Saturday, October 31, 2009

Port Chicago Bill Becomes Law

And, I might add, "About Time!!"

This is an even that most Americans don't know about, including myself until just recently. But, it was the worst US home front disaster during World War II.

I didn't read about this in any paper, but the October 28th Contra Costa Times reported that President Obama just signed a bill into law which gives the National Parks Service control of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine Memorial and five acres around the blast site. This makes it eligible for federal funding and a visitors center is planned.

On July 17, 1944, the blast at Port Chicago in Suisun Bay north of Concord (San Francisco Bay) killed 320 sailors, 202 of whom were black, and injured 400 others. Ships were being loaded with ammunition at the time.

Fifty black sailors later refused to go back to work because of unsafe conditions. They were arrested and convicted of mutiny for refusing to obey orders. This led to pressure on President Truman to desegregate the military.

The cause of the explosion has never been found. It became a National Memorial in 1992. It is the 392nd unit of the National Park System.

Long Overdue. --Da Coot

Friday, October 30, 2009

10 Things About Ice Cream

The July 19th Chicago Tribune had another one of those always interesting "10 things you might not know about" articles by Mark Jacob. Where he gets all this interesting stuff is amazing.

This was in honor of National Ice Cream day, celebrated on the third Sunday of July by order of President Reagan in 1984.

1. HAAGEN-DAZS is not something from Scandinavia, but created by Polish immigrant Reuben Mattus and wife Rose in the Bronx. Picked name out of the air and put map of Denmark on carton. The double dots above the first "a" in Haagen isn't even used in Danish. You've been duped.

2. The EVINRUDE OUTBOARD MOTOR was invented by Ole Evinrude in 1906 when his fiance wanted ice cream. He rowed to shore, realizing that if he had a motor it would be easier and the ice cream wouldn't melt. That was the basis of what made him famous.
The Mother of invention.

3. Sometimes JACKIE GLEASON, when dining out, would order a scoop of ice cream on his roast beef. Doesn't sound too good.

Everybody Screams for ___ _____. --Da Coot

Bits 'O History: No Swimming-- Ghost Ship-- Get Your WW II Rockwell

Bits 'O History-- New News About Old Stuff

1. NO SWIMMING-- Lake County (Il) Forest Preserve District is not allowing swimming off the Village of Highwood where the US Army's Fort Sheridan was located because of unexploded shells in Lake Michigan. The Army sometimes fired mortars and anti-aircraft guns for practice out over the lake. This has some residents quite upset.

2. GHOST SHIP-- According to the Oct. 8th WWAY-Channel 3 Wilmington (NC) ABC News, there are some folks unhappy about the USS North Carolina Battleship memorial being turned into a Ghost Ship for two weekends this Halloween.

They believe it goes against the spirit honoring those who served in World War II, particularly sailors.

However, the USS North Carolina is an entirely self-sufficient memorial and receives no state or federal money and this is a revenue generator. You have to make money however you can and this also might build up interest in people who otherwise could care less.

3. GET YOUR WW II ROCKWELL-- America's favorite artist did quite a few Saturday Evening Post covers about various, mostly home front aspects of World War II. To see a whole lot of the covers:

Like, BOO!! --Cooter

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bits 'O History: Sex Slaves-- Cleaning Up the Mess

Bits 'O History-- New News About Old Stuff.

1. SEX SLAVES-- Oct. 28th AP-- Former sex slaves force by the Japanese military to provide sex during World War II want a formal apology and compensation for the horrors inflicted on them over 60 years ago.

Back in 2002, present prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, as opposition leader, said the Japanese government should compensate. Up to 200,000 mostly Korean and Chinese women were forced into this.

War documents brought to light in 1992 forced the Japanese government to acknowledge the outrage.

2. CLEANING UP THE MESS-- Oct. 29th Pacific Scoop-- Australian naval ships Gascoyne and Yarra went to the Solomon Islands to locate and dispose of World War II explosives using state of the art systems. Sixteen explosive objects were discovered.

I continually come across news of bombs, artillery shells and mines from World War II being discovered. Even worse, many are still capable of exploding.

Watch Where You Walk at World War II Sites. --Cooter

Dead Page-- a WAC

JOYCE H. KRESS 1919- March 1,2009

WAC who met Orville Wright and was on 1945 test flight of Enola Gay

March 5th Chicago Tribune by Joan Glangrasse Kates

"Joyce H. Kress rubbed elbows with giants of aviation and flew in one of history's best known aircraft."

As a newly enlisted member of the Women's Army Corps in 1942, she had dinner at the home of airplane inventor Orville Wright and his family. "It was Christmas, and she was one of a small number of WACs who couldn't go home for the holidays and so Wright took pity on them," said her daughter.

Later that year, she met Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the world's first practical helicopter.

In the early days of August 1945, she flew aboard the Enola Gay just days before it dropped the atom bomb over Hiroshima. Her daughter Barbara continued, "She had no idea what the plane was going to be used for. All she knew is that they were testing it out to make sure there weren't any problems with its fuel line."

She also was pictured in a popular recruitment poster while serving. From 1942 to 1946, she served as a technical sergeant and for sixteen years in the Air Force Reserve.

Just the fact that she was a member of the WACs who helped open the door for women serving in the military and a World War II veteran would have been enough. Talk about a person meeting history.

One of America's Greatest Generation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead Page: Addams Family-- Spanish Eyes

Two recent deaths this months of a musical nature


Died October 17th. Wrote the songs for the Addams Family and Green Acres, two of my favorites. Born 1916. That was him singing Addams Family and overdubbed it three times. Love those finger snaps and dead pan looks by the cast.


Died October 7th.

Sang some of my favorite songs like "Spanish Eyes," "Volare," and "Love Theme from the Godfather." Played the singer Johnny Fontaine, loosely based on Frank Sinatra in the movie.

He had Billboard's first #1 ranking on their first pop chart in 1952 with "Here in My Heart."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And, Speaking of Howdy Doody-- Part 2

My memory being what it is, CRS, all I could remember from the Howdy Doody song was "It's Howdy Doody Time, It's Howdy Doody Time." But I thought there was more.

There is. Looked it up and here is what it said:

It's Howdy Doody Time.
It's Howdy Doody Time.
Bob Smith and Howdy Do
Say Howdy Do to You.

Let's give a rousing cheer
Cause Howdy Doody's here.

It's time to start the show, So kids let's go.

Who was singing along just then?

And, as all us Boomers know, somebody who later became famous in another children's show played Clarabell the Clown.

Wonder Who? --Da Coot

And, Speaking of Howdy Doody-- Part 1

A person from Ohio wrote in to Ask A.P., American Profile Magazine this last week and wanted their memory refreshed about Howdy Doody.

Here is the response:

"The Howdy Doody Show was the first nationally televised kiddie show and the most popular children's show of the 1950s. It ran on NBC from 1947 to 1960 and starred a freckle-faced, red-headed marionette named Howdy Doody and his pal Buffalo Bob, the show's host, played by Bob Smith.

Each program began with Buffalo Bob asking 'Say kids, what time is it?' Then all the kids in the Peanut Gallery, a section of bleachers onstage that seated about 40 children, would holler 'It's How-w-wdy Doody time!'

Howdy and his pals, including marionettes Heidi Doody, Mayor Phineas T. Bluster, Dilly Dally and the Flubadub, lived in Doodyville along with human characters Clarabell the Clown, Chief Thunderthud and Princess Summerfall Winterspring."

I'd be yelling "It's How-w-w-wdy Doody Time!!" right at the top of my voice. Sadly, after that, I don't much recall the show anymore, but I know I always watched it and was a big fan.

Then, there was that great song. Bet you're singing it right now.

My Young Hero. --Da Coot

Watching TV-- Part 3

I was a BIG FAN of TV growing up and spent a lot of time in front of it watching Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club. This was back when most families had a TV, but just ONE. I also was a big fan of the Wonderful World of Walt Disney. That Swamp Fox and Davy Crockett series was the BEST!! Nothing finer. Of course, I had my coonskin cap, fringe jacket, and musket.

Mom tells me one time I got out of trouble when I had done something wrong and was about to get a spanking from my dad. With tears in my eyes, I sobbed, "Walt Disney's not going to like this." My dad was laughing so hard, he couldn't go on with it. And, I was being serious.

We had a black and white until around 1968, but still just one. The big problem here was that our parents always got to watch what they wanted which meant more Lawrence Welk than I care to remember.

"Hey Kids. What Time Is It? --Da Coot

Monday, October 26, 2009

Watching TV-- Part 2

Continuing with some significant dates in the history of television.

1948-- The US goes from fewer than 200,000 sets to 975,000. The '47 Yankees-Dodgers World Series spurs sales in NYC.

1954-- NBC airs the first national color broadcast: the New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade.

1974-- Two-thirds of US homes have color TVs. Even we had one, but only one.

1981-- MTV debuts. The first song: the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." It quickly became a favorite of mine when we got cable in 1985, back when they played video.

2007-- Flat panels lead the US market. We still do not have one, but will whenever the current ones start breaking down. All of ours are still analog, but we have cable.


2013-- Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology will create flexible screens as thin as paper.

2020-- Using a keyboard, couch potatoes will rant on a scrolling screen bar, chat with producers of live shows.


GE had the first US set in 1928. France's was in 1929. The first colot TV set hit in 1948, rabbit ears in 1956.

Have to Go, A Good TV Show is Coming On. --Da Coot

Watching TV-- Part 1

The National Geographic Magazine had a page devoted to the history of TV, citing February 18, 2009 as being a milestone in its history when all broadcasts went digital. Of course, we know that date was put off until this past summer.

There was a series of pictures of the evolution of the TV set in 1928, 1929, 1948, 1950s, 1957, 1958, 1972, 1979, 1980s and 2008.


1900-- Russian scientist Constantin Perskyi coins the word "television" at the Paris World's Fair to describe the transmission of still photos over electrical wires.

1925-- The silhouette of a moving toy windmill is transmitted over wire circuits.

1936-- First TV news broadcast in London, live from Alexandra Palace.

1939-- RCA leads the launch of TV. By 1941 the US has some 7000 sets.

What's On the Telly? --Da Coot

Saturday, October 24, 2009

US Naval Ships at LaGuaira, Venezuela, 1905

Shorpy Old Photos October 17th, had a photograph of a group of US Naval vessels at LaGuaira, Venezuela and called it the Great White Fleet Gunboat Diplomacy.

Six US ships were pictured, unfortunately, there was no caption to identify the ships.

One reader examined the ships and determined them to be USS Raleigh, USS Cincinnati, USS Texas, USS Newark, USS Brooklyn, and USS New York.

Looking at the histories of these ships, none were listed as participating in the Great White Fleet. Plus, the Great White Fleet didn't leave until 1907.

LaGuaira is the principal port of Venezuela.

Interesting photo though.

You can see the photograph at Shorpy gunboat diplomacy 1905.

US Naval Might for the 20th Century. --Cooter

Thursday, October 22, 2009

YP-389 Located-- Part 2

Continued from October 16th.

During the battle with the U-701, the YP-389 used its 30 caliber machine guns and depth charges. Unfortunately, the 3-inch deck gun was inoperative during the fight.The German submarine returned fire with its 20 mm flak guns and 88 mm deck gun.

YP stands for Yard Patrol boats. It was built in 1941 as the fishing trawler Cohasset and purchased by the Navy for use off the US coast.

It was found 20 miles off Cape Hatteras. Six sailors, including Fireman 3rd class Wilson Burnette Cole, of Great Falls, Montana, died in the fight. His widow was offered $2,000 in insurance money after his death and she offered to turn it over to the Navy to build a boat in his honor. She was told they couldn't accept it, but that she should buy war bonds.

The wreck sits upright.

The expedition that found it lasted three weeks and also surveyed the HMT Bedfordshire, a converted British fishing trawler sunk by a torpedo from the U-588 May 12, 1942. All 37 British and Canadian crew were killed and four washed ashore and are buried at the British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island, considered a war graves site and protected by US and International Law.

The wrecks of three German U-boats were also examined.

From Wikipedia and Sept. 10th Great Falls (Mt) Tribune.

It Is About Time This Little-Known Part of the War becomes Known. --Cooter

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Things About to Become Extinct

Someone sent me an e-mail that i found of interest. These are things "on their way out." Unfortunately, I liked some of them, but can definitely agree they're on the way into history.

24. yellow pages
23. classified ads
22. movie rental stores, Think NetFlix-- very rarely ever used one.
21. dial-up internet access
20. phone landlines-- still have one

19. Chesapeake Bay blue crabs
18. VCRs, VHS-- Still use 'em
17. ash trees-- emerald borer
16. ham radio (what about CB radio?

15. swimming holes (watch out for snapping turtles
14. answering machine-- still have one
13. cameras that use film-- I guess digital cameras don't use film. I've got two of them.
12. incandescent bulb-- using one right now

11. stand-alone bowling alleys-- don't much bowl anymore
10. milkmen, excuse me, milk persons-- haven't used one since growing up-- 1950 over half delivered
9. handwritten letters-- don't remember last time I wrote one
8. wild horses-- 1908-- 2 million, 2001-- 50,000

7. personal checks-- still use them, but some electronic payments
6. drive-in theaters-- 1958-- 4,000, 2008-- 485 We have one about eight miles away.
5. mumps and measles-- good riddance
4. honey bees

3. news magazines and TV news-- subscribe to Time
2. analog TV-- that's all we have in the house. Thankfully, we have cable
1. family farm

Interesting Stuff. --Da Coot

Five World War II "Myths" Affecting British Life

August 23rd Guardian (UK) Observer by Robert McCrum.

The number of British people who lived through World War II is now down to around 3 million.

Robert McCrum says these five "myths" continue to condition British response to everyday life.

1. DUNKIRK-- Pluck victory from the jaws of defeat.

2. FOR BRITISH CHILDREN-- separation and loss. Many were evacuated to the countryside from cities.

3. "DIG FOR VICTORY"-- by sweat and effort, the British can survive. Shovels and spades were used in cities to rescue those in bombings.

4. THE BLITZ-- 717 bombings of London brought about a stoical repression of feelings.

5. SUSTAINED SENSE OF MORAL SUPERIORITY-- derived from standing alone against fascism.

Interesting thoughts and observations, but since I don't live there, I don't know how much is true.

I Wonder If a Case Could Be Made for Some Others? --Da Coot

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

America's National Parks

September 26th Chicago Tribune "'Parks' pays tribute to men behind the idea" by Mary McNamara.

I watched several of the two-hour segments and was happy at least they were tied into a donation/pledge drive as is usual the case. Hey, I already belong to WTTW. Those who belong shouldn't have to wait through those breaks.

This was a much ballyhooed six part series called "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" which ran six straight nights from Sept. 27th. I know that whenever we visit a national park, I don't feel nearly so sad about all the taxes I pay.

Lots of old photos, new camera shots and interesting stories were included. McNamara points out that although studies show American attention is about zero any more, Ken Burns continues getting into the details. But the pace could be picked up. Plus, she's tired of fiddle and banjo music (no "Dueling Banjos" though).

Plus, historian Clay Jenkinson says America's best idea was equal rights for all its citizens.

I found the impact of the parks on regular citizens and the growth of the automobile quite interesting.

Sadly, I haven't been to many of the parks other than a Route 66 trip where we went to the Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon, and Smokey Mountains.

Putting the Parks on Upcoming Agenda. --Da Coot

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ten Things You Might Not Know About World War II-- Part 5

Continued from Oct. 10th.

9. MITSUO FUCHIDA-- Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor and sent the signal "Tota! Tora! Tora!" that indicated complete surprise had been achieved. Six months later, at the Battle of Midway, he had an emergency appendectomy aboard the carrier Akagi and was on board when American planes attacked. An explosion gave him two broken legs. The Akagi was so badly damaged it later had to be sunk.

Near the end of the war, he visited Hiroshima, but left the day before the atom bomb was dropped.

After the war, he raised chickens and supplied eggs to US forces. I wonder if they knew who he was?

10. An American/Canadian force attacked the island of Kiska in 1943. A heavy fog caused confusion in the fighting and 28 Allied troops were killed and another 50 wounded. Then it was found that the Japanese had left weeks earlier and the casualties were from booby traps and friendly fire.

Now, These Are Some Interesting Stories, Most of Which I Didn't Know. --Cooter

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Real Person or Fake? --Part 3

Continuing with the July 9th Chicago Tribune's "Real Food for Real People" by Bill Daley. Back to the October 13th entry.

UNCLE BEN-- Company claims he was a legend, the picture used on the box is a real person, Chicago maitre d' named Frank Brown. FAKE

SARA LEE-- Charles Lubin started making Sara Lee cheesecakes in 1948, when his daughter Sara was 8. I don't know where the Lee came from unless it's her middle name. REAL I looked her name up and Lee is her middle name.

MARLE CALLENDAR'S-- She began baking pies at her home for a deli. She went into the pie-making business with her husband and son in a rented Quonset hut in Long Beach, California. This led to a large restaurant chain and frozen-entree business. She died in 1995 at age 88. REAL

DUNCAN HINES-- A traveling salesman turned food critic who wrote popular guidebooks rating restaurants. He was considered such a food expert that people wanted him to lend his name to different foods, including a line of cake, brownie and cookie mixes. Died in 1959 at age 79. REAL

You can see pictures of the real ones along with Post and Kellogg at

A Few I Knew, But Most I Didn't. --Da Coot

Bits 'O History: A Tale of Two Ships: Mighty Mo to Drydock-- Remembering the HMS Royal Oak

Some New News About Old Stuff.

1. MIGHTY MO TO DRYDOCK-- The 887 foot long, 54,889 ton battleship USS Missouri was moved 2 miles away to Drydock No. 4 where it will be sandblasted and painted over the course of the next two months. The $18 million cost will also include removing and replacing rusted metal.

Over 50 million gallons of water will be pumped out of the drydock and the ship will rest on 310 4-ton wooden blocks during the repairs.

The ship mis now a World War II Memorial and is run by the USS Missouri Memorial Association.

2. REMEMBERING THE HMS ROYAL OAK-- Observances were held in the United Kingdom to honor the British battleship Royal Oak which was sunk in Scapa Flow October 14, 1939.

Scapa Flow was the anchorage of the British fleet and thought to be safe until the German U-boat-47 slipped in and sank the Royal Oak. It sank within minutes, killing 883 crew members, 100 of them referred to as the "boy sailors" as they were between 14 and 18 years of age.

The wreck has been declared an official maritime grave.

Two Great Ships. --Cooter

Dead Page-- Pearl Harbor-- Code Talker

Two of the many World War II veterans whon have died recently.

ARTHUR ZACCARIA, born Oct.15, 1921

Mr. Zaccaria was at Schofield Army Barracks Dec. 7, 1941, and fired a machine gun at a Japanese plane flying so close he could see the pilot's face.

His death leaves just five active members of the Long Island Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Sadly, he was scheduled to go on the flight to the World War II Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, two days after his death.


A Navajo Code Talker, one of the native Americans who transmitted messages in their native language. He had been in declining health the last two years.

Code Talkers were along with every Marine assault in the Pacific. Their work was highly classified with nothing released about them until 1968. He is the fifth Code Talker to die since May.

Mr. Oliver served in the 2nd Marine Division and was wounded at the Battle of Saipan.

The Greatest Generation

Friday, October 16, 2009

YP-389 Located

From the September 14th Richmond (Va) Times-Dispatch.

Last month, divers explored the wreck of the converted trawler YP-389 (Yard Patrol Boat) after it was found about 18 miles off Hatteras Inlet.

The Battle of the Atlantic was particularly intense off the shores of North Carolina. Some 137 Allied, German and merchant ships were sunk and the locations of only about 40 are known.

It was originally detected in the 1970s during the search for the USS Monitor. Videos taken of the 102-foot wreck were compared with pictures of the vessel for confirmation. It lies 325 feet deep.

Most Americans are not even aware of the struggle that took place off the east coast of the United States.

More to Come. --Cooter

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bit's O' History: USS New York-- WW II Bomb Explodes

Some New News About Old Stuff.

1. USS New York-- A picture in the October 14th Chicago Tribune had a picture of the newly launched USS New York sailing down the Mississippi River in New Orleans. The ship contains 6 tons of steel from the World Trade Center, is heading for New York City where it will be commissioned. The ship is especially designed to combat terrorism.

2. WW II BOMB EXPLODES-- October 11th, a bomb from World War II exploded at a building site bin Wilhelmshaven, Germany. It was sucked up by a special machine causing $147,000 in damage and fortunately, there were no injuries.

From time to time , the tide washes WWII bombs into port. In August, a 250 kilo bomb was detonated and in a controlled explosion.

The World Trade Center Strikes Back. --Cooter

Chicago Daily News Building Saved

The current recession of sorts that we are going through isn't all bad. The October 14th Chicago Tribune had an article accompanied by pictures titled "Recession was good news for 2 North Riverside Plaza" by Blair Kamin in his Cityscapes Column.

"A recession, it's often said, is a historic preservationist's best friend. A case in point, the old Chicago Daily News Building, an art deco masterpiece with a new lease on life."

In 2000, Chicago billionaire Sam Zell bought it and had plans to rear it down. Because of the recession, his company has begun a multimillion dollar renovation of the building. The building has been made more energy efficient with double paned windows and the heat has been switched from steam to electric heat. The building's soot-covered limestone exterior has been cleaned and the stunning art deco lobbies have been renovated.

The building, located at 400 W. Madison Street was built in 1929 and designed by Chicago architects Holabird & Root.

Always Good News to See an Old Building Restored, Especially One With That Kind of Architecture. --Da Coot

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wilmington, NC, in World War II

Without a doubt, Wilmington is at the forefront of US cities embracing their World War II heritage. Even though no major battles were fought there, there was much action just downriver in the Atlantic Ocean as German U-boats waged war against Allied shipping.

Then, there were all the war-time industries, especially the shipbuilding and nearby Camp Davis. One thing many younger Americans don't know is the existence of many German prisoner of war camps, three of which were in Wilmington.

There is a regular driving tour of World War II sites in the city and environs, and now there is the World War II Wilmington Homefront Heritage Coalition organization that is constantly busy expanding the scope.

And, of course, there is that great old battleship moored opposite the city. What was its name again?

Wish More US Cities Were This Active. --Cooter

Battleship USS North Carolina-- Part 3

Of course, the main reason for the battleship's existence today is to honor all who have served their country in war, and especially the veterans of World War II, most of whom are in their mid-80s.

Bragg sees the North Carolina as more and more having to interpret the events of World War II to new generations to whom the conflict is as distant as the Civil War or Revolution. As such, Bragg plans to work with local school districts for field trips involbving math, science, and history.

One lesser-known feature of the ship is its Mark I Ballistic Calculators which were made by Ford in the late 1930s which Bragg calls"the oldest computers in the state." These, I imagine would be for firing the ship's guns.

As mentioned before, the ship is expanding to host meetings (such as a recent regional Home Depot employee meeting) and Halloween haunting.


Large alligators have been spotted by the battleship ever since it arrived. The largest one is always called Charlie. I've seen pictures of employees dangling meat overside and alligators launching themselves a few feet to grab it.

In addition, the memorial's grounds cover 61 mostly undisturbed woodland. The staff has been working with local birders to set up cameras to observe birds of prey on the property.

Then, there is the great view of the moored USS North Carolina from the Wilmington Riverwalk across the cape Fear River.

Thanks June 10th Goldsboro News-Argus.

One of the Best Things the State of North Carolina Did Was to Get This Wonderful Ship for Posterity. --Cooter

Battleship North Carolina-- Part 2

Back on Oct. 5th, I posted on the new commander of the USS North Carolina battleship moored by Wilmington as a war memorial.

Terry Bragg said he was related to Confederate General Braxton Bragg and the pre-war NC governor Thomas Bragg. That would seem to be another story for my Civil War blog

I did find out Thomas was the older brother of Braxton and is buried in Raleigh's Oakwood Cemetery. Thomas was a member of the Confederate cabinet as attorney general. Was that why he was able to keep his general's job despite his failures?


The battleship is expected to cover its day-to-day operations from its own revenues, which means ticket sales, gift shop, and donations. The ship is the 17th-most-visited spot in NC with around 200,000 visitors a year.

The big challenge is the big-ticket maintenance. After sitting in the water since the early 60s, the ship needs to be taken to drydock. Along with that, decades of silt need to be removed from the ship's berth. This is expected to cost between $8 and $12 million and take 4-5 years. This will need to be money from the state and the economy doesn't call for that expenditure right now.


Event are held on the ship, including a skateboarding tournament and it will become a "haunted ship" for Halloween, a move that has caused some disagreement. Also, the former commander had converted some of the forward officers staterooms into bunking areas for overnight scout and NROTC stays.

The Ongoing "Showboat." --Cooter

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mustard Gas at Bari, Italy, World War II-- Part 1

Yesterday, I wrote about the mustard gas at Bari, Italy, in the Ten Things You Might Not Know About World War II. I must admit that I didn't know. Here is some more information from Wikipedia.

Bari, Italy has the unfortunate experience of being the only European city to be involved in chemical warfare during the war. And it wasn't the case of one side using it on the other.

Bari had become a major supply depot for Allied forces as they pushed their way up the Italian peninsula. The mustard gas was aboard the US Liberty Ship John Harvey and was in Italy in case Germany started using their chemical weapons. On December 2, 1943, German Junkers JU 88 bombers attacked the port.

The existence of the mustard gas was highly classified and the physicians treating the victims did not know what they were dealing with which led to higher casualties.

It is not known for sure how many deaths were attributed to the mustard gas or the attack itself. One reason is because the Allied leaders, FDR, Churchill, and Eisenhower ordered the records destroyed.

It is known that 69 deaths occurred, mostly merchant seamen (and they still are not recognized as veterans of the war!!). Others believe that as many as a thousand Americans died and an equal number of Italian civilians.

It has been called "Little Pearl Harbor." Two books have been written about it.

And I Never Heard of It. --Cooter

Real Food Person, Or Fake?-- Part 2

BEN & JERRY'S-- Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened their first ice cream store in 1978 inside a former gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The public immediately took a liking to their quality ice cream as well as the groovy, countercultural vibe. They were bought out by Unilever in 2000. Both are REAL and 57.

MRS. FIELDS-- Debbie Fields opened her first cookie shop in Palo Alto, California, in 1977. She, too, is REAL and at age 52 living in Memphis.

CHEF BOYARDEE-- Hector Boiardi was an Italian immigrant living in New York and working at some high class hotels. He moved to Cleveland and opened his own place in 1924. Customers loved his spaghetti and sauce and started asking for takeout portions. He filled milk bottles with the sauce then sent uncooked spaghetti and cheese. In 1926, he started Chef Boiardi Food Products Co.. In 1928, he changed the company name to Chef Boy-ar-dee so Americans could pronounce the name better.

He died in 1985 at the age of 87. His company is now part of ConAgra Foods. REAL.

Who'd Have Known? --Cooter

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Things You Might Not Know About World War II-- Part 4

7. When most people think of poison gas, they think of World War I. The nations of the world had agreed not to use it again, but didn't trust each other, so most countries kept stockpiles of the stuff.

German bombers attacking the Italian port of Bari, hit an Allied ship carrying 100 tons of mustard gas which led to huge numbers of deaths.

Doctors treating casualties noticed exposure had an effect on white blood cells and decided it might be useful to treat some cancers. After the war,doctors at the University of Chicago and two other universities produced the first cancer chemotherapy based on mustard gas.

8. Allan Magee, was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 bomber that was shot up and began spinning out of control over France on January 3, 1943. His parachute was unusable, but he jumped anyway and fell 20,000 feet, crashing through a glass skylight of the St. Nazaire and, of course, suffered severe injuries. Amazingly, he survived and enjoyed a strenuous life. Some believe the angle of the skylight deflected the fall.

Well. He Could Have Landed on a Haystack. --RoadDog

Real Food Person, Or Fake?-- Part 1

The July 9th Chicago Tribune had an article by Bill Daley, answering the ultimate question of whether some of our favorite foods are named for or represented by real people. This was done in honor of Oscar Mayer's death, the third person by that name to run the famous meat-processing company by the same name.

He came up with ten people.

BETTY CROCKER-- General Mills icon with more face-lifts than Phylis Diller to keep a "Current" look. Today's face is compiled from 77 real-life women. Betty was born in 1921 to answer questions about cooking and food. Wrote cookbooks and in a 1945 survey, was the second most famous woman behind Eleanor Roosevelt and she is on FACEBOOK!! But, she is FAKE!!

JENNIE-O-- born in 1948, Jennifer "Jennie" Olson's name began gracing her father's turkey and turkey products. Now 61, she still lives in Minnesota. She's the REAL thing!!

ORVILLE REDENBACHER-- Even I knew this one. Folksy Indiana-born popcorn king spokesman, famous for appearing on TV commercials. He died in 1995, but lives on thanks to commercial reruns and computer-generated images. He's the REAL deal.

Hi, My Name Is.... --RoadDog

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bethnal Green Disaster, 1943-- Part 2

BBC reported a heavy raid on Berlin on March 1st, so a retaliatory attack was expected. On March 3rd, at 8:17 pm, air defence sirens went off and people began an orderly move down into the tunnels. At 8:27, a nearby anti-aircraft battery opened fire, launching a new type of rocket, that people had never heard before.

This frightened the crowd, which started pushing forward faster. It is believed that a woman, possibly carrying a baby, tripped on the stairs, causing others to fall around her. Civilians toward the back did not know this and continued to push forward, and in a very short time, about 90 seconds, 300 people were crushed. A total of 172 people were dead on the scene and another died at a hospital. Even worse, 62 were children.

The tragedy was reported, but due to wartime censorship, the location was not given. This was the largest single loss of civilians during WW II, and none of them were from German bombs. Actually, I never did read whether an attack actually occurred that night.

The largest single civilian loss in London during the attacks was 65 at Balham Underground station when an armor piercing bomb exploded in it.

Sad to Be True. --Cooter

Bethnal Green Disaster, 19 Part 1

Earlier, in the previous post, #6, I hadn't ever heard of the disaster that claimed the 173 lives at the London air raid shelter, so did a little research on Wikipedia and other sources. It was definitely a tragedy and perhaps one that shouldn't have happened, but under the circumstances, not surprising.

Unfortunately, I wrote about it in another blog

See today's date.

More to Come. --Cooter

Ten Things You Might Not Know About World War II-- Part 3

5. The German 6th Army was surrounded by the Soviets at Stalingrad and were starving and freezing to death in the winter of 1942-1943. Food, clothing, and fuel were desperately needed. They received by airlift, thousands of pairs of right shoes without the left, four tons of spices, and millions of condoms. Military intelligence indeed.

6. British civilians showed great common courage and purpose during the air raids, but in 1943, a stampede at a London air raid shelter killed 173 people in 90 seconds.

These "10 Things You Might Not Know" columns are always interesting. Thanks Tribune and Mark Jacob.

File Under Stuff I Didn't Know. And, There's More. --Da Coot

Chicago Street Mess Solved-- Part 2

A sloppy street-numbering system might have been alright in a small town, but the 100 residents of Chicago in 1830 had increased to 300,000 by 1870. Chicago was annexing surrounding towns which had different names for streets that were also in Chicago.

A civic-minded person by the name of Edward P. Brennan started a movement to change the mess. He lobbied officials for seven years, wrote letters to the local newspapers, talked to groups about it.

Finally, in June 1908 the Chicago City Council approved the current grid system to go in effect 15 months later. State and Madison became the starting point and eight city blocks became a mile.

Just imagine what kind of a mess there'd be today if this wasn't done.

You Can't get there from Here. --Cooter

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicago Street Mess Solved-- Part 1

September 1st Chicago Tribune "100 years ago, city hit streets with grid" by Kristen Schorsch.

On September 1, 1909, State and Madison streets became the baseline of a new citywide grid system that changed almost every address. The old system was a complete mess because Chicago had grown so fast and the winding Chicago River had been used as the baseline.

As structures were built, they were given numbers out of order. Street names were even duplicated in different parts of the city.

You Can't Tell Your Addresses Without a Scorecard. --Cooter

Ten Things You Might Not Know About World War II-- Part 2

Continued from September 26th.

3. The biggest quarrel British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery had with Prime Minister Winston Churchill (according to Montgomery) was over two dentist chairs delivered to Normandy shortly after D-Day. Churchill thought this was stupid, but Montgomery maintained that a soldier couldn't fight effectively with a toothache. I doubt that I could either.

4. After the Germans were driven from Paris, French authorities detained 60 year old Coco Chanel because of her affair with a German officer, 12 years younger. Her defense, " Really, sir, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover." Charges were dropped.

Talk About a Cougar Way Back Then. --Cooter

Dead Page: Peter, Paul and Mary

MARY TRAVERS 1936-2009

Died September 16th at age 72.

Member of the very popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Joined Peter Yarroe and Paul Stookey and mingled music with their liberal politics. Their "If I Had a Hammer" became a anthem for equality. They had other hits with "Lemon Tree," "Puff (the Magic Dragon)," and "Leaving on a Jet Plane." There was a lot of controversy over possible drug references in "Puff (the Magic Dragon."

They were major backers of Bob Dylan early in his career and performed his "Blowing in the Wind" at the march on Washington in 1963. They were also very much against the Vietnam War.

They won five Grammys. When the Beatles came and Dylan switched to electric guitar, the folk boom was over, but they had one of their biggest hits with the tongue-in-cheek "I Dig Rock and Roll Music."

I liked their music, especially "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" and when they mimicked the people they were singing about.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Month...Time for a New WW II Poster

From Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor 2009 Calendar.

October's calendar features blue, white, and red stripes, stars, with an eagle with wings outstretched on what appears to be a pile of dollar bills. Two bills are out, one of the $200 denomination.

This is to get money for the war effort, with the words: VICTORY--Now you can invest in it! VICTORY LOAN."

Sure hope they have these posters next year.

The photograph is of General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore during the initial landings at Leyte, P.I.. "I shall return."

Important dates:

October 7th-- 1943 Japanese execute approximately 100 American POWs on Wake Island.
October 20th-- 1944-- US Army invades Leyte in Philippines.

October 23-26-- 1944-- Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Greatest Generation. --Cooter

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happenings October 5th-- Part 2


The Beatles released their first hit, "Love Me Do" in the UK. The Fab Four. Little did I know the impact this single would have on my life.


"Monty Python's Flying Circus" made its debut on the BBC. I watched it religiously every Sunday night on Chicago's WTTW, Channel 11 when it finally aired here in the US in the early 70s.

"Nobody Expects the ____ _______." --Cooter

Happenings October 5th-- Part 1


Businessman Ray Kroc born Oak Park, Illinois. Took the McDonald Brothers in San Bernardino, Ca., idea for fast food and built it into giant McDonald's Corporation. He would have been so proud of me because I ate breakfast at one of his places in Fox Lake, Illinois, yesterday. Really hard to beat those $1 sausage biscuits and McMuffins, $1 coffee, and 25 cent Chicago Tribunes. It didn't seem that anyone working there knew about it.

Perhaps McDonald's should have something featured on his birthday every year. Sure glad he went with the McDonald's name. I don't think I'd like to be saying, "Hey, let's go eat at Kroc's."


Clyde Pangburn and Hugh Herndon completed the first non-stop flight across the Pacific, taking 41 hours from Japan to Washington state.

How come I never heard of this? You always hear a lot about Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, but nothing about this. And, the Pacific is bigger than the Atlantic.

Happenings a Long Time Ago. --Da Coot

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bits 'O History: USO Goes II-- Original USS North Carolina--

Some New News About Old Stuff.

1. USO GOES II-- September 12th WECT, Wilmington, NC-- The USO building in town went back to World War II with veterans wearing their uniforms and and lots of memorabilia and photographs. This was the second Salute to WW II Veterans Jamboree.

2. ORIGINAL USS NORTH CAROLINA-- The Dare Society Blog reports that the original gangway gate of the ship-of-the-line USS North Carolina is on display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Plus, an original 1827 watercolor of the ship has been bought with funds of the Friends of the Battleship. It is by the noted marine painter Nocholas Cammilliere showing the ship in a December 28, 1826, gale off North Africa.

The ship mounted 74 cannons and was built in 1820 and was 196 feet long and weighed 2,632 tons. It was sold in 1867 for $30,000. The original figurehead bust of Sir Walter Raleigh was given to the state in 1909.

Where Is the Figurehead? --Cooter

Monday, October 5, 2009

Battleship USS North Carolina

The June 10th Goldsboro (NC) News-Argus ran an article on the new executive director of th USS North Carolina, retired Navy Captain Terry A. Bragg.

"Retired Navy captain has big plans for future of N.C. battleship memorial" by Ben Steelman.

Bragg served in the Navy for 30 years, commanding a guided missile frigate and a destroyer squadron. He now takes control of a stationary battleship with 25 civilians.


One of his great-great-great-great uncles was Confederate General Braxton Bragg, for whom Fort Bragg was named (Bragg's brother was born on the base). He realizes that some people hold Bragg responsible for losing Wilmington during the war.

Another branch of his family is related to Thomas Bragg, North Carolina's governor from 1855-1859.

Bragg graduated from Appalachian State and attended Officers' Candidate School and married a North Carolina girl. His father was a career Marne.

The "Showboat" Gets New Boss. More to Come. --Cooter

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Zerna Sharp-- Mother of Dick and Jane-- Part 2

From the TagNWag site

Zerna Sharp deserves the credit for Dick and Jane as the series of books are based on her thoughts, beliefs, and skills.

She was born Charlotte E. Sharp in Hillsburg, Indiana (Clinton County), August 12, 1889. She was a reading consultant and elementary teacher and never married. I am not sure why she changed her name to Zerna.

It was her belief that children read and learn easier if they identified with children shown in the illustrations. She presented her ideas to Dr. William S. Gray, who hired her to develop a family.

She joined Scott Foresman Publishing Company in 1924 and worked with them until she retired in 1964.

More to Come. Coot

Zerna Sharp-- Mother of Dick and Jane-- Part 1

Yesterday, in Bits 'O History, I wrote about Zerna Sharp, probably one of the reasons I can read as well as I do. She is called the "Mother of Dick and Jane," the books that taught generations of children to read in school.

It is my belief that if we brought back this series, updated of course, this would solve a lot of the problems kids encounter today reading in school. The "Dick and Jane" books concentrated on short words and lots of repetition. Today's books are all about big words and lots of them. Also, the pace is much too fast.

Any engineer knows that to build a building that will stand, you need a solid foundation. Today's approach is to start with the upper stories.

This causes children to become confused and disheartened with all the big and difficult words. There is little repetition which is needed for a solid foundation in reading.

Bring Back Dick and Jane. --Cooter

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bits 'O History: Dick and Jane-- Tractor-- Private Courthouse?

From American Profile "Did You Know: Tidbits."

1. DICK AND JANE-- Indiana-- the "mother" of the Dick and Jane books that helped children learn to read from the 1930s to 1960s, including myself in the '50s, was Zerna Sharp, born in 1889 in Clinton County. She conceived the books thinking that children would enjoy reading if they identified with the characters. She oversaw the series working for Scott Foresman Publishing. And the fact there was so much repetition really helped with the hard words. After awhile, you just know it.

2. TRACTOR-- Iowa-- the word tractor was popularized by Charles W. hart and Charles H. Parr to describe their gasoline traction engine. Hart-Parr tractors were made in Charles City.

3. PRIVATE COURTHOUSE-- Missouri-- The 1896 Gasconade County Courthouse in Hermann was financed with a $50,000 gift from the estate of Charles Eitzen and is believed to be the only privately-funded courthouse in the US.

Never Knew Why They Called Them Tractors. --Da Coot

Bits O' History: Hogan's Heroes-- Oberweis Dairy

Some New News About Old Stuff.

1. HOGAN'S HEROES-- Question in July 26th Parade Magazine about whether any members of the cast of this show are still alive. Most are not. Star Bob Crane's 1978 murder remains unsolved, and his widow, Sigrid Valdis (who played Hilda), died in 2007. Werner Klemperer (Klink), Ivan Dixon (Kinchloe), Larry Hovis (Carter), and John Banner (Schultz) are dead. Richard Dawson (Newkirk) hosts Family Feud. Crane's bomber jacket recently went for $40,000 in auction.

I always wondered what was so funny about a German POW camp. Plus, Klemperer was Jewish and playing the role of a German officer. Who would have figured?

2. OBERWEIS DAIRY-- Well-known in the Chicagoland area, founder Peter Oberweis started selling milk to neighbors in 1915 and bought a partnership in a dairy in 1927 and it became Oberweis Dairy a few years later.

At one time, there were many dairies in the Chicagoland area, but very few remain today. Oberweis has a limited home delivery system still and sells their products in Oberweis stores. The company is located in North Aurora.

Loving That Milk. --Coot

Mobsters Come to Fox Lake-- Part 2

Mobsters in Fox Lake, Illinois? Who'd have figured?

Of course, back then, it was Prohibition and America wanted to drink, especially folks out at the resorts and hotels in the Chain of Lakes area. At one time, I've heard that Fox Lake had the highest number of bars and taverns per capita in the US. In 1933, Prohibition was repealed. The following year, there were 34 liquor licenses in Fox Lake. By 1945, the number was up to 57 and maintained at 55 during the 1980s.

This was a prime area for bootleggers and mobsters.

The May 31, 1933, shooting at the Manning Hotel has been called the Fox Lake Massacre and have never been solved. It is possible that they were in retaliation for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre or part of a turf war.

George "Bugs" Moran supplied booze to Lake County. Three members of the Druggan gang from Chicago were killed and two others were wounded. One of the wounded was Ann Ponic. Her home on North Lake Avenue was frequented by Druggan and his crew. She was upstairs in the powder room when the firing began and was struck in the pelvis.

This was the end of gang activity in Lake County.

The newsletter had the date at 1933. The Fox Lake site had it in 1930. I don't know which one is right.

Anyway, you can not go by this building without someone saying there are still machine gun bullet marks on the interior walls of the structure.

Alright, Wise Guy, See.... --Cooter

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation

Last month, I wrote about the USS Gage being launched from the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation yards in Portland, Oregon. Sad to see that it met its fate in Brownsville, Texas, just this past month.

The Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation was one of several emergency shipyards established by the US government to provide the ships needed to carry our soldiers and munitions across the seas to battle the Axis.

Wikipedia led me to believe that 1000 Victory and Liberty ships were built at this place between 1941 and 1945, but I think that is a high number. The company closed down at the end of the war.

More to Come. --Cooter

Mobsters Come to Fox Lake, Illinois-- Part 1

There was an article in the September-December News Letter "Hometown Heritage" of the Fox Lake-Grant Township Historical Society, about the old Manning Hotel. At one time, it was one of many hotels and resorts on the Chain of Lakes catering to folks from Chicago who would take trains out to the community to swim, boat, have a good time, gamble, and drink.

Drinking drew the attention of Chicago mobsters, who vied to sell the booze and control the gambling. Al Capone was known to spend time at the Mineola Hotel which still stands on the west shore of Fox Lake. I read that his hat is still on display there.

A picture accompanied the article, which said the Manning Hotel still stands today, although now a private residence next to the K. K. Hamsher Funeral Home. Today, it is owned by Bob and Judy Jensen, who bought the place from Hazel Schoenberger 25 years ago. She bought it from Jim Manning, for whom the hotel was named.

A shootout occurred at the Manning Hotel May 31, 1930 in which three died and two were wounded.

Bang, Bang, You're Dead. --Cooter

Fred Johnson, Circus Artist

In today's earlier entry about the closing of Kiddieland, I wrote about Fred Johnson "America's master of circus and carnival art"who, at age 85, repainted the park's merry-go-round.

I'd never heard of him, so did a quick research on him.

I was very impressed with the sideshow banners he painted. One site is offering some for sale at $6,000 and up.

Mr. Johnson was/is? a legend in sideshow banners and had a 65-year career painting circus and carnival banners. He worked at O. Henry Tent and Awning Company in Chicago from 1934 to 1974.

Famous for his old-school techniques, he influenced many new artists in the field. Some of the banners were huge, 10-15 feet.

The Accidental Memories Blog has pictures of ten of his banners, including the 28 inch-high horse and Sylvia, the big-footed girl.

After looking at them, I have seen that style of banner. I can never forget the one I saw at the North Carolina State Fair as a youngster where a guy was in a huge ball with a stick in his mouth and thousands of ants crawling up the side. Still brings shivers to my back. Wonder if Mr. Johnson painted this one?

A Bit of Americana. --Cooter

Goodbye Kiddieland-- Part 2

September 26th Chicago Tribune, reprint of August 21, 1977 article by Leonard Tomasello.

The park got its start in 1929 when Arthur R. Fritz lost his contracting business to the Depression. he gathered what money he could and bought six ponies for children to ride and opened County fair Pony Track two years later. They also added some little cars, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and Kiddieland was born. In 1976, they drew 600,000 visitors.

Back in 1977, the appearance of the 21 rides and other attractions was amazing considering many were 25 years old (the Whip had been in operation for 38 years)


The train and merry-go-round are the most famous. Back in 1977, the two coal burning locomotives were 37-years-old and ran over a mile and quarter course over a bridge, past a pond, and through a tunnel. My wife says it was almost a law that all kids screamed going through the tunnel. The train was her mother's favorite ride and it even went through a parking lot where there was a train crossing.

The merry-go-round had 48 horses and had just been repainted by Fred Johnson, 85, America's premier master of circus and carnival art.

Kiddieland was at North Av. and First Av. in Melrose Park. Hours were 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. No admission and rides were 25 and 50 cents. I'd imagine they are a bit more expensive now.

A Part of Childhood, Gone. --Cooter