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John’s Believe It Or Not… May 27th

In 1999 – Julie Payette joins Shuttle mission. In 1968 – Montréal Expos awarded a National League baseball franchise. In 1940 British evacuation of Dunkirk turns savage as Germans commit atrocity. In 1937 Golden Gate Bridge opens. In 1997 Tornado levels Texas subdivision.

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Saturday! Yippee! Did you know…

* 1999 – Julie Payette joins Shuttle mission; first Canadian to board the Intl. Space Station. (In 1992 she joined the Canadian Space Agency. Once she had completed basic training, she began work as a technical advisor for the MSS (Mobile Servicing System), a robotic system that is the Canadian contribution to the International Space Station. She established the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Group at the Canadian Astronaut Office and then worked as a technical specialist on the NATO International Research Study Group (RSG-10) on speech processing (1993-1996).
During her training period in Canada, Payette acquired her commercial pilot license and logged over 120 hours of reduced gravity flight time aboard a number of microgravity aircraft. In February of 1996, she obtained her captaincy on the CT-114 military jet at the Canadian Air Force Base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Payette was selected to attend NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Training at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center from 1996 to 1998 and then worked on technical issues in space robotics for the NASA Astronaut Office.
Payette served as a Mission Specialist on the twenty-sixth flight of Space Shuttle Discovery from May 27 to June 6, 1999. During the mission, the first manual docking of the shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS) was performed. She was the eighth Canadian Space Agency astronaut to fly in the weightless environment of space. She became the first Canadian to go on board the Station and to participate in an ISS assembly mission. A few months later, she spoke with a journalist about her work and said, “I know I’m a perfectionist, driven, maybe even compulsive. It’s part of the package. The most important thing is to find your niche in life, your element. This is mine.” (Phillips 1999)

Julie Payette glides through ESA's Columbus Laboratory
Julie Payette glides through ESA’s Columbus Laboratory (Image:

* 1968 – Montréal Expos awarded a National League baseball franchise. (On December 2, 1967, Gerry Snyder presented a bid for a Montreal franchise to Major League Baseball’s team owners at their winter meetings in Mexico City. One potential wild card in Montreal’s favor was that the chair of the National League’s expansion committee was influential Los Angeles Dodgers president Walter O’Malley, under whom the minor league Montreal Royals had become affiliated with the Dodgers. On May 27, 1968, O’Malley announced that franchises were being awarded to Montreal and San Diego, beginning play the following year (1969). Business executive Charles Bronfman of the Seagram’s distilling empire owned the new team. With a long history of use in Montreal, the “Royals” was one of the candidate nicknames for the new franchise, but the American League’s new Kansas City team adopted this name, so the new owners conducted a contest to name the team. Many names were suggested by Montrealers (including the “Voyageurs” and in a coincidental twist, the “Nationals” — now used by the team in its new home in Washington, D.C.) but there was a clear winner. At the time, the city was still basking in the glow of the recently completed Expo 67, the most popular World’s Fair to date, and so the name “Expos” was used. The Expos name also had the advantage of being the same in both English and French, the city’s two dominant languages.)

Montreal Olympic Stadium and rings
Montreal Olympic Stadium and rings (Image: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

* 1940 British evacuation of Dunkirk turns savage as Germans commit atrocity. (On this day in 1940, units from Germany’s SS Death’s Head division battle British troops just 50 miles from the port of Dunkirk, in northern France, as Britain’s Expeditionary Force continues to fight to evacuate France. After holding off an SS company until their ammo was spent, 99 Royal Norfolk Regiment soldiers retreated to a farmhouse in the village of Paradis, just 50 miles from the Dunkirk port. Ships waited there to carry home the British Expeditionary Force, which had been fighting alongside the French in its defensive war against the German invaders. Agreeing to surrender, the trapped regiment started to file out of the farmhouse, waving a white flag tied to a bayonet. They were met by German machine-gun fire. They tried again and the British regiment was ordered by an English-speaking German officer to an open field where they were searched and divested of everything from gas masks to cigarettes. They were then marched into a pit where machine guns had been placed in fixed positions. The German order came: “Fire!” Those Brits who survived the machine-gun fire were either stabbed to death with bayonets or shot dead with pistols. Of the 99 members of the regiment, only two survived, both privates: Albert Pooley and William O’Callaghan. They lay among the dead until dark, then, in the middle of a rainstorm, they crawled to a farmhouse, where their wounds were tended. With nowhere else to go, they surrendered again to the Germans, who made them POWs. Pooley’s leg was so badly wounded he was repatriated to England in April 1943 in exchange for some wounded German soldiers. Upon his return to Britain, his story was not believed. Only when O’Callaghan returned home and verified the story was a formal investigation made. Finally, after the war, a British military tribunal in Hamburg found the German officer who gave the “Fire” order, Captain Fritz Knochlein, guilty of a war crime. He was hanged.)

Knoechlein (Image: if I only had a time machine –

* 1937 Golden Gate Bridge opens. (On this day in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting San Francisco with Marin County, California, officially opens amid citywide celebration. Named for the narrow strait that marks the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed from January 1933 to May 1937. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, at 4,200 feet. From the beginning, the bridge’s location posed challenges for its construction, not least because of its proximity to the mighty San Andreas Fault, which passes from north to south through the San Francisco Bay area. In addition, the tumultuous waters of the strait posed grave dangers for the underwater construction work necessary to build the bridge. Still, the engineer Joseph Strauss waged a tireless 16-year campaign to convince skeptical city officials and other opponents of the controversial project. On the bridge’s opening day, he triumphantly exclaimed: “The bridge which could not and should not be built, which the War Department would not permit, which the rocky foundation of the pier base would not support, which would have no traffic to justify it, which would ruin the beauty of the Golden Gate, which could not be completed within my costs estimate of $27,165,000, stands before you in all its majestic splendor, in complete refutation of every attack made upon it.” By 6 a.m. on May 27, 18,000 people were lined up on both the San Francisco and Marin sides; in all, some 200,000 showed up that day. At the appointed hour, a foghorn blew and the toll gates opened, releasing the earliest arrivals, who rushed to be the first to cross. Many schools, offices, and stores were closed, and the day was designated “Pedestrian Day.” The next day, the bridge opened to vehicular traffic. Across the country in the White House, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed the bridge open to the world, and by the end of the day, more than 32,000 vehicles had paid tolls and crossed. According to the official Web site of the Golden Gate Bridge, nearly 2 billion vehicles have crossed the bridge (in both north- and southbound directions) in the 70-plus years of its operation.)

Souvenir of "Pedestrian Day" -- residents were free to walk across the bridge before it was opened to normal traffic. Golden Gate Bridge
Souvenir of “Pedestrian Day” — residents were free to walk across the bridge before it was opened to normal traffic. Golden Gate Bridge (Image: UC Magazine – University of Cincinnati)

* 1997 Tornado levels Texas subdivision. (A tornado in Jarrell, Texas, destroys the town and kills nearly 30 people on this day in 1997. This F5 tornado—a rating indicating it had winds of more than 260 miles per hour–was unusual in that it traveled south along the ground; nearly all tornadoes in North America move northeast. The storm formed just north of the capital city of Austin, Texas, in the afternoon. A cold front from the northwest collided with warm air from the Gulf of Mexico, creating a supercell, a large storm cloud formation, and towering cumulus clouds. These conditions produced 22 recorded tornadoes, beginning with one in Waco at 1:37 p.m. The Waco tornado then moved south to Lake Belton, where it demolished the marina and sank many boats. Moving through rural Texas, the Jarrell tornado hit at 3:50 p.m., just as many students were heading home from school. The twister, almost 800 feet wide, picked up so much soil that it caused a powerful mud storm. Roofs were torn off storm shelters and water was sucked out of deep wells. There were even reports of shafts of wheat impaling cattle, and other cows being picked up, their hides stripped by the winds, before being slammed to the ground. The tornado then slowed, becoming nearly stationary as it hit the Double Creek home development. Cars in the subdivision were reduced to rubble and homes were picked up right off their foundations. The twister simply obliterated everything in its direct path, leaving no recognizable remains. The only structure to survive was a family’s homemade shelter under their house’s foundation. One item from the neighborhood was found 100 miles away. About three-quarters of the residents of Double Creek were killed. One survivor reported that she had been carried off with her house as she lay in the bathtub.)

052797 - Jarrell Texas Tornado - 038 | by J u n g a
052797 – Jarrell Texas Tornado – 038 | by J u n g a (Image:

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* Library and Archives Canada

* Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia

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.

14 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 27th”

  1. Hey, John, are you by any chance a history teacher (LOL tongue in cheek)? 🙂 I love that photo of Julie. It’s as if she’s saying, “Here I am, world; deal with it!” I especially enjoyed learning more about the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m sure 32,000 vehicles was a flabbergasting amount at the time, but can you imagine how many would cross if the bridge opened today? Boggles the mind. Terrific post, my friend 🙂 ♥

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Tina – flattery will get you everywhere! (Old guys like me gotta take it when we can!) I appreciate your comments and I’m glad you’re enjoying these posts. I guess I gave away that I was a teacher with the picture at the top – taken in August 2006 as part of a photoshoot for my book “A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching”.

      Liked by 1 person

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