John’s Believe It Or Not… June 16th

In 1884 First roller coaster in America opens. In 1999 SLA member captured after more than 20 years. In 1963 First woman in space. In 1958 Leader of Hungarian uprising executed. In 1993 – Canada closes UN peacekeeping mission on Cyprus after 29 years

John Fioravanti teaching at the blackboard.

It’s Friday – TGIF – At Last! Did you know…

* 1993 – Canada closes UN peacekeeping mission on Cyprus after 29 years of service by over 25,000 soldiers. (Cyprus is a small Mediterranean island of just over 9,000 square kilometers, making it a little smaller than Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. It has a population of almost 800,000 people. Cyprus has a very tumultuous history, including the period leading up to and after 1960, when the island gained independence. Much of the unrest is rooted in ethnic tensions.

Cyprus has been largely Greek in culture, language, and population for more than 3,000 years and many Greek Cypriots have long favored politically joining the nation of Greece. However, there is also a sizeable minority population of Turkish people who are uneasy about this possibility, as well as the country of Turkey itself, which is concerned about the situation in Cyprus because of its nearness to the Turkish coast. During the time around the island’s independence, frictions between the ethnic groups in Cyprus grew, leading to the spread of strife and violence across the island in 1963. 

Because of this unrest, Cyprus asked the UN to establish a peacekeeping force in 1964. Once it arrived, the situation was unlike anything that UN peacekeepers had previously experienced. The quarreling populations of Turks and Greeks were very intermingled on the island and the UN troops were faced with maintaining the peace in a situation where many small groups of Turks lived among the larger Greek population. Canadian soldiers needed both their traditional skills of soldiering and the skills of managing disagreements and conflicts between civilians. It has been remarked of difficult situations like these that “Peacekeeping is not a soldier’s job, but only a soldier can do it.”

A fragile balance was reached but was upset in 1974 with a coup d’etat by Greek Cypriots who wanted the island to become a part of Greece. In turn, Turkey invaded the island and took control of the northern part of Cyprus. Canadian and the other UN peacekeepers suddenly found themselves in the middle of a war zone where there was little stability and much violence.

After several weeks of active fighting in which three Canadians died and 17 were injured, a cease-fire was negotiated. The UN established the famous “Green Line,” a cease-fire line and buffer zone stretching across Cyprus, separating the portions of the island controlled by the Greeks and the Turks.)

Canadian peacekeepers in Cyprus, 1992. UN operations face grave challenges, including the behaviour of the peacekeepers themselves.
Canadian peacekeepers in Cyprus, 1992. UN operations face grave challenges, including the behavior of the peacekeepers themselves. (

* 1884 First roller coaster in America opens. (On this day in 1884, the first roller coaster in America opens at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. Known as a switchback railway, it was the brainchild of LaMarcus Thompson, traveled approximately six miles per hour and cost a nickel to ride. The new entertainment was an instant success and by the turn of the century, there were hundreds of roller coasters around the country.

Coney Island, a name believed to have come from the Dutch Konijn Eylandt, or Rabbit Island, is a tract of land along the Atlantic Ocean discovered by explorer Henry Hudson in 1609. The first hotel opened at Coney Island in 1829 and by the post-Civil War years, the area was an established resort with theaters, restaurants, and a race track. Between 1897 and 1904, three amusement parks sprang up at Coney Island–Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase. By the 1920s, Coney Island was reachable by subway and summer crowds of a million people a day flocked there for rides, games, sideshows, the beach and the two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, completed in 1923.

The hot dog is said to have been invented at Coney Island in 1867 by Charles Feltman. In 1916, a nickel hot dog stand called Nathan’s was opened by a former Feltman employee and went on to become a Coney Island institution and international franchise. Today, Nathan’s is famous not only for its hot dogs but its hot dog-eating contest, held each Fourth of July in Coney Island. In 2006, Takeru Kobayashi set a new record when he ate 53.75 hot dogs with buns in 12 minutes.)

Thompsons-Switchback-Railway-1884-Coney Island-Brooklyn-NYC
Thompsons-Switchback-Railway-1884-Coney Island-Brooklyn-NYC (Untapped Cities)

* 1999 SLA member captured after more than 20 years. (On this day in 1999, Kathleen Ann Soliah, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), is arrested near her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Soliah, who now calls herself Sara Jane Olsen, had been evading authorities for more than 20 years.

In the mid-1970s, the SLA, a small, radical American paramilitary group, made a name for itself with a series of murders, robberies, and other violent acts. They were most well-known for the 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst, who became a member of the group. In April 1975, members of the SLA robbed a bank in Carmichael, California, and, in the process, killed one of the bank’s customers, Myrna Opsahl. According to Patty Hearst, who served as the group’s getaway driver that day, Soliah took part in the robbery.

Four months later, in August 1975, Lost Angeles policemen discovered a bomb where one of their patrol cars had earlier been parked. Though police believe it had been designed to explode when the car moved, it had failed to detonate. Soliah was indicted for the crime in 1976 but by then she had already left town and did not return, becoming a fugitive for nearly 23 years. Soliah eventually settled with her husband, a doctor, and three children in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she continued to advocate for various causes under the assumed name Sara Jane Olsen.

In the spring of 1999, however, Soliah’s case was featured on an episode of television’s America’s Most Wanted; she was arrested several weeks later. In 2002, as part of a plea bargain, she pled guilty to two counts of planting bombs and was sentenced to five years and four months in jail. The Board of Prison Terms then changed her sentence to 14 years. After pleading guilty to the attempted bombings, she was arraigned for the Opsahl killing and was later convicted and sentenced to another six years.

In 2004, a judge threw out the adjusted 14-year term, saying the board “abused its discretion” in changing the sentence. She was released from a California prison in March 2009.)

SLA FUGITIVE ARREST Kathleen Ann Soliah, 52, a long-sought member of the terrorist group, Symbionese Liberation Army, is shown in a police booking photo
SLA FUGITIVE ARREST Kathleen Ann Soliah, 52, a long-sought member of the terrorist group, Symbionese Liberation Army, is shown in a police booking photo. (

* 1963 First woman in space. (On June 16, 1963, aboard Vostok 6, Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to travel into space. After 48 orbits and 71 hours, she returned to earth, having spent more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined to that date.

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was born to a peasant family in Maslennikovo, Russia, in 1937. She began work at a textile factory when she was 18, and at age 22 she made her first parachute jump under the auspices of a local aviation club. Her enthusiasm for skydiving brought her to the attention of the Soviet space program, which sought to put a woman in space in the early 1960s as a means of achieving another “space first” before the United States. As an accomplished parachutist, Tereshkova was well equipped to handle one of the most challenging procedures of a Vostok space flight: the mandatory ejection from the capsule at about 20,000 feet during reentry. In February 1962, she was selected along with three other woman parachutists and a female pilot to begin intensive training to become a cosmonaut.

In 1963, Tereshkova was chosen to take part in the second dual flight in the Vostok program, involving spacecrafts Vostok 5 and Vostok 6. On June 14, 1963, Vostok 5 was launched into space with cosmonaut Valeri Bykovsky aboard. With Bykovsky still orbiting the earth, Tereshkova was launched into space on June 16 aboard Vostok 6. The two spacecrafts had different orbits but at one point came within three miles of each other, allowing the two cosmonauts to exchange brief communications. Tereshkova’s spacecraft was guided by an automatic control system, and she never took manual control. On June 19, after just under three days in space, Vostok 6 reentered the atmosphere, and Tereshkova successfully parachuted to earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet. Bykovsky and Vostok 5 landed safely a few hours later.

After her historic space flight, Valentina Tereshkova received the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards. In November 1963, she married fellow cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, reportedly under pressure from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who saw a propaganda advantage in the pairing of the two single cosmonauts. The couple made several goodwill trips abroad, had a daughter, and later separated. In 1966, Tereshkova became a member of the Supreme Soviet, the USSR’s national parliament, and she served as the Soviet representative to numerous international women’s organizations and events. She never entered space again, and hers was the last space flight by a female cosmonaut until the 1980s.

The United States screened a group of female pilots in 1959 and 1960 for possible astronaut training but later decided to restrict astronaut qualification to men. The first American woman in space was astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, who served as mission specialist on a flight of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.)

Sarah Abdallah on Twitter: "1963: Russia's Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly in space. 2017: Saudi women still can't drive.
Sarah Abdallah on Twitter: “1963: Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly in space. 2017: Saudi women still can’t drive. (Twitter)

* 1958 Leader of Hungarian uprising executed. (Imre Nagy, a former Hungarian premier, and symbol of the nation’s 1956 uprising against Soviet rule, is hanged for treason by his country’s communist authorities.

After becoming premier of communist Hungary in 1953, Nagy enacted a series of liberal reforms and opposed Soviet interference in his country’s affairs. He was removed from office in 1955 and expelled from the Hungarian Communist Party in 1956. On October 23, 1956, in response to the communist backlash against Nagy and his reforms, Hungarian students and workers took to the streets of Budapest in anti-Soviet demonstrations. Within days, the uprising escalated into a full-scale national revolt, and the Hungarian government fell into chaos. Nagy joined the revolution and was reinstated as Hungarian premier, but his minister Janos Kadar formed a counter-regime and asked the USSR to intervene.

On November 4, a massive Soviet force of 200,000 troops and 2,500 tanks entered Hungary. Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslav embassy but was later arrested by Soviet agents after leaving the embassy under a safe-conduct pledge. Nearly 200,000 Hungarians fled the country, and thousands of people were arrested, killed, or executed before the Hungarian uprising was finally suppressed. Nagy was later handed over to the regime of Janos Kadar, who convicted and executed him for treason. On June 16, 1989, as communism crumbled in Hungary, Nagy’s body was officially reburied with full honors. Some 300,000 Hungarians attended the service.)

Hungarian uprising, October 1956. Soviet tanks in the streets of Budapest. - Stock
Hungarian uprising, October 1956. Soviet tanks in the streets of Budapest. – Stock (Alamy)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* Veterans Affairs Canada                        



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.

15 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 16th”

  1. Another great post, John. Though I remember the Cyprus confrontations, I had no idea of its history. As for the SLA, I never understood why Kathleen Soliah was released and wonder if anyone else with her list of crimes was given similar leniency. Thank you again….I always learn so much from your site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gwen, I appreciate your kindness. Although there are times that a judge hands down a judgment that seems terribly lenient, sometimes they are taking into consideration factors that we don’t know about. And sometimes their biases get in the way. Either way, it’s not good when sentences like this cause the public to lose faith in the system. So many challenges.


  2. Interesting story of two women. Valentina Tereshkova a national hero and Kathleen Ann Soliah a left-wing murderer. I wonder what the victim’s family feels about her slap on the wrist sentence. I remember the SLA and in my mind, they were a bunch of thugs with no cogent agenda. Super post, John. The Cyprus and Hungarian coverage was spectacular.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right! I’ll bet they called it ‘The Blur’! I’m sure it was mighty impressive in its day. I remember reading about people running to windows of their homes when a car passed by. Amazing stuff! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and have a great weekend, Mae!


  3. Happy Friday, John! I was pleasantly surprised to see my book cover in your Autobiography section above. But I didn’t see your Memoir, so perhaps it’s a little glitch. Just wanted to let you know. But I’m most grateful, as always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Friday to you too, Natalie! LOL – I never noticed that glitch – no idea how that happened, but I’m happy to give your fine book of poetry a little push – so I’ll leave it there for a while. Christmas in June!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so kind to ask, John. Surgery to remove the golf ball sized growth is scheduled for Thursday of next week. I won’t know how to proceed until I get the results from that biopsy. So limbo continues. The appetite stimulant has done a lot of good though. She’s feeling better. More hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

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