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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

February 16, 1968

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a very snowy Tuesday here at A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE!

Yes, we may be having a winter storm right now, but we're going to go ahead with the TUESDAY TIMELINE anyway because that's how I roll.

I will be the first to admit that I had a difficult time finding something to write about because February 16 hasn't exactly been one of the most memorable dates as far as historical significance goes.  However, I thought about it, and came up with a solution.  And I didn't have to call anyone for help either!

And after leaving you with that vague reference, I think I'll go ahead and post some of the items that didn't make the cut.  Here's what happened in history on the sixteenth of February.

1742 - The Earl of Wilmington - Spencer Compton - becomes the Prime Minister of Britain

1804 - Stephen Decatur leads a raid to burn the USS Philadelphia during the First Barbary War

1852 - Studebaker Brothers Wagon Company is established

1862 - General Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Donelson, Tennessee during the American Civil War

1874 - The silver dollar becomes legal tender in the United States

1881 - The Canadian Pacific Railway is incorporated by Act of Parliament at Ottawa

1923 - Howard Carter unseals the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun

1935 - Singer/politician Sonny Bono (d. 1998) is born in Detroit, Michigan

1937 - Wallace H. Carothers is granted a patent for a new material - nylon

1940 - 299 British prisoners are freed from the German tanker Altmark by a group of British sailors during World War II

1954 - Model/actress Margaux Hemingway (d. 1996) is born in Portland, Oregon

1957 - The "Toddlers' Truce" is abolished in the United Kingdom

1959 - Fidel Castro becomes Premier of Cuba

1961 - The DuSable Museum of African American History is chartered

1978 - The first computer bulletin board system is created in Chicago

1990 - New York City based artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS, aged 31

1998 - In Taiwan, 196 passengers aboard China Airlines Flight 676 die when the plane crashes into a residential area - seven more die on the ground

2005 - Due to lingering effects from the players going on strike, the 2004/2005 hockey season and playoffs are canceled by the National Hockey League

2006 - The final MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) is decommissioned by the United States Army

2015 - Singer Lesley Gore passes away at the age of 68

And celebrating a birthday today are the following people; Marlene Hagge, Paul Bailey, Barry Primus, Andy Van Hellemond, Bob Didler, William Katt, James Ingram, LeVar Burton, Ice-T, Herb Williams, John McEnroe, Pete Willis, Andy Taylor, Christopher Eccleston, Dave Lombardo, Keith Gretzky, Tammy Macintosh, Amanda Holden, Jerome Bettis, Sarah Clarke, Maureen Johnson, Luis Figueroa, John Tartaglia, John Magaro, Elizabeth Olsen, and The Weeknd.

All right.  So, let's hop in our time machines and see where we're going back in time to today.

February 16, 1968.  I wonder what was so significant about that date?  Let me think.  Urgh...where's William Shatner when I need him?

No, this post is not Star Trek themed.  But William Shatner did host a television show that aired when I was in my preteen years.  It was a show that focused on people who got themselves in scary situations, be it trapped in a house fire, or getting in a car accident, or even something silly like getting your tongue stuck on a low-hanging icicle in the freezer and having your little brother try to call for help.

(Yes, believe it or not, there was an episode of "Rescue 911" that had that very subject.)

But anyway, "Rescue 911" was a show that I really loved watching.  It was a show that celebrated just how hard working and professional 911 dispatchers were and balanced some of the most chilling stories with the lighthearted.  But one thing that was in common with all of these stories were the dispatchers who more often than not were very special people who had the patience of a saint and the heart of a hero, determined to get help for whoever needed it as quickly as they could while staying calm.  The part I liked best about the show was that sometimes the people who called 911 would be reunited with the 911 dispatcher that more often than not saved their lives.  That was always nice to see.  I guess you could call Rescue 911 one of the earliest instances of reality television.

Of course, it got me thinking.  911 has always been available in the United States as long as I've been alive, and was implemented in my area sometime in the mid-1990s (though some urban areas in Canada received the service as early as 1972).  But when exactly did 911 service get implemented into North America in the first place?

Well, it was exactly 48 years ago today, on February 16, 1968 in the community of Haleyville, Alabama.  The first call was placed by Rankin Fite, who was then the Speaker of the House for the state of Alabama, as a test of the system, and while it took some time for the number to catch on, by 1990, most of the lower 48 states were connected to the 911 service grid.

Today, 911 is considered by many to be an instant lifeline for many people who need medical assistance or who are trapped in perilous positions, and it is estimated that the number receives more than twelve million calls a year.

It certainly became a more efficient way to ask for help, given how primitive the service was prior to 1968.  Back in the days of the rotary phone, people would have to rely on an operator switchboard assistant to provide someone in distress some help.

And, lord help you if you ended up with someone like her at the switchboard!

All kidding aside though, while operators would often do their best to try and get a fire truck or ambulance to the person calling for help, it was a slow procedure - one that definitely needed improving.

It's interesting to note that before 911 came into existence, another number - 999 was used by the United Kingdom.  The country started the service in the late 1930s, and as of 2016 is still used as the main emergency number in that area.  But it took the United States another thirty years to catch up, with the American government finally passing the bill that would create the 911 system as we know it in 1967.

And it's amazing to know that in the 48 years since the first 911 call was made that it is a service now available to 98% of people who live in Canada and the United States...and that millions of lives have been saved because of those three little numbers.

Makes you stop and think, doesn't it?

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