John’s Believe It Or Not… March 21st

Picture of John Fioravanti at the front of his classroom.

It’s Tantalising Tuesday! Did you know…

* 1985 – Rick Hansen departs Vancouver on his 26-month Man in Motion World Tour. (He is a wheelchair athlete, spokesman, born in Port Alberni, BC. Hansen, of Williams Lake, BC, is known for his Man in Motion around the world wheelchair tour, which raised $26 million for spinal cord research and wheelchair sports. On March 21, 1985, inspired by his friend Terry Fox, he set off from Oakridge Mall in Vancouver on his 26-month long Man in Motion exploit, the first world tour by wheelchair; May 22, 1987, ended his heroic saga after 792 days, 467 of which were spent on the road; the 29-year-old Hansen pumped his wheelchair 3,600 times an hour for 26 months, wearing out 117 tires and 11 pairs of gloves, travelling more than 40,000 km through 34 countries on four continents, before crossing Canada; will return to Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium May 22, 1987. Since then, the Rick Hansen Foundation has generated more than $200 million for spinal cord injury-related programs and quality of life initiatives.)

Hansen in motion on his wheelchair.

* 1871 Stanley begins search for Livingstone. (On this day in 1871, journalist Henry Morton Stanley begins his famous search through Africa for the missing British explorer Dr David Livingstone. After setting out from Zanzibar in March 1871, Stanley led his caravan of nearly 2,000 men into the interior of Africa. Nearly eight months passed–during which Stanley contracted dysentery, cerebral malaria and smallpox–before the expedition approached the village of Ujiji, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Sick and poverty-stricken, Livingstone had come to Ujiji that July after living for some time at the mercy of Arab slave traders. When Stanley’s caravan entered the village on October 27, flying the American flag, villagers crowded toward the new arrivals. Spotting a white man with a grey beard in the crowd, Stanley stepped toward him and stretched out his hand: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”)

Stanley Expedition. Cutting Out the New 'Livingstone Canoe'.
Stanley Expedition. Cutting Out the New ‘Livingstone Canoe’.

* 1963 Alcatraz closes its doors. (Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay closes down and transfers its last prisoners. At its peak period of use in the 1950s, “The Rock, or “”America’s Devil Island” housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. Alcatraz remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable. The twelve-acre rocky island, one and a half miles from San Francisco, featured the most advanced security of the time. Some of the first metal detectors were used at Alcatraz. Strict rules were enforced against the unfortunate inmates who had to do time at Alcatraz. Nearly complete silence was mandated at all times.)Aerial photo of the island prison.

* 1980 Famous Dallas cliffhanger airs. (On this day in 1980, J.R. Ewing, the character millions love to hate on television’s popular prime-time drama Dallas, is shot by an unknown assailant. The shooting made the season-ending episode one of TV’s most famous cliffhangers, inspired widespread media coverage and left America wondering “Who shot J.R.?” for the next eight months. On November 21, 1980, the premiere episode of Dallas’s third season solved the mystery, identifying Kristin Shepard, J.R.’s mistress (and his wife’s sister), as the culprit.)Head shot of J.R. Ewing.

* 1952 The Moondog Coronation Ball is history’s first rock concert. (Breathless promotion on the local radio station. Tickets selling out in a single day. Thousands of teenagers, hours before show time, lining up outside the biggest venue in town. The scene outside the Cleveland Arena on a chilly Friday night in March more than 50 years ago would look quite familiar to anyone who has ever attended a major rock concert. But no one on this particular night had ever even heard of a “rock concert.” This, after all, was the night of an event now recognised as history’s first major rock-and-roll show: the Moondog Coronation Ball, held in Cleveland on March 21, 1952. The “Moondog” in question was the legendary disk jockey Alan Freed, the self-styled “father of rock and roll” who was then the host of the enormously popular “Moondog Show” on Cleveland AM radio station WJW. Unfortunately, promoters sold over 20,000 tickets for a venue that had a maximum capacity of 10,000. Chaos forced police to cancel the show soon after it began.)Alan Freed behind his mic.

Look who was born on this date!

Portrait of Flipper in full uniform.* Henry Ossian Flipper in 1856. (He was an American soldier, a former slave, and the first African-American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877, earning a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army. Following Flipper’s commission, he was transferred to one of the all-black regiments serving in the US Army which were historically led by white officers. Assigned to A Troop under the command of Captain Nicholas M. Nolan, he became the first nonwhite officer to lead buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. Flipper served with competency and distinction during the Apache Wars and the Victorio Campaign but was haunted by rumours alleging improprieties. At one point, he was court-martialed and dismissed from the US Army.)

Head shot of Albert Kahn.* Albert Kahn in 1869. (American Architect of Detroit:  The foremost American industrial architect of his day, and is sometimes called the architect of Detroit.)




Head shot of Broderick.* Matthew Broderick in 1962. (American Actor:  Among other roles, he played the title character in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, voiced Simba in “The Lion King”, and portrayed Leo Bloom in the Hollywood and Broadway productions of “The Producers”.)


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

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