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 flashed filled the sky, lethal lightning. 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 is a very good movie about that war titled “Breaker Morant.”
1903 — Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes to Eleanor Roosevelt. 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, apparently, was less well served. There is evidence that FDR had an affair.
My mother, despite being a lifelong Republican, held Eleanor in high esteem. Late in Eleanor’s life she often became the 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 Midwatch, midnight to 0800, and 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 was 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 donned our uniforms and headed back to the naval base where our ship was berthed. From all over theSan Diego area there were streams, no, make that rivers, of sailors and marines heading back toward 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 reassurance. Maybe they thought 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 an attack.
America was glued to its TV sets for the next several days. Being on duty, with no TV’s aboard ship, I missed Oswald being shot and JFK’s funeral.
1744 — Abigail Adams — Wife of 2nd President John Adams. Hailed for her now-famous admonition that the Founding Fathers “remember the ladies” 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 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. 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’s nothing I can add.
1940 — Terry Gilliam — A member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Gilliam, born in Minnesota, was an actor, writer, director and animator.
Monty Python could miss by a wide margin but when they hit, their skits were some of the funniest I’ve ever seen.