It’s Friday – TGIF! Did you know…
* 1973 – John F. Fioravanti married Anne D. Runstedler. (On this day, 44 years ago, John & Anne were married in Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Waterloo, Ontario. They met at St. Jerome’s College, University of Waterloo in the fall of 1969, began dating in February 1971, and became engaged in April of 1972. They went on to raise three children, Dianna, Daniel, and Dominic.
John pursued a career in education and taught high school history for 35 years. In 2002 he became a published author with the educational title Getting It Right In History Class. In 2007, Iceberg Publishing published John’s inspirational memoir A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching. John retired from teaching in 2008 and began his second career as an author of non-fiction inspirational books and futuristic dramatic novels.
Anne began a 39-year career in the insurance industry with Economical Mutual in 1972 upon her graduation. She held positions of responsibility in accounting, underwriting, and as a business analyst in their Information Technology department. As well, she became an instructor with the Insurance Institute of Ontario, teaching several different insurance professional courses. After retiring for a few years, Anne accepted a contract position with the Accessibility Department at the University of Waterloo, directing the implementation of a new software application used by students, professors, and Accessibility staff.)
* 1934 “Night of Long Knives” – Hitler stages a bloody purge of the Nazi party. (In Germany, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orders a bloody purge of his own political party, assassinating hundreds of Nazis whom he believed had the potential to become political enemies in the future. The leadership of the Nazi Storm Troopers (SA), whose four million members had helped bring Hitler to power in the early 1930s, was especially targeted. Hitler feared that some of his followers had taken his early “National Socialism” propaganda too seriously and thus might compromise his plan to suppress workers’ rights in exchange for German industry making the country war-ready.
In the early 1920s, the ranks of Hitler’s Nazi Party swelled with resentful Germans who sympathized with the party’s bitter hatred of Germany’s democratic government, leftist politics, and Jews. In November 1923, after the German government resumed the payment of war reparations to Britain and France, the Nazis launched the “Beer Hall Putsch”–their first attempt at seizing the German government by force. Hitler hoped that his nationalist revolution in Bavaria would spread to the dissatisfied German army, which in turn would bring down the government in Berlin. However, the uprising was immediately suppressed, and Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for high treason.
Sent to Landsberg jail, he spent his time dictating his autobiography, Mein Kampf and working on his oratorical skills. After nine months in prison, political pressure from supporters of the Nazi Party forced his release. During the next few years, Hitler and the other leading Nazis reorganized their party as a fanatical mass movement that was able to gain a majority in the German parliament–the Reichstag–by legal means in 1932. In the same year, President Paul von Hindenburg defeated a presidential bid by Hitler, but in January 1933 he appointed Hitler chancellor, hoping that the powerful Nazi leader could be brought to heel as a member of the president’s cabinet.
However, Hindenburg underestimated Hitler’s political audacity, and one of the new chancellor’s first acts was to use the burning of the Reichstag building as a pretext for calling general elections. The police, under Nazi Hermann Goering, suppressed much of the party’s opposition before the election, and the Nazis won a bare majority. Shortly after, Hitler took on absolute power through the Enabling Acts. In 1934, Hindenburg died, and the last remnants of Germany’s democratic government were dismantled, leaving Hitler the sole master of a nation intent on war and genocide.)
* 1936 Gone with the Wind published. (Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, one of the best-selling novels of all time and the basis for a blockbuster 1939 movie, is published on this day in 1936.
In 1926, Mitchell was forced to quit her job as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal to recover from a series of physical injuries. With too much time on her hands, Mitchell soon grew restless. Working on a Remington typewriter, a gift from her second husband, John R. Marsh, in their cramped one-bedroom apartment, Mitchell began telling the story of an Atlanta belle named Pansy O’Hara.
In tracing Pansy’s tumultuous life from the antebellum South through the Civil War and into the Reconstruction era, Mitchell drew on the tales she had heard from her parents and other relatives, as well as from Confederate war veterans she had met as a young girl. While she was extremely secretive about her work, Mitchell eventually gave the manuscript to Harold Latham, an editor from New York’s MacMillan Publishing. Latham encouraged Mitchell to complete the novel, with one important change: the heroine’s name. Mitchell agreed to change it to Scarlett, now one of the most memorable names in the history of literature.
Published in 1936, Gone with the Wind caused a sensation in Atlanta and went on to sell millions of copies in the United States and throughout the world. While the book drew some criticism for its romanticized view of the Old South and its slaveholding elite, its epic tale of war, passion, and loss captivated readers far and wide. By the time Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937, a movie project was already in the works. The film was produced by Hollywood giant David O. Selznick, who paid Mitchell a record-high $50,000 for the film rights to her book.
After testing hundreds of unknowns and big-name stars to play Scarlett, Selznick hired British actress Vivien Leigh days after filming began. Clark Gable was also on board as Rhett Butler, Scarlett’s dashing love interest. Plagued with problems on set, Gone with the Wind nonetheless became one of the highest-grossing and most acclaimed movies of all time, breaking box office records and winning nine Academy Awards out of 13 nominations.
Though she didn’t take part in the film adaptation of her book, Mitchell did attend its star-studded premiere in December 1939 in Atlanta. Tragically, she died just 10 years later, after she was struck by a speeding car while crossing Atlanta’s Peachtree Street. Scarlett, a relatively unmemorable sequel to Gone with the Wind written by Alexandra Ripley, was published in 1992.)
* 1859 Daredevil crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope. (Jean-Francois Gravelet, a Frenchman known professionally as Emile Blondin, becomes the first daredevil to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The feat, which was performed 160 feet above the Niagara gorge just down river from the Falls, was witnessed by some 5,000 spectators. Wearing pink tights and a yellow tunic, Blondin crossed a cable about two inches in diameter and 1,100-feet long with only a balancing pole to protect him from plunging into the dangerous rapids below.
It was the first in a series of famous Niagara tightrope walks performed by “The Great Blondin” from 1859 to 1860. These “ascensions,” as he advertised them, always had different theatrical variations, including doing tightrope walks blindfolded, in a sack, with his manager on his back, sitting down midway to cook an omelet, and pushing a wheelbarrow across while dressed as an ape. In 1861, he performed at the Crystal Palace in London, turning somersaults on stilts on a rope stretched 170 feet above the ground. He died in 1897.)
* 1971 Soviet cosmonauts perish in reentry disaster. (The three Soviet cosmonauts who served as the first crew of the world’s first space station die when their spacecraft depressurizes during reentry.
On June 6, the cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev were launched into space aboard Soyuz 11 on a mission to dock and enter Salyut 1, the Soviet space station that had been placed in orbit in April. The spacecraft successfully docked with the station, and the cosmonauts spent 23 days orbiting the earth. On June 30, they left Salyut 1 and began reentry procedures. When they fired the explosive bolts to separate the Soyuz 11 reentry capsule from another stage of the spacecraft, a critical valve was jerked open.
One hundred miles above the Earth, the capsule was suddenly exposed to the nearly pressureless environment of space. As the capsule rapidly depressurized, Patsayev tried to close the valve by hand but failed. Minutes later, the cosmonauts were dead. As a result of the tragedy, the Soviet Union did not send any future crews to Salyut 1, and it was more than two years before they attempted another manned mission.)
* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport http://www.onthisday.com/
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/