A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  Nov. 27, 2001 at 6:00 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter

Today is Dec. 3.

Yesterday, we told you of the first person to get a permanent artificial heart. It was on this date in 1967 that the first successful heart transplant was performed -- by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at Capetown, South Africa. While the technology involving artificial heart technology never has quite panned out, transplants of real human hearts have become widely accepted surgery -- with some patients living with their new hearts for many years.

This is the anniversary of the world's worst industrial accident. Toxic gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, on this date in 1984, causing people to drop in their tracks. The disaster was eventually blamed for 2,889 deaths.

Months later, Union Carbide's CEO, who was kept in his job to clean up the corporate mess, had turned into a near-recluse who said he couldn't go to restaurants or shows because he felt it would be offensive to other people to see him having a good time.

White House Chief of Staff John Sununu resigned on this date in 1991. The former New Hampshire governor later became a CNN political commentator. And his son, John Jr., was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Oberlin College in Ohio opened with an enrollment of 29 men and 15 women on this date in 1833. It was the nation's first truly co-educational college.

And the Ford Motor Co. raised the pay of its employees from $5 to $7 a day on this date in 1929. For the time, it was quite a salary hike ---especially considering the American stock market had collapsed only a month earlier.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Today is Dec. 4.

A sad chapter in U.S. history finally came to a close on this date in 1991 when American journalist Terry Anderson was freed by his pro-Iranian Lebanese captors. He was the final American hostage to be released in Lebanon. Anderson had been held since March 1985 -- one of 15 Americans held from two months to as long as 6 1/2 years. Three of those hostages were killed while in captivity.

On the same day Anderson was freed, Lincoln Savings & Loan Association chairman Charles Keating was convicted on 17 counts of securities fraud. Keating was one of the most controversial figures in the S&L scandals of the late 1980s. His sales personnel had persuaded depositors to put their money into high-risk junk bonds. Keating later said he was broke, although he flew from the West Coast to Washington, D.C., and then to London to say so.

National security adviser Robert McFarlane resigned on this day in 1985. President Reagan named Vice Admiral John Poindexter to succeed him. Both McFarlane and Poindexter would later become embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair -- in which arms were traded for hostages in the Middle East and the profits funneled to the Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government at a time when Congress prohibited such U.S. government support.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the liquidation of the Works Progress Administration on this date in 1942. The WPA had been created during the Depression to provide work for the unemployed. Its dismantlement was a sign of U.S. economic recovery.

India joined East Pakistan in its war for independence from West Pakistan on this date in 1971. East Pakistan would become the republic of Bangladesh. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were all previously part of the British colony of India.

President Bush ordered U.S. troops to Somalia on this date in 1992. They were part of a U.N. peacekeeping force protecting humanitarian relief convoys in the east African nation, which was plagued by civil war and widespread hunger.

A Michigan man, Jonathan Schmitz, was sentenced to prison on this date in 1996 after being convicted in the slaying of a gay man, Scott Amedure, who had confessed to having a crush on Schmitz during the taping of "The Jenny Jones Show." The segment never aired.

And it was on this date in 1998 that the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying into orbit a U.S. component of the International Space Station. Once in space, the astronauts fastened the component, named Unity, to a piece of the ISS launched into space by the Russians the previous month. When the space station is finally finished, it'll be 356 feet across and 290 feet long and able to support a crew of seven.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Today is Dec. 5.

It was one of the early civil rights actions in the South. On this date in 1955, blacks declared a boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Ala., demanding seating on an equal basis with whites. The boycott had been sparked by the Dec. 1, 1955, arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. It lasted until Dec. 20, 1956, when a U.S Supreme Court ruling was implemented -- integrating the city's public transit system.

Prohibition ended on this date in 1933, when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, which had prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor.

There's gold in them there hills! On this date in 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, leading to the "gold rush" of 1848 and '49.

It was on this date in 1991 that British media magnate Robert Maxwell disappeared while on his yacht off the Canary Islands. His body would later be found floating in the Atlantic.

The same day, convicted mass murderer Richard Speck died -- one day short of his 50th birthday and 25 years after killing eight student nurses in Chicago.

Paving the way for toga parties and hazing, the first scholastic fraternity in America, Phi Beta Kappa, was organized at William and Mary College in Virginia on this date in 1776.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Today is Dec. 6.

The most prolonged series of earthquakes in U.S. history began on this date in 1811, not in California but in the Midwest. The quakes were centered at New Madrid, Mo., and lasted until Feb. 12, 1812. There were few deaths reported, probably because of the sparse population in the region at the time.

The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, measuring 8.5 to 9 in magnitude, on this date in 1997. Again, probably because the area is sparsely populated, there were no reported deaths.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S Constitution was ratified on this date in 1865, abolishing slavery in the United States.

One day after the repeal of Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), Americans crowded into liquor stores, bars and cafes on this date in 1933 to buy their first legal alcoholic beverages in 13 years.

More than 1,600 people were killed on this date in 1917 when a Belgian relief ship crashed into a French munitions vessel in the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. In addition to those killed, more than 1,000 more were injured. The blast created a tidal wave that washed much of the city out to sea.

A free, all-star concert headlined by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif., was marred by tragedy on this date in 1969. Besides overcrowding and drug overdoses, a spectator was stabbed to death by members of the Hell's Angels, which had been hired as security guards for the event. Also performing at the concert: Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

And Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford was sworn-in as vice president under Richard Nixon on this date in 1973. He replaced Spiro Agnew, who had resigned after pleading no contest to income tax evasion charges.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Today is Dec. 7.

Today is a "date that will live in infamy." On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, nearly 200 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The raid, which lasted a little more than an hour, killed nearly 3,000 people and nearly destroyed the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet. The attack came one day after President Franklin Roosevelt send a message of peace to Japan's Emperor Hirohito, and catapulted the United States into World War II. The U.S. Congress declared war on Japan one day later.

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck the Soviet Republic of Armenia on this date in 1988. As many as 60,000 people were killed --- many when their poorly constructed homes collapsed on them. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev cut short his U.S. visit to fly home to head the worldwide relief efforts.

The destruction of a 16th century mosque in India by militant Hindus on this date in 1992 sparked five days of violence across the Indian subcontinent that left more than 1,100 people dead.

It was on this date in 1993 that a gunman opened fire on a crowded Long Island, N.Y., commuter train -- killing several persons. One of those killed was the husband of Carolyn McCarthy, who later campaigned on a platform of gun control to win a seat in the U.S House of Representatives.

Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, doing so on this date in 1787. The vote was unanimous.

And where would we be without Leo Baekeland, who on this date in 1909, patented the process for making Bakelite -- giving birth to the modern plastics industry.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Today is Dec. 8.

The world went into shock and mourning on this date in 1980, when former Beatle John Lennon, 40, was shot to death outside the New York City apartment building where he lived with his wife, Yoko Ono. A 25-year-old mental patient and Beatles fan named Mark David Chapman was arrested in the slaying, and later sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison after pleading guilty to the crime.

Howard Cossell announced news of the shooting during ABC's "Monday Night Football." Two people reportedly committed suicide after hearing of Lennon's death.

Kimberly Bergalis died on this date in 1991 in Fort Pierce, Fla. She was the first patient believed to have contracted the AIDS virus from a health care professional (her dentist). Her case sparked calls to banned HIV-infected health care professionals from the workplace.

The Soviet Union ceased to exist on this date in 1991, when the republics of Russia, Byelorussia (now known as Belarus) and Ukraine signed an agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. The remaining former Soviet republics, with the exception of Georgia, also would join the CIS.

It was on this date in 1949 that the Chinese Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-Shek -- defeated by the Communists forces led by Mao Tse-Tung -- retreated from the mainland to the island of Formosa (Taiwan).

President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on this date in 1993. The pact cut tariffs and eliminated trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico. It went into effect Jan. 1, 1994.

And delegates from 25 unions founded the American Federation of Labor, forerunner of the modern AFL-CIO, in Columbus, Ohio, on this date in 1886. Originally founded in Pittsburgh in 1881 as the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, the AFL was dissolved as a separate entity in 1955 when it merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form the AFL-CIO.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Today is Dec. 9.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Woodrow Wilson on this date in 1920. Wilson was honored because of his efforts behind the League of Nations, a world body aimed at resolving conflicts between countries before they erupt into war. However, the U.S. Congress refused to approve legislation for the United States to join the League of Nations, and the idea withered on the vine.

It was on this date in 1990 that Lech Walesa won Poland's first direct presidential vote. Back in 1980, Walesa was a shipyard worker in the Polish port city of Gdansk when he organized the Solidarity Labor Union. Warsaw's Communist government tolerated the pro-democracy union activities until December 1981, when it declared martial law, cracked down on Solidarity and threw Walesa into prison for 11 months. But Walesa's ideas could not be so easily contained and eventually contributed to the end of Communism in Poland.

What did the president know and when did he know it? It was on this date in 1974 that former White House aide John Ehrlichman testified at the Watergate trial that President Nixon was responsible for the cover-up that followed the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.

And it was on this date in 1907 that the first Christmas Seals to raise money to fight tuberculosis went on sale in the post office in Wilmington, Del.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories