The Pork Chop That May Have Saved the World

Scali Table (Photo Source: Occidental Grill & Seafood Website) “Dining Room - Occidental Grill & Seafood.” n.d. Accessed March 6, 2018. http://www.occidentaldc.com/gallery/dining-room/

When President Kennedy addressed the nation on October 22nd, 1962 informing American citizens of Soviet missile sites in Cuba, he didn’t know that the months-long scare he referred to would be over just six days later. Four days after JFK’s speech, two men sat down to lunch at the Occidental Restaurant located two blocks from the White House. One ordered a pork chop and the other crab cakes. Despite how it may seem, this was no ordinary lunch. In fact, it is considered to have played a major role in ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth's Abduction Plot Gone Wrong

The story is well known: on April 14, 1865, actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. Lincoln died the next morning in a boarding house across from the theater. Booth escaped – temporarily -- but was shot 12 days later in Virginia. 

What is lesser known is that Booth did not always plan on killing Lincoln. In fact, the actor’s original plan was not to strike a fatal blow. He wanted to abduct Lincoln, take him to Richmond and exchange him for Confederate soldiers then held in Union prisons.

Smokey the Bear, 20252

The original Smokey Bear frolicking in a pool at the National Zoological Park. (Photo credit: Francine Schroeder, used for educational purposes according to Smithsonian Archives terms of use.)

“Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

Many of us, especially former Boy Scouts like myself, probably associate that statement with campfire safety. Indeed, Smokey the Bear has been around for as long as most of us can remember, reminding us follow safe fire practices in the backcountry. However, Smokey’s message – and even the bear himself – didn’t have much to do with campfires at first. His story actually dates to World War II and has a definite Washington flavor to it.

Mister Rogers Comes to Washington

Fred Rogers on the set of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (Fred Rogers Company)

Fred Rogers, creator and host of the longtime children's television landmark Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, is most closely associated with Pittsburgh, where he produced his program at local PBS station WQED. He made two very significant visits to Washington, D.C., however, one near the beginning of his career, and the second towards the end of his life.

Grassroots History: The Annual D.C. Baseball History Meeting

Washington Senators team stands on first baseline at RFK Stadium, April 5, 1971. (Photo by Marion S. Trikosko, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress)

It's pretty common for historical societies or universities to sponsor history conferences. They generally have budgets (albeit small ones) and staffs to put on events. But, the annual D.C. Baseball History Meeting is something different. Each February, almost all by himself, Mark Hornbaker creates a unique event for local baseball history enthusiasts.

On his own dime, Hornbaker brings different speakers — including former Washington Senators and Nationals players, authors and journalists — to town for a discussion of the history of the national pasttime in Washington. A packed room of 80 attendees come (for free!) to enjoy stories and share some of their own. We recently sat down with Mark to discuss this year's meeting, how he got interested in D.C. baseball history, and how he pulls off the event.

From Crystal City to Cuba: The Tullers' International Crime Spree

Bullet hole in the door of Arlington Trust Company bank in Crystal City, where the Tuller's crime spree began in 1972. (Reprinted with permission of DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post)

At 10:30am on October 25, 1972, two workers stepped out of a C&P Telephone van and into the Crystal City branch of the Arlington Trust Company. The bank’s phones had been down for nearly half an hour and manager Henry “Bud” Candee was eager to resume normal business. He met the repairmen in the lobby and led them to a service panel at the back of the bank. Unbeknownst to Candee, the technicians were frauds. They had stolen the uniforms and the van and had themselves caused the phone outage by climbing down a nearby manhole and severing the bank’s phone lines. But what was meant to be a relatively simple robbery, turned out to be the first act in one of the most dramatic – and bizarre – crime sprees in U.S. history.

Ford's Theatre sign. (Credit: Flick user @mr_t_in_dc Licensed via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

The Curtain Rises Again at Ford's Theatre

As we’ve discussed previously on this blog, President Lincoln wasn’t the only victim when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. There were several others who were victimized that night – some hauntingly so. What sometimes gets lost, though, is the impact of the assassination on the theater itself.