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Days Of Miracle And Wonder – Events and Voices

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Pierre Mendes-France And The Big 3 – 1954 – Past Daily Reference Room. The world as it looked in November 1954. The Cold War was raging although there was talk of “peaceful coexistence” between East and West. Unity among the Big Three was high. France was busy licking wounds over Dien Bien Phu and feeling the imperative for getting out of Indochina. America was getting its land legs back from three years of war in Korea and reflecting over the recent censure vote on Senator Joseph McCarthy. Britain was pledging to keep troops on Continental Europe for the time being. America and France did have differences of opinion on the issue of Southeast Asia. Mendes-France was interested in getting France out of Indochina at almost any cost while the U.S. was interested in training a South Vietnamese Army as a matter of defending itself against Communist overtures which were sure to visit the country at some point. Mendes-France was on an official visit, first to Washington and then to the United Nations where he proposed, during an address to the assembly, that a meeting with the USSR’s Melenkov would take place only if the Soviets showed good faith by discussing a peace treaty for Austria; a position the U.S. wholeheartedly agreed with. Mendes-France went on to add the only way talks could begin would be by making the re-arming of Western Germany a top priority. Even though there was considerable solidarity between the Big Three on the world stage, there was the thorny issue of France’s economy back home – and there also the matter of Mendes-France’s preference for drinking milk over wine, which was considered something of a shock, since it posed the potential for being an economic problem. The wine industry was probably the biggest single export commodity throughout the world, and to have your own President actively refuse to drink wine in favor of a glass of milk raised a few eyebrows. Of course, the French Dairy industry was rather bolstered by this new-found attention. And that’s just a sample of what was going on in the world as viewed from Washington on this episode of Keys To The Capitol from NBC Radio for November 24, 1954.
H.G. Wells Gives A Talk – 1937 – Past Daily Weekend Gallimaufry. We know the name H.G. Wells today as the writer of such classics as The Time Machine, War of The Worlds and The Shape Of Things To Come. But he was also a Historian, Journalist and lecturer. The science fiction historian John Clute describes H.G. Wells as “the most important writer the genre has yet seen”, and notes his work has been central to both British and American science fiction. Science fiction author and critic Algis Budrys said Wells “remains the outstanding expositor of both the hope, and the despair, which are embodied in the technology and which are the major facts of life in our world”. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921, 1932, 1935, and 1946. Wells so influenced real exploration of Mars that an impact crater on the planet was named after him. In 1937 H.G. Wells gave a series of talks over the Empire Service of the BBC. The talks, from the series As I See It are interesting, and would probably spark a lot of controversy today. His insistence that English was the only language worth knowing most likely rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in 1937; it certainly would now. But in 1937 we were just getting over World War 1 – not quite yet embroiled in World War 2 – the rise of Hitler to power, the Civil War in Spain, the friction between China and Japan, and a world still in the grips of Colonialism (for the most part). So the talk, very much part of the general consensus of opinion in 1937, is eye-opening and most likely sheds light on fundamental differences between countries and urges to go to war – a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to understand. Perhaps that’s the universal problem, even today. But in 1937 the world was a different place and a world about to change. For a chance to hear the actual voice of H.G. Wells, here is that talk from December 21, 1937.
Senator Everett Dirksen – Mid-Terms Of '54 – Censure Of Joe McCarthy – November 7, 1954 Senator Everett Dirksen appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press a few days after the mid-term elections. While we’re still on the subject of mid-terms and looking at mid-terms past, the 1954 mid-term elections held not much in the way of surprises, and kept up with the otherwise typical outcome where the party in the White House is different than the party holding the majority in the House and/or Senate. The extra added bonus to this particular “odd” year was the fact that the Senate was getting ready to hold meetings over the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy who, for a time, was riding high on the crest of the Red Scare wave gripping the U.S. – the Red in this case was Communists, whom McCarthy was devoting his political career ferreting out from all branches of government those individuals whom McCarthy was convinced were in the process of subverting American Democracy. In Shakespearean terms it epitomized “sound and fury, signifying nothing”, but managed to damage if not destroy careers by the sheer act of axe grinding and innuendo – took up an enormous amount of time (not to mention the hundreds of hours of radio and Television time broadcasting the hearings live) and cost the American taxpayers a staggering amount of money just to, what – alarm people? After a while, the public grew tired, the media grew tired and the President had enough. In a stinging rebuke of his fellow Republican, President Eisenhower questioned McCarthy’s motives and methodology in his attempt at making “America safe” and it triggered a motion to Censure Senator McCarthy and put his shenanigans to rest. Because Senator Dirksen was a seasoned politician and thoroughly adept at changing color with the seasons, Dirksen masterfully evaded, deflected and claimed surprise when asked about the McCarthy fiasco and the Mid-Term debacle, which Dirksen blithely retorted “it was a Republican victory”, despite numbers to the contrary. Even down to the Censure issue and the upcoming hearings, Dirksen refused to take sides, even speculations over the motion and the outcome and where he stood on the matter. Senator Everett Dirksen was a master at his craft – he embodied the spirit of politics; that arcane ability to perform somersaults, leap tall incongruities and walk on water all for the purpose of staying in office and gathering votes. He was a force to behold, all the way through the 1960s. But in 1954 he was busy ducking and dodging, and this rather contentious batch of reporters was throwing hard and fast. Sadly, we don’t have this brand of politics (or press for that matter) anymore. It was fun to watch. Here is Senator Everett Dirksen’s appearance on Meet The Press, as it was aired on November 7, 1954.
The Spruce Goose – Twenty-Six Seconds Over Long Beach – November 2, 1947 The Spruce Goose, legendary transport plane designed and built, at first by Henry Kaiser and Howard Hughes, but eventually the sole responsibility of Hughes. Ordered by the War Department in 1942 and finally ready for its test run well after the war in 1947.

Intended only to be a test of its taxiing ability, Hughes at the controls, decided a quick acceleration to see if it would fly was accomplished, much to the amazement of the press in the plane and the observers on the ground. It climbed to a height of 70 feet before Hughes settled the plane back down on the water, never to fly again.

The Spruce Goose was made of wood because of the wartime restriction on the use of aluminum as well as some concerns about weight. It was designed to carry 150,000 pounds (68,000 kg), two 30-ton M4 Sherman tanks, or 750 fully equipped troops.

The whole aircraft was made from birch (out of strong plywood) and the only pieces of the plan that are not made of wood are the engines, electronics, screws, and braces used in the Restoration process.

Since the plane never went through the battery of other tests in order to see if it could do all Hughes claimed it could do, it became one of the great mysteries in the legacy of Howard Hughes, since Hughes never released any information as to its whereabouts, its fate and its full abilities kept secret from the public. It wasn’t until after Hughes’ death in 1976 that the world finally learned more about The Spruce Goose, became aware of its existence after that November 1947 test. It would eventually become a museum piece and, after spending time in Long Beach it was transferred to an Aviation museum in Oregon where it lives today.

But for a reminder that the Spruce Goose did indeed fly once, here is that broadcast, live from the plane itself on November 2, 1947.
Election '48 – RIP GOP – Head Scratching And Haywire – 1948 – Past Daily Weekend Reference Room. – Chicago University Roundtable – Republicans and the 1948 Election – No one was more surprised by the outcome of the 1948 Presidential election than Republicans and Mainstream Media. Since the campaign started, it was almost assured that Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey would be a shoe-in to the White House. Even the “Liberal” media pundits were saying that, even if Truman did win election (it wasn’t a re-election as Truman assumed the Presidency after the death of FDR in 1945), it would be squeaker and Truman would be ineffective. They were wrong – they were so wrong. Even in a post-election speech, Truman chided the media for having so little faith, citing and mocking veteran newscaster H.V. Kaltenborn‘s early conclusion that Truman was going down to defeat. Sound familiar? So the outcome was the now-famous (and familiar) soul-searching the Republican Party was to undertake to figure out what went wrong and if the Republican Party was even salvageable – in 1948. Here is one of the radio programs devoted to the retrospective glance. The Chicago University of The Air conducted a roundtable discussion over what happened and what was in store for the future. One of the participants in the discussion was Professor of Political Science at The University Of Chicago, Robert Horn. His assessment summed it up rather well. Robert Horn (Dept. of Political Science – University of Chicago): “ I am a Republican and I am disturbed about the future of the Republican Party. After the shock of the election I am beginning to wonder, like millions of others, what the future holds for the Republican Party or whether it has any future. This year marked the fifth consecutive defeat for Republican Presidential candidates. This Presidential election was the closest one since 1916. But Governor Dewey in 1948 received fewer votes than he got in 1944, although more votes were cast this year than in 1944. And Republican Congressional candidates generally ran below Dewey this year. In fact, Governor Dewey received only 600,000 votes more than Herbert Hoover received in 1928. Although there are many more million potential and actual voters now than there were twenty years ago. Moreover, this fifth consecutive defeat means that the Republicans by 1952 will have been out of the White House for the longest time that either the Democrats or the Republicans have been out of power since the end of the Civil War. The Republicans can no longer claim to be the majority party of the country. Many people are saying, that unless the Republican Party changes, it will die.” It’s a familiar meme in recent years – one that seems just as apropos now as it was in 1948. Funny thing, history. Here is that episode of University of Chicago Roundtable, as broadcast on December 12, 1948.
Amereican Film: 1956 – George Stevens, Jerry Wald and Leo Rosten Discuss Hollywood Movies in 1956 – Past Daily Weekend Gallimaufry Despite a lot of truly great, landmark and memorable films made in the 1950s, the film business was in dire straits. Television had crept into the American living room in a way unprecedented from any other technological advance in history. People were glued to their TV sets and movie theaters were closing in droves. What the American film business did to counter it was offer the spectacle, the bigger-than-life viewing experience. Movies were in Cinemascope, Vistavision and a plethora of other cinematic discoveries. Stereo sound, early experiments in 3-D, a short-lived phenomenon known as Smell-o-vision – anything to grab an audience and keep them coming back. But you can have all the spectacle in the world and it makes no difference if the movie is terrible. Despite the mantra that “Movies Are Bigger Than Ever”, the real question was “are movies better than ever?” And that’s what this discussion is primarily about between film Academy-award winning film maker George Stevens, producer Jerry Wald, former head of production at Paramount Don Hoffman and film critic Leo Rosten. What was the state of American film in 1956? That’s what was being asked. And this half-hour discussion program offers a number of interesting and illuminating theories on what the state of Hollywood was, some 66 years ago. Here is that episode of American Forum: Movies 1956 as originally broadcast on August 26, 1956.
What Are People Reading? 1938 – Past Daily Reference Room. In 1938 there were concerns people weren’t reading as much as they used to. The culprit was Radio. Some felt it was easier for the average person to listen rather than read, and because of that, readership was in danger of dropping off dramatically. Reading took a good degree of concentration and being in the right circumstances of light and quiet. Radio could be anywhere and it required almost no concentration. During this convention of the American Library Association, newly elected President Dr. Milton J. Ferguson answers questions over this problem and what was being done about it. What was going to draw people back into libraries and what about the relative dearth of bookstores in the average American city? According to studies, there were only 1500 bookstores in the United States in 1938. And of those, only 300 were considered active and important. An example of only five bookstores in all of Kansas City (where the ALA Convention was being held) and over 32 million people in the U.S. who lived nowhere near a bookstore and many millions more who lived nowhere near a public library. And those who were still reading, what were they interested in? What kinds of books attracted the average American book reader? Fiction certainly won hands down, followed by biographies and travel – a new trend was fictionalized travel books. Also popular were books that reflected the times – books on economics (owing to the recent Depression) and books on history (owing to the events brewing in Europe in 1938). But the concern at the time was that Americans weren’t reading nearly enough and not taking anywhere near full advantage of the public library. Interesting to compare that to the subject of reading now, where reading in general is dramatically below even 1938 standards. And bookstores, which have been in an almost continual state of closing for years, owing to the popularity of Amazon and Kindle. It’s fascinating to see what has changed and the circumstances surrounding that change. In 1938 the culprit was radio – in 2022 the culprit is Social Media – books are almost a thing of the past, or to borrow from the current popularity of vinyl albums, the tactile sensation of actually holding something tangible having its roots in nostalgia more than actual preference. Still, we were afraid we were going to become a nation of dummies in 1938 – in 2022 we’re still afraid of becoming a nation of dummies. But despite all that . . . Have a listen to what the American Library Association was talking about over NBC Radio on June 13, 1938.
Rent Control And The American City: 1950 – Past Daily Reference Room. Rent Control – a familiar phrase in just about every city in America. During World War 2 Rent Control came under Federal law largely because the increase in War workers coming into the cities created a housing crisis and, same old story, an opportunity presented itself to escalate rents in order to take advantage of the new demand in housing. It was a way of guaranteeing housing for the great influx of workers, and guaranteeing housing would be available since all rents would be the same under these federal guidelines, while new housing was being constructed. When the war ended in 1945, Rent control was extended because, instead of workers, the housing situation was critical because of returning military personnel. Only in this case, there was a legitimate shortage of living space, forcing many former soldiers and their new families to get creative, and landlords were turning to renting any possible space suitable for living, even if it was temporary. Again, the Rent Control laws were extended, largely because the then-current housing shortage would make for the perfect scenario to price-gouge and make a bad situation worse. In this episode of American Forum Of The Air, the issue was whether or not to extend Rent Control yet again, knowing there was the Korean War and a return of the need for war workers and the potential shortage of adequate living quarters as well as the threat of price-gouging in order to take advantage of the situation. Of course it’s a hotly contested issue even in 1950, with Rent Control advocates warning the loss of controls would open up the flood gates to abuse and skyrocketing rents. And Rent Control opponents using the well-worn mantra of “no-controls/more housing”. And even the well-worn scenario of Mom & Pop landlords being forced into bankruptcy because much needed housing improvements were being neglected because there wasn’t sufficient profit to enable those improvements. Despite the fact that, even in 1950, the majority of rental units were held by large Real Estate concerns. So, with our current (as of 2022) housing crisis being brought on by skyrocketing rents (most cities don’t have rent control, hence; open season on renters) and any attempts to reign in these out of control figures being met by well-financed campaigns, using much the same arguments that were used in 1950 in order to insure livable space for the majority of people is rendered unlivable to those who can’t afford it. Only now the subsequent lack of “affordable housing” is actually a lack of housing that is affordable by virtue of unchecked and skyrocketing rents and subsequent large swaths of urban landscape overflowing with empty unrented apartments and houses. But that’s 2022 – for a glimpse of what it was like in 1950, 72 years ago, here is that episode of The American Forum Of The Air from November 26, 1950.
Herbert Hoover – University Of Tomorrow – Stanford – 1935 – Past Daily Reference Room. Stanford Alumni Dinner – Waldorf Astoria – The University Of Tomorrow – October 10, 1935 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection – Stanford University alumnus Herbert Hoover (class of 1912), speaking at a dinner being held on October 10, 1935, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where the subject is “The University Of Tomorrow”. 1935 was something of a dismal year all around. Not only was the country in bad shape economically, its educational institutions were in real danger of becoming extinct, particularly the private Universities, which Stanford was one. But rather than make the rounds with bended-knee appeals, shouting warnings of imminent death, a more genteel approach was employed by way of a lavish Alumni dinner (held on the East coast, rather than the West where Stanford was located), with addresses given by the President of the University and it’s star alumnus, a former President, Herbert Hoover. By his own admission, Hoover isn’t quite sure why he’s at the Dinner, but the premise of the topic being The University Of Tomorrow was a lofty one and it gave plenty of latitude for Hoover to discuss the benefits of an education, especially a University Education. And how education in this day and age of 1935, the air was filled with promise and enormous technological advances – to which Stanford was well equipped to handle. Ironically, Education via one of the Private Universities was one most American’s couldn’t afford at the time (and still can’t largely afford even some 87 years later). But the speakers begged the audience to look at the bigger picture; the grand scheme of things. And as far as Herbert Hoover, University President Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur and Dr. Stephen Duggan the bigger picture was to look at the future and all were convinced the future was Stanford. Here are those brief addresses, all crammed into a half-hour broadcast over NBC on October 10, 1935.
The Life and Times Of Chairman Man – 1976 – Past Daily Reference Room. Hard to imagine, but perhaps because it has been some 46 years since his death, there are a lot of people don’t recall who Mao Tse-Tung was. And it was even reported that many Chinese students, currently studying in the U.S., have very little or no idea who Chairman Mao was either. Hard to believe – and I wouldn’t if you told me, had I not experienced it first hand in a college Media class a few years back. Part of the reason I actually decided to do this website was because of that episode, and my complete shock at realizing people have very little idea what went on as little as a few years ago, let alone decades. But all that said – CBC Radio in Canada produced a series of documentaries about China during the Mao years, when the country went from the era of Chiang-Kai Shek and the Japanese occupation of northern China, to the establishment of the Communist Party and it’s eventual takeover of China in 1949 by way of civil war. China, during the first few years of rule under Mao was an instrumental player in the Korean War; aiding North Korea and establishing a relationship with that country ever since. China, during Maos time had a series of on-again-off-again relationships with a number of countries, including India, Pakistan, many of the newly-independent nations in Africa; sided with North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, has always had a tenuous relationship with Russia; sometimes warm, oft times cold. But since that time has taken an economic tact, rather than a political one in the affairs of the world. No doubt, the China of today would cause Mao to do somersaults in his grave – it is a whole different world since the days of The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution. But the seeds that were planted have yielded results in other areas. For a Communist Nation, there are aspects of China more Capitalist than even the U.S. – and it was that importance placed on industrialization during the Mao period that has translated into China becoming one of the most productive and trade-influenced nations in the world. So perhaps the notion that the socio-political destiny of a nation is somewhat akin to the Chinese Restaurant menu (one from Column A and one from Column B) – that maybe this mixing of political and economic ideologies has found a common ground. But there is still the specter of Tiananmen Square and the violent crackdown which took place that gives you the impression anything can turn about face at a moments notice. But that’s another story. For now – familiarize yourself with Chairman Mao-Tse Tung if you aren’t already, and catch up on some history.
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