This Day in History – June 6th – 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.




1889 – Great Seattle Fire.

The fire started from an overturned glue pot in a carpentry shop, and fueled by wood chips and turpentine, quickly spread. It engulfed an adjacent liquor store, and exploding alcohol provided additional fuel. Downtown Seattle was built entirely with wood, including wooden sidewalks, so the fire quickly leapt from block to block. Despite responding immediately, the fire department was overmatched. Also, hydrants were widely spaced and had inadequate water pressure. The fire wasn’t extinguished until the next morning and not before destroying 25 city blocks, including the entire business district, and four wharves. One life was lost, a ten-year-old boy. The aftermath of the fire became a positive for the city. Ordinances required new structures to be built with brick, not wood. The population surged also, doubling, with new residents coming to assist in the rebuilding. The old Seattle had been plagued with a pest infestation and that problem was solved also because the blaze exterminated the city’s rat population. 

Fire as pest control, now there’s an idea. Probably a tad extreme method to get rid of the ants in my kitchen, but no doubt effective.


1912 – Eruption of Novarupta.

This was a volcano on the Alaskan peninsula and was the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and the third largest in world history. Novarupta was located 290 miles southwest of Anchorage and about a hundred miles from Kodiak. The 60 hour eruption expelled 30 times the amount of ash into the air as had Mount St. Helens. The island of Kodiak was covered with a foot of ash and visibility was only a few feet. There were no casualties although some Native villages relocated. The region where the eruption took place is now called the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and more volcanic activity in that valley is certain to happen again. 

Based on past posts its obvious I have a fascination with volcanic eruptions. Have always wanted to witness one. Stationed on Kodiak Island, I missed that eruption by about 50 years. A large amount of time in human terms, a relatively short expanse in volcanic activity. Don’t think I’ll go back to Kodiak to await the next one however.   


1981 – Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The winning design for the memorial was awarded on this date. It was submitted by Maya Yang Lin, an architectural student at Yale, and called for a simple, elegant, v-shaped black granite wall with the name of every American who died in Vietnam engraved on it, over 58,000. (I talked to a National Park ranger at the memorial and was told names are still being added if the cause of death is from wounds received in Vietnam so long ago.) There was some resistance to the idea at first by traditionalists and veterans organizations, favoring more typical designs glorifying the efforts of war. The fact that the initial design of the memorial was controversial is in keeping with the divisive nature of the war itself. Lin’s ethnicity and lack of professional experience also came into play. Her design won out over 1,400 entries. 

I’ve been to the memorial on several occasions and each time stand in awe of its power, presentation and effect.



1826 – Sarah Parker Remond.

Abolitionist, lecturer, physician. Remond was born into a free African-American family in Salem, Massachusetts. Despite living in a state where slavery was illegal, she still suffered prejudices and indignities because of the color of her skin. She was initially denied the education she sought because public schools refused to accept her. As a teenager Remond developed a talent for public speaking. Traveling around America she gave anti-slavery speeches. Her reputation grew and in 1858 she was invited to England to speak. There she was surprised by the reception she received. Her reaction in her words: “I have been received here as a sister by white women for the first time in my life. I have been removed from the degradation which overhangs all persons of my complexion.” 

During the Civil War workers in England were strongly pro-Union but businesses still wanted to trade with the South. Remond lobbied for the English to buy their cotton from India and not purchase slave-produced cotton, thereby hurting the South’s economy. In 1866, after the war, she moved to Florence, Italy where she studied medicine at a prestigious school. In her forties she became a physician and then practiced medicine for twenty years. She had a short-lived marriage to an Italian man but little is known about him. Remond never returned to the U.S. and died in Italy in 1894 at age 68.

I’ve mentioned in other posts that one of the joys of doing this blog is discovering remarkable people that I never had heard of before. Sarah Parker Remond is one of those remarkable people. 


1868 – Robert Falcon Scott.

Explorer. An Englishman, Scott is known for his exploration of the Antarctic and his journey to the South Pole. A journey he did not survive, dying along with four of his men on their attempted return to the home base. Scott was beaten to the South Pole by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. When Scott arrived at the pole he found a tent and inside a letter written by Amundsen dated a month earlier. The Scott party made their return trip with the knowledge they lost the race. They encountered extreme weather conditions of temperatures far below zero, high winds and blizzards. Scott died twelve miles short of a supply cache of food and fuel. Nobody in his party survived.

Amundsen had completed his journey to the pole and back using dog sleds and cross country skis. Scott began his attempt utilizing an early version of a snowmobile, dogs, and arctic ponies. The snow machines malfunctioned in the cold, the dogs were of poor quality, and the ponies useless in deep snow. Amundsen used up his dogs as a source of food as he progressed, Scott and his party trudged the entire distance on foot, pulling their supply sleds behind them. After his death and the brave futility of his attempt was made public, Scott became a national hero in England.

There is still disagreement over Scott’s legacy. While attesting to his bravery, some paint his expedition as a blundering, ill-planned attempt from beginning to end. Others are more kind and blame his failure on bad luck and poor support. 


1959 – James Harris III AKA Jimmy Jam.

Songwriter, music producer. Along with Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam has written or produced 41 top ten hits in the United States. He is the son of the Twin Cities blues and jazz legend, Cornbread Harris. Lewis and Jam were in a band that was touring with Prince as an opening act. They briefly left the tour for their own recording session and a blizzard left them unable to rejoin the tour. In response Prince fired the duo. Luckily one of the songs from that session became a hit. From then on the list of artists they worked with and the number of hits are too numerous to list. Jimmy Jam, along with Terry Lewis, have more number one hits on Billboard than any other songwriting and production team. 

Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Prince, Bob Dylan, Minnesota hasn’t done too badly on big time music scene.



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.



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

* Lead-In Image (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

* Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (video) – Red Bull Music Academy /

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