by Kathy Wolfe

As March comes in like a lion, Tidbits offers facts about this month’s events.

• Although we know March as the third month of the year, it wasn’t always so! In the oldest Roman calendars, the year was just ten months long, and March was the first month. January and February weren’t added until about 700 B.C., and March became the third month. It was named for Mars, the Roman god of war.

• On March 20 or 21 each year, the sun is directly above the equator, making the day and night of equal length. This phenomenon is known as the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The word “equinox” has its roots in Latin, translating “equal night.”

•  March 6, 1836 was the day the Alamo fell to Mexican troops after a 13-day siege under the command of General Antonio Santa Anna in the midst of the Texas Revolution. The Alamo mission was occupied by about 250 Americans, including soldiers, clergy, slaves, women, and children. The garrison was attacked by approximately 1,500 Mexican soldiers. It’s estimated that about 190 U.S. soldiers were killed, including frontiersman Jim Bowie and folk hero Davy Crockett. About 60, primarily civilians, survived.                                   

Zinn Music Shop

• The Ides of March in the Roman calendar was the 74th day of the year, equivalent to March 15. It was a day for religious observances, sacred to Jupiter, the Romans’ supreme deity. It was also a deadline for settling debts. Mostly we think of the Ides of March as the day of Julius Caesar’s assassination. In 44 BC, a clairvoyant told Caesar that his demise would occur no later than that date. Caesar disregarded the prophecy, and on that day, sneered at the seer, “The Ides of March have come,” to which the seer replied, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.” As Caesar sat in a senate meeting at the Theatre of Pompey, conspirators attacked the ruler, stabbing him 23 times. The attackers, members of the Senate, marched through Rome following the assassination announcing, “People of Rome, we are once again free!”   

• Basketball’s NCAA tournament known as “March Madness” determines the champion team from the Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It was the brainstorm of Ohio State coach Harold Olsen, and in 1939, eight teams – Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah State, Villanova, Brown, Wake Forest, and Ohio State – competed for the title, with Oregon winning the championship game against Ohio 46-33. In 1951, the tournament was expanded to 16 teams, then to 32 in 1975. By 1985, the field was 64 teams, and is currently 68. UCLA has won the most national titles, with 11 wins. A women’s tournament was added in 1982, with Louisiana Tech taking the championship. The women’s field is also 68 teams. Although the tourney has been held since 1939, it wasn’t until 1982 when sportscaster Brett Musberger used the term “March Madness” during television coverage that the name really stuck.

• The Eiffel Tower was ascended for the very first time on March 31, 1889. Because the elevators were not yet operating, the group of government officials, along with members of the press, made the trek on foot, a climb that took over an hour, as Gustave Eiffel stopped along the way to point out the structure’s features. Construction began on the wrought-iron tower in 1887 as the main attraction for the upcoming Paris World’s Fair in 1889. It was completed in 2 years, 2 months, and 5 days with no serious injuries or deaths during the process. Standing 1,083 feet tall, about the height of an 81-storey building, it was the tallest structure in the world for 41 years until New York City’s Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1930. Nearly 7 million people visit the Tower every year.

•  In March of 1973, the eighth studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon,” landed on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart, eventually making it up to Number 1.    The album remained on the Top 200 for a record-breaking 741 weeks, setting a record that still remains unbroken. If you count the addition of Billboard’s Catalog Albums chart, which classifies older LPs still selling well, “The Dark Side of the Moon” is still on the charts.    It’s been certified 14x platinum in the U.K., and has sold upwards of 45 million copies worldwide. The album has nothing to do with astronomy, but rather the songs deal with the subjects of conflict, wealth and greed, time, mental illness, and death.

•  The first-ever telephone call was made on March 10, 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell to his 27-year-old assistant Thomas Watson. Bell himself was just 29 and had received a patent for his invention only three days earlier, U.S. Patent 174465A for a method of transmitting speech by telegraphy. Bell’s words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you” from the room next door were a bit crackly, but understandable.

•  Within a few months, Bell was transmitting conversations between Boston, Massachusetts, and the nearby community of Somerville. Bell co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885. The Scottish-born Bell was no stranger to inventing. At age 12, he had created a device for de-husking grain, which was put into operation at nearby mills. What happened to Thomas Watson? He went to work for Bell at his telephone company, and invented the telephone ringer, which signaled folks when a call was coming in. He used his royalties to buy a farm, but moved on to founding a ship and engine building company that built naval destroyers for the U.S. military. By 1900, it was one of the largest shipyards in the nation, which Watson later sold to Bethlehem Steel. Watson not only received the very first phone call, he was also the recipient of the first transcontinental call, made from Bell’s New York City office to Watson in San Francisco. The phone receivers were then handed to the mayors of each city to speak to each other.

•  Who knew there is a special day set aside to honor the fanny pack?    March 9 is International Fanny Pack Day, first designated in 2007. It was inspired by a man on his way home from a Christmas party, who encountered a homeless man. At the party, Nick Yates had been given two gag gifts – a fruitcake and a fanny pack. Stuffing the cake in the pack, Yates headed toward the bus stop. He gave the cake to the homeless man, and was struck with the idea of a co-op with food banks to hand out food to homeless while wearing fanny packs. Yates created a charitable campaign, and International Fanny Pack Day was born!