Little Bits of History

July 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2017

1940: The Arroyo Seco Parkway opens. The California roadway runs along the Arroyo Seco, a seasonal river. The road connected Los Angeles with Pasadena and was noted as the first freeway in Western United States. The six lanes are now part of State Route 101 and begins on the north side of downtown Los Angeles. The designation of freeway, and the move away from parkways was of significance. Freeways are limited access, high speed roads used to connect two points. The roads of the times were much less traveled and cars were not as ubiquitous as today. Parkways were roads through scenic areas, such as parks, hence the name. As more cars hit the roads and more commuters were on them, a better system was needed to get traffic moving with some flow.

The Arroyo Seco (Spanish for “dry gulch, or streambed”) carries rainfall from the San Gabriel Mountains. Waters travel south through Pasadena into the Los Angeles River – when water flows. During the dry season, the riverbed was used as a faster wagon connection between the two cities. The first survey of the area with an eye to a permanent roadway was done in 1895. In 1897, a proposal for a parkway and a second for a commuter cycle path was made. The latter was partially built by Horace Dobbins in 1899 and a 1.25 mile path opened in 1900. The path had a toll booth included but it never produced a profit. It was taken apart within ten years.

Cars became ever more numerous and various plans were put forth. The debate over the exact route and who would pay for it continued for decades. In order to connect a finally approved road, Los Angeles improved the North Figueroa Street to a four lane road. The citizens of Pasadena were worried about traffic patterns halving their city and traffic patterns resulting from the split. Before construction began, there were nine roads and two rail lines crossing the Arroyo Seco and its valley. There would be more bridges needed as part of the project and only four of the original bridges were kept. More bridges in Pasadena were built to connect each side of the city.

The road was designed by Spencer V Cortelyou and AD Griffin with a groundbreaking ceremony on March 22, 1938. The first stretch of road was opened on December 10, 1938 and it contained no bridges. On this day, a 3.7 mile stretch actually connecting Los Angeles to Pasadena opened. The remainder opened on December 30, 1940. The name of the road changed in 1954 when it was called the Pasadena Freeway and it reverted back to Arroyo Seco Parkway in 2010. It covers a total of 8.162 miles. Many of the median plants have been removed for safety features to be added. While state of the art at the time of building, today it is considered to be a narrow and outdated highway. Even so, it has been designated as a State Scenic Highway, National Civil Engineering Landmark, and National Scenic Byway. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

The road to success is always under construction.- Arnold Palmer

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one. – Dolly Parton

If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all. – David Livingstone

The road is hard, and you have to get accustomed to it. – Miranda Lambert

Operation Valkyrie

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2015
Aftermath of the bomb detonation*

Aftermath of the bomb detonation*

July 20, 1944: Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf (Count) von Stauffenberg is unsuccessful. Stauffenberg was born in the Kingdom of Bavaria in the German Empire in 1907. The aristocratic family lived in the family castle with the patriarch being the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Wutemberg. They were one of the most distinguished as well as the oldest Catholic aristocracies in southern Germany. On November 11, 1919, the new constitutional law as part of the Weimar Republic, abolished nobility privileges. Stauffenberg agreed with some of the Nazi Party’s nationalistic views, he was dismayed by their treatment of Jews and disrespect of religious freedom. He was also impressed by Hitler’s military acumen. He vacillated between these two positions even prior to the outbreak of war.

He was a loyal officer when the war began and saw much combat throughout the European theater. He was severely wounded on April 7, 1943 when his vehicle was strafed by fighter bombers. He lost his left eye, right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. He was sent home to one of the family castles to recuperate. He was approached (again) by the resistance to help them overthrow the Nazi Party and institute a coup d’état. The assassination of Hitler was part of the plan, the resulting coup was known as Operation Valkyrie. In August 1943, Colonel Henning von Tresckow met with Lieutenant Colonel Stauffenberg. The younger man, sure that Germany was being led to disaster, agreed that the solution was found in the removal of Hitler.

The two men plotted and organized at least four attempts to assassinate the Fuhrer. No one was able to get close enough to Hitler for long enough to complete the job with hand grenades, bombs, or guns. The war situation was worsening. The Gestapo was closing in and the feeling of “now or never” consumed the group. They were able to bring Erwin Rommel, the most popular General in Germany,  into their fold. There was hope to carry out the plan but it was rumored that time was of the essence as impending arrests were on the horizon. Stauffenberg was invited to another Hitler conference on this day and flew in at 10 AM. He arrived with a bomb in his briefcase (again). The conference took place in the main room of the Wolf’s Lair rather than an underground bunker because of heat.

Around 12.30, the conference began. Stauffenberg used a rest room and while hidden away, crushed the pencil detonator inserted into a 2 pound block of plastic explosive wrapped inside paper. It would take about ten minutes before detonation. The set up was hampered by Stauffenberg’s war injuries and because he was interrupted before being able to set a second bomb. A planned phone call came in for Stauffenberg who left the room. Unfortunately, another attendee moved the briefcase with his foot and the bomb was deflected away and did not kill Hitler. The coup failed and over 7,000 arrests were made for the attempt. Stauffenberg was among those arrested. He died the next day at the age of 36. He was executed by firing squad.

Long live our sacred Germany! – Claus von Stauffenberg’s last words

Stauffenberg was motivated by the impulsive passions of the disillusioned military man whose eyes had been opened by the defeat of German arms. – Hans Bernd Gisevius

Had Stauffenberg’s bomb succeeded in killing Hitler, it is unlikely that the military coup planned to follow it would have moved the leading conspirators smoothly into power. – Richard Evans

Stauffenberg had a strong moral imperative – whether this stemmed from an aristocratic code of honour, Catholic doctrine or Romantic poetry – then this also underpinned his initial affinity for National Socialism which Stauffenberg misinterpreted as ‘spiritual renewal.’ – Karl Heinz Bohrer

Also on this day: One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle and walked on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps began training.
Special – In 1968, the first Special Olympics were held.
Alexander the Great – In 356 BC, the conqueror was born.

* “Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-025-12, Zerstörte Lagerbaracke nach dem 20. Juli 1944” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1972-025-12 / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons –,_Zerst%C3%B6rte_Lagerbaracke_nach_dem_20._Juli_1944.jpg#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1972-025-12,_Zerst%C3%B6rte_Lagerbaracke_nach_dem_20._Juli_1944.jpg

Alexander the Great

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2014
Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

July 20, 356 BC: Alexander III of Macedon is born. He was born on the sixth month of the ancient Greek calendar, Hekatombaion, which corresponds to this date although, in all fairness, this may be a miscalculation. He was the son of Philip II and his fourth wife, Olympias (daughter of the king of Epirus). Philip had seven or eight wives, but Olympias was his favorite one, possibly due to having given birth to Alexander. The infant’s care was given over to a nurse and he eventually came under the tutelage of Leonidas and Lysimachus. He was raised as most nobles of the time with instruction in reading, riding, fighting, hunting, and playing the lyre.

At age 13, he needed a private tutor and Aristotle was chosen for the job. The lessons were held at the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza and other students there were Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander who would become Alexander’s lifelong friends and generals in his conquests. These teens were taught about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art under Aristotle. Alexander developed a passion for Homer and his favorite tale was the Iliad. His annotated copy went with him on his later campaigns. At age 16, his time with Aristotle ended. His father left to go to war against Byzantium and left Alexander as regent and heir apparent in Macedon.

While the father was gone, the Thracian Maedi revolted and Alexander responded quickly and decisively, driving them from their lands and colonizing it with Greeks. Father and son campaigned together after Philip returned and were a force to be reckoned with. When Philip died in 336 BC, Alexander took over the kingdom but desired to spread his rule farther afield. His successful campaigns did give him more lands to rule and he became the Pharaoh of Egypt in 332 BC, the King of Persia in 330 BC, and the King of Asia in 331 BC. Darius III had been ruler of Egypt and Persia prior to Alexander’s take over. There was no prior king of Asia.

While Alexander was out on conquests, the homeland enjoyed peace and prosperity. He sent back much of the plunder enriching the economy back home. However, because of his ever increasing need for troops, much of the male population in Macedon was away and it weakened the region which eventually led to their subjugation by Rome. As his Empire became larger, there was dissention and eventually mismanagement crept in. In June 323 BC, Alexander the Great died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II at the age of 32. There are a few versions of the cause of death and a couple involve drunken debauchery and others include assassination. Also possible are natural causes such as malaria or typhoid fever. After his death, the cohesiveness deteriorated and his Empire was soon divided.

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.

Heaven cannot brook two suns, nor earth two masters.

I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion. – all from Alexander the Great

Also on this day: One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps begins training.
Special – In 1968, the first Special Olympics were held.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2013
Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams

July 20, 1984: Vanessa L. Williams is asked to relinquish her Miss America title. Williams was born in Tarrytown, New York in 1963. She was musically inclined and learned both piano and French horn but preferred singing. She attended Syracuse University from 1981-83, majoring in Theater Arts. She abandoned her education when she became Miss America on September 17, 1983. She was granted a degree from the school 25 years later after her life experiences were used to fulfill the obligations of the remaining college credits.

Williams began entering beauty pageants and won the title of Miss New York moving on to the Miss America contest held yearly in Atlantic City. She won the Preliminary Talent and Swimsuit competitions and went on to be crowned as Miss America. She was the first African-American to receive the honor. From the beginning of her reign she was a target for racist hate mail and even death threats. She then received an anonymous message concerning photographs taken years before.

In 1982 Williams worked for photographer Tom Chiapel. He asked his assistant and another woman to pose nude for him as he worked with a new photographic concept. The two women agreed and were posed in such a way as to allude to lesbian sex – a preposterous idea at the time. The pictures were first offered to Hugh Hefner and Playboy. He turned them down because they weren’t authorized by the subjects. Bob Guccione and Penthouse were not so legally or morally restricted. When news of the upcoming publication was made known, sponsors threatened to pull support from the 1985 pageant. Williams was pressured to resign and several days later, did so during a press conference.

Suzette Charles, an American of African-Italian descent, took over the title on July 23. Williams was permitted to keep the scholarship monies and retains the title of Miss America 1984 with Charles listed as Miss America 1984 B. Williams went on to become a star in her own right. She has enjoyed success both as a singer and as an actress. Her acting career has included the theater, feature films, and television. She has been nominated for many awards in for both music and acting and won several, including a Grammy, an Emmy, and Tony awards.

“The past just came up and kicked me.”

“Success is the sweetest revenge.”

“I ask our Legislature to do whatever is necessary to protect the future of my child. All I want is what every other parent wants – what’s best for my child.”

“Collaboration is the theme of the week.” – all from Vanessa Williams

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Vanessa Williams put out eight music albums between 1988 and 2009 with the last being titled The Real Thing. She has been in eighteen movies between 1987 and 2013. She played herself in a 2012 movie. She has made numerous television appearances between 1984 (appearing as Roselle Robins in Partners in Crime) and 2012. She has been involved in nine plays or musicals with the last being The Trip to Bountiful in 1013. She has hosted seven different events. She has won awards as listed above as well as several others. She was the winner of the NAACP Image Award in 1989, 1994, 2006, and 2011. In that same year, she also won the Satellite Award for her role in Desperate Housewives.

Also on this day: One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps begins training.
Special – In 1968, the first Special Olympics were held.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2012

Eunice Kennedy Shriver and 1968 special olympics

July 20, 1968: Eunice Kennedy Shriver launches the Special Olympic games. Eunice was the sister of John, Edward (Ted), and Robert Kennedy. Their sister, Rosemary, was severely and permanently intellectually impaired after a lobotomy. Eunice was married to Robert Shriver, a US Ambassador to France and founder of the Peace Corps. Their daughter, Maria, was married to then-governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The couple divorced in 2011; they have four children.

In 1962 Eunice started a day camp for intellectually impaired children. Camp Shriver was located at her home in Potomac, Maryland. The goal was to provide a safe environment for children to participate in physical activities as well as to compete with their peers. Camp Shriver was sponsored by the Kennedy Foundation where she was the Executive Vice President. The Foundation also gave grants to universities, recreation departments, and community centers to hold similar events. Anne McGlone Burke was a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District. She wanted to create a one-time event for an Olympic-style competition for people with special needs. She approached Shriver and was given a grant for $25,000.

The first Special Olympics was held at Soldier Field in Chicago. There were attendees from 26 US states and Canada. The children competed in a variety of track and field events as well as in swimming activities. The underclasses have always had to fight for permission to be included in the world at large. Women were kept from participating in Olympic track and field competitions until 1928. African-Americans were excluded from major sport leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Everyone wants to be seen as a valuable person with full rights to participate. Shriver took the one-time event from Soldier Field and turned it into an annual event and the Special Olympics were born.

The first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in February 1977. Steamboat Springs, Colorado was the hosting city. In 1988 the Special Olympics were recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is the only sport organization authorized by the IOC to use the term “Olympics” in the title. In 2003, the Summer Games were held outside the US for the first time when Dublin, Ireland hosted them. On October 30, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the “Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act” into law. Public Law 108-406 provides funding for the games.

There’s not much of anything he hasn’t tried. He can’t read or write, but he sure does enjoy his sports. Keeping him in Special Olympics is part of his life. It’s such a good outlet for kids like this. – Carol Barth

The Special Olympics is for anyone ages 8 to 99 and it’s not too late for them to turn in their entry form. – Connie Thomason

Volunteers are the backbone of Special Olympics. There are a variety of ways you can help out. – Mike Sutton

When you coach different sports, you have to deal with athletes and parents. But with the Special Olympics, these kids are just glad to be out here and play sports. – Freddie Taylor

Also on this day:

One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps begins training.

Women’s Army Corps

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2011

Women's Army Corps poster

July 20, 1942: The first unit of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps begins training at Des Moines, Iowa. While the unit was first created as a auxiliary unit, they were converted to full status, dropped the auxiliary and became the WACs the following year. About 150,000 women served in the armed forces in World War II. WACs were disestablished in 1978 and since that time, women have served in the same units as men but without serving in combat duties.

The US Navy had the WAVES, the Coast Guard had the SPARS, there was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, a civil unit that supported the war effort. WACs were the first women, other than nurses, to serve with the US Army. The formation of the unit was not without controversy within the Army and with the general public as well. Men of the era were concerned that women would emasculate them in their private bailiwick of war making. Others were worried that they would be sent into combat while women were given the safe jobs. Women were not stationed overseas, even to Hawaii, until late in the war.

In order to join the WAACs, a woman had to be 21-44 (WAC regulations changed the ages to 20-49) and a US citizen in good health. She must have two character references and be of average height and weight. Although she could be married, she could not have children under the age of 14. She had to have two years of high school or be able to pass an achievement test. After 4-6 weeks basic training, she was given an aptitude test to see which jobs would suit her. The pay for a private was $600 per year, with food, housing, clothing, and medical care included.

Women have been involved in war campaigns for quite a while. In the US, nurses were included in personnel since the Revolutionary War. Women were also camp followers who cooked, did laundry, and provided other services to the men. Today’s female Army recruit can serve in about 90% of the job categories and she makes up 14% of the total numbers of personnel.

“Marriage is like the army. Everybody complains, but you’d be surprised at how many re-enlist.” – unknown

“Army food: the spoils of war.” – unknown

“No army has ever done so much with so little.” – Douglas MacArthur

“Army: A body of men assembled to rectify the mistakes of the diplomats.” – Josephus Daniels

Also on this day:
One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.

One Small Step

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2010

Neil Armstrong on the moon

July 20, 1969: The first humans walk on the moon. The Apollo 11 spacecraft was the fifth manned mission of the Apollo program and the third human voyage to the moon. The launch was on July 16th from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. President Kennedy had promised that the US would land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The country had months to spare.

The three man crew consisted of Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, lunar module pilot. All men had participated in the Gemini program earlier in the decade. The launch was watched by millions when the magic words “We have lift-off” were heard at 9:32 AM and twelve minutes later the spacecraft entered Earth orbit.

Three long days later, Apollo 11 passed behind the moon and entered the lunar orbit pattern. The crew located the Sea of Tranquility and the lunar craft landed at Tranquility Base at 4:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time. The Eagle had landed. Six hours later. Neil Armstrong took the first human step onto the moon with Buzz Aldrin joining shortly thereafter.

The two men spent 21 hours on the surface. They returned to the command module around noon the next day. The astronauts left behind an American flag, a plaque stating that this where mankind first stepped on the barren moon, and scientific equipment that allowed for future study. They also took rock samples for further study once they were back on Earth. They successfully returned to earth on July 24, and a new era had begun.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong, as he stepped onto the moon.

“Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation.” – Buzz Aldrin, as he stepped onto the moon.

“Whoever knocks persistently, ends by entering.” – ‘Ali

“Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share. … I believe we should go to the moon.” John F. Kennedy, in a speech on May 25 1961 to introduce this new goal

Also on this date, in 1984 the Miss America officials asked Vanessa Williams to step down.
Bonus Link: In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps
begins training.