Unrememebered History

In His Own Magical Way, Walt Disney Was The First to Send People to the Moon

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By Ken Zurski

Seven years before President John F. Kennedy announced intentions to put a man on the moon,  Walt Disney, in his own magical way, was doing just that. Not physically of course, but imaginatively.

Disney-style.

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It started in July of 1955, when Disney’s  visionary theme park Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.  Inside an area dubbed “Tomorrowland” was an 80-foot rocket named the “Moonliner.” It’s purpose was for show, but it’s intent was far-reaching. This was “tomorrow’s” transport and the goal: space travel.

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TWA’s “Moonliner” at Tommorowland

The exhibit was sponsored by Trans World Airline (TWA) with a promise that the air carrier “would send passengers to the moon in 30 years” [That would be 1985 back then].  Rocketing along at flight speeds of 172 mph, TWA claimed the trip would take about eight hours. Next to the rocket was a multi-sphere building and a sign that read: “Rocket to the Moon.”

At the base of the rocket was an explanation:  “Stabilized in flight by gyroscopes, it would be controlled by automatic pilots and magnetic tapes. Landing tail-first, no air-foils or wings would be necessary, its vertical descent controlled by its jets. The 3 retractable landing legs would be equipped with shock absorbers. Launching and landing would be done over a “firing center” to confine and lead off the superheated exhaust gases.”

Inside “Rocket to the Moon,” thanks to a projection screen both on the ceiling and on the floor, park guests could experience this flight themselves – or at least a simulation of it.  “You don’t actually land on the Moon, but you get to fly around the back side of the Moon,” was the ride’s description. “Along the way, you learn interesting facts about the Moon and the planets. Soon you’re heading back to Earth. After your craft turns around, you see your destination on the floor screen. Prepare to land.” The total duration of the ride was about ten minutes.

Disney himself explained it this way: “Kids and grown-ups too can take a trip to the moon from here. Well, at least they can board a passenger rocket and have all the thrills of such a trip – and in accord with the latest scientific theories on interplanetary travel.”

Yes, “scientific theories,” is how Disney put it in 1955.

He added: “Timid souls who don’t care to risk outer space can peer at the U.S. from an inner space, man-made satellite orbiting 500 Disney miles above the earth.”

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In 1961, TWA dropped its sponsorship and Douglas Aircraft took over the”Moonliner.” The rocket was repainted to represent Douglas Aircraft’s color and brand.  It lasted until 1966, when it was shut down and the building demolished. By this time the prospects of a moon flight was in reach. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things,” President Kennedy famously said in September of 1962, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

In 1967, the ride was rebuilt, adding more amphitheater rooms and more seating.  A pre-show lobby was redesigned and featured the park’s animatronic figures. Gone was the “Moonliner” rocket, or as one Disney historian described: “It had been scrapped.”

The exhibit was given a new name: “Mission to the Moon.”

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Then in July 1969, millions of Americans watched as a man walked on the moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” astronaut Neil Armstrong proudly proclaimed upon making the first footprint. Suddenly, Disney’s futuristic moon ride was no longer “tomorrow’s” fantasy.

“First Think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare,” Disney once said, although he wouldn’t live long enough to witness man’s first flight to the lunar surface. He died in 1966 at the age of 65.

The ride stayed open through all six manned Apollo Missions. Finally, in 1975, the name changed again.  This time passengers were still going into space, but now they would travel further than the moon and certainly farther than any man so far.

“Mission to Mars” opened in March of 1975.

The ride closed for good in 1992.

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In the 1950’s, the Gear-Shaped Ford Rotunda was an Enormously Popular Christmas Attraction

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By Ken Zurski

In 1933, at the Chicago’s World’s Fair, among the many distinctive features that lined the city’s lakefront property was a uniquely shaped building, circular in design, with a top that resembled ”a granulated cluster of internally meshed gears.”

The Ford Rotunda, as it was called, was the brainchild of company founder Henry Ford and architect Albert Kahn, who designed the building specifically for the Ford Motor Co.’s contribution to the Fair.

The Fair’s theme was technology, which inspired the tagline: “A Century of Progress,” and since planes, trains and automobiles were a large part of the Fair’s showcase exhibits, Ford fit right in.

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The 12-story Ford Rotunda had a long wing extending off the base, thousands of multi-colored exterior lights, and in the open-aired middle, a spotlight that shot skyward and could be seen for miles. Inside was the large rotunda, with moving parts and displays, including a photographic mural of a Ford plant and a 20-foot high globe.

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In 1934, when the Fair closed, Ford had the building dismantled and moved to Dearborn, Michigan near the site of the Rogue plant company headquarters.

“The reconstructed rotunda is expected to relieve the congestion,” the papers noted, referencing the attendance numbers at the Fair.

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On May 4, 1936, in Dearborn, the Rotunda opened its doors again.

Then in 1953, to celebrate Ford’s 50th anniversary, the Rotunda went through another transformation. A geodesic roof was constructed over the open center. This allowed for more varied and seasonal exhibits, including  the appropriately titled “A Christmas Fantasy,” which combined sparkling new Ford cars with holiday-themed displays.

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The Christmas tree and doll displays were especially popular.

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“A Christmas Fantasy” drew so many people that the Ford Rotunda became one of the most famous and frequented buildings in the nation. It quickly surpassed more established tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument in the number of visitors attending each year.

That is until November 9, 1962.

On that day a kettle of hot tar used for winter sealing was left unattended and the Rotunda’s roof caught fire. Thankfully, everyone got out safely and only one worker was slightly injured. But the building didn’t stand a chance.

It was gone in less than two hours.

Ford decided not to rebuild.

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Ask Your Local Library to Add UNREMEMBERED!

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The global library catalog World Cat categorizes UNREMEMBERED under these three Genre/Forms:
“True adventure stories. biography and anecdotes.”

Ask your local library to get it …give the book title and the author. Available on Ingram, Baker & Taylor and Amazon http://a.co/d/iteJoll

“UNREMEMBERED: Tales of the Nearly Famous and the Not Quite Forgotten

Ken Zurski, author of The Wreck of the Columbia and Peoria Stories, provides a fascinating collection of once famous people and events that are now all but forgotten by time. Using a backdrop of schemes and discoveries, adventures and tragedies, Zurski weaves these figures and the events that shaped them into a narrative that reveals history’s many coincidences, connections, and correlations.

We tumble over Niagara Falls in a barrel, soar on the first transcontinental machine-powered flight, and founder aboard a burning steamboat. From an adventurous young woman circumnavigating the globe to a self-absorbed eccentric running for President of the United States, Unremembered brings back these lost stories and souls for a new generation to discover.

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FEATURING
John Alcock
Nellie Bly
Isambard K. Brunel
Samuel Cunard
Nathaniel Currier
Annie Edson Taylor
Ruth Elder
William Harnden
Father Louis Hennepin
Dorothy Kilgallen
Samuel Langley
Bobby Leach
John Ledyard
Thomas Moran
Catherine O’Leary
William B. Ogden
Fanny Palmer
Sam Patch
Rembrandt Peale
Cal Rodgers
Amos Root
Janet Scudder
George Francis Train
Cornelius Vanderbilt
Arthur Whitten Brown
John Wise
Victoria Woodhull

Recognize this Actress? You Might be Surprised.

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By Ken Zurski

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A veteran of stage and screen, Billie Burke began her Broadway and film acting career in 1906 at the age of 22.

She appeared in numerous stage and screen roles (silent films) and in 1914 married another show business impresario , Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld Jr, of Zeigfeld Follies fame.

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In 1921, Burke retired from performing thanks to a boon in the stock market and good investments.

However, in 1929 after the Black October crash, the money was gone.

Burke went back to work appearing with many top Hollywood heavyweights like Lionel Barrymore whom she co-starred in the most acclaimed and defining role of her career: Millicent Jordan, the “hapless, feather-brained lady with the unmistakably high voice,” in 1933’s “Dinner at Eight.”

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Although it wasn’t her last appearance in the movies, in 1939, at the age of 54, Burke played a character for which she is most remembered today…

Glinda the Good Witch of the North in “The Wizard of Oz.”

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UNREMEMBERED INNOVATOR: Eadweard Muybridge, the Zoopraxiscope, and the Suspended Horse

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By Ken Zurski

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Eadweard Muybridge

In 1860, while traveling by stagecoach across the Texas plains, capitalist Eadweard Muybridge fell and suffered a serious head injury. Some say he never fully recovered. His doctor however suggested more fresh air. So Muybridge took up photography and began shooting landscapes.

Then in 1872, railroad magnate Leland Stanford hired Muybridge to shoot a horse. Not literally, of course, but with a camera. Stanford wanted to know if a horse lifts all four feet off the ground simultaneously during a gait. Muybridge managed to show a horse seemingly suspended in midair. But the shot, published as a line drawing at first, drew jeers from a skeptical public.

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Muybridge’s Moving Horse 

Muybridge found a way to convince them. He invented a machine called the Zoopraxiscope, where a silhouette image of a picture is painted on a revolving glass plate. When the light is shown through the cylinder the drawings seem to move.

“A magic lantern gone mad,” raved the Illustrated London News.

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Zoopraxiscope

Vindicated, Muybridge sought to improve his design. He went to see a man he thought might be able to put actual photographs on the cylinder.

After all, he had done the same thing with sound.

That man was Thomas Edison.

UNREMEMBERED SOLDIER: Sgt. Edward Younger’s Orders

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By Ken Zurski

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Sgt. Edward Younger

In March 1921, a congressional resolution was passed calling for an American serviceman, remains unknown, to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Four unidentified bodies were drawn from separate regions of the European theater. In a small French village, at a makeshift chapel, one would be selected.

Sgt. Edward Younger of Chicago was the unassuming soldier chosen to make the pick. Younger had served in the war, went home, and then reenlisted. He was on special duty when he got orders. “Take these flowers,” his commanding officer told him, “proceed to the chapel and place them on one of the caskets.”

Alone and in silence, Younger circled the four caskets. He touched each one. He knelt and prayed. Then something drew him to the second casket on the right. “It seemed as if God himself guided my hand,” Younger recalled.

He gently set the flowers down and saluted.

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Meet Jim: The ‘Wonder Dog’ Who Correctly Picked Kentucky Derby Winners

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By Ken Zurski

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Jim the Wonder Dog

 

In the 1930’s, the Llewellyn setter known as “Jim the Wonder Dog” correctly picked the winner of seven Kentucky Derby’s in a row.  An improbable feat even for the most adapt handicapper,  but Jim’s owner Sam Van Arsdale insisted there was nothing deceitful about his dog’s apparent ability to predict the outcome of the prestigious race year after year.

Here’s how it worked: Van Arsdale would set down sealed envelopes each containing the name of a horse in the race. Jim would walk up to one and put his paw on it. The envelope was then stored in a locked safe. After the race, the envelope was reopened revealing the winning horse each time. The soft spoken Van Arsdale never wanted to profit off his prized pooch so he turned down all offers to reveal the contents of the envelopes before the race. 

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Van Arsdale and Jim on a hunting trip

 

Jim is also credited with accurately guessing the gender of unborn children and in 1936 correctly picked the New York Yankees to win the World Series.

Skeptics and doubters were aplenty, but Van Arsdale insisted it was no trick

Jim died in 1937 at the age of 12.

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