Feb. 19, 2011 editorial: Getting to know the chiefs

Feb. 19, 2011

In the stunning book "Unbroken," by Laura Hillenbrand, the true World War II survival tale of Louis Zamperini, ill-treated American prisoners of war get a rare chance to laugh when their captors tell them that the Japanese military had torpedoed Washington, D.C., and killed President Abraham Lincoln.

Of course, we all know that our 16th president had met his tragic end in 1865, and it's fairly a surprising fact that even Japanese soldiers in 1943 did not know this.

But, here on Presidents Day eve, how much do we know about our own presidents? Many of us take a day off from work, we fly the flags that day, in this combination of what once were observances of Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday, but how much do we know about the 44 men who have served our highest elected office?.

Presidents Day legally took effect in 1971 as a way to honor all our nation's commanders-in-chief.

Speaking of birthdays, those 40 and older had probably memorized Lincoln's (Feb. 12) and Washington's (Feb. 22) but how many other presidential birthdays are common knowledge?

Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4 and, remarkably, three of our first five presidents died on that date: Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson - the only presidents to sign the Declaration of Independence - and James Monroe.

Do you know which presidents died in office? William Harrison (after having served only one month), Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

Who is the only president besides Kennedy buried in Arlington National Cemetery? (William Taft.)

Thomas Jefferson declined even to honor himself at his place of rest. He designed his own tombstone and wrote his own epitaph, omitting the fact that he was President of the United States.

Also, Jefferson was the first president to shake hands with guests. Previously people bowed to presidents.

Our first president, Washington, had no formal education, and at various times he wore dentures made of human teeth, animal teeth, ivory or even lead. Never wood.

Washington was the only president elected unanimously; he received all 69 electoral votes.

Presidential leadership was not always such a clear distinction. When the first southern states seceded in 1861, John Tyler (a Virginian, and president from 1841-45) worked to create the Southern Confederacy. He died in 1862, a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.

(Joseph Nathan Kane as posted on http://www.infoplease.com/spot/prestrivia1.html)

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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