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History & Lore

NORAD, Civil Air Patrol track Santa’s flight

When Santa enters North American airspace, the North American Aerospace Defense Command switches its defense mission to monitoring his travels around the world in his sleigh.     “Every year on December 24, 1,500 volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from around the world,” according to www.norad.mil. Live updates come in seven languages on the NORAD Tracks Santa website: www.noradsanta.org.

Good health or the Lemming Effect?

Charging into a nearly freezing body of water in the middle of the winter is a tradition for people around the world. Frequently, the plunge is made on New Year’s Day.     The first New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge is credited to Coney Island, New York, in 1903. Founder Bernarr Macfadden believed that a dip in the ocean during the winter could be “a boon to stamina, virility and immunity.” The Coney Island Polar Bear Club takes ocean plunges every Sunday from November through April, with the largest on New Year’s Day.

Still dazzling after 35 years

Let me describe the spirit of Christmas: It’s the wonder in a child’s eyes when Scrooge talks to them as they wait in line November 19 with their parents for a ticket to Colonial Players’ 35-year Annapolis holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol. It’s another child’s giddy excitement when Ebeneezer pulls them from the audience to dance as he joyfully transforms from cold-hearted humbug to warm, genial benefactor.

December 5 ended the Volstead Act

Prohibition Repeal Day, December 5, is the anniversary of the repeal of the 18th amendment, which ended prohibition. Prohibition began in 1920 and ended in 1933 after it was concluded that the law had not ended drinking in America. Worse, Prohibition was costing billions in lost tax revenue for local and federal agencies.     To celebrate, I’ve found some lesser known facts about the era.

He has many faces; here you’ll see some

What do children love most about Christmas? I’m betting it’s Santa Claus, the portly guy in the red suit who builds toys in the North Pole each year, then delivers them to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve.     To the delight of Chesapeake Country children, Santa tends to show up early. You’ll soon see a Santa or two about town — at the mall, skating around the Bowie Ice Rink, or emerging from a helicopter near the College Park Aviation Museum.

Coyotes yes, bears no

The region is home to many types of animals, but not many large predators. Historically, bobcats, cougars, bears and wolves lived in Chesapeake Country.     Coyotes are newcomers. The western species wasn’t seen in Maryland until 1972. Since then, they’ve expanded their territory to all Maryland counties. They’ve thrived in part because they don’t face much competition from other predators as we have no more of similar size.

Remember The Maryland 400

The first regiment of full-time professional soldiers from Maryland to fight for the Continental Army saved the revolution in August of 1776. Against a much larger, better-prepared British force, 450 to 500 Marylanders valiantly defended themselves and their new nation.

Our estimable forefathers were as bad — maybe worse

If you’re disheartened by the tone of this year’s presidential election, you won’t find refuge in the good old days.     Historical presidential contests were as bad as — perhaps even worse — than what we’re seeing. In fact, we seem downright civil compared to some of the low-down dirty tricks and harsh rhetoric of prior elections.

For Annapolis Maritime Museum, a giant step across the creek

With the flourish of a pen, Annapolis Maritime Museum took a giant step into the future. From two-thirds of an acre — its Eastport campus on Back Creek — the 26-year-old environmental education center grew to almost 13 acres.     Like a small snake swallowing an elephant, the Museum made the ambitious expansion in a single bite. That bite is the Ellen Moyer Nature Park.

The Patuxents used to live here; some still do

How hard is it to prove a hunch?     It took 75 holes a foot deep by a foot wide followed by five three-by-five-foot excavation pits dug with exacting symmetry in the unyielding earth to document the late naturalist Mitzi Poole’s suspicion. Her girlhood swimming hole on Battle Creek might, she believed, be a Native American site.