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John’s Believe It Or Not… March 17th

Picture of John Fioravanti at the front of his classroom.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Did you know…

* March 17, 1765 – First Canadian St. Patrick’s Day on record celebrated by Irish troops serving in the British Army at Québec. Irish Protestants gathered for a church service followed by dinner at a local tavern. St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in about AD 385, to wealthy parents. His given name was Maewyn. When he was sixteen, a group of Irish raiders captured him during an attack on his family’s estate and sold him into slavery. He ended up in Ireland, a captive for six years. During that time he was a shepherd, lonely and afraid. Turning to religion, for support and solace, he became a devout Christian. In his own writings (the Confessio and Epistola), he called himself a “most humble-minded man.” St. Patrick served as bishop to Ireland for thirty years. He was quite successful at winning converts, which upset the Celtic Druids. He was arrested several times. St. Patrick persevered, founding monasteries and schools across the country. He died, in what is now Northern Ireland, on about March 17, 460 AD. Irish folklore says that he gave a sermon from a hilltop that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native to Ireland, but some see this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day because he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity.)

Quebec City's St. Patrick's Day parade.

* 1955 – NHL Suspension of Montreal Canadiens star Rocket Richard sparks 7-hour riot along Ste-Catherine St., with 100 arrests. (1955 March after being goaded by Boston Bruins players, he hit Hal Laycoe with his stick and attacked a linesman who intervened; NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended him for the rest of the year, including the playoffs, which sparked a riot in Montréal; Campbell was attacked at the Montréal Forum on St Patrick’s Day; 1960 Richard’s career ended when he suffered a severed Achilles tendon; 1961 elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame; 1967 made a Member of the Order of Canada in a Centennial ceremony.)Picture of Richard being restrained by teammates and a linesman.

* 1776 British evacuate Boston. (On this day in 1776, British forces are forced to evacuate Boston following General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights, which overlooks the city from the south. The bloodless liberation of Boston by the Patriots brought an end to a hated eight-year British occupation of the city, known for such infamous events as the “Boston Massacre,” in which five colonists were shot and killed by British soldiers. The British fleet had first entered Boston Harbor on October 2, 1768, carrying 1,000 soldiers. Having soldiers living among them in tents on Boston Common–a standing army in 18th-century parlance–infuriated Bostonians. For the victory, General Washington, the commander of the Continental Army, was presented with the first medal ever awarded by the Continental Congress.)Washington standing on the Heights beside his cannon.

* 1990 Lithuania rejects Soviet demand to renounce its independence. (The former Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania steadfastly rejects a demand from the Soviet Union that it renounce its declaration of independence. The situation in Lithuania quickly became a sore spot in U.S.-Soviet relations. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared that it was an independent nation, the first of the Soviet republics to do so. The Soviet government responded harshly to the Lithuanian declaration of independence and issued an ultimatum: renounce independence or face the consequences. On March 17, the Lithuanians gave their answer, rejecting the Soviet demand and asking that “democratic nations” grant them diplomatic recognition.  the U.S. Congress acted quickly to end economic assistance to the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was incensed by this action, but his powers in the Soviet Union were quickly eroding. In December 1991, 11 of the 12 Soviet Socialist Republics proclaimed their independence and established the Commonwealth of Independent States. Just a few days after this action, Gorbachev resigned as president and what was left of the Soviet Union ceased to exist.)

Lithuanians rejoice over their newfound independence, 11 March 1990. Here from Pilies Street in Vilnius Old Town.
Lithuanians rejoice over their newfound independence, 11 March 1990. Here from Pilies Street in Vilnius Old Town.

* 2000 Julia Roberts collects $20 million for Erin Brockovich. (With Erin Brockovich, released on this day in 2000, Julia Roberts becomes the first actress ever to command $20 million per movie. Roberts’ Erin Brockovich haul put her far out in front of her closest peers at the time, Meg Ryan and Jodie Foster, who had reportedly each made $15 million for a single movie. In Erin Brockovich’s short skirts and push-up bras, Roberts proved worthy of her enormous paycheck, leading the film to more than $125 million at the U.S. box office and five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Dressed in black-and-white vintage Valentino, a tearful and triumphant Roberts took home the statuette for Best Actress at the 73rd annual Academy Awards. Though other actresses, including Cameron Diaz, Renee Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon, have since passed the $20 million mark, Roberts smashed the glass ceiling again in 2003, earning $25 million for Mona Lisa Smile. The film was a relative disappointment at the box office, and her paycheck alone equalled almost 40 percent of its domestic earnings.)Julia Roberts head shot ad for movie.

Look who was born on this date!

Portrait of Dred Scott.* Dred Scott in 1777. (US Slave: Dred Scott was born into slavery in Virginia. His original owners sold him to a John Emerson doctor serving in the US army and Scott travelled about with him. In 1836 he met and married fellow slave Harriet Robinson, her ownership transferred to Emerson so they could be together. Following Emerson’s death in 1843 Scott sought to buy the freedom of himself and his family but Emerson’s wife refused. Scott filed a case in the local St Louis court, was tried in 1847 then retried in 1850 where the court ruled the Scotts should be freed due to living in states where slavery was illegal. Their owner appealed, the case going to the Supreme Court which ruling in 1857 that as of African descent they did not have the right to be citizens and so to freedom. By this stage, Scott was the most famous slave in America. Scott and his family were finally freed 3 months after the court ruling. Dred died less than 2 years later. Dred Scott’s case led to the tensions of the civil war, influenced Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments.

Picture of Jones swinging a golf club.* Bobby Jones in 1902. (He was an American amateur golfer, and a lawyer by profession, who was one of the most influential figures in the history of the sport. Jones founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club, and co-founded the Masters Tournament. The innovations that he introduced at the Masters have been copied by virtually every professional golf tournament in the world. Jones was the most successful amateur golfer ever to compete at a national and international level. During his peak from 1923 to 1930, he dominated the top-level amateur competition and competed very successfully against the world’s best professional golfers. Jones often beat stars such as Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, the era’s top pros. Jones earned his living mainly as a lawyer, and competed in golf only as an amateur, primarily on a part-time basis, and chose to retire from competition at age 28, though he earned significant money from golf after that, as an instructor and equipment designer.)

Head shot of Nat King Cole.* Nat King Cole in 1919. (He was known professionally as Nat King Cole, and was an American singer who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He was widely noted for his soft baritone voice, performing in big band and jazz genres, and was a major force in popular music for three decades. Cole was one of the first African Americans to host a national television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show. His recordings remained popular worldwide after his death from lung cancer in February 1965.)


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

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