Every dictatorship shares one thing in common: unquestioning, blind obedience to the dictator from his subjects. Whether it’s the Castros’ Cuba, Kim Jong-un’s North Korea or Stalin’s Russia, it’s always the same – when the Boss says “Jump!” you ask “How high?”
Nazi Germany was particularly bad about that. It was All About Adolf, no ifs, ands or buts. Defying him was not only bad, bad things happened to those who did. Very bad things.
Which is why the story I’m about to share is so remarkable. Because in the closing days of World War II, one German not only said “no” to Hitler’s face, he even lived to tell about it. Continue reading
Why Truman Really Built It
[Spoiler alert: the payoff to this remarkable story comes at its conclusion; please stick with it till the end to learn the secret.]
Early one evening in February 1946, Harry Truman summoned the White House’s chief usher to the second floor Oval Study. He pointed out the window through the South Portico to the Washington Monument and Potomac River beyond.
“That’s a magnificent sight,” he said. Then he dropped his bombshell.
“I’d like to take better advantage of the view. I’m going to put a balcony there.” Continue reading
Yetta Bronstein, the President We Never Had
How a pair of pranksters fooled the news media
The presidential primary season is entering its home stretch. We’ll soon know which candidates will carry the Republican and Democratic standards in this fall’s campaign. (Then again, this election cycle is so crazy, who knows? Both parties may still be picking their nominees come Election Day.)
Some 50 years ago, one presidential hopeful stood out from the pack. She was like no other candidate before or since. And the incredible thing was … she didn’t exist!
Meet Yetta Bronstein, the president we never had.
To understand this unorthodox candidate, you must first understand the genius who created her. Continue reading
What Happened When A Missouri County Went Rogue
Let’s face it: 2016 is the Year of the Angry Voter. On the Left, Right and smack dab in the middle, many folks are fed up with politics as usual. In some cases, that frustration has even led to nasty demonstrations.
Which reminds me of the craziest protest you’ve never heard of. It started as a joke, had moments that were as zany as a Saturday Night Live sketch and ended, incredibly, in victory with the protesters making their point.
So get ready to discover what happened when McDonald County left the State of Missouri.
April 3, 1882 was a bad day for Jesse James. A very bad day, in fact.
I’ve always been intrigued by his shooting. It happened in St. Joseph, Missouri, the city where I was born. St. Joe, which was the eastern terminus of the Pony Express, calls itself the place “where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended.” My Great Grandfather Elisha Powell even got a post-mortem peek at the famous outlaw as a 17 year-old boy when the body was on public display … my family’s only connection to that grisly time. (At least, as far as the old folks ever told us. Unpleasant things weren’t talked about back then.)
15 Famous Quotes That Are Flat Wrong
They are so famous, a school child can recite them from memory. They’re repeated so often, they’ve become part of our cultural currency.
And they are flat wrong, too.
Dozens of legendary quotes from our past were actually misunderstood, taken out of context or, (the worst offense of the bunch) never uttered at all. Continue reading
Somewhere in America at this very moment, someone may be walking around with LBJ’s class ring on his finger, Abe Lincoln’s telegrams in his pocket, Harry Truman’s swords in one hand and an oil portrait of FDR in the other.
The National Archives says those items, plus many other presidential and historical oddities, are missing. And the Feds don’t have a clue where they could be. Continue reading
“There was a good deal of confusion in men’s minds during the first months of the great trouble, a good deal of unsettledness, of leaning first this way then that, and then the other way. It was hard for us to get our bearings.” -Mark Twain
If you are of a certain age, you probably remember being herded en masse onto a grade school stage and forced to warble Fifty Nifty United States to beaming moms, dads and grandparents.
“Fifty, nifty, United States, from thirteen original colonies,” the song cheerfully began. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to it beyond rhyming “fifty” and “nifty.” It eventually meandered through a roll call of the “nifty” states in alphabetical order. Missing from that roster was the Kingdom of Calloway. And the Free State of Winston. And the Free State of Jones.
But each one briefly existed (more or less) during the turbulent time known as the Civil War. And it’s worth revisiting their short, strange stories to fully understand just how mixed-up that era was. Continue reading
One day in June 1921, the editor of the Herald newspaper in Troy, Alabama finally had enough. On his desk lay a clipping from the previous Sunday’s Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle. “An Assassin’s Monument,” the headline said. It had been reprinted in papers from coast to coast.
The editor angrily banged out his reply to the Eagle on a manual typewriter. “The people of our city to do not appreciate the publicity we are getting out of this thing,” he fumed.
You couldn’t blame them. After all, for 15 years the tiny town of Troy, tucked in the southeast corner of Alabama, had been stuck with a notoriety not of its own making. Continue reading
Oddities From the Parting Thoughts of Famous Folks
Certain chores in life aren’t fun. But they are necessary. Such as preparing your last will and testament. People put it off as long as possible to avoid confronting their own mortality.
Personally, I dispensed with this unpleasant task a decade ago. So when the Man In The Bright Nightshirt (as W.C. Fields called death; more on him in minute) eventually calls for me, there will be no family squabble over the vast holdings of the Powell Estate.
A will serves another purpose. It can also provide valuable insight into historical figures. How someone distributed their personal effects often reveals what was going on inside their head and heart. Continue reading