episodes. Alan Alda’s character, Dr. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, was the only person to be in all 251 episodes. He and Loretta Swit playing Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan were the only two actors to appear in both the first and last episode. The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital was a field hospital in the Korean War [1950-1953].

Through the years there were cast changes that were seamlessly incorporated. Colonel Blake, the first to leave, was discharged. His plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan without survivors. This death of a star was horrifying to the fans and some stations edited the ending of the episode. No other starring characters were killed off, but left and were replaced by either discharge or transfers.

The final episode had a party bus to the beach turn into Hawkeye’s nightmare. A tank crashed into the hospital latrine and Major Winchester “captured” some Chinese refugees and became a music teacher, having the men play Mozart. Hot Lips helped Winchester with his job prospects. Father Mulcahy was deafened by a mortar round shelling the tank in the compound. BJ was discharged, left, and returned. A truce was signed and a huge party was held in the mess tent where all major characters told of their plans for the future. Klinger, after years of trying to get out of Korea, planned to stay with his new wife. Everyone said their goodbyes. Almost everyone. Hawkeye and BJ took their leave without BJ saying the word to his long time friend. He rode off on his motorcycle while Hawkeye took off in a helicopter. And there, the last shot after 11 seasons, was BJ’s and M*A*S*H’s final message. Written across the landscape in stones was the one word “GOODBYE.”

“Ladies and Gentleman, five minutes ago at 10:01 this morning, a truce was signed in Panmunjeom. The hostilities will end twelve hours from now at 10:00, THE WAR IS OVER!” PA Announcement

“Listen, when you love somebody, you’re always in trouble. There’s only two things you can do about it: either stop loving ’em, or love ’em a whole lot more.” – Colonel Potter [Harry Morgan]

“I can’t say that I’ve loved all of you either…(devilishly)…but I’ve loved as many of you as I could.” – Hawkeye [Alan Alda]

“I’ll see you in the states, I promise! But just in case I left a note!”-  BJ [Mike Farrell] to Hawkeye, last words of the last show of the television series M*A*S*H

Also on this day:
Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was formed.


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Hammerin’ Hank

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2010

Hank Aaron

February 29, 1972: Major League Baseball signs its first player to a $200,000 contract. Hank Aaron signed on with the Atlanta Braves and continued his legendary hammering. After playing baseball in high school and winning championships, Aaron signed a $10,000 contract with the Boston Braves, a minor league team, playing second base. He was named Rookie of the Year. He was sent to the Jacksonville Tars to break the color barrier in the South Atlantic League. Enduring racial slurs and threats, he led the league by hammering in 115 runs on 208 hits. He was MVP that year.

On April 13, 1954, Aaron made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Braves without a hit. Two days later, he got his first hit and by the end of the season he had 13 homers – not hitting below 20 homers in a season again for the next 20 years. As Hammerin’ Hank kept driving the ball out of the park, his stats kept getting more impressive. On July 3, 1960 he hit his 200th home run and by April 19, 1963 he was up to 300.

Between the 1965-66 season, the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. By April 27, 1971 he was up to 600 homers. He ended the 1973 season at 713 home runs, one short of Babe Ruth’s record. At the beginning of the 1974 season, despite slanderous letters, bigotry run amok, and death threats, Hank Aaron played on. Management kept him from playing in the opening series because it was an away set of games with the Cincinnati Reds. They hoped for his tying hit and hopefully his record breaking home run to be on the home field. He tied Ruth with his first at bat, but did not break the record on that day. On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron became the home run record holder.

At the end of the season, Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers where he finished out his baseball careers. His total home run count is 755, well past Babe Ruth’s 714.

“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” – Ted Williams

“You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too.” – Roy Campanella

“What is both surprising and delightful is that spectators are allowed, and even expected, to join in the vocal part of the game…. There is no reason why the field should not try to put the batsman off his stroke at the critical moment by neatly timed disparagements of his wife’s fidelity and his mother’s respectability.” – George Bernard Shaw

“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.” – Dave Barry

Also on this day, in 1584 the first Leap Day was held.

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