This Week in History

by Bob Sparrow

Following are historical happenings that took place this week; some, more interesting than others, but all more interesting than what I did.

1582 – Eighteen-year-old William Shakespeare marries pregnant 25-year-old Anne Hathaway.  Just like the question about his authoring all those plays, it was speculated that the baby was Christopher Marlowe’s.

1826 – Jedediah Smith is the first white man to cross the Mohave Desert, leaving from the Great Salt Lake in Utah and arriving in San Diego.  He would have made it in less time, but stopped in Palm Springs to play two rounds of golf and get a massage.

1842 – Ada Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron and English mathematician, was the first computer programmer. She is chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbag’s (the father of computers) mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include an algorithm to calculate Bernoulli numbers. This is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, making her the first computer programmer.

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

1914 – Joe DiMaggio, real name Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr. was born.  Only player in major leagues to be selected to the All-Star Game in every season he played.  His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 still stands today!  Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

1921 – Comedian Rodney Dangerfield was born and as Rodney recalls, he was so ugly that when he was born the doctor smacked his mother.

1931 – Tommy Allsup was born.   Allsup was the lead guitarist in Buddy Holly and the Crickets and was touring with Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson when he lost a coin toss with Valens for a seat on the plane. The plane crashed, killing Valens, Holly, Richardson, and the pilot, while Allsup was a survivor of ‘The Day the Music Died’.

1940 – Brothers Maurice and Dick McDonald start McDonald’s hamburger chain, with some stale buns, a dried out pickle and a small tasteless patty of meat.  Everyone loved it!

1952 – First 3-D movie, Bwana Devil premiers. The audience was required to wear special Polaroid viewers. The movie Bwana Devil was based on a true story about two man-eating lions who would drag railroad construction workers at night from their tents and eat them.  I’m guessing it wasn’t a musical-comedy.

1976 – Buffalo Bills running back, O.J. Simpson ran for 273 yards in a game against Detroit and he’s been running ever since . . . presumably in search of the real killer

1992 – IBM debuts the “Angler”. It combined a mobile phone and PDA allowing the user to make and receive telephone calls, facsimiles, emails and pages. It also included a calendar, address book, notepad, maps, stocks, and news – the first ‘smart phone’.

End of Planet of the Apes

1993 – Anna Nicole Smith, real name, Vickie Lynn Marshall or Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., American actress, model, Playmate of the Year. At age 26, she married 89-year-old billionaire J. Howard Marshall.
Quote: “I’m sick of being accused of gold-digging. It just so happens I get turned on by liver spots.”

3978 – Astronauts land on a mysterious planet ruled by apes – the calendar on their spacecraft, as seen in the movie, Planet of the Apes, read November 25, 3978.

2019 – Bob Sparrow went nowhere, did nothing and had no interesting observations to put in the blog.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

   The real First Thanksgiving -in Jamestown

I am a Masterpiece Theater junkie.  I think I’ve watched every program they’ve broadcast, from the divine Upstairs, Downstairs to the questionable Press.  One of my favorite contemporary series is Jamestown.  It so fascinated me that I decided to do some research and read a bit more about it.  So I bought the book, Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, by James Kelly.  Not only was it an exciting tale of intrigue, human behavior and the founding of our current form of government, it contradicted just about everything I learned in school about America’s “first” colony. But wait a minute, wasn’t Plymouth Rock the site of our first colony?  I’ve been eating two pieces of pumpkin pie for years as a tribute to the Pilgrims’ founding of our nation.  Well, according to Mr. Kelly – not so fast.  Turns out, like a lot of history, the story of the Mayflower settlers vs. those in Jamestown was colored by the fact that winners write the history books.  So, if like me, you might be interested in the following fast facts.

  • In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a new venture, the Virginia Company, to form a settlement in North America. They referred to the entire Atlantic Coast as “Virginia”, named after Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen”.  Perhaps the most mileage anyone has ever gotten out of being a virgin.
  •  Three ships set out from England that fall with 100 settlers, all men.  The group was fairly evenly divided among “gentlemen”, who had no clue about how to do anything useful, and “commoners”, who at least knew how to swing a hammer or plant a field.  They landed in May 1607 at Chesapeake Bay and soon discovered the flaw in their plan – half the group was completely useless except for bickering and jockeying for power.  Finally, they elected one of the sea captains, Christopher Newport, to head the governing council.
  • In the summer of 1607, Newport headed back to England with two ships and 40 crewmembers to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists. Those 40 crewmembers were all “gentlemen” because the “commoners” had discovered by then that they were really considered indentured servants by the Company and had no rights at all.  The settlers left behind suffered greatly from hunger and illnesses like typhoid and dysentery.  They also lived under constant threat of attack by members of local Algonquian tribes, most of which were organized into a kind of empire under Chief Powhatan.
  •               The beautiful Pocahontas

    It was at this point John Smith, rose as the leader of the remaining settlers and forged a relationship with the Chief and his daughter, Pocahontas.  Pocahontas saved Smith’s life when he was a captive of the Algonquians and their relationship was the basis of a peaceful decade of trade between the settlers and Native Americans.  You remember all those pictures you saw in textbooks of the “first” Thanksgiving in 1621?  John Smith was actually the one who broke bread (okay, it was corn but you get the idea) fourteen years prior to that.

  • By 1619, Company officials and investors wanted to make the colony at Jamestown permanent. Bringing over more English women, particularly women of an elevated social position, seemed to be the solution.  The belief was that the presence of marriageable women would make the men work harder, invest more of themselves in the colony, and improve the poor quality of life that discouraged many settlers from making Virginia a permanent home.  And, might I mention, they added a bit of common sense to the mix.  If you watch the Jamestown series on Masterpiece, this is the time frame in which it is set.
  • In 1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia’s male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies.

              Captain John Smith

I could go on and on but by now I know you’re weeping with boredom.  Let me just finish with this – why do we celebrate the Pilgrims each November rather than the settlers of Jamestown?  As I mentioned at the beginning, it is in large part due to the old adage, “the winners write history”.  Jamestown, in the form of John Smith and Pocahontas, became part of southern culture.  John Smith wrote a book, General History, about his experiences but by the mid-1800’s  Northern scholars, mostly from Massachusetts, began attacking Smith’s credibility.  In the 1840’s the well-written description of the Mayflower settlement, Of Plimouth Planation, was discovered and was mass produced in 1856.  Thanksgiving was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1863, as a day to thank God for the advancing army and navy of the Union.  The Union victory gave New England a decisive moral advantage for the next several generations as no one was going to look to the South for a story about America’s birth.


I hope this peaks your interest a bit in Jamestown.  Or not.  I understand not everyone is as interested in this stuff as I am.  There is so much to discover in this story but even if you don’t read any more about it you might toast those poor souls who founded Jamestown next Thursday.  It’s as good an excuse as any to have another glass of wine.



Couch Potato Season

By Bob Sparrow

I can’t let this week go by without a salute to all our veterans on Veteran’s Day.  Thank you so much for your service!!!

Self portrait

This is the time of year where you should not expect my missives to come from the far corners of the planet; no Inca Trail treks to Machu Picchu, no Kathmandu capers, no summiting Mt. Whitney or Half Dome, no wine and pasta sampling in Tuscany and not even a visit to a local pumpkin patch or turkey farm.  So instead of holding a compass, trekking poles or a backpack, the only thing I’ll be having a death-grip on in the near future is the TV remote control. This is the time of year when I rarely even venture outside – I become the quintessential coach potato

As justification for this somewhat dubious moniker, I present the following:  In the past 13 days I’ve been able to watch:

  • Game 7 of the World Series (Congratulations to the Washington Nationals – what is a National anyway?)
  • NCAA football (my favorite sporting event) is in mid-season form with the LSU-Alabama game and Utah with it’s big win over Washington. Go Utes!!  For me, nothing beats the spirit of college football.

    A younger John Van Boxmeer

  • NFL football has my 49ers looking as good as they have in years! Notice that in past years it’s just been the 49ers, but this year it’s ‘my’ 49ers.
  • NBA basketball has started its regular season and already my favorite player, Steph Curry has broken his hand and is out indefinitely.
  • I know the NHL regular season has started as I don’t see my good friend and former NHL player, John VanBoxmeer as much – John is a scout for the Buffalo Sabres.
  • PGA golfer Tiger Woods won his 82nd golf tournament, tying the record of legend, Sam Snead.

There were even sporting events going on that I didn’t, or wouldn’t, watch, to wit:

  • The Breeders Cup, at Santa Anita, a track that has produced more broken legs that KFC.
  • For you Formula 1 fans, last weekend  the United States Grand Prix was held in beautiful Hawthorne; don’t ask me who won; don’t even ask me where Hawthorne is!
  • And for you MMA and UFC fans . . . I have no idea – not a fan, but I did read that the Sparta Cup was held on Oct 31 in Biysk, Russia – hopefully no one died or got sent to Siberia, although, for all I know Biysk is in Siberia.

The Magic Wand

Whether you are mashed, baked or scalloped, now is the time for all you ‘Potatoes’ to find your couch, along with a beverage of choice; and get those fingers working that remote control – get yourself in shape man! ‘Tis the season!

Yes, you’ll probably gain a little weight during this ‘season’, but that extra weight will come in handy for absorbing the extra alcohol that you’ll be consuming during the next ‘season’ – the ‘Holidaze’!  Another benefit of being a couch potato.

And ladies, we know this keeps the men out of your hair so you can start your shopping for . . . anything; they won’t even know you’re gone or what you’ve bought!  Or just maybe, you’re the couch potato in the family.  You go you little French fry!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I’m going to guess you were unaware that today is National Color the World Orange Day or that last Saturday was National Deviled Egg Day.  Really.  I wasn’t aware of it either until I saw a random post on Facebook about it.  Had I known I would have whipped up a batch to snack on.  Or not – they’re a pain in the neck to make and by the time I load in heaps of mayonnaise I’m not sure the nutritional value is all that great.  But it dawned on me that we seem to be celebrating some obscure item or event every day.  Turns out, there actually are “National Day” calendars that will keep you up on date on what you should be feting on any given day.  As one might expect, some days are better than others.  National Cupcake Day, for instance, beats the heck out of National Sauerkraut Day.  Frankly, I have enough trouble remembering the real holidays, you know, like President’s Day and Labor Day, without throwing deviled eggs into the mix.  But I find this time of year when I have already been bombarded with Christmas decorations everywhere I go, perhaps a little diversion isn’t a bad thing.  So here are some upcoming “days” that might be worth marking on your calendar.

November 14th is National Family Pajama Day. Frankly, I think the timing of this day is a bit suspicious.  After all, lots of families buy matching pj’s for Christmas and ordering them mid-November allows for delivery before the Christmas Tree goes up.  I suspect the pajama industry is behind this one.  November 22 is National Cranberry Relish Day, followed by Eat A Cranberry Day on the 23rd.  I think someone didn’t reach too far to come up with those “celebrations”.  Perhaps the “day” that makes the most sense is November 27th – National Tie One On Day.  It is celebrated each year on the day before Thanksgiving.  Anyone who has ever hosted Thanksgiving with battling relatives or, worse yet, people with 87 different food allergies/requirements needs to go into the holiday with as much fortification as possible.  Speaking of which, November 28th is not only Thanksgiving Day this year, but according to the “day” calendar it is also “National Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Day“.  What the hell is the point of that?

For those of you who work, November 30 is National Stay At Home Because You’re Well day.  The theory is if you’re feeling well then you should play hooky from work and go do something enjoyable.  My dirty little secret is that I used to do this every July. I highly recommend it.  As we swing into December you’ll be happy to know that December 1 is not only National Pie Day but, not so coincidentally, it’s National Eat a Red Apple Day so you can knock out two celebrations in one.  December 8th is National Time Traveler Day and I suspect there are many of us who would like to time travel our way right into the middle of January.  December 13 is National Make Friends with a Pathologist Day which they recommend observing by making friends with a pathologist or a coroner.  Sounds a little creepy to me. For those of you who watched “Seinfeld” you’ll be happy to celebrate December 23rd as Festivus – the holiday for the rest of us.

December 30th is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, which seems like it ought to be observed either the day after Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day, but hey, I’m not the one making up the calendar.  In fact, the whole “day” calendar thing seems a bit goofy to me  I’m sure the trade groups are behind most of them.  So I’m going to go on celebrating the traditional holidays and give a nod to just one of the “days” – August 26th is National Love Your Dog Day.  Now that’s something worth celebrating!