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I Saw My Entire Life Flash Before My Eyes, Part III

Luis Martinez-Fernandez on

You know the saying: "dog bites man" is not news, but "man bites dog" is. Years ago, I actually came across a true Miami Herald man-bites-dog story from 1996.

Such "weird" news stories have dotted newspapers for a long time, providing respite from news about crime, natural disasters, wars and politics. Several odd news stories caught my attention as I scanned through reels of microfilmed old newspapers at the Library of Congress.

FLORIDA'S A BRIDGE TOO FAR

Florida, my home state, is a fountain of odd and strange stories (some of which overlap with political news). That may not surprise you.

Headline: "Florida wants to Annex V(irgin) I(slands)." According to this 1964 story, Democratic congressman from Jacksonville, Florida, Charles E. Bennett proposed the annexation of the U.S. Virgin Islands to be absorbed as Florida's 68th county. He explained the project's feasibility by saying that some of Alaska's islands were farther away from the mainland than the U.S. Virgin Islands from Florida. Four decades after this story's publication, a Jacksonville bridge was renamed Charles E. Bennett Memorial Bridge, spanning not to Frederiksted, Saint Croix, but across the Intracoastal Waterway.

BARNEY'S MASSACHUSETTS NIGHTMARE

 

As sober and proper as Massachusetts can be, it has generated its fair share of news-story curiosities. Did you know that Puritans banned Christmas celebrations early in the colony's history? Or that in 1919 a wave of hot molasses (an essential ingredient in Boston baked beans) flooded Boston's East End? It's actually not funny; 21 died and hundreds were injured. The disaster has come to be known as the Great Molasses Flood.

Headline: "A Brutal Attack on Barney." It happened in April 1994 in Worcester, Massachusetts, whose official webpage claims it is "the country's most vibrant and livable mid-sized city." At a drugstore opening a young man beat up Barney; not Rep. Barney Frank, but the "I love you, you love me" Barney. According to the story, the victim was wearing an unauthorized Barney costume, which an official of the Barney Fan Club characterized as "grossly illegal." Vibrant and livable, perhaps, but don't visit in a Barney costume.

PINK HAIR CRIME IN CONNECTICUT

Pink hair has become acceptable, actually fashionable. Think Cyndi Lauper, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, even Helen Mirren. But that was not the case three decades ago, when students at New Milford, Connecticut's Schaghticoke Middle School could get into deep trouble for dyeing their hair pink.

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