John’s Believe It Or Not… July 1st

In 1867 – The Dominion of Canada is born. In 1997 Hong Kong returned to China. In 2005 Last Ford Thunderbird produced. In 1916 Battle of the Somme begins. In 1979 The first Sony Walkman goes on sale.

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John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s Canada Day 150! Did you know…

* 1867 – The Dominion of Canada is born. (On this day, the British North America Act brought into being a new nation called The Dominion of Canada. Comprised of just four provinces, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, the new nation was granted full control of their domestic affairs, while the British Parliament at Westminster retained control of Canada’s foreign policy until independence was granted in 1931. Sir John A. Macdonald served as Canada’s first Prime Minister. {His picture adorns the $10 bill.}

More than 500,000 revelers are expected to flock to Parliament Hill Saturday to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, and heightened security will be in place across the capital to ensure the party goes off without a hitch.

Heavily armed police and surveillance cameras will be strategically placed throughout the event, and a barricade will be positioned around the party to thwart any attempted attacks by vehicles.

The security measures, which one source described as “unprecedented,” come as a national security memo obtained by CTV News warns that ISIS “explicitly named Canada” and the United States as potential targets after the Manchester attack in May.)

Canada Day 150 flag
Canada Day 150 flag (Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools)

* 1997 Hong Kong returned to China. (At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverts back to Chinese rule in a ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles of Wales, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand Hong Kongers protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful.

In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic, social, and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British with the signing of the Convention of Chuenpi, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War.

Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. In 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking. In September 1984, after years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement approving the 1997 turnover of the island in exchange for a Chinese pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous Chinese, British, and international dignitaries. The chief executive under the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, formulated a policy based on the concept of “one country, two systems,” thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.)

Skyline of Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong, China (A World to Travel.)

* 2005 Last Ford Thunderbird produced. (The last Thunderbird, Ford Motor Company’s iconic sports car, emerges from a Ford factory in Wixom, Michigan on this day in 2005.

Ford began its development of the Thunderbird in the years following World War II, during which American servicemen had the opportunity to observe sleek European sports cars. General Motors built the first American sports car: the Chevrolet Corvette, released in 1953. The undeniably sleek Corvette’s initial engine performance was relatively underwhelming, but it was gaining lots of attention from the press and public, and Ford was motivated to respond, rushing the Thunderbird to the market in 1955. The 1955 Thunderbird was an immediate hit, selling more than 14,000 that year (compared to just 700 Corvettes). The success of the Thunderbird led Chevrolet to continue production of (and improve upon) the Corvette, which soon became a tough competitor in the sports car market.

In addition to the powerful V-8 engine that Ford was known for, the Thunderbird boasted all the conveniences consumers had become accustomed to, including a removable hard convertible top, soundproofing and the accessories standard to most Ford cars. In 1958, to satisfy critics who thought the T-Bird was too small, Ford released a four-seater version with a roomier trunk and bucket seats. The Beach Boys elevated the Thunderbird to pop- culture icon status in 1964 by including it in the lyrics of their hit single “Fun Fun Fun” (“she’ll have fun, fun, fun ’til her daddy takes the T-Bird away”). By that time, President John F. Kennedy had already included 50 Thunderbirds in his inaugural procession in 1961, and a T-Bird would also feature prominently in the 1973 film “American Graffiti.”

Thunderbird sales slowed during the 1990s, and Ford discontinued the Thunderbird in 1997. In 2002, however, in an attempt to capitalize on car buyers’ nostalgia, the company launched production of a retro T-Bird, a two-seater convertible that took some of its styling from the original classic. The luxury retailer Neiman Marcus offered an early special edition version in their 2000 Christmas catalog, priced at just under $42,000; their stock of 200 sold out in two hours and 15 minutes. Despite brisk early sales and good reviews, sales of the new Thunderbird couldn’t justify continued production, and Ford discontinued it again in mid-2005.)

Beginning production in 1955 as Ford's answer to the Chevrolet Corvette - the first American sports car - the Ford Thunderbird became an instant success.
Beginning production in 1955 as Ford’s answer to the Chevrolet Corvette – the first American sports car – the Ford Thunderbird became an instant success. (Yahoo)

* 1916 Battle of the Somme begins. (At 7:30 a.m., the British launch a massive offensive against German forces in the Somme River region of France. During the preceding week, 250,000 Allied shells had pounded German positions near the Somme, and 100,000 British soldiers poured out of their trenches and into no-man’s-land on July 1, expecting to find the way cleared for them. However, scores of heavy German machine guns had survived the artillery onslaught, and the infantry was massacred. By the end of the day, 20,000 British soldiers were dead and 40,000 wounded. It was the single heaviest day of casualties in British military history. The disastrous Battle of the Somme stretched on for more than four months, with the Allies advancing a total of just five miles.

When World War I broke out in August 1914, great throngs of British men lined up to enlist in the war effort. At the time, it was generally thought that the war would be over within six months. However, by the end of 1914 well over a million soldiers of various nationalities had been killed on the battlefields of Europe, and a final victory was not in sight for either the Allies or the Central Powers. On the Western Front–the battle line that stretched across northern France and Belgium–the combatants had settled down in the trenches for a terrible war of attrition. Maimed and shell-shocked troops returning to Britain with tales of machine guns, artillery barrages, and poison gas seriously dampened the enthusiasm of potential new volunteers.

For a week, the British bombarded the German trenches as a prelude to the attack. British Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, thought the artillery would decimate the German defenses and allow a British breakthrough; in fact, it served primarily to remove the element of surprise. When the bombardment died down on the morning of July 1, the German machine crews emerged from their fortified trenches and set up their weapons. At 7:30 a.m., 11 British divisions attacked at once, and the majority of them were gunned down. The soldiers optimistically carried heavy supplies for a long march, but few made it more than a couple of hundred yards. Five French divisions that attacked south of the Somme at the same time fared a little better, but without British success little could be done to exploit their gains.)

Soldiers in the trenches before the Battle of the Somme begins
JULY 01, 1916: BATTLE OF THE SOMME BEGINS (Dinge en Goete – blogger)

* 1979 The first Sony Walkman goes on sale.  (The transistor radio was a technological marvel that put music literally into consumers’ hands in the mid-1950s. It was cheap, it was reliable and it was portable, but it could never even approximate the sound quality of a record being played on a home stereo. It was, however, the only technology available to on-the-go music lovers until the Sony Corporation sparked a revolution in personal electronics with the introduction of the first personal stereo cassette player. A device as astonishing on the first encounter as the cellular phone or digital camera would later be, the Sony Walkman went on sale for the very first time on July 1, 1979.

The Sony Walkman didn’t represent a breakthrough in technology so much as it did a breakthrough in imagination. Every element of the Walkman was already in production or testing as part of some other device when Sony’s legendary chairman, Masaru Ibuka, made a special request in early 1979. Ibuka was a music lover who traveled frequently, and he was already in the habit of carrying one of his company’s “portable” stereo tape recorders with him on international flights. But the Sony TC-D5 was a heavy device that was in no way portable by modern standards, so Ibuka asked his then-deputy Norio Ohga if he could cobble together something better. Working with the company’s existing Pressman product—a portable, monaural tape recorder that was popular with journalists—Ohga had a playback-only stereo device rigged up in time for Ibuka’s next trans-Pacific flight.

Even though this proto-Walkman required large, earmuff-like headphones and custom-made batteries (which, of course, ran out on Ibuka midway through his flight), it impressed the Sony chairman tremendously with its sound quality and portability. Many objections were raised internally when Ibuka began his push to create a marketable version of the device, the biggest of which was conceptual: Would anyone actually buy a cassette device that was not for recording but only for playback? Ibuka’s simple response—”Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”—proved to be one of the great understatements in business history.

After a breakneck development phase of only four months, Sony engineers had a reliable product ready for market at 30,000 Yen (approximately US$150 in 1979 dollars) and available before the start of summer vacation for Japanese students—both critical targets established at the outset of development. The initial production run of 30,000 units looked to be too ambitious after one month of lackluster sales (only 3,000 were sold in July 1979). But after an innovative consumer-marketing campaign in which Sony representatives simply approached pedestrians on the streets of Tokyo and gave them a chance to listen to the Walkman, the product took off, selling out available stocks before the end of August and signaling the beginning of one of Sony’s greatest success stories.)

The history of the Walkman: 35 years of iconic music players
The history of the Walkman: 35 years of iconic music players (Sync Originals)

Today’s Sources:

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport        http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* CTV News                                                     http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/major-security-measures-for-ottawa-s-canada-150-bash-amid-isis-threat-1.3479411

 

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 (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

9 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 1st”

    1. Of course, Christy – I’m Canadian, eh! A true white and red Hoser! When I was a kid, I had a small four-transistor-sister (yep, that’s what we called them) that were easier to carry around. However, we couldn’t play whatever we wanted, but the local radio station played the Rock we grooved to… GROOVY BABY!! We thought those big reel-to-reel tape recorder/players were magic – so the advent of cassettes and Walkmans were out of this world. Thanks for stopping by to share your memories, dear. Hugs.

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