Monday, December 27, 2010

"The Great New York Blizzard of 1888" is on "Suite 101".

“It’s death out there,,,, people are dying everywhere. I saw bodies sticking in the snow. I was almost in their number.”

So spoke the infamous New York City political boss Roscoe Conkling after he barely escaped with his life from the ravages of the blizzard which gripped the North Eastern United States between March 11 and 14 in 1888. “The Great White Hurricane” as it was called in some quarters, or simply “The Great Blizzard of ‘88” as it was known to the New Yorkers who bore the brunt of it, was a MAJOR freezeball! Yeah, sure it's been cold here in Cincinnati. A couple of inches, maybe four last week. Oh, yeeeeah so dey had a couple of feet in Flatbush yesterday. Oh, yeah, and uh
20 inches over dere in Joisey!! BIIIIIIIG DEEEAL! Now, uh... dis hear in 1888! Now DAT was a
major stooooorm!

Read the incredible truth of the FIFTY inches of snow which Mother Nature dumped upon the Big Apple back in the day in Brian's latest tome on "Suite 101"!

Read more at Suite101: The Great Blizzard of 1888.: A huge snow storm hits the American Northeast in late March, '88 .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS POSTING # 2 = A Game for the Wounded Troops.

Here's a 'today' Yule story that occurred 3 weeks ago ~ AND NOW, in time for the holidays, I bring you the best Christmas story you never heard.

It started last Christmas, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. "We have to let them know we care," Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philly, on Dec. 3.

Luxury Railroad Cars...

The cool part is, they created their own train line to do it. Yes, there are people in this country who actually own real trains. Bennett Levin - native Philly guy, self-made millionaire and irascible former L&I commish - is one of them. He has three luxury rail cars. Think mahogany paneling, plush seating and white-linen dining areas. He also has two locomotives, which he stores at his Juniata Park train yard. One car, the elegant Pennsylvania , carried John F. Kennedy to the Army-Navy game in 1961 and '62. Later, it carried his brother Bobby's body to D. C. for burial. "That's a lot of history for one car," says Bennett.

Reviving a Tradition...

He and Vivian wanted to revive a tradition that endured from 1936 to 1975, during which trains carried Army-Navy spectators from around the country directly to the stadium where the annual game is played. The Levins could think of no better passengers to reinstate the ceremonial ride than the wounded men and women recovering at Walter Reed in D. C. and Bethesda , in Maryland . "We wanted to give them a first-class experience," says Bennett. "Gourmet meals on board, private transportation from the train to the stadium, perfect seats - real hero treatment."

Through the Army War College Foundation, of which he is a trustee, Bennett met with Walter Reed's commanding general, who loved the idea. But Bennett had some ground rules first, all designed to keep the focus on the troops alone: NO PRESS on the trip, lest the soldiers' day of pampering devolve into a media circus. NO POLITICIANS either, because, says Bennett, "I didn't want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op" And NO PENTAGON SUITS on board, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax. The general agreed to the conditions, and Bennett realized he had a problem on his hands. "I had to actually make this thing happen," he laughs.

Making It All Happen

Over the next months, he recruited owners of 15 other sumptuous rail cars from around the country - these people tend to know each other - into lending their vehicles for the day. The name of their temporary train? The Liberty Limited. Amtrak volunteered to transport the cars to D. C. - where they'd be coupled together for the round-trip ride to Philly - then back to their owners later. Conrail offered to service the Liberty while it was in Philly. And SEPTA drivers would bus the disabled soldiers 200 yards from the train to Lincoln Financial Field, for the game. A benefactor from the War College ponied up 100 seats to the game - on the 50-yard line - and lunch in a hospitality suite. And corporate donors filled, for free and without asking for publicity, goodie bags for attendees: From Woolrich, stadium blankets. From Wal-Mart, digital cameras. From Nikon, field glasses. From GEAR, down jackets. There was booty not just for the soldiers, but for their guests, too, since each was allowed to bring a friend or family member. The Marines, though, declined the offer. "They voted not to take guests with them, so they could take more Marines," says Levin, choking up at the memory.

"They were all smiles..."

Bennett's an emotional guy, so he was worried about how he'd react to meeting the 88 troops and guests at D. C.'s Union Station, where the trip originated. Some GIs were missing limbs. Others were wheelchair-bound or accompanied by medical personnel for the day. "They made it easy to be with them," he says. "They were all smiles on the ride to Philly. Not an ounce of self-pity from any of them. They're so full of life and determination." At the stadium, the troops reveled in the game, recalls Bennett. Not even Army's lopsided loss to Navy could deflate the group's rollicking mood. Afterward, it was back to the train and yet another gourmet meal - heroes get hungry, says Levin - before returning to Walter Reed and Bethesda . "The day was spectacular," says Levin. "It was all about these kids. It was awesome to be part of it." The most poignant moment for the Levins was when 11 Marines hugged them goodbye, then sang them the Marine Hymn on the platform at Union Station. "One of the guys was blind, but he said, 'I can't see you, but man, you must be beautiful!' " says Bennett. "I got a lump so big in my throat, I couldn't even answer him."

It's been three weeks, but the Levins and their guests are still feeling the day's love. "My Christmas came early," says Levin, who is Jewish and who loves the Christmas season. "I can't describe the feeling in the air." Maybe it was hope. As one guest wrote in a thank-you note to Bennett and Vivian, "The fond memories generated last Saturday will sustain us all - whatever the future may bring."

God bless the Levins.

And bless the troops, every one.


David Bird, USMC Res.,
David Veech, U.S. Army (Retired)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brian is back on "Suite" - More on the blow top Mountain!

Brian has returned to the hallowed halls (!!) of "Suite" with an article on that crazy, mixed up mountain that bbbbbllllleeew her top 30 years ago. TRUE - I did indeed write about Ms.Helens right here on "Today in History", but this article on "Suite 101" is a wee bit longer, and more in-depth, laying off of poor Harry Truman, and instead focusing on Mother Nature's miraculous powers of recovery in the Mt. St. Helens BBBBBBLLLLLLLAST ZONE!!


"Mount St. Helens - Ruin and Recovery"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

MORE of Brian on "Suite 101" - the Eruption of "Krakatoa" in 1883!

“There came an explosion so loud, so violent, and with such far-reaching effects, that it made all that had gone before seem as child’s play in comparison, and made all other explosions known to earth in historic times dwindle into insignificance.” - Local Historian, Aug. 27, 1883

As these two eyewitness accounts make clear, the eruption of the Volcanic Island of Krakatoa on August 27, in the year 1883 was no small affair. In fact, even though it had been giving off warning blasts of no small intensity for some days prior, as the second account makes clear, the blast which finally occurred on the 27’th of August was far beyond anything previously seen or recorded by man. And like the volcanic blasts now occurring in southern Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull, it shot volcanic ash high into the air which proved to be a menace to navigation. But this ash also produced strange effects around the world for months after.

What happened on the Indonesian Island of "Krakatoa" in 1883? Why is it important in understanding the consequences of the Icelandic Volcano whose name - "Eyjafjallajokull", nobody can REALLY pronounce. And WHAT in heaven's name has all of this got to do with "THE SCREAM"??? Click onto Brian's article on "Suite 101" and find out!!

Read more at Suite101: The 1883 Eruption of the Volcano "Krakatoa"!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brian is on "Suite" again. This time, it is the Coal Mine Disaster in Monongah, West Virginia in 1907.

The recent terrible tragedy which took place in Montcoal, West Virginia brings to mind a similar, but even greater tragedy which shook the mining community to it's foundations in 1907 --

“I was out on the loaded track and was looking toward the mouth of number 8 and the first thing I knew I saw timbers and everything flying through the air…. followed by black smoke. It seemed to me the smoke was afire. It seemed to me it was a short distance in the air, maybe fifty or sixty feet.”

This was the memory of Carl Meredith, a Foreman on the the Fairmont Mine in West Virginia of the worst mining disaster in American history which happened at Monongah, West Virginia on December 6, 1907. Around 10:30 in the morning after a full contingent of 380 workers, both men and boys had begun their shift, mines no. 6 and 8 of the Fairmont Consolidated Coal Mine were blasted by the force of an underground explosion. A miner had been operating a trainload of coal cars up the shaft of the processing plant when a coupling broke lose, and sent the coal cars crashing back down the sloping mine. The lose cars crashed into a wall, cutting electrical cables which then ignited the dust cloud which had been raised by the crash, it was firmly asserted, and this resulted in an explosion so vast and so powerful that it ruptured almost every ceiling and wall in the mine, instantly killing the miners working below.

What exactly was it that caused such a huge loss of life on that tragic day little more than a century ago? Click on the website below and read all about it.

Read more at Suite101: The 1907 Monongah, West Virginia Mine Disaster.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brian Reviews "All Quiet on the Western Front" on Suite 101!

OK "Today in History" readers (again I stipulate: to the hitherto unknown extent that you actually exist) - this is the last of these "Go and read me somewhere ELSE"
postings for awhile. "Suite 101" requires one to write 10 articles every 3 months. Well it was getting down to the end of my initial three month enlistment to that group, and I needed to get in my 8th, 9th and 10th articles fast! So I went back to three book reviews which I had written for Dr. Arnold Schreier's European History course when I attended the University of Cincinnati waaaaaaaay back in the early
1980's, and for which the good doctor had given me high marks. And I slightly recycled them for Suite 101. Rest assured, they were all essays written by ME, for books which I did indeed READ. But they were available, and required less work RIGHT NOW than I would have had to do for three original articles.
SO - without further adieu :

Book Review: "All Quiet on the Western Front".
Erich Maria Remarque's Harrowing Story of Trench Warfare.
Jan 27, 2010 Brian T. Bolten

The young private, Paul Baumer must endure the hardships, privations and the daily terror of combat during the age of trench warfare. We look at his story of survival.

It could be said of World War One that it was the most shattering event in history. The word "shattering" would be singularly appropriate for a number of reasons. First, the world order as it was at the conflicts outset, was shattered and forever lost. Three imperial dynasties - the Hapsburgs in Austria, the Hohenzollerns in Germany, and the Romanovs in Russia were swept away from history's pages for good. The Austro-Hungarian empire itself, wherein the war had begun was wiped off the map, becoming several countries, with one - Yugoslavia - seething with ethnic resentments that were destined to spill over into the "ethnic cleansing" and mass rapes of the late 20th Century. Second is the way in which this war shattered the lives of the young men who fought in it. An entire generation of young men was lost in the totally senseless slaughter of the trenches. And those who survived were forever changed by the horrors they had witnessed. It is this human element - clearly the most far reaching in its effect - which forms the central focus of Erich Maria Remarque's novel "All Quiet on the Western Front".

Read more at Suite101: Book Review: "All Quiet on the Western Front".: Erich Maria Remarque's Harrowing Story of Trench Warfare.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Today in History" readers (again if there are any of you out there)!!!
Brian has a review of Balzac's "Old Goriot" on Suite 101 =

Honore de Balzac leads us on a gritty and unflinching look at the manners and morals of the caste system of 19th Century France, and pulls no punches.

"The chariot of civilization, like the chariot of Juggernaut is scarcely halted by a heart less easily crushed by others in it's path. It soon breaks this hinderence to its wheel, and continues its triumphant course."

It is with this sombre reflection that Honore de Balzac begins his heart rending tragedy "Old Goriot". The post-Napoleonic Paris in which Balzac lived still had many of the traits of the more aristocratic days before the revolution which swept away Louis XVI. To be sure, the Three Estates no longer formally existed, but there was nevertheless a very rigid caste system still in place and very much in force. Everyone had their place. And social standing was of paramount importance in this world of grand balls, and luxurious salons, and the people who moved through them were judged accordingly, the revolution notwithstanding. If one was not a dignified member of the upper class, one was quite worthless, reguardless of who one was. One's life or death, one's happiness or lack of it were of no consequence. A man like the "Old Goriot" of the novel's title can whither away, and the Chariot of Juggernaut of which Balzac speaks will move pitilessly on its way noticing very little and caring even less.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brian Reviews Voltaire's "Candide" on Suite101!

In "Candide", Voltaire takes the reader along with the young, kind-hearted character of the novel's name, who after being unceremoniously kicked out of the Westphalian estate in which he lives, travels all around Europe and part of America in search of the lady Cunegonde, a beautiful young 17 year old who has captured his heart. While telling Candide's story in a witty, almost bantering style, Voltaire engages in a merciless assault upon the conventions of his world, but in a way that leaves the reader at once amused, shocked, and entertained.

Read more at Suite101: Voltaire's "Candide": The Philisophe Presents His View of the World of the 18th Century =

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Young Victoria" & Downey's Holmes: Brian on "Suite 101"

Dear readers and followers of "Today in History" (to the extent that you are out there.... I really don't know if anyone is reading this or not!),

I have been taken up the last few days with writing articles for "" and I have two new ones!! You have heard of Robert Downey Jr.'s "Sherlock Holmes"? A rather modern day action-hero take on the great sleuth! Well I compare this new 2009version of Downey's with the 1970 version directed by Billy Wilder. Give it a good

Also, I have an article about the new film "Young Victoria" which chronicles the early years of Victoria, and those of her reign. It is a fine movie in my (humble)
estimation, but how closely does it follow the historical record? This I discuss in considerable detail at:

Her Most Gracious and Britannic Majesty, Victoria Regina Imperatum, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Seas, Empress of India, awaits your attendance. We are NOT amused!!

I shall return to "Today in History" soon!!!

- B. T. Bolten