Tuskegee Airmen medal ceremony set for March 29

March 23, 2007

Tuskegee Airmen in Europe, Library of Congress photo

Congress voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to the Tuskegee Airmen as a group. The ceremony is set for Washington, D.C., in the Capitol Rotunda, for March 29, 2007.

This is another great story of Americans, otherwise held down in their daily life, who rise to meet a monstrous challenge. They not only met the challenge but achieved a degree of triumph beyond what anyone had hoped. The story is a natural segue to the post World War II civil rights movement, and it fits nicely into studies of the war or studies of civil rights. News items around the time of the ceremony should update the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and provide good photos for classroom presentations.

“It’s sort of an open validation of the Tuskegee Airmen, that we fought stereotypes, overcame them and prevailed,” said Roscoe Brown, an 85-year-old Riverdale, N.Y., resident who graduated from the Tuskegee program in 1944. “This is the ultimate when your nation recognizes you.”

The gold medal, equivalent to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is awarded to individuals or groups for singular acts of exceptional service and for lifetime achievement. The Tuskegee fliers will join a distinguished group of recipients that includes George Washington, Winston Churchill, Rosa Parks, the Wright brothers and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., introduced identical bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2005 to give the airmen the congressional medal. The Senate bill passed in October 2005 and the House followed in February 2006. President Bush signed the bill into law last April.

It is also a story of racism and bureaucratic bungling delaying appropriate recognition to heroes for 60 years.

Lee Archer, 87, of New Rochelle, is America’s first black flying ace.

“It shows the country is trying to right an old wrong,” Archer said. “I never thought we would get it, but we would have done it without any recognition … . My family is very excited. I am, too.”

Of the 994 black aviators who got their training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama beginning in 1942, fewer than 385 are still alive. On March 4, Edgar L. Bolden, 85, who trained at Tuskegee and flew P-47s, died in Portland, Ore.

More information:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Resist Racism.

Geography learning, on-line

March 22, 2007

Do your students have access to computers?

Test Your Geography Knowledge may seem a little elementary; alas — or maybe “hooray!” — it goes over exactly the sort of simple stuff I find too many high school students don’t have:  Basic political geography.   It beats Microsoft’s solitaire for in-class timewasting.  (This is a show-off site for a programmer and company, Lizard Point; look at other stuff at the site, and think of what you can do with it.)

That site has a link to Quiz School.  On-line quizzes, that you invent, that you can put into your classroom weblog — wonderful idea.  What can you do with this tool?  (It wouldn’t hurt you at all to post links to your quizzes here, would it?)

Back to geography:  You’ll also want to check out Sheppard Software, and the collection of geography games there.  The variety of games is quite outstanding — I even found one related to forestry.

Tip of the old scrub brush to SSBG’s blogroll.

Want the facts? Go buy a newspaper

March 21, 2007

Truman showing incorrect headline

President Harry S Truman shows a headline from the Chicago Tribune, a headline incorrectly calling the previous day’s election for Truman’s opponent.

If textbook fights, school curricula litigation and constant internet sniping got you thinking the clash between science and religion is a tough problem to work on, you should look at the clash between news gathering organizations and their financiers who argue that economics says news should be dead.

Not all should be doom and gloom in the news biz. Tim J. McGuire, dean of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, argues that the delivery of the news still needs newspapers, and that newspaper economics show that profits can be produced by good, mainstream news outlets: “Writing off newspapers is premature, irresponsible.”

McGuire doesn’t ignore the bad news:

The circulation declines are undeniable. Some metropolitan newspapers have lost 10 percent of their circulation in the past three years. Classified revenues at some big newspapers are off by $50 million to $100 million in the same period. Layoffs and news-hole reductions are breathtaking. Short-sighted corporations are trying to cut their way to better profit margins.

He points to a different view:   Read the rest of this entry »

Quote of the moment: W. C. Lowdermilk, soil erosion

March 20, 2007

Soil erosion in Virginia, photo by W. C. Lowdermilk

Soil erosion in Virginia, photo by W. C. Lowdermilk “Figure 15. — A formerly productive field in Virginia that has been cut to pieces by gully erosion. About 50 million acres of good farm land in the United States have been ruined for further practical cultivation by similar types of erosion.”


From Conquest of the Land through 7,000 Years, by W. C. Lowdermilk, its first director, a soil conservation publication of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, first issued in about 1939:

When in Palestine in 1939, I pondered the problems of the use of the land through the ages. I wondered if Moses, when he was inspired to deliver the Ten Commandments to the Israelites in the Desert to establish man’s relationship to his Creator and his fellow men — if Moses had foreseen what was to become of the Promised Land after 3,000 years and what was to become of hundreds of millions of acres of once good lands such as I have seen in China, Korea, North Africa, the Near East, and in our own fair land of America — if Moses had foreseen what suicidal agriculture would do to the land of the holy earth — might not have been inspired to deliver another Commandment to establish man’s relation to the earth and to complete man’s trinity of responsibilities to his Creator, to his fellow men, and to the holy earth.

When invited to broadcast a talk on soil conservation in Jerusalem in June 1939, I gave for the first time what has been called an “Eleventh Commandment,” as follows: Thou shalt inherit the Holy Earth as a faithful steward, conserving its resources and productivity from generation to generation. Thou shalt safeguard thy fields from soil erosion, thy living waters from drying up, thy forests from desolation, and protect thy hills from overgrazing by thy herds, that thy descendants may have abundance forever. If any shall fail in this stewardship of the land, thy fruitful fields shall become sterile stony ground and wasting gullies, and thy descendants shall decrease and live in poverty or perish from off the face of the earth.

A thoughtful festival of liberal comments, Carnival of the Liberals 34

March 20, 2007

Brainshrub hosts the 34th Carnival of the Liberals, an Ides of March edition, with ample warnings to would-be-tyrants, or to leaders who refuse to listen to their people, or to the sages who know better.

COTL is rather unique in that it limits the number of posts to about a dozen. It’s generally a quick read, packed with information. COTL logo

Mentioning it also gives me a chance to plug the pending Fiesta de Tejas!, a carnival of Texas history and other things Texas. We’re aiming for April 2, no foolin’. Details are a few posts down on this blog.

Test-driven? Or character-driven?

March 19, 2007

If you have anything to do with education, especially primary and secondary education, or the testing required by modern ideas of what education should be and the “No Child Left Behind” Act, go read this column by Colman McCarthy:

Test-Driven Teaching Isn’t Character-Driven
No Child Left Untested is politicians’ answer to better education. What about better people?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Is There Life After Breakfast?

Quote of the Moment: Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech

March 19, 2007

Winston Churchill delivering the "Iron Curtain" speech, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946 - Photo by George Skadding

Winston Churchill delivering the “Iron Curtain” speech, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946 – Photo by George Skadding

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

Sir Winston S. Churchill, in a speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946, titled “The Sinews of Peace.”

Some historians mark the beginning of the Cold War from this speech, in which a respected world leader first spelled out the enormous stakes at issue, and also pointed out that Russian, communist totalitarian governments were replacing more democratic governments in nations only recently freed from the spectre of Nazi rule, in World War II.

Oh, why not: Below the fold is the speech in its entirety, from the transcript at the Churchill Centre. Read the rest of this entry »

Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier part of Texas history

March 18, 2007

My first visit to Texas in the early 1980s, to visit friends in Houston and in-laws in Dallas, I met Blue Bell Ice Cream. It was love at first bite, of course.

Bluebell Creamery's ad, barn and blue sky

Blue Bell Creamery ad, barn and blue sky, and their memorable slogan

Ice cream plays an important role in my family. Family reunions, or just any celebration in summer, were excuses to pull out several hand-cranked ice cream makers, and freeze away. Homemade vanilla delights the palate, and family gourmands grind vanilla beans to add a little extra oomph. When grandfather Leo Stewart had peaches from his orchard, or later just peaches from our backyard tree in Pleasant Grove, Utah, fresh peaches went into the mix. Only someone who experienced my father’s peaches in my mother’s custard, frozen in a hand-cranked freezer, could fully appreciate Willie Stark‘s lines about peach ice cream in Robert Penn Warren’s book, All the King’s Men.

White Mountain 6-quart hand crank ice cream freezer

White Mountain 6-quart hand crank ice cream freezer, one of the better freezers

Homemade ice cream is a bother. Better freezers are not cheap, and they don’t travel well. My mother’s mini-freezer disappeared sometime in one of her later-life moves. My father’s much larger, two-gallon colossus simply wore out, with most of the ferrous metal parts rusting away, and even the wood of the barrel crumbling to dust. Proper salt to get the solution colder than freezing is sporadically available in city supermarkets. My mother’s recipe for the custard, unwritten as all her better recipes, died with her.

Bluebell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla

Bluebell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla

Utah is a haven for ice cream makers. Snelgrove’s on 33rd South in Salt Lake City is tradition in many families (Snelgrove is now owned by Dreyer’s, but still operates as Snelgrove in Utah) (Update, July 2008: Snelgrove’s is dead). My wife’s family is partial to Farr’s in Ogden, “Farr better ice cream” — and it is very, very good. Trips to visit family include stops at Farr’s.

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla tastes like my mother’s custard frozen in a hand-cranked freezer. It is consistently the best-tasting ice cream, for a very reasonable price.

Blue Bell celebrates its 100th anniversary as a company in 2007, the “little creamery” in Brenham, Texas, where Blue Bell is made.

Even better, the company wants you to suggest new flavors, and is holding a contest to get good, local flavors. Winners of the Taste of the Country Flavor Contest get a trip to Brenham for the 100th anniversary celebration.

Plus, winners get a year’s supply of Blue Bell ice cream.

Blue Bell is a nice local company making good. Though the production is limited (and I believe it is still true that all the ice cream is made in Brenham), so it is available only in 17 states concentrated in the southeast, the brand is the third best-selling brand in the U.S.

If you’re near Houston, you would be well advised to make a side trip to Brenham to tour the Blue Bell ice cream factory (plus, the bluebonnets will be in bloom shortly).

North America is a big continent, with international brands that work for international consistency of products, so that the company’s customers get the same experience regardless where the customers are — think McDonalds, Burger King, and Coca-Cola. Large conglomerates often own even nominally regional brands. As I noted earlier, Snelgrove’s in Salt Lake City is now run by a national ice cream giant — even Ben & Jerry’s brand is now owned, produced and marketed by a national marketing giant. Blue Bell is a standout, an almost-local brand, with limited distribution. Part of the joy of a well-working free enterprise system is finding a well-run local company, with a unique product.

Blue Bell could make a fortune bottling their success formula, too, in addition to their ice cream.

Bluebell logo

Glen Dromgoole at the Abilene Reporter-News reviewed the book about Blue Bell’s history in his column February 18, 2007, “Blue Bell Ice Cream, a Texas Staple, Turns 100.”

Time capsule shaped like a ’57 Plymouth

March 18, 2007

1957’s heat and dust must have affected the movers and shakers of Tulsa, Oklahoma. How else to explain their burying a perfectly good 1957 Plymouth Belvedere?

They buried it, though, as a time capsule, to be dug up by those very advanced people of the 21st century, in 2007, for the centennial of Oklahoma’s statehood in 1907. (Quick quiz: How many states joined the union in the 20th century? What is the longest period the U.S. has ever gone without adding new states?)

Good heavens! This is 2007!

1957 Plymouth - buried car.com photo

1957 Plymouth - buried car.com photo

So, as promised, Tulsa will dig up a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, in a ceremony on June 15, 2007. Get your tickets and can plan your trip to watch already.

Why a 1957 Plymouth?

The car was seen as a method of acquainting twenty-first century citizens with a suitable representation of 1957 civilization. According to event chairman Lewis Roberts Jr., the Plymouth was chosen because it was “an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now.”

The contents of a women’s purse, including bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket, were added to the glove compartment of the car shortly before burial.

Other items included in the time capsule were: Read the rest of this entry »

Texana & History Carnival

March 17, 2007

Chili pepper night light

Fiesta Texana!

Okay, Texas history fans: It’s time we got our stuff together for a Texas history carnival[Update:  The inaugural Fiesta de Tejas! is here, at the Bathtub, on April 2.]

Except, this being Texas, just calling it a “carnival” probably won’t cut it. It needs to be a fiesta.

Our friend and colleague David Parker over at Another History Blog mentions the Georgia History Carnival today (the carnival itself is at Provocative Church). If Georgia, with its dull, almost-landlocked, not-found-by-Europeans-until-the-17th-century and having-only-peaches-instead-of-peppers history can do it, Texas should be able to do it better.

Heck, we could almost do a carnival on Texas-shaped cooking gear and foods.

Texas-shaped grill from Texas Correctional Industries

Texas-shaped grill from Texas Correctional Industries.

Texas-shaped Bubba Burgers

Texas-shaped Bubba Burgers.

Nobody makes Georgia-shaped burgers. And contrary to popular belief, Wendy’s burgers are not really shaped like Colorado, or Wyoming.

So, what do you think? Should we have an internet carnival of Texas history and things Texan? If you think it’s a good idea, leave a comment saying so. If you have something to contribute, send it along to Fiesta Texana!, e-mail me at edarrell[AT]sbcglobal.net. Let’s see what happens.

(Chili pepper nightlight from Katsu Designs.)

Update: Okay, we’re registered as Fiesta de Tejas at the Blog Carnival. We’re off and rolling, accepting entries. Send in your best!

(We could also use a logo — something with an armadillo, or a pepper, or a cowboy hat, sideoats grama grass, or surprise us! No pay, of course — just glory.)

R.I.P.: HP Sauce (made in Birmingham, anyway)

March 16, 2007

This morning at 6:00 a.m. local time (GMT), the last shift finished work at the H. J. Heinz Co.’s plant in Birmingham, England, closing production in England of its famous HP Sauce. Production will be shifted to a plant in the Netherlands.

HP sauce, photo from BBCAbout 125 Britons will lose jobs.

HP is a vinegar-based sauce, used primarily on breakfast dishes if I understand it correctly. It is not available in the U.S. under that name, or at least, not available widely. I have been unable to get a description of what it tastes like.

HP was registered as a trademark before 1900, in what appears to be a reference to “Houses of Parliament,” where, the creator of the sauce said, it was quite popular. For a time it was called “Wilson’s sauce” after British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. According to a BBC story:

The closure has been opposed by unions and civic leaders but US owners Heinz decided the factory was not viable.

Businesses near to the factory launched a Save Our Sauce campaign and protests were held in Birmingham and outside the American Embassy in London in a bid to get the company to change its plans.

Birmingham City Council leaders met with Heinz managers to try to draw up fresh plans and MPs tried to get HP banned from tables inside the Houses of Parliament as it was no longer “a symbol of Britishness”, but all to no avail.

Production team leader Danny Lloyd, who has worked at the factory for 18 years, said it was “like the bottom had fallen out” of the workers’ worlds.

Heinz markets Heinz 57 sauce in the U.S, primarily intended for beef dishes, and competing with A.1. Sauce, a product now owned by Kraft Food, another monster, conglomerate food marketing organization. Heinz also owns the Lea & Perrins brand, which is famous in the U.S. for British-invented Worcerstershire sauce.

A high school class could make quite a meal of branded foods and sauces once made by small, local companies, now owned by large, global conglomerates.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Groves Media. Photo from BBC.

Update, March 16, 2007: How big is this thing? Courtesy of Paul Groves, check out this link: www.brownsauce.org

Banned in China: Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub?

March 16, 2007

Is it just technical, or is it something I said? Does the Chinese government have no use for Millard Fillmore, who sent an expedition to Japan to open up trade there, or is it the thought of bathtubs that puts them off?

Any way it is sliced, according to GreatFirewallofChina.org, this blog is not viewable in China.

Test your own, or someone else’s: Test.

Odd consideration: Fox News is also blocked from China. Who could object to that, except on principle? On the one hand, one appreciates the good taste shown in blocking the site. On the other hand, even garbage journalism has rights in the U.S.

Okay, we’ll stick with principle: Not even Fox News should be blocked.

And, just to be sure, if a site you test produces a result that suggests it is available in China, will you let me know? I found very few available.

Quote of the moment: Sunshine

March 16, 2007

Quote of the Day

“Gee, open meetings actually leading to better government. Now there’s an idea.”

— Political columnist Bob Bernick complimenting Utah House Republicans for opening their caucuses this year. He also writes about the SLC mayoral election. (Morning News)

[Presented here raw, with a tip of the the Bathtub’s old scrub brush, from the newsletter of Utah Policy Daily. Bernick is the long-time political reporter for the Deseret News, and a former classmate of mine from the University of Utah; Utah Policy Daily is operated by Bernick’s predecessor at the News, LaVarr Webb.]


Quote of the Moment: Nikita Khruschev, whose side is history on?

March 15, 2007

About the capitalist states, it doesn’t depend on you whether or not we exist. If you don’t like us, don’t accept our invitations, and don’t invite us to come and see you. Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.*

Nikita Sergeyevich Khruschev (1894-1971); reported statement at a reception for Wladyslaw Gomulka at the Polish Embassy, Moscow, November 18, 1956

Khruschev enjoys a hot dog in Iowa, 1959

Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev enjoying a hot dog in Des Moines, Iowa, during his 1959 tour of the U.S. (Photo from American Meat Institute, National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, http://www.hot-dog.org)

* The exact phrasing of the last line is debatable. As Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 16th Edition has it, “Neither the original nor the translation of the last two sentences appeared in either Pravda or the New York Times, which carried the rest of the text. Another possible translation of the last sentence is: We shall be present at your funeral, i.e., we shall outlive you; but the above is the familiar version.”

Christian Seniors push bogus history

March 15, 2007

California Congressman Pete Stark answered a query about his religious beliefs, saying he does not believe in God. This is not unusual, really. Through history the U.S. has had people of many religious beliefs, and disbeliefs, serve in Congress.

A group calling itself the Christian Seniors Association, a division of Traditional Values Coalition, hit the panic button unjustly, issuing a press release noting a “Sad First in the History of Congress.”

“It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God,” said CSA Executive Director James Lafferty. “The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer, but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.

Would it be too much to ask such a group to actually study history? This is not a first, and probably not all that historic, either. Their claim is bogus history.

In 1846 an Illinois state representative ran for Congress, against a famous Methodist preacher, Read the rest of this entry »

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