John’s Believe It Or Not… July 30th

In 1793 – John Graves Simcoe starts building Fort York to Protect New Capital of Upper Canada. In 1935 1st Penguin book is published – starting the paperback revolution. In 1945 USS Indianapolis bombed. In 1976 Bruce Jenner wins the decathlon. In 1966 The Troggs take their signature hit – “Wild Thing”- to #1.

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John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

It’s Sunday! Did you know…

* 1793 – John Graves Simcoe starts building Fort York to Protect New Capital of Upper Canada. (The founding of urban Toronto was a military event that occurred when John Graves Simcoe ordered the construction of a garrison on the present site of Fort York in 1793. Simcoe wanted to establish a naval base at Toronto in order to control Lake Ontario because of a war scare with the United States resulting from Britain’s alliance with the native people of the Ohio Country, who were engaged in a brutal conflict with the Americans to preserve their territories. In his capacity as lieutenant-governor of the British province of Upper Canada, Simcoe also moved the provincial capital to Toronto from the vulnerable border town of Niagara-On-The-Lake during that tense period. Toronto was renamed ‘York,’ civilian settlement followed the government, and the settlement began to grow. During those early years, Fort York played a significant role in the economic and social development of the small backwoods community.

Simcoe, nevertheless, did not construct the strong defenses he had planned for York. Anglo-American tensions eased by 1794, and his superiors decided that the Lake Ontario squadron should be stationed in Kingston, 250 kilometers {150 miles} to the east. Simcoe’s original log buildings deteriorated quickly. His successors built new barracks, one hundred meters east of the present site in the late 1790s for the small garrison assigned to the provincial capital. In 1800, a residence for the lieutenant-governor, ‘Government House,’ was built on the present fort site.)

York Barracks, 1804.
York Barracks, 1804. (Fort York)

* 1935 1st Penguin book is published – starting the paperback revolution. (Allen Lane, the man who created Penguin Books, began life as Allen Lane Williams. Lane was his mother’s surname and the family’s one relative of importance was on her side, a cousin called John Lane, the founder of the Bodley Head publishing firm. With no children of his own, John Lane suggested that when young Allen finished his schooling in Bristol he should join the Bodley Head to learn the trade.

Allen was 16 when, in 1919, he joined the firm in London at a salary of a guinea a week, of which ten shillings soon went to pay for boarding with ‘Uncle John’. He learned every aspect of the business from office boy upwards and it became clear that he combined notable ability with charm (and sometimes ruthlessness). He changed his surname to Lane, became a director of the firm when John Lane died in 1925 and was appointed chairman in 1930 while still in his twenties.

In 1934 he was returning from a weekend in Devon with Agatha Christie, his favorite Bodley Head author when he was aggravated to find nothing in the Exeter station bookstall that was worth reading on the journey back to London. Lacking anything to while away the time, he found his mind turning to the possibility of republishing readable high-quality fiction and non-fiction titles in paperback at the astonishingly low price of sixpence each (then the cost of a packet of ten cigarettes). The other Bodley Head directors did not take kindly to this idea. Paperbacks were regarded at the time as ‘dirty rubbish by respectable publishers, but the Bodley Head board grudgingly agreed to let Allen Lane go ahead with his seemingly dubious new notion, though only in his spare time.

Ten titles were picked for the launch. They were by Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), Susan Ertz, Ernest Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms), Eric Linklater, Compton Mackenzie, André Maurois (Ariel), Beverley Nichols, Dorothy L. Sayers (The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club), E.H. Young and Mary Webb (Gone to Earth). A key moment came when the book buyer for Woolworth’s, a man named Prescott, was approached. He did not like the sample he was shown, but his wife’s enthusiastic reaction changed his mind (or so Penguin legend has it) and he ordered 63,500 copies. That meant that at least the first Penguins would not make a loss.

Publication day came and there was no more cause for anxiety. Most of the titles sold out rapidly and had to be hastily reprinted. Lane went ahead with more titles and on New Year’s Day 1936 he created Penguin Books as a separate company with a capital of £100 and three directors, himself and his brothers. He resigned from the Bodley Head a few months later. In 1937 he began publishing Pelicans, which were nonfiction titles, starting with George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism. Other early Pelicans included A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells and G.D.H. Cole’s Practical Economics. They too cost sixpence each and sold extremely well. In the 1940s the first King Penguins appeared, with illustrations, and after the war came the Penguin Classics, led by E.V. Rieu’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey.

Allen Lane was knighted in 1952 and died of cancer in 1970, at the age of 67. He always maintained that he read few books himself, but as J.E. Morpurgo pointed out in his splendid biography, Allen Lane: King Penguin, Lane created ‘an institution of national and international importance, like The Times or the BBC’. In 1950 a leader in The Times saluted him for making up for the loss of the British Empire by using the English language and cheap paperbacks to spread British influence over millions of people worldwide; a form that was far less objectionable but just as powerful as the earlier imperialism.)

Sir Allen Lane Penguin Books
Sir Allen Lane Penguin Books (Smithsonian Magazine)

* 1945 USS Indianapolis bombed. (On this day in 1945, the USS Indianapolis is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sinks within minutes in shark-infested waters. Only 317 of the 1,196 men on board survived. However, the Indianapolis had already completed its major mission: the delivery of key components of the atomic bomb that would be dropped a week later at Hiroshima to Tinian Island in the South Pacific.

The Indianapolis made its delivery to Tinian Island on July 26, 1945. The mission was top secret and the ship’s crew was unaware of its cargo. After leaving Tinian, the Indianapolis sailed to the U.S. military’s Pacific headquarters at Guam and was given orders to meet the battleship USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan.

Shortly after midnight on July 30, halfway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, a Japanese sub blasted the Indianapolis, sparking an explosion that split the ship and caused it to sink in approximately 12 minutes, with about 300 men trapped inside. Another 900 went into the water, where many died from drowning, shark attacks, dehydration or injuries from the explosion. Help did not arrive until four days later, on August 2, when an anti-submarine plane on routine patrol happened upon the men and radioed for assistance.

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, inflicting nearly 130,000 casualties and destroying more than 60 percent of the city. On August 9, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, where casualties were estimated at over 66,000. Meanwhile, the U.S. government kept quiet about the Indianapolis tragedy until August 15 in order to guarantee that the news would be overshadowed by President Harry Truman’s announcement that Japan had surrendered.

In the aftermath of the events involving the Indianapolis, the ship’s commander, Captain Charles McVay, was court-martialed in November 1945 for failing to sail a zigzag course that would have helped the ship to evade enemy submarines in the area. McVay, the only Navy captain court-martialed for losing a ship during the war, committed suicide in 1968. Many of his surviving crewmen believed the military had made him a scapegoat. In 2000, 55 years after the Indianapolis went down, Congress cleared McVay’s name.)

USS Indianapolis Memorial in Indianapolis, IN
USS Indianapolis Memorial in Indianapolis, IN (Atomic Heritage Foundation)

* 1976 Bruce Jenner wins the decathlon. (On July 30, 1976, American Bruce Jenner wins gold in the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. His 8,617 points set a world record in the event.

The secret to Jenner’s success was his preparation. In the 1970s, most decathletes trained with other decathletes. Bruce Jenner, however, trained with some of the world’s best athletes in each of the 10 decathlon events. “If you train with a decathlon man,” Jenner told Dave Anderson of The New York Times in 1976, “you can’t visualize that you can do much better. But if you throw the discus with Mac Wilkins or throw the shot with Al Feuerbach, then they’re 20 feet ahead of me. You learn much more that way.”

Although the blond, chiseled, 6-foot-2-inch Nikolai Avilov, the world record-holder and 1972 Olympic champion from the Soviet Union, was considered nearly impossible to beat, Jenner’s intense training paid off at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. After the first day of competition, Jenner was in third place, 35 points off the pace and 17 points behind his rival. With all of Jenner’s best events slated for the second day, though, Jenner knew he could pull off a victory. He later admitted thinking, “If I am within 150 points of the leader after five events, I’ll run away with it.” On July 30, the next five events went exactly as Jenner hoped: He ran efficiently in the 110-meter hurdles, set a personal best in the pole vault, threw the discus and the javelin well and sprinted the last 300 meters of the 1,500-meter event to seal a win. Jenner then took an impromptu victory lap with an American flag before finding his wife Chrystie–who had supported him during his training by working as a flight attendant–for a congratulatory kiss. Avilov finished third, almost 300 points behind the new champion.

After his win, Jenner enjoyed the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” and appeared in movies, on television and, of course, adorned a Wheaties® box. He was voted the 1976 AP Male Athlete of the Year. The 1976 Olympics was his last decathlon.)

Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner
Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner (Eurosport)

* 1966 The Troggs take their signature hit – “Wild Thing”- to #1. (If there is one song that has been played more times by more bands in more garages than any ever written, it is probably “Louie Louie,” The Kingsmen’s classic 1966 hit. But if any other song warrants a place in the conversation, it would be “Wild Thing,” the three-chord masterpiece that became a #1 hit for The Troggs on this day in 1966 and instantly took its rightful place in the rock-and-roll canon.

“Wild Thing” was written in 1965 by a New York songwriter named Chip Taylor (born James Voight, brother of the actor Jon Voight and uncle of actress Angelina Jolie). After an unsuccessful version of the song was recorded and released by a group called The Wild Ones, Taylor’s demo made its way to England, where Reg Presley (born Reginald Ball), lead singer of The Troggs, fell in love with it. Like Taylor himself, who never took his biggest hit very seriously, Presley initially found “Wild Thing” to be a ridiculous trifle, but that didn’t stop him from having his then-hitless band take it into the studio. In a single take of “Wild Thing,” The Troggs captured a raw and thrilling sound that not only gave them a #1 hit, but also served as a formative influence on some of the key figures in the development of punk rock, including Iggy Pop, the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, all of whom credited The Troggs as forerunners.

There were other hits for The Troggs, including “With A Girl Like You” (1966) and “Love Is All Around” (1967)—but nothing to match “Wild Thing” in terms of success or influence. In fact, the most influential recording they made after 1968 was not of a song at all, but of an intra-band argument during a troubled 1972 recording session that was bootlegged out of the studio and passed around as “The Troggs Tapes.” On it, various Troggs can be heard bickering and cursing (137 times in 10+ minutes) in accents and language that served as the direct inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner’s 1984 seminal “mockumentary.”

“Wild Thing” was memorably performed by Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, complete with burning guitar, and it was covered with some success by the L.A. punk band X in 1989, but it’s the Troggs’ version that has become a staple of movie and television soundtracks. With royalties earned from his band’s signature hit, Troggs frontman Reg Presley has emerged as one of the world’s foremost experts on and largest sources of funding for research into the mysterious phenomenon of crop circles.)

Poster picture of The Troggs
(Craig Hill Training Services)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Friends of Fort York                              https://www.fortyork.ca/history-of-fort-york.html

* History Today                                       http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/first-penguin-paperbacks

* 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/

 

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.

28 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 30th”

  1. Another good one. A nice mix, too. I love paperback books. I read regularly and always have a book in my backpack – preferably a paperback. 🙂

    I remember Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. I was in high school. I downed a couple boxes of Wheaties with his face on the cover, I was a big cereal eater back then. I was known as a cereal killer. 😆

    Last of all, I love Wild Thing, though I have to admit my favorite version is Jimi Hendrix’s. I’m a huge Hendrix fan. I’ve jammed it on guitar myself.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wild Thing! My dad would play that one when I was younger. My, they look a bit like the Beatles 😉 I read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and now you’ve told me here that it was one of Penguin’s first. I’m loving all the new info at your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Wild Thing”. Still love that song. Penguin Books continues to be a top drawer publisher. Did you know that I am included in one of their million copy bestseller books? Yup! The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey John,

    A truly fascinating and diverse collection of historical factoids to cogitate and digest, thank you John. Curiously I watched the film Indianapolis just the other night on Netflix. It is indeed a saddening tale, war is always distressing, but a reasonably good film that I thought did well in conveying the despair. In light of his Court-Marshal, one is left feeling immense sympathy for McVay and immense anger at the U.S Administration: that the remainder of his command stand shoulder to shoulder with Mvay suggests at the good character of the man.

    I was much younger when Jenner won Gold (I was finishing primary school!) but remember the ’76 Montreal Olympics very well, no doubt it was my first appreciative experience of watching elite athletes at a time when I was also far more sporting than I am now. The photograph of him displaying the medal brought memories rushing back, thank you. 1976 was also a very hot year in the UK and as it turned out was one of my favourite childhood years, but that is another story for another time.

    I was delighted you also included the Troggs track. Who can resist its darkly allure and quasi-punkness nor forgo chance to step up to the karaoke microphone and let go the sensuous animal. It’s almost like barking at the moon! lol 🙂

    I’m liking the new header photo. Both big and bold it does you proud…and you seem to fit the frame rather well sir 🙂

    Enjoy your Sunday good friend. Best wishes to one and all. take care.

    Namaste 🙂

    DN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Dewin – so happy you enjoyed today’s offerings. Have you seen the Charlie Sheen movie “Major League” that features Wild Thing? If not, check it out on Netflix – it is hilarious!

      The Montreal Olympics in ’76 was the only time Canada has hosted the Summer Games. As well, I wanted to remind folks that Jenner should be remembered more for his athletic accomplishments than his transgender surgery.

      Thanks for your kind words on the photo. It was part of the photo shoot in 2006 for my book about my teaching career.

      Have a great day yourself, good sir!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey John,

        I have very vague recall of the Charlie Sheen movie but will undoubtedly go off in search of it after commenting here lol 🙂 I do enjoy a good laugh and all recommendations for films are accepted. Thanks for the reminder.

        I do agree Jenner’s sporting triumphs should be his foremost legacy, as to his training methods, which I imagine have influenced coaching/training techniques and practices ever since. I admire and have great respect for the highly focussed mentality of all sports-people: their will to always win must be both ferocious and ferociously consuming.

        Regards your photograph: visually would you have changed much since 2006?

        My Sunday has been both lazy and hazy but not lackadaisical. That I reserve for work in the morning lol 🙂

        Best wishes to one and all. Enjoy a happy afternoon…in the garden?

        Namaste 🙂

        DN

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We’re having a small group for dinner today – outside on the deck. It is a sunny, warm day with low humidity – a rarity here!
          I’m grayer these days and a bit heavier. My author picture was taken 3 years ago.

          Hope you find and enjoy that movie!

          Liked by 1 person

                  1. 🙂 Thanks John. During World War I, “Dear Old Blighty” was a common sentimental reference, suggesting a longing for home by soldiers in the trenches.

                    Can’t believe you’ve not heard of this term before?

                    Namaste 🙂

                    DN

                    Liked by 1 person

  5. That Wild Thing – I had a girlfriend who was nuts about it. I loved the Hendrix version.
    I hadn’t realised the Indianapolis had carried the H-Bomb components. I had read some account of the shark attacks on the survivors which sounded horrendous.
    Do you think there’s a chance that either of us will end up in Penguin Modern Classics John?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved that song too, Opher! I also loved the movie Major League with Charlie Sheen as the relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians – they called him “Wild Thing” because of his erratic pitches. Every time they called for Wild Thing to leave the bullpen and walk to the pitcher’s mound for his warm-up pitches – they played that song on the stadium’s sound system. It was hilarious!

      Hey! That’s a fine idea about us and Penguin Classics – we’ll sign a joint contract with them! I’ll call my agent!

      Liked by 1 person

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