This Day in History – October 30 – 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.




1340 – Battle of Rio Salado.

A Moorish army was defeated by combined Christian forces from Portugal and Castile. The battle was fought in the Granada region and was the last Muslim attempt to re-establish itself on the Iberian Peninsula. The Christian forces were harsh in victory, killing many prisoners, including some of the sultan’s wives.

The significance of this battle was…hmm, I’m not sure. Other than determining some real estate boundaries, not all that much was settled. We’re still dealing with whose god is better. Or is it really about real estate rather than religion?


1739 – Britain declares war on Spain.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear. A Spanish privateer boarded a British brig and cut off the ear of its captain, Robert Jenkins. Britain took umbrage at this callous act. The war was significant in that it determined the fate of the colony of Georgia, whether it would be English or Spanish. It also marked the first time that colonial troops, Oglethorpe’s Regiment, fought for Great Britain. The war eventually morphed into the War of Austrian Succession.

There are great battle cries such as “Remember the Alamo” or “Remember Pearl Harbor.” They pale in comparison to the image of men braving bullet and bayonet, charging the rampart screaming “Remember Jenkins’ Ear!”  


1941 – USS Reuben James torpedoed.

“Tell me, what were their names, tell me, what were their names, did you have a friend on the good Reuben James.”

The U.S. destroyer, while on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, was sunk by a German submarine. 115 sailors lost their lives. Woody Guthrie wrote the song “Sinking of the Reuben James,” set to the tune of “Wildwood Flower.” These were the first American casualties of WWII, although the sinking took place five weeks before Pearl Harbor. The incident caused no outrage or even little notice among U.S. citizens.

They probably just assumed those guys knew what they were getting into.



1893 – Roland Freisler.

Judge in Nazi Germany. He was known as Hitler’s Screaming Nazi Judge. Besides sentencing over 5,000 people to their deaths, he browbeat and insulted them while doing so. He also published a pamphlet calling for laws against sexual relations between Aryans and inferior races, or racial defilement as he called it. He was killed in an Allied bombing raid in 1945.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that he was reincarnated as a Tiki torch.


1907 – Sol Tax.

Anthropologist best known for creating “Action Anthropology.” Instead of just studying a native people, he thought the anthropologist’s job was to both help develop and preserve the culture.

I included Sol mostly because of his great name. It sounds like something that could set a revolution in motion.


1939 – Grace Slick.

Singer, songwriter, and rock musician. Slick most notably performed with Jefferson Airplane during the psychedelic music era in San Francisco.

In a review of the singer’s autobiography, Alex Kuczynski of the New York Times wrote: “Slick, the elegantly wasted lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, spent the better part of the 1960’s and 1970’s belting out powerful social anthems like ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘White Rabbit.’ The archetype of the outrageous female rock star, Slick was comfortable naked on stage, took drugs, made plans to dose Richard Nixon with LSD on a trip to the White House, got arrested a few dozen times, went through rehab a few dozen times and named her daughter god with a lower-case ”g” (her daughter now goes by the name China Kantner).”

On the Dick Cavett show she was purportedly to be the first person to say the word “motherfucker” on live TV. After she retired from music, she said it was sad that aging rockers continued to perform, that it wasn’t what rock was all about.

Slick was inexplicably invited to a White House luncheon while Nixon was President. Probably because she was an alumni of the same small college as Tricia Nixon. Slick brought Abbie Hoffman as a date and, as the story goes, intended to spike Richard Nixon’s tea with LSD. The Secret Service realized who she was in time, and they were prevented from entering.

That certainly ranks high in history’s what-might-have-been moments.



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.

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