This Day In History – December 28 – Hijinx, Humor and Insight


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.




1828 – 6.8 earthquake in Japan

1908 – Messina, Italy, earthquake kills 80,000

1974 – 6.3 earthquake in Pakistan

1975 – Earthquake in Pakistan kills 4,000

1989 – Newcastle, Australia, earthquake.

On your toes people, it seems today is prime earthquake weather.


1832 – John Calhoun resigns as Andrew Jackson’s Vice President.


He had differences with Jackson on a number of issues and the Petticoat Affair helped him decide to resign. Led by Mrs. Calhoun, wives of Cabinet members socially ostracized John Eaton, Secretary of War, and his wife, because she did not live up to the moral standards of a Cabinet wife. Jackson defended Eaton. After Calhoun resigned, he became a senator from South Carolina and for the rest of his life defended the slave-plantation system against a growing antislavery stance in the free states. He continued his strident defense of slavery even after he joined the Tyler administration as Secretary of State. In his last address to the Senate, he foretold the disruption of the Union unless the slave states were given adequate and permanent protection for their institutions.

How in the world did we ever get a lake in Minneapolis named after him?


1956 – Last “Ding Dong School” show aired. Ding Dong School was a half hour children’s TV show billed as “the nursery school of the air.” Here’s an example of an episode:

The show was aimed at preschoolers and hosted by Frances Horwitz, or Miss Frances. The program was presented from a child’s point of view, and she is said to have invented the television technique of speaking to the viewing audience as if they were in the same room. This technique was later adopted by Fred Rogers and the cast of Sesame Street. Ding Dong School was cancelled in favor of “The Price Is Right.”

I was a wizened old fifth and sixth grader at the time of this show’s popularity and looked down at it with smug superiority. Then my friends and I became amused by it. I guess it was my first experience of viewing something as “camp.”



1763 – John Molson – Molson started the Molson Brewery in Quebec, Canada.

His beer became an instant hit and an entry from his diary read: “Cannot serve half my customers and they are increasing every day.” Many of his new customers were British Loyalists fleeing the newly founded United States.

I can well imagine they were in need of a beer.


1925 – Hildegaard Knef – Actress born in Ulm, Germany.

After a successful screen test at age 15, she went to a state film school in Berlin where she caught the eye of Josef Goebbels. She wisely declined his invitation to meet. In the last days of the Battle of Berlin she donned a soldier’s uniform and fought alongside her lover, a film director, against the Russians. Captured, it wasn’t discovered she was a woman until she was at a prison camp with 40,000 men. Fellow prisoners helped her escape and she made her way back to Berlin. Her lover was eventually executed. She began acting in movies and in 1950 briefly appeared nude in “Sinner.” A scandalous uproar grew in Germany over it and she remarked, “A country that had Auschwitz and caused so much horror and then, a few years later, behaves in this manner because I was visible naked on the screen is utterly absurd.” A Hollywood career never materialized because David O. Selznick wanted to change her name to Gilda Christian and say she was Austrian, not German. She refused.

In doing this blog I do come across some interesting characters. Her autobiography is entitled “The Gift Horse.”  


1931 – Martin Milner – TV and movie actor.

One of his most notable roles was Tod Stiles on “Route 66.” Shot on location in the early 60s, two young men in a Corvette roam across the country seeking adventure and solving societal problems.

If viewed again on Netflix, I suspect it won’t hold up, although at the time it appealed to my wanderlust and I enjoyed it.



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



The above information was sourced from the following websites:



* John C. Calhoun –

* Ding Dong School –

* John Molson –

*  Hildegard Knef – New York Times

* Martin Milner –

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

* Lead-In Image –  IgorGolovniov / – “RUSSIA – CIRCA 1908: Postcard printed in Russia shows Earthquakes in Italy – Messina, circa 1908.”

John C. Calhoun – Everett Historical /

* Ding Dong School – Free The Kinescopes! /

Hildegard Knef – ritz5162 /

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