This Day in History – May 26th – 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.




451 – Battle of Avarayr.

An Armenian army, fighting for religious freedom and independence, clashed with a larger Persian army. The Armenians lost the battle but continued fighting in guerilla warfare, eventually resulting in a treaty that allowed them to practice Christianity.

From “The following account of the battle is provided by Yeghisheh, a contemporary court chronicler of the Mamikonian family:

“‘Both sides being thus prepared and seized with a mighty rage and burnt with a wild fury, rushed against each other. The loud cry on both sides sounded like the clash of clouds, and the thundering sound of the noises rocked the caverns of the mountains.

“‘The countless helmets and the shining armor of the warriors glowed like the rays of the sun. The flashing thousands of swords and the swaying of innumerable spears seemed like an awful fire being poured down from heaven.

“‘But who can describe the tremendous tumult caused by these frightful noises — the clangor of the shields and the snapping of the bow strings — which deafened everyone alike?

“‘One should have seen the turmoil of the great crisis and the immeasurable confusion on both sides, as they clashed with each other in reckless fury. The dull-minded became frenzied; the cowards deserted the field; the brave dashed forward courageously, and the valiant roared.’”

Now that’s some good writing. I have a sense of what a 5th century battle was like.


1647 – Alse Young hanged as a witch. Young of Hartford, Connecticut is believed to be the first person in the 13 colonies executed for witchcraft.

The usual accusation brought forth was that Satan existed within the witch. Puritans were always on the lookout for the devil. According to Connecticut historian Walter Woodward, “When they think they’re under attack by the devil, their response is based on perceived threat. This wasn’t just mean-spiritedness. This was the product of intense fear.”

So one day poor Alse was going about her business as usual, inadvertently did something unusual, and boom, found herself before a kangaroo court and than facing the awful sentence. As behavioral control, no doubt it was quite an effective method. Thinking outside the box probably wasn’t a good idea during that era. And I imagine somebody with say, oh, Asperger’s Syndrome, walked a rather rocky path.


1959 – Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings.

Haddix, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, retired 36 straight batters. And this was against the Milwaukee Braves, a very good hitting team. Lew Burdette of the Braves held Pittsburgh scoreless so the game proceeded to the 13th inning. The Pirates committed an error to start the 13th, ending the perfect game. Eddie Mathews sacrificed the runner to second, Hank Aaron was intentionally walked, and then Joe Adcock hit one over the right field fence and the Braves were victorious. In the happy confusion that followed, Adcock somehow passed Aaron on the base paths and was called out, changing his homer to a double in the official box score.

I remember Haddix’s feat quite clearly. I was, and am, a baseball nut. This was before Major League Baseball came to Minnesota, and we followed the game from afar. I was in a car with some other kids, going to a neighboring town to take our drivers’ license tests. I was quite nervous over taking the test and the news, on the car radio, of his incredible feat helped distract me, and dissipate some anxiety. So thanks, Harvey, I passed the test.



1919 – Jay Silverheels. Actor who played Tonto on the Lone Ranger television series.

He was one of the few authentic Indian actors playing an Indian role in Hollywood. His real name was Harold Smith and he was a Mohawk from Ontario, Canada. His father fought with the Canadian Army in WWI and was the most highly decorated Native Canadian soldier. Silverheels was a Golden Gloves boxer and excellent athlete and traveled with a lacrosse team that toured the West Coast of America. His teammates nicknamed him Silverheels because of the way he played.

The comedian Joe. E. Brown saw him play, was impressed and thought he’d make a good actor. With Brown’s encouragement and connections, Silverheels became a stuntman, an extra, and had small roles in films with Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart, before landing the role of Tonto. Although the role of Tonto was little more than a stereotype, Silverheels saw it as a start, as he fought for more roles for Indians in film and TV. It was a losing battle against Hollywood’s entrenched racism, however, and native roles continued to go to white actors using dark makeup. Jay Silverheels died of a stroke at age 62.

To me the most unusual aspect of this story is the connection between Jay Silverheels and Joe E. Brown. Based on their performances there could not have been two more different men in Hollywood. I guess that’s why they call it acting.


1923 – James Arness. Actor who played Matt Dillon on TV’s “Gunsmoke” for about a hundred years.

In 1950, before “Gunsmoke,” he was in one episode of “The Lone Ranger.” He was also in a gritty WWII drama called “Battleground,” which was typecasting because Arness was wounded in combat at the Anzio beachhead in Italy.

My father had little use for TV, thought it a waste of time–and he would get on my case when I was a kid if I watched too much. However we made peace when it came to “Gunsmoke” which he liked. I only wished it had been “Have Gun Will Travel,” which I thought was far superior.


1949 – Hank Williams Jr.

Country western musician, son of country legend Hank Williams, and father to Hank Williams, III.

Musically I’d rank them as follows: 1st-Hank Williams, Sr. 2nd-Hank Williams III, 3rd-Hank Williams Jr.



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.


Battle of Avarayr –


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

* Lead-In Image (sunset art)  – lazy clouds /

* Battle of Avarayr (video) – /

* Alse Young’s Final Journey (video) – Windsor Community Television /

* Harvey Haddix (video) – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette /

* Jay Silverheels (video) – Historica Canada /

* James Arness (video) – CBS News /

* Hank Williams Jr. – All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight (video) – Curb Records /

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



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* Stay tuned for more!