From the Annals of the Blue Northers – In 1899, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Texas occurred in Tulia. Thermometers recorded a temperature of minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit. The frigid air was part of the “Big Freeze” (a/k/a the Great Blizzard of 1899) perhaps the most famous blue norther ever to reach the state. Record lows that still stand today were recorded across much of the eastern U.S. including the only subzero temperature ever recorded in Florida. In Texas, the blizzard killed thousands of head of livestock and damaged crops.
From the Annals of the Republic – In 1842, sailors and marines stationed on the Texas Navy schooner San Antonio mutinied. The SA was anchored in the Mississippi River at New Orleans at the time. Most of the officers were allowed shore leave but sailors and marines were confined aboard because of fear of desertion. Some enterprising New Orleans citizen smuggled liquor to the ensconced sailors and marines who under marine sergeant Seymour Oswalt, began an unsuccessful mutiny demanding shore leave. Lt. Charles Fuller ordered the marine guard to stand ground at which point Oswalt attacked Fuller with a tomahawk. In the ensuing fight, Lt. Fuller was shot and killed. Most of the mutineers fled the ship where they were captured and placed in jail in New Orleans. Louisiana refused to extradite them back to Texas, but a few mutineers who had not escaped the ship met a different fate. The head of the Texas Navy, Commodore Edwin Moore court-martialed some of the remaining mutineers. Three were sentenced to flogging, and four were hanged from the yardarm of the Austin on April 6, 1843. Sgt. Oswalt himself escaped from jail in New Orleans and was never brought to justice. Shortly afterward, the San Antonio was dispatched to Campeche but was lost at sea.
From the Annals of the War Presidents – In 1966, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson met with South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky in Honolulu. At the time, American involvement in the Vietnam War was already spiraling out of control and the motivation for the talks may have been to address growing public opinion against the war. The talks resulted in the issuance of a joint declaration in which the United States promised to help South Vietnam “prevent aggression” and establish “the principles of self-determination of peoples and government by the consent of the governed.” As part of his public relations campaign for continuing the war, Johnson declared: “We are determined to win not only military victory but victory over hunger, disease, and despair.” Johnson referred to this as “The Other War” meaning the supposed effort to improve the lives of the South Vietnamese through increased security, and economic and social programs to win the so-called “hearts and minds.” Red does not need to point out the utter failure of all of this.
From the Annals of Racism – In 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas determined that the presence of any more free black citizens in the Republic was utterly intolerable. As such, the Congress passed the racist Law of February 5. These legislators (which included many of the founding fathers of the Republic) were apparently concerned that the presence of any more than the very few free blacks in the Republic would somehow affect the status of slavery. And after all, the protection of slavery had been a major motivating force for the revolution as slavery was outlawed in Mexico in 1829 by its partially black President Vicente Guerrero. The law declared that all free blacks who had entered Texas after the Texas Declaration of Independence must leave the Republic within two years or be declared slaves for the rest of their lives. Free blacks already in the Republic before Texas independence would continue to have all the rights of their white neighbors – which in practice they did not.
From the Annals of the Anagrams – In 1829, the Mexican government officially changed the name of La Bahía to Villa de Goliad. Coahuila y Texas state legislator Rafael Antonio Manchola had proposed the name change because neither the settlement around the mission and presidio of the same name was not located on “the bay.” He suggested the name of “Goliad” which was a partial anagram to honor Father Hidalgo, one of the leaders of the fight for Mexican independence.
From the Annals of Space Exploration – In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up upon reentry killing all seven astronauts. It was the second catastrophic failure of the Space Shuttle program following the Challenger which exploded about a minute after liftoff in 1986. The problem occurred during the launch when a piece of foam insulation broke off from the external tank and struck insulating tile under the left wing of the Shuttle craft. NASA was aware of this problem as previous shuttle launches had seen foam shedding damage in various degrees. Some NASA engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was serious, but managers limited the investigation arguing that any fix was impossible even if a major problem was confirmed. The engineers were right and when Columbia re-entered the atmosphere hot gasses penetrated the heat shield causing the Shuttle to ultimately break apart. A massive search and recovery mission ensued with pieces of Columbia being primarily found over a 28,000 square mile area of Texas and Louisiana.
National Weather Service Radar Image of Columbia breakup upon reentry.
From the Annals of the Hoteliers – In 1859, The Menger Hotel opened on what is now Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. The hotel was the idea of William Menger was a local brewer. Menger hired an architect, John M. Fries, along with a contractor, J. H. Kampmann, to build a two-story, 50-room hotel which would be the first top rate hotel of its kind in San Antonio. The Menger has been in more or less continuous operations under several owners and has expanded several times since its opening. It is renown for its mahogany paneled Menger Bar (where Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders), the Spanish Patio Garden, an elegant and spacious main lobby and the Colonial Dining Room. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although remodeled, the original part of the hotel still stands and one can imagine the wonder of travelers at finding such an oasis in San Antonio. The Menger continues to serve as a center for meetings and other social affairs in San Antonio. And it is one of Red’s favorite hotels in Texas.