History Flashback: 1961, Part II

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 But it was not repealed until 1933.”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.


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!


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.


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.”

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.”


  • 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.”


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


  • “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?