Category Archives: History

Holocaust Deniers Should Never Be Denied Our Attention

As nationalism continues to grow around the world the denial of the Nazi Holocaust seems to be growing with it. Sky News, a major UK news source, recently reported that 1 in 20 Brits don’t believe the Holocaust happened and another 1 in 12 don’t believe it was as serious as history reports.

As a retired history teacher, I have spent much of my life studying WWII and the Holocaust. I’ve read many books, biographies, and watch hours of original film documentation of the major death camps being liberated by Allied forces in 1945. Given all the evidence that exists I find it impossible to deny it happened and that it happened exactly as reported.

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A Brief History of Presidential Wealth

We’ve had forty-five presidents in our nation’s history and there’s a prevailing myth that anyone, regardless of wealth, can grow up and join the club. While it is possible, and we do have examples, to be born poor and make it to the White House, is not the normal way things happen, especially in the modern era.

Everyone knows about Lincoln being born in a log cabin and splitting fence rails for a living. But besides Abe, there are a number of others who had similar humble beginnings. On the list of those who weren’t born with a wooden spoon in their mouths would be George Washington, the Roosevelts, John F. Kennedy, and the Bushes.

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The Marching Mothers of Hillsboro

Click photo for info about The Hillsboro Story.

Several years ago we went to Southern State Community College for a performance of Susan Banyas’ play, The Hillsboro Story. It was about a protest by Hillsboro, Ohio’s black community regarding segregation of the town’s schools. In going through my records I came upon a series of photos I took and among them was one of two ladies who I think played some part in what became known as the Marching Mothers. Can anyone tell me more about this and the two women? I believe one’s name is Goodrich and the other Young.

 

Considering Black Memorbilia

Last evening we watched an Independent Lens (PBS) production titled Black Memorabilia. Basically, it spent an interesting hour focusing on the memorabilia that has and continues to reinforce African American stereotypes. Those stereotypes that have been used to demean, belittle, psychologically harm, instill fear, sell products, and continue to be profitable as the collector market explodes.

In all the flea markets and auctions I’ve attended I can’t recall coming across such items. I have, however, seen a lot of Nazi memorabilia changing hands. Being a child of the WWII era I have a cursory interest in these items but never had the desire to own or collect them. Just touching an SS lapel badge feels kind of slimy to me.
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Water is Water Unless You’re Colored

This being Black History Month PBS has been running a number of special programs. Recently we watched one titled With Infinite Hope: MLK and the Civil Rights Movement. It began with a synopsis of life in America’s South at the beginning of the fight for civil rights in the 1950s. While I had first-hand experience observing segregation and Jim Crow laws I’m still, after all these years, having my eyes opened.

Everyone has probably seen two side by side drinking fountains in a Southern bus terminal with one labeled whites only and the other colored only. The stupidity, racism, and hypocrisy of this was driven home by an older black woman who simply suggested you look at the common water supply line feeding the two fountains.

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The Olde Barbershop of Yore!

For some reason, I got to thinking about old barbershops while washing my hair this morning. When I was a kid the thing was to wash your hair and then splash on a ton of hair oil or tonic before combing. When you got a haircut the barber did the same. Before running a comb through your hair he’d splash on a generous dose of some very sweet smelling oil.  The wet head certainly wasn’t dead in the 1950s.

One fad during that era was the flattop and it too had its own petroleum-based product, Butch Wax. The barber would meticulously get your top hairs short and level and then to hold it all upright, in defiance of gravity, he’d slap on a large glob of some gooey gel that your mother would play hell getting washed out of the pillowcases.
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Talk About Your High Inflation Rates!

It was reported that Germans used wheelbarrows and laundry baskets to haul money to the store to buy food.

When I was teaching about the causes of World War Two I had to discuss the rampant inflation rate in Germany following World War One. In 1914 the exchange rate between the German mark and the American dollar was roughly 4.2 to 1. According to Wikipedia, nine years later it was 4.2 trillion to 1. I remember telling my students that the mark was weakening so fast that people would pay for a restaurant meal when ordering because if they waited until the meal was finished, the price would have gone up.

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The Negro Motorists Green Book

Today marks the fourth day of Black History Month for 2019. As has been my custom I try to write about some aspect of the Black experience in America. Here’s my current offering. I hope you both enjoy it and learn a little of our nation’s history. 

My father’s family was from South Carolina and during the 1950s I would occasionally spend a summer with them. Because of that, I became aware of Jim Crow or segregation laws. I never tried to understand these things and as a kid just accepted them as being, “the way things were.”

As an adult, I began to learn and question the truth and subsequently became a sometime student of Southern and Black History. This eventually led to an interest in blues music history and from this, I became aware of the Chitlin Circuit, a loose association of entertainment venues that catered to  Black performers. Traveling the circuit meant Black entertainers needed services. They needed fuel and car maintenance, food, shelter, medical care and so much more that wasn’t easily found in a segregated America.

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Think Before Donning That Red Ball Cap

I was in a local tire shop a couple of years ago and a young man, probably not twenty yet, walked in sporting a t-shirt with large letters proclaiming “FUCK JESUS!” While I’m not a Christian I was offended. Not so much for myself but for others present, friends, who I knew were. Correct or not, I challenged the youngster and asked him if he got out of bed that morning intent on pissing people off? He just looked totally stupid at me as if he hadn’t read and considered the content of his chest. I told him that while he had the right to wear his shirt I questioned if he had a justifiable reason. Was it appropriate for the environment in which he found himself? Speech has consequences and the consequences that kid potentially faced were far more serious than some old man asking him if he was trying to piss him off.

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My First Cell Phone

These days just about everyone has a cell phone and almost everyone who has a cell phone has a smartphone. I don’t know when you purchased your first cell phone but I got mine sometime in the mid to late 1980s and it was a “bag phone.” I don’t recall the brand but I had to drive to Dayton to purchase it and it worked on the Cingular network. I did a lot of weekend traveling back then and thought it would make things safer for me. While I never had to use it to get me out of trouble I did have occasions to call 911 for others.

The battery, antenna, and the phone were stored in a bag and to charge it you plugged it into your car’s cigarette plug. Not very portable but you could throw its strap over your shoulder and you were free…until the battery wore down.

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Trump’s Improbable History

A couple of days ago Donald Trump sat surrounded by his lackey cabinet and rambled for ninety-minutes about things he knows little of. The one thing I paid close attention to was his explanation of why the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.  History records several reasons for the invasion including the desire to increase Soviet influence in Southcentral Asia and to support the failing communist government of Afganistan.

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The Almost Lost Art of Bent Willow Furniture

Back in the ’50s, it was quite common to see bent willow furniture sitting on people’s porches and patios. A childhood friend had two chairs on their porch and I always loved sitting in them. They were handmade by an older man who lived in a small shack along a nearby creek. The creek and surrounding wetlands gave him all the raw materials he needed.

He would build single chairs as well as couches and side tables. The fellow didn’t have a car or truck so he pushed a large two-wheeled cart loaded with his furniture up and down the village streets peddling his wares. On days he didn’t have furniture to sell he would push his cart around town hauling away people’s scrap metals and newspapers.

I believe the only piece of willow furniture we ever had was a small child’s rocking chair that one of our daughters used for her children.

Several years ago I was driving through the Florida Panhandle and came upon a large pickup truck with a cab-over rack. The vehicle was heavily loaded with beautiful bent willow furniture. I don’t know where they were from or where they were going but I sure wish I’d chased them down and brought a couple of chairs home.

It’s been a long time since I gave the subject any thought but today I came across a video of a young man in Kentucky who’s keeping the craft alive. If I wasn’t so damned old now I’d look the guy up and place an order. I’ll post the video below and hopefully, this will bring back some pleasant memories for you.

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To Smoke or Not to Smoke?

Recently I pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s and in front of me was a car with two teenage boys. They weren’t paying attention and keeping up with the line. So, expecting a flock of angry birds I honked my horn. It woke them and from then on they mostly paid attention.

What I noticed, when their heads weren’t bobbing to something I wouldn’t recognize as music, was that both were either smoking cigarettes or vaping. I could fault them for that but at their age, I was on my way to becoming totally nicotine addicted and working my way towards two or more packs a day.  The brief experience made me reflect back on my own experiences.

Ironically the Marlboro Man died of cancer.

I guess that I began smoking around age twelve, if not younger. That would have been 1954 and I continued smoking until 1982 at age forty when I attended a smoking cessation class and six weeks later snuffed out my devil weed. So, I smoked 28 years and have been smoke-free for 36 years.

In 1954 a pack of cigarettes in New York was .23 cents and I was smoking one or two a day.  By 1960, the year I graduated from high school the price was .26 cents and I was consuming a pack a day. In 1982 cigarettes were .82 cents a pack and I was smoking three packs a day and if I went bar hopping on Friday night it would be another two packs for a total of five.

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President Bone Spur’s Letter of Exemption

What follows is part of a New York Times article regarding the way in which the Trump family may have used its influence to obtain a bogus letter exempting Trump from the military draft.

“The New York City podiatrist who gave Donald Trump a letter stating he had bone spurs on his heels—which enabled him to dodge the Vietnam War draft—issued the document as a favor to Trump’s real-estate developer father, Fred, from whom his office space was rented, the doctor’s daughter has told The New York Times. “I know it was a favor,” said Elysa Braunstein, now 56, who said the implication from her father was that the future president did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. Braunstein’s surgical office in Jamaica, Queens, was owned by the Trump family until 2004. Braunstein said that after the letter was issued, her father received preferential treatment from his landlord. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.” Larry Braunstein died in 2007. A second podiatrist, Manny Weinstein, who was also allegedly involved in testifying to Trump’s condition, was a close friend of Braunstein’s, she said. Weinstein lived in two apartments in Brooklyn owned by Fred Trump. He moved into the first space during the year Donald Trump received his exemption. In an interview with the Times in 2016, Donald Trump said a doctor provided “a very strong letter” about the bone spurs in his heels, which he then presented to military draft officials. He said he could not remember the doctor’s name. “You are talking a lot of years,” Trump said. He had been declared available for service two years earlier and underwent a physical exam, records show. Officials again declared him available for service in July 1968, by which time he had exhausted four education deferments and finished college. However, the last-minute diagnosis of bone spurs, which has been widely mocked, kept him out of military service.”

Patton on Walls

My wife and I were recently talking about how much of an exposed border America has. In light of that, I saw this meme that is such a good visual illustration of how meaningless a Southern wall is. There also appears to be some evidence that more illegals cross the Canadian border than the Mexican. Regardless, America is a very porous nation and no fence is going to keep people out. Once again, walls don’t work, just ask the Chinese or the French. I know that Trump knows more than his generals but just bear in mind these words from General George S. Patton, “Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity. If mountain ranges and oceans can be overcome, anything made by man can be overcome.”