Your Week in History: Helpful ghosts and a harmful cartoon - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Your Week in History: Helpful ghosts and a harmful cartoon

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The first successful powered flight by the Wright brothers was Dec. 17, 1903. (Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons) The first successful powered flight by the Wright brothers was Dec. 17, 1903. (Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
The grave of Gen. George Patton. (Source: Albert Foley/Wikimedia Commons) The grave of Gen. George Patton. (Source: Albert Foley/Wikimedia Commons)
A lithograph depicting the Boston Tea Party. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) A lithograph depicting the Boston Tea Party. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Union soldiers camped at the Battle of Nashville. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Union soldiers camped at the Battle of Nashville. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The Great White Fleet led by the USS Kansas as it departs Hampton Roads, VA, on the first leg of its circumnavigation of the Earth on Dec. 16, 1907. (Source: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons) The Great White Fleet led by the USS Kansas as it departs Hampton Roads, VA, on the first leg of its circumnavigation of the Earth on Dec. 16, 1907. (Source: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) - When you think of Christmas stories, what's the first one you think of?

Is it Ralphie begging for a BB gun? Is it Charlie Brown being depressed? What about the Grinch carving the roast beast? Maybe you prefer the first episode of The Simpsons, which first aired Dec. 17, 1989?

There's also The Nutcracker, which debuted Dec. 18, 1892, and George Bailey's revelation in It's a Wonderful Life, which was released Dec. 20, 1946.

Those are all good, but A Christmas Carol is better.

A Christmas Carol was first published Dec. 17, 1843, and has never been out of print. It's a great story, but it would be terrifying to be Ebenezer Scrooge. He gets visited by four ghosts in the same night. I'd freak out and drop dead on the spot if I got visited by even one ghost in the middle of the night.

I'm nowhere near as disagreeable as Scrooge, but after having written this takedown of Christmas music, I'm probably due for a visit from some chain-clad supernatural presence.

Unlike Scrooge, though, I like Christmas. I just don't like too much Christmas. My 1-foot tall Christmas tree is perfect - and it's not dead. I guess what I'm trying to say is the ghosts don't have reason to visit me yet.

Stay away from me, Marley. At least for a few more years.

Here are some of the events of note that happened between Dec. 16 and 22.

Life and Death

Remember all those John Wayne connections last week? There is no encore. Lee Van Cleef died Dec. 16, 1989, and that's all I have this week.

Van Cleef, however, was in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, High Noon and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. You could call those the three best westerns ever made and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong. I would disagree with you, but a case can be made.

He's a villain in all three. In High Noon, Van Cleef is a member of the outlaw gang waiting at the train station; in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, he plays Reese who at one point tries to shoot John Wayne and gets punched in the face; and in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he plays Angel Eyes, who represents "the Bad."

Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized Dec. 17, 1770, which likely means he was born the previous day due to the traditions of the time. Paul Revere was born Dec. 21, 1734, and shares a birthday with Jane Fonda (1937).

Dec. 18 is home to several famous births and deaths, including the births of baseball player Ty Cobb (1886), actress Betty Grable (1916) and director Steven Spielberg (1946) and the deaths of golfer Bobby Jones (1971), comedian Chris Farley (1997) and "Deep Throat" Mark Felt (2008).

If chickens celebrate anything, Colonel Sanders' death on Dec. 16, 1980, is probably at the top of their list.

Gen. George Patton died Dec. 21, 1945, following a car wreck Dec. 9. It was a minor wreck and no one else in the car suffered any major injuries, but Patton hit his head and broke two vertebra in his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down.

He was buried in Luxembourg alongside members of the Third Army who served under him.

Overlooked Anniversaries

Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year. That means we're closer to summer than we are away from it. Or something.

The Wright brothers made their first flight Dec. 17, 1903. The flight was delayed for weeks due to equipment failure. The first attempt was Dec. 14 when a three-second flight resulted in a stall and damage to the aircraft.

Three days later, they were successful. Wilbur Wright had attempted the first flight, but Orville Wright was the first to succeed. His flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Each brother flew two successful flights, the longest of which was the last one and traveled more than 850 feet and lasted a minute. It ended when the unstable aircraft nosed down into the beach and the broken frame could not be repaired.

The plane was never flown again, but it was repaired later and is on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock on Dec. 21, 1620, Avatar was released Dec. 16, 2009, Bill Clinton was impeached Dec. 19, 1998, the first crossword puzzle was published Dec. 21, 1913, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered Dec. 21, 1937, and Beethoven debuted his Fifth Symphony on Dec. 22, 1808.

An episode of Pokemon induced seizures in children Dec. 16, 1997. It was the 38th episode of the first season and nearly 700 people were hospitalized, some for several weeks, after flashing blue and red colors on the screen sent them into shock. More seizures were caused later during news coverage of the initial seizures.

The episode is in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by a Television Show." The clip is, of course, available on YouTube. Obviously, don't watch it if you're prone to seizures, and don't use it as an experiment to see if you're prone to seizures. (I watched it so you don't have to, and I didn't look directly at the video, either, because I'm not stupid.) Watch something from Looney Tunes instead. It's better anyway.

Something About Sports

OJ Simpson became the first NFL player to rush for 2,000 yards on Dec. 16, 1973, and Barry Sanders became the third on Dec. 21, 1997.

NBC aired an NFL game with no commentary Dec. 20, 1980. The network now employs Chris Collingsworth and Bob Costas, who use halftime of their broadcasts to tell us what we should care about, so it's worth trying that experiment again.

But, in truth, even a bad announcer is better than not having one at all. What else are you going to yell at the TV about?

If you want proof of why we need commentators, here it is: The greatest moment in sideline interview history occurred Dec. 20, 2003. Joe Namath was honored as a member of the New York Jets' all-time team and conducted an interview with ESPN's Suzy Kolber that turned into the worst interview ever conducted and also the greatest.

Namath repeatedly said he wanted to kiss Kolber, resulting in the only blog I know of named after a sideline interview and a David Letterman feature called "Has Joe Been Drinking?" The answer is yes. The incident, however, helped Namath get his drinking problem under control.

The Week in Warfare

In protest of a tax on tea the Colonists didn't like, the Sons of Liberty threw a bunch of tea into Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773.

You need a lot of tea if you're using the Atlantic Ocean as your water source, and it's going to be pretty salty. I don't know how New Englanders like their tea, but here in the South we prefer it to be sweet. Nevertheless, England got mad about it, including the politicians who were friendly to the Colonies.

Benjamin Franklin said the 90,000 pounds of tea needed to be paid for, and an offer was made to pay for it, but it was refused. Instead, Britain passed the Coercive Acts and stripped Massachusetts of its government.

The Colonial Army went to winter camp at Valley Forge, PA, on Dec. 19, 1777, where more than 2,000 died of disease and starvation, Sherman's March to the Sea ended with the capture of Savannah, GA, on Dec. 22, 1864, the Great White Fleet started its circumnavigation of the Earth on Dec. 16, 1907, and the Battle of Nashville was fought Dec. 16, 1864, ending with a decisive Union victory in the last major fighting in the western half of the Confederacy.

The Battle of Verdun ended with a French victory Dec. 18, 1916. The battle had been fought for nearly 10 months with both the French and German armies having more than 1 million soldiers at the battle. Each side lost nearly 200,000 men and the total number of casualties is estimated close to 1 million in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought.

The Battle of the Bulge began Dec. 16, 1944, and the Malmedy Massacre was the next day when 80 American POWs were killed by their German captors.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

Today is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. No explanation needed.

Preview of next week

Curse of the Bambino.

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