History Articles

History of Canada Day

July 1, 2020 /
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Canada 150HISTORY OF CANADA DAY

As the US will soon celebrate their Independence Day, Canadians have a celebration of their own. Canada Day (Fête du Canada) celebrates the anniversary of July 1, 1867, when the three independent colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single dominion. On that date the British North American Act, known today as the Constitution Act, officially confederated Canada. While it was still a subject of the British Empire, Dominion Day as it was originally called (or Le Jour de la Confederation in French) marked this new beginning. It was renamed to Canada Day in 1982.

Birthday of Canada?

Canada Day is called “the birthday of Canada” but differs from the U.S. holiday in that it did not become separate from the British Empire until 1982 when it gained complete independence with the Constitution Act of 1982. And they didn’t have to fight a Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, Canada still enjoys its status in the British Commonwealth as a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with the British Queen as head of state. So they get a Queen and live in the New World, something that the U.S. envies. We have created in her place a synthetic royalty: Hollywood movie stars.

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History of July: Where Do We Get That Name?

July 1, 2020 /
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Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar

HISTORY OF JULY

The month of July was renamed for Julius Caesar, who was born in that month. Before that, it was called Quintilis in Latin, meaning the fifth month in the ancient Roman calendar. This was before January became the first month of the calendar year about the year 450 BC. We currently use the more contemporary Gregorian calendar — recent as in AD 1582 — which makes use of Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord” counting from the birth of Jesus. As we’ve previously discussed, in this calendar, Jesus was born curiously 4 to 6 years BC or “Before Christ.”

Calendar

July

Julian calendar in stone

The Gregorian calendar was a reform of the Julian calendar, which was itself a reform of the previous Roman calendar. The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar himself in 46 BC, where he added — probably after returning from an African military campaign in late Quntilis (July) — an additional 67 days by putting two intercalary months between November and December, as Cicero tells us at the time. This took care of some of the leap year problems. The Romans, after his death, renamed Quintilis to Iulius (July) in honor of his birth month.

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History of the Summer of Love — 1967: Part 4, Rock & Roll

June 29, 2020 /
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Rock & RollHISTORY OF THE SUMMER OF LOVE — 1967: PART 4, ROCK & ROLL

It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile

Rock & roll in the ’60s was exemplified when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the U.S. on June 2, 1967. It was released in the U.K. the day before. No other rock & roll album defined the soundtrack of the Summer of Love better than Sgt. Pepper. It captured the fantasy, psychedelics, love, and drugs of 1967. Especially with the last song “A Day In The Life” which urged

I’d love to turn you on.”

In 1967 I was on a school field trip to San Francisco. Directly across the street from Ghirardelli Square was a record store where I bought my copy of Sgt. Pepper. It felt almost scandalous to bring it home to my small town because “everyone knows it’s all about drugs,” or so people thought. I did now know it at the time but that was not entirely incorrect, as we’ll see.

Three years ago this June the six-disc boxed set 50th Anniversary (Remix) Edition of Sgt. Pepper was released by Giles Martin, the son of the original Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin.

In this, the final article in the series on the 53rd anniversary of the Summer of Love I’ll discuss the significance of Sgt. Pepper as it kicked off that iconic summer of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. (more…)

History of the Summer of Love — 1967: Part 3, Drugs

June 28, 2020 /
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Keep on Truckin

HISTORY OF THE SUMMER OF LOVE — 1967: DRUGS

When I was a Resident Assistant at Berkeley in the early ’70s, a local police officer I knew gave me a tour down Telegraph Avenue. He told me:

“All the major drug deals on the West Coast go down within a two-block stretch of Telegraph Avenue. The dealers and street people are what’s left of the flower children.”

All this was within blocks of the nearby University of California campus. To say that drugs were rampant at Berkeley was an understatement: as an RA, I was called upon to take students who were too high on marijuana or LSD down to the Student Health Center. My saddest duty was checking out the room of a student after he had committed suicide. On his wall were comic-strip blotters of LSD.

Berkeley, the counterpart foci of Haight-Ashbury, on the ellipse of the San Francisco Bay, reflected the tone and mood of the Summer of Love. In my previous article, I talked about sex in the late ’60s; in this third article on this period from over 50 years ago, I discuss the topic of the drugs.

Berkeley was the West Coast hub of drugs, as Boston was the East Coast hub. Drugs were shipped into Vallejo, a port town 30 minutes north of Berkeley. The author Michael Crichton popularized the Berkeley drug trade in his 1970 novel — written under the pseudonym Michael Douglas — along with his 19-year old brother Douglas, called Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues. (more…)

History of the Summer of Love — 1967: Part 2, Sex

June 27, 2020 /
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Make Love Not WarHISTORY OF THE SUMMER OF LOVE — 1967: PART 2, SEX

“Make love, not war,” and the call for “free love” represented a cultural shift in mores. Even The Beatles sang that “All You Need Is Love.” If the ’60s was the time of the “sexual revolution,” the natural question is: who won? There were both winners and losers. In our first article on the Summer of Love, we talked about the general environment of 1967. In this article, we’ll discuss the role of sex in “sex, drugs, and rock & roll.”

The Boom

More babies were born in the western world between 1946 and 1964 than during any previous period in recorded history, at least until the “Millennial Generation.” In the U.S., this post-war “bloom” of children was called the Baby Boom Generation. It represented a relatively prosperous generation of children born to a middle class with more access to education and entertainment than any generation before it. In 1966, Time magazine declared that the “Generation 25 and Under” would be its “Persons of the Year.” (more…)

History of the Summer of Love — 1967: Part 1 – Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

June 26, 2020 /
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Summer of LoveHISTORY OF THE SUMMER OF LOVE — 1967: SEX, DRUGS, AND ROCK & ROLL

The Summer of Love was fifty-three years ago, the Summer of 1967, with its epicenter in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It was a summer of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Both San Francisco and Liverpool celebrated it in 1997. While not limited to San Francisco — New York and London were involved — no other city but San Francisco attracted almost 100,000 young people who converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This mood was captured at the time by the hit single by Scott McKenzie “San Francisco” with its lyric

“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”

It was a unique time, just one summer. Ironically, the song was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas to promote that the June 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival.

Haight AshburyIn the following year, both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. would be assassinated. Woodstock was still two years away. But at the time there had never been anything quite like it. I recall my father driving me through Haight-Ashbury at the time saying “Look at that!” with carnival-like amusement, baffled by the hair and clothes.

By the end of 1967 many of the hippies and San Franciscan musicians from the Summer of Love had moved on. In its wake were street people, drug addiction, and panhandling. But let’s look at that one brief shining moment in history. (more…)

History of The Beatles All You Need Is Love

June 25, 2020 /
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All You Need Is LoveHISTORY OF ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

On June 25, 1967, The Beatles released the song “All You Need Is Love.”

At that time, they participated in the Our World TV show, which used the recently constructed satellite system and broadcast their performance across the globe. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr said later,

“It was the first worldwide satellite broadcast ever,”

Impact

With “All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles released the anthem of flower power — during the Summer of Love — as I’ve written previously about the prominence that summer of their recently released album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Global_Beatles_Day_promotional_posterIt was broadcast live on TV in 24 countries to over 400 million viewers. The single was later included in the U.S. version of the album Magical Mystery Tour, and in the animated movie Yellow Submarine. Since 2009,  Global Beatles Day, an international celebration of the Beatles’ music and social message, takes place on June 25 each year in tribute (more…)

History of St. John the Baptist Day

June 24, 2020 /
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St. John the BaptistHISTORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST DAY

The Feast of St. John the Baptist, or the Nativity of St John the Forerunner, sometimes called St. John the Baptist Day, is celebrated on June 24 in many places around the world, though not much in the United States, as we’ll see below.

Celebration of the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist goes back at least a millennium and a half. At the Council of Agde, it mentions the feast in 506 AD in its list of festivals. Most saints’ festivals are tied to their death, but John’s is an exception, being tied to his birth.

This famous painting of John the Baptist at left by Leonardo da Vinci, believed to be his last painting, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Who was St. John the Baptist?

John the BaptistJohn the Baptizer (he wasn’t a member of the Baptist denomination) was a contemporary of Jesus and the son of Jesus’ mother’s sister Elizabeth, making him Jesus’ cousin. As John grew up he became a prophet in the tradition of Old Testament prophets. No prophet had been recorded since the time of Malachi some 400 years earlier. His ministry attracted large crowds and his message, in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, was:

“Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

He operated along the Jordan River in the province of Judea some 2,000 years ago. When people responded to his call for repentance he baptized them in the Jordan River. (more…)

History of Father’s Day: the Beginning

June 21, 2020 /
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Fathers DayHISTORY OF FATHERS DAY

[NOTE: I wrote a more extended and more serious version of this article for CBS.com a couple of years ago. It has been published on their network of sites for major cities around the country. You can find an example here.]

Origin of Fathers Day

The celebration of Father’s Day goes back all the way to the beginning, actually to the Garden of Eden when Abel gave his father Adam a razor while his brother Cain gave his father a snake-skin tie. This was the beginning of Cain’s downward slide.

Contrasts

Scholars have debated for ages why Mother’s Day seems to be more honored than Father’s Day. A parallel has been drawn between this phenomenon and that of the difference in popularity between the Irish patron saint and the Italian patron saint.
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