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John’s Believe It Or Not… February 21st

* 1941 – Frederick Banting killed in a plane crash over Labrador en route to England on a medical mission. * 2002 – Canada’s women’s hockey team takes Olympic gold – beating the US 3-2 at Salt Lake City – Canadian icemaker Trent Evans buried a “lucky loonie” under center ice. * 1965 Malcolm X assassinated * 1981 Dolly Parton cements her crossover success as “9 to 5″ hits #1 * 1885 Washington Monument dedicated

Former icemaker Trent Evans poses with sportscaster Ron MacLean and the lucky loonie at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1941 – Frederick Banting killed in a plane crash over Labrador en route to England on a medical mission.

The name of Dr. Frederick Banting of Toronto is legendary in medical circles and to untold numbers of people owe their lives to his discovery of insulin. Knighted in 1934, for his discovery, Sir Frederick Banting continued research into silicosis and cancer and was later appointed chairman of the National Research Council’s Committee on Aviation Medical Research in 1939.

When the Second World War broke out, he wanted to do his part in uniform as he had done in the First World War where he had been awarded the Military Cross. Although allowed to enlist and given the rank of Major, he was in his late 40’s on the one hand and on the other his work in medicine made him far too valuable for any duty in a fighting theatre. Instead, he became a liaison between military medical services in Britain and Canada and would head to England to discuss his research into aviator health in relation to military pilots and the war effort.

He arrived in secret on February 17th, 1941 at the bustling military airbase at Gander Newfoundland where very special arrangements had been made to get him aboard a plane to England. On February 20th, 1941 he joined a pilot, navigator and radio operator aboard a twin-engine Lockheed Hudson bomber being ferried to Britain.

Shortly after takeoff in the late evening and heading out over the ocean on the first leg of the trip, one of the engines cut out. The pilot, Capt Mackey turned and began heading back to the airport at Gander, but possibly the other engine also began sputtering or cut out completely or simply couldn’t hold the plane in the air. Mackey told the crew to put on their parachutes and jump, but in the blackness of the night and possibly not knowing where they were or what they would land on, they all stayed.

Folks in the hamlet of Musgrave Harbour heard the plane in difficulty as it flew rather low overhead in the darkness of the snowy night but were not sure what happened to it as it flew into the distance out of sight and hearing. The doomed aircraft crashed only a few moments later though in the night in a remote part of the island about 16 kilometers from the town separated by rough brush and forest.

The navigator and radio operator were killed in the crash, and Banting seriously injured with a severe blow to the head and internal injuries. The pilot survived and left to get help but gave up faced the weather and wilderness. Returning to the plane he waited for search planes to find them. The crash site of Hudson T-9449 was spotted on the 24th, but it was too late. Banting had died during the day after the crash, February 21, 1941, of his injuries and exposure.

The news of the tragic death of the famous doctor, Nobel prize winner, and the man who had saved the lives of so many came as a shock to the world. A small memorial park has been set up in Musgrave Harbour where the few remnants of original wreckage lie, while a restored Hudson has been placed nearby.

Restored plane and marker at Banting Memorial Municipal Park, Musgrave Harbour.
Restored plane and marker at Banting Memorial Municipal Park, Musgrave Harbour.

* 2002 – Canada’s women’s hockey team takes Olympic gold – beating the US 3-2 at Salt Lake City – Canadian icemaker Trent Evans buried a “lucky loonie” under center ice.

In 2002, an interesting inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame was a loon. More specifically, a loonie, the one buried under the ice of the E-Center, where both Canadian Olympic hockey teams won gold medals at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games.

“I didn’t know until looking at it today that it’s a 1987 loonie,” said Trent Evans, the Edmonton ice maker responsible for embedding the coveted coin at center ice. [See featured image at top – Trent is on the left holding the Lucky Loonie.]

It was in 1987 that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux combined to lead Team Canada to victory in the Canada Cup tournament at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum. At Salt Lake, Gretzky, as executive director, and Lemieux, as captain, reunited to lead Team Canada its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey since 1952.

The loonie, which Gretzky and the rest of Team Canada’s brain trust was well aware of, became Canada’s lucky charm.

“Trent told us about it the day we arrived and it was kept a great secret to the end,” Team Canada head coach Pat Quinn admitted.

“I probably told a dozen people within Team Canada, people I felt could be trusted with the secret,” Evans added. “If they wanted to use that as motivation for the men’s and women’s teams, well, that was great.”

Evans, supervisor of event operations at Skyreach Centre, began installing the Olympic ice on Feb. 3, shortly after being contracted by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Initially, he used a Canadian dime to mark center ice on the concrete floor before flooding the surface overnight. The next day, Evans placed his so-called lucky loonie over the dime — now covered by half an inch of fresh ice — and promptly reflooded.

“I have the dime,” Evans said. “It’s in a safety deposit box back home. Our provincial museum wants to display the dime in Edmonton as part of a coin display.”

The loonie, meanwhile, is prominently displayed between photos of Canada’s victorious teams with an opening that allows patrons to touch it for good luck. “On the money market, this loonie is worth 63 cents,” Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard said. “To the Hall and to hockey fans, it’s worth its weight in gold.”

“If it was a little piece of good luck — great,” Evans added. “If there are any superstitious things that happen around the game of hockey and I was part of that — great.”

According to Danielle Goyette, who played for Team Canada in a 3-2 win over Team USA in the women’s gold medal game, superstition certainly played a part. “After the game, I went and kissed center ice,” Goyette recalled. “Hayley (Wickenheiser) came over and said to me, ‘Get away, Danielle, we can’t tell people it’s there. The men’s final is in three days and we have to keep it secret.”‘

Sure enough, Canada went on to defeat the U.S., 5-2 in the men’s final, following which Evans and assistant GM Kevin Lowe extracted the two coins. The loonie was presented to Gretzky, who later handed it over to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Lucky Loonie was originally buried by Canadian icemaker Trent Evans at centre ice before the men's and women's hockey tournaments at the 2002 Games
The Lucky Loonie was originally buried by Canadian icemaker Trent Evans at center ice before the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments at the 2002 Games (Montreal Gazette)

* 1965 Malcolm X assassinated

In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist, and religious leader is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities.

In 1946, at the age of 21, Malcolm was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. It was there he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, whose members are popularly known as Black Muslims. The Nation of Islam advocated black nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral “devils.” Muhammad’s teachings had a strong effect on Malcolm, who entered into an intense program of self-education and took the last name “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.

After six years, Malcolm was released from prison and became a loyal and effective minister of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. In contrast with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans “by any means necessary.” A fiery orator, Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.

In the early 1960s, he began to develop a more outspoken philosophy than that of Elijah Muhammad, whom he felt did not sufficiently support the civil rights movement. In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” provided Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, with a convenient opportunity to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.

A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American. Malcolm’s new movement steadily gained followers, and his more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

On February 21, 1965, one week after his home was firebombed, Malcolm X was shot to death by Nation of Islam members while speaking at a rally of his organization in New York City.

Malcolm X speaking to a crowd.

* 1981 Dolly Parton cements her crossover success as “9 to 5″ hits #1

In 1980, Dolly Parton brought the full range of her talents to bear on a project that would cement her crossover from country music to mainstream superstardom. That project was the movie 9 to 5, for which Dolly wrote and performed the song that earned her both Oscar and Grammy nominations as well as semi-official status as a true pop icon. The biggest hit of Dolly Parton’s career, the song “9 to 5″ reached #1 on the pop charts on this day in 1981.

In addition to writing and singing the theme song, Dolly also acted in 9 to 5, playing the role of a secretary prejudged on looks alone not only by her sleazy male boss, played deliciously by Dabney Coleman, but also by her female colleagues, played by Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. The role played very much on the image that Dolly created and toyed with in the real world: that of the apparent blonde bimbo. The wigs, the accent, the outfits and—it must be said—the famously ample bosom, were a significant part of Dolly’s public persona, as was her eagerness to make fun of her own image; “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap” was her most famous self-deprecating wisecrack. All of it helped make Dolly Parton a hugely famous and wildly popular personality from the early 80s onward, yet it didn’t hint at the decade of brilliant musical achievement that preceded this phase of Dolly’s life.

Long before most Americans knew her name, Dolly Parton had established a reputation in Nashville and beyond based not on her outsized image, but on her brilliant and restrained country singing and songwriting. Dolly left the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee for Nashville the same day she graduated high school, and though it took several years of struggling, by the late 1960s she was an established figure in the world of country music, best known for her regular appearances on The Porter Wagoner Show. It was in the early 70s, though, that she made her name as a solo performer and songwriter. Jolene and Coat of Many Colors may be her best-known country hits from that period, but Parton also wrote and recorded I Will Always Love You, which would go on to be one of the biggest pop hits of the 1990s for Whitney Houston.

Dolly did not enjoy similar success with the movies that followed her acting debut in 9 to 5: 1982’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (with Burt Reynolds) and 1984’s Rhinestone (with Sylvester Stallone). She did have another #1 pop hit in 1983 with Islands In The Stream (a duet with Kenny Rogers), and she has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years in the kind of rootsy, bluegrass-influenced work that preceded her big breakthrough with “9 to 5.”

Dolly Parton in "9 to 5"
Dolly Parton in “9 to 5”. (KBOE)

* 1885 Washington Monument dedicated

The Washington Monument, built in honor of America’s revolutionary hero and first president, is dedicated in Washington, D.C.

The 555-foot-high marble obelisk was first proposed in 1783, and Pierre L’Enfant left room for it in his designs for the new U.S. capital. After George Washington’s death in 1799, plans for a memorial for the “father of the country” were discussed, but none were adopted until 1832–the centennial of Washington’s birth. Architect Robert Mills’ hollow Egyptian obelisk design was accepted for the monument, and on July 4, 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Work on the project was interrupted by political quarreling in the 1850s, and construction ceased entirely during the American Civil War. Finally, in 1876, Congress, inspired by the American centennial, passed legislation appropriating $200,000 for completion of the monument.

In February 1885, the Washington Monument was formally dedicated, and three years later it was opened to the public, who were permitted to climb to the top of the monument by stairs or elevator. The monument was the tallest structure in the world when completed and remains today, by District of Columbia law, the tallest building in the nation’s capital.

Dedication of the Washington Monument, February 21, 1885
Dedication of the Washington Monument, February 21, 1885 (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* Radio Canada International                               

* CBC Sports                                                    

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                                          

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.

10 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 21st”

  1. The Frederick Banting death was a loss to mankind. Loved the “lucky loonie” story. Malcolm X was assassinated by the Nation of Islam which adds more tragedy to the story. Dolly Parton has always been a favorite. It is amazing the Washington Monument was dedicated so long ago but still 86 years after his death. Thaks for the variety of stories, John

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a great list, John. Will the women’s hockey team be carrying Lucky Loonies tonight? I hope not- ha! I knew nothing about this. Thanks! And 9 to 5, one of the greatest comedies of all times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t doubt that our women’s team will carry Lucky Loonies onto the ice with them! I read that when Canadian pro golfer Mike Weir won the Masters, his caddy used Loonies as ball markers on the greens. It’s a fun story! I loved that movie too. Thanks, Jennie!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha! I’m sure they’ll have the Lucky Loonies tucked away out of sight! Maybe your women should carry Eagles. Thanks, Jennie!


    1. Nope, Lucky Loonies are NOT frivolous! LOL! I could not resist telling that story. The funny thing is that it occurred in Salt Lake City, not in Calgary or Vancouver. Sneaky Canucks, eh! Thanks, Gwen!


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