Category Archives: History

The Help, It Has Its Critics

Melissa Harris-Perry is an African-American professor of political science at Tulane University, a political commentator on MSNBC, and now has her own Saturday and Sunday morning program on that same cable network. She also has a diverse background in African-American History so she is well ready to discuss current media in the context of historical reality.

From that perspective she has been an outspoken critic of the critically acclaimed movie, The Help. I’ve not seen the movie but I know that part of the story line involves the relationships between black maids and the white families they served during the Jim Crow Continue reading The Help, It Has Its Critics

Trees Bearing Strange Fruit

I’ve been a student of American History for most of my life. The thing that draws me to history is the constant challenge it presents to one’s perception of reality. We all live in a comfort zone and make assumptions that everyone is experiencing what we are and that things have always been as they are. Studying history never stops pulling the rug out from under one’s feet. Just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked, bam!, I’m laying on the floor!

Yesterday I began watching a new DVD on the history of Chicago’s Maxwell Street. In the middle of explaining the black exodus from the South during WWI the front page of a Louisiana newspaper, the New Orleans States, popped up and shocked me. Continue reading Trees Bearing Strange Fruit

The Dalton Brothers, Bank Robbers & Early Occupiers?

This isn’t going to be easy because it involves a friend of mine and regardless of how this story unfolds, a myth or two about his ancestors may get dented and bruised a little.

If you know anything about the history of the West you’ve heard of the Dalton Brothers or the Dalton Gang. There were a lot of Daltons and there seems to have been only one, Frank, who spent much on the respectable side of the law. Well, one of my coffee drinking buddies is named Dalton and takes great pride in claiming he is a direct descendant of this famous band of train and bank robbers.

He also claims that the same Dalton family descended from British royalty and I once did a little research for him and verified that Daltons did exist in British nobility. Whether he or the Kansas outlaws share DNA with the élite royal Daltons, however, is subject for debate. Continue reading The Dalton Brothers, Bank Robbers & Early Occupiers?

A New Biz Plan For Pier 1 Imports

Back in the 60s I was living in Whittier, California. Both my wife and I were full-time college students and living off a very meager income. Our entertainment had to come from simple pleasures. Often we’d visit Knott’s Berry Farm which, at that time, didn’t cost anything to get into. Free parking, free admission and you could walk the place over without spending a dime.

Another simple pleasure was driving down to Santa Ana and going to Pier 1 Imports. I don’t know how many of these stores there were in the LA area or if they had gone nationwide yet. The one near us was the only one I knew of.

At that time imported goods weren’t that common in America and the only made in China junk was made in the Republic of China which we know today as Taiwan. The door to trade with the People’s Republic of China, aka Red China or mainland China, was still frozen shut. Most of Continue reading A New Biz Plan For Pier 1 Imports

Paradise Found, Paradise Paved

Remember the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s song, Big Yellow Taxi, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot?” Well, that is what happens to most, if not all, things considered paradise. Back in the early 1960s my ship pulled into the Naval Station at Key West, Florida a few times. Key West at the time was a small town sitting on an island that was mostly mangrove swamp and marshes. There was a road that encircled the island and one that cut across it laterally. The open air bars and quaint sidewalks were not crowded and the natives were hospitable and mainly friendly.

The next time I made it to Key West was Continue reading Paradise Found, Paradise Paved

Mushroom Memories From the Cold War Era

Like so many of you, I am a child of the Cold War. Those decades when the United States, China, and the Soviet Union kept the world on the edge of nuclear holocaust 24/7-365.

During those decades we all learned to “duck and cover“, be aware of strangers asking questions, fear Communism (even if we didn’t know what it was), accept the cost of a strong military, permit the government to conduct highly secret operations, and stand quietly by while the House Un-American Activities Committee stripped many Americans of their rights because they wouldn’t roll over and drink the Kool-Aid.

On our black and white TVs we allowed our fears to be intensified by watching such shows as I Led Three Lives, the story of Herbert Philbrick who became an agent for the FBI and infiltrated the Communist Party in America. In our theaters we got cold chills watching such movies as The Manchurian Candidate. Continue reading Mushroom Memories From the Cold War Era

“History Yes, Nostalgia No”

Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor of Political Science, Tulane Univ.

I’m a member of a group on Facebook composed of current and former residents of my hometown, Greenfield, Ohio. This group was formed several months ago by a woman who lived in and went to school in Greenfield during the early 1960s. She, like so many others, long ago moved away but never forgot what growing up in a small town was like.

There are over 300 members of the group now and most of the conversation centers around “do you remember” kinds of things. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve learned much from being privy to the collective memories of those who take part.

One recently asked question was, “What do you miss most about Greenfield?” My answer was different from many. While many people could generate a specific list of things they seemed to genuinely miss, I could only create a list of those things I enjoyed experiencing but wouldn’t particularly want to experience again. I have fond memories of, but don’t miss the past. Continue reading “History Yes, Nostalgia No”