John’s Believe It Or Not… April 8th

John Fioravanti standing at the front of his classroom.

It’s Sensational Saturday! Did you know…

* 1609 – Champlain and 12 survivors leave Quebec after disastrous winter; 16 crew have died of scurvy. (Samuel de Champlain and 12 survivors prepare to return to France as ice in the St. Lawrence River thaws; 16 out of his crew of 28 have died from scurvy due to lack of vitamin C; seeing the French suffer, the native Algonkian people teach them how to make ’tisane d’anneda’, or cedar tea, a medicine containing the vitamin.

Sketch depicting the Natives teaching Champlain how to make tea from the cedar trees
Native People Teach French to Cure Scurvy With Cedar Tea

* 1969 – Montreal Expos visit Shea Stadium to play their first game, beating the New York Mets 11-10. (The first game by a Canadian major league team takes place in New York on April 8, 1969, when the Montreal Expos visit Shea Stadium to take on the New York Mets. Then, on Monday, April 14, 1969, at 1:35 p.m., the first Major League Baseball game in Canada begins as the Expos host the St. Louis Cardinals. Surprisingly, the Expos win both games. CBC Television’s 1969 Sports Year in Review looks at the team’s debut.)

Logos of the Expos and the Mets

* 1974 Aaron sets new home run record. (On this day in 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers. A crowd of 53,775 people, the largest in the history of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was with Aaron that night to cheer when he hit a 4th inning pitch off the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Al Downing. However, as Aaron was an African American who had received death threats and racist hate mail during his pursuit of one of baseball’s most distinguished records, the achievement was bittersweet. Aaron’s playing career spanned three teams and 23 years. He was with the Milwaukee Braves from 1954 to 1965, the Atlanta Braves from 1966 to 1974 and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1975 to 1976. He hung up his cleats in 1976 with 755 career home runs and went on to become one of baseball’s first African-American executives, with the Atlanta Braves, and a leading spokesperson for minority hiring. Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.)

Picture of Aaron's homerun swing.

* 1950 McCarthy publicly attacks Owen Lattimore. (Senator Joseph McCarthy labels Professor Owen Lattimore “extremely dangerous so far as the American people are concerned” in a carefully worded public speech, but stops short of calling him a Soviet spy. The speech was yet another example of McCarthy’s ability to whip up damaging Red Scare hysteria with no real evidence. McCarthy’s attacks on Lattimore continued for years. A congressional committee cleared Lattimore of McCarthy’s charges in 1950, but in 1951 the Senate reopened the investigation. This new investigation, spearheaded by McCarthy, claimed that Lattimore had perjured himself during his earlier testimony. In 1952, Lattimore was formally charged with perjury in connection to his 1950 testimony. A very long and costly legal battle ensued, and eventually, Lattimore succeeded in having all charges dropped. His career in American academia, however, was ruined and he left the country in 1963. He later returned to the United States and died in 1989. Lattimore was just one of many people smeared by McCarthy’s reckless and unsubstantiated charges during the anticommunist hysteria of the Red Scare.)


Owen Lattimore sitting at hearing.
Owen Lattimore (Center)

* 563 Buddhists celebrate the birth of Gautama Buddha. (On this day, Buddhists celebrate the commemoration of the birth of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, thought to have lived in India from 563 B.C. to 483 B.C. Actually, the Buddhist tradition that celebrates his birthday on April 8 originally placed his birth in the 11th century B.C., and it was not until the modern era that scholars determined that he was more likely born in the sixth century B.C., and possibly in May rather than April. According to the Tripitaka, which is recognised by scholars as the earliest existing record of the Buddha’s life and discourses, Gautama Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha, the son of the king of the Sakya people. The kingdom of the Sakyas was situated on the borders of present-day Nepal and India. Siddhartha’s family was of the Gautama clan. His mother, Queen Mahamaya, gave birth to him in the park of Lumbini, in what is now southern Nepal. A pillar placed there in commemoration of the event by an Indian emperor in the third century B.C. still stands.)

Buddha meditating by a peaceful pond.

Look who was born on this date!

Portrait of Ponce de Leon* Juan Ponce de LeónJuan in 1460. (Spanish Explorer and Conquistador: Juan Ponce de León first arrived in the Caribbean with Columbus’ 2nd voyage in 1493. In 1502 he served under the new governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás de Ovando and was involved with the massacre of the local population of Taínos. Later he became the governor of the eastern part of Hispaniola.In 1508 he founded the first European settlement in Puerto Rico, Camparra. In 1513 with a royal contract he was the first known European to discover Florida, which he named. A popular myth asserts that another part of his exploration was a search for the ‘fountain of youth’.)

Head shot of Mary Pickford* Mary Pickford in 1892. (Gladys Louise Smith (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979), known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a prolific Canadian-American film actress, writer, director, and producer. She was a co-founder of both the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio (along with Douglas Fairbanks) and, later, the United Artists film studio (along with Charlie Chaplin), and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who present the yearly “Oscar” award ceremony. Known in her prime as “America’s Sweetheart” and the “girl with the curls,” Pickford was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting. Pickford was one of the earliest stars to be billed under her name (film performers up until that time were usually unbilled), and was one of the most popular actresses of the 1910s and 1920s, earning the nickname “Queen of the Movies.”)

Head shot of Litchfield* Robert Allen Litchfield in 1948. (American Bank Robber:  One of the ten FBI most wanted fugitives during the 1980s.)


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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