History Flashback: 1961

Introducing Ken Loyd, a retired third grade teacher from Sandhills Farm Life Elementary in Carthage, North Carolina. Ken is the father of a good friend of mine from North Carolina, which is how I met him and started following his blog. Ken blogs about his adorable granddaughters, his adventures with his wife Judy, and miscellaneous topics from history to music to everyday life. I love to read Ken’s blog, especially for his perspectives on history, school, and his memories (oh, and the cute baby pictures). I’m happy to say that Ken is willing to be an occasional guest blogger, as the topics come to his blog. Enjoy!

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By Ken Loyd

I just finished a good book: Our America. Funny thing is, I’d read this book before– 48 years before. It was published in 1961 and was the newly adopted history book (before the term “Social Studies” came in vogue) for DeKalb County Schools in Atlanta.

I came upon this book at a thrift shop during our summer travels. Re-reading it was truly a trip back in time. It covered American history from Columbus up to the election of John Kennedy. I loved history then, and I love it now. But my second time through the book I got a real kick out of the way several things were described.

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Here are some of my favorite examples. I hope you enjoy them.

  • On DeSoto discovering the Mississippi River: “The Spaniards thought it very muddy and did not explore it.”
  • On the settlement of Jamestown: “Now, King James had a river and a town named after him. History doesn’t say whether he was pleased or not.”
  • On buying Manhattan from the Indians: “Minuit gave the Indians trinkets and beads worth about twenty-four dollars. Manhattan Island is not for sale at that price now.”
  • On English-Spanish conflicts: “The Spaniards in Florida were not good neighbors of the Georgians. . . . After a few fights, the Spaniards decided to stay in their own yard.”
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The inside cover of Our America featured stars indicating the year each state joined the union. This was the first new textbook our school had had since Alaska and Hawaii attained statehood.

  • On the thirteen colonies: “In time, we shall see that “thirteen” was to be England’s unlucky number.”
  • On relations with King George–the “olive branch” offered: “Dear King,– Kindly be a little easier on us. Because, if you mean to take away our liberty, we will fight.”
  • On American defeat at the battle of Monmouth: “However, one of Washington’s generals ordered his men to retreat for no good reason whatever. There was a great to-do about this, and Congress told this man that he was no longer needed in the army.”
  • On children reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “Before you pick up the ‘funnies,’ or begin that new adventure story, why not read these two famous papers? Don’t be afraid of the big words in them. Any older person will be glad to tell you what they mean.”

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  • On effectiveness of “bucket brigades”: “At the cry of ‘Fire!’ men grabbed pails or buckets and formed two lines from the fire to the nearest water. The buckets were filled and passed along one line from man to man. Then the water was poured on the fire, and the buckets went down the other line to be refilled. Usually the fire won.”
  • On a new political party: “To take sides against the Democrats, a new party was formed in 1832. This party took the name of Whigs. Please don’t ask why. The name ‘Whig’ died in 1860. And ‘Republican’ took its place. That is a much nicer name.”

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I’ll be posting on this subject again soon, but here’s a timely parting shot.

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  • “In the years of prosperity and good times, the people do not make ready for the hard times that sometimes lie ahead. Nothing is put aside for a rainy day. countries and nations are like people. They do not get ready, either. And people and countries never seem to learn this lesson.”

Guess what? The paragraph above was not written about the Great Depression which began with the stock market crash of 1929. It was about the “hard times” America endured from 1837 until 1841, during the term of President Martin Van Buren. Anyone think history doesn’t repeat itself?

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