Friday the 13th: Origins, Myths, and Beliefs

Friday 13 CalendarToday was Friday the Thirteenth.

A day that is deemed to be very unlucky to many people. And the superstition surrounding this day are anything but new; beliefs about the number thirteen can be traced back to 1700 B.C. Yet superstitions about Friday the Thirteenth cannot be found prior to the 19th century.

The first English reference ever recorded dates back to Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini: “Rossini was

Gioachino Rossini


surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky.”

Then, there is Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, author of Thirteen: the story of the world’s most popular superstition. He suggests in his book that because references to Friday the 13th cannot be found before 1907, the superstition’s popularity must have come from thepublication of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel, Friday, the Thirteenth. In the novel, a stock broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on Friday the 13th.

And Wall Street itself fosters a decades-long fear of Friday the 13th. On Friday, October 13, 1989, Wall Street saw the second largest drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history, at that time. The day was nicknamed the Friday-the-13th mini-crash.

Fear of the number and the day

Many people fear Friday the Thirteenth, refusing to do anything but stay in all day so as to avoid any potential bad luck by venturing outdoors. Several others fear the number itself, regardless of the situation or what day of the week it falls on.

Fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia. Fear of Friday the Thirteenth actually has two names. One is friggatriskaidekaphobia, from Frigga-the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named, combined with the above-named term for fear of the number thirteen itself.

Fear of Friday the Thirteenth also goes by paraskevidekatriaphobia, from Paraskevi-Greek for Friday, plus dekatreis-Greek for thirteen.

But why the cause for all of this panic? I mean, why is the number thirteen considered an unlucky number, and why is Friday the Thirteenth considered an unlucky day?

Walking Under A LadderFor one thing, 12 is seen as a round, complete number, whereas 13…not so much. But consider the frequency of twelve: 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours on the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Decedents of Muhammad Imams, and 12 Apostles of Jesus.

That last one is one of the many theories about why the number thirteen is thought to be unlucky It is linked to the Last Supper, where Jesus dined with twelve Apostles, for a total number of thirteen. And one of those Apostles, Judas, ended up betraying Jesus.

Also, in Norse mythology, Odin and eleven of his closest friends are dining together. These twelve people, however, are unexpectedly joined by the 13th person, who happens to be Loki, the god of evil and turmoil.

Both of these theories also harbor the myth that if any group of thirteen dine together, that one of these people will die within a year.

And remember back in 2012, when a lot of people thought that the world was going to end on December 21st? This was based on the end of the Mayan calendar’s thirteenth month, Baktun.

Now, as for Friday the Thirteenth, theories abound for this, too.

Friday in and of itself has been considered an unlucky day.

Friday is the day that Jesus was crucified.

In Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Friday is considered as a day of misfortune and ill luck.Spilled Salt

And the order to arrest the Knights Templar was placed by King Phillip IV of France, on Friday, October 13, 1307. The majority of the Knights were tortured and killed. This event was also alluded to in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Publications of the 17th century, documented Friday the 13th as an unlucky day to take a trip, start a new project, or have a major life-changing event, such a birth, marriage, etc.

Frequency of Friday the 13th

Any month that starts on a Friday, will contain a Friday the 13th.

There is at least one Friday the 13th every calendar year.

Omissions of the number 13

The fear and superstition surrounding this number is not only limited to people. But many companies also, whether based on their own anxieties, or those of potential clients and customers, omit the number thirteen.

Many hotels will not have a room 13, 113, 213, and so on. So, for example, the rooms will go straight from 12 to 14.

Some hospitals don’t have a room 13.

Elevator Without 13th Floor

Elevator panel without a 13th floor.

On this note, many multilevel buildings that contain more than twelve floors, skip floor number thirteen, and go right on to floor fourteen.

Several cities do not have 13th Street, Avenue, etc.

Many airports do not have a gate 13.

And the ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, a collection of 282 laws enacted by the Babylonian King Hammurabi, who was in power from 1792-1750 B.C. Of those 282 laws, number 13 is omitted. The Code is inscribed on a seven-foot-tall stele that is now at the Louvre.

 The Thirteen Club

Organized in 1881, this club was begun in order to improve and protect the number’s reputation. There were 13 members, and the first meeting consisted of the members walking under ladders and spilling salt. Two things that are considered to cause bad luck, no matter what day they occur on. It is, however, said that the bad luck can be reversed in these two cases. If you walk under a ladder, and then, immediately walk under it again, but backwards, that should stop the bad luck. And if you spill some salt, pick up some of it, and throw it over your left shoulder, you stop the bad luck from occurring.

Whether you are supremely superstitious about Friday the 13th, or you think that the entire idea is nonsense, it is something that has been rooted into our collective human cultures now for thousands of years. Black Cat







It’s Veterans’ Day. Respect and remember those who serve our country.

Veterans HeadingToday is November 11th, and this means of course, that it is Veterans’ Day. And I think it’s essential to point out that Veterans’ Day is more than a day off and sales in just about any retail establishment. It is, most importantly, a day to remember fallen American heroes, and to acknowledge and thank those that are still with us, whether they are retired or actively serving.

I am sure that a lot of you out there have either been in the military, or know someone who has. For me, it’s the latter. And many of you also may have had several ancestors in the military too. This is true for me as well.

I had three ancestors who fought in the American Revolution: Samuel Allen, Thomas Lowry, and Amos Tinkham; because of Amos, I became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR.  Unforutnately, except for Samuel Allen, I don’t know much about their service in the American Revolution, though I am constantly searching for more information. However, it’s difficult to learn much about the soldiers of that war unless it was documented somewhere at the time, such as in a pension application, diary, etc. Yet nonetheless, Amos Tinkham, Samuel Allen, Thomas Lowry, and countless others took part in the war that won us the independence that our brave men and women in uniform continue to fight for today.

Samuel Allen pension abstact

Samuel’s entry in the DAR’s book: Abstracts of Rev. War Pension Files.

I retrieved the following information about Samuel Allen from his Revolutionary War pension application: Samuel Allen playedan integral part in the capture of Major Ireland, a British major, so that they might have a British officer to exchange for Major Brush, an American major who was being held as a prisoner of war with the British. He and four others detached and crossed over to Long Island in the night. The following night, they captured Major Ireland and exchanged him for Major Brush. After the war, Samuel became a minuteman. He was also the owner of the first sire of the Morgan horse breed.

Henry J. Younger Civil War draft record

Henry’s Civil War draft record. He is the third one down.

Moving ahead to the Civil War, my third great-grandfather, Henry J. Younger, is listed in a draft record, as a Union soldier from Missouri. Prior to this Henry served as part of the Enrolled Military Militia, or E.M.M. The Enrolled Missouri Militia was a part-time Missouri militia organization; it was formed during the American Civil War in 1862. The E.M.M’s main purpose was to serve as garrison and infrastructure guards, to help enhance and supplement the Unionist Missouri State Militia in defense against raids. This freed up the Missouri State Militia for offensive procedures against Confederate guerillas and recruiters.

Younger and Allen WWI Records-page0001 (2)

WWI registration cards for my two great-grandfathers: Earl Ahi Younger (top) and Ervin Oscar Allen (bottom).

For WWI, I have records for my great-grandfather, (Henry’s great-great-grandson), Earl Ahi Younger. He was 28 at the time and working as a motorman. This was in Missouri as well; in St. Joseph to be exact. My other great-grandfather, Ervin Oscar Allen, also has a WWI record from Rosendale, Missouri. He was twenty-nine at the time. I have a couple of great-uncles as well: Earl Elmer Allen and Silas R.D. Allen, brothers to Ervin.  The Allens and Youngers are on my dad’s side of the family, and his family came from Missouri.

Nishinaka and Ichimachi WWI Registration

WWI registration cards for my great-grandfather, Masakichi Nishinaka (top) and my great-uncle Ichiji Ichimachi (bottom).

In WWI on my mom’s side, I have records for my great-grandfather, Masakichi Nishinaka. He was twenty-eight years old and living in San Pedro, California. Also, Ichji Ichimachi, who is my great-uncle. He was twenty-six years old and living in Portuguese Bend, California. It’s an area of San Pedro, where I currently live.

I don’t have any direct ancestors that were in WWII, but my aforementioned great-grandfather, Ervin Oscar Allen, he lost his life during WWII. He was not a soldier in the war, but he was among a group of forty construction workers from Missouri, who were headed to Bermuda for promised construction work on an American Naval Base. I went into this in greater depth in a previous blog post, so I won’t say too much about it here, but these men were aboard the S.S. Lady Hawkins along with members of the Royal Navy, civilians, and the crew who were mostly from Barbados and the West Indies. The Lady Hawkins was torpedoed by U-66 off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on January 19, 1942.  There was a total of 321 people onboard; 71 of them survived. Twenty-five of the Missouri men also lost their lives; Ervin was among them.

My father, William Howard Allen was also in the United States Army. He was never in any major battles or sent overseas, but he served nonetheless.

I’m proud to be descended from soldiers from all different eras in our country’s warfare history. However, were I not related to anyone who served, I would still feel the respect and gratitude toward those that lay their lives on the liHonoring Those Who Servedne day after day for my freedom and yours.

I believe it is important to observe Veterans’ Day. I don’t think any of us really forgets that men and women are risking theirlives everyday so that we can live free, but we tend to get busy, and we end up taking it for granted.  But when Veterans’ Day comes, it reminds us of the sacrifice of all past and present soldiers. We remember to honor them, and we remember how grateful and indebted we are to them.

It is important to honor our veterans year round. And once Veterans’ Day has passed, let’s each do our best to remember them every other day of the year too, and we can all do our part. Whether you make a donation to a worthy military or veteran establishment, help prepare care packages for our soldiers, or thank a veteran for his or her service every time you come across one, we can all do something to acknowledge our military men and women, and let them know that their loyal service to our country does not go by unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thank You, VeteransTo all veterans, whether you are now retired, in the reserves, currently serving, or you lost your life in defense of our country, a huge THANK YOU for your courage, your bravery, and your selflessness. Our country continues to be the great nation that it is because of your dedication to protecting America and her people.

OCD Awareness Week

OCD CycleYesterday marked the beginning of OCD Awareness Week, which runs October 11-17, 2015.

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain’s serotonin levels that causes the person to have, often irrational, obsessions. I have had OCD for more than ten years now. I wasn’t really sure what it was when I first started noticing my own obsessive-compulsive behaviors; I thought I was the only person who acted this way. And then one day, while in the library, I picked up a book about OCD and realized, “Wow, I do a lot of these things!”

OCD does have varying levels, and affects each sufferer differently. A lot of people may have a minor obsession or compulsion and think that it’s OCD. Are you obsessively neat? Everything on your desk, or your shelves, or in your drawers have to be in a certain order? Are you afraid of germs? These do not necessarily constitute a diagnosis of OCD.

Now, that’s not to say that people with OCD do not do nor feel these things, many do. It’s just that it goes to more of an extreme with those afflicted by OCD.

Let’s use the neat desk as an example. If you believe that the world will end if don’t keep three pens, lined up perfectly, to the right of your desk, the lamp turned at a ninety degree angle, and your computer perfectly aligned with the edge of your desk…then you may have OCD.  OCD Comparision

While this is somewhat of an exaggeration, I want to point out one of the things that cause the “odd” behaviors in the people afflicted with this disorder. We often feel, that if something isn’t done, or isn’t done correctly, than something bad will happen to us, or someone that we care about. While this is a usually irrational fear, and we often know this, it doesn’t help us or stop us from doing the things we do.

Another reason, especially for compulsive behaviors, is that we have to do it until it “feels right”. And I don’t know any better way to explain this. Being unable to participate in certain compulsive behaviors, will often fill us with a sense of discomfort, anxiety, and dread. OCD can take up a large portion of a person’s life. Some are so restrained by this disorder that they can barely function in the world. Some may refuse to leave their houses. Others may have a large portion of their life overtaken by OCD, but are not affected to the above extremes. I count myself in this category. I would say that ninety to ninety-five percent of my daily life is affected by OCD. And as I mentioned, OCD is a chemical imbalance in the brain, just as anxiety and depression are. Not every person with OCD suffers from one or both of these disorders as well, but a great majority do.

It’s easy for someone who doesn’t understand, to say something like, “Just stop doing that.” If it were that easy, we would. But it isn’t. And to those who don’t understand this disorder, or don’t know that a certain person is suffering from it, their compulsions, when done in public especially, seem weird, odd, strange. Possibly making some people believe that there is something wrong with person.

CDOHowie Mandel is possibly one of the most well-known celebrities with OCD. He has openly talked about it. He doesn’t shake hands with people and he doesn’t like others touching him because part of his obsession is a fear of germs.

Howard Hughes also suffered from OCD, and would use a special fork to sort peas by their size. He would also notice small, even trivial, details while directing a movie, and write extensive reports on how to remedy the situation. Hughes would also observe any dust or stains on another person’s clothes, and demand that they take care of it. After a near-fatal airplane crash, he decided that he would screen movies at a studio near his home. He stayed in there for four months, eating only chicken and chocolate, drinking only milk, and surrounded by several Kleenex boxes that he constantly arranged and rearranged. Towards the end of his life, due to OCD and other mental illness problems, Hughes was a recluse, and rarely seen in public.

Science-fiction author, Orson Scott Card, who wrote the Ender’s Game series, focuses on this disorder in his some of his books. And he understands this from a first-hand perspective as well. I attended a two-day workshop taught by Card a few years back, and had the chance to briefly discuss OCD with him. I explained to him that I had it as well, and that I appreciated his portrayal of the disorder in his novels.

The science-fiction books by Orson Scott Card, where OCD plays a major part are, Speaker For the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. But be sure to read Ender’s Game first and then go in the above order for the other books, otherwise you won’t know what’s going on.

On a personal level, here are a few of my own OCD ticks; and ticks are often a part of OCD and something that I occasionally experience.Like being allergic to life

I have a major thing with numbers. This is to the point where I hate to have to even read or write anything with numbers because I know that it will take me a long time to get through it. And it doesn’t matter if the numbers are written numerically (3), or spelled out (three), nor does it matter if their Roman numerals or not (III), my compulsion with numbers haunts me on a daily basis. And it’s a few different things with numbers.

For one thing, I used the number three in my examples above, and I have an obsession with that number and its variables. Take the volume on a radio or TV for example. As you turn the volume up or down, the numbers go up and down accordingly. I have to, have to, leave the volume on 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and so on, or any combination of numbers that equal those numbers: 21, 33, 45, etc.

Now, (and I’m going to have fun writing this part; I already know that my OCD will do its best to hinder me here), my most aggravating number obsession, and the one that makes me dread having to read or write anything with numbers in it. In this case, ones and zeroes, have to equal two. What this means, and I will do my best to explain it, is that if I’m reading something, out loud or silently, and I come across a zero, I have to say to myself, “Plus two.” Because 0+2=2. If I come across a one, I have to say, “Plus one.” Because 1+1=2. Even if these numbers are part of another number. Let’s say I’m reading the year 2010. I have to read it this way, “Two-thousand (plus two), ten (plus one, plus two.)” And this if I’m reading these numbers, Used to have OCDwriting or typing these numbers, or speaking these numbers, zeroes and ones, in my obsessive-compulsive mind, have to equal two. It doesn’t matter if I say the plus twos and plus ones out loud or not, as long as I say it or think it. Even Roman numerals, as I mentioned above. For example, I like history, and I often read or write about WWI and WWII. I have to read it as WWI (plus one) and WWII (plus one, plus one). It’s irritating, it’s inconvenient, and if I don’t do it, it will eat away at my brain until I do.

As many people with OCD, I do have the fear of germs. I will shake people’s hands and such, but I always have Purell with me, I actively avoid or move away from people if I know their sick with something contagious, and I have a compulsive hand-washing ritual.

Now, many people without OCD will avoid sick people if they can, and a lot of people who don’t have OCD use Purell, but these behaviors in me come with obsessive, negative thoughts that I can’t get out of my mind. And the hand-washing ritual, it takes a lot of time, and again, I have to do this every time I wash my hands, which tends to be a lot. And if I’m interrupted during this ritual, I have to start over again from the beginning.

I will, on occasion, do the classic light switch thing that many OCD sufferers do. Where I turn the lights off, then on, then off, then on, off again, on again, until it “feels right”. There are certain words that, some for no apparent reason, invoke a negative image or feeling in me. And if I’m writing and hear one of these words while I’m writing, I have to erase the last part up to the point where I heard the word, and then rewrite it.

When I’m reading, and someone interrupts me, I have to finish the paragraph that I am currently on before I can respond to them. Otherwise I will have to start reading that paragraph again from the very beginning. Sometimes, I get stuck on a part of a sentence when I’m reading, and when I’m readingOCD is not a joke out loud, this can cause me to stutter a bit, as I try to get through the sentence. And I got stuck on it, either because it didn’t “feel right”, or I have this obsessive thought in my head that if I don’t read the sentence, or certain word or part of the sentence just right, then there will be negative consequences.

Things have to be perfectly straight and/or perfectly aligned with something else. If it’s even a little crooked, I must fix it. This will even happen to me in grocery stores, bookstores, and other establishments, where items may not be even, and I have to do my best to stop myself from fixing it. I will oftentimes just start straightening things, and I have to stop myself: an even harder feat than preventing myself from beginning in the first place.

There are times when I will have negative, obsessive images and/or thoughts that I can’t shake. Particularly when I, or someone I know is going through a difficult, trying time, my mind tries to show me and make me think about the worst possible outcome, making it difficult to remain optimistic, which is what I am trying to do during times like that.

And yes, it’s irrational, but many OCD behaviors are. I have the occasional bouts of anxiety and depression as well.

I wanted to write about OCD in general, as well as my own struggle with this affliction, to help spread awareness about something that affects thousands of people on a daily basis. It’s a disorder that you do not truly understand unless you are afflicted with it yourself, or you know someone who is. I also want to silence those who say that OCD isn’t real, that it’s a joke, that our compulsive behaviors are actually under our control and we’re only doing it for attention, and those who think that we’re strange or weird because we have this condition and we can’t always keep our obsessions and compulsions under control. We try to, and sometimes we do, but it isn’t always possible.

For more informationInternational OCD Foundation about this disorder, or to seek assistance with it, please visit the website for the International OCD Foundation at:

National Literacy Month

Language BooksSeptember is National Literacy Month, and September 8th is National Literacy Day. I would like to do what I can to spread awareness about literacy, by talking about my own path to becoming an ESL tutor for adults.

Two years ago, I became a volunteer tutor in English as a Second Language (ESL) for adults. This program is offered by the South Bay Literacy Council (SBLC), here in Southern California. The process to become a tutor did not cost anything, and teaching credentials or previous experience were not required. It began with an information meeting at the local library. This was mainly about the Council and the program, designed to help you decide if tutoring is indeed something that you would be interested in pursuing.

If you decided to do this, there was a tutoring workshop, that met twice a week for four weeks. These classes were very informative and a lot of fun. At the end of this workshop, you get your membership card for the SBLC, a certificate proving your completion of the workshop, and a list of students who are seeking a tutor. These students may sign up with the program for any number of reasons, to communicate better at work or school, to be able to read English better, or become US Citizens, to name a few examples. And some students have a need to focus on reading, writing, and speaking English, while others may find it necessary to focus more on only one or two of these.

When I first became interested in tutoring, I first planned on becoming a tutor for adults who spoke English, but couldn’t world-language-map-english-small (2)read. I wasn’t interested in ESL tutoring, only because, I figured that to teach ESL, you would have to speak, not only English, but also the student’s native language. The only other language that I can, somewhat, speak is Spanish. I say somewhat, because I can carry on a basic conversation in Spanish, but I don’t speak enough to tutor a course on learning English. However, the instructors of the workshop explained to us that it’s actually a little better if you don’t speak your student’s native language, because if you do, then it’s too easy to default to that language, and not focus on English.

My first student was from North Korea, and we met for a few months before a change in her work schedule wouldn’t allow her to continue, at least, not on the nights that I was available to tutor. After that, I got my current student who I have been with for nearly two years now. She is from South Korea, and actually has a pretty good grasp of the English language, we never have trouble communicating in English anyhow.

The SBLC suggests using a series of books called the Challenger series. These books have eight levels, with Level One being the most basic level for students who speak very little English, to Level Eight. They include articles and short stories, that the student reads aloud, as the instructor silently follows along. After each lesson, there are questions and exercises related to that article, that are designed to improve comprehensive skills.

Challenger 6

Challenger 6. The sixth of the eight levels in the Challenger Series.

You initially contact your student by phone to introduce yourself and ask them if they are still interested in finding a tutor. If they are, then you set up a date and time for an introductory meeting. Based on the phone call, you may be able to assess what level your future student will begin with. I found that the best way to do this is to let the student choose, because he or she would know best what is too easy for them and what is too challenging. If, based on speaking with your student over the phone, you think that he or she may be a Level 5 for example, then at the introductory meeting, bring Levels 4-6, and see what your student decides on. In the case of my current student, we started with Level 5, but about halfway through that book, she decided that the level was too easy for her, and we went up to Level 6, which we are nearly done with.

While the SBLC recommends the Challenger Series, depending on the student, other things may also be helpful. For example, my first student enjoyed reading magazines and newspapers, and one of her hobbies was hiking: so I would go to the library and pick up hiking and outdoor magazines. These included articles that my student enjoyed reading  while at the same time was improving her English skills.

My current student has been studying for a writing test that is a part of a job application. She will also occasionally need help for documents at her current job. And in a few months she will be eligible for US Citizenship, and when that time comes, I will help her study for the Citizenship test.

To some, ESL may seem to be a fairly recent idea. In fact, it began in 15th century England, as the English expanded their trade routes and it became necessary for them to be able to communicate with those with whom they traded. At first, English was a common language for all that traded with England. A few centuries later, however, the British Empire began sending English teachers overseas, and they continued to do this for the following two-hundred years. English was mainly taught to the upper-class citizens of these other countries, and their government officials. However, the English learned by them, would eventually influence the rest of the colonists, who would also learn English.

The English understood that foreigners would not want to give up on their native language, which was still necessary for Languages of the Worldthose in power to communicate with others in their respective countries, and also to gain their trust and respect. Thus, bilingualism was very much encouraged.

From the 19th-20th centuries, as opportunities in the United States increased and expanded, immigrants began flocking to the US, in pursuit of the American dream. At first, bi-lingual education was taught in public and private schools, depending on the dominant language of the schools in that area, such as Spanish being the main language that was spoken in Arizona and New Mexico.

By the late 19th century, the United States, in need of its own identity, proclaimed English as its national language. Not much later, in 1906, the Naturalization Act was passed. And by the 1920s, English-only instruction began in the schools. Therefore, the immigrant children were taught the English language, that their parents were struggling to learn.

After WWII, ESL became prominent in learning about foreign languages and cooperating with those who speak other languages. Many teaching methods were implemented over the next four decades, most of which are still used in ESL education to this day.

Why English Is Hard To LearnBeing an ESL tutor is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It involves, in no small part, a certain amount of patience and understanding, but it is really something to witness the process of a student improve their English skills, and leading up to a satisfying result. And these students often want to learn more than just speaking and reading English, but they are interested in American culture as well. In turn, you will often learn  about their culture and customs, and how those customs identify with, and differ from, our own. I’ve also learned that my students are interested in learning American idioms. These idioms are rarely, if ever, literal. “It’s raining cats and dogs” for example, means that it’s pouring rain, not that dogs and cats are literally falling from the sky.

Becoming an ESL tutor is something to consider, if you have the time for it. It usually costs little to nothing. Even the books that the SBLC recommends don’t have to bought; these can be found in the library.

At the end of this post, I will include a link to the SBLC website. This is, of course, mainly for those who live in the South Bay area of Southern California, but if you live elsewhere, I can assure you that there are probably tutoring opportunities in your area. A quick Google search could turn up some potentially endless possibilities. And if you have the interest, time, and means to travel, you may even consider teaching English abroad. But regardless of the opportunity that you choose to seize, all of them are gratifying and enriching.

And you just may change someone’s life for the better!

SBLC Logo-page0001 (2)To learn more about volunteering as a tutor for the SBLC, and learn the dates and times of the upcoming information meetings, please visit:

Oh, To Travel In Time

Keep Calm and Time TravelTime travel has long been an interest of humankind. And I think that we all wish we could go back in time; either to redo or correct something we’ve done in the past, or to a time before we were born to see an ancient civilization, meet a favorite historic figure, etc. Many people would probably love to travel forward as well, to behold the future of our planet and our species.

Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre in London, England.

For myself, if I could travel backward in time, my first stop would be London, England, around 1590, to witness one of Shakespeare’s plays, starring Will and the rest of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in the Globe Theatre. Of course, I would also have a secondary motive of possibly meeting my literary hero, William Shakespeare himself. My second stop, would be Baltimore, Maryland, roughly three-hundred years later, to meet my second literary hero, Edgar Allan Poe. I would also love to meet Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, and several of my ancestors who could answer the genealogical questions that have me and other family members stumped.

The idea of time travel has always been an interest of mine, and being an avid science-fiction and fantasy reader, when it comes to the former, I tend to gravitate to the time travel stories. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many a great science-fiction story or novel that had nothing to do with time travel, but I have a special interest in the time travel stories. And as a science-fiction and fantasy writer, I have of course, incorporated this into a couple of my science-fiction short stories.

A Hundred Yards Over the Rim

A scene from “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”. Chris Horn from 1847 enters a 1960s diner.

The same goes for television and movies. For one, I am a huge fan of The Twilight Zone television series; the original one from the 1960s. I wasn’t born yet when they originally aired, but I have bought the DVDs of all five seasons, and watched them time and time again. There are many episodes about time travel. My favorite episode of the entire series is “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”. I won’t give anything away here, but in 1847, a train of covered wagons are traveling from Ohio, and  headed for California. Chris Horn is leading them, and as they are running out of food and water, Chris sets off over a nearby hill, (the rim), and ends up in 1961 New Mexico. I won’t say anything more about what happens, in case anybody wants to journey on over to YouTube or something to watch it.

Flight 33-Both Photos

Scenes from “The Odyssey of Flight 33”.

Another of my favorite episodes is called “The Odyssey of Flight 33”, and this is about a Global Airline flight in 1961 that, after experiencing increasing speed, severe turbulence, and and a flash of light, ends up way back in time. How far back? They look out the window and see a dinosaur. They try to enter the same jet stream as before, in an attempt to return to 1961. and end up at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. All I will say on this episode as well.

I have many favorite episodes, and most of them are about time travel, or, as I am also a US history buff, are about a historical event or figure.


The TARDIS from Doctor Who.

On the subject of TV shows, I am also a Whovian, and absolutely love Doctor Who.

As far as movies go, I also enjoy time travel movies, especially the Back To the Future series, the Terminator series, X-Men: Days of Future Past, (although I am a Marvel fan and enjoyed all the X-Men films), and being a Trekkie, I can’t leave out the three Star Trek time-travel movies; First Contact, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the Star Trek motion picture from 2009 and directed by J.J. Abrams.

Alexander Fomich Veltman

Alexander Fomich Veltman (1800-1870).

But what I would really like to find is an English copy of the 1836 Russian science-fiction novel, Predki Kalimerosa: Aleksandr Filippovich Makedonskii. English translation: The forebears of Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon. Almost sixty years before H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine, Alexander Fomich Veltman wrote the above-named book. And the reason that I would love to read it is because this was the first novel to use time travel; a feat that is accomplished by riding a hippogriff nonetheless. No offense meant to Wells of course, The Time Machine is not only a literary classic, it is also a terrific book. And speaking of great books about time travel, I can’t leave out Stephen King’s novella, The Langoliers, and the 1995 mini-series based on the novella. In addition, two of my all-time favorite books regarding traveling in time, are Domesday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, both by Connie Willis.

I do believe that one day, time travel will become possible. Sadly, this may not be during my lifetime; it may not be for another thousand years, but maybe one day. However, do let me introduce a paradox. If in fact, time travel does become possible in the future, whether it be tomorrow or the year 3000, people from the future would probably travel back in time to our present. They would have to blend in so as not to draw attention to themselves and thereby potentially alter their own present and future. They would use our modern vernacular and slang, dress the way we do, and only use technology that we already have now. Yes, you could be walking down the street and pass by someone from the future and you wouldn’t even know it.

Time Machine-from the movie

Illustration of the Time Machine used in the movie based on H.G. Wells’s novel.

Alas, since time travel is not yet a component of reality, I can still dream of it through the help of books, movies, and television shows that have me convinced that, even if I never see it, one day, someday, people will be able to climb into their time machines, (or their TARDIS, or aboard their hippogriffs), and travel back and forth in time to their hearts content.

The Big Top World

Mysterious Circus LogoI didn’t know until a few days that there was such a thing as World Circus Day-primarily because I didn’t look it up until the other day, curious as to whether something like that existed or not. And in case you are at all interested, it is on the third Saturday of every April.

Personally, I don’t particularly care much for circuses, and this is for two reasons: the mistreatment of circus animals, and clowns.
Maybe all circuses don’t mistreat their animals, and some don’t use animals at all. Nonetheless, there have been many reports about circus animals being abused, and in my opinion, the animals probably don’t enjoy being forced to perform on a regular basis.

On to my second point-clowns. I am terrified of clowns, as many people are. Even Ronald McDonald creeps me out, (in fact, to me, he is one of the creepiest clowns-after the one from “It”). I’ve never seen the movie and lack any desire to see it, however I often see the movie for sale, and the cover on the DVD case shows the clown. It freaks me out anytime I see it and I literally run away from it even when I’m inside a video store, I just run down a different aisle. So in short, the sight of a clown reduces me to a frightened little girl.

I have been to the circus, just once, when I was little, but I don’t really remember much about it. And I think I may really enjoy a Cirque du Soleil show.
Now, all that being said, I absolutely and surprisingly love books, stories, poems, movies, songs, and art that in any way depicts circuses or the circus life.  It’s inexplicable as I don’t like real circuses.

Circus-Fantasy Under the Big Top

Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top edited by Ekaterina Sedia.

A few examples: I recently read The Night Circus by Stephanie Morgenstern and I absolutely loved it! I was sad when it was over. Prior to that I also read a book called, Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top, edited by Ekaterina Sedia. This book contained a collection of short stories by various authors, and each story had something to do with a circus.

There is a song from 1974 by Three Dog Night called “The Show Must Go On” where being stuck in a circus life is used metaphorically to refer to making the right and wrong decisions in life. In the same year, there was also “Sideshow” by the Stylistics. It is not about a circus per se, but it has the opening with the Master of Ceremonies calling out, “Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! See the saddest show in town for only 50 cents!”. The sideshow however is comprised of those who have had their hearts broken.

Then there is Journey’s 1983 song “Faithfully.” It is about a music man who is touring, and the hardships of raising a family while on the road. It was written by Jonathan Cain, the keyboard player for Journey, about how being a married man on tour in a rock band can be difficult on the relationship. The cirucs theme in this however, is alluded to mostly in the third verse of the song.

And of course, as a huge Beatles fan, I must include “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, which was on their 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Julius Fucik 3

Julius Fučík          (1872-1916)

However, while we are this on theme of circus-related songs, I must mention Julius Fučík. He was a Czech composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born in Prague, Bohemia on July 18, 1872. As a student, Fučík  learned to play the bassoon, the violin, and a variety of percussion instruments. He later studied composition as well. He joined the 49th Austro-Hungarian Regiment as a military musician in 1891. Three years later, Fučík would leave the military so that he could take up the position of second bassoonist at the German Theatre. During which time, he also wrote several chamber music pieces.

So what does this man have to do with the circus? You might well ask. And I’m getting there.

Fučík would rejoin the army and be the bandmaster of the 86th Infantry Regiment. Shortly after this, he would write his most famous piece: “Einzug der Gladitoren”, or “Entrance of the Gladiators”, sometimes called “Entry of the Gladiators”.

Never heard of it? Quite possible. But you have probably heard it. It is the piece of music that is often used in circuses, and is mostly used to introduce the fear-inducing clowns. Nevertheless, I love this music; when I hear it, I can’t help but think of the circus. And if you listen to the above-mentioned, “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, you will hear, and probabl, recognize, it. It is the intro music to the song. And “Sideshow” by the Stylistics, also plays this music in the background, under the voice of the MC, yet this is a more stylized and slower version of it.

Now “Entrance of the Gladiators” was not written for use in a circus environment. The name derived from Fučík’s interest in the Roman Empire, (he changed it from it’s first title “Grande Marche Chromatique”), and it was originally written as a military march; if you listen to the entire score, it does sound like a military march as the music progresses.Entry of the Gladiators

In North America, in 1910, Canadian composer, Louis-Philipp Laurendeau, arranged “Entrance of the Guardians” for a small band, and he sold his version of it throughout North America, under the title “Thunder and Blazes”.  And this is when the score became popular for use in circuses, though in the Czech Republic, “Entrance of the Guardians” is still played today as patriotic music. His other well-known musical score is “The Florentiner March”.

Fučík’s military band was based in Sarajevo, and in 1900 moved to Budapest. There was a lot of competition there at the time, but he did find eight regimental bands that were willing to play his music. Then years later, Fučík returned to Bohemia, becoming the bandmaster of the 92nd Regiment in Theresienstadt;  a military fortress and walled garrison of the time, located in the Czech Republic. He toured with this regiment to Prague and Berlin, giving concerts to audiences of more than ten-thousand people.

He started his own band in 1913 and his own music publishing company, in Berlin, where he eventually settled. The band was called Prager Tonkünstler-Orchester; the music publishing company was called Tempo Verlag, and Fučík created it in order to market his compositions.

But then, in 1914, WWI happened, and his fortunes began to lessen. Due to the economic hardships caused by the war, Fučík’s business failed, and his health began to suffer as well. He died two years later on November 26, 1916 in Berlin; he was only forty-four years old. He is now buried at Vinohrady Cemetery in Prague.

Blue Circus Tent

The Ladies of War

In June of last year, I did a blog post on the Lady Hawkins titled “Death of A Lady”. She was one of five Lady Boats that were built as luxury liners, yet ended up partaking in World War Two. I wrote about that one Lady Boat in particular because my great-grandfather, Ervin Oscar Allen, was one of the many people who perished when that boat was sunk by a U-boat in World War Two. I mentioned the other Lady Boats, yet only fleetingly.

-Lady- Liner Voyages

Advertisement for the “Lady Liners”.

However, in doing more research, not only on the Lady Hawkins, but the five Lady Liners in general, I realized that it doesn’t seem right to focus on only one of the ships, when the other four also took part in the war, and suffered losses as well. So here, I want to focus on the other four Lady Boats; I will not go into much detail about the Lady Hawkins as I have already written about her, and anyone who is interested may go back to that particular blog to read about her.

All five boats were named for the wives of Elizabethan British admirals that had a connection to the West Indies. They were owned by Canadian National Steamships Co. Ltd, and built by Cammel Laird & Co.

The Lady Liners were built for Canada-West Indies service, and consisted of two different lines: an eastern-route one and a western-route one. Three of the five ships, Lady Nelson, Lady Hawkins, and Lady Drake were the three eastern-route ships. They could each carry 130 first-class passengers, 32 second-class, 56 third-class, and 120 deck passengers. They also had 4,179 square feet available for general cargo, with an additional 554 square feet for refrigerated cargo.

On the western route were the Lady Somers and Lady Drake. Both weighed 4,665 tons and could accommodate the same number of  cabin passengers as their sister ships, yet carried no deck passengers. Their general cargo space was 4,760 square feet, with 594 square feet for refrigerated cargo.

Lady Somers

HMS Lady Somers.

The five ships shared roughly the same overall dimensions; 437 feet long and 59 feet wide. They had four oil-fired boilers that propelled them along at the speed of 15 knots. The total cost to build the five ships was $8,106,542.32.

Lady Nelson at 7,970 tons, was the first ship built and was launched on her maiden voyage out of Halifax on Dec. 14, 1928; Lady Hawkins (7,988 tons) and Lady Drake (7,985 tons) soon followed her.

All five ships served as luxury liners from their launch until the war began. Flags were raised and lowered everyday in a formal ceremony. Captains and service officers wore uniform frock coats when sailing and when arriving at a home port. Dinner was a full-dress affair, and was announced by a cornet playing “The Roast Beef of Old England”. A two-week, roundtrip cruise, typically ran at $95. Lady Somers offered a “honeymoon special” during one summer, for $85. Liquor was plentiful and cheap; one captain became legendary when he appeared on the bridge of his ship while at sea, demanding to know where his ship was.

However, the Lady Boats entered into service just as the Great Depression sat in, which dramatically affected their revenues. Nonetheless, their futures were assured by the outbreak of WWII, and their sparkling white had to be painted in a duller wartime gray.

Lady Hawkins

HMS Lady Hawkins.

For the first year of the war, the Lady Boats were unaffected. However, in October 1940, the Lady Somers was requested by the Canadian government, who converted her to an auxiliary armed cruiser. She became the first Canadian merchant ship to go to war, and she assisted in enforcing the blockade against occupied Europe. Less than a year later though, she was sunk in the Bay of Biscay,on July 16, 1941.

The Lady Hawkins, under the command of Captain Huntley Osborne Giffen, was the next one to meet her unfortunate fate, when she was sunk on January 19, 1942. Commanded by Kapitänleutnant Richard Zapp, U-66 torpedoed Lady Hawkins off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. She set sail on January 16th with 321 passengers and crew; 71 of them survived after spending five days adrift in the only remaining lifeboat, whose maximum capacity was 63.  Seventy-six of the survivors made it into the lifeboat, yet five of them lost their lives before they were rescued by the S.S. Coamo.

Lady Nelson

HMS Lady Nelson.

Two months later, in March 1942 the Lady Nelson was torpedoed by U-161, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Albrecht Achilles, alongside the coast of Castries, St. Lucia. Like the Lady Hawkins, Lady Nelson was struck by two torpedoes. The first one struck  Lady Nelson, while the second struck a British ship. The first torpedo sunk the Lady Nelson immediately, and killed 15 passengers and three crewmen. She sank in a shallow harbor and was eventually refloated and repaired. In April 1943, the Lady Nelson was converted into Canada’s first hospital ship; she was commissioned on April 22, 1943, carrying 515 beds and completing 30 unscathed voyages by February 1946, bringing home 25,000 wounded men.

Lady Nelson hospital ship

HMS Lady Nelson fitted as a hospital ship.

Lady Drake was now under the command of Percy Ambrose Kelly, who only four months earlier had survived the Lady Hawkins catastrophe. Kelly commanded the lifeboat and rationed the little bit of food and drink available to them. He was later hailed by the other Lady Hawkins survivors as a hero and they credited him with saving their lives. For his bravery and leadership after the sinking, Kelly was subsequently awarded the Lloyd’s Medal For Bravery, and he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

On May 8, 1942 Kelly would relive the tragic events of the Lady Hawkins sinking, though on a lesser scale. Whilst traveling from Bermuda to St. John,  Kapitänleutnant Hermann Rasch’s U-106 struck the vessel. Lady Drake sank slowly; twelve people lost their lives, yet 260 made it to the lifeboats. One survivor would later recall that, “Nobody even got their feet wet.”  A liner was spotted coming toward the lifeboats the next morning at dawn. It came toward them at a high speed, before sailing away just as quickly. It was the Queen Mary sailing on her way to New York. She had been pressed into service as a fast troopship, and could not stop for the survivors because of the danger posed by lurking submarines. As she sailed away however, her lamp repeatedly signaled, “I will report…I will report.” On the third morning, an American  minesweeper, USS Owl, picked up the survivors and took them to Bermuda.

HMS Lady Drake.

By now, four of the five Lady Boats had been sunk, thus convincing the Canadian Royal Navy that there was a need for escorts. Now, when the Lady Rodney sailed, she was accompanied by an RCN corvette. She remained the only Lady Boat not sunk during the war, even though she did have a few narrow escapes when spotted by U-boats. By the end of the war, Lady Rodney had safely transported nearly 60,000 troops and 66,000 passengers.

She was captained by Edward LeBlanc and had quite an ordeal when it came time to paint the ship gray. While traveling south from Montreal, a radio message announced that war had been declared against Germany, thus the crew began to paint the ship gray. However, when they reached Bermuda, they were told that Canada was not at war and that no changes were to be made, so the crew painted the Lady Rodney back to her original white while en route to the Bahamas. But when they reached Nassau, they were informed that Canada was now at war and that the ship would have to be painted gray.  Captain LeBlanc was not very pleased about the third repainting of his ship in the short period of only a few days.

HMS Lady Rodney.

In the end, Lady Nelson and Lady Rodney were the only Lady Liners to survive the war. Postwar, in 1946, they were used to bring war brides and their children home from Britain to Canada through Halifax. These expeditions were called Diaper Specials and they continued for one year. They were sold to Egypt in 1952 for $750,000. In Alexandria, they were refitted and repainted, and then used to carry passengers in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Lady Nelson was renamed Gumhuryat Misr, for Alexandria’s Khedivial Mail Line. In 1960, and for the same company, she was renamed again, this time she was called Alwadi. She was broken up in Egypt in 1968.

Lady Rodney was renamed Mecca, and then was ultimately scuttled in 1967.

Gumhuryat Misr

Gumhuryat Misr, formerly Lady Nelson.


Mecca, formerly Lady Rodney.