Tuesday 30 April 2013

Architectural Icons at the World's Fair

It was on this day in 1939 that the World's Fair opened in New York City.  Again in 1964, the Big Apple hosted the World's Fair.  This time they built the largest globe in the world, called the Unisphere.  It is featured in the opening scenes of the show "King of Queens".  My husband spotted it from the plane when we flew into LaGuardia Airport last summer.

Here are ten lasting structures that were originally built for World's Fairs.

1.  Crystal Palace 1851

Made of a million square feet of glass, the Crystal Palace in London, England built for the World's Exhibition inspired many other structures:  New York's Crystal Palace (1953), Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall (1876), Sydney's Garden Palace (1879), Paris' Grand Palais (1900) and Disney World's Crystal Palace (1971).

2.  Eiffel Tower 1889

Built as a temporary structure to be dismantled later on, the 1063 foot high structure still stands today.  Someone climbed its 1710 steps to plant the French flag on the day that it opened.

3.  Krizikova Fountain 1891

Built for the General Land Exhibition in Prague, Austria, it now serves as a backdrop to a 6000 person amphitheatre.

4.  Palace of Fine Arts 1893

Built for the World's Colombian Exposition, it has served both as the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science & Industry.

5.  Golden Gate Bridge 1939

Built for the Golden Gate International Exhibit, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time. It has been featured in many movies including Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo".

6.  Atomium 1958

Built for the Brussels, Belgium Exposition, this represented an iron molecule enlarged 165 billion times.

7.  Space Needle 1962

Built for the exposition in Seattle, Washington this needle houses a rotating restaurant.

8.  Unisphere 1964

The largest globe in the world, in New York City, weighs 900,000 pounds and stands 140 feet high.

9.  Buckminister Fullerdome 1967

This giant ball sits on the island of Montreal and used to house the U.S. Pavilion during Expo 67.  Now it serves as the Environment Canada Biosphere.

10.  Canada Place 1986

This Vancouver Expo building looks like a cross between a sailboat and the Sydney Opera House.  It now houses a convention centre, hotel, office building, cruise ship terminal, retail centre, amphitheatre and promenade.

Monday 29 April 2013

My Favorite Husband

My Favorite Husband courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.  

Before “I Love Lucy” premiered on television in 1951, it was preceded by a radio broadcast called “My Favorite Husband’ starring Lucille Ball and Richard Denning.  Desi Arnaz, however, was Lucille’s real life husband and the one who would star with her in the television adaptation called "I Love Lucy".  The television network did not think the American public would accept Lucy starring with a Cuban, but she insisted and the network relented.  While Desi may have been her favorite husband in their twenty years of marriage, he was far from faithful.  The Cuban band leader had affair after affair while Lucy silently suffered.  Finally, in 1960, she called it quits.

I Love Lucy courtesy tvgcdn.net.

I have also been married for twenty years, but my story is quite different from Lucy’s.  The other day it struck me what a good husband I have!  He works very hard to provide for his family.  He always comes home at the end of the day.  He doesn’t head to the bar or to the casino.  He doesn’t head to another woman’s house.  He would rather be with us than anywhere else. 

I often take this fact for granted, but I shouldn’t.  The next time I grumble about not being able to make the bed because Rob’s sleeping in, I should think twice.  The next time I complain about him walking around the house in his Speedo underwear, I should think twice.  The next time he scoops coffee grinds out of the can and then puts the same spoon back in the drawer, I should think twice about complaining.  And yes, the next time he lets out a burp like a cave man, I should bite my tongue. 

For I wouldn’t trade all the snores and burps and Speedos and coffee grinds in the world for a cheater.  It’s reassuring to know that when the end of the day comes, my husband will come home.  It’s comforting to know that he is a good father to Thomas and Jacqueline.  It’s nice to know that I made the right choice:  if I had the chance to marry again, I’d pick the same groom.  Lucille can keep her Desi; I’ll keep my Rob.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins


2 c. all-purpose flour
½ c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. chocolate chips
2 c. mashed very ripe bananas (about 4 large)
½ c. margarine (melted)
¼ c. milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease 12 large muffin cups.  In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.  In small bowl, blend bananas, melted margarine, milk, eggs and vanilla.  Add to flour mixture, stirring only until just blended – do not overmix.  Fill muffin cups.  Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand several minutes before eating.  Makes 12 large muffins.  Per serving:  287 calories.

Image courtesy www.totalbalancedhealth.com.

Saturday 27 April 2013

The Bible by Numbers

1.  66 -- number of books 

2.  39 -- number of books in Old Testament

3.  27 -- number of books in New Testament

4.  2 John -- shortest book

5.  Psalms -- longest book

6.  1189 -- number of chapters

7.  Psalm 117 -- shortest chapter

8.  Psalm 119 -- longest chapter

9.  31,173 -- number of verses

10.  773,692 -- number of words

11.  3,358 -- number of times God is mentioned

12.  18 -- number of letters of longest word (mahershalalhashbaz)

Image courtesy www.staceyreid.com.

Friday 26 April 2013

The Big Cat of Basketball

"In 1950, basketball was like a babe in the woods.  It didn't enjoy the notoriety that baseball did."  So explained Earl Lloyd, the first black player in the National Basketball Association.  He did for basketball what Jackie Robinson did for baseball.  Here is his story.

Earl Francis Lloyd was born on April 3, 1928 in Alexandria, Virginia.  He took up basketball in Grade 6 and soon excelled at the sport.  He attended a black high school which would later be integrated with the local white high school and the new school would be called T.C. Williams.  This is the school featured in the fact-based football movie "Remember the Titans".

Upon graduation from high school, he was accepted at West Virginia State College, also an all-black school.  Earl played on the basketball team where he and his teammates won the C.I.A.A. championship in 1948 and 1949.  At 6 feet 7 inches, Earl soon acquired the nickname "The Big Cat".  In four years of college, Earl and his friends only visited the city of Charleston three or four times, even though it was only 10 miles away.  Being a segregated city, they chose to stay on campus where it was safe.  One day, a friend approached him on the college campus and said she heard on the radio that Earl was going to be drafted by an NBA team.  Because the owners and managers were white, they did not usually visit black campuses.

Map courtesy www.enchantedlearning.com.

But the friend was right and Earl was soon signing on the dotted line with the Washington Capitols.  This was his first chance to have a conversation with a white person in his entire life.  Earl found his teammates to be accepting of him despite his skin colour.  He had no car and it was white teammate Bill Sharman who drove him to every practice.  His white coach, Horace "Bones" McKinney, also accepted him with open arms.  AT one point the team lodged at a hotel where Earl was refused entry at the restaurant.  Earl ordered room service and Coach McKinney ate with him in his hotel room.  The young basketball star "carried that gesture for the rest of his life".

While Earl's teammates were supportive, and the opposing teams were supportive, the fans were not.  They taunted him mercilessly in places like St. Louis, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, shouting insults like "Go back to Africa" and "Show us your tail".  Like Jackie Robinson, Earl Lloyd refused to take the bait.  Instead, he used the rude fans' insults to fuel his fire on the basketball court.

Earl's time with the Washington Capitols was brief as he was drafted into the American military and sent overseas to Korea.  After two years in the service, he returned home to find out his team had folded.  He was picked up by the Syracuse Nationals where he averaged 10.2 points per game.  While travelling with Syracuse, he still encountered racism.  The team was invited to an exhibition game in South Carolina, but Earl was not allowed to go due to his skin colour.  It was bad enough that he couldn't play, but even worse that his teammates said nothing to him about the matter.  He was hoping that they would at least acknowledge the injustice of the situation.

Photo of NBA champions, Syracuse Nationals, 1955 courtesy jpollard.homestead.com.

Earl continued to rack up points on the basketball court and in 1955, he received the ultimate reward -- the NBA championship.  After six years with Syracuse, Earl signed on with the Detroit Pistons for his last two seasons.  In 1960, he retired.

Earl soon became the NBA's first black assistant coach.  Then in 1965, the general manager of the Pistons wanted to make him the head coach, but his decision was overridden by someone higher up.  Earl did become the Pistons' head coach, however, seven years later.

Earl was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.  His fans will never forget the class he showed both on and off the court.  He was once asked who was the one person he would pick to have lunch with if he had the chance.  He said his first choice was Jesus, but if he could not lunch with Jesus, his second choice was his favourite sports hero -- Jackie Robinson.

Note:  For more information read his autobiography, Moon Fixer:  The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd.

Thursday 25 April 2013

How the Red Fern Grew

Image courtesy upload.wikimedia.org. 

The year was 1961.  The story was "How the Red Fern Grows".  The author was Wilson Rawls.  The publisher was Doubleday.  The readers' reception was lukewarm at best.  How did Wilson's book become a bestseller?

Wilson Rawls grew up on a farm in the Ozarks, dreaming of becoming a writer.  While working construction in Mexico, he started penning a story about a young boy named Billy growing up in the Ozarks with two hunting dogs.  He would hunt raccoons and then take their pelts to his grandfather's shop to sell.  While exploring the Ozarks, he met mountain lions.  He also met a pair of pups, Old Dan and Little Ann, who later died after a lion attack.  The boy, heartbroken, buried the dogs.  Later a red fern grew between the dogs' graves.  An Indian legend states that a red fern is planted by an angel and this sign restored the little boy's faith in God.

Photo courtesy redbubble.net.

Once complete, Wilson Rawls rolled up his manuscipt and tucked it into a trunk at his parents' house where it collected dust. In the meantime, he met his fiancee Sophie.  Embarrassed to admit that he never realized his dream of becoming a published author, Wilson burned his all of his manuscripts a week before he got married.  Three months later, he admitted what he had done to his wife who insisted that he rewrite his stories.  In six weeks, he had rewritten the story about little Billy and the hounds. Thinking his wife would hate the story, Wilson left the house for the day while she read the finished product.  But her reaction was the reverse:  "this is the most wonderful boy and dog story I've ever heard".

Sophie insisted that Wilson submit it for publication.  But first she had him lengthen the story in longhand and then she typed it out for him.  Wilson mailed the manuscript tot he Saturday Evening Post whose editor said no within three weeks.  He waited four months only to be rejected by Ladies Home Journal as well.  However, the LHJ editor suggested resubmitting the story to Saturday Evening Post.  This time, the Post said yes.  They published the story as "The Hounds of Youth".

Readers like that story enough that it Wilson got a book contract out of it with Doubleday, this time as Where the Red Fern Grows.  However, once the books reached the shelves, they collected dust for the next six years.  Then, a Doubleday agent named Mr. Breinholt begged to be given a chance to market the book again.  He gathered 5000 reading teachers and librarians at the university of Utah and showed them the book.  They in turn read the book to their students who were instantly hooked.  Sales skyrocketed and have increased every year since.

Photo of Ozarks courtesy www.ozarkmtns.com. 

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Brantford Book Fair

Image courtesy storage.canoe.ca.

The rain pelted on the windshield as I made my way up the hill to Pleasant Ridge Saddlery.  Dozens of cars lined the highway.  I searched for a parking spot and not wanting to park in the road, I squeezed into a space at the Dairy Creme.  Then I made my way over to the saddle shop, converted into a book fair for four days.  I squeezed my way into the building which was wall to wall people searching through stacks and stacks of books.  These were the diehards, the people who lined up in the rain for an hour before the book fair.  Some pushed shopping carts, some lugged cardboard boxes around, others brought reusable grocery bags.  My first thought?  Reading is alive and well in Brantford.

Rob and I have been attending the Brantford Symphony Book Fair for fifteen years now.  The first year, we pushed Thomas around in his stroller.  I found a book about Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic.  One year the book fair was held in a former school where a reporter from the Expositor interviewed us and other customers.  One year, under a burning hot sun, we make our way through an old bingo hall full of books.  Last year, at an old factory, I bought a coffee book about Washington DC for my son Thomas who was heading to the capital city that summer.

This year, I made some good finds:  a D-Day book, a book about the evacuation of children from wartime London, a book about the Berlin Wall, one about a German military official involved in Hitler's assassination attempt and one called Fit to Print about a former New York Times editor.  Rob found some interesting books, too, as well as a digital Clue game for only $5.00 with the wrapping still on the box.  Most of the books were $1.00 or $2.00; some were only 50 cents.

As I drove back down the hill, I wondered where they will have the book fair next year.  It's a great tradition held for a great cause.  Until next year....

Photo courtesy www.brantnews.com.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

No Uniform, No Shoulder Pads, Just a Football

Washington, Strode, Willis and Motley were the first four black football players to play on American fields in decades.  The first two men would not last long, but Willis and Motley ended up making careers out of their contracts.  But it came at a cost:  cheap shots, hard hits and abuse.  But in the end, Motley would be listed as one of the top 100 NFL players of all time.

Photo courtesy memberfiles.freewebs.com.

Marion Motley was born in Georgia and raised in Canton, Ohio.  At his Ohio high school, Marion excelled at several sports including track, javelin and boxing.  He was also interested in playing football, but the coach refused to give him pads or a uniform.  He persevered, practising without either.  After graduating, Marion attended college in Idaho where he played more ball.  Attitudes had not changed:  opposing players stomped on him with their cleats, gouged him in the groin, and kicked him in the knee (later to become a career ending injury).

Before completing his degree, Marion signed up for the military where he played football.  Although the referees often gave him "phantom penalties", his coach saw promise in him.

Paul Brown photo courtesy upload.wikimedia.org. 

After the war, Marion was called to try out for the Cleveland Browns in 1946.  At 250 pounds, Marion was an impressive figure.  His speed also impressed the coach, Paul Brown, the same one that Marion played for in the military.

Marion soon signed a contract and was travelling across the United States to various football stadiums.  The taunts were constant at first, some calling him "alligator bait".  The cheap shots were frequent.  But Marion refused to be reduced to their level.  The reception at hotels was not always a warm one either.  At least one hotel refused to rent a room to Marion, but the coach said the whole team would walk and the hotel owner reluctantly relented.

Photo courtesy www.clevelandseniors.com.

While the abuse from opposing teams could be brutal, Marion did not receive the same abuse from his fellow players as coach Brown would not tolerate it.  Bit by bit, his teammates gained respect for Marion as he showed them what he could do on the fans.  And bit by bit the fans folloed suit.  He racked up rushing yards and broke records.  In 1950, he helped lead the Cleveland Browns to their first NFL championship and was the leagues top rusher.  By 1953, he was cut from the Browns but he played for part of a season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Then he took early retirement due to that nagging knee injury.

Marion's nine year career record was impressive:  he amassed 4720 yards rushing on 828 carries for 5.7 years per carry.  And for the player who once didn't even have a uniform, it was an honour to have his uniform placed permanently in the Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

Photo courtesy profootballhof.com.

Monday 22 April 2013

Stompin' Tom

In 1991, my husband and his parents took me to a Stompin' Tom concert at Hamilton Place.  I'll never forget Rob's patriotic friend John hooting and howling from the front row as he waved a cowboy hat back and forth.  While I didn't have the same reaction as John, I did appreciate Stompin' Tom's ability to tell a story.  Years later I read his autobiographies Before the Fame and Stompin' Tom and the Connors' Tone.  Once again, I was impressed with his ability to tell a story, to bring it to life.

My favourite story was how Stompin' Tom was performing at the Maple Leaf Hotel where he first made a name for himself.  It was there that he started stomping his boot to the beat and took chunks out of the stage.  One night, a regular patron complained about his stomping.  He apologized and then proceeded to go on stage and stomp so strongly that a chunk of the stage landed right in the indignant lady's drink.  He certainly wasn't a people-pleaser but he tried to be a crowd-pleaser.  He was also a Canadian patriot.  Here are ten songs he wrote about our history.

1.  Sable Island

2.  How the Mountain Came Tumblin' Down

3.  The Don Messer Story

4.  Cowboy, Johnny Ware

5.  Tribute to Wilf Carter

6.  Horse Called Farmer

7.  The Wreck of the Tammy Ann

8.  Jenny Donnelly

9.  Paddlewheeler

10.  Bluenose

Image courtesy canadianculturething.com. 

Rest in peace, Stompin' Tom (1936-2013).

Note:  For more information about Stompin' Tom, visit my blog post "One Nickel Short in the Nickel Belt" dated October 24, 2011.

Sunday 21 April 2013

A Bush Plane, A Fishing Trip & A Hockey Legend

"Bill Barilko disappeared that summer, 
He was on a fishing trip.
The last goal he ever scored,
won the leafs the Cup.
They didn't win another till 1962
The year he was discovered."
(Tragically Hip's "Fifty Mission Cap")

Bill Barilko was the son of Eastern European immigrants who had escaped the oppression of the Nazis during World War II.  They settled in Timmins, Ontario where his dad worked in the mines.  In those days, Timmins youth had two career choices:  either go down to the mines to work or go to the arena to become a hockey player.  Bill dreamed of the latter, but as a child he didn't even know how to skate.  He and his sister used to "play hockey" at home using a ruler and marbles.  They would listen to Foster Hewitt's broadcast from Maple Leaf gardens every Saturday night and imagine they were in the stands.

When Bill reached his teens, he finally learned how to skate.  With hand me down skates he tried out for the minor leagues and signed a deal with a Hollywood team.  But it wasn't long before Bill got the tryout of his life with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1947.  Bill, playing on defence, soon got the reputation of being hard hitting which earned him the nickname "Bashin' Bill".  

Photo courtesy farm1.staticflickr.com.

Bill Barilko racked up victory after victory with the Maple Leafs, bringing home three Stanley Cups by the 1950-51 season.  Toronto was matched up with the Montreal Canadiens for the Stanley Cup playoffs that year, only the second time in history.  Both teams played their hearts out and every game went into overtime.  It was during the fifth and deciding game that Barilko really turned it on.  The teams were tied 2-2 as they went into overtime.  The clock ticked by...one minute....two minutes.  At 2:53 "Bashin' Bill" took a pass.  He leaned in for a shot, which he hit with such force, he fell over.  The puck went into the goal, winning the Leafs the game.  Head coach Tommy Ivan and his Leafs sipped from the Stanley Cup that night.  Dick Irwin and his Canadiens went home, defeated.  

Photo courtesy photobucket.com. 

Riding a high that Spring and Summer, Barilko tried to enjoy his vacation.  In August, his dentist Henry Hudson invited him on a fishing trip to James Bay.  Dr. Hudson, an amateur pilot, flew them to their destination.  On the way home, the plane crashed without a trace.  Although a crew was dispatched to find the missing plane, its mission was fruitless.

Map courtesy tdsb.on.ca.

Eleven years passed by.  Eleven years in which the Toronto Maple Leafs did not win another Stanley Cup.  Then, in 1962, the Leafs won the Cup one more time, this time against the Chicago Black Hawks.  Later that year, a small plane flew over Cochrane, Ontario and spotted the remains of a crash.  Further investigation revealed that it was Bill Barilko and Henry Hudson.  Their remains were brought home and they finally had a proper burial. Barilko's number 5 was permanently retired by the NHL.  And he remains one of the great legends of hockey. 

Photo of plane wreck courtesy storage.canoe.ca.

In the 1990's, Gordon Downie of "The Tragically Hip", found a Bill Barilko hockey card in his Fifty Mission Cap (similar to the caps that World War II pilots wore who had flown 50 successful missions) and wrote a song about it.  And the rest is history.  

Hockey card image courtesy sbnation.com.

Note:  For more infomation, read Barilko:  Without a Trace by Kevin Shea.

Saturday 20 April 2013

The History of Handbags

A purse was originally a term reserved for a small bag holding coins while a handbag was reserved for a bag holding larger accessories.  The handbag did not become popular until the Industrial Revolution when some women entered the workforce.  It was also in the 1800's that rail travel became popular and many train passengers needed a bag to carry their belongings.  While handbags were originally manufactured by dressmakers, after the Industrial Revolution, it was the luggage makers, like Louis Vuitton, that took over their production.

An early model was the Chatelaine, a small bag that was attached to the waist belt on a woman's dress.

Dorothy bags came with matching robes and muffs and one could attach opera glasses and folding fans to them.

Boulevard bags were designed for the working woman.

After the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1923, Egyptomania took over and handbags were covered with exotic designs.

By the 1930's, the Art Deco phase started.

The hobo handbag, which resembled a hobo's bindle sack that he carried on a stick, was also popular in the 1930's.

Shoulder bags took centre stage in the 1940's, where in Britain, women even carried gas masks inside.

The 1950's saw the advent of tiny bags the size of Cinderella's missing slipper that matched a woman's dress.

Large satchels with strings and straps appeared in the 1960's and 1970's.

By the 1980's, fitness conscious woman carried gym bags.  The black nylon knapsack became popular as well.

Designer bags ruled in the 1990's.

By 2000, handbagheaven.com was in business.

Friday 19 April 2013

Daredevil Resists Devil

Photo courtesy images.hemmings.com.

An eight-year-old boy sat in the stands of the Joie Chitwood Auto Daredevil Show.  As the cars whizzed past him, he was glued to his seat.  He decided that day that he would become a daredevil himself.  Twenty years later, he would drive his motorcycle over a canyon, a coliseum and a fountain.

Robert Craig Knievel was born and raised in Butte, Montana to a German-American father and an Irish-American mother.  His parents split when he was young and he was raised by his grandparents.  He first learned how to ride a bike and pedalled around town with a sack of newspapers, outselling any other paper boy.  Later he learned how to ride a motorcycle, doing wheelies around the local copper mines.

He married young and struggled to find a way to support his new wife, Linda.  He got hired to work in one of the mines, but was fired after popping a wheelie on an earth mover and ramming a powerline, disabling the city's power supply for hours.  He was also reckless on the roads and soon was jailed for reckless driving.  Spending the night in jail, his neighbour in the next cell was a criminal named "Awful Knofel".  The jailer started calling Robert "Evel Kneivel" and it stuck.

Photo courtesy thenorthernline.com.

By the mid-1960's, Evel was performing stunts.  By the late 1960's, he was attracting nationwide attention. He road his motorcycle over 13 busses in London's Wembley Stadium.  He soared over the Los Angeles Coliseum.  He even flew over Snake River Canyon in a James Bond style rocket contraption.  For as many successful jumps he completed, he also had wipe outs.

Photo courtesy www.kingofthestuntmen.co.uk.

Likely his most famous accident happened in Las Vegas when he attempted to leap over the Caesar's Palace fountain.  The video footage shows him crashing as he lands, flying off his motorcycle and landing like a rag doll, unconscious.  Miraculously, he woke up, but only after 29 days in a coma.  Frank Gifford covered one of his jumps in which he crashed, broke his pelvis and walked away from the accident.  In total, Evel suffered 433 broken bones, earning him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Photo courtesy nytimes.com.

Not only was Evel Knievel a successful stuntman, he was also a successful self-promoter, being called a "modern day P.T. Barnum".  He managed to secure television coverage for many of his stunts.  Wide World of Sports covered many of these stunts which were watched by thousands.  One stunt earned the number one spot in the television ratings for ABC.

No longer struggling financially, Evel wrote in his book Evel Ways that he lived better than any king, prince or president.  He owned Ferraris, Lambourghinis, Rolls Royces and jets.  He would send both jets up at once so that he could ride in one and look out the window at the other with his name painted on the side.  Evel was living the high life.  Soon he was womanizing as well.

Image courtesy photobucket.com.

Evel retired from stunt performing and his son Robbie took over the reins.  In the late 1990's, Evel's marriage disintegrated.  He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, contracted by one of the many blood transfusions he had after his crashes.  Evel struggled with his health, coming within days of death when he was given a liver transplant.  His world came crashing down.  

In 2007, Evel took a different type of leap, a leap of faith.  One day, after much prayer, he felt God reach out and grab him.  He felt an overwhelming presence.  He yelled out "Devil, get away!"  He gave his life to Christ.  He went on to be baptized at the Crystal Cathedral.  Evel passed away shortly thereafter.  But he was a changed man.  He knew where he was going.  And he wasn't afraid.

Evel Knievel's baptism at the Crystal Cathedral courtesy www.breakingchristiannews.com.