Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass on National Mall, 1979. (AP/Paul Vathis)

D.C.'s First Papal Visit, 1979

Streets are being shut down... Huge crowds are expected to overwhelm the city's Metro system... There are security concerns... For longtime Washingtonians, the excitement over Pope Francis's inaugural visit is like turning back the clock.

Pope John Paul II during his 1993 visit to the United States. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Pope's Condo in Alexandria

Every house has a history but few can say that they were blessed by the Pope – especially here in America. There is, however, one Alexandria, Virginia condominium unit that can make the claim. In 1976, while still a cardinal, the future Pope John Paul II visited the Parkfairfax apartment of Polish-American journalist John Szostak and offered his blessing... after a near accident with a Batmobile toy belonging to one of Szostak's children.

George Wallace Shot in Laurel, 1972

Gov. George Wallace addresses the crowd at his May 15, 1972 campaign stop in Laurel, Maryland. Moments after this photo was taken he was shot by Arthur Bremer. (Photo by Mabel Hobart)

May 15, 1972… It was a little after 3pm when the South's most vocal segregationist stepped to the podium. Alabama Governor George Wallace was running for President of the United States and, with the Maryland Democratic primary a day away, the campaign trail had brought him to Laurel. From atop a stage in the Laurel Shopping Center parking lot, Wallace offered his distinct view of America. Suddenly, shots rang out.

May 1970: College Park Explodes

Student protesters face down riot police on Route 1, University of Maryland, 1970 (Photo source: University of Maryland Special Collections)

The May 4, 1970 antiwar protest at Kent State University in Ohio, in which National Guard troops fired into a crowd of demonstrators protesting the Nixon Administration's invasion of Cambodia and shot four of them dead, was a traumatic event that burned itself into the American collective memory.  A photo of a teenage girl crying out in shock over the body of one of the slain students became, for many, the iconic image that captured a frighteningly turbulent time.

But it's almost forgotten that the University of Maryland's flagship campus in College Park was rocked by a protest that was bigger and possibly more raucous than the one at Kent State.

On April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced the attack on Cambodia in a televised address to the nation. (Photo: Jack E.Kightlinger/NARA)

Nixon’s Weirdest Day

On April 20, 1970 President Nixon addressed the nation outlining his plan for the withdrawal of 150,000 troops from Vietnam. Ten days later however, the anti-war movement was stunned by his announcement of a major new escalation in the fighting — the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Campuses across the country exploded in dissent, culminating in the killing of four students at Kent State University by National Guard troops on May 4.

In the tense days following Kent State, impromptu rallies erupted all over the Washington region, and a major demonstration was planned for May 9 on the National Mall. Law enforcement entities went on hair trigger alert, mobilizing all available resources including the entire D.C. police force and 5,000 locally-stationed troops.

It was in this combustible atmosphere that an idea germinated in Richard Nixon’s muddled mind in the wee hours of May 9, 1970. It would prove to be one of the most bizarre incidents of his presidency, and that’s saying a lot.

Coach "Lefty" Driesell puffed on a cigar while his players huffed and puffed around the track at midnight on October 15, 1971. (Photo source: NCAA.com)

Midnight Madness Starts at Maryland, 1971

Coaches are always looking for an edge on the competition but former University of Maryland basketball boss, Charles “Lefty” Driesell may have been the best – or at least the most original. Case and point: October 15, 1971.

In an effort to keep everything fair and just, the NCAA has rules. [Insert your own joke here.] One of those rules concerns when teams are allowed to begin practicing at the start of a season. In 1971, the magic date was October 15 and Driesell wasn’t about to let any time go to waste.

So, at 12:03am – when presumably the competition was sleeping… or doing what college kids do in the wee hours of the morning – he blew the whistle to start his team’s first practice. In doing so, he unknowingly created a fad, which took off – first at Maryland and, soon, at other schools.

Bob Marley performs on stage in Ireland in 1980. No doubt the crowd was a lot more enthusiastic than the one at his 1973 U.S. Naval Academy gig. (Photo source: Flickr user monosnaps. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.)

Washington Wasn't Quite Ready for Bob Marley in 1973

Today, it's common to see people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Bob Marley's instantly recognizable likeness, and the reggae classics that he recorded with the Wailers are so iconic that they're used in TV commercials.

But back on the afternoon of October 14, 1973, when the then-28-year-old singer with the dreadlocks and whispy beard and his band stepped out onto the stage at the U.S. Naval Academy's Halsey Field House, things were quite different. It's a safe bet that hardly anyone in the audience even knew who Marley and the Wailers were, or had heard their LP Catch A Fire, which Rolling Stone critic Rob Haughton had lauded as filled with "lilting tunes of hypnotic character headed by super-progressive lead guitar work, Motown variations, and cowboy nuances, all backed by the tricky Jamaican beat that serves to keep the decibel level in a moderate range."

Arlington's Roberta Flack Gets Her Start at Mr. Henry's

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Roberta Flack started playing the piano at an early age. When she was five, her family moved to the Nauck community in Arlington and she took up the organ, lending her musical talents to Macedonia Baptist Church. At 15, she entered Howard University with a full music scholarship and, by 19, she was a college graduate seeking.

She accepted a position in a segregated school district in Farmville, North Carolina and wound up being the only music teacher for 1300 students, kindergarten through 12th grade. “I lost 40 pounds and almost had a nervous breakdown but we did some beautiful things that year.”[1]

Flack returned to Washington and taught at Rabaut Junior High School and Brown Junior High School. In the evenings, she started performing – first at the Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights and then at Mr. Henry’s, a Capitol Hill nightclub at 6th and Pennsylvania Ave, SE, which was owned by Henry Yaffe.

Before DC United, We Had the Ill-Starred Washington Diplomats

Today, soccer finally is a big enough deal in Washington that DC council is considering a proposed $119 million deal to acquire land at Buzzard Point for a new stadium for DC United, the district's team in Major League Soccer. The franchise has been playing since 1996 at antiquated RFK Stadium, which will turn 43 years old in the fall. But RFK always will have a storied place in local soccer history. In addition to serving as one of the host sites for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, it also was the home of a string of teams from the 1960s through the 1980s  —  forgotten names such as the Whips, the Darts, the Washington Diplomats, and Team America — who unsuccessfully tried to establish the sport here.

Of those ill-fated franchises, the most long-lived was the original Washington Diplomats, who played in the now-defunct North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1980.