jack kerouac feature

This Day in History – March 12 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… MARCH 12

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1664 – New Jersey becomes an English colony.

The area was initially explored by Henry Hudson. Although an Englishman, Hudson was employed by Holland, so the area was first called New Netherlands. In the mid-17th century, the British sailed in and forced Holland to surrender it to them. The area was renamed New Jersey after Jersey of the Channel Islands. New Jersey was one of the original thirteen colonies and more battles were fought there than in any other colony.

As a child my image of the East Coast was large cities crowded with people. To me, New Jersey was nothing more than an industrial wasteland. While stationed at Bainbridge, Maryland a couple of others sailors and myself decided to hitchhike to Atlantic City one Sunday. I received a couple of surprises that day. First was how big New Jersey was and second was the number of dairy farms. Looking at all the herds of Holsteins I almost felt like I was back in Minnesota.

We did make it to Atlantic City and walking the boardwalk in our dress whites we were not the hit with the girls that we thought we were going to be. I guess that was less a surprise then the dairy herds.

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1928 – St. Francis dam fails.

The dam, located 40 miles from Los Angeles, collapsed, and a wall of water swept down San Francisquito Canyon killing an estimated 450 people. Designed by William Mulholland, the dam had only been completed in 1926. There had been some reported leakage by the dam keeper earlier in the day and Mulholland and his chief assistant had inspected it and declared the dam safe. The dam keeper and his six-year-old son were among the first to die. As reported in the LA Times, people living below the dam used to joke, “See you later, if the dam don’t break.” It broke, and along with the huge loss of life it destroyed the reputation and career of William Mulholland.

Nevertheless he still has a tony drive named after him.

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1947 – President Truman presents “Truman Doctrine” to Congress.

Ostensibly to provide assistance to any nation facing authoritarian threat, it mostly focused on preventing the spread of communism throughout the world. A key part of the doctrine stated that the threat could be external or internal. The result was that the U.S. had its fingers in conflicts around the globe. According to historian Eric Foner, the doctrine “set a precedent for American assistance to anticommunist regimes throughout the world, no matter how undemocratic, and for the creation of a set of global military alliances directed against the Soviet Union.”

While I’m mostly respect Truman, his doctrine had unintended consequences. Democratically elected governments, if too left-leaning, were toppled with our help and brutal dictatorships put in place. Pinochet over Allende in Chile is one example, and establishing the Shah in Iran is another. The fear of communism spread our own imperialistic reach.

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Birthdays:

1890 – William Dudley Pelley.

American writer, spiritualist, publisher, he was also a fascist and admirer of Hitler. He founded the Silver Legion; its members became known as the Silver Shirts and were based on Hitler’s Brown Shirts. Anti-Semitic, Pelley preached that the U.S. should be a Christian Commonwealth. At the height of his power, the Silver Shirts numbered about 15,000. FDR finally tired of his rhetoric and had him investigated. Convicted of plotting to overthrow the government, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Released in 1952, he promoted a religion based on UFOs and extraterrestrials.

Lest I become too upset over a couple of hundred clowns with tiki torches in Charlottesville, I have to remind myself there was once a much larger, stronger wacko movement in America and it was ultimately squashed.

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1922 – Jack Kerouac.

Beat Generation writer. Most famous for his novel On The Road. Rejected as a writer for many years, when fame did come he did not handle it well. Trying to live up to an image, hurt by criticism of his work, he turned to excessive drinking. Kerouac died in 1969, only forty-seven years old.

The title of the book alone, “On The Road,” captures a spirit deep inside of me as well as countless others. I read it while trying to settle into a new job as a suit and tie accountant with a financial institution. I was uncertain and unhappy with my lot in life at the time, and “On The Road” did not help. Money or career meant nothing, freedom was the desire. The book brought back earlier memories of my own road trips crisscrossing the U.S., Canada, and Europe. And it led me out of the corporate world into a life of marginal employment while trying to establish myself as a writer. For that I am grateful. Thanks, Jack.

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1942 – Ratko Mladić.

The “Butcher of Bosnia” was a Serbian army general who ordered his troops to slaughter 7,000 Muslim men and boys. He was also the commander at the siege of Sarajevo where civilians were shot and shelled indiscriminately. After the war he went into hiding for fourteen years before being captured. He was extradited to the Hague, tried as a war criminal, and sentenced to life in prison.

What does it say about humankind that time after time in history’s annals men so full of evil are able to rise to the highest level of leadership?

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers:

Sources:

Wikipedia.org

LATimes.com

Office Of The Historian

OnThisDay.com

Eric Foner

North Carolina History Project

Biography.com

We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image –  Mario Breda / Shutterstock.com – “Jack Kerouac, author of “On the Road,” vector illustration.”

jack kerouac embed shutterstock

* The Two New Jerseys (video clip) – David Cohen / Shutterstock.com

* St. Francis Dam (video clip) – Terrifying World / YouTube.com

* Truman Doctrine (audio clip) – Thule000 / YouTube.com

* Jack Kerouac (video clip) – Historic Films Stock Footage Archive / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

* December 5

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 15

December 16

December 18 

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 28

* December 30

* January 3

January 4

January 6

January 7

January 10

* January 11

* January 14

January 15

January 16

January 19

January 21

January 22

January 24

January 25

January 29

January 30

February 1

February 3 

February 5

February 6

* February 9

* February 10

* February 11

February 14

February 15

February 18

February 20

February 21

February 24

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 3

March 6

March 9

March 10

March 14

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 19

November 20

November 23

November 28

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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