This Day in History
1901 — Arch Rock blasted into oblivion. Arch Rock was a huge rock in San Francisco Bay that was a menace to shipping. In the prevalent fog in the bay a number of ships had sailed or drifted into the rock and along with their cargoes were lost. Those with an adventurous spirit also like to sail or row small boats through the arch in the rock. That is until 1861 when a sudden swell crushed two men in a rowboat against the bottom of the arch. In 1901 action against this menace to shipping was planned. 260 holes were drilled into the rock and were filled with 30 tons of explosives. A button was pushed and a moment later the rock no longer existed. A newspaper described the event as an engineering success but a disappointment as far as a viewing experience. There was no great plume of water shooting high into the air but rather the rock just shattered into pieces and sunk from sight. Later those pieces were dredged from the bottom of the harbor.
The San Francisco Bay is a haven for seals and sea lions. The article cited dead fish but made no mention of what havoc the blast played on those wonderful creatures. In doing away with the Arch, it seems they also did away with what was sure to be another tourist draw.
1979 — “Apocalypse Now” released. Francis Ford Coppola produced and directed this epic film about the Vietnam War. The cast included Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and Larry Fishburne. Actors who turned down roles in the film include Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Robert Redford. Sheen’s brother, Joe, stood in for him on several scenes and Sheen’s son, Charlie, was an uncredited extra. The production encountered many problems during filming including storms destroying sets, Brando showing up grossly overweight and Sheen having a heart attack. Fishburne lied about his age and was only fourteen when filming started. The five month scheduled shoot went over budget and took more than a year to finish. Post production took so long that by the time the film was released Fishburne was eighteen. “Apocalypse Now” was a financial and critical success, garnering eight Academy Award nominations.
I found it to be a fascinating film, other than the disappointing ending which was murky and muddled.
1998 — Omagh bombing. This was a bombing that took place in Omagh, Northern Ireland and was carried out by the Real Irish Republic Army (Real IRA), a group that had splintered away from the Irish Republic Army (IRA). The IRA had signed a peace agreement with the Northern Ireland government and also agreed to a ceasefire that ended much of the violence that took place during the Troubles. The Real IRA was opposed to this agreement. Ostensibly to further their cause the Real IRA planted a bomb in downtown Omagh. They did call in a warning but it was unclear and the police mistakingly moved people away from one site and closer to where the bomb was actually placed. When it went off it killed 29 people, both Catholics and Protestants, and injured another 220 more. Twelve children and a woman pregnant with twins were among those killed. The local and international outcry helped accelerate the eventual peace accord and the Real IRA lost whatever small footing they had established. Although there was some arrests and trials no one was ever convicted of this crime.
As heinous as this bombing was it pales in comparison to the accumulative yearly gun violence in America. 29 dead and 220 wounded, hell, that’s a slow week here.
1717 — Blind Jack. AKA John Metcalf. Road builder. During the Industrial Revolution, Metcalf, blind since the age of six, became the first professional road builder in England. He didn’t let his blindness slow him and he was a fiddler in a tavern, a soldier in the army, operated a stagecoach line, driving a stagecoach himself, and was a tour guide to people visiting northern England where he lived. He once had a bet with an army colonel who could cover the distance from London to Harrogate, England, 207 miles, faster, Metcalf on foot or the colonel in a horse and carriage. The poor condition of the roads slowed the carriage and Metcalf won. Metcalf understood rain was the problem for most roads and he began building them with a firm foundation and ditches on the sides for drainage. He built roads in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. Metcalf married, fathered four girls, lived to age 92 and there is a statue of him in his home town of Knaresborough, sitting across from Blind Jack’s tavern.
I don’t know, maybe it’s all true but the word apocryphal does come to mind.
1950 — Tom Kelly. Baseball manager. As a rookie manager Kelly led the Minnesota Twins to the 1987 World Series title. Four years later Kelly and the Twins won a second title.
Oh the joy that reigned in the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul after both of those game seven victories!
1954 — Stieg Larsson. Writer. Larsson’s trilogy, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire”, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”, became worldwide best sellers, with 80 million copies being sold. These were all published after Larsson had died of a heart attack at age 50. Larsson had spent his life in journalism exposing right-wing and racist extremism in Sweden. In his will he stipulated any proceeds from the sale of his writing should go to the Socialist Party of Sweden. However it was never witnessed and therefore not valid under Swedish law. He and his long time partner, Eva Gabrielsson, never married so she had no legal path to his estate either. Larsson had been in little contact with his father and brother but they were the ones who reaped the rewards of his writing.
If they sleep well at night on Larsson’s bed of money… they shouldn’t.