108 years ago today, Congress signed into law a bill creating Rocky Mountain National Park. Protecting over a thousand square kilometers of the Front Range of the mountains, the park was designated among the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserves due to the amount of undisturbed and unspoilt land. Indeed the park bridges a space of two wilderness areas. The area is rich in fauna, including Canada lynx, fox, elk, moose, mountain goat, bobcat, bighorn sheep, cougar, black bear, mule deer, several species of minks, wolverine, and coyote. READ more… (1915)
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highest national parks in the nation, with elevations from 7,860 to 14,259 feet (2,396 to 4,346 m). Among these soaring peaks lie the headwaters of the Colorado River, and the park contains approximately 450 miles (724 km) of rivers and streams.
RMNP is divided into five separate regions of different characteristics. The first is flatter ground including meadows and lakes. The second is the alpine zone, and the third is the wilderness area that runs into the north of the park. Region 4 is known as the “Heart of the Park” and includes a lot of the most famous scenery and easy to visit natural features. Region 5 is the backcountry, typified by waterfalls and a few of the 14,000-foot peaks.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Australia Day is celebrated as a public holiday commemorating the First Fleet landing (1788)
- US Congress established the Library of Congress (1802)
- Famed actor, philanthropist, and husband of 50 years, Paul Newman was born in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio (1925)
- The Apollo Theater, renown for launching some of the biggest names in music, including Michael Jackson, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald, opened its doors on 125th Street in Harlem—which are still open today (1934)
- Israel and Egypt, led by US President Jimmy Carter, ended an ongoing state of war that dated back to 1948, restored full diplomatic relations and reopened embassies (1980)
- Phantom of the Opera opened, to become the longest-run Broadway show (1988)
- Václav Havel was elected President of the Czech Republic (1993)
- President Hamid Karzai signed the new constitution of Afghanistan (2004)
On this day 99 years ago, the first ever Olympic gold medal was won in a Winter sport. American speed-skater Charles Jewtraw (right) won the 500m speed skating event in 44 seconds at the Chamonix Games in France, the site of the first Winter Games.
For Jewtraw, a poor kid growing up on Lake Placid, it was “like a fairy tale,” as he had competed nationally, but given it up to pursue a higher education. “I was so sick crossing the ocean that I kept praying the ship would sink. I wasn’t even nervous the day of the race. Why would I be? I knew I couldn’t win,” he told Sports Illustrated.
“My teammates threw me in the air. The loudspeakers were booming out in French, ‘Charlie Jewtraw of the U.S. of A. wins the first race in the first Winter Games!’”
The 27 competitors from 13 nations raced in pairs for the speed skating, with the shortest time taking the gold. Jewtraw recounted in 1983 about competing against a Canadian skater Charles Gorman.
“I was always great on starts, but Gorman got the jump on me. He was going like a cyclone. I was in the outside lane, and I knew we had to change lanes somewhere down the line. I hadn’t watched any heats before ours, so I couldn’t figure out how it would happen. But somehow it did, and after we changed I was ahead. I have no idea how it happened. We were screaming along, and then I got a second wind. I didn’t dare look behind to see where Gorman was. I beat him by a second and a half. He told me he was completely exhausted. I had emptied him out.”
At 44 seconds dead, he would not be overtaken by any of the Scandinavian favorites. “I stood in the middle of the rink, and they played The Star-Spangled Banner. The whole American team rushed out on the ice. They hugged me like I was a beautiful girl. How many people have a moment like that?” (1924)
And on this day in 1916, Olympic athlete and war hero Louis Zamperini was born. An unruly boy who was bullied for not speaking English, the Italian immigrants’ son found purpose in running track. After setting a world record in high school for running a mile in 4:21.2 minutes, he competed in the Berlin Olympics at age 19. As a bombardier in World War II, his plane crashed and he survived for 47 days in shark infested waters with little food or water in an inflatable life raft, only to be captured and severely tortured by the Japanese on the island where he finally landed.
He died at the age of 97, four years after the completion of a 2010 book about his life, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. The book was made into a film, directed by Angelina Jolie. The remarkable “good news” for Zamperini arrived in his post-war life. He suffered from PTSD and constant nightmares until he became a devout Christian after hearing a young Billy Graham speak about the practice of forgiveness. He told everyone that the moment he forgave his captors, the daily nightmares ended and never returned. Watch a 2014 interview with Zamperini from CBS Sunday Morning…
73 years ago today, the Constitution of India came into effect to solidify a democratic government, completing the country’s transition towards becoming an independent republic. January 26th was chosen as Republic Day, to be honored annually because—also on this date in 1929—the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress. (1950)
Happy Birthday to comedian and television host Ellen DeGeneres who turns 64 today.
DeGeneres starred in the popular sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and has hosted her syndicated TV talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003. Born in Louisiana and doing stand-up comedy in her early 20s, she went on to star in the popular sitcom Ellen from ’94–’98. Her Emmy Award-winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, debuted in 2003. Everyone loved when she hosted the Oscars and ordered pizza for the crowd (the tip was phenomenal), and then they took the selfie that broke Twitter. Her kindness is, of course, legendary. Known for her generosity and charity work, particularly in animal rights, Ellen is also the author of several humor books and, most recently, she produced a coffee table book called Home, showcasing her interest in interior design. (1958)
WATCH a stand-up clip about elevators, pickles, and people who are late…
Happy 62nd Birthday to ‘The Great One’, hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky, who during his 20 seasons in the National Hockey League became the all-time leading scorer in NHL history.
The Canadian skater scored more assists than any other player, more total points, and he’s the only NHL player to tally over 200 points in a single season—a feat he accomplished four times. As of 2014, the left-handed center who played half his career for the Edmonton Oilers and famously disliked fighting on the ice, still held 60 NHL records. Despite his unimpressive stature, strength, and speed, “Gretzky’s intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time.”
Wayne has been married to his wife Janet Jones for almost 33 years and this New Year’s Eve he scored an ace—his first hole-in-one on a golf course near his home in Los Angeles.
Gretzky’s jersey number (99) was retired league-wide, but you can still see his trademark 99 on several business ventures, including a winery and restaurants in Toronto and Edmonton. Gretzky has written an autobiography and, in 2016, the best-selling book 99: Stories of the Game. (1961)