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Tuesday, 17 August 2010 08:39

50 Years Ago Late Summer/Early Autumn 1956

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the general news of the time and the 1957 Belgian Review)

You just can't beat a celebrity wedding for a news item on almost the last day of June. In 1956, that is when playwright Arthur Miller and actress Marilyn Monroe got hitched officially. I'm sure there were lots of stale jokes about the beauty and the brain. It was his second trip down the aisle and her third. Just a couple years earlier she had married Joe DiMaggio, the center fielder and home run hitter for the New York Yankees-also known as the Yankee Clipper. From baseball to books in no time at all. I never knew any of those people personally, but my opinion is that Marilyn was not dumb and that Arthur was only an average typist. She was not about to start typing his manuscripts.

What are the chances of two large air liners colliding over the Grand Canyon carrying all the passengers to their death? The airplanes were from TWA and United Airlines, and this unlikely collision occurred on July 1, 1956. Naturally, there were questions. And when asked, the government stated that there was an average of about four close calls a day. I don't know what the definition of a close call was. There must have been at least a couple air traffic controllers who were not a bit skeptical about flying. Those two were probably the ones who rode their motorcycles to work through heavy traffic every day ... without helmets!

It was a presidential election year so that occupied a lot of news space-but maybe less than now. Because in 1956 we didn't have all those early caucuses and/or beauty contests in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Without those early primaries it was difficult for a dark horse to break out of the pack. It was more cut and dried.

Eisenhower and Nixon were renominated by the Republicans and Adlai Stevenson from Illinois and Senator Estes Kefauver from Tennessee by the Democrats. So for the presidency it was a rematch of 1952. Of those four there was only one really eloquent man-and that was Stevenson. I've still got a book of his speeches around here someplace. Eisenhower managed to say quite a lot with silence. For instance, he declined to say that Nixon was the strongest running mate possible. He sort of dodged around the subject.

Radar was one of the many miracles of that time-and still is. So when two right fancy ships, both equipped with radar, ran smack into each other, it was kind of hard to explain. Anyhow, that is what happened on July 27, 1956, when a Swedish ocean liner sliced right through that dense fog off the coast of Nantucket and into an Italian ship named the Andrea Doria. Several smaller ships in the area responded to the Andrea Doria's distress calls. Nonetheless, 52 people were left for dead or missing. I don't know what excuse the Swedes came up with.

So, couple that with the airline crash over the Grand Canyon and you had two powerful reminders that technology is wonderful-as long as someone is minding the store.

Overall, however, the most significant single thing that happened during that time frame was the goings on in Egypt. That's right-Egypt. Not New York or Washington or London or Moscow, but in scruffy old Egypt, land of the ancient pyramids.

Back in 1953, an up-and-coming fellow named Gamal Abdel Nasser led a successful coup in Egypt, throwing out the old dynasty and naming himself both president and premier. By July of 1956, he was feeling comfortable in his new job and decided that it was high time the Suez Canal, which ran right through Egypt, was run by Egyptians.

So in July, he nationalized the Suez Canal Company and seized full control of the canal for Egypt. That thing had been run by foreign interests for all of its 87 years-primarily France and Great Britain. Nasser immediately seized the Cairo headquarters with Egyptian police and announced that henceforth it would be run by Egyptians.

His scheme or plan was to use the shipping fees collected for canal usage to finance his high dam across the Nile at Aswan. I take it that the Aswan Dam project was sort of a combination of our Hoover Dam in the Grand Canyon of Arizona and the TVA project in Tennessee to Nassar. It was going to be his great engine of progress. Recent withdrawals of support by the U.S., Britain and the World Bank to finance his dream left him up a money stump. So he seized the canal which did, after all, run right through Egypt!

The canal was built by the French. It linked the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. Since there was no significant difference in the water levels of the two bodies of water, it was built with no locks which greatly simplified the whole thing. Even so, it took almost ten years to build. That canal shortened the distance from England to India by about 6,000 miles. That is quite a short cut.

It only cost a third as much in dollars to build as the Panama Canal-and the Panama cost far more in grief. The Suez quickly became the busiest canal in the world.

Faced with this more or less accomplished fact, the British and French, who were probably the heaviest users, saw eye to eye on some things-like you just can't let Egypt run their own canal. This drug on through the fall and turned nasty when the Brits, French and Israelis moved in concert to oust the Egyptians from their own real estate. By October, it amounted to warfare. By late November, under the United Nations pressure, the Suez situation was stabilized. You could have called it a United Nations victory-on December 24, Christmas Eve, the British and French troops left the canal zone.

We'll run a few photos from the '57 Belgian Review.

This photo appeared in the Clifford Eller full page ad of the 1957 Belgian Review. The Shetland pony's name was Jaunty Joe. His driver was Jeffrey Lee Eller. In other words, Cliff's grandson or Lee and Eleanor's son. Got that straight? The Eller full page also stated that they had Palominos, as well as Belgians and Shetlands. As for Jeffrey, the last I knew he was doing very well for himself as a political advisor.
The pretty girl holding these banners for grand and reserve grand champion Belgian mares at the 1956 Indiana State Fair is Mary Ann Harkness. This pair went undefeated in the Produce of Dam class in both 1955 & '56.
To round out this trio of Belgian pictures from 1956, we present this one showing Roberta Bowman (Mrs. Eddie Freitag for some time now) receiving the trophy for champion 4-H colt at the 1955 Indiana State Fair from Charley House. The next year this mare went on to reserve grand champion at the National Belgian Show in Waterloo. The mare's name was Jeanine Farceur-now, that is a lovely name. I ought to know-I've been married to another Jeannine for 52 years now.
Not all the hitching was done back here in the Midwest. Here is the Elliott & Verduin six-up performing at the 1956 Western Washington Fair at Puyallup, Washington.
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