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John’s Believe It Or Not… May 22nd

* 1987 – Rick Hansen ends Man in Motion tour after 40000 km through 34 countries. * 1843 Great Emigration departs for Oregon * 2017 Manchester Arena bombed during Ariana Grande concert * 2004 Controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 wins Palme d’Or * 1958 Jerry Lee Lewis drops a bombshell in London

Rick Hansen

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1987 – Rick Hansen ends Man in Motion tour after 40000 km through 34 countries.

Born in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Rick Hansen grew up in Williams Lake, British Columbia. As a young athlete, he had won all-star awards in five sports. He was paralyzed at the age of 15 from being in the back of a truck with his friend when suddenly the pickup truck swerved and hit a tree. He left the bed of the truck from the impact and received a spinal cord injury. He worked on rehabilitation, completed high school, then became the first student with a physical disability to graduate in physical education from the University of British Columbia. Hansen won national championships in wheelchair volleyball and wheelchair basketball teams. He went on to become a world-class champion wheelchair marathoner and Paralympic athlete. He competed in wheelchair racing at both the 1980 and 1984 Summer Paralympics, winning a total of three gold, two silver, and one bronze medal. Hansen won 19 international wheelchair marathons, including three world championships. He also coached high school basketball and volleyball. Rick had a very close relationship with his family, especially with his father and grandfather, with whom he enjoyed frequent fishing trips.

In 1980, fellow British Columbian and Canadian athlete Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to bone cancer, undertook the Marathon of Hope, intending to run across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to raise awareness for cancer research. He made it from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Thunder Bay, Ontario, before a cancer recurrence forced him to stop, about half of the way through his journey. Inspired by Terry’s courage, Hansen decided to undertake a similar journey to prove the potential of people with disabilities and to inspire a more accessible world. But his planned path was far more ambitious: he planned to circle the world in his wheelchair.

He embarked on his Man in Motion World Tour on March 21, 1985, from Oakridge Mall in Vancouver. Although public attention was low at the beginning of the tour, he soon attracted international media attention as he progressed on a 26-month trek, logging more than 40,000 km through 34 countries on four continents before crossing Canada. He returned to Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium to cheering crowds of thousands on May 22, 1987, after raising $26 million for spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives. Like Terry Fox, he was hailed as an international hero.

Today, the wheelchair and many other items associated with the Man in Motion World Tour are preserved by the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The song “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” was written in his honor by Canadian record producer and composer David Foster and British musician John Parr, and performed by Parr for the soundtrack of the film St. Elmo’s Fire. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in September 1985.

Heart of a Dragon is the film based on Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour. Over twenty years ago, Michael French flew with a film crew from Vancouver, British Columbia to Beijing and documented Hansen’s entrance into Beijing with over 1 million Chinese heralding his arrival as a hero.

Rick Hansen celebrates 30 years of completing the Man in Motion tour | CBC News
Rick Hansen celebrates 30 years of completing the Man in Motion tour | CBC News

* 1843 Great Emigration departs for Oregon

A massive wagon train made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, set off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the “Great Emigration,” the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon.

After leaving Independence, the giant wagon train followed the Sante Fe Trail for some 40 miles and then turned northwest to the Platte River, which it followed along its northern route to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. From there, it traveled on to the Rocky Mountains, which it passed through by way of the broad, level South Pass that led to the basin of the Colorado River. The travelers then went southwest to Fort Bridger, northwest across a divide to Fort Hall on the Snake River, and on to Fort Boise, where they gained supplies for the difficult journey over the Blue Mountains and into Oregon. The Great Emigration finally arrived in October, completing the 2,000-mile journey from Independence in five months.

In the next year, four more wagon trains made the journey, and in 1845 the number of emigrants who used the Oregon Trail exceeded 3,000. Travel along the trail gradually declined with the advent of the railroads, and the route was finally abandoned in the 1870s.

The Oregon Trail has a legendary place in the history of the United States. Originally built by fur traders and trappers in the early 19th century
The Oregon Trail has a legendary place in the history of the United States. Originally built by fur traders and trappers in the early 19th century. (

* 2017 Manchester Arena bombed during Ariana Grande concert

Just moments after Ariana Grande finished the final song of her May 22, 2017 concert at Manchester Arena, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion on the premises, killing 22 concertgoers and injuring 116 more. ISIS claimed responsibility for what was the deadliest act of terrorism in Britain since the 2005 London metro bombings.

A scene of youthful fun turned to panic and violence as shrapnel and fire tore through the crowd pouring out of the Arena’s busiest exit. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw a flash of light. Some were knocked down by the blast, while others scrambled for safety in the chaos.

Frantic parents, family members, and friends began what would be an hours-long search for their children and those from whom they had been separated when the rush to safety began. Others took to social media with photos of their loved ones, using #manchesterarena to ask if any of them had been seen alive after the explosion. More than 240 emergency calls were made; 60 ambulances and 400 police officers helped in the search. The youngest victim was eight-year-old Lancashire native Saffie Roussos.

The attacker was later revealed to be 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Manchester native of Libyan descent whom investigators believe was radicalized after spending time in Libya in 2011. Although he was known to British security services, he was not part of any active terrorist investigation at the time of the bombing. Evidence shows that others, including the Abedi’s brother, were aware of his plans, and may have helped to carry them out.

Just after the attack, Grande tweeted: “from the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words.” Eleven days later, she returned to Manchester, visiting wounded fans and victims’ families.

This graphic shows where the explosion took place, in the foyer area
This graphic shows where the explosion took place, in the foyer area (Daily Mail)

* 2004 Controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 wins Palme d’Or

On this day in 2004, Michael Moore’s documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 beats out 18 other films to win the coveted Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It became the first documentary to triumph at Cannes since The Silent World, co-directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle, won the Palme d’Or in 1956.

The director Quentin Tarantino, president of the Cannes jury, announced the winner in front of an appreciative crowd at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. The previous week, an audience in that same theater gave the film a standing ovation after its screening. It was a surprise win, not least because the Cannes festival had historically shunned documentaries. Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Silent World were two of only three nonfiction films to be allowed in competition in more than five decades.

Moore’s film was a fierce critique of the foreign policy decisions made by the presidential administration of George W. Bush, principally its response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and its decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came under the harshest fire from Moore, who had caused a stir the previous year for his anti-war comments during his acceptance of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine.

Miramax Films, the production company that financed Fahrenheit 9/11, was originally set to distribute the film, until its parent company, Walt Disney, blocked it from doing so. The ensuing controversy reportedly led to the 2005 split between Disney and Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein. When it was eventually distributed by Lion’s Gate, Fahrenheit 9/11 earned some $119 million at the U.S. box office.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 Wins Palme D'Or at CANNES!!
FAHRENHEIT 9/11 Wins Palme d’Or at CANNES!! (

* 1958 Jerry Lee Lewis drops a bombshell in London

The arrival in the United Kingdom of one of the biggest figures in rock and roll was looked forward to with great anticipation in May 1958. Nowhere in the world were the teenage fans of the raucous music coming out of America more enthusiastic than they were in England, and the coming tour of the great Jerry Lee Lewis promised to be a rousing success. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls Of Fire” had both been massive hits in the UK, and early demand for tickets was great enough that 27 appearances were booked in what promised to be the biggest tour yet by an American rock-and-roll star. There was just one problem: Unbeknownst to the British public and the organizers of the coming tour, Jerry Lee Lewis would be traveling to England as a newly married man, with his pretty young wife in tow. Just how young that wife really was would be revealed on this day in 1958, when Jerry Lee “The Killer” Lewis arrived at Heathrow Airport with his new “child bride.”

It was an inquisitive reporter for the Daily Mail named Paul Tanfield who unwittingly broke the scandal when he inquired as to the identity of an especially young woman he’d spotted in the Killer’s entourage. “I’m Myra, Jerry’s wife,” said Myra Gail Lewis. Tanfield followed up with a question for the Killer himself: “And how old is Myra?” It was at this point that Jerry Lee must have cottoned to the fact that the rest of the world might take a somewhat skeptical view of his third marriage because the answer he gave was a lie: “Fifteen.”

Myra Gail Lewis was actually only 13 years old, a fact that would soon come out along with certain other details, such as the fact that she was Jerry Lee’s first cousin (once removed) and that the pair had married five months before his divorce from his second wife was made official. Jerry Lee tried to set minds at ease on this last point—the second marriage was null and void, he explained, because it had taken place before his divorce from his first wife—but even the most skilled public-relations expert would have had a hard time spinning the unfolding story in Jerry Lee’s favor.

As the press hounded Jerry Lee and Myra Gail Lewis over the coming week, the Killer tried to go on with business as usual, but his first three shows drew meager audiences, and those that did buy tickets showered him with boos and catcalls. When the Rank chain of theaters canceled the rest of his dates and his fashionable Mayfair hotel encouraged him to seek lodgings elsewhere, Jerry Lee Lewis left the UK, less than a week after his dramatic arrival on this day in 1958. Back home, he would face a blacklisting from which his career would never fully recover.

Gerry Lee Lewis posing with his child bride.
Jerry Lee Lewis leaped to fame declaring there was ‘A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On’. His fans were certainly shaken when told of his 13-year-old ‘bride’.

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

* Wikipedia                                                           

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.

18 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 22nd”

  1. Rich Hansen is amazing. Gerry Lee was an embarrassment. I wonder where that girl’s parents were. I love stories of settling the old west. I can’t imagine how much courage it took to do that. Thanks, John

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Unbelievable! It was his third marriage too. I know he was raised in Louisiana but I don’t know where he married Myra. I’m sure she lied about her age to authorities.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The Manchester bombing was such a shock. Even though we live in a radicalized world, I’m stunned by every new bombing and mass shooting. If I had been old enough when Jerry Lee married Myra, I’m sure I’d have written him one helluva letter! Thankfully the brouhaha was over by the time I could dance, and I fell in love with his music. And I was thrilled when Michael Moore won the Palme d’Or. Fahrenheit 9/11 shook the rafters here in the U.S., as he and his films continue to do so. Thank the goddess for truthsayers. Hope your ‘spring cleaning’ was a success, Bro 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never been able to reconcile Lewis’ marriage to his young cousin. Yet, a century or more earlier, girls were often married off that young. Back when life expectancies were in the 50’s, getting a family started early was paramount. So, because society has changed from rural/agricultural to urban/industrial and life expectancies were in the 80s and beyond, marrying girls that young became immoral/illegal. His marriage to Myra lasted 13 years and one has to wonder whether her age had anything to do with the breakup.

      Agreed – we don’t have a lot of truth these days! Thanks, Tina!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So many compelling stories today, John. The one that really got my attention was the emigration to Oregon. It is amazing to think about the courage and stamina of these travelers. They persevered despite one hardship after another. Thank you for reminding us of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The more I read about earlier times in history, the happier I become about being born in the 20th Century! I know that if time travel became possible, I would be going anywhere unless it was a matter of survival. The 18th Century pioneers certainly endured many difficulties – but so do the millions of people in refugee camps today. Thanks, Gwen!


  4. I think people today would be shocked to learn the history of marriageable age in various cultures. The onset of puberty appears to be the earliest known standard. The Romans set the minimum age for girls at 12. In Medieval Europe, economics – not age – was the determining factor for marriage which was arbitrarily applied by lords who granted marital permission to work the land (i.e. feudal farming). Religion began to exert more control over marriage and the minimum age requirements generally followed the Roman example with the bar for boys set 1-2 years higher than that for girls. The age standards began to rise slowly during the Age of Enlightenment, and the Napoleonic Code of 1804 set the minimum age at 15 for girls and at 18 for boys.

    Modern secular laws setting the minimum age for marriage generally at 18-21, and lower in some cases, are a relatively recent phenomena. Prior to that, underage marriages occurred mostly because official records were sparse (e.g. birth certificates), the persons to be married weren’t always truthful about their ages, and because the people tasked with sanctioning marriages had a great diversity of opinion on the matter.

    None of this history excuses Jerry Lee Lewis in any way. He knew what he did was wrong. However, it does show that social mores on marriage have varied greatly over time and from culture to culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Bob. Shorter life expectancies in the past had a bearing on marriageable ages too. I wonder what the judgment would be had that marriage between Jerry Lee and Myra lasted 50 years or more. It lasted just 13 years. Today, marriage stats are horrendous with a 50% failure rate. So, how much does age have to do with a successful marriage? When I married at 22, my family told me I was WAY too young. We celebrate our 45th anniversary next month. Tell that! Thanks, Bob!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I just looked it up – they lasted 13 years – and it took twelve of those years for Jerry Lee to put his career back on track. Thanks, Cheryl!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I still can’t figure out how Jerry Lee Lewis got away with marrying a 13 year old girl! How as that allowed to happen!!! UGH!

    I can’t believe it’s been a year already since the tragedy of the Ariana Grande concert. I never really paid attention to her music prior to that, but she touched my heart when she returned and held the free concert. She was so emotional and devastated by what happened. I’m now a fan.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a snapshot of history – endurance and courage, religious fanaticism and terrorism, political madness and war and paedophilia. How can it have been legal for Jerry Lee to marry a thirteen year old? What was he thinking?


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