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Berger’s Burg: November has more than its share of dark dates

“November hath no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, and no birds.”

Although November, the 11th month, has only 30 days, it is replete with historic dates which have changed the world.

Its name derives from Roman times when the calendar began in March. November was the ninth month — “novem” is the Latin word for “nine.” Later, the Romans added two earlier months and November became the 11th month.

They tried to change the name in honor of Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, who was born in November, but he refused. Then another attempt was made; since fierce howling winds usually swept over England in November, the Brits almost named the month “Wind-Monath” or “wind-month,” but cooler heads luckily prevailed.

Finally it was argued that November was the month when many animals were killed to provide the people with food during the upcoming harsh winter months. So, it was recommended to name the month “Blod-Monath” or “blood-month.” Ugh! This attempt, thankfully, also failed.

Some of the celebrated dates that fall in November are: England’s Guy Fawkes Day (5), Election Day (6), Veterans’ Day (11), Ramadan (beginning this year on 17), Mickey Mouse’s 63rd birthday (18), Japan’s Shichi-Go-San (15), Thanksgiving (27 this year), and St Andrew’s Day (30). In sports: the invention of basketball in 1861 (6), the first football player to be paid, in 1892 (12), and the invention of softball in 1887 (30). But there are also a few sorrowful November dates.

One such date is Nov. 9, the anniversary of the day known as the “Night of the Broken Glass” - the infamous Kristall Nacht pogrom of Jews in Germany. The day and night of terror is viewed by many historians as the beginning of Nazi Germany’s systematic mass murder of Europe’s Jewry.

On Nov. 9, 1938, mobs, urged on by the Nazi regime, ran amok throughout Germany and Austria smashing Jewish shop windows, murdering, looting, and burning synagogues and homes. Thirty thousand Jews were “arrested.” After the wanton smashing of glass windows, the streets were lined with mounds of glass resembling luminous, glistening snow. This heinous act was the precursor of future man-made disasters — certainly including the World Trade Center tragedy.

Then, of course, there was Nov. 22, 1963. Just as we will always remember the date the World Trade Center was brought down, so too was this infamous date etched in our memories. Ask anyone over the age of 45 what he or she was doing on that dark Friday, and you’ll probably get a detailed answer. It was on that day that President Kennedy was shot and killed in Texas. He, who thrilled the world with his persona and idealism, was dead.

The president loved to listen to the songs from Broadway’s “Camelot,” and often recited the lyrics: “Don’t let it be forgot, that there was once a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” We all felt that during his all-too-short administration, the country lived in a “Camelot.”

The shock of the assassination was overwhelming, unrivaled until the Trade Center disaster in September. Tears flowed. People spoke in hushed tones to one another as people do whenever there is a death in their families. Despite what history's final assessment of him may be, President Kennedy was everybody’s hero. The bullets that smashed through his brain shattered the innocence of America.

Not unlike Sept. 11, America came to a screeching halt. Most activities were suspended for an entire weekend. Radio and television stations moaned funereal music. The National Football League, in what was not their finest hour, decided to play their Sunday games. Streets were lined with mourners. Vice President Johnson assumed the presidency, sworn in on a plane.

It is quite sad to lose such a precious hero, since true heroes come along so infrequently. I know there have been other good presidents since Kennedy, but none lived in Camelot.

A final date I better not forget is Nov. 12, Gloria’s birthday. As many of my readers have learned through my columns over the years, I discovered a fail-safe way to remember the date. A popular song of the time (and still one of our favorites) was Johnny Mathis’ recording of “The Twelfth of Never.” So I would think of the title - the 12 in “Twelfth” and the “N” in “Never” and “November.” My beloved is still amazed. She thinks I possess a claptrap memory. Would you believe that I never missed Gloria’s birthday in all 38 years of our marriage? Thank you, Johnny Mathis, for helping me remember Gloria’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

I also want to wish a special happy birthday to our police, firefighters, servicemen/women, emergency workers, medical personnel, and all the others, whose birthdays fall in November. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (and many more)!!!!

Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at or call 229-0300, ext. 139 .

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