Archive for the History Category

Hello my name is…

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by Jordan

When my older sister Jessica was born, my parents appropriately gave her the middle name Marie, which was the same middle name given to my grandmother.  Years later, it was discover that my sisters middle name was inappropriately given because my grandmother realized (after looking at her birth certificate more closely) that her middle name was actually Mary and not Marie. As a result, my sister Jessica Marie is aptly named after no one in particular.

In 1497, the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, who was sponsored by England, discovered parts of North America that had not been visited by Europeans since the Norse Vikings in the eleventh century. Although the actual landing sight of Caboto’s voyage is not 100% agreed upon by historians it is certain that he did land somewhere in the Canadian Maritimes.  Caboto’s financial connection to England saw his name anglicized to John Cabot and thus identified in Canadian history books as such.

The National Congress of Italian-Canadians has recently established momentum in their quest to have Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail renamed the Caboto Trail.  This movement seeks to have the anglicized name of the Cabot Trail renamed to reflect the Italian spelling of Cabot’s last name.  Naturally, the addition of an “o” to the end of Cabot has left many Maritimers up in arms and livid over the proposed name change. The arguments against the name change are valid; after all, Cabot is a simple name, a traditional name, and an English name. However, it is contextually and historically inaccurate.

When you think about it, calling the trail “Cabot” after Giovanni Caboto is the equivalent of calling Montreal’s airport the Peter Elliot Trudeau International Airport because the english pronunciation of Pierre is preferred.  Or, like CBC calling David Suzuki’s show The Nature of Things with David Smith because they felt entitled to give Suzuki an english last name because they pay the bills for his show. It’s ridiculous to think that either of these scenarios would be accepted by the public today, so why is it that this same public is so resistant to changing the name of a highway from Cabot to Caboto even though it is both logical and accurate?

It’s high time peoples’ names are represented accurately and accordingly.  When a baby is born, the only thing they own is their name; consequently, that name should be cherished and respected. There is nothing quite as aggravating as being called by the wrong name or having your named mispronounced. Giovanni Caboto probably moved with excitement in his grave for the first time in 512 years at the mere prospect of English Canadians giving his name the respect it deserves. Consequently, I look forward to driving all 289 km of the Caboto Trail this summer and telling my sister Jessica Mary all about it.

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Shirley Temple? I’d Rather Have a Beer

Posted in History, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2011 by Jordan

Sometimes I think back to times past and reflect on what life must have been like during certain time periods. One of those time periods is the post-WWII era and the years of the baby boom. During this time period, economic growth and prosperity was like never before, all the while the fear of communism and the constant threat of nuclear war constantly weighed on people’s minds.  Economics and politics aside, I think the worst part of living during this period had to have been the programming on T.V.  All signs indicate that Shirley Temple was the best thing to watch during the late 50s and early 60s with Howdy Doody coming up a close second.  I have no ideas what Howdy Doody is but I do know that Shirley Temple has an entertainment value equal to that off a Darryl Sutter monologue.  If T.V. was this bad when I was a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s I probably would have become a better speller. I truly feel sorry for anyone who grew up looking forward to this show.

Major Dick Winters

Posted in History, People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by Jordan

Last night a tweet from Tom Hanks informed me that one of my heroes died last week.  Major Dick Winters died on January 2nd at the age of 92 after succumbing to a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

 

An ordinary man in his own eyes, Maj. Winters rose to fame in 1992 with the publication of Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers.  This bestseller documents the story of Maj. Winters and E Company of the 506th Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army from D Day to VE Day.  Maj. Winters obtained his place in mainstream infamy in 2001 when Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced the story of Maj. Winters and E Company in a 10 part mini series based on Ambrose’s bestseller also called Band of Brothers.

 

A couple of years ago I picked up Maj. Winters memoirs called Beyond Band of Brothers.  In those memoirs Maj. Winters talked about his desire during the war to make it home safely and live his life in peace.  After the war, Maj. Winters lived a quiet and private life mostly outside of Hersey, Pennsylvania where he worked for himself as a farm supply salesman.  As a decorated war veteran, he is noted for his leadership and ability to lead by example in tough situations. However, he was never comfortable with the term “hero” when describing himself and that is why prior to his passing he requested that his death be kept private until after his funeral, which took place this past week.

 

It’s difficult to say how the story of a man I have never met and that is 66 years older than myself has resonated so deeply within me.  However, I think the appeal of Maj. Winters’ story is that it is one of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things because unforeseen circumstances required it of him.  All the while, he remained humble and indebted to his fellow soldiers.

 

I’m sure there are thousands of stories from WWII that are similar to Maj. Winters but most of those veterans are no longer with us to share their stories.  The average living WWII veteran is in their late 80s and some 1000 WWII veterans die worldwide everyday.  Time is running out to celebrate the lives of these living heroes but thanks to the documentation in Band of Brothers, Major Dick Winter will live in infamy.

 

 

Mad Men Drink at Work

Posted in History, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by Jordan

The LC and I have recently taken a fancy to the AMC show Mad Men.  Set in the 1960s, Mad Men tells the story of an advertising agency and its employees on Madison Ave. in Manhattan.  Historical, political and social references put the overall plot into context but its characters and the development of those characters is what really drives Mad Men.

 

I posted an article called Excellent Adventures several months ago about how I thought it would be sweet to travel back in time to a significant historical period and influence that period with the knowledge and technology of the 21st century (No, I did not consider the butterfly effect when I wrote the original post).  After watching the first two seasons of Mad Men, it would please me greatly to throw on my veil of ignorance and just live the life of a businessman in the early 1960s.  The life of these “mad men” is incredible.  They show up to work in the morning hacking a dart hands free. They toss their coats at their secretaries without saying a word to them and walk into their offices where they immediately pour themselves a glass of whisky. They smoke some more before taking a few calls.  They continue to drink throughout the day and then take a nap on the couch in their offices. When they wake up, they light another dart and pour another drink.  They scribble some ideas down, pass the buck and call it a day.  They go to their mistresses’ house and make passionate early 1960s style love.  They go home to dinner waiting for them on the table and make the same passionate early 1960s style love to their hot wives.   They shut it down with a clear conscience and repeat the process the next day.

 

Aside from the womanizing and gender and racial segregation, the early 60s seem like the best time ever!  Too bad the hippies had to go and eff it all up!  All I want in life is a bottle of whisky beside my desk that I can help myself to whenever I am stressed, need to think, achieve success, feel like procrastinating or someone comes to talk to me.  Is this too much to ask for in this politically correct and hypersensitive world?

 

A Day of Remembrance

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2010 by Jordan

In the two weeks before November 11th it is customary for people in the Commonwealth countries to wear a poppy.  Poppies were amongst the first things to grow following the destructive battles in the Flanders region of Belgium during WWI.  The brilliant red of the poppies is said to symbolize the blood spilled throughout the Great War.  It was John McCrae’s reference in his poem In Flanders Fields that brought the poppy to represent the sacrifices of the armed forces.

Every year I proudly wear a poppy as a means of remembrance.  However, today was the first Remembrance Day I actually had the opportunity to pay my respects at a cenotaph or war memorial.  As thousands gathered at the Sailors Memorial in Halifax to pay homage to the fallen, the waves of the Atlantic crashed along the shoreline.  I found myself travelling back in time to the 1940s and envisioning the convoys bound for Britain leaving the Halifax harbor.  Anytime I try to put myself in the shoes of past heroes I am grateful I was never presented with their situation.  However, it is this gratefulness that ensures I will not forget the efforts of Canada’s veterans.  Consequently, I will gladly wear a poppy every year and leave that poppy at a war memorial on November 11th.

Now That’s a Spoon!

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by Jordan

As I write this, the 30th miner is being raised to the surface in Chili after being trapped in a collapsed mine for almost 70 days.

To be perfectly honest I haven’t followed this story exceptionally close.  I was aware that the situation existed but other then that I wasn’t overly interested in the story.  For 69 days there wasn’t really anything to report other then on the very slow progress of digging a rescue shaft.  However, I did tune into CNN this morning to watch and listen to the play by play of the capsule being raised and lowered in the rescue process.  Although this rescue operation was a tremendous feet this was about as interesting as a mayoral election.  Despite this, I did hear a good joke about the rescue capsule today.

What do the rescue capsule and Jeff Finger have in common today?

Answer:  They are both heading to the miners (minors).

Awesome jokes aside, it sounds like the 33 Chilean miners might have actually had it better in the collapsed mine for 69 days then they do in their actual lives.  Various foods, toiletries, clothes and other goods were continuously lowered down to the miners to keep their unfortunate situation as tolerable as possible.

Apparently, there was a waterfall in the cave that allowed the men to shower daily so soap and shampoo were sent down.  The men wanted to look good for their loved ones upon resurfacing so they asked for shoe polish and razors so they could shave.  The images I saw of the men resurrecting from the collapsed mine showed men that were healthy and full of vitality.  I did hear one guy might have obtained the black lung though… cough…. cough.

The most interesting thing about this whole situation is that apparently all 33 men have made a pact to not talk about their first 17 days in the collapsed mine together.  It seems awfully strange that they have chosen to only talk about days 18 to 69.  The speculation is that they are saving that part of the story for a book or perhaps a movie.  That may be the case but if I were to hazard a guess I would say there is one reason they made a pact to not talk about the first 17 days.  It starts with an “or” and ends with a “gy”.  I’m no scientist but I would say humans do crazy things when facing death.  These Chilean miners are no exception.  I’m sure it started out as a 33-man spoon in an attempt to stay warm and one thing led to another.

Nonetheless, it is nice to see a disastrous situation turn into a success story, as it appears all 33 men will be safely above ground by midnight.

Terry Fox – The Greatest Canadian

Posted in History, People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by Jordan

On September 2, 1980, Terry Fox was forced to end his courageous Marathon of Hope just outside of Thunder Bay, ON after running for 143 days and covering 5, 373 kilometers across Canada.  Terry’s campaign to raise cancer awareness and overcome the disease came to an end when he died nine months later on June 28, 1981.

Terry’s Marathon of Hope began with little fan fair when he dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean near St. John’s Nfld on April 12, 1980.  By the time he reached the Ontario boarder Terry had reached rock star status as thousands of Ontarian’s lined the streets in support of his efforts.   Among the supporters was Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr who presented Terry with a personal cheque for $25, 000.  Terry considered meeting the great Bruins defenceman as the highlight of his journey of hope.  By the time Terry’s cancer had spread to his lungs and was forced to abandon his efforts, his Marathon of Hope had raised $1.7 million.  One week later CTV held a telethon that raised another $10.5 million in support of Terry and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Terry’s influence around the world was so prominent that as his health worsened and his fait became imminent Pope John Paul II sent Terry a telegram informing Terry he was praying for him.  When Terry died, the Government of Canada ordered all flags across the country lowered to half mast and Prime Minister Trudeau addressed the House of Commons stating, “It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death….We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.”

Since Terry’s death, the annual Terry Fox Run has become the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research while raising more than $500 million.  Tomorrow is the 30th running of the Terry Fox Run, which coincides with the T.V. premier of Into the Wind on TSN 2 co-directed by British Columbian and NBA star Steve Nash.   This film celebrates the life of Terry Fox while addressing his state of mind and thoughts and reflections throughout his Marathon of Hope.

In 2004 Terry Fox finished second to Tommy Douglas in CBC’s campaign to determine The Greatest Canadian.  With respect to the great efforts of Tommy Douglas and his creation of universal public health care, Terry Fox should have been declared The Greatest Canadian. Terry was everything a good Canadian should be.  Intelligent, driven, dedicated, passionate, humble and inspiring are only a handful of adjectives that consummate the person that was Terry Fox.  His legacy must not and will not ever die for he is The Greatest Canadian.

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