By Ken Loyd
In my blog post of October 30, I shared some quotes from my 1961 3rd grade history book, Our America. I only got halfway through the book, so today I’ll continue. Be sure to read between the lines!
- On “carpetbaggers” after the Civil War: “To make matters worse, dishonest men came down from the North. They didn’t care a thing for the South. All they wanted was to fill their pockets with Southern money, if there was any to be had. For a while it was no wonder that the Southern people did not trust anyone from above the Mason-Dixon Line.
- On Edison’s invention of the electric light: “Now, when you press a button or turn a switch to get light, do you thank Thomas Edison? Probably not.”
- On Henry Ford: “Henry Ford began to make his famous automobile in 1903. Some people called it a “flivver,” and others called it something else. But it did not cost an awful lot of money. So, soon workmen, farmers, and college boys were rattling around in Fords. Also money began pouring into Henry’s cash box.”
- On the 18th Amendment (1919)– ‘Prohibition’: “And now let’s look at the amendment which caused the most trouble. This law said that no one in the United States should make or sell any liquors that make people drunk. Beer, wine, whisky, and rum were some of these liquors. Men had always drunk them. And now they claimed the right to drink when and what they wanted. Uncle Sam said, ‘No!’ Let’s see what happened. Gangs of men, called ‘bootleggers,’ made liquor in secret. People drank in spite of the law, and the bootleggers grew rich. It was easy to see that this amendment was doing the country no good. But it was not repealed until 1933.”
- On President Harding: “Warren G. Harding was a tall, fine-looking man, who made friends easily. He was a “good mixer,” as we say. Sometimes he mixed with the wrong kind of people. Then he was in trouble.
- On the founding of the American Legion: “A lot of American soldiers met at Minneapolis, Minnesota, after the war (World War I). They formed the American Legion. The members swore to keep the spirit of patriotism alive in Our America. They wanted to fight in peacetime for the good things of life that they had fought for in the war. Perhaps your dad is a member of the American Legion.
- ***NOTE*** As an aside, many people know that World War I was once called “The Great War.” But if you had looked it up in the 1925 World Book Encyclopedia (a mere six years after the war ended), you would have found it under “The War of the Nations.” I love reading about history in contemporary sources, such as period magazines and newspapers, before history can be “spun,” as is so often the case nowadays.
- On the Great Depression: “The Stock Market crashed in 1929. There was much weeping and wailing and cries of, ‘Our money is gone! It’s Hoover’s fault!’ But poor Herbert was not to blame. The people did not think of their own foolish spending. We all know what it is to ‘feel low’ or ‘blue.’ We say that we feel depressed. The whole country was certainly depressed after 1929. Everyone went around short of money and with long faces.”
- On Franklin Roosevelt’s remedy: “President Roosevelt thought that he could cure Uncle Sam of his depression blues. ‘What the old gentleman needs, ‘ said Franklin, ‘is some of my New Deal medicine. The New Deal was made up of things with long names, like Agricultural Adjustment Administration and National Recovery Administration. Whew! These names were hard enough to say, without trying to remember what they meant. So letters took the place of the full name. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration became the A.A.A. Then we had the N.R.A., the C.C.C., and the F.E.R.A. Also the P.W.A., the C.W.A., and the W.P.A. And so on, and so on, and so on.”
- On the evolution of war from 1776 to 1945: “In 1775, the Minute Men of Concord fired ‘the shot heard round the world.’ In 1945 the earth echoed to the terrible atom bomb. That finished our war with Japan. It also destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atom bomb marked a big step ahead in wholesale slaughter. In the wink of an eye whole cities could now be destroyed. People could be killed by thousands, and nations wiped out. What a wonderful invention for the gods of war!”
- On Television: “Many houses had queer-looking gadgets attached to their chimneys. TV had arrived. All in all, Our America seemed to be doing OK.”
- 1961–The State of the Union: “We live in a wonderful country today, filled with wonderful things. Such things as the early settlers never even dreamed of. How they would stare at our cities with tall buildings reaching toward the sky! At our automobiles, buses, streamlined trains, and great jet planes.”
A history book of today (if 3rd graders had such things) might read similarly: “We live in a wonderful country today, filled with wonderful things. Such things as Americans of 1961 never even dreamed of. How they would stare at our personal computers, DVD players, digital cameras, cell phones, camera phones, satellite TVs, Netflix, Tweeter, microwave ovens, DVRs, GPS, Wi-Fi Internet, I-Pods, Wii, XBox 360, PlayStation. And so on, and so on, and so on.”
I hope you enjoy these history flashbacks. This may be my last post about the book Our America, but I have some other history topics coming up soon.