Once upon a time I was a ski instructor on Vail Mountain and one of my greatest pleasures during that time was watching the smiles on people’s faces when they felt they had made a “breakthrough.”  Obviously, teaching people how to ski and remain safe on the mountain was the #1 goal, however, as we learned in training, the best instructors would “Make it fun for the guests and make ‘em smile.  So, I used to play a little game It’s called “Two Truths.”  Each guest tries to fool the others by telling three things about themselves—but only two can be true.  Usually, it was a great icebreaker and a fun way to get the guests involved with each other.

When thinking of topics for this week’s blog, I decided on a rendition of the game of “Two Truths.”  And the first step was to search my memory banks, then my old Vail Daily commentaries and finally a very interesting book by David Wallechinsky called “The Twentieth Century” to find some absolutely outlandish stories and tales have some fun with the readers.

So here goes, remember, two of the following are true and verifiable…

~ The Great Molasses Flood ~

1 –  On January 15, 1919, the workers and resident of Boston’s North End were enjoying the noontime sun of an unseasonably warm day when suddenly without warning a huge cast iron tank of the Purity Distilling Company burst open and a great wave of black molasses two stories high poured out onto Commercial Street and oozed out into the adjacent waterfront area.

Neither pedestrians nor horse-drawn carriages could outrun it.  More than two million gallons of molasses destined for rum engulfed scores of people.  The records are unclear as to the casualties, but at least 150 people were injured in some form or another.  Several nearby buildings crumbled from the force of the wave, and an elevated train track collapsed.  Many of the horses in the area not completely swallowed up in the goo were trapped in the mess and were destroyed by the police.

Sightseers and gawkers who came by to survey the scene couldn’t help but walk in the molasses and ended up spreading the sticky substance throughout the city.  Boston smelled of molasses for a week and the harbor ran brown all summer.”

~ Care for a smoke? ~

2 –  In September of 1988 a Charlotte North Carolina man purchased a case of rare and very expensive cigars, then insured them with a floater policy with his local insurance agent against…of all things…fire!  Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, the man filed a claim against the insurance company.

In his claim, the man stated he had lost the cigars to a “series of small fires.”  The insurance company denied the claim citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.  The man, not accepting the insurance company’s denial decided to sue the insurance company and won!

In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a valid policy from the insurer which warranted the cigars were insurable and guaranteed it would insure them against fire, without defining what it considered an “unacceptable fire” it was obligated to pay the claim.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal, the insurance company paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fire.”  However, after the man cashed his check, the insurance company had the Charlotte police arrest him on 24 counts of arson!  With his own testimony from his insurance claim used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 concurrent one-year terms.”

~ What day…what century? ~

3 – On December 31st, 1899, the passenger steamer SS Warrimoo was quietly knifing its way through the waters of the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver to Australia.  The navigator had just finished working out a star fix and brought Captain John D.S. Phillips, the result. The Warrimoo’s position was LAT 0º 31′ N and LONG 179 30′ W.

“Do you know what this means” the first mate Payton broke in, “We’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line.”  Upon hearing this, the captain saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  According to legend, the Captain called his navigators to the bridge to verify and re-verify the ship’s position and changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark and adjusted the engine speed.

The calm weather & clear night worked in his favor.  And at midnight, the SS Warrimoo lay on the Equator at exactly the point where it crossed the International Date Line and as a consequence, and for about 20 seconds…

  • The ship’s bow was in the Southern Hemisphere & in the middle of summer.
  • The ship’s stern was in the Northern Hemisphere & in the middle of winter.
  • The date in the aft part of the ship was 31 December 1899, but it was January 1st, 1900, in the bow.

If effect, the ship was in two different days, two different months, two different seasons, two different years and get this – two different centuries all at the same time.  Thus, conferring on the crew, the designations of “golden shellbacks” (look it up!)

Send me an email if you want the answers…