A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  Feb. 5, 2002 at 1:06 PM
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Today is Feb. 11.

A young French girl, Bernadette Sourbirous, claimed on this date in 1858 that the Virgin Mary had appeared to her at Lourdes. The shrine is now visited by thousands of pilgrims each year.

President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin ended their wartime conference at Yalta on this date in 1945. They signed an agreement that, among other things, called for occupying Germany after the war ended.

Japan joined the space race on this date in 1970 when it became the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit -- following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, the United States and France.

This is the anniversary of the infamous "water closet" incident. In 1960, Jack Parr -- then the host of "The Tonight Show" -- walked off the late-night program after NBC censored his slightly off-color "water closet" joke the night before. After meeting with network executives, he agreed to return to the show March 7.

The Monkees set a record on this date in 1967 when their second album, "More of the Monkees," jumped from 122nd place into the No.1 spot on the Billboard Top-200 album chart. It remained atop the chart for 18 weeks.

And in 1993, British Prime Minister John Majors announced that, from now on, Queen Elizabeth II would be paying income tax on all her personal income, as well as being subject to capital and inheritance levies. We're guessing the queen doesn't fill out her own tax returns.

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


Today is Feb. 12.

"Monica-gate" ended, more or less, on this date in 1999 when the U.S. Senate acquitted President Clinton of impeachment charges. A bipartisan effort to censure Clinton failed as well. In a brief statement following the Senate vote, the president said he was "profoundly sorry" for his actions, and urged the country to move on. Monica Lewinsky moved on to design a line of handbags and appear in Jenny Craig ads.

Alexander Graham Bell's new invention, the telephone, was publicly demonstrated with a hookup between Boston and Salem, Mass., on this date in 1877. This paved the way for telemarketers, answering machines with stupid messages -- and phone sex.

On this date in 1980, the International Olympic Committee rejected a U.S. proposal to postpone or cancel the 1980 Summer Games or move the site from Moscow as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In response, the United States and a number of other countries boycotted the games. Four years later, the Soviet Union and a number of other Communist countries boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles.

As the 17th Olympic Winter Games opened in Norway on this date in 1994, the U.S. Olympic Committee agreed to allow Tonya Harding to compete in the women's figure skating competition, despite claims she was involved in the assault on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan the month before. Kerrigan also competed -- having recovered from the attack -- and won a silver medal. Harding could do no better than eighth place.

And in 1964, the Beatles wrapped up the band's first U.S. tour with a show at New York's Carnegie Hall.

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


Today is Feb. 13.

One of the music industry's first custom recording labels began on this date in 1961 when, after many years with Capitol Records, Frank Sinatra launched his own Reprise label under the auspices of Warner Bros. Records. The first singers were Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

The Soviet Union expelled dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn on this date in 1974 after his book "The Gulag Archipelago," exposing the Soviet prison camp system, was published in the West. After living in exile for 20 years, mostly in the United States, Solzhenitsyn returned to his homeland in May 1994.

The oldest public institution in America, the Boston Latin School, was founded on this date in 1635.

A fellow by the name of Andrew Bradford of Pennsylvania published the first magazine in America on this day in 1741. It was titled "The American Magazine". He beat Benjamin Franklin's "General Magazine" to the punch by three days.

And Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" became the longest-charted rock album in history when it completed its 402nd week on the Billboard Top-200 album chart on this date in 1984.

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


Today is Feb. 14.

A least two Christians with the name Valentine were martyred -- i.e., killed -- on this date. One, a priest, was beaten and beheaded in 269 A.D., supposedly for performing secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers at a time when Roman authorities thought it best that soldiers remain unmarried. Another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni, was said to have had his head chopped off also on the date but possibly in a later year.

So how do we celebrate these martyrdoms today? With cards, flowers, candy and so forth. Actually, early church officials may've chosen Feb. 14 as a celebration of Christian martyrs as a diversion from the pagan observance of Lupercalia. They didn't like us having fun, eh?

The West Coast citrus industry was born on this date in 1886 when the first trainload of oranges left Los Angeles for eastern markets.

On this day in 1979, Iranian guerrillas stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, trapping Ambassador William Sullivan and 100 staff members. Forces of the Ayatollah Khomeini later freed them but the incident foreshadowed the embassy takeover in November.

And 10 years later, in 1989, Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini -- offended by a novel titled "The Satanic Verses" -- called on Muslims around the world to kill its British author, Salmon Rushdie. He offered a $1 million reward for Rushdie's death. The writer went into hiding. In 1998, the Iranian government rescinded the death sentence.

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


Today is Feb. 15.

"Remember the Maine!" On this date in 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine exploded while at anchor in Havana harbor, killing 260 members of the crew and leading to a U.S. declaration of war against Spain. That -- despite a lack of evidence that Spain had anything to do with the blast, which may have been caused by poorly stored munitions aboard the ship and not by any criminal act.

A bullet meant for President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt instead hit Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak on this date in 1933 in Miami. Cermak was killed. The assassin -- Giuseppe Zangara, 32, often described in historical accounts as a "fanatic" -- was convicted of the crime and executed a month later.

On this day in 1990, Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry was indicted on perjury and drug possession charges. Barry had been nabbed -- allegedly caught on videotape smoking crack -- during a drug sting. Upon his release from jail, Barry ran again for mayor -- AND WON.

And in 1997, Tara Lipinski, age 14, became the youngest U.S. Figure Skating Champion when she defeated defending women's champion Michelle Kwan. A year later, Lipinski would shine at the 1998 Winter Olympics, bringing home the gold and becoming the youngest person ever to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

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


Today is Feb. 16.

Had a condo made of stone-ah, King Tut! On this date in 1923, archeologists opened the treasure-laden tomb of Tutankhamen -- a.k.a. King Tut -- in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Unlike the tombs of many of Egypt's other pharaohs, Tut's had been untouched by graverobbers.

In the mid-1970s, King Tut fever swept America as an exhibit of his treasures toured U.S. museums. People waited in line for hours, prompting comedian Steve Martin to record a novelty tune, titled "King Tut," that asked -- among other things -- "How'd you get so funky?"

Fidel Castro was sworn in as Cuba's leader on this day in 1959. He's still there -- although he's given up his cigars, trimmed his beard a bit and wears a business suit almost as often as those green fatigues. (He probably didn't like it when rock musicians began wearing the same things on MTV.)

Windbreaker jackets, much sheerer ladies stockings and a whole bunch of other stuff became possible on this date in 1933 when DuPont was awarded a patent for the synthetic fiber nylon.

And on this date in 1992, the Los Angeles Lakers retired the jersey number of "Magic" Johnson, who'd retired after discovering he was HIV-positive.

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


Today is Feb. 17.

Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr had tied in the Electoral College, so on this date in 1801, the House of Representatives voted and choose Jefferson as the third president of the United States. Burr became his vice president.

Apache leader Geronimo died on this day in 1909 while confined to Fort Still, Okla. Geronimo led a small band of warriors whose raids in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico caused the U.S. Army to send 5,000 troops to recapture him after his first escape. Before he died, at about age 80, Geronimo dictated the story of his life, for publication.

Which U.S. city was the first to get gas-burning street lights? It was Baltimore, Md., on this date in 1817.

And the country was introduced to Garrison Keillor on this date in 1979 when his "A Prairie Home Companion" variety show was first broadcast nationwide as part of National Public Radio's Folk Festival USA. It became a regular Saturday night show in the early 1980s.

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

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