John’s Believe It Or Not… April 11th

John Fioravanti standing at the front of his classroom.

It’s Terrific Tuesday! Did you know…

* 1967 – Halifax folk singer Denny Doherty and The Mamas & The Papas #1 hit “Dedicated to the One I Love.” (After completing their brief East coast tour, the group started work immediately on its third album, The Mamas & The Papas Deliver, which was recorded in the autumn of 1966. The first single from the album, “Look Through My Window”, was released in September 1966 (before the last single from The Mamas and the Papas). It reached number twenty-four in the US but did not chart in the UK. The second single, “Dedicated to the One I Love” (February 1967), did much better, peaking at number two in both the US and the UK. That success helped the album, also released in February 1967, reach number two in the US and number four in the UK. The third single, “Creeque Alley” (April 1967), chronicled the band’s early history. It peaked at number five in the US and number nine in the UK.)

Group shot of The Mamas & The Papas
John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty

* 1814 Napoleon exiled to Elba. (On this day in 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France and one of the greatest military leaders in history, abdicates the throne, and, in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, is banished to the Mediterranean island of Elba. In 1812, thinking that Russia was plotting an alliance with England, Napoleon launched an invasion against the Russians that eventually ended with his troops retreating from Moscow and much of Europe uniting against him. In 1814, Napoleon’s broken forces gave up and Napoleon offered to step down in favor of his son. When this offer was rejected, he abdicated and was sent to Elba. In March 1815, he escaped his island exile and returned to Paris, where he regained supporters and reclaimed his emperor title, Napoleon I, in a period known as the Hundred Days. However, in June 1815, he was defeated at the bloody Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon’s defeat ultimately signaled the end of France’s domination of Europe. He abdicated for a second time and was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, in the southern Atlantic Ocean, where he lived out the rest of his days. He died at age 52 on May 5, 1821, possibly from stomach cancer, although some theories contend he was poisoned.)

Image of Napoleon overlooking a beach on Elba
Napoleon’s Final Exile

* 1968 Last survivors of ferry accident rescued. (Rescue workers pick up the last survivors of the Wahine ferry accident on this day in 1968. The ferry had capsized after hitting sharp rocks off the coast of Wellington, New Zealand, the previous day. Fifty-one of the more than 800 passengers and crew on board perished in the accident. It could carry 927 passengers, and at 488 feet long and 9,000 tons, was one of the largest ferries in the world. The ship began the last of its 67 career voyages on April 9 at the same time Cyclone Giselle was wreaking havoc over New Zealand. When the ferry took off from Lyttelton with 734 passengers, the crew believed the cyclone was too far away to pose any danger; this proved to be a fatal error. The following morning, the terrible storm, with winds approaching 100 miles per hour, arrived as the Wahine approached Wellington Harbor. With visibility severely diminished, the ship struck a reef. Although the passengers were barely aware of the collision, the damage to the bottom of the vessel was extensive. While life jackets were distributed, the ship dropped its anchors. Tugboats were dispatched to assist the Wahine, but their efforts proved futile in the fierce storm. The ship continued to be battered by the storm throughout the day, while the crew continually reassured passengers that there was no danger. Eventually, though, they announced that the ship would have to be abandoned. The delay of this decision and the crew’s failure to properly prepare the passengers would prove costly.

Photo of Wahine Ferry wreck

* 1970 Apollo 13 launched to the moon. (On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, the third lunar landing mission, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The spacecraft’s destination was the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon, where the astronauts were to explore the Imbrium Basin and conduct geological experiments. After an oxygen tank exploded on the evening of April 13, however, the new mission objective became to get the Apollo 13 crew home alive. For the next three days, Lovell, Haise, and Swigert huddled in the freezing lunar module. Haise developed a case of the flu. Mission control spent this time frantically trying to develop a procedure that would allow the astronauts to restart the CM for reentry. On April 17, a last-minute navigational correction was made, this time using Earth as an alignment guide. Then the repressurized CM was successfully powered up after its long, cold sleep. The heavily damaged service module was shed, and one hour before re-entry the LM was disengaged from the CM. Just before 1 p.m., the spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Mission control feared that the CM’s heat shields were damaged in the accident, but after four minutes of radio silence Apollo 13‘s parachutes were spotted, and the astronauts splashed down safely into the Pacific Ocean.)


Image of Apollo 13 liftoff

* 1961 Bob Dylan plays his first major gig in New York City. (Who knows how many other young men arrived in New York City in the winter of 1961 looking like James Dean and talking like Jack Kerouac? It would have been difficult to pick Bob Dylan out of the crowd at first, considering how much he had in common with the other Bohemian kids kicking around Greenwich Village. Artistic ambition? Check. Antipathy toward mainstream culture? Yes. A desire to put his middle-class identity behind him? Definitely. But the singular creative vision that would separate Dylan from the rest of his peers and change the face of popular music wasn’t really in evidence yet. What Bob Dylan did have, though, in addition to his guitar and harmonica, was a unique stage presence and a vast library of American folk songs in his repertoire. On April 11, 1961, he got his first real chance to put those on display with his first major gig in New York City, opening for bluesman John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City.)

Photo of Dylan with guitar and harmonica

Look who was born on this date!

Bust of Septimus Severus* Septimius Severus [Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus] in 146. (Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. He seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors. He conquered all of Mesopotamia and made the farthest forays into England, conquering almost the entire island. Under his reign, Rome was the largest it would ever be.)


Head shot of Kuklinski* Richard Kuklinski in 1935. (American Contract Killer: Given the nickname “Iceman” for his method of freezing a victim to mask the time of death, he was a contract killer for Newark’s DeCavalcante crime family and New York City’s Five Families of the American Mafia. He claimed to have murdered from over 100 to 250 men between 1948 and 1986.)


Head shot of Joss Stone* Joscelyn Eve Stoker in 1987. (Better known by her stage name Joss Stone, is an English singer, songwriter and actress. She rose to fame in late 2003 with her multi-platinum debut album, The Soul Sessions, which made the 2004 Mercury Prize shortlist. Her second album, the similarly multi-platinum Mind Body & Soul, topped the UK Albums Chart for one week and spawned the top ten hit “You Had Me”, Stone’s most successful single on the UK Singles Chart to date.)


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.

5 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 11th”

  1. Loved the Mamas and Papas. So talented and such a waste of lives. Apollo 13 was a hair raiser for sure. I had forgotten about the ferry accident but who could forget Napoleon and Elba. Thanks, John.


  2. I always enjoy these posts, John.

    I loved “Dedicated to the One I Love” but I have to say “California Dreamin'” was my favorite. I used to listen to that song several times a day. Brings back memories. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were one of my favourite groups back in the day! I’m with you about California Dreamin – one of the very best songs of the 60s. What caught my eye about the story was that Denny Doherty is a fellow Canadian. I didn’t know that! Thanks for your support, Staci – good to know that you’re enjoying my forays into history!


    1. Thank you, Gwen, I’m pleased when you visit and share your thoughts. I think some of my students enjoyed my passion for history – knowing the past gives you a better opportunity to see the present in a perspective that makes more sense and leads to less stress and anxiety about the future.


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