Tardy though I am, I’m still in the mood to celebrate the new year, which is off to an exceedingly busy start (and largely explains why this is my first column of the year).
And what better way, I thought, than by “opening” a supersized time capsule of memories that can help us relive some of the big events that shaped our lives at four intervals — 100, 75, 50 and 25 years?
For everyone’s convenience, I’m going to divide the effort into two parts to give all four special years their due.
So, today, let’s go time-traveling to 1911 and 1936, and then schedule a visit next week to 1961 and 1986.
Crime news: The “Mona Lisa” is stolen from the Louvre — and recovered two years later.
Landmarks: The 1 millionth patent is filed in the U.S. Patent Office for a tubeless tire. And Henry Ford gets some competition for his Model T when Chevrolet officially enters the car market. Marie Curie receives her second Nobel Prize.
Also of note: King George V of England is crowned, and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) incorporates.
The life and times
The national pastime: The legendary Walter Johnson ties a record, pitching four strikeouts in one inning. Ty Cobb’s Fourth of July ends badly when, after hitting in 40 straight games, he goes hitless on the holiday. Also, Boston holds ground-breaking ceremonies for Fenway Park.
Flying high: Just eight years after the Wright Brothers soar at Kitty Hawk, the song “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine” hits No. 1.
Comings and goings
Births: Ronald Reagan, the “lovable” Lucille Ball, “King of the Cowboys” Roy Rogers and the Indianapolis 500 auto race all enter the world. Reagan and the car race are among those scheduled for centennial postage stamps this year.
A few others: Hollywood’s Jean Harlow, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, playwright Tennessee Williams, JFK assassination figure Jack Ruby, and “Sing Along” bandleader Mitch Miller.
Deaths: Composer Gustav Mahler, temperance leader Carrie Nation and publishing king Joseph Pulitzer.
75 years ago: 1936
World turmoil: The Spanish Civil War begins, and Germany breaks the Treaty of Versailles. Also, America’s Jesse Owens wins four Gold Medals on Aug. 9 at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, upsetting Hitler’s propaganda plan.
Landmarks: Construction of the Boulder Dam (later renamed the Hoover Dam) is completed and begins creating hydroelectric power. Also, the BBC starts the first public television broadcasts in London.
Also of note: In the scandal of the time, Great Britain’s King Edward VIII abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.
The life and times
Inventions: The first sunscreen (credited to French chemist Eugene Schueller, who founded the L’Oreal line of cosmetics), the first functioning helicopter (Germany’s Heinrich Focke), magnetic recording audio tapes, and the iconic Zippo lighter.
Publishing: Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” is released, the first edition of Life Magazine hits the stands, and the recording industry’s bible, Billboard magazine, publishes the first pop music chart.
Top songs: Among the year’s big songs are Bing Crosby’s “Pennies From Heaven” and Fred Astaire’s “The Way You Look Tonight.”
Also of note: Eugene O’Neill (“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “The Iceman Cometh”) wins the Nobel Prize for literature.
“The Green Hornet” debuts on the radio, launching an ongoing career that’s included comic books, a 1960s TV show and — talk about your good timing —a new movie that’s released today.
Also, the legendary singer Roy Orbison; fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and Robert Redford (who I’ve always thought was a good actor but an even better director. As I tell everyone I can, for proof, check out his great 1994 film “Quiz Show,” a metaphor for America’s “loss of innocence”).
Also, literary figures Rudyard Kipling and G.K. Chesterton; Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov, who won the Nobel Prize; American journalist Lincoln Steffens; and Anne Sullivan, the teacher of Helen Keller.