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Columns

Reflections: You look sharp in suspenders? Credit Mark Twain

Mark Twain (right) in the laboratory of inventor Nikola Tesla in 1894.
Mark Twain (right) in the laboratory of inventor Nikola Tesla in 1894.

Well, let’s see ... summer officially arrives today, which is also the Summer Solstice, which means it’s the longest day of the year. The dust from Oswego’s PrairieFest celebration has had a chance to settle. Freedom Days is just around the corner in Sandwich, Yorkville’s getting ready for the Fourth of July, Plano is planning its community bash and MontgomeryFest will be here in August.

Kids all over the county are now out of school, and the novelty of vacation hasn’t quite worn off yet. It will be at least another week before parents start hearing about how boring summer is.

Farmers are warily watching the weather, and if they’re lucky rain has already triggered the herbicides they applied while planting crops. If their luck was bad, it’s probably time to get the cultivator lashed onto the tractor and get into the field.

Down here at History Central in dynamic downtown Troy (just north of Oswego), the mail continues to arrive in a never-ending stream, day after day, week after week, summer or no summer. Important stuff comes (computer catalogs with really neat things) of course, along with other items like pronouncements from politicians, ads for fortune telling services, and promises to make me, personally, rich if I just send in $30 to get the simple secret of financial success.

Woven into a seamless flow with all the above is a steady stream of junk mail that has varying amounts of value. Some of it even informs me of things I never would have even thought about if I hadn’t opened all my mail each and every day the mail carrier showed up out in front of the Matile Manse, including:

Sam Clemens (pen name Mark Twain) was not only a gifted writer, but he was also an inventor. He was issued a patent in 1871 for suspenders.

June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage, which is why June has historically been a favored month to tie the old knot. But I’ll bet you didn’t know the tradition went THAT far back.

In the 1700s, many women wore hairstyles measuring more than two feet high. They were supported by small cushions and wire frames, covered with powder and were decorated with feathers, jewels, or tassels. Exactly why they consented to do this is anybody’s guess.

According to one ancient superstition, a witch’s broom wouldn’t fly unless she ran it up the chimney three times each week. So that’s why... no, we’ll just leave that one right where it is.

June’s birthstones are the alexandrite, the moonstone and the pearl. Alexandrite represents health and longevity. Moonstones represent change and new beginnings. Moonstone is also believed by some to increase intuition and aid in lucid dreaming. Pearls symbolize purity of heart and faith.

The Mayan Indians of Central America used their number system to create a calendar that was more accurate than that of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks or Romans.

According to legend, the seven deadly sins are pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. Among the seven, sloth is my all-time favorite.

Speaking of such things, “aristology” is the science or art of dining. Boy, wouldn’t you like to have a master’s degree in that?

Today’s really cool fact: The continent of Africa is located in all four hemispheres.

June’s birth flowers are the honeysuckle and the rose.

“Empaquetage” is art in which an object is wrapped – in polyurethane, canvas, or some other material. So we engage in empaquetage each Christmas, I guess.

Says here yak milk is pink.

Birthdays from June 1 through June 20 fall under the sign of Gemini, while June 21 to 30 birthdays fall under the sign of Cancer.

There are the Fighting Illini down in Champaign and the Huskies over at Northern and the Fighting Leathernecks at Western Illinois. Meanwhile out on the Left Coast, the teams at Whittier College in California (Dick Nixon’s alma mater) are nicknamed the Poets since the college is named after famous poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Boy, I’ll bet that nickname causes opponents to quake in their boots.

Ever wonder where the band Duran Duran got it’s name? Me neither. But for those who are wondering, it was named after a character in the 1968 science fiction film “Barbarella” (in which Jane Fonda reveals lots more than her soul).

The fish known as the drum or croaker makes a thrumming noise by repeatedly tightening muscles in its abdomen during the mating season. Similar, that is, to teenage boys.

Have you ever been taken aback by something? Did you know that “taken aback” is a nautical term from the days of sailing ships? In sailing terminology, a ship is taken aback when the wind suddenly shifts, blowing the sails backwards towards the masts, slowing or stopping the ship and sometimes breaking masts and yards.

A chaotic scene (one that could take you aback, I suppose) is sometimes referred to as “bedlam,” from a 16th Century madhouse of that name. What we would call today an insane asylum was established in England’s former Priory of St. Mary of Bethlehem. Eventually, “Bethlehem” was corrupted into “Bedlam.”

The average age of a first-time mother in the U.S. was 23.7 years in 1998. Today, it’s 26 years.

Did you know that famed TV puppet Howdy Doody had a sister? Her name was Heidi Doody.

Canadian bacon is known as ham in Canada, which goes to show that the Canadians are much more sensible than we are here south of the border.

Baseball greats Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial, and Robin Yount, all winners of the Most Valuable Player award, share another distinction: They’re the only players to win the award at two separate positions. Greenberg won as a first baseman (1935) and left fielder (1940); Musial as left fielder (1943) and first baseman (1948); and Yount as shortstop (1982) and center fielder (1989).

And finally, the first indoor U.S. football game was played in 1902 at Madison Square Garden in New York between paid college players representing Syracuse and Philadelphia. Syracuse won, 6-0.

• Looking for more local history? Visit historyonthefox.wordpress.com.

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