June 23 - Anniversary of a Victory for "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes"

Posted on June 23, 2018

Today is the anniversary of a successful bit of detective work - detective work done by (gasp!) a woman!!!

Let's go back to the year 1917, in New York. In February of that year, an 18-year-old named Ruth Cruger disappeared. The police investigated but came up empty handed. The case was declared a "cold case," even though the Cruger family had money and privilege.

The father of the young woman who had vanished, Henry Cruger, worried that the police hadn't investigated properly. He hired a woman named Mrs. Grace Quackenbos Humiston to look into his daughter's disappearance. Humiston, who was a Special Assistant U.S. States Attorney, had made a name for herself by investigating mistreatment of workers and the awful peonage system. 

Humiston did look into the Ruth Cruger case and by June 18 was able to establish that the likely suspect was a man named Alfredo Cocchi, who ran the repair shop where Cruger was last seen. There had already been a quick search of his place, which didn't find any evidence on Cruger's disappearance, and several police officers had vouched for Cocchi's honesty. But Grace Humiston insisted that the police search again, this time while she watched. When they did, they found the body of Cruger.

There was a ton of attention given to Humiston's successful detective work. As a matter of fact, many people began to call Humiston "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes."

Alfred Cocchi had fled to Italy - but he was located and put on trial there on this date in 1917.

As for why the police hadn't found the girl's body, investigation showed that Cocchi had had a "kickback" scheme with the local police - and it was those dirty cops who had vouched for him.

As a result of her work, Humiston won another special investigator position, this one charged with finding missing girls.

Hooray for Grace Humiston!

Typewriter Day

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June 22 – Worldwide VW Beetle Day

Posted on June 22, 2018

When I was a little kid, the streets were filled with big cars. Big Chevys, big station wagons, big Studebakers and Oldsmobiles.

And then, somewhere in the 1960s, these little guys began to appear:

(Actually, VW Beetles, often called "bugs," were sold in the U.S. from 1950 on - before I was born, even - but I didn't see them until a boom of popularity brought them to EVERYONE's attention. Exactly when I first noticed them, I'm not sure - but definitely before 1968s The Love Bug!)

Unfortunately, the 1930-something beginnings of this German car was connected to Hitler, who wanted a new, inexpensive car "for the people" (Volkswagen means "People's Car"). But shrugging off that bit of taint, it is a great idea to produce cars that people can actually afford, and the Volkswagen Beetles have been so popular for so long partly because they are almost indestructible and endlessly customizable.

VW Beetle convertibles have been super popular:

Bugs were converted into dune buggies.

VWs became rally race favorites.

Such a small car was relatively easy to paint in a flower-power hippie-dippie way!

June 21 – La Fête de la Musique in France

Posted on June 21, 2018

The people who started World Music Day were a French Minister of Culture and a French composer and musician. It was first celebrated in Paris in 1982. Now this solstice festival of music has spread all around the world - but here's how the original country still celebrates:

France basically shuts down! Musicians take over!

"Fête" (meaning "celebration") is a homophone of "Faites" (meaning "make"), so the name of the day is also a sort of command: Hey, guys, go make some music! Anywhere and everywhere!

That's why amateur and professional musicians make music in the streets of France today. Of course there are also free concerts, but I always think it's fun to walk down the street or across a plaza...hearing one person's music get quieter as I walk away and then another person's music get louder as I walk toward it. 

By mandate of the Ministry of Culture, all concerts and musical events held today must be free, and all performers must donate their time. I read that last year there were at least 18,000 planned musical events in France on this day; in 2015 there were more than 1,500 in musical events Paris alone!

Of course, with all the excitement of free music everywhere, it's also a great day to enjoy the long daylight hours with picnics and dancing and assorted merrymaking! I read that around 10,000,000 (ten million) people get out into the streets for the nation's largest street music party! But even more people participate in the day in SOME way, since about 64% of the population say that they either play or listen to music during this Celebration of Music.

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