To most Americans, April 15 will always be thought of as tax day.
That’s a pity, because April 15 is notable for more than just very long lines at the post office and desperate visits to H&R Block. In fact, a quick tour of the history books makes April 15 seem downright interesting. The more we looked, the more we found.
The next time someone mentions April 15, try not to cringe. Instead, consider one of these notable events:
• The Titanic sunk in 1912. Yes, it's the 100-year anniversary of the maiden voyage of the 'virtually unsinkable' RMS Titanic. About 1,500 of the more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board died after the British luxury liner sank in the North Atlantic less three hours after hitting an iceberg. This also explains why many movie theatres are showing James Cameron's 1997 award-winning film and photos of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet seem to be plastered everywhere.
• McDonald's opened in 1955. First came a barbecue restaurant, run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in 1940. Eight years later, they reorganized as a hamburger joint using a production line method called the "Speedee Service System." Ray Kroc, a businessman, joined the company as a franchise agent and opened the first McDonald's, with the golden arches, in Des Plaines, Iowa. First day sales: $366.12. Kroc bought out the company and the rest, as they say, is history. An interesting aside: The original mascot for McDonald's was a chef named "Speedee." He was replaced by the clown Ronald McDonald, a character created by The Today Show weatherman Willard Scott.
• Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, becoming the first black Major League Baseball player. Born into a family of sharecroppers in Georgia, Robinson was raised by his single mother, Mallie. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, the U.S. Post Office put his image on a stamp.
• April 15 birthdays. Happy birthday to these famous Aries, all born April 15: artist and scientist Leonardo DaVinci (1452), novelist Henry James (1843), blues singer Bessie Smith (1895), actors Emma Thompson (1959), Emma Watson (1990) and Seth Rogen (1982), Communist leader and Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev, and American swimmer Dara Torres (1967).
• Notable deaths. OK, not the happiest news. But it’s still worth noting that Abraham Lincoln (1864), existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1980), famed actress Greta Garbo (1990), and author/illustrator Edward Gorey (2000) all died on April 15.
• Beam me up. Star Trek fans will be pleased to note that William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and DeForest Kelley (Bones) were all inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame on April 15, 1992.
• Tiananmen Square protests. In 1989, Chinese students started a series of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 15. They lasted for seven weeks, and ended with the government sweeping in and firing on demonstrators. The protests drew worldwide attention and led to condemnation of the People's Republic of China for years to come. The enduring image from the event was that of the lone man, in a white shirt, standing in front of a column of tanks. No one knows who the "Tank Man" is — or what happened to him —but Time magazine called him the Unknown Rebel and named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.
• The Liberation of Bergen Belsen. In 1945, British and Candian forces marched on Bergen Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp. They found 53,000 prisoners and 13,000 unburied bodies. About 50,000 prisoners are thought to have died at Bergen-Belsen, including Anne Frank. On the same day, US troops occupied Colditz Castle, the only prisoner-of-war camp that had more guards than prisoners.
• Hello! In 1877, the first telephone was installed, in Somerville, Mass. Adolescence would never be the same. — CG and KW
Photo courtesy of AP/Paramount Pictures