An Outlook

With the doldrums of March upon us, this issue seems like an appropriate time for a little frivolity in this column, so what follows are sundry items – all true – that have limited importance to most people but can be great fun to share at your next coffee clache or cocktail party.

Another Thing You Learned In School That Wasn’t True

In 1874, intrepid dinosaur hunter O. C. Smith discovered some really, really big fossilized bones in Wyoming. Smith felt certain that he had, in fact, discovered an entirely new genus of dinosaur and he bestowed the moniker Brontosaurus to his discovery. There was one problem, however: Smith never found the head.

Undeterred, Smith proceeded to build a full-size replica of his discovery and, when it came time to install the head, he simply used the head of a Camarasaurus.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Smith’s slight-of-head was discovered and his “Brontosaurus” was revealed to be merely an Apatosaurus with a Camarasaurus head. The name Brontosaurus (and genus) was formally rejected by the scientific community in 1974. The problem, of course, is that the scientific community forgot to tell all of us who went to elementary school in the years preceding 1974 that “Brontosaurus” was a fake and the only appellation we should use for these monstrous quadrupeds is Apatosaurus.

So now you know why your grandchildren give you that “What planet are you from?” look when you mention a Brontosaurus.

The Fine Art of Flirting In the Victorian Age

During the Age of Victoria, if you spotted a cute girl out on the dance floor, or across the room, etiquette didn’t allow you to approach her directly. In order to “put the move” on the girl the most you could do was make eye contact. The rest was then up to the cute girl.

Most of us realize that the girls/women of the Victorian Age wore an obscene amount of clothes. And in an era pre-dating indoor air conditioning, these ladies became uncomfortably warm rather quickly, so fans became an integral part of their regular accessorizing. These fans, however, served another, more flirtatious purpose. Here’s how the system worked.

If, after a young man made eye contact with a young women, she placed her fan on her right cheek it meant she was interested. If she placed her fan on her left cheek, it meant “Not in this lifetime, buddy.” Very slow movement of the fan meant that the young lady was already married or engaged and if she held the fan in her right hand in front of her face the young man was supposed to follow her (racy stuff, folks!). And, finally, if the young lady moved the closed fan across her forehead it meant they were being watched!

What Year Did Mohandas Gandhi Win the Nobel Peace Prize?

The proverbial trick question since Gandhi never won the Nobel Prize despite being nominated a total of five times. That’s right; the man whose name is virtually synonymous with non-violent protest as a means of social change never received a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1937, Gandhi lost to Lord Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne Cecil, founder and president of the International Peace Campaign. In 1938, Gandhi lost to the Nansen International Office for Refugees. In 1939, Gandhi was again nominated but with the outbreak of war in Europe, no prize was awarded. In 1947, Gandhi lost to The Friends Service Council and The American Friends Service Committee (a joint award), both Quaker organizations.

He was nominated again in 1948 and was figured to be the man for that year. Unfortunately, for the world, Gandhi was assassinated that year, before the prize was announced and the Nobel Committee, which does not award posthumous prizes, chose not to award any prize that year because there was “no suitable living candidate.”

How Wisconsin Almost Started World War III

On October 25, 1962 – at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis – a guard at an airbase in Duluth, Minnesota saw someone scaling the fence surrounding the base. Acting quickly he shot at the intruder then activated an alarm system that rang at bases throughout the upper Midwest.

Unfortunately, the alarm at Volk Field (now home to the Wisconsin National Guard Museum) was improperly wired, which led the servicemen in Wisconsin to believe that the United States was under a full-scale nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Following their orders for such an event, they scrambled F-106A interceptors, armed with nuclear missiles, onto the runways.

To the relief of Wisconsinites, Americans, and the world as a whole, a car raced down the tarmac from the control tower and stopped the planes before they took off. Air traffic control had just received notification that the intruder shot while trying to scale the fence at the Duluth base was…a bear.