This Day in History – July 20th – 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.




1881 – Sitting Bull surrenders.

Five years after Little Big Horn the famous Sioux chief and his followers returned from Canada and surrendered to U.S. authorities. Sitting Bull had been a spiritual influence at the battle that wiped out Custer’s 7th Cavalry and had been pursued by the U.S. Army since. He was held as a prisoner for two years, then allowed to live on the Standing Rock reservation. He traveled for one year with Buffalo Bill’s wild west show before returning to Standing Rock. There he became influential in the rise of the “Ghost Dance,” a spiritual Native American movement that unnerved whites. In an attempt to take him into custody, Native American police shot and killed Sitting Bull on December 15th, 1890. There is uncertainty what took place at the arrest. By some accounts Sitting Bull’s warriors started it by shooting a policeman. Others suggest the Army director of Standing Rock reservation had given orders to shoot to kill at the slightest provocation.

I sincerely doubt it could be the latter given the U.S. government’s history of noble, forthright and honest dealings with its Native American population.


1934 – Minneapolis Truckers Strike.

July 20th would become known as Bloody Friday. The strike had begun on May 16th and was effective in shutting down all commercial trucking in Minneapolis. No goods or products were being moved or delivered. The only exception was produce, as farmers were allowed to deliver directly to grocers. The strike centered around an area filled with warehouses, warehouses that now have been turned into condos or artist studios. Employees of the businesses hurt most by the strike were organized into the Citizens Alliance. They were deputized to bolster the ranks of police in trying to break the strike. Right from the start, the strike was marked by violent street clashes, with the strikers mostly getting the upper hand. Fighting was with with clubs and bats as two of the deputized police were killed and dozens on both sides injured. Other unions joined the truckers in sympathy and all commerce in Minneapolis was shut down. The national offices of the AFL and CIO sent money in support of the strike.

Bloody Friday erupted when one single truck, guarded by fifty policemen, drove into the warehouse district to make a delivery. Blocked by a truckload of strikers, the police opened fire. When the shooting was over two strikers were dead and sixty-seven wounded. Governor Floyd Olsen, although his sympathies were with the strikers, had to send in the National Guard to maintain peace. Although goods began moving again, the Citizens Alliance iron grip on the city was broken and Minneapolis became a union town. 100,000 people showed up for the funeral of Henry Ness, one of the slain strikers. Here is part of what Meridel LeSueur wrote about that experience. “We passed through six blocks of tenements, through a sea of grim faces, and there was not a sound. There was a curious shuffle of thousands of feet, without drum or bugle, in ominous silence, not heavy as the military, but very light, exactly with the heart beat.”

In my February 22nd post I recounted being on a picnic with Meridel and her telling us about the Minneapolis Truckers Strike. There is also a good book about it, “Teamsters Rebellion” by Farrell Dobbs.


1969 – Moon landing.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” were the words Neil Armstrong spoke as he became the first person to step foot on the moon. The whole world was watching as less than a decade after JFK’s challenge in his inaugural address, the United States landed a man on the moon.

I was in my final quarter of college that summer before receiving my B.A. degree. A number of us had gathered at my apartment to watch the moon landing. Babe, Zerk, Rodney, Baby Doug and myself, AKA Bunk. Apparently we were into nicknames. After witnessing the landing we decided to head downtown to the Press Bar to properly celebrate such an epic moment in history. As we stepped from the apartment the moon hung huge in the sky. We all looked up and Babe said, “Just think, Armstrong just planted the flag there.” Still looking up, Rodney said, “Good thing he didn’t drop it.”



1919 – Edmund Hillary.

Mountaineer, humanitarian. Along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, they were the first two people to stand on the roof of the world, Mt. Everest. By mutual consent they never revealed which, if either, was the first man to reach the peak. A New Zealander, Hillary gained instant worldwide fame. He is still known as the most famous Kiwi to have ever lived. Hillary spent much of the rest of his life working to improve the living conditions of the Sherpas of the Himalayas. He raised funds to build schools and hospitals in the mountains. Hillary continued to explore and reached both the South and North Poles. A humble man, he was also a beekeeper in New Zealand. Hillary died in Auckland, NZ in 2008.

Norgay and Hillary might have been the 3rd and 4th to summit the famous peak. In 1924 Englishmen George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were last seen 800 feet from the peak. There is some speculation they made it to the top and died on their descent. Research continues on this theory.


1940 – Tony Oliva.

Baseball player. From Cuba, Tony played fifteen seasons in the major leagues, all with the Minnesota Twins. He was Rookie of the Year in 1964 and won the American League batting championship three times. Severe knee injuries forced him into the role of designated hitter in the latter stages of his career. Some consider Oliva the best player in baseball not in the Hall of Fame.

In 2019 I’m at Target Field watching the Twins with my friend Stan. We see Tony sitting a couple of rows behind us. Stan asks if we can have our picture taken with him. Tony graciously poses with us. We go back to watching the game and a couple of innings later a woman comes down the steps carrying a full cup of beer. She is a bit tipsy and somehow manages to spill more than a little beer on me. She doesn’t even realize it as she returns to her seat. An usher approaches and asks if I want any action taken against the woman. I decline, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. About a minute later somebody touches my arm. I turn, it is Tony. He smiles and says, “Now everybody’s gonna think you’re the one who’s drunk.” Besides being a nice man, he remains one of my favorite Twins player.



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 sites and newspapers.


Meridel LeSueur


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

* Lead-In Image (Moon Landing) – Photo by History in HD on Unsplash – ” Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, in a photograph taken by Neil Armstrong.”

* Sitting Bull Relative (video) – Buffalo Bill Center of the West /

* Moon Landing (footage) – NASA /

* Sir Edmund Hillary (video) – CBC /

* Tony Oliva (video) – HiawathaBroadband /

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