In 1887 the first Groundhog Day was celebrated in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania. On this date this year the Phil apparently saw his shadow, so we have six more weeks of winter to look forward to, if you believe in that.

In other news in 1709 Alexander Selkirk was rescued from a desert island, giving inspiration for Daniel Defoy’s Robinson Crusoe – as well as many jokes and stories about what you would bring to or do on a desert island. I suppose it also was the inspiration with a group we grew up with (at least I did) the inhabitants of Gilligan’s Island. On the other hand, on this same date the International Ramsar Convention for the preservation of wetlands was signed in, of all places Iran (1971). And the famous Serum Run to Nome, Alaska happened in 1925, to fight an outbreak of diphtheria, and inspiring the annual Iditarod Race (938 miles).

In 1848 the Treaty of Guadelupe-Hidalgo was signed, ending the Mexican American War, transferring to the US ownership of California, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and large portions of Arizona and New Mexico. In 1943 this date saw the surrender of the last German army forces at Stalingrad. And in 1989 the last Soviet armored columns left Afghanistan after 10 fruitless warfare.

In legal news the first polygraph test was admitted in a trial in 1935. And in 2005 the Government of Canada introduced the Civil Marriage Act, legalizing same-sex marriage in the country.

William Shakespeare welcomed his only son, Hamnet, into the world in 1585. Sadly, his son died 11 years later, during a time in English history when 1/3rd of all children died before the age of 10 – his twin sister ironically lived to the ripe old age of 77. A couple American businessmen were born on this date: Frederick Vanderbilt, railway tycoon, in 1856; and Solomon Guggenheim, founder of the Guggenheim, in 1961.

Two very different musicians started practicing on this date; Austrian-American violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler in 1875, and American singer-songwriter and guitarist Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) in 1942. As well as two very different types of authors – Irish author James Joyce in 1882, and Russian-born American writer Ayn Rand in 1905.

Actors and actresses born this date were Brent Spiner (Data of Star Trek) in 1949, Farrah Fawcett ( of Charlie’s Angels)in 1947, and uptown girl Christie Brinkley in 1954.

Frankenstein – i.e. Boris Karloff – passed off into celluloid legend land in 1969. Gene Kelly took off his dancing shoes one last time in 1996. And Philip Seymour Hoffman left us with the memory of Hunger Games, as well as other stellar roles in 2014.

Today is Victory of the Battle of Stalingrad in Russia – one of the big turning points of WWII. It is World Wetlands Day, very much needed reminder. And, of course, it is Groundhog Day. I also want to remember it is the birthday of my mother-in-law, Patricia Ryan Allan, who would have been 100 years old today.