Little Bits of History

January 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2017

250: Decius issues an edict. Trajan Decius was the 34th Roman Emperor and ruled from 249 until his death in June 251. In an effort to return Rome and her Empire to former glory days, the leader opted to return to the old ways and this included restoring public piety and adhering to the State religion. To that end, he sent out an impressive edict which is referenced in many surviving Egyptian texts. The gist of the edict was that all inhabitants of the Empire were compelled to make a sacrifice before the magistrate by a certain date which seemed to have been based on when the message arrived in a particular area. When the citizen made the appropriate sacrifice to the Roman gods, a certificate of libellus was issued, recording the sacrifice and the person’s loyalty to the old gods as demonstrated by eating and drinking the sacrificial food.

There is some supposition that Decius was not attempting to force the superiority of the Roman pantheon, but was simply trying to reaffirm his conservative vision of the Pax Romana and hoping to make all citizens of the Empire feel secure. The actual consequences were different. The newly flourishing sect, called Christians, were not totally aligned with the Old Testament but did adhere to the rule of not practicing idolatry. Because of this belief, many refused to perform the sacrifice and eat the blessed food and drink. For this offense, many were killed. Pope Fabian was among these, dying on this day although it does not seem he was executed, but rather that he died in prison.

Rather than being used to promote the State religion, the new edict was used to begin a pogrom to rid the region of the Christians. The edict remained in effect for eighteen months and while many Christians were killed, many more survived by simply performing the sacrifice and other rituals and then returning to their own faith. Fabian had miraculously been chosen as Pope in 236 when a dove descended and alit on his shoulder, a Christian symbol of selection by the Holy Spirit. During most of his reign as Bishop of Rome, he got along well with the secular rulers of the Empire.

During his time at the head of the Church, he divided Rome into deaconates in order to help with the task of cataloging all the activities of a growing religion. He is given credit for establishing four minor clerical orders in order to help with this work. He was also responsible for sending out apostles as missionaries. He got along well enough with the local rulers to assure that two previously exiled saints could be returned to Rome and given a proper burial. However, when Decius demanded that the leader of the Christians bow and sacrifice to the Roman gods, Fabian refused. He died as a martyr on this day and is now buried at St. Sebastian at the Catacombs in Rome (San Sebastiano fuori le mura) as Sebastian was also martyred on this day.

The Roman Empire was very, very much like us. They lost their moral core, their sense of values in terms of who they were. And after all of those things converged together, they just went right down the tubes very quickly. – Ben Carson

I got to thinking about the Book of Revelation that was written by a Jewish prophet who was also a follower of Jesus who hated the Roman Empire. I realized that the Book of Revelation could be a way to reflect on the issue of religion’s relationship to politics. – Elaine Pagels

The Papacy is not other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. – Thomas Hobbes

I am utterly struck how, 300 years after his execution, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. – Peter Jennings

Cisco Kid Hits the Silver Screen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2015
In Old Arizona movie poster

In Old Arizona movie poster

January 20, 1929: In Old Arizona is released. It was the first full length talking movie shot outdoors. The film is based on O. Henry’s character, the Cisco Kid, who first appeared as a scoundrel outlaw in The Caballero’s Way. He was a despicable, evil, and frightening man when first portrayed but changed into a lovable outlaw by the time the movie was made. It starred Warner Baxter as the Cisco Kid. The role was first offered to Raoul Walsh, who also directed the movie. While filming, a jackrabbit jumped through the windshield of Walsh’s car and he lost his right eye. He wore an eye patch for the rest of his life. He never again appeared in a movie, but did continue directing them.

The movie was filmed in Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park as well as the San Fernando Mission and the Mohave Desert. It was test released in Los Angeles on Christmas Day in 1928 and saw a general release on this day. In Old Arizona ran for 95 minutes and took in $1.3 million at the box office. Irving Cummings was co-director with Walsh and the screenplay was written by Tom Barry. Edmund Lowe and Dorothy Burgess also starred. Fox Film Corporation distributed the movie. Baxter won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the Cisco Kid. Baxter’s singing “My Tonia” led to the incorporation of the singing cowboy into movie lore.

Warner Baxter was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1889. He began his movie career working in silent films. In that medium, he acted in The Great Gatsby and The Awful Truth. His other famous roles were played in the talkies where he had credits in 42nd Street, Slave Ship, and Kidnapped. He often played womanizing, charismatic Latin bandits, as in his famous role as the Cisco Kid. He began his entertainment career in vaudeville and made his first movie, uncredited, in 1914. He made over 100 films during his career, between 1914 and 1950. He married in 1918 and remained with his wife until his death. After suffering for years with arthritis, he had a lobotomy to ease the pain in 1951. He died of pneumonia shortly after surgery.

Raoul Walsh was born in New York City in 1887. He was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His biggest acting job came as playing John Wiles Booth in The Birth of a Nation. His biggest directional films were The Big Trail, High Sierra, and White Heat. He began his acting career in 1909 and directed his last movie in 1964. The Pseudo Prodigal (1913) was his directorial debut and A Distant Trumpet was his last. He directed many westerns, including this first outdoor talkie and the widescreen spectacle, The Big Trail, which was an epic wagon train western shot on location with then unknown John Wayne. Walsh was responsible for changing Marion Morrison’s name and chose the Revolutionary War general, Mad Anthony Wayne as inspiration.

Give a man a free hand and he’ll try to put it all over you. – Raoul Walsh

Some men are all right in their place if they only knew the right places. – Raoul Walsh

Too many girls follow the line of least resistance but a good line is hard to resist. – Raoul Walsh

100% All-Talking Fox Movietone Feature – from the movie poster

Also on this day: Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
Game of the Century – In 1968, the UCLA Bruins met the Houston Cougars for a game of basketball.
Pearl Harbor – In 1887, the US Senate approved the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor.
Hail to the Chief – In 1937, FDR took his second oath of office as POTUS.
Taken Hostage – In 1987, Terry Waite was taken hostage.

Taken Hostage

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2014
Terry Waite

Terry Waite

January 20, 1987: Terry Waite is taken hostage. He was born in 1939 in Bollington, Cheshire, England. His father was a policeman and neither parent was particularly religious. However, Terry showed a deep commitment to Christianity from an early age. As a young adult, he joined the Church Army, a social welfare organization based on the Salvation Army. In 1963 he was appointed Education Advisor to the Anglican Bishop of Bristol and assisted with the implementation of SALT (Stewardship and Laity Training) program for the diocese. As part of this roll-out, Waite mastered the T-group method of psychological training sometimes termed sensitivity training or human relations training.

In 1969 Waite moved to Uganda and worked with the first African Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. He traveled widely in East Africa while in this job. He, his wife, and their four children narrowly escaped death several times as Idi Amin’s successful coup occurred. Waite managed to form the Southern Sudan Project while there to help with aid and development for the war-torn region. In 1972 he was transferred to Rome where he worked with the Medical Mission Sisters. As an International Consultant he traveled throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. He returned to the UK in 1978 and began working for the British Council of Churches. Two years later he was appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assistant for Anglican Communion Affairs. In this capacity, he traveled the world.

In 1980, Waite was able to negotiate the release of several hostages in Iran. In 1984 he was able to mediate for the release of four hostages held by Colonel Gaddafi. He was successful again the next year. Because of political intrigue and international crises, his association with America compromised his position. The Islamic Jihad Organization still held hostages on January 12, 1987 when Waite came back to Beirut. He agreed to meet with the captors to negotiate a release on this day. He had been told the hostages were ill but when meeting with the captors, he was taken as hostage himself. He was held captive for 1,763 days, the first four years of his captivity spent in solitary confinement.

He was finally released on November 18, 1991. Soon after his release he wrote his first book, Taken on Trust, which was his account of his captivity. It became a best-seller in the UK and elsewhere. He opted to spend his life in study, writing, lecturing, and humanitarian endeavors. He has written three books and many articles for other magazines. In 2007, Waite offered to return to Iran to negotiate the release of British sailors held hostage. He returned, eventually, to Beirut to “reconcile with his captors and to lay to rest the ghosts of the past.”

The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately it destroys those who practice it. Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others, the light within them dies.

Freeing hostages is like putting up a stage set, which you do with the captors, agreeing on each piece as you slowly put it together; then you leave an exit through which both the captor and the captive can walk with sincerity and dignity.

Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly.

At the end of the day, love and compassion will win. – all from Terry Waite

Also on this day: Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
Game of the Century – In 1968, the UCLA Bruins met the Houston Cougars for a game of basketball.
Pearl Harbor – In 1887, the US Senate approved the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor.
Hail to the Chief – In 1937, FDR took his second oath of office as POTUS.

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Game of the Century

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2013
Score for the Game of the Century

Score for the Game of the Century

January 20, 1968: The Game of the Century – for men’s college basketball – is played. John Wooden brought his UCLA Bruins to the Houston Astrodome to meet Guy Lewis and his Houston Cougars for a grudge match. The UCLA Bruins were the dominant NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball team. They had been the Division I Champs in 1964, 1965, and 1967. Lewis felt his team was not getting the proper respect. The two teams had met in 1967 in the semi-finals of the Division I Championship series with UCLA winning 73-58.

Ted Nance was responsible for lining up the games for the Cougars’ 1967-68 season. He contacted J.D. Morgan, the UCLA sports information director and asked for head coach Wooden’s permission to schedule a mid-season game. His idea was to promote the contest as the “Game of the Century” and televise the event. At the time, only post-season college basketball games were broadcast. Wooden agreed and the two teams played before 52,629 fans in the Astrodome. TVS Television Network packaged and syndicated the broadcast.

The N-C-double-A was formed in 1906 as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association with the name change coming in 1910. They are headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and list 1,281 schools, conferences, or other associations as their members. The NCAA oversees both men’s and women’s sports from baseball to wrestling. They sponsor championship contests with UCLA, Stanford, and Southern California holding the most titles. There are 44 women’s, 40 men’s, and 4 coed championships yearly.

Dick Enberg and Bob Pettit took the mike and gave color commentary while announcing the Game of the Century for the home viewer. The Bruins came to the game with a 47-game, 2½-year winning streak. Houston hadn’t lost a game since they last faced UCLA. The #1 ranked Bruins and the #2 ranked Cougars ended the first half of play with the Cougars up by three. When the teams retook the court, the score remained close. With two minutes left to play, Lucius Allen of UCLA tied the score at 69-69. Cougar Elvin Hayes was fouled while taking a shot. He scored two free throws. The final score was 69-71 with the Cougars winning. Basketball fans won, too, as game broadcasting increased.

“When it’s played the way is spozed to be played, basketball happens in the air; flying, floating, elevated above the floor, levitating the way oppressed peoples of this earth imagine themselves in their dreams.” – John Edgar Wideman

“To win, you’ve got to put the ball in the macramé.” – Terry McGuire

“We have a great bunch of outside shooters. Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors.” – Weldon Drew

“The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not.” – Charles Barkley

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: John Wooden was born in Indiana in 1910 and grew up enjoying basketball as played in his home state. He went on to play himself and was a high school and college player. He played professionally for three different teams while simultaneously teaching and coaching at the high school level. He coached at Indiana State University before moving to UCLA in 1948. There, he won ten NCAA championships in a 12-year time frame, seven of them consecutively. He was named national coach of the year six times. He died in 2010 just months short of his 100th birthday.

Also on this day: Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
Pearl Harbor – In 1887, the US Senate approved the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor.
Hail to the Chief – In 1937, FDR took his second oath of office as POTUS.

Hail to the Chief

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2012

Franklin D. Roosevelt

January 20, 1937: Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) takes his second oath of office as United States President. George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the US on April 30, 1789. He stood on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City as Robert Livingston administered the oath. Washington added “So help me God” to the oath and kissed the Bible after pledging his continued service to the new country. The date for future Presidential Inaugurations was set at March 4 – giving ample time for all votes to be counted.

Washington’s second inauguration was in Philadelphia. He gave the shortest speech ever – just 135 words. John Adams was the first to be sworn in by the Chief Justice of the US in 1797. The nation’s capital moved (although not yet officially opened) and Thomas Jefferson took the oath in Washington, D.C. for the first time in 1801. March 4 fell on a Sunday in 1821 so the event was changed to March 5 for James Monroe’s second term. William H. Harrison delivered the longest speech (8,445 words even though edited for length by Daniel Webster) in 1841 apparently refreshed from his train ride to the swearing in, the first to arrive by train.

John Tyler was the first Vice President to rise to office mid-term and took his oath on April 6, 1841. Franklin Pierce became President in 1853 and was a party-pooper, canceling the inaugural ball. FDR instituted the now-traditional morning worship service. He also is the only President to serve four terms. His fourth inauguration, during World War II, was a simple, quiet ceremony at the White House.

Harry S Truman’s big day was the first televised while Bill Clinton’s was the first broadcast over the Internet. The day begins with the newly elected heads of state taking oaths on a specially constructed platform. The Vice President takes his oath of office prior to the President (since 1937). The day continues with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue as the President (and his wife since 1909 when Mrs. Taft was included) stroll from the Capitol Building to the White House. For security reasons, the President walks only part way. The Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution changed the date from March 4 to January 20 (along with other issues of governance) and was ratified on January 23, 1933.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. – oath of office for President

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same: that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. – oath of office for Vice President

I AM again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America. – first half of George Washington’s second inaugural speech

Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony. – second half of George Washington’s speech

Also on this day:

Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
Game of the Century – In 1968, the UCLA Bruins met the Houston Cougars for a game of basketball.
Pearl Harbor – In 1887, the US Senate approved the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2011

Astronaut view of Pearl Harbor (Photo from NASA Expedition 21 crew)

January 20, 1887: US Senate approves the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor. This was part of the Reciprocity Treaty ratified by the Hawaiian Islands and the United States in 1875 and went into effect in 1876. The next historical documents, a supplement to the original treaty, was forged in 1884 with the US Senate ratifying it, with amendments on this date. The King of Hawaii ratified it later in the year and the treaty was finalized in November. The treaty allowed the area called “Wai Momi” or “Water of Pearl” and also called “Pu’uloa” to come under the control of the US Navy for use as a harbor. In return for this land, Hawaii would be permitted to bring sugar into the United States duty free.

When Captain James Cook first located the Islands, the harbor was not considered worthwhile as there was a coral bar hampering free ship access. The harbor was rich in pearl producing oysters into the late 1800s. The lagoon harbor is located on the island of Oahu, just west of Honolulu. Keaunui, a Ewa chief, is credited with cutting a channel into Pearl Harbor. The estuary became known as Pearl River. Although this is not provable, the legend is given some credit. While there was water moving back and forth, someone made a path more suited to water travel.

Early seafaring men used the islands as a respite from the arduous work of sailing. They were laws enacted forbidding alcohol and prohibiting the taking of women aboard moored ships. In 1826, the Dolphin, captained by Lt. Percival, threatened violence if the laws were not revoked. They were. However, the US sent and envoy to King Kauikeaouli and began discussing international affairs and proper treatment for the locals. A trade treaty was the end result. Trade with Hawaii was profitable.

After the Alaska Territory was purchased, expansionists looked even farther west. With hostilities covering wider areas, it became necessary for the US to have outposts in areas farther from the mainland. Hawaii became a prime place for one of these outposts. After the treaty was ratified, the US took possession of Pearl Harbor to use as a Naval Base on November 9, 1887. The Spanish-American War of 1898 helped to make this a permanent facility.

“Beating the drums for Hawaii is not hard to do… the place just grows on you.” – James MacArthur

“Hawaii can be heaven and it can be hell.” – Jeff Goldblum

“I truly believe the brightest days lie ahead for the Great State of Hawaii.” – Linda Lingle

“Some people say Hawaii is spoiled, but I don’t think so. It’s modern. It’s a part of today’s world.” – James MacArthur

Also on this day:
Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
UCLA vs Houston – In 1968, the college basketball Game of the Century was played.


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Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2010

Kinga Ka at Six Flags in New Jersey

January 20, 1885: LaMarcus Adna Thompson patents his roller coaster structure. While he did not invent the ride, a distinction which belongs to John G. Taylor, he did have 13 patents on the coasters. Switchback Railway at Coney Island was designed by Thompson and was the first roller coaster built in the US.  He also went on to create Orient Scenic Railway, which was not a thrill ride [maximum speed 6 mph] but rather a ride through beautifully themed spaces. These structures are the premise around which today’s theme parks are based.

The earliest coasters were based on Russian sled rides which were built on constructed hills of ice around St. Petersburg. In the late 1700s entrepreneurs were moving the idea away from the ice and onto tracks using cars with wheels. The first gravity track was built in Paris in 1812. The first loop track was built in 1846, yet these early coasters did not travel in a complete circuit.

Today there is an almost yearly race for biggest, highest, fastest, longest roller coaster. The current holder of the title of longest and fastest belongs to Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. The ride is 456 feet tall with a drop of 418 feet with a 90 degree ascent and descent. The second hill of 129 feet is designed to provide free-floating airtime. The maximum speed achieved is 128 mph during the 3.118 feet ride. The second highest coaster in the world is at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Top Thrill Dragster is 420 feet high. The third highest is the Steel Dragon located in Nagashima Spa Land in Japan. It is 318 feet high and the longest ride at 8,133 feet. The top ten highest have six in the US, three in Japan, and #9, the Silver Star, is located in Germany.

Safety has always been an issue. The whole point of the ride is speed and daring. While they are built to seem risky, there are many regulations regarding safety measures. Even so, there are thousands of people treated at emergency rooms yearly for injuries on coasters and there are even some fatalities.

“There’s no thrill in easy sailing when the skies are clear and blue,
There’s no joy in merely doing things which any one can do.
But there is some satisfaction that is mighty sweet to take,
When you reach a destination that you never thought you’d make.” – unknown

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Elliot

“Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall.” – Tom Bradley

“We all know that roller coasters and other amusement park rides are fun, fast and thrilling, … They are supposed to create the illusion of danger, without putting people at risk.” – Ann Brown

Also on this day, in 1968 the college basketball Game of the Century was played.

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