This Day in History – November 22 – 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.




1899 – Battle of Willow Grange.

The forces of the British Empire and the army of the Boers (burghers) moved into position the night of the 22nd in preparation for the battle the next day. This took place during the 2nd Boer War in South Africa. A heavy thunderstorm assaulted both armies. Lightning flashes filled the sky, lightning that was lethal. Two British soldiers and two burghers were knocked unconscious, and a burgher and six horses were killed.

One can reasonably expect to be exposed to danger in a battle, but to be hit by lightning seems patently unfair. Maybe it was God’s way of saying war is a bad idea.

There’s a very good movie about that war titled “Breaker Morant.”


1903 – Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes to Eleanor.

He did so as they walked along the banks of a river next to Groton Academy. Sara, Franklin’s mother, disapproved, but was unable to talk him out of getting married.

Two remarkable people who, in my opinion, served our nation well. The marriage itself was less well served. There is evidence that Franklin had an affair.

My mother, despite being a lifelong Republican, held Eleanor in high esteem. Late in Eleanor’s life she often became a target of ridicule for her voice and appearance. My mother would become furious in her defense of Eleanor, wondering why people felt the need to mock others. Noble sentiment, Mom, I wish more shared it, like maybe the 45th president of the United States.


1963 – President John F. Kennedy is assassinated by a lone gunman (yeah, right) in Dallas, Texas.

I was a radioman aboard the USS Jason at the time. My friend Darrold and I had rented an apartment so during our precious few off hours we could get away from the Navy. I had had the mid-watch, midnight to 0800, and on that Friday morning was at the apartment trying to get some sleep. Darrold was in the other room and the TV was on. In my half-sleep state I heard an announcer say “the president has been shot.” I thought it must be some kind of show about President Lincoln. Then I heard another announcement, “This just in from Dallas. The president is dead.” Dallas? I was confused. I heard movement in the doorway and opened my eyes to see Darrold standing there.

“Is that a TV show?”

He shook his head.

Stunned, we sat in front of the television. Then another bulletin announced. “All military personnel are to report to your units immediately.” Our apartment was in National City, a gritty blue-collar suburb of San Diego. Darrold and I put on our uniforms and headed back to the naval base where our ship was berthed. From all over the San Diego area there were streams, no, make that rivers, of sailors and marines heading back to their duty stations. Besides the shock and disbelief, what I remember most about that day was how the civilians looked at us, with a mixture of fear and. . .what, almost like they were looking for some kind of reassurance. Maybe they thought we we had some special knowledge, or were going to fix it. I think everybody was wondering if this was war, if JFK was the first victim of a foreign attack. America was glued to its TV sets for the next several days. Being on duty, with no TVs aboard ship, I missed Oswald being shot and JFK’S funeral.



1744 – Abigail Adams.

Wife of President John Adams. Hailed for her now famous admonition that the Founding Fathers “remember the ladies” (which they did not) in their new laws, Abigail Adams was not only an early advocate for women’s rights, she was a vital confidant and advisor to her husband. She also opposed slavery and supported women’s education.

My hometown, Lester Prairie, Minnesota, was named after one of its early settlers, Marie Adams Lester. Abigail Adams was her aunt.


1926 – Rodney Dangerfield.

Self-deprecating comedian. From Long Island, Dangerfield got his start working the Borscht Belt in the Catskill Mountains. He struggled for many years or as he put it, “At one point I quit show business, and I was the only one who knew I quit,” before developing his “I can’t get no respect” character. That was his breakthrough, and his career took off. Appearances on late night TV, Las Vegas shows, and even three successful roles in movies followed. At age 82 he entered the hospital for heart surgery. When asked how long he would be there, he replied, “If all goes well, about a week. If not, an hour and a half.” Dangerfield died a month later of complication from that surgery. Some of his jokes:

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.”

“My mother had morning sickness after I was born.”

“When I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.”

“I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous – everyone hasn’t met me yet.”

There nothing I can add.


1940 – Terry Gilliam.

Actor, director, animator. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gilliam and his parents moved to southern California when he was twelve. After graduating from college his repeated run-ins with the Los Angeles police radicalized him. He moved to England because he feared if he stayed in the U.S. he would become a bomb-throwing terrorist. As he put it, “I’m a better cartoonist than I am a bomb maker. That’s why so much of the U.S. is still standing.” He first was an animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus and later became a full time member of the comedy troupe. After Monty Python disbanded Gilliam worked as a director of films both in America and Europe. He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2006 in protest of President George Bush’s policies.

Monty Python could miss by a wide margin but when they hit, their skits were some of the funniest I’ve ever seen.



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 – President John F. Kennedy Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

* Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (video) – CBS /

* Kennedy’s Rice University Speech (video) – NASA Video /

* Kennedy’s Arts & Politics Speech (video) – The Kennedy Center /

* Rodney Dangerfield (video) – MadBox TV /

* Terry Gilliam (video) – Total Film /

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