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Columns

Reflections: Registered nurse served as the first flight attendant

Capt. Ellen Church
Capt. Ellen Church

So here we are in the middle of May already. Boy, time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Actually, I find that the older I get, the faster time flies, whether I’m having fun or not.

This is the season of the year when kids start looking forward to summer vacation and their parents start gearing up for a few months of acting as an event taxi service, dropping kids here and picking them up there. It’s also the season when high school seniors start seriously looking toward the end of their first 12 years of school and when they get ready for what comes next.

These days, that could entail looking forward to good times or bad, with the future pretty much out of the hands of all this year’s graduates, be they high school or college.

Meanwhile, the area’s slowly declining number of farmers are looking forward to another growing season, wondering whether yields and prices will be good or bad and whether the weather will cooperate. Given the accelerating pace of climate change, row crop farming’s getting to be a chancier and chancier proposition.

Spring arrived back in March, and we won’t be looking forward to summer for a little over a month, so the middle of May finds us pretty much smack dab in the middle of spring, and it can be one of Illinois’ best months.

All sorts of things are growing this time of year, including the mound of junk mail over in the corner of my sanctum here at the Matile Manse. Some of that junk is less junk-like than others of its ilk, and in fact some of it has a redeeming quality or two. And so, with no further ado, here are a bunch of things I never would have found out if I hadn’t opened all the junk mail that shows up in the mailbox out front, every day our trusty mail carrier makes the rounds:

May’s birthstone is the emerald, and the zodiac signs of those born this month are Taurus the bull and Gemini the twins.

Speaking of junk mail, the first regular airmail service began in the United States on May 15, 1918.

On this date in 1652, the Rhode Island legislature made slavery illegal in that colony, the first to do so in the New World, so a definite hat tip to The Ocean State (ironically, its other nickname is The Plantation State) to be the first to stand tall on the right side of history.

In one day, the average person inhales 15,000 quarts of air. If all goes well for them, they exhale the same amount of less healthy gasses.

Isadora Duncan invented modern dance in San Francisco in 1878.

Got bad skin? No problem; just wait a month. The outer layer of a human’s skin is entirely replaced after 28 days.

If you’re a regular “Reflections” reader you already know this, but please be advised that teepees and wigwams are NOT the same thing. At all. A teepee is a conical tent of North American Native Americans originally made from animal hide, while a wigwam is a dome-shaped house made of wood and other plant materials.

A little historical trivia: On this day in 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, calling up men to serve in the armed forces as the nation entered World War I. After a request by President Woodrow “He Kept Us Out of War” Wilson, Congress had declared war on Germany on April 2.

Because famed author Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) was 6 feet, 6 inches tall, he always had trouble finding a comfortable desk. As a result, he often wrote standing up using the top of a refrigerator (’fridges were lots shorter in those days) as his writing surface.

Sarah Porter Hillhouse and her husband moved from Massachusetts to Washington, Georgia, in 1786. In 1801, her husband, David, bought the town’s newspaper, The Washington Gazette. He changed the name to The Monitor, dying two years later. Sarah took over the paper in 1803, becoming the first woman to run a newspaper in Georgia, and likely in the entire United States.

The United States’ first national monument was Devil’s Tower, an 865-foot butte in Wyoming’s Black Hills region. Teddy Roosevelt, way back when Republicans cared about such things, gave it national monument status in 1906.

The earliest known zoo belonged to Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt in about 1500 B.C.

One 100-watt light bulb produces more light than two 60-watt bulbs, with about 17 percent less energy expended.

Kilts are not native to Scotland. Says here they originated in France. Figures.

The tiny shrew, much like the average teenager, eats twice its weight in food every day.

Peanuts are actually sort of healthy. They contain appreciable amounts of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and magnesium.

Ice cream is the most popular dessert in the United States.

The average person can distinguish about 150 different colors while someone with an expert eye can pick out more than 100,000 different colors.

The term “maraschino” in reference to cherries derives from the liqueur distilled from the juice of the marasca cherry, in which the fruit was originally preserved.

“State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum,” manufactured by John Curtis in 1848, was the first chewing gum.

A rainfall of one inch over one acre of land totals about 27,000 gallons of water.

Although Marconi gets the credit for inventing radio, British inventor David Edward Hughes demonstrated in 1879 that radio signals could be received from a spark transmitter located several hundred yards away.

The first gorilla born in captivity was Colo, born at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio in December 1956.

While we’re on firsts, Ellen Church, a registered nurse, was the first airline flight attendant. She welcomed 11 passengers aboard a flight from Oakland, California, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1930.

And on a final first, the world’s first commercially successful jet airliner was the elegantly designed de Havilland Comet, introduced by the British in 1952, instantly becoming a favorite of airplane model-makers everywhere.

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

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