Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 38, 2015

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The first transcontinental mail service to San Francisco begins on September 15, 1858

The first transcontinental mail service to San Francisco begins on September 15, 1858

The first transcontinental mail service to San Francisco begins: On this day in 1858, the new Overland Mail Company sends out its first two stages, inaugurating government mail service between the eastern and western regions of the nation.

With California booming, thanks to the 1849 Gold Rush, Americans east and west had been clamoring for faster and surer transcontinental mail service for years. Finally, in March 1857, the U.S. Congress passed an act authorizing an overland mail delivery service and a $600,000 yearly subsidy for whatever company could succeed in reliably transporting the mail twice a week from St. Louis to San Francisco in less than 25 days. The postmaster general awarded the first government contract and subsidy to the Overland Mail Company. Under the guidance of a board of directors that included John Butterfield and William Fargo, the Overland Mail Company spent $1 million improving its winding 2,800-mile route and building way stations at 10-15 mile intervals. Teams of thundering horses soon raced across the wide open spaces of the West, pulling custom-built Concord coaches with seats for nine passengers and a rear boot for the mail.

For passengers, the overland route was anything but a pleasure trip. Packed into the narrow confines of the coaches, they alternately baked or froze as they bumped across the countryside, and dust was an inescapable companion. Since the coaches traveled night and day, travelers were reluctant to stop and sleep at one of the “home stations” along the route because they risked being stranded if later stages were full. Many opted to try and make it through the three-week trip by sleeping on the stage, but the constant bumping and noise made real sleep almost impossible. Travelers also found that toilets and baths were few and far between, the food was poor and pricey, and the stage drivers were often drunk, rude, profane, or all three. Robberies and Indian attacks were a genuine threat, though they occurred far less commonly than popularly believed. The company posted guards at stations in dangerous areas, and armed men occasionally rode with the coach driver to protect passengers.

Though other faster mail delivery services soon came to compete with the Overland Mail Company-most famously the Pony Express-the nation’s first regular trans-western mail service continued to operate as a part of the larger Wells, Fargo and Company operation until May 10, 1869, the day the first transcontinental railroad was completed. On that day the U.S. government cancelled its last overland mail contract. History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / National Archives.gov

Tanks introduced into warfare at the Somme on September 15, 1916

Tanks introduced into warfare at the Somme on September 15, 1916

Tanks introduced into warfare at the Somme: During the Battle of the Somme, the British launch a major offensive against the Germans, employing tanks for the first time in history. At Flers Courcelette, some of the 40 or so primitive tanks advanced over a mile into enemy lines but were too slow to hold their positions during the German counterattack and subject to mechanical breakdown. However, General Douglas Haig, commander of Allied forces at the Somme, saw the promise of this new instrument of war and ordered the war department to produce hundreds more.

On July 1, the British launched a massive offensive against German forces in the Somme River region of France. During the preceding week, 250,000 Allied shells had pounded German positions near the Somme, and 100,000 British soldiers poured out of their trenches and into no-man’s-land on July 1, expecting to find the way cleared for them. However, scores of heavy German machine guns had survived the artillery onslaught, and the infantry were massacred. By the end of the day, 20,000 British soldiers were dead and 40,000 wounded. It was the single heaviest day of casualties in British military history.

After the initial disaster, Haig resigned himself to smaller but equally ineffectual advances, and more than 1,000 Allied lives were extinguished for every 100 yards gained on the Germans. Even Britain’s September 15 introduction of tanks into warfare for the first time in history failed to break the deadlock in the Battle of the Somme. In October, heavy rains turned the battlefield into a sea of mud, and on November 18 Haig called off the Somme offensive after more than four months of mass slaughter.

Except for its effect of diverting German troops from the Battle of Verdun, the offensive was a miserable disaster. It amounted to a total advance of just five miles for the Allies, with more than 600,000 British and French soldiers killed, wounded, or missing in action. German casualties were more than 650,000. Although Haig was severely criticized for the costly battle, his willingness to commit massive amounts of men and resources to the stalemate along the western front did eventually contribute to the collapse of an exhausted Germany in 1918. History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / National Archives.gov / National Archives..gov.UK / First World War / The Atlantic

Nuremberg race laws imposed on September 15, 1935

Nuremberg race laws imposed on September 15, 1935

Nuremberg race laws imposed: On this day in 1935, German Jews are stripped of their citizenship, reducing them to mere “subjects” of the state.

After Hitler’s accession to the offices of president and chancellor of Germany, he set about the task of remaking his adopted country (Hitler had to pull some strings even to be eligible for office, as he was Austrian by birth) into the dream state he imagined. But his dream was soon to become a nightmare for many. Early on in his reign, the lives of non-Jewish German citizens were barely disrupted. But not so for Hitler’s “enemies”. Hitler’s racist ideology, which elevated those of “pure-blooded” German stock to the level of “masters” of the earth, began working itself out in vicious ways.

Within the first year of Hitler’s rule, German Jews were excluded from a host of high-profile vocations, from public office to journalism, radio, theater, film, and teaching-even farming. The professions of law and medicine were also withdrawn slowly as opportunities. “Jews Not Welcome” signs could be seen on shop and hotel windows, beer gardens, and other public arenas. With the Nuremberg Laws, these discriminatory acts became embedded in the culture by fiat, making them even more far-reaching. Jews were forbidden to marry “Aryans” or engage in extramarital relations with them. Jews could not employ female Aryan servants if they were less than 35 years of age. Jews found it difficult even to buy food, as groceries, bakeries, and dairies would not admit Jewish customers. Even pharmacies refused to sell them medicines or drugs.

What was the outside world’s reaction? Because unemployment had dropped precipitously under Hitler’s early commandeering of the economy, and the average German felt renewed hope and pride, the face of Germany seemed brighter, more at peace with itself. While some foreign visitors, even some political opponents within Germany itself, decried these racist laws and practices, most were beguiled into thinking it was merely a phase, and that Hitler, in the words of former British Prime Minister Lloyd George, was “a great man”. History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / National Archives.gov / USHMM.org / Jewish Virtual Library.org

Photo: World War II, The Holocaust. Sources: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum USHMM, History 1900s, Internet Masters of Education Technology IMET, Techno Friends, Veterans Today, Concern.

Understanding Military Terminology

Understanding Military Terminology - Leverage

(DOD) In the context of joint operation planning, a relative advantage in combat power and/or other circumstances against the adversary across one or more domains or the information environment sufficient to exploit that advantage. See also operational art; operational design. Joint Publications 5-0 (Defense Technical Information‎)

Blondie - Debbie Harry style icon Popeye T-shirt

The Old Salt’s Corner

Remember Being a Sailor in the 80s:

1. You could have a beard.

2. Beer machines in the barracks.

3. Snail mail that took months to reach you.

4. Cinderella liberty.

5. Life before urinalysis.

6. Watching the same movie 72 times on deployment because there was no satellite.

7. Enlisted and Officers partying together.

8. Liberty cards, request chits, and green “Memorandum” books.

9. Having a “discussion” with the chief in the fan room.

10. Getting paid in cash.

11. Our only enemy was the Reds.

12. Communicating with flags.

13. Navigating before GPS.

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin’”

Do blind Eskimos have seeing-eye sled dogs?

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.

~ David Brinkley

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“Some people create their own storms and then get mad when it rains.”

~ Anonymous

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Florida’s Best Courtroom

Florida’s Best Courtroom: Trespassing suspect David Riffle to Judge John Hurley: “How you doin’, a$$hole?” / Kayla Kupcakes: Porn star flashes Broward County judge during court appearance

In May, suspect David Riffle, charged with trespassing (after shouting “religious proverbs” at patrons of the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla.), greeted Broward County judge John “Jay” Hurley at his bail hearing by inquiring, “How you doin’, asshole?” Unfazed, Hurley responded, “I’m doing fine. How are you sir?” After listening to Riffle on religion a bit longer, Hurley set bond at $100.

In August, talking to Judge Hurley from jail via closed circuit TV, arrestee Susan Surrette, 54, “flashed” him as she tried to prove an alleged recent assault. The self-described “escort” and “porn star” (“Kayla Kupcakes”) had lifted her shirt to reveal bruises. (Her bond, also, was $100.)

WPLG-TV (Miami) (05/13/2015) / WPTV (West Palm Beach) (08/21/2015)

Why Do Fraternities and Sororities Have Greek Names?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: Why Do Fraternities and Sororities Have Greek Names?

To shed their boozy reputation. Clubs have existed on America's college campuses since 1750. Many began as literary debate clubs, and some took Latin names because it was the language of the scholars.

Take William and Mary's popular F.H.C. society-which may have stood for the Latin Fraternitas, Hilaritas, Cognitoque (people knew it better as the “Flat Hat Club”). Ostensibly a debate club, in practice it was a group of drunken rabble-rousers. So on December 5, 1776, five William and Mary students met at a tavern to start their own debate club. The new club wanted a fresher, more serious image so they penned their motto, charter, and eventual name in Latin and Greek to differentiate it from all those drunky clubs (and to keep their motives secret).

Today, we know this group as the prestigious honor society Phi Beta Kappa. In the late 18th century, ΦΒΚ expanded to other schools, inspiring students at Union College to form spinoff groups in 1825. They, too, chose Greek letters—and the social clubs quickly spread like a keg party to other campuses.

New World EncyclopediaMental FlossQuoraRedditWikipedia

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Ironclad Contract”

Where Did That Saying Come From?

Ironclad Contract:” This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken. Vocabulary / Wikipedia

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy America's Navy - A Global Force For Good

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Divers: Word passed every 15-minutes when divers are working over the side of a ship. “Divers. There are divers working aboard USS . Do not rotate screws, cycle rudders, take suction from or discharge to the sea or throw anything over the side while diver's are working aboard USS (ship's name)”.

Division: Middle organizational level in most naval commands, below department and above branch. Usually headed by a junior officer (JO). Common divisions are powerplants, airframes, 1st Lieutenant, etc... Divisions are sometimes divided into branches. A ship may have 1st and 2nd Divisions on the deck, M(Machinery) division and E(electrical) division, and Auxiliaries Division in engineering, Combat Systems division, and Weapons division as examples.

DFOB: (pronounced “dee fob”) Dumbest F**k On Board.

Dog: A Soft Serve Ice Cream machine. Named from the appearance of the Chocolate flavor in relation to a product of man's best friend. Also referred to as auto dog.

Dog: To close or “dog down” a water tight hatch.

Dog: When one is overworked by a pissed off superior (“The chief completely dogged us.”), screwed over by a peer (“That brown-nosing little prick found my apple jack, so he went to the MAA and dogged me.”) or, conversely, as a promise of impending doom (“Just wait until I get you in my galley, you little shitbird... I will dog you out.”)

Dog Log: An “unofficial” log which is kept by watch standers to record the important social events on the ship, such as: “STG3 Dirty Douche was caught with a fellow shipmate in coitus.” It is vital entertainment for shipmates stuck on duty in exotic ports while the rest of the ship gets shitfaced. It can also contain humorous drawings of the LPO, CPO, or DIVO. It is therefore an unauthorized piece of "gear adrift" that is usually hidden in various stations so as not to be found by the meddling higher ups.

Just for MARINES - U.S. Marines Marines - The Few. The Proud.

Just for you MARINE

GI Bill: Originally GI Bill of Rights. Financial assistance provided to people who have or are serving in the military for educational and home purchasing purposes. Administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

GI Can: Galvanized Iron Can. Garbage can. Shit can.

GI Issue: Something strictly military in nature or specifically issued to the soldier, sailor or Marine.

GI Party: See GI Shower.

Get Some: (Vietnam) To kill enemy. Also, to have sex. Often expressed as “Get me some.”.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

HX-21 - Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 21: “Blackjack”
NAS Patuxent River, Maryland

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

French Pill Claims to Make Farts Smell Like Roses, Lavender or Chocolate

French Pill Claims to Make Farts Smell Like Roses, Lavender or Chocolate

Next time you’re in the subway and you suddenly smell roses, don’t be fooled: it might just be a fellow passenger farting.

A Frenchman has apparently developed a pill that can make people’s farts smell like roses and chocolates. He began making and selling these pills in 2006, with surging sales, especially during Christmas-time.

These pills are made of natural ingredients such as mixed vegetable charcoal, fennel, seaweed, plant resin, and blueberry. The Blaze

© CEASAR CHOPPY by cartoonist Marty Gavin - archives Ceasar Choppy's Navy! “© CEASAR CHOPPY” by Marty Gavin


“Mony Mony” - Tommy James & the Shondells 1968

“Mony Mony” - Tommy James & the Shondells
Album: Mony Mony
Released 1968 video

Tommy James explained: “Originally, we did the track without a song. And the idea was to create a party rock record; in 1968 that was pretty much of a throwback to the early '60s. Nobody was making party rock records really in 1968, those big-drum-California-sun-what-I-sing-money-type songs. And so I wanted to do a party rock record. And we went in the studio, and we pasted this thing together out of drums here, and a guitar riff here. It was called sound surgery, and we finally put it together in probably a month. We had most of the words to the song, but we still had no title. And it's just driving us nuts, because we're looking for like a 'Sloopy' or some crazy name – it had to be a two-syllable girl's name that was memorable and silly and kind of stupid sounding. So we knew what kind of a word we had, it's just that everything we came up with sounded so bad. So Ritchie Cordell, my songwriting partner and I, are up in my apartment up at 888 Eighth Avenue in New York. And finally we get disgusted, we throw our guitars down, we go out on the terrace, we light up a cigarette, and we look up into the sky. And the first thing our eyes fall on is the Mutual of New York Insurance Company. M-O-N-Y. True story.

With a dollar sign in the middle of the O, and it gave you the time and the temperature. I had looked at this thing for years, and it was sitting there looking me right in the face. We saw this at the same time, and we both just started laughing. We said, 'That's perfect! What could be more perfect than that?' Mony, M-O-N-Y, Mutual of New York. And so we must have laughed for about ten minutes, and that became the title of the song. When we made the record, we had our usual studio band, but we also dragged in people off the street, we had secretaries come downstairs. This was in the 1650 Broadway Building, the basement of 1650 was a big music industry building. All the writers and publishers were there, so we invited them all downstairs, and it was really a party that got captured on tape.”

Amphetamines and the Mafia played a surprising role in this Bubblegum classic. Roulette Records was run by The Mob. As for the drugs, Kenny Laguna, a producer who played keyboards and sang with The Shondells, told us: “We used to do a lot of amphetamines, they were very popular with people trying to succeed, so we'd spend all day and night 'up' making records, and not worrying about getting paid. It was perfect for the record companies, who would supply us with amphetamines.” James added: “The record company didn't have anything to do with that. That was probably us. That was our decision, that wasn't their decision.”

Two versions were put together to form the song. The part that goes, 'I love you Mony, Mo Mo Mony...' was Bobby Bloom, who was also working for Roulette Records (Bloom sang “Montego Bayvideo, which was a hit in 1970). The rest of it was written by James with producers Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell.

When they were recording this, it was considered a throwaway B-side. They had no idea it would become a huge hit.

Kenny Laguna told more about the recording of this song. Says Laguna: “There was no drummer, so the recording engineer went out there, but he could only get through 2 bars. So before there were loops or anything else, we copied the 2 bars of drums 44 times and spliced them together, and that's the track of 'Mony Mony.' It was like an early loop before there was looping. If you listen carefully, you can hear just 2 bars of the drum track.” He added: “When it came time to make it sound like it was a big party, it was lunch time. We went up to Broadway and talked all these strangers into coming down to the studio and going 'Mony, Mony!' There were all these serious guys out there having lunch, and we said, 'You want to sing on a Tommy James record?'”

Check out the video for this song. There weren't a lot of places to show music videos in 1968, but James thought it was important to have one. He told us: “We wanted to do videos. And 'Mony' was the very first video we had ever done. And to me it seemed very sensible to make a film of your hit record. And I couldn't figure out why nobody was doing it. You'd find things would run sometimes on television, there'd be like a movie with a song in it, and they'd take the film clip and run it. But nobody was really making videos. And so we hired a film company, went in and did a video of 'Mony.' We actually did a video of 'Ball of Fire' video, and we did a video of 'She' as well. But we couldn't get them played anywhere. So 'Mony' was one of the first videos made. It was 13 years before MTV. And we couldn't get it played anywhere in the United States. TV would not play video made by musicians, they just wouldn't do it. So the only place we could get our video played was over in Europe in the movie theatres. In between double features, they played 'Mony Mony.' And the reason you see it in black-and-white is because it was shown on the Beat Club in England, and it was a film of a film. And it was shown in black-and-white. So when they shipped it back to the United States it was in black and white. But the original video was in color.

There's a story floating around that The Beatles wrote a song for Tommy James & the Shondells, and they turned it down. Tommy clears this up: "What happened was 'Mony Mony' became the biggest-selling single in Britain up to that point. And it was actually bigger in England than it was here. Apple (Records) originally started out as a publishing company and a production company before it was a record company. And their idea was that they were going to write songs for other acts, and publish them, and in some cases produce them. So George Harrison was working with a group called Grapefruit, and George and these fellas wrote a bunch of these songs for us that they sent over to my manager, Lenny Stogel. We were very flattered, but they all sounded like 'Mony Mony'. And we had by that time made the decision that we were gonna go with 'Crimson And Clover' video, and really change our style. So we never did these songs. Some of them were really good. There was a whole tape full of them. And we were very flattered and very honored. One of my great regrets is that I never got a chance to thank George for doing that, and I should have, I should have made a bigger fuss. But because we had changed our style with 'Crimson and Clover' video, we never went back to the 'Mony Mony' style of party rock.”

This was a #1 hit for Billy Idol in 1987. It brought the song to a new generation who had never heard the original. When Idol released his version, it became popular for kids to shout “hey, hey, what, get laid, get f**ked” during the instrumental break in the chorus. Anyone who went to a prom when this was popular can verify this, although the origin of the chant remains a mystery.

Idol first released his version as a single in 1981, his first as a solo artist after leaving the band Generation X, and included it on his 4-song EP Don't Stop the same year. He released a live version in 1987 which became his biggest hit, going to #1 US and #7 UK. When asked why recorded the song, Idol would often tell a story about how it was playing when he lost his virginity in a park. In later years, he implied that it had more to do with publishing rights and financial interests.

When Idol's version of “Mony Monyvideo hit #1 in the U.S., it knocked off another Tommy James cover - Tiffany's version of “I Think We're Alone Nowvideo, which was a hit for James in 1967. Another James song that got new life as a cover was “Crimson And Clovervideo, which Joan Jett recorded in 1982 as her follow-up to “I Love Rock And Rollvideo. Jett's version was produced by Kenny Laguna, who has worked with her since she started as a solo artist.

Tommy James & the Shondells official site / All Music / Song Facts / Wikipedia

Image: “Money Money (album)” by Tommy James and the Shondells



● Chickens with white ear lobes lay white eggs, whereas chickens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs.

● Francis Galton, the inventor of modern fingerprinting methods, had many other notable ideas: the weather map, the phrase “nature vs. nurture”, and the silent dog whistle.

● The first private detective agency was established in 1833 by Eugene Francois Vidocq, a former fugitive. He used his extensive knowledge of the Parisian underworld to become a master criminologist. Vidocq was a pioneer in the use of surveillance and disguise, ballistics, card-index record keeping, and was the first to use plaster-of-paris to take impressions of shoe prints.

People Who Know Everything

A Test for People Who Know Everything

Comic book publishing giants Marvel and DC can both churn out whiz-bang serialized adventures, but they disagree on one very important aspect of a super hero’s origin. What is the difference?

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their AnswerMental Floss

Answer to Last Week's Test

Who is the only U.S. President that never signed a bill into law?

Answer: William Henry Harrison was the only U.S. president never to sign a bill into law - he died before having the opportunity. Wikipedia

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

A lawyer and a blonde are sitting next to each other on a long flight from LA to NY. The lawyer leans over to her and asks if she would like to play a fun game. The blonde just wants to take a nap, so she politely declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks. The lawyer persists and explains that the game is really easy and a lot of fun. He explains “I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and vice-versa.” Again, she politely declines and tries to get some sleep.

The lawyer, now somewhat agitated, says, “Okay, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5, and if I don't know the answer that you'll ask me, I will pay you $500!.” Figuring that since she is a blonde that he will easily win the match. This catches the blonde's attention and, figuring that there will be no end to this torment unless she plays, agrees to the game.

The lawyer asks the first question. “What's the distance from the earth to the moon?” The blonde doesn't say a word, reaches in to her purse, pulls out a five dollar bill and hands it to the lawyer. Now, it's the blonde's turn.

She asks the lawyer: “What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?” The lawyer looks at her with a puzzled look. He takes out his laptop computer and searches all his references. He taps into the Airphone with his modem and searches the Net and the Library of Congress. Frustrated, he sends E-mails to all his coworkers and friends he knows. All to no avail.

After over an hour, he wakes the blonde and hands her $500. The blonde politely takes the $500 and turns away to get back to sleep. The lawyer, who is more than a little miffed, wakes the blonde and asks, “Well, so what IS the answer!?” Without a word, the blonde reaches into her purse, hands the lawyer $5, and goes back to sleep.