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Columns

Reflections: What Harold Lloyd and Adolf Hitler had in common

Silent film star Harold Lloyd dangles above a busy Los Angeles street in a scene from his classic 1923 romantic comedy, "Safety Last."
Silent film star Harold Lloyd dangles above a busy Los Angeles street in a scene from his classic 1923 romantic comedy, "Safety Last."

It’s been April for a couple weeks now, Major League Baseball is well under way, flowers are starting to bloom, and so it looks like spring is actually here – April showers and all that.

As we all know, April showers (the rain, not snow variety) bring May flowers. Rain in April is vital if groundwater is to be recharged. And besides, it sort of washes things off a bit after they’ve gotten dusty and dirty during the winter months. All that wind in March doesn’t just dry out the ground; it also circulates a good bit of topsoil around the countryside making for a dingy look to the landscape.

In April, gardening plans are maturing, the best of the seed catalogs having already arrived and their wares carefully checked. Spring housecleaning – which some folks still do, by the way – is either started or at least being contemplated. With last week’s Easter celebration, we can make one last check around the yard just to be sure we got ALL the Easter eggs we hid, or the Easter bunny hid, or whatever.

And with all this hubbub, the old world just keeps spinning. The sun rises, the moon sets and the mail arrives daily (except Sundays), toted along by those intrepid postal carriers. There’s always something interesting to see in the mail, even the junk mail variety. Here, for instance, are a few things I never would have found out if I hadn’t opened all the mail that shows up here out in front of the Matile Manse each day the mail carrier arrives:

Actor Clark Gable – born William Clark Gable – worked in a tire factory and as a lumberjack before becoming an actor.

Today, April 20, is the birth date of both Harold Lloyd and Adolf Hitler.

Also born today, in 1918, was Capt. Edward L. Beach, a retired submariner who was the host of “The Silent Service,” one my favorite TV shows when I was a kid.

In golf, par is the number of strokes course officials decide are normally necessary to hit the ball into the hole on that green. In case you were wondering.

The presidential custom of throwing out the first ball of the baseball season started in 1910 under President William Howard Taft. The current occupant, of course, is roundly criticized for throwing like a girl.

That Curie family was pretty smart. Irene Joliot-Curie, daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicists Marie and Pierre Curie, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in her own right in 1935.

The first frogs appeared on earth about 180 million years ago. In case you’re keeping track.

One thing you can say about Americans: We aren’t all that consistent. On the back of the $1 bill is the motto: “In God We Trust.” But just a bit to the left on the same side of the buck is the following: “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” which translates to “New Order for the Ages” or “The New World Order,” which I figure ought to freak out those worried about chemtrails and black helicopters.

We’ve covered this before, but you can never stress it too much: The Mason-Dixon Line is named for Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, English astronomers who surveyed the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1767.

The very first marines, according to most historians, were the epibattae, or “heavily armed sea-soldiers,” of the Greek fleets in the 6th century B.C.E.

And speaking of marines, U.S. Marines are sometimes referred to as “leathernecks” because in the early days of the Corps, a leather neckband – called a stock – was part of the uniform. They are not comfortable to wear, which may explain the generally ornery attitudes of most Marines.

In its first season of play in 1960, the American Football League shared two stadiums with the rival National Football League. The Los Angeles Chargers played at the Memorial Coliseum, home of the Rams of the NFL. Meanwhile, the Dallas Texans shared the Cotton Bowl with the NFL’s expansion Dallas Cowboys.

New York was the first state to require the licensing of motor vehicles. The law requiring licenses was passed in 1901.

It seems California has been tied to fictional stories ever since it was founded. Spanish explorers named the state after a fictional treasure island in a popular Spanish tale.

In Washington, D.C., no building may be built taller than the U.S. Capitol.

The earliest recorded international cross-country auto race was a match between England and France that took place outside Paris on March 28, 1898. England won.

Boy, you can’t even trust fairy tales these days. Cinderella’s glass slippers, many scholars believe, were made of fur, not glass. The word “verre,” or glass, they claim, was incorrectly substituted in early versions of the story for the word “vaire,” which is French for fur.

In its pure state, iron is silvery white. It’s the oxide of iron that is the red color we’re so used to seeing connected with it.

The Vatican is the world’s smallest independent state, covering only about one-sixth of a square mile, or about half the size of the average Kendall County farm.

Gillis Grafstrom of Sweden and Sonja Henie of Norway are, respectively, the only man and woman to win three consecutive gold medals for figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

A female mosquito can nourish 300 of her eggs with just one drink of human blood.

Nylon was first introduced to the public in 1938.

The ancient Gauls, who lived in France, colored their hair red.

Costa Rica and El Salvador each have coins named after Christopher Columbus. The coins are called colons. “Colon” was Columbus’s name in Spanish.

You a big-hearted man? A man’s heart weighs an average of 11 ounces while a woman’s heart weighs an average of nine ounces.

Finally, when you say “According to Hoyle,” you are referring to Edmond Hoyle, an Englishman who wrote the first how-to and rulebook on the card game of whist. Before he died in 1769, he published rules for many other games.

• Looking for more local history? Visit historyonthefox.wordpress.com.

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