John’s Believe It Or Not… April 20th

* 1968 – Pierre Trudeau sworn in at Rideau Hall as Canada’s 15th Prime Minister. * 1999 A massacre at Columbine High School * 1871 Ku Klux Act passed by Congress * 1926 New sound process for films announced * 1914 Militia slaughters strikers at Ludlow in Colorado

PM Pierre Trudeau with son Justin at a sporting event.

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1968 – Pierre Trudeau sworn in at Rideau Hall as Canada’s 15th Prime Minister.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, PC, CC, prime minister of Canada 1968–79 and 1980–84, politician, writer, constitutional lawyer (born 18 October 1919 in Montréal, QC; died 28 September 2000 in Montréal). A charismatic and controversial figure, Trudeau was arguably Canada’s best-known politician, both at home and abroad. He was instrumental in negotiating Canada’s constitutional independence from the British Parliament and establishing a new Canadian Constitution with an entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Trudeau also brought in the Official Languages Act in 1969, making Canada officially bilingual. While he played an important role in defeating the Québec sovereignist movement of the 1970s and 1980s, his federalist stance, as well as his language and economic policies, alienated many in Canada, particularly in the western provinces.

Trudeau was persuaded to contest the Liberal leadership in 1968 and was elected on the fourth ballot; on 20 April 1968, he was sworn in as Canada’s fifteenth prime minister. In the ensuing general election — which was dominated by “Trudeau-mania” — his government won a majority, and thus he began a period in office which was to last longer than that of any other prime minister before him, except Mackenzie King and Sir John A. Macdonald.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives at Rideau Hall with members of his Cabinet for the swearing-in ceremony.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives at Rideau Hall with members of his Cabinet for the swearing-in ceremony. (Toronto Star)

* 1999 A massacre at Columbine High School

Two teenage gunmen kill 13 people in a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. At about11:20 a.m., Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, dressed in long trench coats, began shooting students outside the school before moving inside to continue their rampage. By the time SWAT team officers finally entered the school at about 3:00 p.m., Klebold and Harris had killed 12 fellow students and a teacher and had wounded another 23 people. Then, around noon, they turned their guns on themselves and committed suicide.

The awful crime captured the nation’s attention, prompting an unprecedented search–much of it based on false information–for a scapegoat on whom to pin the blame. In the days immediately following the shootings, many claimed that Klebold and Harris purposely chose jocks, blacks, and Christians as their victims. In one particular instance, student Cassie Bernall was allegedly asked by one of the gunmen if she believed in God. When Bernall said, “Yes,” she was shot to death. Her parents later wrote a book entitled “She Said Yes,” and toured the country, honoring their martyred daughter.

Apparently, however, the question was never actually posed to Bernall. In fact, it was asked of another student who had already been wounded by a gunshot. When that victim replied, “Yes,” the shooter walked away. Subsequent investigations also determined that Klebold and Harris chose their victims completely at random. Their original plan was for two bombs to explode in the school’s cafeteria, forcing the survivors outside and into their line of fire. When the homemade bombs didn’t work, Klebold and Harris decided to go into the school to carry out their murderous rampage.

Commentators also railed against the so-called “Trench Coat Mafia” and “goths,” and questioned why these groups and cliques were not monitored more closely. However, further investigation revealed that Klebold and Harris were not part of either group.

Columbine High School reopened in the fall of 1999, but the massacre left behind an unmistakable scar on the Littleton community. Mark Manes, the young man who sold a gun to Harris and bought him 100 rounds of ammunition the day before the murders, was sentenced to six years in prison. Carla Hochhalter, the mother of a student who was paralyzed in the attack, killed herself at a gun shop. Several other parents filed suit against the school and the police. Even Dylan Klebold’s parents filed notice of their intent to sue, claiming that police should have stopped Harris earlier. A senior at Columbine was arrested after he threatened to “finish the job.” And when a carpenter from Chicago erected 15 crosses in a local park on behalf of everyone who died on April 20, parents of the victims tore down the two in memory of Klebold and Harris.

In an effort to show the world “that life goes on,” Columbine school board officials voted to replace the library where students were murdered with an atrium. The shootings at Columbine stood as the worst school shooting in U.S. history until April 16, 2007, when 32 people were shot and many others wounded by a student gunman on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Collage: pictures of the shooters inside the school, people huddled outside by a parked car.
The Columbine High School massacre | Eric Harris | Dylan Klebold | (YouTube)

* 1871 Ku Klux Act passed by Congress

With the passage of the Third Force Act, popularly known as the Ku Klux Act, Congress authorizes President Ulysses S. Grant to declare martial law, impose heavy penalties against terrorist organizations, and use military force to suppress the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Founded in 1865 by a group of Confederate veterans, the KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African-American population. The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African-Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard and in 1869 unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence.

Most prominent in counties where the races were relatively balanced, the KKK engaged in terrorist raids against African-Americans and white Republicans at night, employing intimidation, destruction of property, assault, and murder to achieve its aims and influence upcoming elections. In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan. In 1871, passage of the Ku Klux Act led to nine South Carolina counties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended, and the KKK had faded away.

The 20th century would see two revivals of the KKK: one in response to immigration in the 1910s and ’20s, and another in response to the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

Map showing military deployment in the southern states.
Violence by the Ku Klux Klan became so common that Congress had to pass the Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871 to authorize military protection for blacks. (Pinterest)

* 1926 New sound process for films announced

By the mid-1920s, several competing systems had been developed to add sound to motion pictures. In 1923, inventor Lee de Forest demonstrated Phonofilm, in which music was recorded on a narrow strip at the edge of the film. When De Forest tried to sell Phonofilm to the major Hollywood movie studios, however, they rejected it, dismissing “talking pictures” as a novelty that was not worth the cost. De Forest’s sound-on-film system evolved into the Movietone sound process, introduced in 1927.

The major studios also turned away Western Electric, makers of Vitaphone, in 1925. The Vitaphone system logged sound on a record linked electronically to the projector, keeping sound synchronized with an image. Because the precise alignment of projector and phonograph had to be set by hand, the system was prone to human error; fitting a movie theater for a Vitaphone sound system was also extremely costly. Warner Brothers, then a minor studio, decided to act aggressively. It sank $3 million into the promotion of Vitaphone, which the studio announced it would use to provide synchronized musical accompaniment for all its films.

Vitaphone debuted in August 1926 with the costume drama Don Juan, starring John Barrymore and featuring an orchestral score by the New York Philharmonic. The following year, Warner Brothers released its second Vitaphone feature, The Jazz Singer, which included classical and popular music, as well as about 350 words of dialogue. The success of these two films led directly to the motion-picture industry’s conversion to sound, as the major studios quickly lobbied to gain the rights to use Vitaphone as well. Warner Brothers agreed to give up its exclusive rights to the system in exchange for a share of the royalties, and by the spring of 1928 virtually every Hollywood studio had jumped on the sound bandwagon.

Advertisement for the Vitaphone system used with the film Don Juan
Silent movie and orchestra, Vitaphone -1,

* 1914 Militia slaughters strikers at Ludlow in Colorado

Ending a bitter coal-miners’ strike, Colorado militiamen attack a tent colony of strikers, killing dozens of men, women, and children.

When the evictions failed to end the strike, the Rockefeller interests hired private detectives that attacked the tent colonies with rifles and Gatling guns. The miners fought back, and several were killed. When the tenacity of the strikers became apparent, the Rockefellers approached the governor of Colorado, who authorized the use of the National Guard. The Rockefellers agreed to pay their wages.

At first, the strikers believed that the government had sent the National Guard to protect them. They soon discovered, though, that the militia was under orders to break the strike. On this day in 1914, two companies of guardsmen attacked the largest tent colony of strikers near the town of Ludlow, home to about 1,000 men, women, and children. The attack began in the morning with a barrage of bullets fired into the tents. The miners shot back with pistols and rifles.

After a strike leader was killed while attempting to negotiate a truce, the strikers feared the attack would intensify. To stay safe from gunfire, women and children took cover in pits dug beneath the tents. At dusk, guardsmen moved down from the hills and set the tent colony on fire with torches, shooting at the families as they fled into the hills. The true carnage, however, was not discovered until the next day, when a telephone linesman discovered a pit under one of the tents filled with the burned remains of 11 children and 2 women.

Although the “Ludlow Massacre” outraged many Americans, the tragedy did little to help the beleaguered Colorado miners and their families. Additional federal troops crushed the coal-miners’ strike, and the miners failed to achieve recognition of their union or any significant improvement in their wages and working conditions. Sixty-six men, women, and children died during the strike, but not a single militiaman or private detective was charged with any crime.

Colorado National Guard soldiers entering the strike zone.
Colorado National Guard soldiers entering the strike zone. (Wikipedia)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                      

* 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.

21 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 20th”

    1. I think that Pierre Trudeau was the best PM we ever had. I remember after he retired in ’84 and the Liberals chose John Turner, he went up against Brian Mulroney in a TV debate. Mulroney railed and ranted about the Trudeau debt after 16 years in power. After 9 years of Mulroney in power, the national debt was more than double what it was in ’84. The Conservatives can talk all they want about “Tax & Spend” Liberals, but their economic track record is abominable. People still talk about Pierre Trudeau because he was a visionary about what Canadians could become.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Sometimes Mulroney played footloose and fancy-free with the truth and got tagged as ‘Lyin Brian’, but in fairness, he did negotiate the Free Trade deal with Reagan. Thanks, Christy.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, he did, and that got Trudeau in trouble with the press. Trudeau was an intellectual and he was very impatient with questions he thought were dumb thrown at him by some members of the press. So he called them on it and mocked them. I loved it, but it was not smart politically and he then was viewed as arrogant. Justin seems to have learned that lesson and does not tangle with the press. Thanks, John.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. And recent history teaches us that will not change until members of Congress who are indebted to the NRA are replaced, no sensible gun controls will be passed and enacted. The November elections coming up are critical. Thanks, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My gosh! That was a passle of hard stuff today… (Excepet for Trudeau and I don’t know if that was hard for you or not!) I’d like to know why, if Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed themselves at noon, did it take till 3:00 for the SWAT team to go in there? What about all the people who had been shot and were suffering? And that miners’ thing. OML! I’ve gotta read about that. The Clan keep turning up, don’t they? I went to see “Chappaquiddick” today and was so surprised to see that corruption hasn’t changed at all either. Lordy! I guess I must be pretty naive…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheryl, that’s an excellent question about why it took so long for the SWAT team to enter the school. I wish I had the answer. You’re right – lots of nasty stuff happened on this date. Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The U.S. has such a bloody history. But I suppose that’s true of most nations. High school students did another massive walkout today across America, and Columbine was mentioned several times. Talk about history repeating itself… On a lighter note, I’m so glad they figured out how to add sound to film! Have a great weekend, Bro ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be tough to determine if America’s history is any bloodier than other nations. I heard on the news that one Florida high school walkout was delayed by a shooting there today. Good grief! Hats off to the students who are keeping the pressure on Congress! Thanks, Sis, enjoy your weekend too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s true, Bob. Pierre Trudeau was a visionary who caused Canadians to reach a higher vision of who we want to be as a nation: bilingual, multicultural, just, empathetic, welcoming to immigrants and refugees, etc. More conservative-minded citizens did not buy into his vision and were critical of his economic policies. He had an ongoing feud with Alberta Premier Peter Lockheed who wanted to jack oil prices in Canada up to world levels. Trudeau said no. Lots of Albertans sported bumper stickers that read: “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark!” Needless to say, in federal elections, Liberals did not win any seats in Alberta. Yet his leadership ignited the imagination and political interest in the younger generation – the Boomers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The massacre at Columbine High School shook the nation and those seismic waves have not been quieted. With each horrific school tragedy, we are confronted with the need to address psychological instability and abuse of common sense when it comes to gun ownership.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is so much easier in countries like Australia, Canada, the U.K, and others to enact strict gun control laws than in the USA where your Supreme Court allowed the word “militia” to be interpreted as everyone in the 2nd Amendment. However, the midterms in November might sweep away many NRA supporters in Congress so that gun control common sense will prevail. Thanks, Gwen.


    1. There is no way to eradicate mental illness nor the horrible homes that spawn the angry people that go on shooting sprees. But what can be changed are the gun control laws – if voters really want that to happen. We’ll see in November. Thanks, Jennie!

      Liked by 1 person

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