Monday, May 14, 2012

Death Rained from the Sky

From the May 6th Chicago Tribune's Chicago Flashback by Stephan Benzkofer. 

We've all heard the story of the crash of the Hindenburg, but nearly twenty years earlier, an airship also caught fire and crashed in downtown Chicago, killing 13 people.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's Wingfoot Express airship was putting on a show when the 186-foot-long blimp suddenly caught fire and shortly before 5 PM, crashed into the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank at the northeast corner of Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Street.

Fortunately, the bank had closed to customers earlier, but nearly 150bookkeepers and clerks were still sitting at their desks beneath the vaulted skylight of the two-and-a-half story building when the Express came breaking through and smashed to the floor with two rotary engines and two gas tanks which then exploded.

Eleven people in the bank and two on the blimp died and 26 were injured.  Even with all the damage, the bank was open for business the next day.

I'd never heard of this crash.

The Sky Was Really Falling.  --DaCoot

75th Anniversary of Hindenburg Crash

This anniversary went almost unnoticed for me, but there was an articke in the May 6th Chicago Tribune Chicago Flashback page "Chicago radio man's Hunderburg broadcast endures" by Stephan Benzkofer.

A wire service photographer was taking pictures that day, May 6, 1937, when the world's largest airship, the Hindenburg exploded as it tried to moor in Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Thirty-five people were killed immediately and one died later.

This gave us that famous photo.  But just as famous was Chicago's WLS radio man Herb Morrison's very human account.  He was able to persuade his bosses to let him go to test out some new radio equipment.  His account became one of the most famous of all time:  "It's burst into flames. ...Get out of the way, please; oh my, this is terrible.  ...It is burning.  ...This is one of the worst  catastrophes in the world... oh, the humanity!"

His voice is high-pitched on the recording, even though he was noted for his deep voice.  The recording was made at the wrong speed which accounts for it.

I can never get the "WKRP in Cincinnati" episode out of my head when they were tossing love turkeys out of a helicopter and Les Nessman, winner of the Silver Sow Award was doing a live broadcast from the shopping center's parking lot.

"As God as My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly."  --Cooter

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Great Lakes 1852 Submarine

From the May 13, 2010, Ann Arbor (Mi) Chronicle (In the Archives: Ypsi's Submarine Divers" by Laura Bien.

In the summer of 1856, there was $36,000 in gold bars 165 feet deep in Lake Erie, worth $920,000 today, in the wreck of the steamship Atlantic, once the fastest ship on the lake which could make the Buffalo-Detrot run in sixteen and a half hours.

On August 20, 1852, it was struck by the steamer Ogdensburg and sank with the loss of 130 to 250.  Another 250 survivors were picked up.

Lodner Philips was a shoemakers in Michigan City, Indiana.  In his spare time, he invented and built submarines, one of which was 85-feet long. 

Philips tried to get at the Atlantic's treasure.  His Marine Cigar, nicknamed Fool Killer, had made an unmanned test dive at the Atlantic's wreck and it sank itself and today rests next to the steamship.

Then came Elliott Harrington, another submarine man.  He made a dive on the site and was underwater for 40 minutes, finding bodies near the ship.  He found the safe with the treasure in the ship's office, attached a chain to it and raised it.  Unfortunately, he lost nearly all the the gold and money in court and later moved to Iowa.

During the Civil War, Harrington was reportedly paid between $5,000 and $8,000 for discovering where blockade-runners were slipping into and out of Charleston, South Carolina.

Harrington is buried in Volusia Cemetery near Westfield, New York

A book was written about the steamship Atlantic "Interrupted Journey: The Saga  of the Steamer Atlantic" by Dr. David Freur.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Do You Call It Pop or Soda?

I guess it depends where you're from.

From the April18th Chicago Tribune.

Did you know?

7UP was originally marketed under the name Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda when it first came out in St. Louis-area stores in 1929.  (You've just got to wonder what lithiated means?)  7Up merged with Dr Pepper in 1988.

Dr Pepper has 11 million Facebook fans.  Coca-Cola has 41 million, while Pepsi has 8 million.  RC Cola has 6,200.  I have none, but am not on Facebook anyway.

RC Cola stands for Royal Crown Cola.  I continually get it mixed up with a favorite alcoholic drink called Crown Royal.  Anyway, RC Cola was the first sift drink to switch from steel to aluminum cans in 1964.  Coca-Cola and Pepsi did so three years later.

The period in Dr. Pepper was dropped sometime in the 1950s (I didn't ever notice they had dropped it until I just read it), according to the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas.  The origin of the name is unknown, but there are several dozen possible stories.  None have ever been verified.  I'm figuring it has to do with that pop you get when chug a bit.

Or, Maybe You Call It a Soft Drink?  --DaCoot

A New Dr. in the House, Well, At Chicago's Soldier Field, Anyway

From the April 18th Chicago Tribune "Dr in the house" by Bridget Doyle.

A seven-year contract was signed with the Bears to replace Coca-Cola at the home of the Bears, Soldier Field.

The original Dr Pepper was created in Waco, Texas, in 1885, a year before Coca-Cola and has 23 flavors in its secret blend.  Kind of like the Colonel's fried chicken.  Dr Pepper (with no period after the Dr) is categorized as a flavored soft drink, not a cola.

Dr Pepper is now part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group which includes Dr Pepper, 7Up, A&W Root Beer, Canada Dry, Sunkist and Snapple.  As far as market share, it is in third place with 16.7% of the market.  Coca-Cola is first with 41,9% and PepsiCo second with 28.5%.

I've always been a big Dr Pepper fan, especially back in the 50s and 60s when it was 10-2-4 (when you were supposed to drink it during the day) and man, did it ever pack a kick.  Nothing finer than getting one out of a gas station cooler which had it cold enough to have that slim layer of ice at the top.  Pop the cap off and take a coupla big swigs and let out one huge belch.

If you had enough money, 5 cents, you could splurge for a pack of peanuts and put them in the drink as well.

Sure did the trick on one of those real hot (in the days before ac) Southern summer days.

Now, That Was Living!!  --Cooter

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Well, Was It Kahn or Khan (Genghis, We Hardly Knew You)?-- Part 2

The man himself adopted the name Genghis Khan, which means oceanic ruler.  Besides war, he also brought us pants, paper money, charcoal, forks, chopped meat and national Parks.  Not a bad guy.

You can see a new exhibit on the man at the Field Museum in Chicago at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive.  Price is $22-$29 for adults with the purchase of a Discovery or All-Access Pass.  There is even a gift shop as you exit where you can buy Genghis-themed items for keepsakes.

There are nine TVs on the walls, each with a short video on some aspect of his life such as his still-mysterious death in 1227 and his wide-spread DNA.  Johnson believes that the videos tend to downplay the interesting array of artifacts, including an era cavalry sword, a whistling arrow, a full-size, full-regalia Mongol warrior on horseback and weapons.

In addition, there are the diplomatic passports Genghis developed to ease travel across the empire and a full-size ger, the tents they lived in.

Genghis' son, Kublai Khan pretty-well frittered away the empire through overspending, two-failed attacks on Japan.

An Interesting Man.  --DaCoot

Revolutionary War Submarine

Back on April 13th, I began an entry on David Bushnell's submarine.  Continuing with it now.


The HMS Cerberus was a 6th-rate 28-gun ship.  On August 14, 1777, four crew members aboard a schooner tied behind the Cerberus saw what appeared to be a fishing line attached to a barrel and hauled it aboard.  It exploded and killed three and wounded the other. 

The device was made of two floating barrels loaded with explosives and connected by a line.  The idea was to float them down, snag the Cerberus with the line then touch the hull.  A wheel mechanism in the barrel's side would then detonate an explosion.


David Bushnell lacked the stamina to operate his Turtle submarine and spent a month training his younger brother, Ezra Bushnell, to do so.  However, Ezra fell ill before the attack and Ezra Lee took his place.

The poor HMS Cerberus was about to be attacked in an innovative fashion again.  It was now off New London, Connecticut.  Bushnell used a small whale boat to tow the Turtle to the British ship.

Poor cerberus, Again.  --Cooter

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Well, Was It Kahn or Khan?-- Part 1

From the Feb. 23rd Chicago Tribune "A Genghis we hardly knew" by Steve Johnson.

I always have doubts when it comes to spelling this man's last name, unless I'm looking at it like in this article.  And then, there is always the question of which Khan or Kahn came first, Kublai or Genghis?

I don't know a real lot about each except they were from Mongolia, one invaded China and established an empire, one attacked Japan, and John Wayne makes a sad-looking Mongol.

This article in the Trib shed some light.  A new exhibit opened in Chicago's Field Museum and it shows how "the 13th-century Mongol emperor terrified opponents and won battles; the specialized arrows, some of them whistling, some flaming; the compact horse saddles and stand-up stirrups that allowed for full-range arrow firing; the cunning military strategy, including the 'feigned retreat,' that was really a double-back and reattack."

"That's the Genghis you thought you knew: warrior, plunderer, marauder, enduring symbol of empire by force."

But this exhibit also shows that not only was he a brilliant strategist and fan of new technology, but also an innovator and prudent ruler.  He based his army on merit and loyalty, not bloodlines, conscripted rather than enslaved defeated soldiers, allowed those he defeated to continue with their religions.

Though illiterate himself, he made sure that his feats were written down.

Quite the Guy.  --Cooter

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A New USS Illinois

From the April 18th Daily Press "Names Chosen for Next Five Submarines." and other sources.

These are Virginia-class submarines weighing 7,800 tons, 377-feet long and capable of firing missiles.

The next five names:

South Dakota

None of these states have had a warship named after them for at least 49 years.  This will be the second ship to bear the Illinois name.  The first one fought in World War I.

Construction on the new Illinois commenced March 2, 2011 and sea trials are expected in 2016.

A Moment of Pride for Illinois.  Now, If We Could Just Do Something About Our Governors.  --Cooter

Friday, May 4, 2012

A New Clue to What Happened to the "Lost Colony"

From the May 4th Yahoo! News, AP "Researchers say they have new clue to Lost Colony" by Martha Waggoner.

A 425-year-old map may have a clue to what happened to North Carolina's Lost Colony.  Experts from the First Colony Foundation and London's British Museum held a joint-conference at the University of North Carolina to reveal the new findings.

Explorer John White's "Virginea Pars" map of Virginia and North Carolina was made in the 1590s and has been at the British Museum since 1866.  It seems to give proof that the colony moved westward up the Albemarle Sound to the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers. 

Two patches are attached to the map.  One appears to cover a mistake that was corrected, under the other one, however, there appears to be a symbol for a fort in modern-day Bertie County.

That land is currently privately-owned and some of the site might be under a golf course and residential communication, making excavations not likely to begin anytime soon.

Fore On to History.  --DaCoot

Ten Great Baseball Movies

April 7th Chicago tribune by Barry Koltnow of the Orange County Register.

What with baseball season beginning, this seemed appropriate.  Koltnow gave information, but I am just listing them and giving the date.

1.  Field of Dreams--  1989

2.  Bull Durham-- 1988

3.  The Sandlot (1993)--  Never heard of this one.

4.  The Bad News Bears--  1976

5.  Major League--  1989

6.  A League of Their Own--  1992

7.  The Pride of the Yankees--  1942

8.  The Natural--  1984

9.  Fever Pitch--  2005

10.  Moneyball--  2011

Play Ball!!  --Cooter

Dead Page: All This Computer Stuff

JACK TRAMIEL (1928-2012)

Founded Commodore International which brought millions of people into the computer world in the late 1970s and early 1980s with his low-cost PCs died at age 83 April 8th.

A Polish-born survivor of World War II's Auschwitz concentration camp opened a typewriter repair business in the Bronx in the early 1950s.  In 1977, he introduced the first low-cost PC, the Commodore PET with two models selling for $595 and $795.  In 1982 came the Commodore 64 which sold for $595 and quickly dropped to $199.

He was literally the Henry Ford of the computer industry.

I, myself didn't get into computers until 1999, when my school finally got them.  But, now, I sure like all the information I can access, so a big thanks to Mr. Tramiel.  And, just the fact he survived Auschwitz is noteworthy enough.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Titanic in Real Life Vs. Titanic On Screen-- Part 2


REAL LIFE:  Passengers brought along their personal baubles (especially first class), some have been recovered.

ON SCREEN:  The movie's Heart of the Ocean necklace was fiction, but its creator, Asprey & Garrard, made a real-life replica that was auctioned for charity in 1998 for $2.2 million.


REAL LIFE:  There were reportedly 12 dogs on board the Titanic.  Three survived.

ON SCREEN:  The older Rose (played by Gloria Stuart) has a pomeranian, the breed of two of the surviving dogs.

I'll be Taking a Break from the Titanic For a While, But Do Have Some More Stories.  --DaCoot

Titanic in Real Life Vs. Titanic on the Screen

Frpm the April 8th Parade Magazine.

A comparison of what happened and Cameron's "Titanic" movie.


REAL LIFE: According to some witnesses, the 8-piece Titanic band played either"Nearer, My God, to Thee" or "Songe d'Automne" during the ship's final moments.

ON SCREEN:  a four-man band plays "Nearer, My God, to Thee." The actor portraying the bandleader is a professional violinist.


REAL LIFE:  Macy's co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida refused a lifeboat and were last seen together on the ship's deck.

ON SCREEN:  The Strauses are shown as the elderly couple embracing each other in bed as they share a last tender moment together as the water rises.

More to Come.  --Cooter

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Real Bit of History Here: Survivor Albert Caldwell's Story

In the last post, I mentioned the interview given in 1977, shortly before his death, by survivor Albert Caldwell.  I just listened to it.  If you have 14 minutes, it is well worth your time.

I especially found his comments on the crew, the evening church service, his new suit and gold of interest as how his family (wife and baby and himself) got on the lifeboat and their almost sinking when another lifeboat was lowered onto them when they couldn't loose the lines.

I was struck by how candid the crew was about the situation which stands in stark contrast to my experience aboard the Royal Princess in the Mediterranean Sea several years back.  The crew sure did all they could to keep passengers in the dark.

We had just left Port Said, Egypt, and I was out on the balcony videoing ships lined up to get into the Suez Canal, when suddenly, I caught sight of black smoke coming from somewhere higher, the funnel I imagined.  A few minutes later, is tarted hearing orders for different parts of the crew to report to different places.

I opened the door to find several members of the crew standing in the hall wearing life vests.  "What's going on?"  "Nothing, get back into your cabin!!"

"Yeah Right!!  Nothing going on!  NOT LIKELY!!"  None of these things had happened yet on the voyage. I wasn't too worried, though, since I could always jump over the side.  A few minutes later, everyone was ordered to muster stations and the crew came a-knocking on the doors making sure everyone had complied.

We later found out that there had been a serious fire in the engine room.  The ship had to be towed back to Port Said where the cruise was canceled.

Anyway, here is the site to listen to the interview with Caldwell:

My "Titanic" Experience.  --Cooter

Titanic On Parade-- Part 2

QUESTION:  WHY IS THE WORLD STILL FASCINATED BY THE TITANIC TRAGEDY 100 YEARS LATER?  "What makes it so haunting and iconic is that it was a microcosm of the world; whoever you are, there was someone like you on board," said Julian Fellows, who wrote the new min-series "Titanic" that was shown on ABC April 14th and 15th.  I saw it and it was definitely class-conscious.

QUESTION: WERE ROSE AND JACK (FROM THE MOVIE) BASED ON REAL PASSENGERS ON THE TITANIC?  The characters played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in director John Cameron's film were inspired by two star-crossed lovers, but neither was on the ship.  Cameron said that Jack and Rose are "Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic."

HEAR A SURVIVOR TELL HIS STORY  The recently published book "A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells' Story of Survival" follows the family's incredible escape from the ship.

You can hear patriarch Albert Caldwell tell of the escape told shortly before his death at

Titanic on Parade-- Part 1

From the April 8th Parade Magazine "Parade Personality" by Walter Scott, which was all devoted to the Titanic.

QUESTION:  WHY IS THE TITANIC STILL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN?  The ship is so fragile that any full excavation would be too costly and time-consuming, with no promise of success.  It took a team two years to raise and stabilize a small 20-ton piece of the 46,000 tons ship.

QUESTION: WAS ANY MEMORIAL CREATED FOR THE VICTIMS?  The passengers and crew came from many different countries and there are a number of memorials around the globe.  There is a statue honoring the ship's engineers in Southampton, England where the ship set sail and a 60-foot lighthouse in New York's South Street Seaport among them.  A new museum in Belfast, where the ship was built opened in March.  It features breathtaking replicas of the ship's features, including the 10,000 piece Grand Staircase.

QUESTION:  IS IT TRUE THAT THEY ARE AUCTIONING OFF ITEMS RECOVERED FROM THE WRECK?  Yes--5,500 items to be sold in mid-April.  Deadline for bids was April 1st.  The buyer must be court-approved and agree to maintain the collection and display it publicly.  (That answers my question from the previous post.)

More to Come.  --DaCoot

Recovering Titanic Artifacts and the Auction

From the April 9th Bulletin.

Besides the extreme difficulty in getting artifacts up from two and a half miles deep, salvors are further hampered in that they can only recover things from the area known as the "debris field."  It is outside of the two main parts of the ship.

Nothing can be taken from the inside.

The Murdoch items are part of some 5,500 artifacts to be auctioned as one lot including clothing, fine china, gold coins, silverware and "The Big Piece" a 17-ton section of the Titanic's hull.  Many of these are part of several exhibits around the United States and one in Singapore.

I didn't hear about it, but the winning bid was to be announced April 11th.  The collection was appraised at $189 million in 2007.

Hopefully, with the whole collection going at once, whoever gets it will keep it on display somewhere.

Making Money After All These Years.  --Cooter