Ready for your monthly dose of history? Below please find an outline of the significant historical events that occurred in the month of May:

May 1 – Since ancient times, a day for festivals celebrating the arrival of the Spring season. Today, many socialist countries celebrate “May Day” on May 1 as a holiday to celebrate workers.
May 1, 1707 – Scotland was combined with England and Wales to form Great Britain. The later addition of Northern Ireland formed the UK.
May 1, 1960 – An American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia on the eve of a summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev. The incident caused the cancellation of the summit and increased Cold War tensions between the two countries.
May 2, 2011 – US Special Forces located and killed Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
May 4, 1494 – Christopher Columbus, still seeking the Northwest Passage, discovered the island of Jamaica.
May 4, 1970 – Ohio National Guard troops fired into a student demonstration at Kent State University killing four students.
May 5 – Mexican holiday, commonly referred to as “Cinco de Mayo,” celebrating Mexican forces’ defeat of a numerically superior French invasion force in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
May 5, 1865 – Celebration of Decoration Day honoring soldiers killed in the Civil War. Eventually, morphed into Memorial Day.
May 5, 1961 – Astronaut Alan Shepard completed a 15 minute suborbital flight, thus becoming the first American to fly in space.
May 6, 1937 – The German blimp, Hindenburg, burst into flames killing 36 of its 97 passengers.
May 7, 1915 – The shocking sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, by a German U-boat hastened the US’s entry into WWI on the side of the Allies.
May 7, 1954 – The French surrendered at Dien Bien Phu, ending their colonial presence in Indo-China. Eventually, this event led to the US’s ill-advised involvement in Vietnam.
May 8, 1942 – The Battle of the Coral Sea, which historians consider to be the turning point of WWII in the Pacific, commenced. US naval forces defeated Japan for the first time and began their inexorable march toward the Japanese mainland.
May 10, 1869 – The Union Pacific and Central Railroads joined at Promontory Point, UT (symbolized by driving a golden spike into the roadbed), creating the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the entire US.
May 10, 1994 – Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa, bringing an official end to Apartheid.
May 12, 1949 – Russia ended its blockade of West Berlin.
May 14, 1607 – The first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown, VA.
May 14, 1804 – The Lewis and Clark expedition of the northwest, which lasted some 18 months and covered some 6,000 miles, departed St. Louis.
May 14, 1796 – English Dr. Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine. He coined the term, vaccination, to describe his method of injecting a weakened version of the disease into a healthy person, who would then fight off the disease and develop an immunity.
May 14, 1948 – The State of Israel declared its independence.
May 15, 1972 – While campaigning for the presidency, George Wallace was shot and paralyzed from the waist down.
May 17, 1792 – Some two dozen brokers and merchants began meeting under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street to buy and sell stocks and bonds. Eventually, this led to the establishment of the NY Stock Exchange.
May 17, 1875 – The initial running of the Kentucky Derby took place at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY.
May 17, 1954 – The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, Brown vs. The Board of Education (Topeka, KS), ruled that school segregation based on race was unconstitutional.
May 20, 1927 – Aviator, Charles Lindberg took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island for the first solo non-stop flight between NY and Europe (landing in Paris).
May 20, 1932 – Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1937, while attempting to fly across the Pacific Ocean, she was lost at sea, and her fate remains shrouded in mystery to this day.
May 21, 1881 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
May 22, 1947 – Congress approved the Truman Doctrine, which provided foreign aid to Greece and Turkey, which was necessary to prevent the spread of communism in that region.
May 24, 1844 – Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, transmitted the first telegram (“What hath God wrought?”).

May 24, 2022 – A crazed gunman engaged in a shooting spree at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX in which 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered.
May 26, 1940 – Great Britain commenced the evacuation of its army trapped at Dunkirk.
May 27, 1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.
May 30, 1783 – The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to be published in the US on a daily basis.
May 30, 1922 – The Lincoln Memorial, designed by architect Henry Bacon, was dedicated in Washington, D. C.
May 31, 1889 – The infamous Johnstown Flood of 1889 killed some 2,300 persons.

Birthdays – Niccolo Machiavelli – 5/3/1469; Golda Meir – 5/3/1898; Karl Marx – 5/5/1818; Sigmund Freud – 5/6/1856; Harry S. Truman (33rd President) – 5/8/1884; Israel Isidore Beilin (aka Irving Berlin – songwriter) – 5/11/1888; Florence Nightingale – 5/12/1820; Gabriel Fahrenheit (physicist) – 5/14/1686; Nguyen That Thanh (aka Ho Chi Minh – 5/19/1890; Malcolm Little (aka Malcolm X) – 5/19/1925; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes creator) – 5/22/1859; Laurence Olivier – 5/22/1907; Ralph Waldo Emerson – 5/25/1803; Al Jolson- 5/26/1886; James Butler (aka Wild Bill) Hickok – 5/27/1837; Hubert Humphrey – 5/27/1911; Jim Thorpe – 5/28/1888; Patrick Henry – 5/29/1736; John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President) – 5/29/1917; Walt Whitman – 5/31/1819.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, May is the only month in which a US President has not died.



On May 29 millions of Americans will celebrate Memorial Day.  Traditionally, most of us have viewed MD as a day off from work, part of a three-day weekend, a day to gather with friends and relatives, watch sports, barbecue, go to the beach or pool club, or maybe go away for a mini-vacation.  Regardless of the calendar MD is generally considered to be the unofficial start of summer. Wherever you go and whatever you do expect travel delays and crowds. Of course, we don’t like those inconveniences, but they are acknowledged and tolerated as an integral part of the holiday weekend.

According to AAA some 42.3 million Americans are expected to be travelling this holiday weekend, which would represent a 7% increase over last year’s total. The vast majority, about 37 million, will travel by car, some 3 million by air, and the remainder by train and other modes. A word of warning. Typically, MD weekend is the deadliest three-day period on the roads. The National Safety Council estimates there will be some 450 traffic fatalities over the holiday weekend this year. Everybody says “watch out for the other guy.” Don’t be the “other guy.” Drive with extra caution. Don’t become a statistic!

Gas prices are not expected to spike, as they often do at this time, but the national average of $3.54 per gallon is still high. Experienced travelers know that the best days to travel are on Saturday and Sunday, and whichever day one travels it is best to do so early in the day or in the middle of the night. Whenever and wherever you drive I recommend using your friendly GPS to help you navigate around delays.

AAA forecasts that some 3 million persons will travel by air. This would be the most since 2005. We all know what this means: overbooked, delayed and cancelled flights, and long lines at check-in and security. As always, extreme weather (thunderstorms, rain, wind, and severe heat), even in other parts of the country, could affect your travel plans. Again, to state the obvious, allow plenty of extra time to account for delays. That is common sense, but as they say “common sense is not always ‘common.’ ” Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Back to the holiday, itself.   How many of us actually stop and ponder the meaning of MD?  What does it mean?  What is its etymology?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Read on.

According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs the purpose of MD is to honor veterans who have died in the service of their country.  (Some people confuse it with Veterans’ Day, celebrated in November, which is to honor LIVING veterans for their service.)  MD is celebrated on the final Monday in May, which this year is May 29.  As I said, it has also evolved into the unofficial start of summer and Opening Day for beaches, pools and vacation homes.

The original name for MD was “Decoration Day.”  The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is centuries old.  Its origins are murky, but after the Civil War it became customary to “decorate” soldiers’ graves with flowers as a way to honor those who had died in that war.

Several cities claim to be the birthplace of MD.  Warrenton, Va. claims that the first CW soldier’s grave was decorated there in 1861.  Women began decorating soldiers’ graves in Savannah, Ga. as early as 1862.   Boalsburg, Pa. and Charleston, SC, among others, have also made claims.  NY became the first state to recognize MD as an official holiday in 1873.  In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY to be the official birthplace of MD.

The basis of Waterloo’s claim is that in 1865 a group of locals, including a pharmacist, Henry Welles, General John Murray, a CW hero, and a group of other veterans, simply marched to the local cemeteries and decorated the soldiers’ graves with flowers.  What gave Waterloo an edge in the birthplace battle was that Murray was an acquaintance of General John Logan, the general who issued “Logan’s Order,” the proclamation that declared “Decoration Day” should be celebrated annually nationwide.

At first, MD was celebrated on May 30 every year.  The date seems somewhat arbitrary as it was not the anniversary of any famous battle or military event.  Perhaps, it was chosen simply because flowers with which the graves are decorated are in bloom and plentiful at that particular time of the year.  The name, “Decoration Day” was gradually replaced by MD beginning in 1882, and in 1887 MD became the official name.  In 1968 the Congress moved the holiday to the last Monday in May.  This annoyed many traditionalists, but the lure of a three-day weekend overcame any objections, and the Monday date has prevailed.

There are some MD traditions worth noting:

  1. Flying the flag at half-staff.

Most of the time one will see the flag flown at half-staff all day; however, technically, this is not proper.  The flag should be raised to the top and then lowered to half-staff.  This is intended to honor those who have died for their country.  At noon, the flag is to be raised again to full staff, where it remains for the rest of the day.  This is to recognize that the deceased veterans’ sacrifices were not in vain.

  1. Poppies.

Poppies have become the official flower of remembrance, declared as such by the American Legion in 1920.  This is derived from WWI and the Battle of Ypres (English pronunciation is “Wipers.”).  Apparently, a proliferation of poppies grew on that battlefield around the soldiers’ graves.  These poppies were featured in a famous poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae called “In Flanders Fields.”  This poem caught peoples’ imagination and popularized the custom.

  1. Sporting Events.

No American holiday celebration would be complete without a sports connection. MD weekend features the Indianapolis 500 and the Memorial golf tournament, among others.  Also, until recently there was the traditional Memorial Day MLB baseball doubleheader.  Alas, due to economics, scheduled holiday baseball doubleheaders are all but extinct. 

4. Parades and ceremonies.

There will be parades and ceremonies in virtually every city and town of any size. Washington, DC will feature the National Memorial Day Parade, which will be televised and streamed live nationally and around the world.


I hope the foregoing has increased your understanding and appreciation of MD.  As a veteran, myself, I find it most gratifying that, in recent years, most Americans have come to recognize and appreciate the service and sacrifice of our country’s veterans.  I can remember a time (the Vietnam War period) when it wasn’t so.

So, whatever you do this weekend, however you celebrate, try to pause for a moment in honor of the many veterans who have given their lives so that the rest of us could enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.


I have written several blogs about ordinary persons who accomplished extraordinary feats of bravery and defiance during WWII. For the most part, their brave and dangerous deeds were performed anonymously or have been lost to history. A few persons’ deeds, such as Oskar Schindler, whose deeds were portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie Schindler’s List (1993), and Jan and Antonina Zabinski (The Zookeeper’s Wife – 2017) have come to light thanks to Hollywood. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.

Recently, I had the good fortune of watching an eight-part tv movie about Miep Gies. Most of you have never heard of her. I had not until I saw the aforementioned movie. Ms. Gies’ story is quite amazing. She and her husband, Jan, were Dutch patriots who hid Anne Frank and several others from the Nazis for two years during WWII. Her amazing story is portrayed in the tv movie A Small Light, which can be viewed on the National Geographic tv channel. Most of us are familiar with the story of Anne Frank, thanks to her diary, but this movie presents the story from a different perspective – that of Ms. Gies.

What motivated her to do what she did? In her own words, “We did our human duty: helping people in need.” I submit that that simple statement does not do justice to the totality of what she did, but you can judge for yourself.

Hermine Santrouschitz was born on February 15, 1909 in Vienna. Her family was Catholic and very poor. At that time, Austria was in the throes of a post-WWI depression. Conditions were very dire. Food and other necessities were scare, and Hermine’s family was unable to care for her properly. She became sickly and malnourished. Fortunately, other countries, such as The Netherlands, had established relief programs to aide children such as Hermine. Her parents made the desperate decision to send her to live with a Dutch family in the hopes that she would regain her health. Consequently, 11-year-old Hermine was put on a train by herself to make the trip. Luckily, she ended up with a family that loved her and cared for her. Eventually, she, her biological parents and her adopted parents all agreed that she would remain in Amsterdam. She became known as Miep. In July 1941 she married Jan Gies, a social worker.

At the age of 18 Miep commenced working as a typist but was soon laid off. Jobs were scarce, but pursuant to a recommendation of a neighbor she got an interview with a Jewish businessman named Otto Frank. Frank hired her. Initially, her job was to make jam for sale, but eventually she was promoted to customer service and the position of secretary.

Despite the fact that The Netherlands was neutral the Nazis invaded and in May 1940 succeeded in occupying the country. We all know what happened shortly thereafter – the despicable treatment of Jews and other atrocities typical of every country that the Nazis occupied.

Otto decided to go into hiding along with his family. He had constructed an elaborate hiding place on the premises called The Secret Annex. At first, it contained just the Franks, but over time the Franks took in others making a total of eight persons. When Otto asked Miep if she would help hide them she agreed instantly. Over the next few years she organized the elaborate ruse performing such tasks as obtaining ration cards, food and other necessities, all while running the business. She and Jan also managed to help other children relocate to safe homes in the countryside.

This was all accomplished under the noses of the Nazis. The daily stress was intense. Complete secrecy was paramount. Absolutely no one could be told as there were collaborators everywhere. Miep later stated “to the outside world, we had to look as relaxed as possible, or people might have grown suspicious.”

At one point, Miep ascertained that Anne Frank was writing a diary. She thought it was dangerous to do so as it might be discovered at some point and implicate others. But, Anne was a defiant, headstrong teenager, and she was determined to continue it. Miep said she told her “Yes, I’m writing about you too.”

Eventually, the Nazis received an anonymous tip regarding the hideout. On August 4, 1944 a group raided the place. They arrested everyone, except for Miep, including two employees. The arresting officer may have spared her because they were both natives of Vienna. Jan and Miep were both devastated. They had the presence of mind to inspect the Annex immediately to see what could be retrieved. Luckily, for the benefit of history, they found Anne’s diary. Miep almost destroyed it because, as I said, it contained a lot of incriminating information, but in the end she kept it in case Otto were to return someday.

Miep felt the raid was her fault, that she had slipped up somehow. She was so determined to try to save them that she bravely (or foolishly) went to Gestapo Headquarters to plead with the the officer who had arrested them. She was unsuccessful, but at least she was able to leave. There was nothing further to be done.

On May 5, 1945 the Allies recaptured The Netherlands. Soon after, Jewish former prisoners who had survived began returning. Otto returned, but the rest of his family did not. The Gies insisted that Otto stay with them, which he did. Miep gave Otto Anne’s diary telling him “this is your daughter’s legacy.”

The diary published was in 1947. It is an amazing firsthand account. Anne lavishes much praise on Miep. One passage reads “[she] is just like a pack mule. [S]he fetches and carries so much. Almost every day she manages to get hold of some vegetables for us and brings everything in shopping bags on her bicycle.” As I said, Miep was able to accomplish this not knowing whom she could trust. Nazis and collaborators were everywhere. People were hurting and very eager to inform for whatever rewards they could get. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do so.


I strongly recommend “A Small Light.” As stated at the end of the movie it declares that “even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, in their own way, turn on a small light in a dark room.”

Both Jan and Miep lived long and productive lives. Miep, in particular, has been immortalized for her accomplishments. After the war Miep did what she could to keep the story alive. For example, she wrote and published her own book about her experiences titled Anne Frank Remembered.

Jan died on January 26, 1993 at the age of 87. Miep died on February 15, 1909 at the ripe old age of 100. Ironically, after all she had been through the cause of death was rather mundane – a fall at her nursing home. Their bravery in the face of extreme danger will long be remembered.


Many observers consider him to have been one of the greatest NFL football players of all time. Moreover, he is generally considered to have been one of the greatest athletes ever. Even more than that, in stark contrast to many other famous athletes who avoid controversial social issues, after his playing career he became a leading advocate for civil rights for African Americans and other less fortunate persons. More on that later.

James Nathaniel Brown was born on February 17, 1936 on St. Simons Island, Georgia. His father was a professional boxer, and his mother was a homemaker. At the age of eight his family moved to Manhasset, Long Island where his mother worked as a domestic. In high school Brown was a star athlete in football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and track. Most sports fans are aware of his prowess in football and lacrosse, but few know that he averaged 38 points per game on the basketball court, a record which stood until it was broken by another multisport star you may have heard of – Carl Yastrzemski.

Brown attended Syracuse University. Astoundingly, he did not receive an athletic scholarship. Remember, it was the mid-1950s, and Syracuse, like many other universities were not exactly welcoming to minorities, athletes or otherwise. Luckily for Brown, the school, and perhaps the sports world in general, Kenneth Molloy, a prominent alum and attorney who had been a star lacrosse player at the school became Brown’s benefactor and persuaded the powers-that-be to enroll him as a non-scholarship athlete.

His freshman year Brown was the only AA on the football team. Basically, the school treated him as a second class citizen. He was placed in a separate dormitory away from the other athletes; initially, the coaching staff played him at other positions in lieu of running back; and he was warned against dating Caucasian women.

Eventually, Brown’s otherworldly talent gave them no choice. He became a multisport star. His senior year he was a consensus football All-American, finished fifth in the 1956 Heisman Trophy voting, and almost won the Cotton Bowl singlehandedly. The Cleveland Browns drafted him seventh in the 1957 draft. You might be wondering which players finished ahead of Brown in the Heisman voting and which ones were drafted ahead of him. I wondered also. Hindsight is 20X20, and most of these players went on to fine NFL careers, but none was at Brown’s level. See answers below.

In addition, he was an All-American in lacrosse, and a star on the basketball and track teams. He was so unstoppable in lacrosse that the rules were changed to require a player to keep his stick in motion when carrying the ball. It was aimed specifically at Brown, and that rule is no longer in effect.

Also, Brown was a member of ROTC. He served four years in the Army Reserves and attained the rank of captain.

Brown became an instant star in the NFL. In an era when running backs were king he was, simply, the best. During his tenure the Browns were perennial contenders and won the championship in 1964, the last one the team has won. The whole Browns team was built around him, and he was virtually unstoppable. His numbers were impressive, but one had to actually see him play to really appreciate his prowess. Tacklers bounced off him; he could use his power to run over them or his speed to run around them. Often, he would congratulate a tackler on a particularly hard hit. He always got up slowly as if he were hurt, but he never was. It was just a ruse. Hall of Famer, John Mackey said Brown once told him: “Make sure when anyone tackles you he remembers how much it hurts.” I believe that summed up Brown’s credo.

Brown played nine years in the NFL. He was so dominant that when he retired he held the records for single season rushing (1,863), career rushing (12,312), rushing touchdowns (106), and career all-purpose yards (15,549). These records were all the more remarkable because Brown only played nine seasons and 12 or 14 games per season. They lasted several years until they were broken by players who had the benefit of 16 game seasons.

Brown retired in his prime at the age of 30 to pursue a movie career. He had been planning to play one more year, but his retirement was hastened by a contract dispute with Browns’ management. At the time some questioned his decision, but in retrospect it was the right decision.

Brown enjoyed a very active and productive post-playing career as an actor, civil rights activist and spokesman. His forte was action movies. Biographer Mike Freeman characterized him as “the first black action star.” My favorite movie was “The Dirty Dozen, a WWII action movie in which Brown was part of an ensemble starring Lee Marvin and a host of other stars. Perhaps, his most notable role was in the movie 100 Rifles in which he took part in a very controversial by-racial love scene with Raquel Welch, the first one in a major Hollywood movie. Even though such scenes are routine now, at the time it was shocking. He also guest starred on several tv shows, such as TJ Hooker, Knight Rider and CHiPs.

The most significant part of his post-athletic career was probably his propensity for speaking out against what he perceived as racial injustice. As I said above, many minority athletes are reluctant to do so, but not Brown. For example, he was an ardent early supporter of Muhammed Ali when Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for his refusal to accept induction into the US Army. Additionally, in 1966 he founded the Negro Industrial Union, which helped to promote and support minority-owned businesses. Furthermore, he worked extensively with minority prisoners and gang members. In 1988 he founded the Amer-I-Can Foundation, which sought to teach them life skills to enable them to break the cycle of violence and become productive members of society. In 2008 he and Kanye West met with President Trump to discuss the status of minorities in America. He was roundly criticized by some for meeting with President Trump, but he retorted that he was the “sitting president,” “accessible” and “not a racist” as some say. Many people criticized him for his strong advocacy, but regardless of one’s personal opinions I feel one should respect Brown’s and his right to espouse them.

On the negative side, Brown was arrested several times for physical violence against women. He was never convicted of a major crime, but this remains a dark stain on his reputation.


The list of Brown’s sports accolades and awards is too extensive to mention all of them here. For instance, in 2002 The Sporting News selected him to be the greatest football player of all time. In 2014 The NY Daily News followed suit. The NFL Network’s NFL Films selected him as the second-best NFL player ever (behind Jerry Rice). Finally, in 1999 as part of the celebration of the New Millennium a panel of sports journalists and observers voted picked the “Top 100 American Athletes of the 20th Century.” The list was published by ESPN. Brown was voted #4 behind Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Muhammed Ali. I don’t want to quibble. All of them were outstanding athletes and deserving of the honor, but one could make a case that Brown should have been ranked higher. He was the only one of the top 5 who was outstanding in multiple sports.

Brown was married twice and fathered five children. His second wife, Monique, was with him when he died. Brown passed away on May 18 at the age of 87.

Many tributes have been pouring in. A sampling:

  1. Emmitt Smith – “He is and was a true legend in sports and in the community using his platform to help others.”
  2. LeBron James – “We lost a hero today….I hope every Black athlete takes the time to educate themselves about this incredible man and what he did to change all of our lives.”
  3. Barack Obama – “One of the greatest football players ever, he was also an actor and activist – speaking out on civil rights and pushing other Black athletes to do the same.”

Rest in peace Jim. You were one of the best all-around athletes ever, but, more importantly, you boldly used your platform to advocate for others not as fortunate.

Trivia answers:

1956 Heisman voting: Paul Hornung, Johnny Majors, Tom McDonald, and Jerry Tubbs

1957 draft: Hornung, Jon Arnett, John Brodie, Ron Kramer and Len Dawson.


Many of us like to enjoy an occasional round of golf as a recreational sport. Although, in my experience, most golfers readily agree that golf is the most frustrating sport they have ever played it is viewed as a way to get some exercise, banter and relax with friends, and enjoy the beautiful scenery and fresh air. Furthermore, despite the frustrations inherent in the sport, at the end of the round players realize that they were so focused on the game that they have forgotten the problems and frustrations we all have to endure in our daily lives.

The history of golf is murky and controversial. The conventional wisdom is that the modern version of the game originated and developed in Scotland in the late Middle Ages. However, there is ample evidence that similar versions of the sport were being played concurrently elsewhere. For example, in Holland as early as the mid-13th century there is mention of a game whose object was to hit a ball into a small hole using what was called a “colf” or “kolf” club. In addition, around the end of the 13th century the Dutch were playing a game with a stick and a leather ball in which the object was to hit the ball into a hole 100 yards away. The winner would be the player who took the fewest strokes. Sound familiar? Some historians denote that similar games were also being played in the Netherlands and other European countries. These various iterations all predate the recorded history of the game in Scotland.

As I said above, golf historians and scholars generally acknowledge that the modern game of golf was invented in Scotland. Indeed, Wikipedia quotes a spokesman from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews thusly: “Stick and ballgames have been around for many centuries, but golf as we know it today, played over 18 holes clearly originated in Scotland.” In addition, the very word “golf” is a derivative the Dutch word “colf” or “colve” meaning “stick, “club or “bat.”

The earliest mention of golf in Scotland was in 1457. King James banned the game of gowf on the basis that it was an unneeded distraction from archery, which was practiced for military purposes.

The oldest instructions for golf have been found in the diary of one Thomas Kincaid, a Scottish medical student. The earliest known surviving rules of golf date to 1744 in Scotland. By the 18th century Scottish soldiers, expats and immigrants were exporting the game throughout the world.

In the US the game was being played in the Albany, NY area as early as the mid-17th century. It quickly spread throughout the country. By the 1880s several golf clubs had sprung up. By 1910 there were nearly 300. The USGA was formed in 1894.

And, now, I would like to present some golf tidbits and trivia. Unless otherwise stated, the source for these is a book written by Rick Reilly, So Help Me Golf. Reilly is a much-renowned sports journalist and author. He has written several very entertaining books on golf

1. Golf courses have not always had 18 holes. According to Wikipedia the terrain at St. Andrews consisted of a narrow strip of land bordered by the sea. Therefore, when the course was laid out in the 15th century there was only room for eleven holes laid out end to end from the clubhouse to the far end of the property. Golfers would play the course twice. So the initial golf course consisted of 22 holes. Later, some of the short holes were combined leaving 18 holes, which has been the standard ever since.

2. According to Wikipedia, the standard golf ball was developed in the 1930s. Prior to then, there was some variance as to weight and size.

3. Wikipedia also states that the earliest golf clubs were made from wood. Various varieties of wood were used. Eventually wood was replaced by iron, then steel, then graphite, and titanium.

4. Phil Mickelson plays golf lefty, but he does everything else righty.

5. Irish star golfer Rory McIlroy once hit his father with a drive (presumably, not intentionally).

6. Jackie Gleason, an avid golfer, habitually carried 12 woods, all with mink headcovers.

7. Baltusrol Golf Club is named after a murdered person, Baltus Roll, who was attacked and beaten to death in 1831.

8. Augusta National prohibits Masters winners from taking their green jackets home permanently with one exception. That would be 1970 winner Billy Casper who was give permission to be buried in it.

9. In 1945 Sam Snead won the LA Open playing the entire 72 hole tournament with one ball even though the cover was falling off by the end. The reason? It was during WWII, and there was a rubber shortage.

10. Tiger Woods is allergic to grass.

11. Jack Nicklaus is color-blind.

12. Arnold Palmer signed the most autographs of any golfer. He used a special pen that wrote in disappearing ink for anyone who was rude.

13. During WWII some American soldiers who were imprisoned in a German camp fashioned a golf game using balls made of shoe leather and tree stumps for holes. Their “course” had real hazards – guards with machine guns.

14. In 2020 Sophia Popov, the 304th ranked women’s player won the British open. She had only qualified because a bunch of players cancelled out due to COVID.

15. What was the shortest golf course on record? Would you believe six feet? In 1965 Colonel George Hall was imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. His cell measured six feet long. He fashioned a “club” from a stick. Every day he would “play” a different course in his mind. That got him through four years of captivity. All right!

16. Why do we yell, “fore” to warn other golfers of a possible incoming ball? There is disagreement, but my research disclosed three possible reasons. (1) Many golf courses employ forecaddies who stand down-range. Their job is to locate errant balls so as to speed up the game. Fore is a shortening of forecaddie. (2) Artillerymen firing cannon would yell “beware before” to warn anyone downrange. (3) Fore is short for “before,” which is the Scottish word for a warning. I would lean toward the latter since the game originated in Scotland, but all of them are plausible. Take your pick.


A further word about the abovementioned frustrations. The pros on tv make the game appear much easier than it really is. These are average-size guys; many of them don’t even look like the athletes we see in other sports; they are not 6 foot 10; they don’t weigh 300 pounds; some of them do not even appear to be in “shape.” Yet, they hit the hell out of the ball time after time. So, we say “if he can do it why can’t I?” We quickly see that we can’t, and it frustrates us. We also bemoan the bad bounces and bad luck, which always seem to outnumber the good bounces and good luck. Moreover, we often flub a shot that we “know” we can execute because we have done so many times. During the round, we often swear we will quit the game entirely. Who needs all this frustration. Yet, we come back again next time, and the next time after that, and the time after that. No doubt, the sport engenders a classic love-hate relationship with the player.


Sunday, May 14, most Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day. Notice the singular possessive form of spelling. This is the standard and generally accepted usage. It was the format favored by Anna Jarvis, the acknowledged driving force behind the creation of the holiday, as you will see below, rather than the plural possessive. Her point that was each family should honor “the best mother, yours” rather than all mothers.

MD is celebrated all over the world in some form.  Different countries have their own way of celebrating the day and even celebrate it on different dates.  Some countries have replicated the US traditions – hallmark [or email (tacky)] card, flowers, chocolates, and family outings or gatherings; others have incorporated it into other holidays honoring women or mothers; and in still others, a combination of the two has evolved.

According to The National Restaurant Association based on decades of research MD is the busiest day of the year for restaurants.  Nearly one-half of customers eat out for dinner, but many opt for breakfast, brunch or lunch. The traditional custom is to give mom a break from kitchen duties and take her out to a nice restaurant to celebrate. And why not? Doesn’t she deserve it? (On the other hand, on Father’s Day the restaurants are relatively empty as many fathers are put to work barbecuing.) Can you name the second-busiest day of the year for restaurants according to the same survey? See answer below.

Moreover, according to a recent poll of some 1,000 Protestant pastors conducted by Lifeway Research MD is the third busiest day for attendance at church. Can you guess numbers one and two? See below.

Estimates of the average cost of MD gifts vary. According to the National Retail Federation the average MD gift this year will cost about $274, an increase of roughly 10% from last year. According to the website “RetailMeNot” the most popular gifts are greeting cards, flowers (roses being the most popular), chocolate and gift cards.

As always, traffic on the roads will likely be heavy during the holiday weekend. So, plan to leave early, and use your trusty GPS. Additionally, one can expect the usual delays at the airports and train and bus stations due to weather complications, security concerns and heavy usage.

In the US MD was first celebrated in 1908 when the aforementioned Anna Jarvis held a special memorial for her mother.  Ms. Jarvis had been campaigning for the country to recognize a day to honor mothers since 1905 when her mother had passed away.  In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed an official proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as MD.  It was to be a day to honor mothers and the concept of motherhood and their contributions to society.

Eventually, Ms. Jarvis became disillusioned with the commercialization of the holiday.  By the 1920’s the greeting card, retail, candy and flower industries were all marketing their products aggressively to take advantage of the holiday.  Jarvis strongly advocated that people should demonstrate their love and respect for their mothers through personalized, handwritten letters instead.  Being a person of action she organized protests and threatened boycotts of these industries.  At one point, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at a candy manufacturers’ convention.

Despite her efforts, commercialization of the day has continued to grow.  Americans, in particular, tend to demonstrate their love in tangible, material ways through the giving of gifts. 

As I stated, MD is celebrated in many countries in different ways and at different dates. For example:

1. The most common date is the second Sunday in May, which is May 14 this year. Besides the US, some of the countries that celebrate it on this date are Canada, Italy, the Peoples Republic of China and Turkey.

2. Some countries, such as the UK, Ireland and Nigeria, celebrate it on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The UK incorporated it into a previously existing holiday called “Mothering Sunday,.” which dates from the 16th Century.

3. Many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia celebrate it on the vernal equinox (March 20 in 2023).

4. Russia used to celebrate MD on March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day, but in 1998 the date was changed, by law, to the last Sunday in November.

5. Bolivia celebrates it on May 27, which is the date of an historically significant battle in which women played a key role.

6. Since 1950 France has celebrated MD on the fourth Sunday in May, except when the date conflicts with Pentecost in which case it is delayed to the next Sunday.

7. Hindus celebrate MD on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh (April/May).


As I said, MD is one of the few truly internationally-recognized holidays.  One of the charming features of the day is the variety of ways and dates on which it is celebrated.  This is derived from the differences in customs and cultures around the world.

One thing is certain now and will remain so prospectively: on this day the mother/wife is truly in charge.  Men, remember the adage “happy wife, happy life.”

Finally, men, all together now, let’s repeat the two-word mantra for a successful marriage:


Quiz answers: (1) Valentine’s Day. (2) Christmas Eve and Easter.