Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Yes, You Can Quote Me!


Presidential quotes have always held my interest. I think they have a valid place in the classroom. Taken out of context they can appear as a random mish-mash of who the man happened to be, but when you do a little digging the quotations help students to gain a little more insight into the man and the historical era in question.
For example, take these three quotations attributed to President Woodrow Wilson.....
---The government, which was designed for the people, have got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.
---I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.
---A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks, mostly sits.
It doesn't matter if I agree with the sentiments or not. What's important is allowing students to dig, make connections and to discover for themselves the context of the quote. I think the process is even more powerful when students can take quotes from an era different from their own and determine if the quotation has validity in contemporary times.
Wikiquote is a source you can use regarding specific quotations and their context. Sometimes I have used presidential biographies to choose the quotes.
Getting back to President Wilson.....here are a few links to posts I've written in the past regarding his life and time in office.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Online College Student - Lazy?

Most colleges and universities provide their students with opportunities to take courses online. Unfortunately, online classes still suffer a bad reputation due to many myths that simply don't hold water.

The following Info graphic takes a hard look at online education...


Via: GetARealDegree.Com

Friday, November 23, 2012

13 Things - Lincoln...the Movie

I went to see the movie Lincoln last weekend.

I loved it!
I’m looking forward to seeing it again…and again.

The movie covers the time period from January, 1865 to April 9 at the end of the war and five days later when President Lincoln was assassinated.
Spielberg had already begun to develop the idea of a movie concerning Lincoln, but after attending a luncheon for historians where he met and spoke with Doris Kerns Goodwin he decided to base his project on her book, Team of Rivals, however, the scope of the book…..the scope of Lincoln’s presidency is too large and complex a subject to digest into a movie format.

Spielberg had to decide what to focus on, and I’m pleased he decided to focus on the struggle to end the war and most importantly the wheeling and dealing that was necessary to get the 13th amendment passed.
Here are 13 little tidbits regarding the movie….

1.Spielberg and his team spent over twelve years researching the movie.  The attention to detail far outweighs other discrepancies here and there, even though those very discrepancies are the subject of this post. One detail that amazes me happens to be the watch sounds you hear in the movie…tick, tick, tick.  The sound is from Lincoln’s actual pocket watch he was wearing the night of the assassination. The watch is on display at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfurt, Kentucky. Spielburg recorded the watch sounds and incorporated them into the movie.

2. Other "real" sounds that Lincoln would have heard were used as well. Lincoln often visited St. John's Episcopal Church after reading the war reports at the telegraph office. He would slip into the church if services were underway and slip out again before the members of the congregation would know the President of the United States had been there. Spielberg's team recorded the actual sounds of the St. John's steeple bell as well as the creaking of Lincoln's pew and the floorboards he would have stepped on.
3. There are no historical indications at all that Mary Todd Lincoln ever attended any sessions of Congress including the House debates or votes concerning the 13th Amendment though the movie indicates her attendance. This is purely for dramatic flair…. I don’t have a problem with it, but in 1865 it simply wasn’t done.
4. While the debate and voting scenes did take place in the old House chambers at the U.S. Capitol, voting would not have taken place called by state delegations.  It would have been done alphabetically.

5.Also, many of the representatives who voted “NO” on the 13th Amendment are not identified in the movie correctly. As with any congressional vote there are many reasons why a member votes for or against a measure, but Spielberg decided to change the names for fear the men’s families would be embarrassed or suffer undue attention.

I’m not sure how I feel about that….

6. At one instance President Lincoln mentions something about signing the 13th Amendment. That wouldn’t have……shouldn’t have been done.  Resolutions are not turned into amendments by the signature of the President. They are passed by both houses of Congress and then ratified by the states. President Lincoln’s signature was NOT needed……..however, in a quirky move he DID.   President Lincoln did sign the 13tth Amendment!

You can read about it here.

7.In a few scenes the Executive Mansion is referred to as the White House.  This was not in vogue during Lincoln’s administration, and would not have happened. In Lincoln’s day the “people’s house” would have been referred to as the Executive Mansion or The Mansion.
8.During the brief scene at Appomattox General U.S. Grant is shown very clean however, according to the late historian Shelby Foote (loved that man!) in Ken Burn’s Civil War series Grant attended the formal surrender wearing the overcoat of a private and was very muddy.

9.At some point the political operatives Lincoln hired to help sway votes in favor of the 13th amendment mention to the President they are having problems paying people off since the coins they are using have Lincoln’s likeness on them.  These coins did not exist during the fight to push the 13th amendment through.  They didn’t exist until four years after Lincoln’s assassination, and of course, it was the penny, not a fifty cent piece as mentioned in the movie.
10.Thankfully the last scenes of Lincoln do not go into great depth regarding the Lincoln assassination.  Thankfully….because most Americans are familiar with the events and Spielberg wanted to hit on portions of Lincoln’s administration that viewers might not know as much about. What was included was a scene after Lincoln had been removed from Ford’s Theater and taken across the street to the Peterson house.  What the scene portrays, however, is a little inaccurate.   Rather than laying in the fetal position as he passed away fully clothed Lincoln was placed on the bed diagonally as the bed couldn’t support his tall frame any other way.   Lincoln was also naked under the covers as his clothes were removed so that he could be examined for other possible wounds.

11.On the day the crew filmed the final vote in the old House Chambers, Michael Stanton, the actor who played Hiram Price began to cry.  Later he told Spielberg his great-grandfather had been a member of the press in 1865 and had sat in the gallery that historic day.  The moment simply overcame him…..Stanton said, “There we were in this room recreating one of the most important moments in American history and up there in the Gallery sat my great-grandfather.”
Now…..THAT’S a historical moment!

12. While many historians have been critical of the voice for Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis developed for his portrayal of Lincoln, Spielberg apparently approved of it.   I liked it….   It is said when Day-Lewis developed a voice he liked he made an audiotape of it and sent it to Spielberg in a box labeled with a skull and cross bones meaning for Spielberg’s eyes only.
13.Finally, many critics and friends have stated to me that Daniel Day-Lewis should win the Academy Award for his performance as President Lincoln.  I agree.  He was fantastic, however, did you know he wasn’t the first choice to portray Lincoln?

Yes…..Liam Neeson was involved in discussions regarding the part, but finally bowed out because he felt he too old.
You can read some of my other postings concerning President Lincoln listed below:

Did Lincoln Make a Deal With God?

You can find some other interesting bits of information about the 13th Amendment here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mixed Images...One Powerful Message

Look at this picture.  Observe it very carefully.  You can click on the pictures to isolate them and make them a little larger



Yes, you see soldiers proceeding up a street, but notice that you are actually looking at two images…..one from World War II and another from more contemporary times of the same location.
A historical mix…of sorts.

Think about the impact this could have on students of history.  Think about the connections that students could make between historical content and their surroundings.
These pictures are the work of historical expert Jo Teeuwisse from Amsterdam.  This article from the Daily Mail states she began superimposing images from different time periods of the same location after finding 300 old negatives at a flea market in her home city depicting familiar places in a very different context.

Here is a second example of her work.......



Like Miss Teeuwisse I think this process of making war scenes or any historical image have meaning by linking it to a more familiar image heightens the impact. As she states, “knowing the exact spot of some detail will etch it into your visual memory.”
Teeuwisse’s work isn’t just as simple as layering photographs, however.   She researches daily life before and during the war, interviews eye witnesses when she can and recreates certain aspects of history to gain a unique insight into that area.

Isn’t that something than any history teacher worth a grain of salt wants to do with their students?  
Of course…..part of our job description is to help students gain unique insight into the historical content we present to them.

Click through to see the pictures presented with the Daily Mail article.  Also visit the Ghosts of History Flicker page and the Facebook page here.
I’m thinking the process of superimposing images from various historical times …..The Civil War, Civil Rights and not just World War II would be a valid project for students with a little planning and guidance.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Tale of the Red River Raft


I love the story of the Red River Raft for several reasons. 

First the name...you might see in your mind's eye images of pioneers racing down a river with all of their earthly possessions stacked on a hastily fashioned wooden log raft, but that's not what this story is all about.  

In fact, the story involves the INABILITY to move on a river.

Yes...this story is not what you expect, and if you spend any time around here then you know I like the unexpected change-up in content.

This story also embraces a bit of historical myth... which again....if you spend any time around here reading my meager little offerings you know I like to bust those myths as much as possible, but in this case....it might be okay to include the myth with the lesson content as a hook to draw students in. 

This story also has geological and geographical implications  and a bit of science. It spans several historical eras including Native Americans, pioneers, and the transportation age...and some interesting characters as well. 

Known as the great raft, it was actually a gigantic log jam. It was a huge "raft" that clogged the Red River and ran for 160 miles.

Now at this point I'm sure you are asking yourself.....What in the heck could cause this thing?  I was asking that very thing myself.

It seems the flood rivers of the Mississippi River engulfed the smaller Red River forcing large amounts of driftwood upstream....over thousands of years a log jam formed comprised of cedar, cypress and petrified wood.

In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson assigned Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis to explore the southern Louisiana Territory. President Jefferson ranked their trip second only to the more well known Lewis and Clark Expedition. Freeman and Custis discovered the log jam north of present day Natchitoches, Louisiana and described it as "so tightly bound a man could walk over it in any direction." It covered the width of the river and went to the bottom. 

You can find out more information regarding the expedition here and here.     

See the map of the expedition below:


The first effort to clear the river came in 1833 when Captain Henry M. Shreve of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used a new invention Shreve had contrived called the "snag steamboat" to pull the logs out and send them floating downstream. The boats had and interesting nickname..."Uncle Sam's Tooth Pullers". These boats were not just used to clear the Red River Raft. They were also used to clear snags along the Mississippi and other major waterways.

It took three years to clear approximately 70 miles of the river, but by 1839, the raft had reclaimed much of what had been cleared.



One scheme after another followed for the next 32 years trying to free the Red River Raft. Some resources report the government spent over half a million dollars to remove the log jam.

By 1872, Lieutenant E.A. Woodruff, an Army engneer tried his hand at attacking the log jam. He used Shreve's snag boats, but added other boats as well including boats outfitted with saws and boats with cranes to eat away at the edges of the raft. 

This link tells a bit more regarding Lieutenant Woodruff's work, and how he met his death. 

Eventually, another tool was utilized as well when the boats couldn't untangle the logs... nitroglycerin.

Yes, what they couldn't untangled.....they just blew up.

To keep the log jam from reforming the crews dug reservoirs, dredged the main channel and constructed dams.




By 1900, the Red River was permanently opened for trade from the Indian Territory to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Now the story takes a little turn of the bend to the former port city of Jefferson, Texas....a town along the Red River described as the westernmost outpost on the river. The town actually spread out along the banks of Big Cypress Creek.

The log jam existed when the town formed, and in their case the log jam actually helped them. The logs made the water level rise in the Big Cypress Bayou at Jefferson and permitted commercial riverboat travel, and of course....Jefferson became a very important port in Texas between 1845 and 1872.

The town reached its peak right after the Civil War when the population rose to 7,297 people. The town's history page states....The years after the Civil War became Jefferson's heyday with people coming from the devastated southern states seeking a new life. In 1872, there were exports in the thousands of dry hides, green hides, tons of wool, pelts, bushels of seed, several thousand cattle and sheep and over a hundred thousand feet of lumber. For the same period, there were 226 arrivals of steamboats with a carrying capacity averaging 425 tons each....Hotel registers from the early days indicate some very important folks moved through Jefferson including Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde, and Rutherford B. Hayes.

Today...the population is a paltry 2,024 per the 2000 census.

So, you might be asking why the decline?

At this point of the story we need to bring in Jay Gould, the railroad magnate. Mr. Gould came to town wanting to bring the Texas and Pacific Railroad through Jefferson. One version of the story goes that Jefferson's town leaders would have nothing to do with the newfangled railroad because they were happy with the river traffic. They turned down Gould's offer to purchase the right-of-way, and the Texas and Pacific line did NOT go through Jefferson.

Gould is said to have not been happy when the folks in Jefferson turned him down, and there is a popular story...JUST a story some say....that Jay Gould announced the grass would grow in the streets of Jefferson since they turned their backs on his offer. It is said he wrote in the register of the Excelsior Hotel that the refusal to accept his offer would mean "the end of Jefferson." There is also a story concerning the fact he gave assistance to those removing the log jam which eventually caused Jefferson's decline as a port city.

There are those who say Mr. Gould never did such a thing mainly because he didn't own the railroad until the late 1880s, and he wasn't in Jefferson until later either, but it does make for a good story.

Many  people also point to the fact that the town attempted to build its own railroad from Shreveport to Marshall in 1860, but only 45 miles was completed before the outbreak of the Civil War. Folks argue the town couldn't have been against the railroad since this attempt was made.

Most amazingly considering how they protest the story isn't true, the city of Jefferson capitalizes on the story.   It seems they have Jay Gould's personal rail car.....The Atalanta....on display and own it outright.


No matter which version of the story you go with it cannot be denied that the destruction of the Red River Raft, and the rise of the railroad caused the city of Jefferson to decline,

...and what we are left with is a great story to craft lessons in order to share this information with students!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Movie Review: Lawless


I went to see the move Lawless the other night and was quiet pleased.  A friend recommended the movie to me and told me I would like to see it because it was just MY THING.

Well.....it was MY THING and more....mainly because it is real history based on true story.  

The movie is based on the book The Wettest County in the World that has been aptly described as a fictional account of a very real time.  Matt Bondurant, the author, writes of his family including his grandfather....the main characters of the book.... and calls his work a parallel history using family stories, archival records, news clippings and court transcripts.

The movie is termed a gangster film and to a certain extent that's a correct description.....The movie opens in 1931 when the three Bondurant boys are making and selling moonshine in Franklin County, Virginia.  While violence is just part of the business things get dicey when a corrupt lawman wants a cut and the Bondurant boys don't want to play.  Apparently, making moonshine was a huge business......hence the title of Matt Bondurant's book.....because it's estimated that 90 people out of 100 were making moonshine or had some connection with the making of it in Franklin County.

Of course, the Bondurant boys were breaking the law....but while watching the movie we don't really care.  In this instance they are the bad boys girls seem to like and root for.

The movie stars Shia LaBeouf and one of my new favorite leading men....Tom Hardy....who plays the seemingly invincible Forrest Bondurant.    I'm seriously thinking I need to hunt through Netflix and view some of Hardy's other cinematic offerings.....if you know what I mean.  




Violence?  Yes, the movie is full of it....so was the book, but the moonshine business  was a violent business after all.  The book....reviewed by Lauren Bufferd at BookPage mentions the book is "extremely graphic, with multiple descriptions of physical injury, brutality and sadistic behavior."

The movie is rather graphic, too.

One of the events the movie mentions but doesn't go into any detail about is the Great Franklin Moonshine Conspiracy trial of 1935....with good reason.

Per this article the conspiracy began....in 1928 when then Franklin County Sheriff Peter Hodges divided the county into districts and assigned a deputy to each district.  The deputy's job was to enlist people to operate stills and then collect protection money - $25 per still, $10 per load of whiskey and $5 for a filing station.  

And while folks like me and historians....want to write scholarly works on the subject the fact of the matter is they can't because many of the court documents regarding the conspiracy is missing.

This article states.....But the events of the 1930s have produced no scholarly study, in part because court files and the official trial transcript inexplicably disappeared in the 1950s.  Finding the missing documents has become the personal mission of T. Keister Greer, A Rocky Mount lawyer who retired  last year after practicing 42 years.   Greer, 69, has written to the survivors of the attorneys involved in the conspiracy trial, scoured court records and searched state archives.   He even sifted through 100 boxes containing the personal papers of the Judge John Paul, who presided at the trial.  The last reference to the transcript that Greer has found is a 1945 notation that the document was wired to the clerk of the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.  "Then," Greer said, "it simply disappears from the face of the earth.".....Greer said a review of the trial transcript - prepared for the appeal of one defendant - could shed new light on the conspiracy trial and on a subsequent trial for jury tampering.

You really have to wonder......what happened to those court documents and why?

A really talented teacher might want to build a mini-unit around the Franklin County experience with Prohibition and include a mystery lesson component surrounding the court records.

The book is reviewed here.

Rolling Stone reviews the movie here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Historical Hats


I began my morning yesterday realizing I had a few things to do that didn't have anything to do with any of my goals or work....making appointments for others....finding paperwork for others....washing clothes for others....and thinking about two or three projects I needed to finish up for others.

It's not that I mind doing these things...hardly.  I like to help, but more and more I find my day is full doing a list of things that don't have anything to do with a table of contents I must flesh out, articles to write, and seeing writing opportunities......or at least answering the emails when the opportunities seek me out.

Just a normal day for me as I grew more frustrated by the minute, but this time my thinking and my realizing left my brain, moved down my arms and out my fingers to a Facebook status that said, "I wear too many hats that aren't mine...some by misguided choice, some that are inherited and some are foisted upon me.  I'm going to stop.  Take your friggin' hat and wear it yourself....'

Later, while I was working out at the gym I thought about my status, and then my mind wandered to hats in general.

My first introduction to hats was at Greenbriar Mall west of Atlanta when I was five or six.  Mother frequented  Rich's department store....an Atlanta mainstay....quite often.   Well, actually......very, very often.  She knew most of the clerks by name, and they knew her, too.    I can close my eyes and actually walk around the store in my mind I was so familiar with the layout.  

Right in the center of the store were the escalators with the bakery on one side and the hat department as well.  Every now and then if I caught Mom in the right mood she would give the clerk a smile, and they would let me sit down at the table and chair in the hat department and try on a few. 

I generally went for the flimsy, wide-brimmed pastel creations...but secretly I really loved the veiled concoctions.   At the time I just knew I liked them....now I know I liked them because they were deliciously sexy...add in a pair of matching leather gloves you can only remove by unbuttoning five or six covered buttons, and.....

Oh my....




In another life I had to have worn hats....I MUST have....and mourn the fact that they just aren't worn that much anymore....at least not in the circles I travel.  

I turned away from my hat desires to think about other hats....hats in history.

Historical hats....

There had to be some.....right?

Earlier this year the Victoria and Albert Museum had an exhibit regarding hats.  Of course, since the exhibit ....a collaboration between the museum and Stephen Jones....was in Great Britain the collection included hats belonging to former queens including Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

When we think of Queen Victoria we tend to think of a rather large aging lady in black as she spent the last several years of her life mourning the passing of her husband, Prince Albert, but for many years she dressed very colorfully including fancy bonnets.  The collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum included a bonnet from the 1840s....a construction made of plaited horse hair and salmon pink ribbon.   You can just make it out along the bottom half of this picture.  




The beige tulle and lace hat worn in the late thirties by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was also in the collection.   She wore the hat for a series of well known photographs taken by Cecil Beaton on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.  
Turning towards American History the most iconic man's hat would have to be Abraham Lincoln's use of the top hat.  Lincoln was already a tall man.  It is said he was taller than most no matter where he went, so wearing a top hat was like a six foot woman deciding to wear five inch heels.  

This hat is the one President Lincoln wore on the last night of his life...April 14, 1865.  It's on display at the Smithsonian Institute.  




My research indicates President Lincoln bought this particular hat from J.Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker.  Notice the black silk band....Lincoln had this added to the hat in remembrance  of his son Willie.  

Following the assassination the War Department took possession of the hat and other items left behind at Ford's Theater.  From there the hat became the property of the Patent Office and later was transferred to the Smithsonian where it has remained.  In those days the employees of the Smithsonian Institute were instructed not to exhibit the hat and not to mention that it was there because of the furor it might cause in those early years following the President's death.

The hat remained in a basement storage room for almost thirty years before it was finally displayed in 1893 when the Lincoln Memorial Association borrowed the top hat for an exhibition.  

Of course, today....it's one of the most popular artifacts of American History the museum owns.

Unfortunately, another iconic hat in American History is also connected to an assassination ....the Kennedy assassination.

The American public was first introduced to the pillbox hat during the Kennedy inauguration.

This article states:

[The hat was] a fawn-colored domed pillbox created by a then unknown 29-year-old named Roy Halston Frowick.   The hat sat tilted toward the back, nearly doubled the size of her head, frankly, and creating a pretty contrast to her striking dark looks.  She was nothing the country had ever seen.   A fashionable, beautiful and highly cultured First Lady, one who not only spoke fluent French but effortlessly shopped in Paris and New York.   Across the country, women unanimously agreed:  This young woman was their new fashion icon.  For his part, Halston had no idea what was coming.

Jackie Kennedy also wore a pillbox hat on that fateful date in Dallas, Texas.




The pillbox hat First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore the day her husband was assassinated is as iconic as the pink suit.  

This article from 2011 advises the suit was turned over to the National Archives, but the hat is missing and remains missing to this day.

Somewhere inside the hospital [that fateful day in Dallas], the hat came off.  "While standing there I was handed Jackie's pillbox hat and couldn't help noticing the strands of her hair beneath the hat pin.  I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head," Mary Gallagher, the First Lady's personal secretary, who accompanied her to Dallas, wrote in her memoir....

The pink suit, blood-stained and perfectly preserved in a vault in Maryland, is banned from public view for 100 years.  The pillbox hat...is lost, last known to be in the hands of [Gallagher], who won't discuss its whereabouts... 

....[At some point following the assassination], a box arrived at the National Archives, where such treasures as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are kept.  In it were the suit, blouse, handbag, shoes, and even her stockings, along with an unsigned note on the letterhead of Janet Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy's mother:  "Jackie's suit and bag worn November, 22, 1963.

No hat.

One has to wonder about the  hat.....

Ah.........yet another mystery in history.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Business Degree Is Always a Smart Choice

I've always advised students you can't go wrong with a business degree.   It gives you several ways to go with a career and employers always like to see a candidate with a business degree.   

Lots of different people have business degrees such as Danny Glover, John Elway and Trisha Yearwood all have business degrees.   Lionel Ritche and Kevin Costner do, too.   


Via: DeVry University

Monday, September 03, 2012

Facing the Past


A year ago I took a short ride to my former elementary school   We had heard the school was in a state of demolition having finally been abandoned by Fulton County.  After the county stopped using the building as an elementary school and then as a police officer training facility and then as a place to store voting machines...they just packed up and left it....all alone.

The last lesson had been taught, the last kickball kicked and the last lunch tray washed years and years before.

During the summer of 2006 I visited my old friend....my elementary school....and she was looking pretty good.   A little tired and worn out, but holding her own.  You can read about my visit back then here and see a few pictures I posted

However, once the building was abandoned....she took a turn for the worse.  It wasn't long before the roaches and the vermin took over...and I don't just mean the kind that crawl on four or more legs. 

Crack addicts, vagrants looking for shelter broke in.....all of the copper pipes were taken as well as fixtures of any value and old glass....doors and transoms....the very tall windows.....the types of things "they don't make like that anymore."

And at some point the community...if it can be called that....began using my school as a dumping ground.  Quite frankly, I can't call my old community a "community" because how can you treat an old building....a school that was so integral to the community for so long.....like this?




The playground was no better.



A slow...agonizing death.

You can't even drive up the driveway anymore because of the junk.   The state of the building took my breath away....



It was hard to climb those steps...the same steps I sat on as a child waiting to be sorted out for kickball teams.

.....and of course by climbing those steps I was confronting the past.




We walked the hall...the oak hall that had gleamed because James, our janitor always had the floor buffer out and working away.  

I though about that as we traversed the hallway...a hallway now littered with insulation and torn ceiling tiles...piles of trash....torn up pieces of sheet rock.  At some points along the hallway we were literally tottering on piles of debris and very uncertain as to what was underneath.....even if anything would be underneath to support us.

I walked by doors I had opened and closed as a child...and transoms now broken.






There were huge holes ripped out of the flooring revealing the dark underbelly of my school....a building that had always been safe for me, but now....was quite dangerous as we gingerly walked down the hallway.



We have to face our past sometimes...the good and the bad...just like we have to face an unknown future.  There are holes.   We might get around them....some of them we fall through.....but the holes are inevitable.   Some of us get stuck in the holes....some of us eventually climb out and forge ahead to the next pile of debris or inevitable hole.

For all the joys of life..and are there many.....there will be debris.....there will be holes.

A whirlwind of events swirled around my head as I kept going down the hall.  

Why didn't I notice him more?

Why did he die at such a young age?

Where is she now?

That was so important to me then...when did it change?

This is what is left of my fifth grade classroom...the first year I had a boyfriend....a boyfriend who actually returned my feelings.



The back parking lot where I planted flowers and other plants during my fourth grade year....you would never know that now.




My first grade classroom...the room where I read about Alice and Jerry and their little dog Jip......where I poured over Richard Scarry's Busytown books and had to sit still for math.  


 

The walkway...now overgrown where I sat as a child waiting on my mother to pick me up.




As we drove away I whispered goodbye and took one last picture.


 I won't go back.  Ever.  It's too hard to see what my school was allowed to become. 

I'm content with my memories, but I know deep in my heart I'll continue to wrestle with my questions because apparently I've reached that season of life.....

But it is hard facing the past....good and bad.

It always is....

I'm ready for the season to change.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Giving a Nudge to Vargas and his Nose-Art

Cute Young Man approached my desk rather gingerly because he knew he shouldn’t be up.
 
First, since it was our “silence is golden” time – that time I allotted on the plan book during the week for students to read aloud anything they wanted to from my classroom library, so he shouldn’t have been out of his seat since I had already given everyone a chance to choose their reading material, and we had already rotated through the restrooms.     

Secondly, since I read something during this time as well……I really didn’t like being interrupted.

Cute Young Man whispered, “Elementaryhistoryteacher, I need to ask you something.”

Hmmm….that was obvious since he was standing beside me during “silence is golden” time, but I decided not to mention that and said, “What do you need, Cute Young Man?”

He had a book in his hand….not one of mine, but it didn’t matter.   Students could bring items from home to read.   The important thing was that my students  were reading, and they were silent.

The book appeared to be an older edition of something dealing with World War II.  Cute Young Boy put the book up on my desk and said, “Look at this…..”

I quickly scanned both pages containing all sorts of images, and then I zeroed in on what he wanted me to see.  

There were several pin-up pictures on the page.   Thankfully, the women were all dressed but there were several of this type:




And there were a few planes with the same type of artwork on the nose area like this:




I explained to Cute Young Man best as I could what he was looking at with the most PG explanation I could find.     More than likely at his age he had already seen an issue of Playboy or Penthouse……..but I certainly wasn’t going there at all. 

Many bombers and fighter planes with the United States Army Air Force were painted with ‘nose art” or mascots during World War II.   It was unofficially permitted since many of the drawings depicted women who were barely clothed or entirely naked.   The "brass" pretended to look the other way in most cases.

Many of the drawings were done by crew members themselves or copied from men’s magazines.  Actresses, girl friends, etc. were used for models.

Calling these women depicted on the planes as mascots may seem a little demeaning today…..feminist groups during the Gulf War had such drawings banned….., but during World War II, the drawings were considered lucky charms, and as the war wore on many crews had little rituals and procedures they went through during each mission to ensure they made it back to base safely.  They considered the ‘nose art’ on their plane to be part of their “luck”.

The drawings in the two pictures I’ve provided above are both by Alberto Vargas.    During the war he was already known as a successful magazine and poster artist.   As far back as the 1930s he had made a name for himself creating pastel portraits of many famous Hollywood stars.

Vargas eventually signed a contract with Esquire magazine where he produced a monthly pinup in 1940, however, his contract with the magazine required he drop the final “s” on his name, so his artwork can be found under the name Varga, too.     During the course of the war through 1945 Vargas produced a pinup each month.  The artwork ended up in the hands of millions of servicemen who received the magazine for free.

The Vargas pinups are very distinctive.  The models do wear clothing, but the girls are very erotic, and are always featured on a white background.      The eroticism made Vargas’ work and Esquire magazine hit the top of the censorship list later in the war.

Many servicemen wrote Vargas asking him to produce ‘nose art’ for their planes.   He rarely turned the men down.

Today, the The Spencer Museum of Art houses almost the entire body of graphic art produced by Vargas for Esquire.

You can find more images of ‘nose art’ and how these images are trying to be saved here at  Save the Girls, however…..and I should not have to say this, but I will…..I would not share these images or Vargas’ artwork with my young students.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

13 Olympic Controversies through the Years


When you begin to look into the number of Olympic controversies it’s a little surprising how many exist considering the purpose of the Olympic Games happens to be  goodwill, peace and reconciliation.

One of the most recent controversies caught my eye a few days ago….a controversy involving one of the most tragic events that have ever occurred during the Olympics…..the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes during the  Munich Games in 1972.  

Since that time the families of the slain athletes have tried in vain to get the International Olympic Committee to recognize the athletes who were killed during the opening ceremonies.
 
This year….the London Games……were no different.   This article from Sports Illustrated gives a little background and discusses the fight the families continue to lay at the feet of the International Olympic Committee.

Since the Sydney Games in 2000, Israel has organized a commemorative event , but the families think the International Olympic Committee should organize the event.

I see their point.  

One of the wives is quoted as saying, “They were killed on Olympic soil and the appropriate place to recognize them would be the Opening Ceremony.”

A ceremony held by the current International Olympic Committee was authorized by IOC President Count Jacues Rogge in the athlete’s village on the Monday before the opening ceremony…but the event was too low key and did not satisfy the families.

It would seem the Israeli controversy will continue until the families are satisfied.

I can’t say that I blame them.

Here are some other controversies through the years…..

2.  In 1908 the issue for the Olympics involved a flag flap.   The Grand Duchy of Finland had become independent from the Russian Empire, but was not allowed to fly the Finnish flag.  Also, Ireland participated in the games in the areas of field hockey and polo, but was not allowed to fly their own flag. 

3. American athlete Jim Thorpe was at the center of one of the controversies during the 1912 Olympics.    Once it was learned he had played professional minor league baseball he was stripped of his gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon.   As a show of solidarity the silver medalist in the decathlon, Hugo Wieslander, refused his medals when they were offered to him.   Thorpe’s medals were finally restored to his children in 1983.

4. The controversy in 1920 involved the place selected to hold the games.   Budapest had initially been chosen but due to the fact the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been a German ally in World War I, the International Olympic Committee transferred the games to Antwerp.   I wonder if the fact the IOC that year was heavily dominated by the French had anything to do with it.   Hmmm….

5. Making clicking noises to a horse was one of the controversies de jour in 1932.   Swedish equestrian Bertil Sandstrom won the silver in equestrian dressage, but was demoted because he had “clicked” encouragement to his horse.     Sandstrom argued unsuccessfully that his saddle made the noises.

6. The entire 1936 games held in Berlin could be deemed controversial since they were held in Berlin and are considered “Hitler’s Games”, however, one of the highlights included the French and Canadian Olympians and their salute during the opening ceremony.   It appeared to some they were giving the Nazi salute, but in actuality they were performing the Olympic salute, which is similar.  Both salutes are based on the Roman salute.

7. The 1948 Summer Olympics following World War II provided a little punishment for Germany and Japan as both countries were suspended from the Olympics.   The suspension would last until 1956.

8. Boycotts were the order of the day for the 1956 Summer Olympics.   A total of seven countries boycotted the games all for different reasons.   The Suez Crisis kept Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon out of the games, and France and the United Kingdom were upset after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.   The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland boycotted in protest of the Soviet Union because they had invaded Hungary, and the People’s Republic of China was upset that the Republic of China/Formosa was even allowed to compete.

9.. Apartheid kept South Africa from the games during the 1964 Summer Olympics.   The IOC would not lift the suspension until 1992.

10. The “Power to the People” Olympics better known as the 1968 Summer Games became controversial when Tommie Smith and John Carlos performed their “Power to the People” salute………..a raised fist…….during the United States anthem.   Both Smith and Carlos had won medals in the 200 meter race.

11. The 1976 Summer Olympic controversy involved the fencing portion of the pentathlon competition.   Soviet Boris Onischenko used an épée which had a pushbutton on the pommel.  When the button was activated it would cause the electronic scoring system to register a hit…..sometimes incorrectly.  The entire Soviet pentathlon team was disqualified.

12. The French version of “the finger” was at the heart of a controversy during the 1980 Summer Olympics.   Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz, a Polish pole vaulter, used the bras d'honneur gesture when he became upset with Soviet officials who he felt was cheating.   The officials were  opening the stadium doors during his attempts to allow a disturbing flow of wind.    The gesture he made created a huge scandal and he almost lost his medal.

13.  During the 2000 Summer Olympics a Chinese gymnast by the name of Dong Fangxiao had his bronze medal taken away in 2010.   It was discovered that at the time she competed she was only 14 years old…..the rules call for participants to be at least 16.  The US women’s team for 2000 moved up into third place and received bronze medals…..ten years later.

Now if you noticed at some point my list begins to just be about the Summer Olympics.    This doesn’t mean there only controversies during the hot summer.   

Hardly.

There were controversies in the Winter Olympics, too…..

Stay tuned…..I’ll try to get to those before the closing ceremonies for the London Olympics.