March 3, 1634 Watering Hole

In early colonial America, tavern keepers would put out an “Ale Stick” or “Ale Stake”, a wooden pole with a bush of barley tied to the top, informing thirsty travelers that sustenance could be found, inside.  Sometimes a hoop of woven barley hanging outside, would tell you that you had arrived.

Despite seemingly inexhaustible supplies of pristine drinking water, colonists to the New World were first and foremost Englishmen, every one of whom understood that drinking water could make you deathly ill. The connection between sanitation and the boiling to make beer was ill understood, but everyone knew. Those who drank beer and ale didn’t get sick.  The brewhouse was an indispensable priority in every new settlement.

The earliest settlers to Jamestown, Virginia neglected the brewer’s art. Their first pleas for relief from England, included advertisements seeking “two brewers’ to join them.

When Pilgrims fetched up on the shores of Cape Cod and the later Plimoth colony in 1620, it was not in search of a beach vacation, but because of dwindling beer supplies.

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Today, much of the bay has been filled in and developed, forming the core of downtown Boston. This is the Shawmut Peninsula, as it looked during Cole’s time.

Little brother Benjamin Franklin describes his earliest experience working in his brother’s print shop, with frequent reference to fetching ale for the journeyman printers.

Beer and ale were dietary staples in the era, a source of nourishment as well as refreshment. Infants drank beer and it was especially recommended for nursing mothers. Many households added a small brewing room to the outside of the building, so that the heat and risk of fire associated with brewing and cooking could be kept outside of living quarters. To this day, the lower rooflines of these “brew rooms” can be found, jutting out from the sides of the oldest American homes.

In early colonial America, tavern keepers would put out an “Ale Stick” or “Ale Stake”, a wooden pole with a bush of barley tied to the top, informing thirsty travelers that sustenance could be found, inside.  Sometimes a hoop of woven barley hanging outside, would tell you that you had arrived.

Samuel Cole was an early settler in the Massachusetts Bay colony, arriving with the Winthrop fleet in 1630 and establishing himself on the Shawmut peninsula.  Four years later, he opened the first house of entertainment in Boston, calling his place “Cole’s Inn”, established March 3, 1634.

Taverns were common in England from as early as the 1200s, where women called “Ale Wives” would fetch beer, wine, mead and ale for the guests. Though lodgings were a common feature of the ale houses of the time, it would not be until the early 1700s that Colonial taverns commonly offered such amenities.

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Later taverns posted elaborate signs, carved from wood, stone, or even terra cotta, and hanged from wooden posts mounted to the building or to a nearby tree. Barley, the universal symbol for beer, remained a common feature of such signs, and continues in use on the labels of many brands sold to this day.

download (17)The signs of the time frequently included horses, indicating that lodgings and stables were available. Many such establishments came to be called after such signs, and names such as “Chestnut Mare” and “White Stallion” were common.

Today, a Google search of the term “Black Horse Tavern” yields some 1,090,000 hits.  Cheers.

“Filled with mingled cream and amber
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chambers of my brain –
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
Who cares how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.” – Edgar Allen Poe

 

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

March 2, 1977 Heeere’s Johnny

The world’s longest running talk show began in 1954, when Steve Allen sat down at his piano on September 27.  This show is gonna go on… forever”, Allen quipped.  So far, he seems to have gotten that right.

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Johnny Carson, Navy portrait

With Jack Parr about to sign off the “Tonight Show” for the last time, NBC executives were anxious to find a replacement.  Bob Newhart, Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, and Joey Bishop all declined the opportunity, when a United States Navy veteran, amateur magician and amateur boxer with a 10/0 record agreed to take the job.

Back when late-night comedians were expected to be funny, Johnny Carson had misgivings, believing himself unequal to the task of producing 90 minutes of fresh content, every day.

A series of guest hosts followed including Merv Griffin, Art Linkletter, Joey Bishop, Jerry Lewis and Groucho Marx, as Carson finished out the last six months of a contract with ABC.  Despite his apprehensions, Carson started the new gig on October 1, 1962.

No sooner had NBC announced that Johnny Carson would be joining “The Tonight Show,” than the national press gaggle came after him, looking for interviews. Paradoxically, the future “King of late night comedy” was averse to publicity.  Carson resisted at first, but finally relented, providing a list of answers to which journalists could apply any question they pleased:

  • “Yes, I did”.
  • “Not a bit of truth in that rumor”.
  • “Only twice in my life, both times on Saturday”.
  • “I can do either, but prefer the first”.
  • “NO”.
  • “Kumquats”.
  • “I can’t answer that question”.
  • “Toads and tarantulas”.
  • “Turkestan, Denmark, Chile, and the Komandorskie Islands”.
  • “As often as possible, but I’m not very good at it yet”.
  • “I need much more practice”.
  • “It happened to some old friends of mine, and it’s a story I’ll never forget”.
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Ed McMahon

A Marine Corps aviator and flight instructor from Lowell, Massachusetts joined Carson from that first show, back in 1962.   The Marine earned his carrier landing qualifications around the time the atomic bomb ended the war in the Pacific, and went on to fly 85 combat missions in Korea, earning six air medals and retiring with the rank of Colonel in 1966.   His name was Ed McMahon.

In those days, the Tonight Show was a whopping 105 minutes long.  Groucho Marx delivered a fifteen-minute monologue before introducing the host for that first program.  After that and for years afterward, the monologue segment fell to McMahon himself.

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Groucho Marx introducing the new host of the Tonight Show, October 1, 1962

When the Tonight Show first aired, everyone on the set including Carson himself, smoked.  The “Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act” was introduced in Congress in 1969.  Ironically, it was President Richard Nixon, an avid pipe smoker who lit up as many as eight bowls a day, who signed the measure into law on April 1, 1970.   The measure included a permanent ban on television cigarette advertising, scheduled to take effect ac1dd1ea41e71a3d44fe61af45173ba5--johnny-carson-tonight-showJanuary 2, the following year.  The last cigarette ad in the history of American television was a Virginia Slims ad, broadcast at 11:59p.m., January 1, 1971, on the Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson.  Smoking on-air became a thing of the past sometime in the mid-80s, but that cigarette box remained on Carson’s desk until his final episode, in 1992.  You’ve come a long way, baby.

For NBC, the Tonight Show was a cash cow.  Many years the program grossed over $100 million, accounting for 15-20% of the profits earned by the entire network.  Carson threatened to walk in 1980, ending up with a deal unprecedented in the history of American broadcasting: $5 million a year and series commitments estimated at $50 million.  Just as important, show content would no longer belong to the network, but to Carson himself.

hqdefault (1)Carson began taking Mondays off in 1972, when the show moved from New York to California.  There followed a period of rotating guest hosts, including George Carlin and Joan Rivers, who became permanent guest host between 1983 and 1986.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was a late-night fixture through seven US Presidents: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush.  Nearly every American over the age of 30 and some younger will remember the opening, “Heeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”.  There was the opening monologue, and the imaginary golf swing.  “Carnac the Magnificent”, holding the envelope to his head, reciting the punchline to the joke sealed inside.  “Saucepan… Who was Peter Pan’s wino brother?”  When a joke bombed, there was the comedic curse.  “May a bloated yak change the temperature of your jacuzzi!”

download (16)Jay Leno appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for the first time on March 2, 1977.  He would frequently guest, and served as permanent host from May 1992 to May 2009.

Five years after Carson’s final show, 10,000 taped episodes were moved to a salt mine in Kansas, to protect them from deterioration. There they remain, 54 stories underground, where the average temperature is 68° Fahrenheit, with a uniform 40% humidity.

Excepting Conan O’Brien’s eight months in 2010, Leno remained permanent host of the Tonight Show until February 2014, recording more episodes (4,610) than even Carson himself, with 4,531. Saturday Night live veteran Jimmy Fallon took over the reins in February 2014, where he remains to this day.

The world’s longest running talk show began in 1954, when Steve Allen sat down at his piano on September 27.  This show is gonna go on… forever”, Allen quipped.  So far, he seems to have gotten that right.

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If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

March 1, 2011 The Love of a Dog

The writer and photographer Roger Caras once said “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

Years ago, a segment broadcast on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, told the story of a working shepherd, who worked the hills of 1930s North Dakota. This man, I don’t recall his name, fell ill, and was taken to a local Jesuit hospital.

The man’s business partner and constant companion “Shep”, a sheepdog of unknown breed, befriended a nurse who would feed him a morsel out of the side door.

For 11 days, Shep waited at the hospital, for his master’s return.   On the 11th day the man died, his casket taken to the local train station and placed in the cargo hold, to be returned home for burial.

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“Greyfriar’s Bobby’

Shep was there throughout, and watched the train chug away with the body of his human.   He returned to that hospital door for sustenance, but every time he heard the train whistle, there was a sheepdog waiting at the station.

In those days, there were two trains a day.  For five years, Shep returned to the station, every time he heard that whistle.   He never missed a train. In time, the dog wasn’t quite as fast as he used to be, his hearing not so good. He was killed while waiting on the tracks, for the man who could never return.

“Greyfriar’s Bobby” was a Skye Terrier in 19th-century Edinburgh, who waited 14 years by the grave of his owner, City Police nightwatchman, John Gray. There he died in 1872 and was buried in the Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from where he had stood watch. all those years.

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Hachikō Statue in Tokyo, Japan

Hachikō, an Akita known to Japanese children as chūken Hachikō (“faithful dog Hachikō”), used to tag along with his owner Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor of agriculture at Tokyo University. Ueno would commute to work and every evening, Hachikō would wait at the Shibuya Station, for the professor’s return.  Hidesaburō stopped coming home in May 1925, when a cerebral hemorrhage took him away while delivering a lecture.  Every day for nine years, nine months and fifteen days, the golden colored Akita appeared at Shibuya Station, precisely in time for that evening train.

Liam Tasker came from the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy, in the historic county of Fife.  Tasker joined the Royal Army in 2001 as a mechanic, but he wanted more.  He was transferred to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps six years later, and assigned as a trainer with the 1st Military Working Dog (MWD) Regiment.  Tasker was a natural, and rose quickly among the ranks of the group.  In 2010, Lance Corporal Tasker was paired with MWD Theo, a twenty-two-month-old English Springer Spaniel serving as a T.E.D.D. (Tactical Explosives Detection Dog) with the British Army.

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Liam and Theo

A Military Working Dog is anything but a “disposable” asset.  It is a highly trained, specialized soldier who complements and adds to the abilities of his human partner, as that two legged soldier complements those of the dog.

The writer and photographer Roger Caras once said “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”  So it was, with Liam and Theo.  The team was posted to Afghanistan, where the two managed to find 14 improvised explosive devices and weapons caches, in five months.  “I love my job and working with Theo,” Tasker would say. “He has a great character and never tires…He can’t wait to get out and do his job and will stop at nothing.”  Fourteen was a record for that time according to BBC, there is no telling how many lives were saved.  The pair proved so successful that their tour was extended, by a month.  It was a month too long.

4de6134f233b601ab634d1078c676380On March 1, 2011, L/Cpl Tasker was killed by a Taliban sniper while on patrol in Helmand Province, and brought back to base by his fellow soldiers.  Theo suffered a seizure after returning to base and never recovered.  He died that afternoon.  It was believed that Theo’s seizure was brought on by the stresses of Tasker’s death, but the autopsy proved inconclusive.  Liam’s mother Jane Duffy later said, “I think Theo died of a broken heart, nobody will convince me any different.”

Major Alexander Turner of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards described the pair, saying “He used to joke that Theo was impossible to restrain but I would say the same about Lance Corporal Tasker.” Liam and Theo were returned to Great Britain, arriving first in RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire.  Rumors have gone around ever since, that the two were buried together.  Tasker’s mother would neither confirm nor deny.  She only said, with a sad smile, that “Liam and Theo are where they should be.”

Afterward

Nate & ZinoOn a more upbeat note, and this story needs one, our daughter Carolyn and son-in-law Nate transferred to Savannah in 2013, where Nate deployed to the Wardak province of Afghanistan as a TEDD handler and paired with “MWD Zino”, a four-year-old German Shepherd trained to detect up to 64 explosive compounds.
The team was separated at the end of their tour but reunited months later, a story told on National Public Radio’s “Here & Now” program and produced out of their Boston affiliate, WBUR.
The radio program was broadcast the day of their reunion, in 2014.  It’s a great story, if you’re interested in listening to it.

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/03/21/soldier-dog-reunion