John’s Believe It Or Not… May 18th

* 1783 – First of 7000 United Empire Loyalists reach Parrtown – (Saint John) NB. * 1926 Popular evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears * 1980 Mount St. Helens erupts * 1974 India joins the nuclear club * 2001 Shrek released

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Aimee Semple McPherson Founder of the Foursquare Baptist tradition.

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1783 – First of 7000 United Empire Loyalists reach Parrtown – (Saint John) NB.

On this day in 1783, the first United Empire Loyalists, known to American Patriots as Tories, arrive in Canada to take refuge under the British crown in Parrtown, Saint John, Nova Scotia (now New Brunswick), Canada. The town was located on the Bay of Fundy just north of the border with what is now the state of Maine.

Most of the refugees came from New York, which had been under royal control throughout most of the War for Independence. After the Treaty of Paris ended the War for Independence in February 1783, the British evacuated their New York Loyalists to remaining British territories, mainly in Canada. These families had been dispossessed of their land and belongings by the victorious Patriots because of their continued support of the British king and were able to regain some financial independence through lands granted to them by the British in western Quebec (now Ontario) and Nova Scotia. Their arrival in Canada permanently shifted the demographics of what had been French-speaking New France until 1763 into an English-speaking colony, and later nation, with the exception of a French-speaking and culturally French area in eastern Canada that is now Quebec.

In 1784, one year after their arrival, the new Loyalist population spurred the creation of New Brunswick in the previously unpopulated (by Europeans, at least) lands west of the Bay of Fundy in what had been Nova Scotia. In 1785, the Loyalists yet again made their mark on Canadian history when their combined settlements at Parrtown and Carleton of approximately 14,000 people became British North America’s first incorporated city under the name City of Saint John.

Loyalist refugees in western Quebec received 200 acres apiece. The division between the Anglophile and Francophile sections was ultimately recognized by creating the English-dominant province of Ontario, west of Quebec, in 1867.

"Loyalist Landing," by Adam Sherriff Scott; United Empire Loyalists landing at the mouth of the Saint John River in May of 1783.
“Loyalist Landing,” by Adam Sherriff Scott; United Empire Loyalists landing at the mouth of the Saint John River in May of 1783. (deeprootstalltrees.com)

* 1926 Popular evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears

Aimee Semple McPherson, a nationally known evangelist, disappears from Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California. Police dispatched planes and ships in an effort to find her, but she was nowhere to be found. Authorities later discovered that radio announcer Kenneth Ormiston, a friend of McPherson, had also vanished.

McPherson was the Billy Graham of her time. In 1923, she opened Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, where she consistently amassed overflowing crowds. McPherson claimed to have faith-healing abilities and put on wonderfully entertaining shows for the public. Because of her religious nature, McPherson’s relationship with Ormiston created something of a scandal in 1925, and their disappearance in 1926 made headlines across the country.

A month later, McPherson turned up in Agua Prieta, New Mexico, with a wild tale of being kidnapped, but reporters quickly uncovered information to prove that she had been with Ormiston the entire time. Although obstruction of justice charges were filed against her, they were later dropped, allegedly because McPherson came up with $30,000 to appease law enforcement officials.

McPherson attempted a comeback evangelism tour after the scandal had died down, but it flopped and she slowly faded from the public’s memory. Even still, she remains the answer to a good trivia question: Who baptized Marilyn Monroe?

Los Angeles Examiner newspaper front page: "Aimee McPherson Believed Drowned"
People praying and searching the beach for Aimee Semple McPherson.

* 1980 Mount St. Helens erupts

Mount St. Helens in Washington erupts, causing a massive avalanche and killing 57 people on this day in 1980. Ash from the volcanic eruption fell as far away as Minnesota.

Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens, which is 96 miles south of Seattle, began on March 16. A 4.2-magnitude tremor was recorded four days later and then, on March 23-24, there were 174 different recorded tremors. The first eruption occurred on March 27, when a 250-foot wide vent opened up on top of the mountain. Ash was blasted 10,000 feet in the air, some of which came down nearly 300 miles away in Spokane. The ash caused static electricity and lightning bolts.

Authorities issued a hazard watch for a 50-mile radius around the mountain. The National Guard set up roadblocks to prevent access to the area, but these were easily avoided by using the region’s unguarded logging roads. Many residents of the area evacuated, but a substantial number refused. Harry Truman, 84—no relation to the former president—was one resident who refused to move and, after receiving a great deal of positive media coverage for his decision, became a national icon as well as, later, the subject of a local memorial.

Throughout April, scientists watched a bulge on the north side of Mount St. Helens grow larger and larger. Finally, on May 18 at 8:32 a.m., a sudden 5.1-magnitude earthquake and eruption rocked the mountain. The north side of the peak rippled and blasted out ash at 650 miles per hour. A cloud of ash, rocks, gas and glacial ice roared down the side of the mountain at 100 mph. Fourteen miles of the Toutle River was buried up to 150 feet deep in the debris. Magma, at 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, flowed for miles.

The 24-megaton blast demolished a 230-square-mile area around the mountain. Geologist Dave Johnson was the closest to the eruption when it blew. He was on his radio that morning and was only able to say, Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it! before his truck was pushed over a ridge and he was killed.

Millions of trees were scorched and burned by the hot air alone. When the glacier atop the mountain melted, a massive mudslide wiped out homes and dammed up rivers throughout the area. The plume of ash belched out for nine hours; easterly winds carried it across the state and as far away as Minneapolis, Minnesota. The falling ash clogged carburetors and thousands of motorists were stranded. Fifty-seven people died overall from suffocation, burns and other assorted injuries. Twenty-seven bodies, including that of the stubborn Harry Truman, were never found. Mount St. Helens went from 9,600 feet high to only 8,300 feet high in a matter of seconds.

Mount St. Helens erupting in 1980.
Mount St. Helens erupting in 1980. (www.history.com)

* 1974 India joins the nuclear club

In the Rajasthan Desert in the state of Pokhran, India successfully detonates its first nuclear weapon, a fission bomb similar in explosive power to the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The test fell on the traditional anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received the message “Buddha has smiled” from the exuberant test-site scientists after the detonation. The test, which made India the world’s sixth nuclear power, broke the nuclear monopoly of the five members of the U.N. Security Council–the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, China, and France.

India, which suffered continuing border disputes with China, refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. Fearing a second war with China and a fourth war with Pakistan, India actively sought the development of a nuclear deterrent in the early 1970s. The successful detonation of its first bomb on May 18, 1974, set off an expanded arms race with Pakistan that saw no further nuclear tests but the development of lethal intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles by both countries. On May 11, 1998, India resumed nuclear testing, leading to international outrage and Pakistan’s detonation of its first nuclear bomb later in the month.

Crater from nuclear explosion at Pokhran - 1974
Crater from nuclear explosion at Pokhran – 1974 (abc.net.au)

* 2001 Shrek released

On this day in 2001, the fledgling movie studio Dreamworks SKG, founded by Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, releases what will become its most successful film to date: the animated feature Shrek.

Based on William Steig’s 1990 children’s book, Shrek was vividly re-imagined by Dreamworks animators as a subversive twist on the classic Beauty and the Beast story. The studio had originally signed the comedian Chris Farley to provide the voice for the titular green ogre, and his death in December 1997 temporarily set the project back, as the character of Shrek had been tailored to his personality and voice. After Mike Myers signed on, he lent his own spin to the character, including a thick Scottish accent with the flavor of Myers’ native Canada.

The film turned many of the sentimental clichés of fairy tales on their heads, with sympathetic portrayals of traditionally villainous figures such as ogres and dragons. In the world of Shrek, Prince Charming is a bumbling fool, while the ogre emerges as the romantic hero. Alongside Myers, Eddie Murphy was allowed to improvise in his role as the Donkey, Cameron Diaz voiced Princess Fiona and John Lithgow was the scheming Lord Farquaad. In an unusual marketing strategy for an animated film, the big-name cast members were promoted as the stars of the film, as opposed to the animated characters themselves.

Dreamworks entered Shrek in the Cannes Film Festival, where it was the first animated entry to compete there since 1974. It won no prizes but began generating great word-of-mouth. Released in May 2001 to rave reviews, the film made $42 million in its opening weekend–the biggest DreamWorks opening ever, topping Ridley Scott’s blockbuster historical epic Gladiator. Shrek’s success helped establish Dreamworks as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, especially in the field of animation, where it emerged as a viable rival to Walt Disney Pictures. At the next year’s Academy Awards, Shrek beat out Disney’s Monsters, Inc. to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature (the first-ever Oscar given in that category); it was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

When the American Film Institute released its lists of the 10 best films in 10 different genres in 2008, Shrek came in at No. 8 and was the only non-Disney film to make the list. Myers, Murphy, and Diaz would reprise their roles in two successful sequels, released in 2004 and 2007. In December 2008, a Shrek musical opened on Broadway.

Still from the trailer for the film, Shrek
(The Edge)

Today’s Sources: 

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

* 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.

8 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 18th”

  1. I flew around Mt St Helens just after it had gone up!! The crater was still smoking and there were 26 miles of flattened trees below us like matchsticks!

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  2. Fascinating stories. When I was in the hospital giving birth in February 1981,the big news was how many births had occurred at the same time in areas close to Mount St. Helens. Seems there was not much to do after the volcano exploded. 🙂 My last visit to the Eric Carle Museum had the original art of William Steig’s Shrek. I had no idea it was first a book!

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  3. I have friends who live very near Mount St. Helens. They’ve survived several tremors and eruptions but feel relatively safe since their home is located off the back side of the volcano. However (I’ve told them many times), nowhere is safe when the eruption is massive. Maybe they’ll pay heed now that Kilauea has exploded. I hope so. I worry about them. But then, I live near the San Andreas and Hayward fault lines. Guess we’re all living dangerously 🙂 Welcome back, Bro ❤️

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  4. I knew who Aimee McPherson was but had never read anything about her. How interesting. When Mt. St. Helen’s erupted we got ash clear down here in Utah. On a subsequent trip up there years later I got a ring from the gift shop at the visitors’ center with a stone newly created in the volcano. They call it Helenite. Looks a little like an emerald. It was really freaky to see the river frozen in place…

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  5. I remember when Mount St. Helens erupted. One of my brothers lives in Spokane, which is over 400 miles from the volcano. His area was covered in several inches of ash. The power of volcanoes is mind-boggling to grasp. Who among us is not horrified watching the eruption of the Kilauea volcano? Or unnerved by new activity in the Yellowstone Caldera? Thank you, John, for another great list.

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