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What can you say about a year that brings a 100 degree drop in temperature overnight, the rise of Lawrence of Arabia and the Theory of Relativity? How about happy birthday 1916? Ponder what was going on 100 years ago, which coincidentally coincides with 1916. The first colorful factoid for our consideration is that Climate Change was born that year. On Jan. 17, 1916, the temperature dropped 100 degrees from 44 degrees to minus 56 degrees overnight in Browning, Montana. Crops and people froze at an alarming rate. A hundred years ago, they just thought it got pretty cold, pretty quick that night. Would a hard freeze by any other name smell as sweet?

World War I was in full swing, the Battle of Verdun began in February and ended up creating more than 700,000 casualties. In theory, the French ultimately won in December 1916. On a less homicidal note as opposed to the mass insanity of World War I, Pancho Villa invaded the United States in March 1916 attacking Columbus, New Mexico. Naturally this drew the ire of the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who sent General Black Jack Pershing to invade Mexico to catch Pancho Villa. After about nine months of searching in vain for Villa, Pershing was called back to the U.S. 

In March 1916, Robert Stroud, who ultimately became the Bird Man of Alcatraz went into solitary confinement at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary after stabbing a guard to death. Stroud spent 30 years at Leavenworth, where he became interested in canaries after finding an injured bird. He raised birds in prison and wrote two books on bird diseases. Stroud developed and sold bird medicines. In 1942, he was transferred to Alcatraz where he remained until expiring in 1963 when death allowed him to fly over the prison walls to the Great Canary Nest in the Sky. 

May 1916 saw Albert Einstein present his Theory of Relativity, which was prompted by too much time with his in-laws. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity postulated there is a tremendous difference between a vacation and a family outing. Demonstrating the Theory of Relativity, May 1916 also saw Norman Rockwell’s first cover for The Saturday Evening Post. It featured a couple of boys wearing baseball uniforms laughing at a third boy wearing a suit who was unhappily pushing a younger sibling in a baby carriage. 

A farm boy named Dwight Eisenhower married a pretty girl named Mamie Doud in July 1916. Ike went on to win World War II, get elected President twice and be criticized for playing too much golf as President. He had the greatest campaign slogan ever invented, “I like Ike.” Unlike Jeb Bush, Ike didn’t have to put an exclamation mark after his name. People genuinely liked Ike. Bush, not so much. 

Unsurprisingly, there was trouble in the Middle East in 1916. Some things never change. The Brits were in a major ruckus with the Ottoman Empire, which had joined the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in World War I against the Triple Entente of England, Russia and France. Lawrence of Arabia was sent by the British Army to stir up an insurgent campaign by the local Arabs against the Ottoman Empire. Miraculously, an empire founded upon using large foot stools had controlled much of the world for six centuries. The Ottoman Empire was founded in 1299 by a major dude named Osman I. It expanded to cover most of southeastern Europe, chunks of western Asia and North Africa. By the 16th century, under Suleiman, the Ottoman Empire had about 15,000,000 citizens in three continents. But as George Harrison sang, “All things must pass.” By the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was winding down after a great 600-year run. However, it still controlled much of Arabia. 

Lawrence’s goal in Arabia was to neutralize the Turks by driving them nuts with an Arab revolt to get them out of World War I. His strategy was to force the Turks to give up their Ottomans and instead start using Laz-E-Boy recliners. The British High Command’s theory was that if the Turks stopped using Ottoman foot stools and sat in western style Laz-E-Boy recliners they would become too lazy to assist their allies in the Triple Alliance. 

Lawrence’s change of living room furniture campaign was successful. The Turks got comfortable in their Laz-E-Boy recliners with the built in beer caddies. The Turks studied war no more and exited World War I leaving the Ottoman Empire out by the curb. 

Hence the phrase, “Chair today. Gone tomorrow.” 

 

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