John’s Believe It Or Not… May 20th

In 1920 – Canadian Marconi’s Montreal radio station CFCF broadcasts the world’s first scheduled radio show. In 1980 – Québec votes No by 59.56% to Lévesque’s referendum on sovereignty-association. In 1927 Spirit of St. Louis departs. In 1996 Supreme Court defends rights of homosexuals. In 1956 United States drops hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll.

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Glorious Saturday! Did you know…

* 1920 – Canadian Marconi’s Montreal radio station CFCF broadcasts the world’s first scheduled radio show. (Canadian Marconi Company’s experimental radio station XWA hosts the first scheduled radio show in North America, and possibly in the world, broadcasting a music program from Montréal to a meeting of the Royal Society of Canada in Ottawa; became station CFCF on November 4, 1920, and is reputed to be the oldest radio station in the world. The first documented broadcast of entertainment by XWA to a general audience occurred on the evening of May 20, 1920, when a concert was prepared for a Royal Society of Canada audience listening 110 miles (175 kilometers) away at the Château Laurier in the capital city of Ottawa. This was part of a demonstration of the long range capabilities of radiotelephony arranged by Dr. A. S. Eve of the Royal Society, who was giving a lecture reviewing “Some Inventions of the Great War”. In Montreal, Canadian Marconi’s chief engineer J. O. G. Cann opened the broadcast with a series of announcements, including reading a sealed message previously sent by Dr. R. F. Ruttan, which was followed by the playing of phonograph records, beginning with “Dear Old Pal of Mine”. Also included was live entertainment featuring Dorothy Lutton, who sang “Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms” and “Merrily Shall I Live”. A Naval Radio Service station in Ottawa also participated, with officer E. Hawken singing “Annie Laurie”, along with the playing of phonograph records. The Ottawa transmissions were well heard at the Château Laurier but had difficulty being received in Montreal.)

World heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey, center, speaks into a mic connected to a Marconi YC-3 set during a visit to CFCF in 1922.
World heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey, center, speaks into a mic connected to a Marconi YC-3 set during a visit to CFCF in 1922.

* 1980 – Québec votes No by 59.56% to Lévesque’s referendum on sovereignty-association. (The 1980 Quebec referendum was the first referendum in Quebec on the place of Quebec within Canada and whether Quebec should pursue a path toward sovereignty. The referendum was called by Quebec’s Parti Québécois (PQ) government, which advocated secession from Canada. The province-wide referendum took place on Tuesday, May 20, 1980, and the proposal to pursue secession was defeated by a 59.56 percent to 40.44 percent margin. Had Premier Levesque won this vote, the next step would be to begin negotiations for Quebec sovereignty with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau spoke on national TV before the vote saying that he would never negotiate the breakup of Canada. He further challenged Levesque to be honest and ask Quebec voters if they wished to leave Canada with no promises of a Sovereignty-Association deal. The referendum question asked Quebec voters to give Levesque permission to negotiate a deal with Ottawa. He promised a subsequent referendum to vote on any deal that was reached.)

Rene Levesque founder of Quebec's separatist party, Parti Quebecois
Rene Levesque, founder of the Parti Quebecois,
Quebec’s separatist political party.(CBC)

*1927 Spirit of St. Louis departs (At 7:52 a.m., American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the first ever nonstop flight between New York to Paris. Lindbergh, a daring young airmail pilot, was a dark horse when he entered a competition with a $25,000 payoff to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. He ordered a small monoplane, configured it to his own design, and christened it the Spirit of St. Louis in tribute to his sponsor–the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce. On May 20, 1927, a rainy morning, he took off from Roosevelt Field, but his monoplane was so loaded down with fuel that it barely cleared the telephone wires at the end of the runway. He flew northeast up the East Coast and as night fell left Newfoundland and headed across the North Atlantic. His greatest challenge was staying awake; he had to hold his eyelids open with his fingers and hallucinated ghosts passing through the cockpit. The next afternoon, after flying 3,610 miles in 33 1/2 hours, Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget field in Paris, becoming the first pilot to accomplish the solo, nonstop transatlantic crossing. Lindbergh’s achievement made him an international celebrity and won widespread public acceptance of the airplane and commercial aviation.)

In this 1927 file photo, Charles A. Lindbergh poses with his plane
FILE – In this 1927 file photo, Charles A. Lindbergh poses with his plane “The Spirit of St. Louis.” Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” aircraft, one of the premiere artifacts at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, was lowered to the floor Thursday, for conservation work for the first time in more than 20 years, giving visitors a rare chance to see it up close. When Lindbergh made the first trans-Atlantic flight and landed in Paris in 1927, crowds swarmed the aircraft, tearing off pieces for souvenirs. (AP Photo, File)

* 1996 Supreme Court defends rights of homosexuals. (In a victory for the gay and lesbian civil rights movement, the U.S. Supreme Court votes six to three to strike down an amendment to Colorado’s state constitution that would have prevented any city, town, or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect the rights of homosexuals. Colorado’s Amendment Two was passed in 1992 with a majority of the state’s citizens approving it in a special referendum. Four years later, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Romer v. Evans, a case that allowed the nation’s highest court to scrutinize the constitutionality of the amendment. On May 20, 1996, in a ruling authored by Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court struck down Amendment Two, arguing that the law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Although the ruling, authored by a Republican appointee, was cautious in its language, it was applauded as a major civil rights victory that gave gay and lesbian activists their first major constitutional precedence for fighting anti-gay legislation.)

United States Supreme Court building
The United States Supreme Court building (

* 1956 United States drops hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll. (The United States conducts the first airborne test of an improved hydrogen bomb, dropping it from a plane over the tiny island of Namu in the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The successful test indicated that hydrogen bombs were viable airborne weapons and that the arms race had taken another giant leap forward. The United States first detonated a hydrogen bomb in 1952 in the Marshall Islands, also in the Pacific. However, that bomb–and the others used in tests that followed–were large and unwieldy affairs that were exploded from the ground. The practical application of dropping the weapon over an enemy had been a mere theoretical possibility until the successful test in May 1956. The hydrogen bomb dropped over Bikini Atoll was carried by a B-52 bomber and released at an altitude of more than 50,000 feet. The device exploded at about 15,000 feet. This bomb was far more powerful than those previously tested and was estimated to be 15 megatons or larger (one megaton is roughly equivalent to 1 million tons of TNT). Observers said that the fireball caused by the explosion measured at least four miles in diameter and was brighter than the light from 500 suns. The successful U.S. test meant that the ante in the nuclear arms race had been dramatically upped. The Soviets had tested their own hydrogen bomb in 1953, shortly after the first U.S. test in 1952. In November 1955, the Soviets had dropped a hydrogen bomb from an airplane in remote Siberia. Though much smaller and far less powerful (estimated at about 1.6 megatons) than the U.S. bomb dropped over Bikini, the Russian success spurred the Americans to rush ahead with the Bikini test. The massive open-air blast in 1956 caused concerns among scientists and environmentalists about the effects of such testing on human and animal life. During the coming years, a growing movement in the United States and elsewhere began to push for a ban on open-air atomic testing. The Limited Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963 by the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, prohibited open-air and underwater nuclear testing.)

Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll on May 21, 1956.
Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll on May 21, 1956. (Pinterest)

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

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.

12 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 20th”

    1. Thanks, John. All of these tests can’t be doing Mother Earth any good at all. In the light of these tests, I roll my eyes when everyone gets upset when countries today are doing the same thing. Yeah, but the guy running North Korea is crazy! Hmmm… so’s the guy on the trigger in Washington…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Gwen, I appreciate the compliment. The story about the Quebec Referendum in 1980 was one of my favorite topics in the Grade 10 History course I taught. I was tempted to go into it in more detail, but I reined myself in – don’t want to drive people away in droves! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, dear!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fascinating, all. I didn’t realize that Lindbergh was an airmail pilot, and had forgotten much of what I knew about the early arms race and treaties. I knew about the Supreme Court case affirming LGBT civil rights, but I hadn’t really realized that it was so recent! The Canada content was ALL new to me.

    Thanks again for helping me keep my brain alive by learning new stuff. 🙂
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your response, Madelyn. I do the Canadian stories on purpose because I know that Canadian history is not taught in the US – except at universities, perhaps. The majority of my readers reside in the US, so I’m aiming to give my American sibs some insights into what makes Canadians tick. I’m learning right alongside you as I put this post together each day. I appreciate your insights!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are correct in the first point – not taught. But then, we don’t do such a great job with world history in general or American history in particular, I’m learning as I troll the web.

        I know what you mean about learning from your own content – researching my own has taught me SO much more than I can ever put in my posts, which are already long, compared to the direction the twit-wits and WordPress “improvements” seem to be taking the blogging community.

        Truly, I worry about the intellectual capacity of our world anymore – as more and more systems seem designed to dumb us all down!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Keeping in mind that US History is taught in Canadian classrooms alongside Canadian, and some World history, I had an interesting conversation 48 years ago with a fellow seminarian from New York State. I guess I was critical of the US curriculum that it would not include information about America’s closest friend in the world. He thought for half a second and retorted: “Why should we learn about a country that has little or no impact on us?” Hmmm… I guess.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. American culture can be obnoxious as well as ignorant — just look at the way we [don’t] think about teaching languages other than English.

            And it’s about to get SO much worse, if Agent Orange and that unthinking, ignorant woman he appointed as Sec. of Ed. push through their agenda.

            The proposed budget cuts (billions, btw) will funnel the money into “choice” education – meaning only for parents who can afford to send their kids to private schools.

            America seems to have lost what was left of its collective mind, voting for elitism. Still, there are many millions of us who are resisting the current political climate – vocally!


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