Across The US by Rail, July 14 to 22

Las Vegas

The 1950 Chicago streetcar crash was among the most deadly public transit disasters in the city’s history. It occurred around 6.30 pm on May 25, when a Chicago Transit Authority streetcar suddenly switched direction to avoid a flooded underpass, colliding with a gasoline truck at the intersection of 63rd and State Streets. The resulting explosion killed 34 people and injured 50 others.

Chicago native Sam Katz was president of the Publix Theatres Corporation (later Paramount Publix Corporation) and the driving force behind the company’s explosive growth. To Katz, the purpose of a well-run theatre went far beyond entertainment in its value to the public. “A properly conducted theatre,” he declared, “is of the same importance to a community as a school or church… contribut[ing] to the general welfare of the community, because wholesome recreation is essential to its well-being.” In Chicago, Balaban and Katz perfected the movie “palace” concept, creating a popular pastime that significantly contributed to the city’s cultural identity, building hundreds of ornate theatres — among them the Chicago, the Uptown, and the Oriental Theatres — filling them with fine furnishings, antiques and artwork. They also produced live stage shows between the movies, featuring stars such as Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.

Don Ameche (born Dominic Felix Amici), 1908 to 1993, was an American actor, voice artist and comedian. After playing in college shows, stock and vaudeville, he became a major radio star in the early 1930s, which led to a movie contract from 20th Century Fox in 1935 and his appearance as a handsome, debonair leading man in 40 films over the next 14 years. In the 1950s he worked on Broadway and in television, and hosted NBC’s International Showtime from 1961 to 1965. He was married to his wife Honore for 54 years.

Cecil B. de Mille made his circus film. The Greatest Show on Earth was released in 1952. It was a drama set in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, starring Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde as trapeze artists competing for the centre ring, and Charlton Heston as the circus manager. James Stewart, Dorothy Lamour and Gloria Grahame play supporting roles. The real Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus 1951 troupe also appear in the film — 1,400 people, hundreds of animals and 60 railroad cars of equipment and tents. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Story, was nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Director and Best Film Editing, and won Golden Globe Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Motion Picture–Drama.

Arthur Concello, 1912 to 2001, and his wife Antoinette, 1910 to 1984, earned fame on the trapeze as the Flying Concellos. Antoinette, hailed as the “greatest woman flyer of all time,” was the first woman ever to execute a successful airborne triple somersault.

John Murray Anderson, 1886 to 1954, was a theatre director and producer, songwriter, actor, screenwriter, dancer and lighting designer. He worked in almost every genre of show business, including vaudeville, Broadway and film.


The National Steel Corporation, 1929 to 2003, was a major American steel producer. Despite a difficult market in the Depression of 1930, the company made millions of dollars in profits, which it repeated year after year. It attributed its success primarily to sales to the automobile industry.

Hydramatic (also known as Hydra-Matic) was the first mass-produced, fully automatic transmission developed for passenger automobile use. It was developed by both General Motors’ Cadillac and Oldsmobile divisions, and was introduced in 1939 for the 1940 vehicles.

The London Chop House was Detroit’s 21 Club, ranked as one of the top US restaurants through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Gaetano Alberto ‘Guy’ Lombardo, 1902 to 1977, was a Canadian-American bandleader and violinist.

Buffalo, New York

L.M. is Louis Meyer Elliman, Louis’s cousin.

Leonard and Harriet and Leonard N. and Harriette Simons.

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