CHARLOTTE, NC: Just because something, or someone, has been an integral part of our lives for as long as we can remember, we are often surprised to discover its less than auspicious beginnings. Or learn that it, or they, are just not as old as we think. Think of the saying “the best thing since sliced bread.”
Thanks to a wacky pop-culture website known as Cracked, following is a list of such mythical entities plus one of our own for a half-dozen tidbits of largely useless, but unusually interesting trivia.
We begin with our own contribution to kick things off.
Sliced Bread is less than a century old:
Bread has been with us in one form or another for about 30,000 years, but commercial slicing, believe it or not, was not introduced until July of 1928. That’s when Otto Rohwedder, a Missouri-based jeweler from Iowa, unveiled his bread slicing machine.
Rohwedder had actually created a prototype in 1917 but a fire destroyed both his model and the blueprints.
As so often happens with a ground-breaking idea, Rohwedder met strong resistance and skepticism from fellow bakers, who thought factory-sliced loaves would quickly go stale or fall apart. Nevertheless, in 1928, Rohwedder’s rebuilt “power-driven, multi-bladed” bread slicer was put into service at Frank Bench’s Chillicothe Baking Company. (How Chillicothe became known as the Home of Sliced Bread)
Rohwedder’s “contraption” was hailed as a major innovation when the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune reported:
“…while some people might find sliced bread ‘startling,’ the typical housewife could expect ‘a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows. So neat and precise are the slices, and so definitely better than anyone could possibly slice by hand with a bread knife that one realizes instantly that here is a refinement that will receive a hearty and permanent welcome.'”
By 1930, sliced bread was all the rage throughout the United States despite contentions by some bakers that it was only a fad.
One reason for the surge in popularity was the perception, either real or imagined, that factory-produced loaves were softer than those prepared at home or at local bakeries. “Softness” quickly came to be equated with freshness.
Starting in 1930, one of the first major brands to distribute sliced bread was Wonder which originally appeared in stores in Indianapolis in 1921.
During World War II, factory-sliced bread, including Wonder, was briefly banned by the government in an effort to conserve resources, such as the paper used to wrap each loaf to help maintain freshness.
In 2012, Wonder Bread disappeared from store shelves after its owner, Hostess Brands (also makers of Twinkies and Ding Dongs), declared bankruptcy. About a year later, another company stepped in and re-launched the Wonder brand in 2013.
“Sudoku” is neither old nor Japanese:
Sudoku isn’t from the era or a country that produced kabuki, but rather a time and place that created Rocky. You see, as with fortune cookies, the truth is that Sudoku is an American invention.
The first example of a purely logic-based puzzle using an asymmetrical 9×9 grid can be traced to Howard Garns. An Indianapolis architect, Garns invented a game he called “Number Place” in 1979 for Dell Pencil Puzzles And Word Games magazine.
In the ’80s, “Number Place” caught the eye of Japanese puzzle publisher Nikoli, who renamed it sudoku, which literally means “single digit.” This rebranding boosted the game’s popularity, and it soon began appearing in newspapers around the world, starting with The Times Of London.
Hong Kong judge Wayne Gould pitched Sudoku to them as a game that “anybody, including immigrants who don’t speak the native language, can do.”
Canada’s iconic Maple Leaf flag only dates from 1965:
While the Canadian Maple flag is inextricably linked to the country today, it took them about 100 years to come up with it.
Tired of being lumped in with all the other British countries, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson proposed a flag that would be known as the Pearson Pennant in 1960.
Naturally, the conservative opposition viewed the plan as a concession to Quebec and with uncharacteristic rudeness, actually booed the design.
After several parliamentary debates, a flag commission was established to settle the issue. After nearly 6,000 suggestions, only two made it to the finals: the Pearson Pennant and the current flag, proposed by George Stanley and inspired by the Royal Military College of Canada’s flag.
Conservatives wanting to stick it to the liberals voted against Pearson’s design, which is exactly what the liberals wanted them to do. They had set a trap to trick conservatives into voting for the flag they wanted and the current flag was voted in unanimously.
Pachelbel’s Canon In D Major Only Became a Wedding Song in the ’80s:
When was the last time you went to a wedding and did not hear Canon In D Major by Pachelbel? Probably the 1970s?
Written in the 1600s by German composer Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon” languished in obscurity until an odd sequence of events propelled it into the limelight in 1981, the year Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married.
Oddly enough, Canon in D Major wasn’t even played at the royal wedding, though a similar, but an altogether separate baroque piece, sparked a sudden interest in that particular style of music.
Today, other than Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in C Major, written 1842, no musical rendering is more familiar at a wedding ceremony than Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major.
Theaters didn’t start scheduling movies until 1960:
This one fits in the “Oh I Remember That” category. Those of us geezers who remember days when the feature movie was preceded by a cartoon, the newsreel, sometimes a short comedy, the previews and the main picture, will recall the days when you might enter partway through the movie.
What did we do? We simply stayed through the next showing and watched until the show looped back to where we first came in. It sounds crazy now, but it was no big deal back then.
Everything changed in 1960, with the release of Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock figured the movie was better if you didn’t know that Norman Bates was his mother all along, so he demanded that theaters schedule confirmed showtimes,
Shortly thereafter, however, theaters began to give every film its own showtime, an idea that changed movie-going forever.
Nobody cared about the Super Bowl halftime until 1993:
Other than the hype centered around the Super Bowl these days, the only thing bigger than the anticipation for the newest big-budget commercials is the announcement of who is performing the halftime show. Oh, and by the way, if you look really hard, you might find a football game there somewhere, too.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
At the first Super Bowl in 1967, a local marching band performed before the NFL dug into their piggy bank to bring out jazz trumpeter Al Hirt.
For the next nine years, the entertainment featured the likes of Ella Fitzgerald paying tribute to Louis Armstrong and similar jazz musical styles.
Things slowly began to change in 1976 with the NFL’s first venture into a larger show by hiring the contemporary singing group Up With People.
As late as 1989, the league was reaching a point of desperation before selecting an Elvis impersonator who also did card tricks. His name — Elvis Presto! Not exactly in the same league as Lady Gaga.
It wasn’t until 1991 that the NFL went mainstream contemporary with New Kids on the Block. Unfortunately, that halftime show was largely pre-empted by a presidential message about WMD in the Middle East.
Clearly the focus and attitude were changing. The modern halftime show really only exists because of a marketing ploy by Fox president Jamie Kellner who stole the show by debuting a new episode of In Living Color during the game.
It wasn’t until 1993 that NBC enlisted Michael Jackson, thus ushering in the kind of lavish productions we’ve come to expect from the Super Bowl.
Eleven years later, Super Bowl XXVII ushered in their first “X-rated” show when Michael’s sister Janet got maximum exposure with her infamous wardrobe malfunction.
Since that time, the NFL has made a clean breast of things and never looked back.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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