This Day in History – November 18 – 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.




1686 – The Royal Fistula.

Charles Francois Felix operated on King Louis XIV’s anal fistula. Up until this time, surgeons, mostly moonlighting barbers, were at the bottom of the medical hierarchy with physicians at the top. Louis developed a painful growth in his anal region preventing him from riding horse or even sitting down at times. All kinds of remedies were attempted, but provided no relief for the royal bottom. In desperation the king sought out Felix, who declared he could remove the growth but would need six months to practice. He performed six dozen experimental operations on a test group provided by a local prison, not all of whom survived. Finally confident, he operated on the king, sans anesthetics. The king stoically bore up under the knife and soon was riding horse again. Then the operation became a “thing” with the elite class. Everybody had to have one and and Felix became rich and successful. He also elevated surgeons to the same class as physicians.

Given the subject matter, it would be easy to step over the boundaries of good taste. I, of course, can’t resist taking that step. The same as King Louis XIV, I had an anal fistula. I also had it operated on, thankfully with anesthetics. The next day a nurse informed me she had to take a look. I’m bent over, cheeks spread, and she’s behind me with a small flashlight. As if talking to herself, she says, “People say to me, so Barb, what is it you do for a living?”


1936 – Germany and Italy recognize the government of Franco.

The Spanish Civil War was in its fourth month with the forces of the military coup, led by General Franco, advancing on Madrid. The violent takeover of a democratically elected government was supported by dictators Hitler and Mussolini. Ignoring a non-intervention pact, they also began supplying Franco with weapons and personnel. The democracies of the world stood back, respected the pact, and let Loyalist Spain fend for itself. The result was a Franco victory, forty years of dictatorship in Spain, and the beginning of WWII.

Weak, scandalous even, behavior by England, France, and the United States. I’m critical of FDR, a man whom I generally admire, in this instance. But then again, Standard Oil supported Franco and supplied his forces with oil while denying it to the Loyalists, and since, the same as now, corporations are the true power running America, what could he do?


1949 – Jackie Robinson is named Major League Baseball’s MVP.

Robinson became the first African-American player to win the most valuable award. That season he batted .342, stole 37 bases, drove in 124 runs, and led the Brooklyn Dodgers to the World Series. Only two years earlier, enduring a season of racial taunts, Robinson had broken MLB’s color barrier.

It was as a young boy being introduced to the game of baseball that I first heard his name. Without having seen him play I knew he was something special due to the near reverence used when his name was spoken. Confusion reigned for me also because sometimes almost in the same sentence would be derision over his color.



1861 – Elizabeth Gilmore AKA Dorothy Dix.

Journalist. Born to a slaveholding family in Tennessee, Dix had no formal education but went on to become one of the most widely-read journalists of her time. Married at an early age, and unhappily, she left her abusive husband for a time, moved to New Orleans and began writing. Hired by the Daily Picayune, her star quickly rose. She moved to the East Coast and for fifteen years covered the crime beat, mostly murder trials, for a Wm. Randolph Hearst newspaper. She also wrote an advice column, a forerunner to today’s Dear Abby type of column. Dix quit reporting on crime, moved back to New Orleans and concentrated on her column which eventually was syndicated in 273 newspapers around the world and had an estimated readership of 60 million.

Dix joined the suffrage movement and wrote articles calling attention to the issues of women and their right to vote. Her involvement included sharing a platform in New Orleans with Susan B. Anthony. Despite doling out advice on love, her own marriage was long and unhappy. She continued to write until her late eighties when she suffered a stroke. She was hospitalized for the last years of her life.

At one point an attendant brought her a vase of flowers and as if talking to someone mentally incapacitated, slowly said, “Aren’t they pre-tty flow-ers?”

Dix replied, “Oh, I thought they were a bunch of Presbyterians.”

A sense of humor, I like her.


1909 – Johnny Mercer.

Singer and songwriter. Mercer grew up in Savanah, Georgia, the son of a wealthy attorney. However, when he was seventeen, his father’s business collapsed and the family went heavily into debt. Instead of going to college as planned, Mercer went to New York City and sought work on Broadway. He found little success as an actor, but his songwriting talents were discovered. He went on to a very successful career both on Broadway and in Hollywood. He won four Oscars for best original song and had hits too innumerable to list.

Mercer’s father owed a million dollars after his business collapsed. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, he worked the rest of his life to pay off that debt. He had paid off 700,000 of it by the time of his death. Once Johnny Mercer became successful he paid off the remaining 300,000.

That says as much about the man as his immense talent. 


1945 – Wilma Mankiller.

Political activist. Born in Oklahoma, Mankiller was a descendent of the Cherokees forced to relocate there over the Trail of Tears. Raised in extreme poverty, her family moved to San Francisco to seek a better life when she was eleven. It never materialized but out there Mankiller got caught up in radical politics of the 1960s. She was part of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz and then returned to Oklahoma where she became involved in tribal politics. She became the first woman to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Fighting for the rights of Native Americans, she remained active her whole life. Unfortunately she suffered a lifetime of physical ailments and died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.

We still need more like her.



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

* Lead-In Image (Flashlight Vector Art)  hvostik /

* Johnny Mercer Interview (video) – JAMESP0WER /

* Johnny Mercer’s “Accentuate The Positive” (video) – MrRJDB1969 /

* Wilma Mankiller interview (video) – UW Video /

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



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