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1957: Magazines and newspapers marvelled when Maria Callas managed to shed 28 kilograms in 11 months; they carried before-and-after photographs of her transformation from a frumpy 92 kilos to a slender 64. Callas lost weight by strict adherence to a diet…
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1956: In the 1920s, Nina Hamnett was a promising artist, but by the 1930s and ’40s she had become a shabby figure who spent too little time in the studio and far too much time in the pubs and clubs of London’s Fitzrovia and Soho. “She was dirty, smelt of…
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1955: Driver Jim Blake must have thought he was simply enforcing regulations when he ordered four black passengers on his bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to give up their seats for a white man. Instead, Blake’s action on the afternoon of 1 December provoked…
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1954: Jack and Bobby Kennedy attended a speed reading course in Baltimore, but Jack’s later claim to be able to read 1,200 words a minute – three or four times the average – was probably exaggerated. Source: James P. Pfiffner, The Character Factor: How We…
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1953: The Everest expedition’s equipment included a 2-inch mortar to dislodge any accumulations of snow that threatened avalanches. Source: John Hunt, The Ascent of Everest (1973), pp. 39, 219
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1952: A severe case of amoebic dysentery earlier in his career meant that Sir Evelyn Baring, the new governor of Kenya, suffered from indifferent health. He was prone to bouts of exhaustion and debilitating intestinal pain and his stomach was “so…
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1951: The National Safety Council reckoned that towards the end of the year the total number of deaths from traffic accidents in the United States since the advent of the automobile would reach 1 million. In December, the millionth death was reached and…
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1950: The playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw died on 2 November. Three weeks later, in accordance with the terms of his will, his ashes were mingled with those of his wife, who had died in 1943, and scattered in the garden of their village home.
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1949: Agatha Christie joined her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, at Nimrud, in Iraq. Christie lent a hand, cleaning ivories recovered from the excavations. She discovered that a very fine knitting needle and her face cream were “more useful than…
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1948: Weightlifter Harold Sakata, an Olympic silver medallist at London, later appeared in the James Bond film Goldfinger as the baddie Oddjob. Source: David Wallechinsky, The Complete Book of the Olympics (2004), p. 1044
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