A queen becomes "King." Miss Pepper weds Mr. Salt. Mary Hays becomes Molly Pitcher. Fascinating facts provide reasons for writing!
by James Wayne
Regular contributor to the Gazette
October 1, 2008
The character trait for October is Self-Discipline.
Positive self-control of one's words, actions, impulses, and desires
Former President Jimmy Carter was born in 1924. After he left the White House and retired, he joined Habitat for Humanity, a charity that organizes volunteers to help build houses for poor people. What would you like to do when you are old enough to retire?
In 1972, the Van Gogh Museum opened in Amsterdam, Holland. Although he is famous now, during his lifetime, no one paid much attention to him, or bought his paintings. His family and friends were surprised when, after he died, he became famous and his paintings very valuable. Imagine that a relative of yours has suddenly become very famous. List 3 ways your life might change.
Mohandas Gandhi, who led the people of India in their struggle for independence, was born in 1869. He was given the title "Mahatma," which means "Great Soul." He once said, "Truth never damages a cause that is just." What do you think he meant by that?
The first oil refinery in North Dakota was opened in 1954. Oil refineries are necessary if we are to have petroleum products like gasoline, plastics, and fertilizers, but the process produces a very bad smell that is spread by the wind. Many people don't want such industries near them, but yet want the things the industries make. Suppose someone proposes to build a very smelly industry near your house. What would you do about it?
Every year since 1698, a dog market has been held in Fredricksburg, VA. Originally, the market was held to buy and sell hunting dogs, but now all kinds of dogs are included. To have a dog as a pet can be a lot of fun, but it also requires work to take care of it. List 5 things a dog owner must do for the dog to keep it healthy and happy.
In 1932, The Times, a London newspaper, began using a new type font called Times New Roman. The new font was so outstandingly legible that it quickly became the most popular font for most books, magazines, newspapers, and web sites. Most word processing programs on computers use Times New Roman as their default, or usual, font. Many other fonts, however, are still in use. Describe a font (a style of lettering) that you find especially interesting or legible.
James Herriot, author of All Creatures Great and Small and several other books about his life as a vet in rural Britain, was born in 1916. Would you like a job working with animals? What kind of animals are your favorites? Why do you like them?
Today is Children's Health Day. Make a poster or write a poem about something young people can do to keep themselves healthy.
In 1959, human beings got their first glimpse of the back side of the moon, thanks to the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft, which took pictures of it and transmitted them back. If you could visit the moon, what would you like to do there?
Autumn is here, and in many places, the trees are beginning to change their colors. Botanists tell us that the bright colors we see are always there, but hidden by the green of the leaves in spring and summer. What kind of tree do you think the most beautiful, useful, or interesting? Why do you think so?
Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite was launched by the USSR in 1957. Since then, many more satellites have been launched, and are now used for communications and location-finding. The word Sputnik means "traveling companion" in Russian. If you were designing a new satellite to put into space, what name would you give it? Why that name?
In 1926, Edwin Hubble, the famous American astronomer, discovered the first Cepheid variable, a kind of star that changes its brightness in a regular pattern. How do you think our life would be different if the sun regularly became dim and bright for several weeks at a time?
In 1989, the Dalai Lama, head of Tibetan Buddhism, won the Nobel Peace prize. He once said, "if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” What do you think he meant by that?
In 1962, Miss Janice Pepper married Mr. Francis Salt, becoming Mrs. Janice Pepper Salt. The Salt family enjoys their unusual name, but some people dislike the teasing and jokes such names often attract. If you had (or have) an unusual name, how would you feel about it?
Today is the birthday of the movie. In 1889, Thomas Edison showed the first movie with his new motion picture projector. What story that has not been made into a movie would you like to see filmed? Why that story?
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, English poet, was born in 1809. Here is a poem he wrote:
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
Imagine the eagle Lord Tennyson describes. What in the poem helps you to get a clear picture of it?
The American Library Association was founded in 1876 to work for more and better libraries. Make a list of the things you like to do when you visit the library. Share your list with your classmates and your librarian.
In 1922, the World Series became the first sporting championship to be broadcast by more than one station at the same time. People often like to watch some sports they do not play. What sports that you do not play do you like to watch? What do you like to do while you watch?
In 1919, the first airline, KLM Royal Dutch Airline, started flying. Suppose you had a ticket to fly to any one spot on the earth. Where would you go? What would you do?
The Great Chicago Fire began in 1871. This week is National Fire Prevention Week as a reminder of this tragedy. List five things you can do to help prevent fires.
In 1919, the first transcontinental round-trip air race began. 63 airplanes participated. Each plane crew had to fly from one side of the continent to the other and back, but all could choose their own routes. If you had to plan a trip across the continent and back, what 10 places would you like to stop while on your trip?
In 1992, a 30-pound meteorite fell onto a car in Peekskill, NY. Suppose a meteorite hit the ground near you. What would you do with it?
Bruce Catton was born in 1899. He was a famous historian of the Civil War, writing both scholarly books and popular histories about it. Many movies and television programs about the Civil War rely on information from his books. Many people have favorite times in history they like to read or learn about. If you could read about any time or place in history, which one would you choose? Why do you find that time or place so interesting?
In 1961, the entire population of the island of Tristan in the Atlantic had to be evacuated because of the eruption of the volcano that makes up most of the island. In recent weeks, many other people have had to be evacuated because of natural disasters. If you were told that you might have to be evacuated, what would you do to get ready?
Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was born in 1813. He was famous for his operas, many of which were based on Shakespeare's plays. Verdi took popular stories and plays and put them to music. Some people have suggested that The Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter stories could be made into operas or musical plays. Would you go to see a musical play or film based on either of these stories? Can you think of some other stories that might be made into operas?
It is often difficult to finish all the things you need to do on time. What are four methods you or people your age can use to help you organize yourself so you can finish the jobs you need to do?
Michelle Trachtenberg was born in 1985. She was the original actress to play Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although human vampires do not exist, many people enjoy reading or watching stories about them. If you had to choose between a movie about vampires, space aliens, or werewolves, which one would you choose? If you don't like movies about any of them, what would you do while everyone else was at the movies?
Eleanor Roosevelt was born in 1884. She was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and married to President Franklin Roosevelt. Although previous First Ladies had been quietly helpful to their husband's political career, Mrs. Roosevelt was the first to work openly for her husband's election. While he was president, she visited many places on his behalf, since he was confined to a wheelchair most of the time. After FDR's death, she worked to establish the United Nations and to promote human rights. For many years, she was annually voted the most admired woman in the world. What woman do you admire most in the world? Why do you admire her?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” What do you think she meant by this?
H.J. Heinz was born in 1844. He became wealthy selling bottled condiments, especially ketchup. Some people prefer ketchup, some mustard, and some salsa or some other condiment. Which do you prefer? What foods do you like with them?
In 1917, the Lions International was founded. This civic club works to help the blind and vision-impaired. What are four things you can do to protect your vision?
Shooting began on the film The Wizard of Oz, which is still often shown on TV. Several other old movies are still popular either on TV, VCR, or DVD. What is your favorite old move? What part of it is your favorite?
Jean Nidetch was born in 1923. As a girl and a young woman, she battled constantly against overweight. She realized that she was most successful when she and other overweight friends worked together to encourage each other, and founded Weight Watchers. Many other problems people have can be solved more easily when they work in groups than when they work alone. Make a list of things people do better in groups. List at least five.
Because of the extremely accurate maps made by the British navy over several centuries, the nations of the world adopted the Greenwich meridian, a line from the North Pole to the South Pole that passes through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England, as the Prime meridian. Until then, each nation had used a line through its own observatory, so that maps from one country could not be used easily by another. Make a sketch map of a trip you have made, then briefly describe something that happened to you on the trip.
Mary Ludwig Hays was born in 1754. During the Revolutionary War Battle of Monmouth. she brought pitchers of water to the men firing cannon for the Americans. When her husband, one of the gunners, was injured, she took his place loading and firing a cannon. She became known as Molly Pitcher, one of the few female fighters of that war. What hero of American history is your favorite? What do you admire about that person?
In 1923, the nation of Turkey moved its capital from Istanbul, its largest city, to Ankara, which was located in the center of the country and therefore was more accessible to most of the Turkish people. Some people say that Washington, D.C., is located too far to the east for most of America, and our nation's capital should be moved to a more central city. Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not?
The General Motors (GM) Corporation was founded in 1916. Although Ford had made cars before this, GM was able to prosper by building larger, more comfortable cars. What is your favorite kind of car? Why do you like that kind?
William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was born in 1644. He insisted on buying the land for his colony from the Indians, and paying them a fair price for it. Why do you think the other colonists did not do this?
In 1899, a popular magazine predicted that cars would never become more popular than bicycles because of their cost and complexity. How would your life be different if everyone had only bicycles to ride?
In 1384, Queen Jadwiga of Poland had herself crowned king. Today, many titles that used to be differentiated by sex, such as postman, chairman, or waitress, are being given up. Instead we say mail carrier, chair or president, or attendant. Do you think we should give up the term queen for a female ruler, and call all rulers who inherit their jobs King, whether they are men or women? Why do you feel as you do?
"Good habits are as easy to start as bad ones.” What do you think this saying means for you?
Irish writer Oscar Wilde was born in 1854. He said, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” What do you think he meant by that?
In 1710, the British captured the French colony of Fort Royal in what is now Nova Scotia. Several thousand French settlers were expelled and made their way to Louisiana, where they established the beginning of what is now called the Cajun culture. So what started out as a very bad thing became a good thing after a long time. Have you ever had something that started out bad for you or your friends, but came out good in the end? What was it? How did it turn out good?
In 1885, the Bessemer furnace was patented. It was the first furnace that allowed steel to be made quickly and cheaply. Think of all the things you use that are made of steel. What would be the one that would be hardest to do without? Why that one?
This is National Macaroni Week. Macaroni is popular because people like its taste and it is easy to make. Suppose you were planning a macaroni dinner with your friends. What else would you serve with the macaroni? Why those particular dishes?
Today is the birthday of the Texas Rangers, who were organized in 1835. They are probably the best known state police organization in the United States. What are three good things and three bad things about being a police officer?
English poet Thomas Love Peacock was born in 1785. He wrote the following:
My thoughts by night are often filled
With visions false as fair:
For in the past alone, I build
My castles in the air.
- Castles in the Air (st. 1)
What do you think he meant by this verse?
In 1858, future President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter in which he said, "I believe the declaration that 'all men are created equal' is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest.” Do you agree with him? Explain why you think as you do.
In 1867, the United States formally took over Alaska from Russia, who had sold it to the U.S. If you could visit Alaska, what would you like to see there?
Physician and writer Sir Thomas Browne was born in 1605. He wrote, "There is no road or ready way to virtue." What do you think he meant by that?
Heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield was born in 1962. He once said, "It is not the size of a man but the size of his heart that matters." What do you think he meant by that?
In 1781, the British army commanded by General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, VA. After this victory, organized fighting between the British and the Americans came to an end. Imagine that you could go back and live for a week in those times. What are four things you think you would miss that people in those days didn't have? Why those things?
Playwright Tom Taylor was born in 1817. He was the author of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. His plays are almost never performed today. Plays in those days are a lot like TV programs today; some are popular and remembered, others are forgotten. Think of the TV programs you have enjoyed and remembered. What are three things all of them had in common?
In 1883, the first vocational school in the United States was opened in Baltimore, MD. A vocational school specializes in training students for specific jobs. If you were to choose a job you might like to be trained for, what would it be? What are three things you would have to learn in order to do that job?
In 1956, a German doctor, Hannes Lindemann, began his successful attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a kayak. The trip took 76 days. The kayak was only 17 feet long, and had to carry all the supplies Lindemann needed for the entire journey. What are three problems a person trying such a trip would need to solve?
In 1859, the Minerva Club, the first club exclusively for women, was organized in New Harmony, Indiana. Some people think that there should not be any organizations for just men or just women, others disagree. How do you feel about this? Give reasons for your opinion.
This is Trafalgar Day. In 1805, the British fleet led by Lord Nelson defeated the French Fleet, preventing Napoleon from invading Britain. Lord Nelson died during the battle. He was the great hero for the British of his time. Who is your hero? Why do you admire that person?
Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prizes, was born in 1833. The Nobel Prizes are given in a limited number of fields, which the founder thought important. If you were going to set up a prize with your name on it, what would you want the prize to be given for? Why?
Hungarian composer Franz Liszt was born in 1811. He once said, "Beware of missing chances; otherwise it may be altogether too late some day.” What do you think he meant by that?
The Raleigh Register, the first newspaper in North Carolina, started in 1799. Why are newspapers important in a town or district? Give three reasons.
Juan Rodriguez, known as "Chi-chi," was born in 1936. He was the first Puerto Rican to become a major player in professional golf, inspiring many young Puerto Ricans to take up golf. Have you ever become interested in a sport or activity because of a person from your town or community? How did that person influence you?
In 1970, a rocket-powered car driven by Gary Gabelich set a land speed record of just over 631 miles an hour. Some experts say that land speed records by rocket or jet-powered cars should not count, but only records set by usable land vehicles like cars, trucks, or motorcycles. Do you agree with them, or do you think that land speed records set by any kind of vehicle should count? What reasons do you have to back up your opinion?
In 1929, a huge fall in the prices of stocks took place on the New York Stock Exchange, the nation's largest. So many investors lost money that the day became known as Black Thursday, and is considered the beginning of the Great Depression, a long period of bad times, when many workers lost their jobs and many families suffered. Events like the Great Depression are regarded as reasons for people to save some money each payday. What are 4 ways you could save money for yourself?
In 1851, British astronomer William Lassell discovered two moons of the planet Uranus, and named them Umbriel and Ariel. These were the first two objects in the solar system that were not given names from Greek or Roman mythology (the names came from English literature). With the power of new telescopes constantly increasing, more and more objects that are part of the Solar System are being discovered and Roman and Greek mythological names are running out. Suggest 4 names for solar system objects that you think would be good to use. Tell where you got the names, and why they would make good names for heavenly bodies.
Robert Koch was born in 1882. Koch discovered the bacteria that caused tuberculosis. His work went far to prove that communicable diseases were spread by microbes. What are four things people can do to reduce the spread of diseases? Make a poster about one of them.
The British defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1455. Shakespeare has King Henry V say, "He who fights with me this day . . . is my brother.” Why do you think people who go through hard times together feel close to each other?
The famous artist Pablo Picasso was born in Spain in 1881. He once said, "I am always doing things I can't, that's how I get to do them.” What do you think he meant by that?
In 1956, the government of Germany finally declared that Adolf Hitler was dead, although it had long been known that he committed suicide in 1945. Why do you think the German government waited so long for its declaration?
The first electronic watch was produced by 1960 by Bulova, a Swiss watch company. Although the first ones were very expensive, the price for electronic watches has come down a long way, so that now almost all watches and clocks are electronic. Watches are now fashion items. Describe a watch you think would be popular with people your age. What features would it have? What would the watch and watchband look like?
The fourth week of October is National Pretzel Week. Write a paragraph in praise of the pretzel.
This is the birthday of the washing machine. The first one was patented in 1858 by Hamilton Smith, and worked by turning a crank by hand. Later an electric motor did the turning. How would your life be different if you had to wash all your clothes by hand?
Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was born in 1911. She helped to make gospel music a recognized and popular musical genre. She once said, "It's easy to be independent when you've got money. But to be independent when you haven't got a thing--that's the Lord's test.” What do you think she meant by that?
Jackie Coogan, one of the original Little Rascals, was born in 1914. He made a lot of money as a child actor, but his parents wasted it all before he grew up. What are four things you can do to prevent yourself from wasting your money?
In 1873, farmer Joseph Glidden got a patent for a new form of barbed wire that was both effective in keeping cattle from trampling fences and cheap to make. As a result of his invention, large areas of the west, once open to cattle grazing, were fenced off to become farms. This is an example of a small invention that causes a great change. Has a small thing ever had a large effect on your life? What was it? How did it affect you?
John Cleese, comic actor with Monty Python's Flying Circus, was born in 1939. He said, "He who laughs most, learns best." What do you think he meant by that? Do you agree with him?
The invention of nylon was announced today by the Dupont Corporation. Nylon is now only one of the many kinds of man-made and natural cloth used to make clothing. Fashions in clothing change. What do you think the next big fad in clothing will be?
In 1636, Harvard College was founded. It is the oldest in the United States. Getting into college is an important goal for young people. What are some things you can begin to do now to prepare yourself to get into a college you like?
The Statue of Liberty was formally dedicated in 1886. It was given to the U.S. by France as a present for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, but it took many years to raise the money to build its pedestal and assemble it. If the United States wanted to give a return present to France, what would be something appropriate?
In 1947, American meteorologists used planes to spread dry ice crystals on clouds in New Hampshire, producing a rainstorm that put out a forest fire. It was the first practical effort to control the weather, but was very expensive, requiring many planes and aircrews and huge amounts of dry ice. Some people think that controlling the weather will only cause constant arguments and quarrels, since different groups of people will want different kinds of weather. If a cheaper practical way of controlling the weather could be found, how do you think that problem could be solved?
The Judge, a famous comic magazine of the time, was founded in 1881. Tell or make up a new joke.
Charles Atlas (birth name Angelo Siciliano) was born in 1893. Small and weak as a young man, he developed a way to exercise and build his muscles using springs and levers instead of large, heavy weights and by using isometrics. He won many body-building contests and became known as "the world's most perfectly developed man.” He is an example of a person who turned a weakness into a strength through hard work, determination, and careful planning. Think of a goal you would like to reach. What plan can you make that will help you reach it?
In 1938, actor and producer Orson Welles put on a radio play based on Jules Verne's story The War of the Worlds. Many radio listeners missed the announcements that the program was just a play, and thought it told about a real invasion from Mars. People panicked, flooding police stations with calls, or fleeing their homes for places they thought might be safe. Have you, or someone you know, ever believed something was real, but later found out that it was not? What fooled you (or the people you know)? What did you (or they) do?
Dutch artist Jan Vermeer was born in the city of Delft in 1623. Vermeer's pictures are not only beautiful and realistic, but mysterious, since they show people doing things that are not fully explained, such as reading a note the viewer cannot read, or gesturing to someone outside the picture. Several writers have written novels or stories telling what they imagine what was going on with the people in Vermeer's pictures. Find a picture in one of the books you have or are in your classroom, and write a short narrative about what the people in the picture might be doing. If the picture already has a caption that explains it, think of some other reason they might be doing what the picture shows.
Japanese Prince Mutsuhito is crowned as the Emperor Meiji in 1868. As emperor, he encouraged the modernization of Japan, with special emphasis on schools and education. As a result of his rule, Japan became the first eastern Asian nation to have a system of universal education. List three or more reasons a country with good schools will probably be more prosperous than a country with poor ones.
Juliet Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts of America, was born in 1860. The Girl Scouts is one of many organizations for young people. Which organizations do you belong to? Why do you belong to that one? If you don't belong to any of them, which one do you think might be the most interesting to join?
James Wayne has taught third grade and every grade from fifth to twelfth during a full-time career of 34 years, either in regular classrooms or in AG or AP classes. He began his writing prompts as a way to help teachers improve writing scores in his district. A native of North Carolina, James is a graduate of Duke University and a Vietnam Veteran, having served with the 101st Airborne Division. He continues to work part time for Onslow County Schools as a coordinator of the Academic Derby, a televised scholastic competition serving elementary, middle, and high schools. James resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina.