1846 House resolves to stop sharing Oregon Boldly reversing its long-standing policy of “free and open” occupation in the disputed Oregon Territory, the U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution calling for an end to British-American sharing of the region. The United States, one congressman asserted, had “the right of our manifest destiny to spread over our whole continent.” In different circumstances, such aggressive posturing might have led to war. The British, through their Hudson Bay Company at the mouth of the Columbia River, had a reasonable claim to the disputed territory of modern-day Washington. In contrast, the only part of the Oregon Territory the U.S. could legitimately claim by settlement was the area below the Columbia River. Above the river, there were only eight recently arrived Americans in 1845. Nonetheless, the aggressively expansionistic President James Polk coveted Oregon Territory up to the 49th parallel (the modern-day border with Canada). Yet Polk was also on the verge of war with Mexico in his drive to take that nation’s northern provinces, and he had no desire to fight the British and Mexicans at the same time. Consequently, Polk had to move cautiously. Some of his fellow Democrats in the Congress pushed him to be even more aggressive, demanding that Americans control the territory all the way up to the 54th parallel, approximately where Edmonton, Alberta, is today. For five months, debate raged in Congress over the “Oregon controversy,” but the House resolution in January made it clear that the U.S. was determined to end the joint occupation with Great Britain. Luckily, the British agreed to abandon their claim to the area north of the Columbia and accept the 49th parallel as a border. The Hudson Bay Company already had decided to relocate its principal trading post from the Columbia River area to Vancouver Island, leaving the British with little interest in maintaining their claim to area. Despite the cries of betrayal from the advocates of the 54th parallel, Polk wisely accepted the British offer to place the border on the 49th parallel. The new boundary not only gave the U.S. more territory than it had any legitimate claim to, but it also left Polk free to pursue his next objective: a war with Mexico for control of the Southwest. 1982 Landslides kill 33 in California On this day in 1982, a series of landslides near San Francisco, California, kills up to 33 people and closes the Golden Gate Bridge. In all, an amazing 18,000 different landslides took place in the San Francisco Bay Area following a very heavy rain storm. Two fast-moving fronts carrying extremely heavy rain passed through San Francisco in a 36-hour period beginning on January 4, during which the area received an amount of rain equal to half its average annual precipitation. Some areas received as much as 24 inches of rain on January 4 and 5. On January 5, the rain began to trigger thousands of separate landslides in the Bay Area hills. Almost without exception, the slides caught their victims completely unaware. San Francisco State University professor Kai-yu Hsu was in the basement of his home in Tiburon. Suddenly, there was a deafening roar and, within seconds, the home was gone–it crashed into a park at the bottom of a hill. His son, Roland, witnessed the tragedy while standing just outside the home. In all, about 7,800 homes and businesses were seriously damaged by slides and falling trees. Roads became impassable when mud and large boulders crashed down onto them. The Golden Gate Bridge even had to close due to a landslide. When seven homes in Love Creek collapsed on a hillside, 10 people died instantly. It is believed that between 22 and 33 people were killed in total. Damages exceeded $100 million, and the region was declared a federal disaster area. It was the Bay Area’s worst natural disaster since a 1906 earthquake. Using aerial surveillance in the days following the storm, officials determined that about 18,000 separate slides occurred. In most areas, homes have since been rebuilt on the original lots, using sub-surface pipes and retaining walls to help prevent a repeat disaster. 1998 Sonny Bono killed in skiing accident California lawmaker and U.S. congressman. On January 5, 1998, Bono’s unusual journey was cut tragically short when he was killed in a skiing accident while on vacation with his family in South Lake Tahoe, California. The 62-year-old Bono and his fourth wife, Mary, were visiting the Heavenly Ski Resort, located on the Nevada-California border some 55 miles south of Reno, Nevada, with their young son and daughter. The accident occurred when Bono left his family to ski alone on the afternoon of January 5. He was reported missing several hours later, and his body was found that evening. Police said Bono had skied into a wooded area and hit a tree; the cause of death was massive head injuries. Coincidentally, Bono’s death occurred less than a week after another high-profile accident killed Michael Kennedy, the son of the late U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado. Born Salvatore Bono in Detroit on February 16, 1935, Bono moved to Los Angeles when he was seven years old. As a young adult he became a songwriter and singer at Specialty Records. He later teamed with the prominent songwriter Phil Spector and sang back-up for the Righteous Brothers. While married to his first wife, Donna Rankin, Bono met the 16-year-old Cherilyn Sarkasian; they made several recordings together, but struck gold with their 1965 mega-hit “I Got You Babe.” Bono divorced Rankin and in 1969 had a daughter, Chastity, with Cher; they later married. In August 1971, the couple’s TV show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, premiered, featuring the tall, dark-haired Cher decked out in spangled designer outfits and the mustachioed Bono playing the straight man in bell-bottom pants. The show’s run lasted until 1974, when the couple split amid rampant gossip about extramarital affairs. A latecomer to politics (he admitted he voted for the first time at age 54), Bono got his start after he became frustrated by the bureaucratic hassle involved in erecting a new sign at the Italian restaurant he owned in Palm Springs, a city in the Southern California desert with a current population of some 40,000 residents. He was elected mayor of the city in 1988, and four years later ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for a seat in the U.S. Senate. In 1994, Bono won a seat in the House of Representatives as part of a sweeping Republican victory in the House led by Speaker Newt Gingrich. As a lawmaker, Bono stuck closely to the conservative agenda, but he was known to reach out across party lines, forming friendships with such prominent liberals as Barney Frank, an openly gay Democratic congressman from Massachusetts. When Bono and Cher’s daughter, Chastity, came out publicly as a lesbian in 1995, her father expressed his love and support, but said he could not reconcile himself to the idea of gay marriage. Reelected in 1996, Bono continued his campaigns to extend copyright laws and repair the damage done to the Salton Sea, a giant lake in Southern California’s Colorado Desert, by large-scale salt mining operations in the region. After Bono’s death, his widow, Mary Bono, completed the remainder of her husband’s term in the House.