The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



Black Friday

Posted by Gilbert Stack on November 26, 2021 at 8:30 AM


The term “Black Friday” was first used in Philadelphia in 1961. It refers to the Friday after Thanksgiving Day—the start of the Christmas shopping season since 1952. Long referred to as the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, that didn’t actually become true until 2003.


Black Friday used to start at 6am but as the first decade of the new millennium progressed, that opening time started to get earlier. Finally in 2011, major retailers like Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Macy’s began opening at midnight. Not to be outdone, Walmart pushed the Black Friday opening to 8pm on Thanksgiving Day in 2012 and the opening time continued to get earlier for some stores.


Black Friday is actually not as important to the Christmas Season shopping as it used to be. Many stores now start the Christmas season much earlier, spreading out their sales throughout November and December.


Shopping on Black Friday is not without risk. 7 deaths and 98 injuries have been reported on this day as the result of confrontations between shoppers since 2006.


A Brief History of Thanksgiving Day

Posted by Gilbert Stack on November 25, 2021 at 1:25 PM


While American mythology generally credits the Pilgrims and the members of the Wampanoag tribe with celebrating the first Thanksgiving, harvest festivals in which communities express their gratitude for their blessings predate the arrival of Europeans in North America. Both the French and Spanish settlers adopted these customs and they also appear in Jamestown before the arrival of the Pilgrims.


The three day Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 was not referred to as a “Thanksgiving” feast at the time, but as a harvest celebration. It was attended by the 50 survivors from the Mayflower and 90 Wampanoags.


During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation each year asking the individual states to set aside a day to thank God for His blessings and ask his aid in prosecuting the war. After the war, presidents continued to sporadically declare days of Thanksgiving until Abraham Lincoln made the final Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day in 1863. The last Thursday of November continued to be recognized as Thanksgiving Day until 1939 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt switched it to the second to last Thursday in November in an attempt to boost sales during the Great Depression by stretching out the Christmas season. (In 1939 there were five Thursdays in November.) Republicans protested the change as an insult to Lincoln and the public began to refer to November 30 as “Republican Thanksgiving” and November 23 as “Franksgiving” (For FRANKlin D. Roosevelt). (Yes, our government during the Great Depression, with World War II having just broken out in Europe, really had nothing better to do than debate the proper day to be thankful.)


In 1941, Congress got involved and made Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday in November rather than the last day. This was seen as a compromise between the two positions. It also made the celebration a matter of federal law. (Of course, not every state could accept this compromise. Texas was the last holdout, abandoning the last Thursday of the month only in 1956.)


And that’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November even today.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Today in History: The Ill-Fated Jeanette

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 8, 2019 at 5:15 AM

On this day (July Eight) in 1879 the Jeanette started out on its ill-fated Arctic expedition. The Jeanette would become trapped in the ice for 21 months before it ruptured and sank, leaving the crew to attempt to reach Siberia by hiking over the ice and taking to the sea in 3 boats. 11 died before reaching land, and 9 before they reached helped.

Today in History: Hawaii Was Annexed by the U.S.

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 7, 2019 at 8:50 AM

On this day (July 7) in 1898 the United States annexed Hawaii as a territory. President McKinley had tried for a year to get the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Annexation, but failed to get the two-thirds majority needed so he changed strategy and annexed it through legislation. A large majority of Native Hawaiians opposed annexation, but they were not consulted. Their government had already been taken over in a coup by private American interests.

Today in History: Thomas More Was Executed

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 6, 2019 at 8:00 AM

On this day (July 6) in 1535, Sir Thomas More was beheaded for treason because he refused to affirmatively support the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. (Anne would be beheaded in 1536.) When I was touring the Tower of London, one of the guides told the following improbable story about Sir Thomas who is known to have greatly feared death but also worried tremendously about breaking faith with God and condemning himself to hell. So Thomas had put his head on the block and the headsman was preparing to cut it off. A basket was waiting to catch the severed head when it fell. Suddenly a page raced up to Sir Thomas and his executioner shouting that he was bringing a letter for Sir Thomas from King Henry. Thomas then turned to him and said, “Toss the letter in the basket [where his severed head was about to fall]. I’ll read it later.”

Today in History: The Olive Branch Petition

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 5, 2019 at 8:15 AM

On this day (July 5) in 1775, the Second Continental Congress created the Olive Branch Petition, assuring King George III that they were loyal subjects and beseeching him to work with them to resolve their trade and tax disputes without conflict. King George III refused to read the petition. He declared the colonists in rebellion in August 1775.

Today in History: Independence Day

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 4, 2019 at 9:05 AM

On this day (July 4) in 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted and published The Declaration of Independence describing the conflict of the young United States with England and why they believed it to be necessary for the thirteen colonies to break away and form their own country. The declaration includes an inspirational sentence that may be the best-known words in the English language. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." While it is undoubtedly true that the U.S. has often failed to live up to the full spirit of these words, it is also true that they have inspired millions of people to find the best in themselves and strive to form a country that fully embraces this ideal. Happy Independence Day!

Today in History: Picket's Charge

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 3, 2019 at 5:10 AM

On this day (July 3) in 1863 Picket made his famous charge against Union lines at the Battle of Gettysburg marking the end of Confederate offensive actions in the north.

Several years ago I visited Gettysburg with my father and brother. We had all three just read Michael Sharra's, The Killer Angels, and we reconstructed Joshua Chamberlain's defense of the Union left flank on Little Round Top. It took us about half an hour and then a tour guide came along and confirmed our reconstruction in about three minutes. Good memories.

Today in History: Amelia Earhart Disappears

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 2, 2019 at 5:05 AM

On this day (July 2) in 1937, Ameilia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and was an aviation celebrity and women’s rights activist. No one knows precisely what happened to Earhart. She was approaching Howland Island with scattered clouds in the sky. The clouds caused dark patches on the ocean surface which could make it difficult to see a small land mass. Her transmissions stated she could not find the island and was low on fuel. No one knows precisely what happened after that but there are three principle theories.

In the Crash and Sink theory, Earhart ran out of fuel, crashed in the ocean and died.

In the Gardner Island theory, Earhart did not waste fuel searching for Howland but instead turned south to Gardner Island. Several searches of Gardner Island were made in the years after the crash and a skeleton was found under a tree with an old fashioned sextant in 1940. A detailed examination of the skeleton was made and it was determined to be male, but in 1988, the report was reexamined and it was determined that the skeleton could have belonged to a tall female. (The skeleton was misplaced back in the 1940s so it cannot be re-examined.)

The final theory is that the Japanese captured and executed Earhart and her navigator after they shot them down near Saipan. There are witnesses who claimed to have seen the execution and the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane had electronic components which were similar to Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E which had been built to Earhart’s specifications.

Ultimately, short of finding Earhart’s Lockheed with two skeletons in it, we are probably never going to learn what happened to her.

Today in History: Lexel's Comet

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 1, 2019 at 3:05 PM

On this day (July 1) in 1770, Lexel’s Comet came closer to the earth than any other recorded comet. It passed a mere 1,400,000 miles from our planet. Lexel’s Comet has not been seen since, and is considered lost. But obviously what came close once could come close again sometime in the future… Now there’s a good story idea! But, of course, it’s already been done many times. Anyone remember Lucifer’s Hammer?