This Day in History
1835 Charles Darwin, aboard the HMS Beagle, reached the Galapagos Island.
Not quite as famously, Gary Jenneke reached those same islands 179 years later.
1959 Nikita Khrushchev landed in Washington, DC to begin his U.S. tour.
I was a junior in high school at the time. For a homecoming skit that year, we had one of our classmates playing the Soviet leader visiting Lester Prairie High School. Without going too deeply into the plot of the highly amusing skit (written by me) we had a couple of classmates conducting a science project that goes awry resulting in a small explosion. A harmless firecracker was supposed to go off. At least that’s the way it was written. My classmates chosen for those roles were somewhat inclined to walk on the wild side. Instead of a little firecracker, they lit off the largest cherry bomb they could find. And they placed it in a garbage can lying on its side. They were offstage so the audience didn’t know it was coming.
Our skit took place on the basketball court of an old WPA built gymnasium. My role was interpreter as we led “Khrushchev” on a tour of our school. He and I would exchange fake Russian and I would ad lib his reply. Then the cherry bomb went off and a wave of shock rolled across the audience. Once it became obvious the explosion, and not a little bit of smoke, was part of the script, we were rewarded with laughter. A different, more innocent era, when an explosion could be view as humor.
1966 President Johnson urges Congress to adopt gun control legislation in the wake of Charles Whitman’s sniper attack from Texas’s Texas Tower; in all Whitman killed fifteen people before being shot dead himself by an Austin policeman.
Just remember, guns don’t kill people. Weird people with guns kill people. And dating back to 1966, the NRA has decreed it is the right, nay, duty, of all Americans to support weird people’s right to own guns and kill other people. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Birthdays today: 1254 Marco Polo, 1789 James Fenimore Cooper, 1857 Howard Taft.
I think I once crossed paths with Marco Polo in my past life travels, and I read “Last of the Mohicans” when I was in junior high. Howard Taft is the only President who was also Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Does the Chief Justice have to have been born in the United States? If not, maybe President Biden will appoint the Kenyan born ex-President Barack Obama to the court if a vacancy arises.