Greenbacks, Bucks and Eight Bits – What’s in your Wallet?

From the New York Times Crossword puzzle, August 23, 2015

67  Down  _________ coeptis (phrase on the back of the dollar bill)

You’ve spent hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of them – but do you know what is on your one dollar bill?  Sadly, many of us have no idea.  Yet a careful glance at our one-dollar bill will give us a lesson in history and symbols.

Front of the Dollar Bill

Well, this won’t take long as most of the good stuff is on the reverse side.  However, did you know that George Washington was not the first person pictured on the bill?  No, it was Salmon P. Chase.  And just who was he?  Well, he was the Secretary of the Treasury when the bill was first introduced.

In addition to Washington, there is the United States Treasury Seal which shows the balancing s03_treasury-sealcales, indicated justice and the chevron with thirteen stars for the original thirteen colonies.  The key invokes the symbol of authority.

These days, only the one dollar bill still carries the district letter of the issuing reserve bank.  Higher denominations  have replaced those with the Federal Reserve Seal.  Quick – can you name the Federal Reserve banks (hint:  there are twelve of them).  Answer:  Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.

Back of the Dollar Bill

Now for the good stuff – we’ll start with the Great Seal.  If you can imagine, it took six years and three committees just to design the Great Seal.  It wasn’t until June 13, 1782, that Charles Thomson managed to assuage all voices with his design which on the front Great Sealshowed an eagle rising with thirteen arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right.  The olive branch and the number thirteen seem pretty self-explanatory, but what is interesting is the significance of which talon they are in – right signifies dominance, so peace should predominate.  An accidental switching of these in early years, nearly sparked an armed conflict!

The shield on the eagle has the horizontal blue stripe signifying Congress and the thirteen stripes signify – you guesses it the thirteen original colonies, but the thirteen stars?  Colonies again?  No!  They signify “a new constellation” which somehow indicated that the United States was charting a new course.  And by now, most of us know that E pluribus unum, means “Out of many, one”

Now we look at the other side which shows the reverse side of the Great Seal – the picture that has sparked many discussions and controversies.  The unfinished pyramid which is supposed to indicate strength and duration; it again has thirteen rows of building stones with 1776 written in Roman numerals on the bottom.  The phrase Novus Ordo Seclorum means the New Order of the Ages.  Above the pyramid is the eye which sees in agreat_seal_revll directions – a symbol that is evocative of the Freemasons for whom the eye is the symbol of the Great Architect.

The answer for this puzzle’s clue, Annuit coeptis – means Providence has favored our undertaking – something that perhaps not all of our enemies or allies would endorse, but nonetheless, there it is.

And what about In God We Trust?  It was first used on money during the Civil War when national currency was first introduced.  It did not become our national motto until 1956, and in 1957, it made its first appearance on the dollar bill.




Goonies never say die!

From the New York Times crossword, August 19, 2015

43 Down  Oregon city named for a furrier

Situated on the mouth of the Columbia river, is a town named for John Jacob Astor – the seat of Clatsop County, Oregon:  Astoria.  The town was founded by Astor in 1811 when he started his American Fur Company at the location.  Just prior to his arrival, the final leg of the Lewis and Clark Expedition completed its journey at Fort Clatsop – at the time, it was a small log structure, now it is an historical park.

One of John Jacob Astor’s subsidiary companies, the Pacific Fur Company, was created to increase trade in the Oregon territory.  Fort Astoria, its primary trading center, holds the distinction of being the first permanent U. S. settlement on the Pacific coast.

Through the years, with fur trading and logging and subsequently fishing industries attracting large numbers of immigrants, the population grew considerably with many Nordic immigrants carving out niches in the town.  As one might expect with those industries, the town has had its shares of boom and bust years.

Astoria has continued to be a busy port on the Pacific, but has been eclipsed by both Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.  Beginning in 1921, a ferry across the Columbia connected the port to Pacific County in Washington.  In 1966, the Astoria-Megler Bridge was completed.  It is 4.1 miles long and was the final segment in Highway 101.  It is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.


The Astoria-Megler bridge viewed from the Cannery Pier













Much of the cannery business has closed with Bumblebee closed its final cannery in 1980.  Likewise, the logging industry has suffered its share of woes.  Today, Astoria has added tourism to its resume with its growing art scene and light manufacturing.  Some herald it the “Little San Francisco” with its Victorian homes overlooking the water as well as the earthier elements along the waterfront.

Fans of the film, The Goonies, are more than familiar with Astoria as it was filmed on site here.  There are throngs of fans who still visit it to see the familiar sights.  In addition to The Goonies, many other movies have been filmed here including Free Willy, The Black Stallion, Kindergarten Cop, and more recently, Into the Wild.  Of course, if you are looking for some truly local flavor, the musical, Shanghaied in Astoria has been performed on stage every year since 1984.




Annnndddd, they’re off!

From the New York Times crossword, August 16, 2015

23 Across  Triple Crown winner who himself sired a Kentucky Derby Winner

This year when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, he earned a spot with a select group of horses who have achieved that success.  Considering that it had been over thirty years since Affirmed won in 1978.  Among his colleagues in this elite group, is the answer to today’s clue:  Seattle Slew.

He was purchased by Mickey and Karen Taylor for the small sum of $17,500 (compared to this year’s winner, American Pharoah who was purchased for $250,000).  Karen was a flight attendant, and her husband, Mickey, working in logging.  As they lived in White Swan, Washington, they decided to name their horse after the city of Seattle and added Slew to the name in honor of the sloughs used in logging transport.


Seattle Slew rides to Triple Crown history

His appearance did not exactly inspire confidence as he had a curved right foot that caused him to sway when he ran, causing one trainer to nickname “Baby Huey”.  However, it wasn’t long before he garnered some positive attention when he won the Belmont Stakes in his maiden race – winning by five lengths.

After winning his next three races in 1977, he came to the Kentucky Derby undefeated.  After a rough start which caused an injury at his bridle, his jockey, Jean Cruguet, corrected him, and he won the Derby by almost two lengths over the favorite.  Winning at the Preakness, his time was only seconds behind the all-time record.

While all other nine Triple Crown winners had come to the Belmont with at least one loss under their belt, Seattle Slew blew that record as well – being the first undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown.  Not surprisingly, offers for him came in from all over.  Seattle Slew continued to race evening beating the next year’s Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, in a race at the Marlboro Cup.

But what about the above clue – just which winners did he sire?   Well, in fact, there were many.  Rags to Riches, his granddaughter, won the Belmont in 2007 – giving trainer Todd Pletcher, his first victory.  The Derby (and Preakness) winner he sired, however, was California Chrome who created considerable excitement in 2014.

He died on May 7, 2002 – twenty-five years to the day when he won the Kentucky Derby.  He was buried whole – an incredible honor for a horse and was buried with his favorite blanket and a bag of peppermints – a perennial favorite of his.



She helped make Fred Astaire a star!

From the New York Times crossword puzzle, August 18, 2015

48 Across  Half of a brother/sister dance duo

No, it isn’t who you think it is – in honor of her birthday, September 10, we dedicate this post to the woman who really helped launch his career – his sister, Adele.  Born in 1896 in Omaha, Nebraska, Adele was the older sister of Fred.  At the age of eight, her mother enrolled her in dance classes and then had Fred tag along to keep her company. He was soon intrigued with dancing, and the two began their partnership.

Their teacher suggested to their mother that the young duo had promise in a dancing career, but it would necessitate a move to New York City.  Off to New York they went, with their father staying in Omaha to work with occasional trips east to see his family.  The two were enrolled in the Alvienne School of Dance – the only children in their class.

By 1912, they were performing on Vaudeville and in 1917 they made their Broadway debut in “Over the Top”.  They continued to have tremendous success – J. M. Barrie sought Adele for the role of Peter Pan in his first production, but contractual obligations kept her out of the part.

Adele AstaireIt may come as a surprise to some that Adele was actually the more engaging of the two and was more involved with promoting their act while Fred stayed behind the scenes and worked on their routines.  Ever the perfectionist, Adele nicknamed him “Moaning Minnie”, but the two managed to work together seamlessly when performing.  In 1922, they collaborated with Gershwin brothers in Lady Be Good as well as Funny Face.

With Fred’s success in Hollywood, Adele briefly considered a career in films as well, but thought that it was not for her and admitted that she was somewhat intimidated by Fred’s success.

She subsequently retired from performing and married Lord Charles Cavendish.  After their marriage, they moved to Ireland and resided in Lismore castle.  Sadly, a daughter born to them died days after birth and twin boys later died within hours of each other.  After Lord Cavendish’s death, she married an American, Colonel Kingsman Douglas – an Air Force officer and later assistant director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1971, both she and Fred were inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.  After the death of her second husband, she moved to Phoenix where she resided until her death in 1981.

May I have the envelope please?

From the New York Times Crossword Puzzle on August 17, 2015

69 Across  Deborah who was nominated for a record six Best Actress   Oscars without ever winning

While it is still a few months away, there is always buzz about who might be nominated for an Academy Award.  Many people will know which actress has won the most awards for Best Actress (Katherine Hepburn, with four) and for Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis, with three).  OK, now name the actress nominated for Best Actress without winning.  Hint:  there are actually two, but only one of them fits the bill for the above clue.  Answer:  Deborah Kerr, who along with Thelma Ritter endured six Academy Award ceremonies without taking home the coveted statue.  For those wishing to fulfill their trivia quota, Peter O’Toole is the actor who shares the dubious honor with Kerr and Ritter – he was actually nominated eight times without winning.

47-deborah_kerr_theredlistDeborah Kerr was born September 30, 1921 in Helensburgh, Scotland to Captain Arthur Kerr-Trimmer.  She came to acting to overcome extreme shyness. Through an aunt who was a radio star, she was introduced to Gabriel Pascal who cast her in her first film role, Major Barbara.  She quickly became a star in British movies and theater.

In 1947, she came to Hollywood.  As she put it, “I came over here to act, but it turned out all I had to do was to be high-minded, long suffering, white-gloved and decorative.”  She found success in Hollywood with roles in Quo Vadis, The Hucksters, and Edward, My Son, which yielded her first Oscar nomination.  Tiring of her prim roles, she took advantage of the role as the adulteress in From Here to Eternity, which garnered her second Oscar nomination.  Ironically, Joan Crawford was slated to play the role but insisted on her own cameraman and other details, so the role went to Kerr instead.

king-and-iIt has been said that Maureen O’Hara was the choice for the role of the school mistress in The King and I, but Yul Brynner insisted on having Deborah Kerr, with this film giving her third Oscar nomination.

For Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert Mitchum was reluctant to work with her – thinking that she would personify the prim characters which had been her mainstay.  However, after she swore at director John Huston, Mitchum, who was in the water, almost drowned laughing.  He soon put his concerns to rest, and the two became life-long friends.  This film gave her the fourth Oscar nomination.

To round out the list, the other films for which she was nominated Best Actress were:  Separate Tables and The Sundowners.

In 1994, she was given an Honorary Oscar – presented by Glenn Close (who has since tied Kerr with six nominations without winning).  Upon entering the stage to accept her award, she received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history.  One of the comments stated:  “An artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.”  Indeed.