History

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Probably the most notable memorials of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, is the Arizona Memorial, which floats atop the sunken ship USS Arizona, which sank during that attack, taking with it 1,177 men. In all, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, took the lives of 1998 navy personnel, 109 Marines, 233 army personnel and 48 civilians that were killed in that bombing which resulted in 2,402 soldiers killed and 1,282 military personnel and civilians wounded. Over half of the fatalities of that dreadful day occurred on the USS Arizona.

The USS Arizona had one more situation that would make it unique…in a tragic way. There were 38 sets of brother stationed on the USS Arizona. The brothers totaled 79 men. Of these 79 brothers, 63 lost their lives that day. There were three sets of three brothers: the Beckers, the Dohertys, and the Murdocks. Only one of each of the sets of three survived. Of the 38 sets of brothers on the USS Arizona, 23 complete sets were lost. There was also a father/son set on the USS Arizona…both of whom were killed in the attack. This is in no way to say that any of the other people killed in the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 were less important that these brothers or the father and son set, because they weren’t. Every person that served when out nation was brutally attacked that day, gave their lives for their country. The brothers serving was unusual, in that the military tries not to place siblings together, lest they both be killed, but these men requested this. They liked having their brother there with them. I can understand that. Long months away from family can be very lonely.

The explosion and subsequent fires on the USS Arizona killed 1,177 sailors and marines instantly. The entire front portion of the ship was destroyed, because the fire burned everything in its path. To make matters worse, the fires continued for 2½ days, causing the bodies that were there to be cremated before anyone could located and removed. Out of a crew of 1,511 men on the USS Arizona, only 334 survived. Of the dead, only 107 were positively identified, due to the immense fire. The remaining 1,070 casualties fell into three categories: (1) Bodies that were never found; (2) Bodies that were removed from the ship during salvage operations and were severely dismembered or partially cremated that identification was impossible. DNA testing was unheard of in 1941. These bodies were placed in temporary mass graves, and later moved and reburied and marked as unknowns, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in 1949; and (3) Bodies located in the aft (rear) portion of the ship. These remains could have been recovered, but were left in the ship due to their unidentifiable condition. The injuries to these bodies indicated that most of these crew members died from the concussion from the massive explosion.

Everyone of the people who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, were heroes. Their families were left to mourn their loss, mostly without the closure that can be found when there is a body to bury. The horrific attack marked the inevitable entrance of the United States into World War II, and if the Japanese thought they could beat the United States with this sneak attack, they soon found out just how wrong they were. They had awakened the “sleeping giant” and they would be sorry they did. Today we honor all those who dies at Pearl Harbor, but also, all who survived and went forward to avenge their fallen comrades. We will never forget their sacrifice. We are forever grateful.

The morning of December 6, 1945 found the United States Navy desperately searching the area known as the Bermuda Triangle for a group of planes. Flight 19 was a routine navigation and combat training exercise in TBM-type aircraft. The group had set out on December 5, 1945 at 2:10pm from Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station. Their training would take them due east toward the Bermuda Triangle. Much mystery has surrounded the Bermuda Triangle, with ship and planes alike reporting navigation problems in the area, and some disappearing forever. I don’t exactly know what I believe about the Bermuda Triangle, but it is my opinion that there is a logical explanation for the events that have taken place there. Still, many of the lost planes and ship were never heard from again, and never located, so I don’t know.

Flight 19 consisted of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, all of which disappeared on December 5, 1945, during the overwater navigation training flight from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In all, 14 airmen on the flight were lost, as were all 13 crew members of a PBM Mariner flying boat that was searching for the planes. It is assumed by professional investigators to have exploded in mid-air. Navy investigators could not determine the cause of the loss of Flight 19, but said the aircraft may have become disoriented and ditched in rough seas after running out of fuel. While that is logical, no debris was ever found, nor were the planes ever located, although some think they know where the planes are these days.

The assignment was called “Navigation problem No. 1,” which seems ironic in retrospect. The name was given before the planes experienced problems. “Navigation problem No. 1” was a combination of bombing and navigation, which other flights had completed or were scheduled to undertake that day. The leader for Flight 19 was United States Navy Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor who had about 2,500 flying hours, mostly in aircraft of this type, while his trainee pilots had 300 total, and 60 flight hours in the Avenger. Taylor had recently arrived from Naval Air Station Miami where he had also been a VTB instructor. The student pilots had recently completed other training missions in the area where the flight was to take place. They were United States Marine Captains Edward Joseph Powers and George William Stivers, United States Marine Second Lieutenant Forrest James Gerber and United States Navy Ensign Joseph Tipton Bossi. The callsigns for the flight started with ‘Fox Tair,’ or FT and the plane number.

Each aircraft was fully fueled, and during pre-flight checks it was discovered they were all missing clocks. Navigation of the route was intended to teach dead reckoning principles, which involved calculating among other things elapsed time. I suppose that if trained, a person could do that, but I don’t think I could. The apparent lack of timekeeping equipment was not a cause for concern as it was assumed each man had his own watch. Takeoff was scheduled for 13:45 local military time, but the late arrival of Taylor delayed departure until 14:10. The weather at NAS Fort Lauderdale was described as “favorable, sea state moderate to rough.” Taylor was supervising the mission, and a trainee pilot had the role of leader out front.

This exercise was called “Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, navigation problem No. 1,” and involved three different legs. There should have actually been four flown. After take off, the planes flew on heading 091°, which is almost due east for 56 nautical miles, until they reached Hen and Chickens Shoals where low level bombing practice was carried out. The flight was to continue on that heading for another 67 nautical miles before turning onto a course of 346° for 73 nautical miles, in the process over-flying Grand Bahama island. The next scheduled turn was to a heading of 241° to fly 120 nautical miles at the end of which the exercise was completed and the Avengers turned left to return to NAS Fort Lauderdale.

Radio conversations between the pilots were overheard by base and other aircraft in the area. The practice bombing operation was carried out because at about 15:00 a pilot requested and was given permission to drop his last bomb. Forty minutes later thins began to go wrong, when another flight instructor, Lieutenant Robert F. Cox in FT-74, forming up with his group of students for the same mission, received an unidentified transmission. An unidentified crew member asked Powers, one of the students, for his compass reading. Powers replied: “I don’t know where we are. We must have got lost after that last turn.” Cox then transmitted; “This is FT-74, plane or boat calling ‘Powers’ please identify yourself so someone can help you.” The response after a few moments was a request from the others in the flight for suggestions. FT-74 tried again and a man identified as FT-28 (Taylor) came on. “FT-28, this is FT-74, what is your trouble?” “Both of my compasses are out”, Taylor replied, “and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it’s broken. I am sure I’m in the Keys but I don’t know how far down and I don’t know how to get to Fort Lauderdale.” As the weather deteriorated, radio contact became intermittent, and it was believed that the five aircraft were actually by that time more than 200 nautical miles out to sea east of the Florida peninsula. Taylor radioed “We’ll fly 270 degrees west until landfall or running out of gas.” The last known location of Flight 19 was 75 miles northeast of Cocoa, Florida.

Had Flight 19 actually been where Taylor believed it to be, landfall with the Florida coastline would have been reached in a matter of 10 to 20 minutes or less, depending on how far down they were. However, a later reconstruction of the incident showed that the islands visible to Taylor were probably the Bahamas, well northeast of the Keys, and that Flight 19 was exactly where it should have been. The board of investigation found that because of his belief that he was on a base course toward Florida, Taylor actually guided the flight further northeast and out to sea. The only problem I have with that idea is that they never found any debris, and never located the planes. Had they crashed into the ocean, they should have shown up somewhere.

In 1986, the wreckage of an Avenger was found off the Florida coast during the search for the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Aviation archaeologist Jon Myhre raised the wreck from the ocean floor in 1990. He was convinced it was one of the missing planes, but positive identification could not be made. In 1991, the wreckage of five Avengers was discovered off the coast of Florida, but engine serial numbers revealed they were not Flight 19. They had crashed on five different days all within 1.5 miles of each other. Records revealed that the various discovered aircraft, including the group of five, were declared either unfit for maintenance/repair or obsolete, and were simply disposed of at sea. Records also showed training accidents between 1942 and 1945 accounted for the loss of 95 aviation personnel from NAS Fort Lauderdale. In 1992, another expedition located scattered debris on the ocean floor, but nothing could be identified. In the last decade, searchers have been expanding their area to include farther east, into the Atlantic Ocean, but the remains of Flight 19 have still never been confirmed found.

When Hitler began his reign of terror on the Jewish people, along with several other groups that he considered undesirables…the groups who were not of the “Aryan Race,” he proceeded to do unspeakable things to these poor people who could not fight back because they had no weapons. They were a peace-loving people who were just trying to get along with those around them, and those in power. Unfortunately, Hitler didn’t care if they were peace-loving, if they wanted to get along, or be cooperative. Their only crime was that they were not of the “Aryan Race.” For anyone who doesn’t really understand the concept of Aryan, it is this: “The Aryan race is a historical race concept which emerged in the period of the late 19th century and mid-20th century to describe people of Indo-European heritage as a racial grouping.”

When Hitler, invaded Poland, he quickly began to turn people against the Jewish people. These people had been living as a part of a community, making an important contribution to Polish society. Hitler began by polluting the minds of the young people first, and then the older people against the Jewish people, saying that they were thieves, and that everything they owned rightfully belonged to the “Aryan” people. Many of the people bought into Hitler’s lies and hatred, but there were those who did not. The problem was that even those who did not agree to help the Jews, had to be careful, because if they didn’t turn in those who helped, it was considered harboring criminals. If they were caught helping the Jews, they could be sent to the work camps or executed.

Since the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Jewish population had been either forced into ghettos, transported to concentration and labor camps, or murdered. Jewish homes and shops were confiscated and synagogues were burned to the ground. By 1942, things were getting really tough in Warsaw, but a group of Polish Christians refused to stand by and do nothing. So, they put their own lives at risk when they set up the Council for the Assistance of the Jews. The group was led by two women, Zofia Kossak and Wanda Filipowicz. Word about the Jews’ fate finally leaked out in June of 1942, when a Warsaw underground newspaper, the Liberty Brigade, made public the news that tens of thousands of Jews were being gassed at Chelmno, a death camp in Poland. It had been almost seven months since the extermination of prisoners had begun.

At first, people didn’t believe what they heard about the “Final Solution,” which was the mass extermination of European Jewry and the growing network of extermination camps in Poland. Soon, it was difficult to deny. Nevertheless, little was done to stop it. Angry speeches from politicians, followed by threats of postwar reprisals, were heard in places outside Poland. Within Poland, non-Jewish Poles were themselves often the objects of persecution and forced labor at the hands of their Nazi occupiers. Because they were Slavs, they too were considered “inferior” to the Aryan Germans, and therefore, only good as servants and slaves…according to the Nazis anyway. Zofia Kossak and Wanda Filipowicz didn’t care that they could lose their lives, what was going on, was wrong and they could not stand by and do nothing. These two Polish Christians were determined to do what they could to protect their Jewish neighbors.

History says that both women died in 1968, but it is unclear what caused Kossak and Filipowicz’s deaths. It is also unclear whether their mission was to protect the Polish Jews was successful. No matter what the outcome of their plan was, they did the right thing. They saw something that wasn’t right, and they tried to do something to correct the situation. Kossak and Filipowicz were not alone in their struggle to help either. Just two days after the Council was established, the SS, Hitler’s “political” terror police force, rounded up 23 men, women, and children, and locked some in a cottage and some in a barn. Then they burned them alive. Their crime: suspicion of harboring Jews. They were not convicted or tried, they were just murdered.

The Nazi death machine proved overwhelming, even with the bravery of some Polish Christians, and Jewish resistance fighters within the Warsaw ghetto, who rebelled in 1943. Some of the Polish Jews found refuge among their Christian neighbors, in an attempt to elude the SS. Poland became the killing ground for not only Poland’s Jewish citizens, but much of Europe’s as well…approximately 4.5 million Jews were killed in Poland’s death and labor camps by the end of World War II.

Alvin Kelly was born in Manhattan on May 11, 1893. His story began in a tragic way, because his father died before his birth and his mother died in childbirth with him. Kelly, now a newborn orphan, was raised in orphanages and passed around to various relatives. When Kelly turned 7, he started climbing onto poles and a few years later, he scaled the outside of buildings in his neighborhood…and by the way, his name wasn’t Alvin back then. It was Aloysius Anthony Kelly. He became Alvin when he ran away to go to work on a cargo ship. He was just 13 years old, and he changed his name to Alvin…probably to remain anonymous.

It wasn’t Kelly’s life as a runaway that made him unique, however, because runaways have existed for centuries. His childhood trick of climbing on poles stuck with him for the rest of his life. In fact, during the 1920s and 1930s, Kelly earned a name for himself…and a certain degree of notoriety…by sitting atop flag poles and other odd elevated perches for extended periods of time. I can’t imagine the purpose of such an act, and it’s not the most conventional way to fame, but for Alvin ‘Shipwreck’ Kelly it worked. Shipwreck Kelly, as he became known, is credited with starting the flagpole sitting fad, which, strangely, became popular in the Roaring Twenties, and he even earned a spot in the World Record Book for his sitting ability. I suppose an actor, comedian, magician, and such, needed a gimmick or a nickname, so Kelly began to use the nickname ‘Shipwreck’ claiming that he had survived the sinking of the Titanic. The story was proved to be untrue. Even then, Kelly claimed that he had many other close calls in his life. He said he had survived five shipwrecks, two plane crashes, three car accidents and one train derailment. In reality, Kelly most likely, acquired his nickname in the boxing ring. Not the greatest boxer, critics claimed he was often “adrift and ready to sink.”

As a teen and young man, Kelly hopped from job to job. His unusual ability to climb a pole and perch at the top did earn his work that he might not have otherwise been able to get. In addition to working at sea, he was a stunt pilot, movie double, steelworker, high diver, boxer, and a steeplejack. During World War I, Kelly was an ensign in the Naval Auxiliary Reserve, serving on the USS Edgar F. Luckenbach.

You might be wondering what started his Pole Sitting career. Well, like many a young man, Kelly was not one to back away from a dare. In 1924, he was dared by a friend to climb to the top of a flagpole in Philadelphia outside a local department store. Of course, Kelly jumped at the chance to prove himself. He quickly ascended the pole and perched himself on top. The stunt attracted a large crowd, many of whom then went inside to shop in the department store. The store manager asked Kelly to stay up there a while…it was good for business! Newspapers carried pictures of Kelly’s stunt, many daredevils began copying his stunt. A fad was born! Soon pole sitting was a popular trick and copycat sitters did it for laughs, on a dare, or to protest. Even though so many others were doing it now, Kelly, the original pole sitter, continued his stunts to the delight of onlookers and journalists. Everyone knew he was the original, and the others were merely copycats.

Never content, Kelly continued to look for ways to outdo his latest tricks. In 1926 in Saint Louis, he stayed perched atop a pole for seven days and one hour. The next year, in June of 1927 in Newark, New Jersey, he extended his record to twelve days. Next, it was a 23 day sit on a flagpole in Carlin’s Park in Baltimore in 1929. His final record was set in 1930 when he stayed on a flagpole on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier for 49 days and one hour. I don’t know about you, but I can’t begin to imagine such extended days sitting on a flagpole. Nevertheless, for Kelly, it seemed to be a normal part of his daily routine. Newspapers of the 1920s loved to feature photographs of Kelly “sitting high in the air, especially ones of him doing everyday things, like shaving or reading a newspaper or brushing his teeth. During his sits, Kelly rarely ate, sustaining himself on coffee and cigarettes. Although he used a leg tether as a safeguard against falling, He learned to sleep sitting upright and he explained that he slept with his thumbs stuck in holes in the pole. If he started to lean one way or the other in his sleep, the pain in his thumbs would wake him in time for him to right himself.”

Kelly toured across the country during the peak of his fame, and charged admission for people to see him sitting on a flagpole. I would find watching someone sit on a pole would be boring, but people did. He once estimated that he spent 20,613 hours sitting on flag poles in his lifetime, including about 1,400 hours in pouring down rain and 210 hours in sub-freezing temperatures. He was often hired to do publicity stunts because business owners knew he could draw a crowd. For example, on October 13, 1939, Kelly was hired to promote National Donut Dunking Week by sitting on a pole in Manhattan and eating 13 donuts dipped in coffee. I wonder how much they paid him for that stunt.

As the Great Depression of the 1930s progressed, people became less interested in Kelly’s tricks…and less tolerant. In 1935, he attempted to break his own record again, but the Bronx police said he was creating a public nuisance. The police threatened to chop down his pole, if he didn’t come down and when he did, he was promptly arrested. His last attempt at pole sitting was in Orange, Texas, in 1952. That day, while sitting on the pole, Kelly suffered two heart attacks and was forced to come down. He announced his retirement from pole sitting and died a week later.

Alice Ivers Tubbs was born in Devonshire, England on February 17, 1851. She was the daughter of a conservative schoolmaster. While Alice was still a small girl, she moved with her family to the United States. The family first settled in Virginia, where Alice attended an elite boarding school for women. When she was a teenager, the family moved with the silver rush to Leadville, Colorado. As a young girl, Alice was raised to be a well-bred young lady, so few people would ever expect her to be known as “Poker Alice.” Nevertheless, marriage can change a person. While living in Leadville, Alice met a mining engineer named Frank Duffield, whom she married when she was just 20 years old. In the mining camps, gambling’s was quite common, and Frank was an enthusiastic player. He enjoyed visiting the gambling halls in Leadville and Alice naturally went along with him, rather than staying home alone. Alice stood quietly and watch her husband play…at first, but Alice was smart, and she picked up the game of poker easily. Soon she was sitting in on the games, and she was winning. Alice’s marriage to Frank Duffield was short-lived. Duffield, who worked in the mines as part of his job, was killed in an explosion. Needing to make a living, Alice, who was well educated, could have taught school, but even with 35,000 residents in Leadville, there was no school. There were also few jobs available for women, and those there were, did not appeal to Alice, so she decided to make a living gambling. Though Alice preferred the game of poker, she also learned to deal and play Faro. Very soon, she was in high demand…as a player and a dealer. Alice was a petite 5 foot 4 inch beauty, with blue eyes and thick brown hair. She was very rare in that she was a “lady” in a gambling hall…and not of the “soiled dove” variety. And Alice loved the latest fashions, she was a sight for the sore eyes of many a miner. Every time Alice had a big win, she began to take trips to New York City to buy the latest fashions.

Due to her traveling from one mining camp to another to play poker, Alice soon acquired the nickname “Poker Alice.” In addition to playing the game, she often worked as a dealer, in cities all over Colorado including Alamosa, Central City, Georgetown, and Trinidad. Later on, Alice began to puff on large black cigars, still wearing her fashionable frilly dresses. She, nevertheless, never gambled on Sundays because of her religious beliefs. Alice carried a .38 revolver and wasn’t afraid to use it. It was rather a necessity, due to her lifestyle. Alice soon left Colorado and made her way to Silver City, New Mexico, where she broke the bank at the Gold Dust Gambling House, winning some $6,000. The win was followed by a trip to New York City, to replenish her wardrobe of fashionable clothing. Afterward, she returned to Creede, Colorado. She went to work as a dealer in Bob Ford’s saloon…the man who had earlier killed Jesse James. Alice later moved to Deadwood, South Dakota around 1890. In Deadwood, she met a man named Warren G. Tubbs, who worked as a housepainter in Sturgis, but sidelined as a dealer and gambler. Alice usually beat Tubbs at poker, but that didn’t bother him. He was taken with her and they began to see each other socially. Once a drunken miner threatened Tubbs with a knife, Alice pulled out her .38 and put a bullet into the miner’s arm. I’m sure that man thought the threat was Tubbs, but the man should have watched Alice in stead. Later, the couple married and had seven children…four sons and three daughters. Because Tubbs was a painter by trade, he, along with Alice’s gambling profits, supported the family. The family moved out of Deadwood, to homesteaded a ranch near Sturgis on the Moreau River. Finally, Alice found something she loved more than gambling…for the most part. She helped with the ranch and raised her children. Then, fate would again deal Alice a bad hand. Tubbs was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Alice refused to leave his side. She planned to nurse him back to health. Tubbs lost his fight, and died of pneumonia in the winter of 1910. Alice was determined to give him a proper burial, so she loaded him into a horse-drawn wagon to take his body to Sturgis. It is thought that she had to pawn her wedding ring to pay for the funeral and afterward, went to a gambling parlor to earn the money to get her ring back.

For Alice, the time spent on the ranch were some of the happiest days of her life and that during those years, she didn’t miss the saloons and gambling halls. Alice liked the peace and quiet of the ranch. Still, she had to make a living, so after Tubbs’ death, she hired a man named George Huckert to take care of the homestead, and she moved to Sturgis to earn her way. Huckert quickly fell in love with Alice and proposed marriage to her several times. Alice didn’t really love him, but finally married him, saying flippantly, “I owed him so much in back wages; I figured it would be cheaper to marry him than pay him off. So I did.” Once again, the marriage would be short. Alice was widowed once again when Huckert died in 1913.

During the Prohibition years, Alice opened a saloon called “Poker’s Palace” between Sturgis and Fort Meade that provided not only gambling and liquor, but also “women” who serviced the customers. One night, a drunken soldier began a fight in the saloon. He was destroying the furniture, and causing a ruckus. Alice pulled her .38 and shot the man. While in jail awaiting trial, she calmly smoked cigars and read the Bible. She was acquitted on grounds of self-defense, but her saloon had been shut down. Now, in her 70s and with her beauty and fashionable gowns long gone, Alice struggled in her last years. She continued to gamble, but these days, she dressed in men’s clothing. Once in a while, she was featured at events like the Diamond Jubilee, in Omaha, Nebraska, as a true frontier character, where she was known to have said, “At my age, I suppose I should be knitting. But I would rather play poker with five or six ‘experts’ than eat.” She continued to run a “house” of ill-repute in Sturgis during her later years and was often arrested for drunkenness and keeping a disorderly house. Though she paid her fines, she continued to operate the business until she was finally arrested for repeated convictions of running a brothel and sentenced to prison. The governor took pity on Alice, who was then 75 years old, and pardoned her. At the age of 79, Alice underwent a gall bladder operation in Rapid City. Unfortunately, she died of complications on February 27, 1930. She was buried at Saint Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. In her lifetime, Alice claimed to have “won more than $250,000 at the gaming tables and never once cheated.” In fact, one of her favorite sayings was, “Praise the Lord and place your bets. I’ll take your money with no regrets.”

When people think of Venice, Italy, they think of the canals and the boats. I think most of us think the city is pretty much streets of water, and buildings that somehow stand in the water…strong and immovable against the water. Venice is the center of the lagoon of Venice, which extends over a length of 25 miles around the city. While it seems like the city is covered in water, only 11% of the lagoon is permanently covered with water, while the rest of the lagoon is islands or mudflats and marshes (Laguna Morta). The water stays fresh because, seawater from the Adriatic flows into the lagoon through three large passages, Bocca di Lido, Bocca di Malamocco, and Bocca di Chioggia, twice daily. This process provides a natural water exchange. Still, 11% water can sure look like a lot, especially when every touristy picture we see involves the canals and gondolas. So, to think of a situation whereby a flood could become tragic in Venice, is a strange thought for anyone who doesn’t really know Venice…like me.

On December 1, 2008, Venice experienced the biggest flood in more than twenty years. The waters rose more than five feet above normal levels. As with any flood, many of Venice’s streets, including Saint Mark’s Square, were submerged. Venice has flooding for about two hundred days every year, and the Venetian authorities were working to complete an underwater dam by 2011. Unfortunately, that fact didn’t help the city in 2008. Even with unusually high tides because of the new moon, residents were not surprised to see the usual low-lying lanes under water. Nevertheless, this day was different. Pretty much the entire city was covered by the lagoon. People stayed inside to wait out the water, only going outside when they were sure the water was definitely going down. The townspeople went outside to take pictures and explore the current townscape…to see what was underwater now. They were quite surprised at the scene before them.

By mid-afternoon, the water had gone down to more normal levels, but all over the world, the papers made it seem like the whole city was sinking. The high tide would come again on December 2nd, but it was nothing like December 1st. Cleanup was still underway on December 2nd, of course, but most businesses were open again. I suppose that if your city spends it’s life in one stage of flood or another, this extra high tide was just something to be taken in stride. Yes, people were surprised at the higher than normal flood waters from the tide, but they weren’t panicked. It was just another day in the life of Venice.

The ship, SS Daniel J. Morrell was a 603 foot Great Lakes freighter, first launched August 22, 1906. It was operated by Cambria Steamship Company. The freighter was used to carry bulk cargoes such as iron ore. SS Daniel J. Morrell was named for Daniel Johnson Morrell, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. In 1855 he moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and became general manager of the Cambria Iron Company, which was the greatest manufacturer of iron and steel in the United States until the Johnstown Flood. As a former general manager of Cambria Steamship Company…Morrell died August 20, 1885…naming the ship after him made sense.

SS Daniel J. Morrell, along with her sister ship, SS Edward Y. Townsend were making the last run of the season. On November 29, 1966, they encountered a storm with winds exceeding 70 miles per hour and swells that topped the height of the ship, at 20 to 25 feet. Edward Y. Townsend decided to take shelter in the St. Clair River. That left Daniel J. Morrell alone on the waters north of Pointe Aux Barques, Michigan, heading for the protection of Thunder Bay. As the storm grew worse, and at 2:00pm, the Morrell began to break up, which forced the crew onto the deck. Many of the crew panicked and jumped to their deaths in the 34° Lake Huron waters. At 2:15pm, the ship’s hull broke and allowed water to pour in, and the remaining crewmen loaded into a raft on the bow of the vessel. While they waited for the ship to break up and the raft to be thrown into the lake, there were shouts that a ship had been spotted off the port bow. Unfortunately, moments later, it became clear that the looming object was not another ship, but Daniel J. Morrell’s aft section, barreling towards them under the power of the ship’s engine. The ship broke apart, throwing the rafts into the water heading into the distance.

Tragically, Daniel J. Morrell was not reported missing until 12:15pm the following afternoon, November 30th. By then, the vessel was overdue at her destination, Taconite Harbor, Minnesota. The US Coast Guard issued a “be on the lookout” alert and dispatched several vessels and aircraft to search for the missing freighter. At around 4:00pm on November 30th, a Coast Guard helicopter located the lone survivor, 26-year-old Watchman Dennis Hale, near frozen and floating in a life raft with the bodies of three of his crewmates. Hale had survived the nearly 40 hour ordeal in frigid temperatures wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, a lifejacket, and a pea coat. Since his crewmates had passed away, poor Hale was left alone with his thoughts…trying to avoid thinking about the cold bodies lying next to him. The survey of the wreck found the shipwreck in 220 feet of water with the two sections 5 miles apart.

Lost in the tragic sinking were Norman M. Bragg, Stuart A. Campbell, John J. Cleary Jr, Arthur I. Crawley, George A. Dahl, Larry G. Davis, Arthur S. Fargo, Charles H. Fosbender, Saverio Grippi, John M. Groh (missing), Nicholas P. Homick, Phillip E. Kapets, Chester Konieczka, Duncan R. MacLeod, Joseph A. Mahsem, Valmour A. Marchildon, Ernest G. Marcotte, Alfred G. Norkunas, David L. Price, Henry Rischmiller, Stanley J. Satlawa (missing), John H. Schmidt, Charles J. Sestakauskas, Wilson E. Simpson, Arthur E. Stojek, Leon R. Truman, Albert P. Wieme, and Donald E. Worcester. The remains of 26 of the 28 lost crewmen were eventually recovered, with most of them found in the days following the sinking. Still, bodies from Daniel J. Morrell continued to be found well into May of the following year. The two men whose bodies were never recovered were declared legally dead in May 1967. The sole survivor of the sinking, Dennis Hale, died of cancer on September 2, 2015, at the age of 75.

During World War II, when men were in short supply due to deployments, and the secret codes of the Japanese and Germans were causing major problems, the American government was faced with a difficult decision. They needed people who were qualified to break the codes of their enemies, and the only code breakers were in very short supply. The decision was made to search out college-educated women, preferably with degrees in Mathematics, Physics, and those who were fluent in other languages. There weren’t a lot of college educated women in those days, and even fewer with degrees in math or physics, but there were teachers. The Navy and the Army began recruiting these women. The women were required to go through a battery of tests and interviews to see if they had what it took to become code breakers. Many did not, but those who did were offered an exciting, but stressful career.

Upon arrival in Washington DC, these women found themselves in direct competition with the men, and the men didn’t like it one bit. Nevertheless, the feelings the men had for these women who were a threat to their job, was at least matched by what the public thought of these women who, sworn to secrecy, had to lie about the work they did. They told people they were secretaries, and glorified waitresses, bring coffee to their bosses, while adding a bit of “interest” to the office. People thought these women were “loose” women…”gold diggers” looking for a husband, and because of the deep need for security, the women were forced to let people think what they wanted too.

No matter what the public thought, these women code breakers were a vital part of the war effort. Our men were dying because we had no idea where the ships and submarines were until they struck. These women turned the tables in favor of the Allies, though few people ever knew it. The women were told they must never speak of what they did there…even after the war, and most of them took their secrets to the grave. While the women were forced to keep their secrets, they all knew that what they were doing mattered. They also knew things about the war, that others didn’t know. They knew the danger the Allied ships were in. They knew about ship that were torpedoed, almost as soon as it happened, and sometimes the ships were ones that friends and loved ones were stationed on…meaning they knew of their loved ones deaths almost immediately after they were killed.

At great sacrifice to themselves, the women code breakers fought a battle in the war that many people never knew about. The stress, and just the shear gravity of the situation wore of the women. Some later had to seek psychiatric help, and some had nervous breakdowns, still they kept their secrets, lest their services were ever needed again. They kept them in case they ever had to be used again. They kept them because they had orders, and they would follow their orders no matter what. The work had been tedious, and sometimes codes took a long time to crack, but the determined women stuck it out, although most would never be thanked for their hard work. It didn’t matter. Their work was vital, and they were saving lives. That would have to be enough to carry them through the rest of their lives.

Most people, men anyway, think that it is only women who are fashion conscious to a fault. While many women are very fashion conscious, so are many men, and the fashions that some of the men wore can be just as dangerous. When fashion consists of the wearing of articles of clothing or accessories that have the ability to cause death or injury, we are in danger of sacrificing too much in the name of fashion.

Some fashions do no harm, but looking back on them, we can see just how silly they looked. Nevertheless, powdered wigs were in fashion for men in several different centuries. Long hair was considered a show of status, for both men and women over the years. In ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power, while a shaven head was appropriate for a slave. The problem occurred when the person, usually the men, but women too, had thinning hair. If their social status depended on that hair, they would need a way to fix the problem when it did not exist. The powdered wig helped with that, and some men wore their wigs in very elaborate styles. In the 1760s, aristocratic British men donned large wigs with a small hat or feather at the top. The young men who took up this fashion trend reportedly brought it back from their “Grand Tour” across Continental Europe in which they intended to “deepen cultural knowledge.” The style is, in fact, named after the Italian pasta dish…macaroni, signifying sophistication and worldliness. It is here that we get the song many of us have wondered about called, “Yankee Doodle,” the lyrics of which pointed out that the feather on top was supposedly called macaroni.

The shoes of the men have taken some strange turns as well. Known as the Poulaine, this super long shoe reigned supreme with men across Europe in the late 14th century. The shoes, called Crakow were named after Krákow, Poland because they were introduced to England by the Polish nobles. Once the shoes were seen at court, they became all the rage…even though the shoes were six to twenty four inches long. I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Who would be crazy enough to wear these?” Well, I’ll tell you that current styles (or maybe just a year or so in the past) saw women, and men too, wearing shoes that had an extra long pointed toe, so it isn’t just an oddity of 14th century Britain. The shoes were a quick indicator of social status…the longer the shoe, the higher the wearer’s station. Some of these shoes were so long that chains were sometimes strung from the toe of the Crakow to the knee to allow the wearer to walk. Other times the toes were stuffed with material for the same reason, making the toes stiff. The strange shoes were considered ridiculous, vain, and dangerous by many conservatives and church leaders, who called them “devil’s fingers.”

In the 19th century, men began wearing detachable collars, that were heavily starched until they were quite stiff. While the collars didn’t look all that odd, they could be deadly. Because they were so heavily starched, taken to the extreme of the collar being nearly unbendable, and because they were attached with a singular or pair of studs, the collar could slowly asphyxiate a man, if he fell asleep or passed out while drinking. It had a similar effect to a cord being wrapped tightly around the poor man’s neck. Another dangerous aspect of the collar was its pointed corners. A Saint Louis man, wearing one of these collars, tripped in the street and the pointed corners of the collar jabbed into this throat, “making two ugly gashes.” If the gash happened to be in the vicinity of the Jugular vein, death could come quite quickly. These collars were so lethal, in fact, that they were known as “the father killer.” I can only imagine how many women and children pleaded with their husbands or fathers not to wear the collar, which maybe should have been called the choker.

I can understand the need of people to have a certain fashion sense, as I am also one who likes to look up to date and to have a good fashion sense too, but people really need to also consider their own safety when it comes to style. It pays to listen to others who might know something about this certain idea of fashion, that could not only benefit you, but possibly save your life.

Women have always had an eye for fashion, but I can’t say that having an “eye” for fashion, is the same as having common sense for fashion. In the Victorian era, Bottle-green dresses were all the rage. I understand the love of the color green, and how a beautiful emerald green might be a coveted color. The problem occurs with the process of obtaining that color. The process used to achieve this lovely shade of green involved the fabric being dyed using large amounts of arsenic…yes, rat poison!! Some women suffered nausea, impaired vision, and skin reactions to the dye. They endured the suffering because the dresses were only worn on special occasions, thereby limiting exposure to the arsenic in the fabric. By contrast, it was the garment makers were the real sufferers. Many of them became very ill and even died to bring this trend to the fashionable set.

Another crazy style was known as Panniers, which comes from the French word “panier,” meaning “basket.” These were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The look involved a boxed petticoat to expanded the width of skirts and dresses. The contraption stood out on either side of the waistline…straight out!! Panniers varied in size and were made of whalebone, wood, metal, and sometimes reeds. Extremely large panniers were worn mostly on special occasions and reflected the wearer’s social status. Even the servants wore them, though in a much smaller version. Two women couldn’t walk through an entrance at the same time or sit on a couch together, because their panniers took up an entire extra seat or more. The device was also uncomfortable, limiting movement and activity.

In the 1910s, French designer Paul Poiret, who was well known as “The King of Fashion” in America, debuted the hobble skirt. The long, close-fitting skirts forced women who wore them to adopt mincing, tiny steps. True, Poiret’s design liberated women from heavy petticoats and constricting corsets. But as he said, “Yes, I freed the bust. But I shackled the legs.” This makes me wonder why women allow their fashion ideas to come from men…who don’t have to wear the clothes they design. Some of these “fashions” were enough to make a woman faint, because her corset was too tight, and she could not get sufficient air.

During the Roaring ’20s, women no longer wanted the hourglass shape. Now the style was the boyish flapper figure. Underwear had to change to assist in this new look, and women who were “busty,” had a big problem and the underwear needed a big overhaul. The goal of every undergarment was to flatten the breasts and torso, so that flapper dresses could hang straight down without any curvaceous interruptions. Corset-makers R. and W.H. Symington invented a garment, the Symington Side Lacer, that would flatten the breasts. The wearer would slip the garment over her head and pull the straps and side laces tight to smooth out curves. Other manufacturers designed similar devices. The Miracle Reducing Rubber Brassiere was “scientifically designed without bones or lacings,” while the Bramley Corsele combined the brassiere and corset into one piece that easily layered under dresses. I wonder how anyone could breathe in these prisons known as underwear.

The Crinoline, also known as the hoop skirt, was a bell-shaped device that pushed the volume of skirts to an extreme degree. Worn in the 1800s by Victorian women, Crinolines were originally petticoats made of linen stiffened with horsehair. Wonderful…now we are wearing horsehair under our skirts. This created a big problem. It was just too hot with so many petticoats. Later, the invention of the steel cage crinoline offered the same voluminous look without the extra heat and bulk of thick petticoats. These undergarments were clumsy and hard to control, but they were also dangerous. In 1858, a young woman in Boston died when her large skirt caught embers from a fireplace in her parlor and went up in flames. It all happened to fast to save her. Nineteen such deaths occurred in a two-month period. That is a heavy price to pay in the name of fashion.

And then, there was the “Grecian bend,” the Victorian bustle. It arrived on the scene in the 1870s. The earliest version of this trend simply featured excess fabric gathered and draped at the back of a dress. Eventually, though, skirts were puffed up with large cushions filled with straw. Ladies who wore them ended up with exaggerated figures with outthrust hindquarters. The bustle was frequently a target of ridicule. This style reminds me of the “padded seat” of modern day leggings, though the modern day version isn’t quite so exaggerated. In 1868, Laura Redden Searing, using the pen name Howard Glyndon, wrote about the agony young women put themselves through for fashion in the New York Times, “If you knew the Spartan courage which is required to go through an ordeal of this sort for two or three hours at a time, you would not wonder that she has not an idea left in her head after her daily display is over,” she said. Hahahaha!! That sounds reasonable to me.

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