Monday, 16 August 2010 14:42

50 Years Ago Late Summer/Early Autumn 1957

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the general news of the period, plus the Belgian & Percheron breed publications of the time.)

Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, gave us (I think) a wonderful 4th of July present. He had been sort of shanghaied and voted out of the leadership by a bunch of old Stalinists, but the entire central committee had not been present so Nikita rounded them up and turned the tables on the old Stalininsts. Nikita wasn't exactly a lover of the red, white and blue, but he was sure a lot easier to live with than that bunch that tried to throw him overboard. Nikita struck up quite a friendship with an Iowa farmer, cattle feeder and corn breeder from Coon Rapids. He and Roswell Garst really hit it off well–and eventually did some seed corn business.

Television said it was having big problems–all three major networks were running scared with all kinds of time slots going begging. Unfortunately, they seemed to recover. I admit that we do have a television set in our house, but if it were not for Iowa Public Television, I'm not sure it would be there.

I note that I buried Senator McCarthy, our neighbor from Wisconsin, in the last issue. They went ahead with a special election up there and elected Democrat William Proxmire to replace McCarthy. Had McCarthy known that someone like Proxmire was going to replace him, he would have stayed just barely alive until his term expired.

On September 25, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower had finally had "enough" of Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus. When racial integration of the public schools in Little Rock became "today"–not "some day", the governor called out the militia to prevent violence and bloodshed. The mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Mann, denounced the governor's interference, stating that he was "putting down trouble where none existed." It got nasty quickly. Not until Eisenhower angrily threatened to use "whatever force is necessary" to enforce the law did Orval back down. When federal troops showed up with fixed bayonets, Orval's big day in the sun was about over.

It had been a long hot summer–October was a welcome arrival in town. And a couple things happened that were kind of interesting. First, the Soviet Union successfully launched the world's first man-made satellite, but Khrushchev said he was willing to bring all pilotless missiles under international control in a pact with the U.S. Nikita was not a bad sort and he and Eisenhower seemed to engage pretty well. Britain's Queen Elizabeth popped over in time to open the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, thence down to Washington, D.C., for a state visit with us. The third thing was that the Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees and brought a long baseball season to a peaceful end. I think we were pretty lucky to have Eisenhower as president in 1957.

The draft horse business was subdued, to say the least. There was virtually no trade in the drafters. The Shire and Suffolk associations were, for all practical purposes, virtually dead. The Clydesdales, because of Anheuser-Busch's advertising hitches, had considerable recognition. And to an ever greater extent, the fate of the Belgian and Percheron breeds were in the hands of our Amish friends.

I think that same paragraph would fit the situation for much of the 1950s and '60s. The latter two breeds are really the only ones that could mount a good competitive show at that time. It really took dedication and sort of an almost unreasonable stubbornness to make it through those times.

To capture the mood of that period I'm going to insert the NOTICE to the membership about the Percheron picnic to be held at the home of Mrs. Anne Brown, secretary of the association, on June 22, 1958. As I can best recall, Anne worked for the full time secretary, Ellis MacFarland, in Chicago. When she became secretary, she moved the records to her home in Indiana and that great lady carried it forward.

Gone were the millionaire-type show places such as Sugar Grove Belgians (Cudahy money) and the horsemen who were part of the scene at the old land grant schools.

Along with the notice of the picnic to Percheron folks, I also want to rerun a photograph of the Ralph Coddington family. Ralph was the son of a Percheron breeder. When Ralph graduated from college in 1945, the senior Mr. Coddington gave him an outstanding yearling filly bred by Lynnwood Farm (one of those great hobby stables). Ralph went on to a distinguished career as a Percheron breeder and as a leader in the Percheron recovery of the '70s and '80s. The purebred draft horse scene had, in fact, become very much a family-type enterprise in case after case. That notice of the coming picnic at Anne Brown's place and the picture of the Coddington family–those were the things that the draft breeds rebuilt on.

We will close this segment out with photographs of four of the top drafters from a half century ago. All of these horses were in "good hands."

The Percheron in the group is Lynnwood Don Again II, grand champion at both Minnesota and Wisconsin that year. His owner was Bob Eschrich, Jr., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who was a great guy and determined to do it his way. Come to think of it … that's about the only types who were hanging in there with draft horses in 1957. You had to be kind of stubborn. Or Amish. Believe me … the horse needed both.

The three Belgians were also in very good hands. Matilda Wilson and her farm manager, Harold Clark, made one of the great combinations in livestock history. As for George Harkness, he was an all star performer in every respect too. Lean times for drafters … with great people. It took great people to keep the breeds alive. It was no place for the faint hearted.

Lynnwood Don Again II - Premier Percheron sire for 1957. He was also grand champion stallion at the Minnesota & Wisconsin State Fairs that year. This horse did a great job both in the show ring and the breeding paddock for his owner.
Conquest 28729 Grand Champion Stallion at the American Belgian Show and National Belgian Show. Bred, owned and exhibited by Meadow Brook Farms, Rochester, Michigan (Mrs. A.G. Wilson, Owner), foaled March 27, 1951.
Lady Flash 33680 Grand Champion Mare at the American Belgian Show. Bred, owned and exhibited by Meadow Brook Farms, Rochester, Michigan (Mrs. A.G. Wilson, Owner), foaled April 19, 1947.
Victory Farceur 34830 Bred, owned and exhibited by Harkness Farms, Sandusky, Ohio (George Harkness, Owner), foaled May 1, 1952.
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