“It Never Hurts to Smile” by Mike Rosen

Happy Anniversary!

This week’s column, my 46th, is presented to you a year after the first one appeared on April 23 of last year. The corona virus pandemic had reached our shores and breached our way of life. Do you remember those early days of people buying pallets of toilet paper, and the closing of schools, stores, theaters, businesses, and public facilities? I remember waiting in front of Stop & Shop for them to open at 6:30 a.m. for senior hours, hoping to be able to find any number of items that were in scarce supply. It’s a year later, and a lot has changed. Deployment of vaccines has brought more than a little hope to almost all of us, and we’re all anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy. Personally, I can’t wait to see all of you again in person.

For this week’s anniversary column I thought it might be fun to report on some funny, weird, silly, or just plain interesting events that happened on various April 23rds that would spark your interest. Guess what? I found a few. Here goes:

On April 23, 1516, Wilhelm IV, the Duke of Bavaria, signed the German “Beer Purity Law,” which stated henceforth German beer could only be made from three ingredients: water, hops, and malt. Way to go, Billy!

April 23, 1597, William Shakespeare premiered “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Historians report the play was enthusiastically received by an audience that included Queen Elizabeth I (who might have received a backstage pass and swag bag from The Bard).

On this day in 1635, the Boston Latin School was founded. It was the first public institution in this country, and has been in operation ever since. Bene, certe, quod est infigo! (I’m fluent in Google translate.)

Canada issued its first postage stamps on April 23, 1851, and nine years later the Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina closed due to a failure of the Democrats to come to agreement over the issue of slavery. That was not a great day.

April 23, 1900, was notable for the New York Journal introducing the word “hillbillie.” Fifty-four years later, the due-to-become legendary Hank Aaron hit the first of his 755 home runs.

Rats. All of these are interesting, but didn’t anything really odd or funny happen on any April 23rd? As deeply as I dived in the word of arcana, the best I could come up with was the 1985 introduction of the short-lived gastronomical failure known as “New Coke.”

So what’s a humorist wannabee to do? Of course, I thought as the lightbulb went on over my head; just celebrate today with a review of some of history’s oddest days to

remember, regardless of the day on which they occurred! Certainly there must be one or two, so let’s give it a shot!

No doubt each and every one of you has pondered about the origin of the odd prank known as “mooning.” I am about to satisfy your craving for knowledge: According to the first century C.E. historian Josephus in his tome The Wars of the Jews, in the year 63 (specific date unknown) a Roman soldier decided to insult a large group of Passover-celebrating Jews by doing an about face, bending over, and exposing his derriere to them. The result was a riot during which over 30,000 were killed.

In the early 1800’s, Greeks were fighting for independence from their Turkish rulers. During one skirmish in 1821, the Turks were running out of ammunition to defend their garrison at the Acropolis. So they began dismantling a marble column to use the lead inside for bullets. Horrified at the destruction of this historical site, the Greeks sent this message to the Turks, “Here are bullets, don’t touch the columns.”

June 10, 1845, was the date of Andrew Jackson’s funeral. Held at his home in Tennessee, there were over 3,000 in attendance. Also at the funeral was Jackson’s late wife’s beloved pet parrot, Poll. According to Reverend William Menefee Norment, the officiant for the funeral, Poll had to be removed as the parrot wouldn’t stop screeching obscenities Jackson had taught the bird to repeat.

The year was 1895 (although I searched, the specific date eluded me) and there were only two cars in the entire state of Ohio. These two vehicles still managed to find each other in the first recorded multi-vehicle accident. Generally, the cause given is that roads weren’t ready for that number of cars. Ironically, that lack of planning still exists at the I-95/I-91 interchange in New Haven.

Sometime around 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, a Nationalist garrison was struggling to defend itself. Desperately in need of supplies, many of which were fragile, pilots came up with the brilliant scheme of attaching the supplies to harnesses that then were securely affixed to domestic turkeys and dropped as if the turkeys were parachutes. Yes, the pilots knew domestic turkeys couldn’t fly, but they figured the flapping of their wings would slow their decent which, in fact, happened and the supplies were cushioned by the bird’s bodies. The garrison troops then had their supplies, and the turkeys then served as a food source.

During the Second World War, Russian troops initiated a program in which they strapped bombs to dogs that were trained to explode tanks. Unfortunately for the Russians, the dogs had been trained on Russian-designed tanks and the dogs simply blew them up. Fortunately for dogs, the program didn’t last very long.

Then, of course, there are the strange things that somehow got through research and development teams, went all the way through production, only to fail to find a market. You might recall Frito-Lay’s brilliant idea to produce a lip gloss in a market-favorite flavor – Cheetos. For some reason, it wasn’t popular.

The 1970’s was a growth year for the craze that demanded products featuring “all-natural ingredients.” Clairol kind of blew it in 1979 when they introduced “Touch of Yogurt” shampoo. Consumers got confused and the product was pulled when users thought the shampoo was edible.

Sometimes, a company tries too hard to capitalize on its brand, which is exactly why Harley-Davidson failed miserably in the mid-1990’s in using its name to market cologne, perfume, and wine coolers. Go figure.

Last, but not least, since 1906, Heinz (now Kraft Heinz) has produced all-natural ketchup that dominates the market. As their primary consumer is the youth of the world, in 2000 the company determined that making naturally red ketchup in a variety of bright colors would sell well with children. They were correct, for about as long as it has taken me to write this column. Somehow, neon-blue ketchup dripping off a hamburger just didn’t work.

I hope my weekly forays into the worlds of the humorous, the bizarre, the silly, and the just plain fun have reached their goal of providing a smile or two during this troubled year. In fact, I thought I might petition to make April 23 National Smile Day, but that day is already taken. So is Humor Day, Laugh Day, Funny Day; you get the picture. Therefore, I will modify one for our purposes: April 23 is now SUUS Smile Day. Wait a minute, scratch that one; I have a better idea. Let’s just commit to making every day a SUUS Smile Day. Thoughts?

This week’s Street Advertising Smile:

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