Today in History: Excelsior!

Many years later, Stan Lee told an interviewer that he had been, “The ultimate hack. I was probably the hackiest hack that ever lived. I wrote whatever they told me to write the way they told me to write it. It didn’t matter: War stories, crime, Westerns, horror, humor; I wrote everything.” The “they” for whom he was writing everything was Atlas Comics (previously Timely Publications). He grew fed up and vowed to quit.

His wife Joan suggested that if he was going to quit, why not go out on his own terms and write a comic that he could be proud of. He and artist Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four, superheroes that retained the “human” part of “superhuman.” He did not quit Atlas Comics, not was he fired. The company eventually changed its name to Marvel Comics, and Lee continued to create characters and story lines that are now a deep part of our culture.

He is even a big enough star in his own right that there are one-sixth scale action figures of Stan Lee available (see in the photo at top).

Stan Lee is 94 today. That is sufficient reason to share this video from 2012 of Mr. Lee reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (after the jump):

* * * *
Harriet Tubman’s final rescue mission on the Underground Railroad ended with her safe arrival in Auburn, New York, on this date in 1860. She had conducted approximately 13 rescue missions to free slaves in the South over the previous decade and she personally rescued about 70.

* * * *
Montgomery Ward, a department store chain with hundreds of stores across the United States and a vast retail-by-mail catalog service, announced that it was going out of business on this date in 2000. The company laid off 37,000 employees and closed its remaining 250 stores within weeks. The retailer had been in business continuously since 1872.

If you ever shopped in the Montgomery Ward in Poughkeepsie, New York, between the years 1986 and 1990, you might have met me. I hope I was not unpleasant. I still have dreams in which I am arriving late for work there. (A direct marketing company bought the names “Montgomery Ward” and “Wards” as intellectual property and started doing retail business under those names in 2004. The logos are the same and there is a lineage from one to the next, in that this company purchased the names from the enterprise that held them, but it is not the same company.)

* * * *
Dennis Wilson died on this date in 1983. Clayton Moore died in 1999 on this date. Susan Sontag died in 2004 on this date. Billy Taylor died on this date in 2010. Lemmy died one year ago today.

* * * *
President Woodrow Wilson was born 160 years ago today. Earl Hines was born in 1903 on this date. Pops Staples was born on this date in 1915. Martin Milner was born on this date in 1931. Guy Debord was born in 1931 on this date.

* * * *
Nichelle Nichols is 84 today. Jack Perkins is 83 today. Dame Maggie Smith is 82 today. Lawrence Schiller is 80. Don Francisco (Sábado Gigante) is 76 today. Edgar Winter is 70 today. Ian Buruma is 65 today. Rosie Vela is 64 today. Denzel Washington is 62 today. Willow Bay is 53 today. Linus Torvalds is 47. Seth Meyers is 43 today. John Legend is 38. Sienna Miller is 35.

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  1. loisajay · December 28, 2016

    When I moved down here to sunny FL from NJ, my very first job was at Montgomery Wards–Store Manager Secretary, thank you very much. Half the people I knew in town worked at old Monkey Wards. Fun memories, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · December 28, 2016

      It was a good company to work for. I was always a sales associate (I think that was the title) and managers in different departments would hire me. My store was one that still had a restaurant for customers on the premises when I was hired. That enterprise was shut down by 1987. My first job was in the paint department: the very first can of paint I mixed (a quart, not a gallon) was launched from the paint shaker because of my inexpert handling. That explosion of blue paint remained there on the floor till the day I left and beyond, and I fantasize that it is still there, unexplained, on the floor of whichever department sits on it in the Price Chopper that now occupies the building.

      Liked by 1 person

      • loisajay · December 28, 2016

        My store had a restaurant, too! Ray, a very funny Chinese man, was the restaurant manager. He was a riot when the Operations Manager would try to tell him how to prepare the food. Ha! I am laughing with you, not at you, with your paint explosion. Yeah, I’d have busted up if I’d seen that. So much fun to have these memories.


  2. rogershipp · December 28, 2016

    Today, I went to President Wilson’s 160th birthday party. I live about 45 minutes from his birthplace. It was very nice. I think I am taking my spring archaeology class there this year. It was a grand place for some pictures.


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