THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD – By ELLIN CURLEY

I’m a history buff and I particularly enjoy learning about the odd, unusual occurrences that often don’t make it into the history textbooks.

For example, On January 15, 1919, a freakish but deadly accident occurred in Boston. A massive, 50-foot tall tank storing molasses which were used in the production of industrial alcohol, ruptured. It created a giant wave of molasses that engulfed everything and everyone in its path.

The molasses swamped one of Boston’s busiest neighborhoods, killing 21 and injuring 150 people. (NOTE: Each newspaper originally claimed a different number of people died or were hospitalized. It apparently took a while to get the numbers correct and finalized.)

Globe headline – the great molasses flood

The statistics of the flood are gruesome. 2.3 million gallons of molasses created a black tidal wave 25 feet high and 160 feet wide that traveled at 35 miles per hour. This generated enough power to crumble small structures, knock the firehouse off its foundation and rip away a supporting beam for the elevated train tracks.

Two city blocks were quickly under the glue, so to speak. People outside drowned and suffocated as did people trapped as their homes and basements quickly filled up with the unforgiving goo. Others were swept away with the sticky tide. It was more deadly than a similar amount of water would have been because it was thick and sticky and trapped many people who might have escaped from a flood of water.

Boston, MA – 1/16/1919: Smashed vehicles and debris sit in a puddle of molasses on Commercial Street on Jan. 16, 1919, the day after a giant tank in the North End collapsed, sending a wave of an estimated 2.3 million gallons of molasses through the streets of Boston. Twenty-one people died and 150 were injured. (Boston Globe Archive)

During the summer of 1918, residents began noticing leaks in the giant tank. Being a typical corporation with little governmental regulation, the company responded by painting the tanks brown instead of grey. That way, you could no longer see the molasses seeping through the cracks in the tank. It was a literal cover up!

Local historical marker from the event

The litigation that followed the disaster lasted six years. The 1925 verdict held the company responsible. It was ordered to pay to the victims’ families the equivalent of 9.2 million dollars in today’s money — or then, about $7000 per family .

One of the company’s defenses was a claim that the tank rupture was caused by an anarchist’s bomb.  But there was no bomb nor any anarchists.

Damage from the great molasses flood – Boston 1915

In 2015, a Civil Engineering Magazine published an article that concluded that the walls of the tanks had been too thin and that the builders at the time should have known this.

This story is reminiscent of the tragedy of the Titanic, which sank in 1912 because of faulty design and inferior materials, including rivets. The iceberg caused the rivets to burst, flooding a fatal number of chambers in the Titanic’s hull. Just before the 1919 molasses flood, people heard popping sounds as the rivets on the tank popped and the contents of the tank exploded onto the street.

I love quirky historical stories like this one. I hope you enjoyed it too!

STANDING ON THE ACHING SHOULDERS OF THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

Don’t you absolutely love pithy quotes? They always get me thinking either because I agree with it, or because I don’t.

Today I went wandering down the mental pathways of history because someone repeated something I’ve heard a million times before, the ubiquitous quote everyone has heard and at which, we automatically nod in agreement. Everyone says it, so it has to be true, doesn’t it?

Everything that is happening or will ever happen, has happened before. That most people don’t remember and have never read any history is sad. Yet I have come to believe that ignorance of history has little bearing on what we (collectively) do.

I love history. I want other people to love it as much as I do, if for no better reason than to give me more people to talk to who share my passion. As a history buff, I want to believe if people knew history, they would not repeat the same bad behavior, make the same errors as we’ve made in the past.

That’s wishful thinking. We think a lack of knowledge is the root of the evil but there are other reasons. The biggest one? Ego.

Hitler (for example) wanted to be Charlemagne or Napoleon. He knew history. He was not unaware or unread. He wanted to rewrite history, stand on its shoulders and laugh at the past.

Lack of awareness or failure to remember is a symptom, not the problem.

It’s our human determination to prove history wrong which is so destructive. More to the point, we — humankind — want to prove we are above or outside history, not subject to its rules. This stubbornness is at the core of many of the most monstrous, terrible things we do. We keep trying to prove we aren’t subject to the same forces that have directed the past.

Not remembering history does not condemn us to repeat it. Refusing to accept the outcome of history because we want what we want — usually in combination with greed and a lust for power — that is what condemns us.

TODAY IS THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

You sure wouldn’t know it by what’s on television.

Not a single movie, documentary or anything. We watched “Oh, What a Lovely War” with a chaser of “The Americanization of Emily.” Garry scoured the listings, but no channel is showing anything related to D-Day.

Not like there aren’t plenty of movies and documentaries from which to choose. So, have we forgotten? Call me weird, but I think this is a day to remember. Always.

Here I am, cynical, skeptical and nobody’s flag-waver reminding everyone that this day was important. It was the beginning of the final stage of the most devastating war in remembered history.


The summary of loss of life, 1937-1945:

    • Military deaths: More than 16,000,000
    • Civilian deaths: More than 45,000,000
    • Total deaths for the war years 1937-1945: More than 61,000,000

I don’t think we should be allowed to forget so quickly, do you?

European border before the first World War
Europe just after WW 2
Europe-circa 1970

Because when we forget, when the lessons we learned are lost. We stand in imminent danger of repeating history. I, for one, think that’s a bad idea. Oh, wait … we ARE in the middle of repeating history.

Lest we forget … this is how it all began. With a world just like the one in which we are living. Today. With leaders who think war is a fine idea.

FLAGS AND FLOWERS BLOOMING – Marilyn Armstrong

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot. It has a perfect view of the dam and river, but it’s dry and safe for bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every anniversary of the end of some war we fought, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wildflowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 19 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok. We come from tiny villages in Ireland, England,  the West Indies, and a wide variety of shtetls in eastern and northern Europe. Our people were always on the move.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms, and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but also not common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in nearby villages for three, four, five generations.

“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning they have lived here as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else. Some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if it was a long time ago. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young.

It’s hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.” We nod because it was a long time ago. We can’t remember a lot of things from our “old days” either. So many years have passed and so much stuff has happened.

In the ground – Photo: Garry Armstrong

How many wars have we fought — just in our lifetime? I can’t count them anymore. It’s endless. We honor our dead. I think we’d honor them more by ending the cause of their deaths which I doubt it will happen. Peace is not in us, or at least not in most of us. Certainly not in the people who run our countries.

So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.

OFFICIAL MINUTES FROM THE FIRST “COUNCIL OF THE TOMS” – BY TOM CURLEY

There’s a lot of chatter these days about the Multi-verse. You know, parallel Earths in parallel universes. Different versions of Earth. It’s been a mainstream topic in the world of physics — and in science fiction forever.

And it shows up a lot in movies and TV shows. Spider-Man, Into the
Spider-verse.

Arrow, Flash and Super Girl hop back and forth between multiple Earths all the time.

In one episode of the Flash, one of the main characters brought different versions of himself from different Earths to help him solve the ‘problem of the week’. I thought that was cool.

The Council of Wells

So, I gathered three other versions of myself from three different Earths to talk about what’s going on these days. How did I do this?

Who cares?

Never mind.

Buy the premise, buy the blog.

TOM of EARTH 616: (me) I’d like to welcome all of you to the first Council of the Toms.

TOM of EARTH 17: (Panicked) How did I get here? Where am I?

TOM of EARTH 22: (Laid back) I think we’re on Earth 616.

TOM of EARTH 42: Who came up with these Earth numbers anyway? Earth 616?  Earth 22?  Who makes these decisions?

TOM of EARTH 616: Depends on whether you’re DC or Marvel.  Who cares? Just roll with it. You’re ruining the bit.

So, we’re here today to talk about Donald Trump.

TOM of EARTH 17: AHHH! Never say that name!

TOM of EARTH 22: Why are we talking about Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 42: Who’s Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 616: Well, on my Earth he has been the President of the United States for the last two years. Things are not going well, and I wanted to get your input — and your views — on what to do about it.

TOM of EARTH 17: Two years?? He’s been President for 10 years here!

TOM of EARTH 22: Wait a minute. You mean, the guy who had a bad reality show about 10 years ago? He’s your President? You gotta be shitting me, man!

TOM of EARTH 42: Again, who’s Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 616: 10 years? Oh my God. What’s it like there?

TOM of EARTH 17: Pretty much the dystopian nightmare you’d expect. After his first term, he learned he could do anything he wanted. So he did. He made himself President for life.

TOM of EARTH 22: You can do that on your Earth?

TOM of EARTH 17: OF COURSE YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON MY EARTH!  He did it anyway!

TOM of EARTH 616: How? Congress did nothing to stop him? The Courts did nothing to stop him?

TOM of EARTH 17: The Congress wouldn’t impeach him and he simply ignored the courts! He said, “Fuck you.” And he got away with it!

TOM of EARTH 22: You’re talking about the guy who put his name on buildings and has really weird hair? Right?

TOM of EARTH 616: Yeah, that’s the one. We can’t believe it either.

TOM of EARTH 17: Well, believe it! I live in a world where the global economy is in the third year of a global depression. Disaster relief for all the super-tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and cyclones now cost almost one trillion dollars a year. And there’s no way to get rid of this guy!

TOM of EARTH 616: Well, he’s old, won’t he die soon?

TOM of EARTH 17: Maybe, but so what? He passed a law that when he dies, he gets replaced by … Eric.

TOM of EARTH 616: Fuck.

TOM of EARTH 22: Damn. Wow. Sorry man. It sucks to be you.

TOM of EARTH 42: WHO THE FUCK IS DONALD TRUMP?

(End of minutes.)

WANDERING OFF THE GRAMMATICAL POINT AT BERKHAMSTED CASTLE by Alli Templeton – Reblog

Take your mind off current events and roam into the medieval world. England from The Battle of Hastings onward.

As several of my blogging friends are aware, I’m currently up to my ears in revision for my impending OU Latin exam in a couple of weeks’ time. However, after hours of work yesterday, I was in desperate need of a medieval break, so I escaped to a place I’ve only been to a couple of times before. And it was a good choice, because although little remains of its medieval stone structures, Berkhamsted Castle is a hugely important site, not just for its string of famous owners, but because it witnessed first-hand the single biggest change in England’s history.

Me relaxing on wall.JPGTaking time out from the hard work to relax on the castle walls

There has been a castle here since the late 11th Century, but our story begins before it was even built; in fact we have to travel back to Hastings in 1066 and the aftermath of the iconic…

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Nuremberg And Its Consequences Are Only A Heartbeat Away – SHINBONE STAR – Reblog

But I do not think we are going that way. I know it’s a possibility, but I think we aren’t going there. We are too individualistic.

THE SHINBONE STAR

The disabused old saw that the only book Donald Trump ever kept at his bedside was Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — the German dictator’s post-World War I vision for a Utopian Aryan universe — is perhaps true.

The observation is at least a fair assumption. On Monday, Trump held a taxpayer-paid trip to a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pa., where his “Make America Great Again” campaign found nirvana among the unemployed coal miners and formerly well-paid steel workers who rejoiced listening to him rant about the unfairness of it all.

The roots of Trump’s most scurrilous rant to date are found in a tweet he penned early last Friday morning, towards the end of a week-long Twitter blitz precipitated by day after day of bad political news. In it he claimed the FBI’s investigation of his presidential campaign was an attempt at a political coup.

My campaign for President…

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