John’s Believe It Or Not… July 12th

* 1968 – Health Minister Allan MacEachen tables Medical Care Act in the Commons. * 1933 First Dymaxion car produced * 2008 Angelina Jolie gives birth to twins * 1389 Geoffrey Chaucer is named chief clerk by Richard II * 1979 Disco is dealt death blow by fans of the Chicago White Sox

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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt together with all of their children

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1968 – Health Minister Allan MacEachen tables Medical Care Act in the Commons.

Allan J. MacEachen, Canada’s first deputy prime minister and a legislator whose mastery of parliamentary politics ensured the country’s adoption of national health care and other far-reaching social programs, died on Sept. 12, 2017, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He was 96.

Mr. MacEachen lived in East Ainslie Lake, Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island, the area where he was born and which he represented as a member of Parliament. Over the decades he sat in the House of Commons and the Senate, where he was appointed as a member of the Liberal Party.

Mr. MacEachen was a key parliamentary operative for two Liberal Party prime ministers, Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and held several senior cabinet positions under them.

“Apart from prime ministers, MacEachen was probably the most significant parliamentarian of the postwar era,” said Tom Axworthy, who was Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary. “Mr. Trudeau didn’t do anything in the House without first getting the views of MacEachen.”

Mr. Pearson was a former diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize laureate when his government moved to introduce the federal funding that created public health care across Canada in 1966. But he was not skilled at parliamentary maneuvering, and his government lacked a majority of votes in the House of Commons.

Parties on the right, with the support of the private health insurance industry, rejected the plan, saying it would intrude on provincial powers, undermine doctors and cost too much. Mr. MacEachen, who was Minister of Health and Welfare in the Pearson government, found himself fighting cabinet colleagues who thought that the plan would be financially ruinous.

At the same time, the New Democratic Party, which was to the left of the Liberals, criticized the proposal for not going far enough in its medical coverage. It wanted dental care, prescription drugs and other services, like eyeglasses, to be covered as well.

It is generally accepted that Mr. MacEachen was largely responsible for winning over the New Democrats, allowing the legislation to pass and then, as health minister, pushing government administrators to implement the new system swiftly.

Alan MacEachen, Minister of National Health and Welfare
Alan MacEachen, Minister of National Health and Welfare (Canadian Museum of History)

* 1933 First Dymaxion car produced

The first three-wheeled, multi-directional Dymaxion car–designed by the architect, engineer and philosopher Buckminster Fuller–is manufactured in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on this day in 1933.

Born in Massachusetts in 1895, Fuller set out to live his life as (in his own words) “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.” After making up the word “Dymaxion” as a combination of the words “dynamic,” “maximum” and “ion,” he took the word as his own personal brand. Among his groundbreaking creations were the geodesic dome and the Dymaxion house, which was made of lightweight aluminum and could be shipped by air and assembled on site.

In 1927, Fuller first sketched the Dymaxion car under the name “4D transport.” Part aircraft, part automobile, it had wings that inflated. Five years later, Fuller asked his friend, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, to make more sketches of the car. The result was an elongated teardrop design, with a rear third wheel that lifted off the ground and a tail fin. Fuller set up production of the Dymaxion car in a former Locomobile factory in Bridgeport in March 1933. The first model rolled out of the Bridgeport factory on July 12, 1933–Fuller’s 38th birthday. It had a steel chassis (or frame) and a body made of ash wood, covered with an aluminum skin and topped with a painted canvas roof. It was designed to be able to reach a speed of 120 miles per hour and average 28 miles per gallon of gasoline.

Sold to Gulf Oil, the Dymaxion car went on display at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago. That October, however, the professional driver Francis Turner was killed after the Dymaxion car turned over during a demonstration. An investigation cleared Dymaxion of responsibility, but investors became scarce, despite the enthusiasm of the press and of celebrities such as the novelist H.G. Wells and the painter Diego Rivera.

Along with the Nazi-built KdF-Wagen (the forerunner of the Volkswagen Beetle), the Dymaxion was one of several futuristic, rear-engined cars developed during the 1930s. Though it was never mass-produced, the Dymaxion helped lead to public acceptance of new streamlined passenger cars, such as the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr. In 2008, the only surviving Dymaxion was featured in an exhibit dedicated to Fuller’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. An article published in The New York Times about the exhibit recalled Fuller’s own impressions of the Dymaxion: “I knew everyone would call it a car,” he told the literary critic Hugh Kenner in the 1960s; instead, it was actually “the land-taxiing phase of a wingless, twin orientable jet stilts flying device.”

The First Dymaxion Car
Bucky has been called the Leonardo Da Vinci of our times. He gave us the Geodesic Dome and was the first to offer us sustainability. (kickstarter.com)

* 2008 Angelina Jolie gives birth to twins

On this day in 2008, a girl named Vivienne Marcheline and a boy named Knox Leon are born to actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at Fondation Lenval hospital in Nice, France. The twins’ arrival made headlines around the world, as their celebrity parents had been a source of media fascination since their romantic relationship became public in 2005. In addition to the twins, the high-profile couple, nicknamed “Brangelina” by the media, have two sons–Maddox, adopted from Cambodia, and Pax, adopted from Vietnam; a daughter, Zahara, adopted from Ethiopia; and a biological daughter, Shiloh, who was born in Namibia. Jolie and Pitt appeared on the August 18, 2008, cover of People magazine with the twins. The couple was paid a reported $14 million (which they donated to charity) for the cover image and a 19-page photo spread inside the magazine.

Jolie, born June 4, 1975, is the daughter of actor Jon Voight, with whom she appeared, at age seven, in the movie Lookin’ To Get Out (1982). Jolie won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted (1999) and became world-famous for her starring role in the blockbuster action hit Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). She also appeared in such films as The Good Shepherd (2006) and A Mighty Heart (2006). From 1996 to 1999, the multi-tattooed actress was married to British actor Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), with whom she co-starred in the 1995 film Hackers. Jolie had a well-publicized second marriage to actor Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade) that lasted from 2000 to 2003. The two reportedly wore vials of each other’s blood around their necks.

Pitt, who was born December 18, 1963, rose to fame in the early 1990s with roles in such films as Thelma & Louise (1991), A River Runs Through It (1992) and Kalifornia (1993). He went on to build a long list of starring credits in a number of acclaimed films, including Fight Club (1999), Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and Babel (2006). In 2000, Pitt married actress Jennifer Aniston (most famous for her role on the long-running TV sitcom Friends) in a lavish ceremony in Malibu, California. The couple divorced in 2005 and Pitt became romantically involved with Jolie, his co-star in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), a film about a pair of married assassins. As soon as news of their relationship broke, “Brangelina” received extensive media coverage as they traveled around the world making movies, raising their ever-expanding brood and involving themselves in a variety of humanitarian causes.

Angelina Jolie and her twin babies
Angelina Jolie and her twin babies

* 1389 Geoffrey Chaucer is named chief clerk by Richard II

King Richard II appoints Geoffrey Chaucer to the position of chief clerk of the king’s works in Westminster on this day in 1389.

Chaucer, the middle-class son of a wine merchant, served as a page in an aristocratic household during his teens and was associated with the aristocracy for the rest of his life. In 1359, he fought in France with Edward III, and was captured in a siege. Edward III ransomed him, and he later worked for Edward III and John of Gaunt. One of his earliest known works was an elegy for the deceased wife of John of Gaunt, Book of the Duchesse.

In 1372, Chaucer traveled to Italy on diplomatic missions, where he may have been exposed to Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. He also visited Flanders and France, and was appointed comptroller of customs. He wrote several poems in the 1380s, including The Parlement of Foules and Troilus and Criseyde. In the late 1380s or early 1390s, he began work on the Canterbury Tales, in which a mixed group of nobles, peasants, and clergy make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. The work, a compilation of tales told by each character, is remarkable for its presentation of the spectrum of social classes. Although Chaucer intended the book to include 120 stories, he died in 1399, with only 22 tales finished.

Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer (CodePen)

* 1979 Disco is dealt death blow by fans of the Chicago White Sox

As the 1970s came to an end, the age of disco was also nearing its finale. But for all of its decadence and overexposure, disco didn’t quite die a natural death by collapsing under its own weight. Instead, it was killed by a public backlash that reached its peak on this day in 1979 with the infamous “Disco Demolition” night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. That incident, which led to at least nine injuries, 39 arrests and the cancellation and forfeit of a Major League Baseball game, is widely credited—or, depending on your perspective, blamed—with dealing disco its death blow.

The event was the brainchild of Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, popular disk jockeys on Chicago’s WLUP “The Loop” FM. Dahl had only recently moved to WLUP from rival station WDAI when that station switched to an all-disco format—a relatively common reformatting trend in American radio in 1979. But however many other rock DJs were displaced by disco, only Dahl was inspired to launch a semi-comic vendetta aimed at “the eradication and elimination of the dreaded musical disease.”

On May 2, the rainout of a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers led to the scheduling of a doubleheader on July 12. Dahl and Meier approached the White Sox with a rather unorthodox idea for an attendance-boosting promotion: Declare July 12 “Disco Demolition” night and allow Dahl to blow up a dumpster full of disco records between games of the doubleheader. White Sox executive Mike Veeck embraced the idea in the same spirit with which his father, legendary team-owner Bill Veeck, had once sent a little person to the plate in a major league ballgame in order to amuse the fans and draw a walk.

The first mistake organizers made on Disco Demolition night was grossly underestimating the appeal of the 98-cent discount tickets offered to anyone who brought a disco record to the park to add to the explosive-rigged dumpster. WLUP and the White Sox expected perhaps 5,000 more fans than the average draw of 15,000 or so at Comiskey Park. What they got instead was a raucous sellout crowd of 40,000-plus and an even more raucous overflow crowd of as many as 40,000 more outside on Shields Avenue. The second mistake was failing to actually collect those disco records, which would become dangerous projectiles in the hands of a crowd that was already out of control by the time Dahl detonated his dumpster in center field during warm-ups for the evening’s second game.

What followed was utter chaos, as fans by the thousands stormed the field and began to wreak havoc, shimmying up the foul poles, tearing up the grass and lighting vinyl bonfires on the diamond while the stadium scoreboard implored them to return to their seats. Conditions were judged too dangerous for the scheduled game to begin, and the Detroit Tigers were awarded a win by forfeit.

Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, 1979. Photo by Diane Alexander White
Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, 1979. Photo by Diane Alexander White

Today’s Sources: 

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

* New York Times                                                       https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/international-home/allan-j-maceachen-a-force-in-bringing-public-health-care-to-canada-dies-at-96.html

* 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.

15 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 12th”

  1. What a collection of events! By whatever means, health care needs to be provided to both rich and poor. I never heard of the Dymaxion car, but I don’t know much about cars. 😦 And, I have no recall of the Disco drama by fans of the Chicago White Sox, but disco was never my thing so I probably paid no attention. Thank you, John, and have a great day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fortunately for Canadians, the Pearson Liberals and the socialist NDP parties were able to get the Medicare bill through parliament. I know we pay very high taxes because of it, but no one has to die because they can’t afford medical care. Perhaps the Trump Party would do well to stop harping on military spending and start looking at medicare coverage for everyone in America. Sigh. Thanks, Gwen.

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