Monday, July 17, 2006

Wrong Way Corrigan - July 17, 1938

I'll explain why Mr. Corrigan is my pick for the day at the end.

Douglas Corrigan, born in Texas, January 22, 1907, he changed his name from Clyde Groce to Douglas as an adult. He fell in love with flying October, 1925 when he saw passengers being flown in a Curtiss JN-4. He soon started taking lessons himself and made his first solo flight on March 25, 1926.

Corrigan took a job with Mohoney and Ryan of Ryan Aeronautical Company. This led to his working on the design and construction of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. Determined to fly transatlantic himself, Corrigan started working a string of jobs to afford his dreams. In 1933 he bought a 1929 Curtiss-Robin monoplane. It was apparently not in the best of conditions and he made quite a few special modifications to it to ready it for his flight.

His applications to fly transatlantic were all rejected because of the condition of his plane. None of the officials thought he could make it. In fact, his plane was grounded in 1935 for six months because both federal and state officials felt it wasn't safe to be flown at all.

On July 8, 1938, Corrigan flew the Sunshine from California to New York with a conditional transcontinental license to test more modifications to the plane. He was supposed to return to California on July 17. Instead Corrigan headed east over the Atlantic. He claims that he didn't realize he was over water until 26 hours into his flight, however some repairs he made with the experimental fuel tank array don't mesh with what he would have done if he'd been expecting to fly over land.

He landed at Baldonnel Field, Dublin, July 18, 1938 after a journey of 28 hours (and change). Officials pressed him but he stuck with it, insisting low visibility and a faulty compass were the reason for his "mistaken" flight. Corrigan's answer in the end was "That's my story" (which became the title of his autobigraphy) and the officials gave up on trying to shake him. He had his license suspended temporarily and was welcomed home with a ticker-tape parade. The New York Times headline read "Hail Wrong Way Corrigan" printed backwards.

Corrigan lived a quiet life after his flight, never admitting he did it on purpose, dying in California December 9, 1995.

Now, as for the reason I chose him. When I played baketball in seventh or eighth grade, I actually got the ball. I was so thrilled I immediately turned and shot...and missed. Thank the Gods! It was the wrong basket! One of my neighbors, a great old gentleman, never let me forget it. To Austin, from that day on, I was Wrong Way Corrigan. He died a few years ago and a nicer man there never was. When I saw Wrong Way's name come up on my list of possibles I just had to do it, in honor of Austin.

Wrong Way Corrigan - This Day in History
Wrong Way Corrigan - Wikipedia
Wrong Way Corrigan - US Centennial of Flight Commission

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Manhattanhenge - July 12

This is less a history post as one of an interesting meteorological phenomenon. The basis of Stonehenge is that during the Summer Solstice the Sun's light is channelled directly between the two largest stones. The same happens in Manhattan due to its grid layout each May 28 and July 12.

Check out the Natural History Magazine's explanation.

The picture is from this May 27th.

Manhattanhenge - Bridge and Tunnel Club
Manhattanhenge - Natural History Magazine

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thomas Bowdler - July 11, 1754

Thomas Bowdler was an English doctor who gave his name to a form of censorship. He was born near Bath and earned his degree in Medicine by 1776, however, he didn't practice, instead working towards prison reforms. His retirement in 1818 led to the activities that made him famous, or infamous, as the case may be.

He retired to the Isle of Wight with his sister, Henrietta, who had edited some of Shakespeare's plays in a volume called Family Shakespeare in 1807. She took out any passages or words that would be considered innappropriate for children or women to say or hear. Bowdler and his sister continued the work in ten volumes - in which they "endeavoured to remove every thing that could give just offence to the religious and virtuous mind" and "in which nothing is added to the original text, but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." (Wikipedia)

According to Bowdler and his sister, Ohpelia from Hamlet drowned accidentaly, suicide being inappropriate subject matter. His efforts didn't end with making Shakespeare boring, he also seems to have put out a version of the Old Testament and Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Tsk. Tsk. Those Old Testament people - how dare they offend the delicate sensibilities of Regency England?

Bowdler's sanctimonious editing gave rise to the term "bowdlerize" (-ise in England), which now means "1. To expurgate (a book, for example) prudishly. 2. To modify, as by shortening or simplifying or by skewing the content in a certain manner. " - According to the American Heritage Dictionary found at Bartleby.com.

Thomas Bowdler - Wikipedia
Thomas Bowdler - Bartleby.com
Thomas Bowdler - Goatview.com

Monday, July 10, 2006

Man of 1000 Voices Dies - July 10, 1989

The actor behind the voices of some of the most beloved cartoon characters, Mel Blanc, died July 10, 1989 in Los Angeles, California. He was born in 1908 in San Francisco, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. He found out early on that he had a love of accents and the talent to imitate them. At first he joined Jack Benny on his radio program, providing voices and sound effects, making a name for himself in the radio "biz".

In the 1936 he was hired by Warner Bros as a minor voice actor. When the actor voicing Porky Pig died, they needed a new actor and tapped Blanc for it. It became his role. During his time at Warner Bros he created his most famous character, Bugs Bunny, along with others like Foghorn Leghorn (Ah say, Ah say, Ah say!), Speedy Gonzalez, Tweety and Sylvester (Blanc's natural voice was this one minus the sputtering), Pepe Le Pew (I love this guy.) and Wylie Coyote and the Road Runner. He was allergic to carrots, so he would always put the lines with Bugs eating a carrot last. He would chomp his carrot, say his line then quickly spit the carrot into a garbage can next to him. During WWII he voiced Pvt. Snafu in soldiers' training films written by Theodor S. Geisel.

While still acting for Warner Bros Blanc joined Hanna-Barbera to voice Barney Rubble and Mr. Spacely (always one of my favorites!). He was prohibited from acting Bugs, though, by Hanna-Barbera, then in a battle for Saturday morning ratings with Warner Bros.

In early 1961 Blanc was in a car accident in Los Angeles and comatose. After two weeks of trying to wake him up by calling his name, a clever doctor called him Bugs Bunny. Blanc responded with "What's up, Doc?" The doctor talked him out of the coma by talking to a couple of other characters. The accident and the suit Blanc brought agains the city of Los Angeles led to repairs and improvements on a particularly dangerous street.

His last original character was Heathcliff. He died of cardiovascular disease in 1989. His will specified that the epitaph carved on his headstone be "That's all, folks." How fitting.

IMDB lists his work at an astonishing 954 programs as actor and at least fifteen others that he was involved in in some way. Amazing.

POV Online: Mel Blanc Tribute - an absolutely beautiful read
Mel Blanc - Toonopedia
Mel Blanc - Wikipedia
Mel Blanc - KnowAllAbout.com

PS - I just read that June Allyson passed away today. I think the phrase "classy lady" sums her up nicely. She will be missed.