A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  March 12, 2002 at 8:20 AM
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Today is March 18.

A natural gas explosion ripped through a public school in New London, Texas, on this date in 1937. The blast killed 410 people, most of them children.

The Soviet Union again beat the United States to the punch on this date in 1965, when Soviet cosmonaut Alexi Leonov became the first person to "walk in space."

Mahatma Gandhi, on this date in 1922, was sentenced to six years in prison for civil disobedience against the British rulers of India. His quest for Indian independence would finally be realized in 1947.

Members of the Rolling Stones earned their "bad boys" reputation on this date in 1965 when they were fined for urinating in front of a public filling station after a concert in Essex, England.

And psychiatrists and child abuse experts looking into Woody Allen's relationship with his 7-year-old adopted daughter ended their investigation, with Allen claiming exoneration on this date in 1993. Allen's long-term relationship with actress Mia Farrow had ended a year earlier when she discovered he was having an affair with her adult daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Farrow leveled all sorts of nasty accusations against Allen, including charges that he abused their adopted children.

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


Today is March 19.

South Carolina televangelist Jim Bakker resigned as head of the PTL Club on this date in 1987, saying he'd been blackmailed after a sexual encounter with former church secretary Jessica Hahn. Bakker's religious empire fell apart after his admission, he ended up doing time in prison for fleecing his flock, and his wife -- the heavily mascara'd Tammy Faye -- divorced him. Hahn went on to pose for Playboy.

According to the Roman historian Ptolemy, it was on this date in 721 B.C. that Babylonian astronomers noted history's first recorded eclipse: an eclipse of the moon.

The U.S. Senate, on this date in 1920, rejected the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations -- a forerunner of the United Nations.

Not long after announcing the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Buckingham Palace -- on this date in 1992 -- revealed that Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah, the duchess of York, were also splitting up. Despite their divorce, the couple remains on very cordial terms and are both very involved in the raising of their two daughters.

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


Today is March 20.

It was on this date in 1995 that 12 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured in a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system during rush hour. Members of a religious sect known as Aum Shinrikyo were blamed. Five days later, police raided the group's headquarters and found literature that predicted 90 percent of the world's population would be killed by poison gas. Also seized were two tons of chemicals for making sarin, the poison used in the attack. Reportedly, there was enough to kill 5 million people. During a second raid, the sect's founder, Shoko Asahara, was arrested.

San Francisco newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was convicted of bank robbery on this date in 1976. Poor Patty: first she's kidnapped by so-called "urban guerillas," then she takes part in a bank robbery by the group -- perhaps willingly, perhaps not -- then she's charged in connection with that crime following her rescue by police. She ended up doing time in prison, too.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published on this date in 1852.

And it was on this date in 1969 that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married at the British Consulate in Gibraltar. Beatles assistant Peter Brown gave the bride away. The next day, the couple began the first of their infamous "Bed-Ins for Peace" at the Amsterdam Hilton.

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


Today is March 21.

Around the world in 19 days. Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard and British co-pilot Brian Jones landed near Cairo, Egypt, on this date in 1999, completing the first around-the-world balloon flight. They flew -- or maybe we should say floated -- more than 29,000 miles after launching their quest from the Swiss Alps March 1.

Thomas Jefferson became the first U.S. secretary of state on this date in 1790, serving under President Washington. He later would become the third president of the United States.

The key World War I Battle of Somme began on this date in 1918 when the Germans launched an artillery barrage against British and French troops. The battle lasted until April 4 and ended what had effectively been a stalemate. The Allies lost 230,000 men and the Germans almost as many.

The Cold War wasn't so cold on this date in 1962, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pledged that Russia would cooperate with the United States in peaceful exploration of space. A joint American-Soviet Soyuz space mission was conducted 13 years later, in July 1975.

And it was on this date in 1952 that the first rock 'n' roll concert -- the Moondog Coronation Ball -- was held at the Cleveland Arena. Things just haven't been the same since.

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


Today is March 22.

Here's a name from the past: Brian "Kato" Kaelin. It was on this date in 1995 that the world's most famous houseguest, who'd been staying at O.J. Simpson's estate the night Simpson's ex-wife and friend were murdered, testified at the former athlete's double murder trial in Los Angeles.

Congress enacted legislation on this date in 1791 that forbid slave trading with foreign nations.

A hydroelectric milestone took place on this date in 1941: the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River began producing electric power for the Pacific Northwest.

Everybody duck! It was on this date in 1997 that the Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to Earth -- about 122 million miles. That's pretty close, in astronomical terms.

And the Beatles released the band's first album in Britain, "Please Please Me," on this date in 1963.

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


Today is March 23.

The world's first recipient of a permanent artificial heart, Barney Clark, died in a Salt Lake City hospital on this date in 1983. Clark, a Seattle dentist, lived almost 112 days with the polyurethane plastic and aluminum device that had been implanted in his chest at the University of Utah Medical Center on Dec. 2, 1982. He was 62 when he died.

American colonists were none too pleased on this date in 1765, when the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act for taxing them. The action became a major sticking point for the rebellious colonials and is one of the key reasons for the Revolutionary War 10 years later.

On this date in 1942, in the early days of World War II, Japanese-Americans were forcibly moved from their homes along the Pacific Coast to inland internment camps. The U.S. government feared an attack from Japan and was worried Japanese-Americans would aid the enemy. It was a low point in U.S. history.

Russia's space station Mir "retired" to the South Pacific on this date in 2001. Most of the station, which had been in orbit for more than 15 years, burned up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, but enough remained to put on quite a spectacular show for tourists and other star-gazers in Fiji. Nearly 100 people -- seven of them Americans -- stayed on Mir during its time in space.

After 33 years, Dick Clark retired from hosting "American Bandstand" on this date in 1989.

The same day, NASA said a mountain-sized asteroid passed within half-a-million miles of Earth -- a close call, astronomically speaking. We don't know if these two events are related or not ...

And "Titanic" won 11 Academy Awards on this date in 1998, tying the record total won by "Ben-Hur" back in 1959. Director James Cameron celebrated on stage by hoisting his Oscar statuette high and declaring, "I'm king of the world!"

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


Today is March 24.

It was on this date in 1999 that NATO began bombing targets in Yugoslavia after many weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with leader Slobodan Milosevic over the treatment of ethnic Albanians in the rebellious province of Kosovo. In response, Serbian troops forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo for neighboring Albania -- causing a refugee nightmare. The air war lasted almost three months, until Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo.

Horror at an Arkansas school on this date in 1998 -- as students and teachers poured out of the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro after someone pulled the fire alarm, bullets were fired from the nearby woods. Four girls and a teacher were killed. The culprits -- two boys, ages 11 and 13.

The largest oil tanker spill in U.S. history took place on this date in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the Gulf of Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons into one of nature's richest habitats -- Prince William Sound, Alaska. Its captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was charged with piloting under the influence or something like that. These days, the Valdez has been renamed and is working the Mediterranean.

President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill on this date in 1934 that granted independence to the Philippines. The measure -- which took effect on July 4, 1946 -- ended almost half-a-century of U.S. control of the island nation.

And it was on this date in 1958 that a 23-year-old Elvis Presley was sworn into the U.S. Army as Pvt. Presley, serial number US-53310761.

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

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