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Tuesday, 17 August 2010 11:12

50 Years Ago Late Winter/Early Spring 1955

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From breed publications and general news sources of the times)

All the chronic hot spots were going about their usual business being chronic hot spots. In Central America, that great breeding ground for dictators, Nicaragua and Costa Rica were at loggerheads with each other while Guatemala’s strong man foiled a coup. What else is new?

The OAS (Organization of American States), headed up more or less by Mexico, must have done a good job of keeping the lid on that pot because we didn’t dispatch any Marines to go south and I can’t remember any banana shortages at the grocery store in Fremont, Nebraska.

On January 7, Marion Anderson, great Negro singer, became the first black to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. And the walls didn’t come tumbling down-why did it take so long?

If you came to this page fresh from “75 Years Ago,” you may still have Joseph Stalin, the man who virtually destroyed Russian agriculture, fresh in your mind. He had died a couple of years before this which set off a power struggle for the top dog position. A fellow named Georgi Malenkov had been the premier since Stalin’s death. But an energetic little fireplug of a man named Nikita Krushchev was not satisfied with Malenkov’s performance. With the help of the army, he replaced him with a guy named Bulganin. I expect he and Krushchev were old buddies.

Malenkov’s resignation was weird in that he cited his “lack of experience” had held back the Russian economy. He was a lifelong revolutionary! That’s like Eisenhower pleading “lack of experience” in military affairs.

Malenkov also took blame for the miserable performance of Soviet agriculture. That just might have had something to do with Stalin’s heavyhanded and stupid assault on Russian farmers in 1930. Krushchev was honestly interested in agriculture. Later in the decade he would visit Iowa a time or two and he became quite chummy with Roswell Garst, the great hybrid corn entrepreneur out near Coon Rapids. Krushchev got so fed up with reporters on one of his visits with Garst that he wound up throwing silage at them. It was possibly the first international exchange that used corn silage as a weapon. Good thing there weren’t any rocks laying around.

As for more of the same, the two Chinas (Taiwan and the Mainland) were fussing over some islands in the strait of Formosa. Picky, picky. I doubt either one really gave a damn about those islands.

It was, however, a problem for Eisenhower who ordered our 7th Fleet to the area and a couple of Communist jets were downed. But he also made it clear (to Taiwan) that we would not assist any aggression on their part. But, let it also be said, that Congress had passed a bill allowing mobilization if Mainland China attacked Taiwan. In other words, “hands off our puppet in the neighborhood.”

And France was unhappy. Firstly because they had been driven out of Indochina (leaving us holding the bag) and then the General Assembly chose to vote their premier, Mendes France, out of office. Losing Indochina was bad enough but the premier, seeing the writing on the wall, was negotiating with French colonies in North Africa who were demanding independence.

So far, anyone who was reading Hoard’s Dairyman or Farm Journal in 1955 likely wasn’t paying strict attention to all this international stress. They were a lot more interested in things like President Ike’s 101 billion dollar proposal in February to develop an interstate highway system the likes of which had never been seen.

One of the big stories of 50 years ago this spring was the merger of the AFL and CIO. Those names carried much more clout 50 years ago than they do now. When the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations decided to act in common, it might suggest that organized labor was a little apprehensive about the future. The nature of the jobs was beginning to change. Or maybe they just thought they could do it better if they were all in the same bucket.

Canada struck a mighty blow for the Free World when they regained the world hockey championship by beating the U.S.S.R.! And on that victorious note, we will turn our attention to the world of draft horses in spring 1955.

The Spring 1955 Percheron Notes announced the Premier Sires of the breed for the preceding year. This award was based on the winnings of the colts with the highest number of points at the International in Chicago and the National Show at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. That sounds pretty restrictive, but in 1954, there just weren’t that many competitive shows to base the point system on. Even so, it was very restrictive. While the Percherons had a right good show in Chicago, the Belgians thought so little of their turnout that they didn’t even mention it in the Belgian Review.

Anyhow, we bring you the picture of La Don, the premier Percheron sire of 50 years ago. He was bred by Leonard Hay, Loudonville, Ohio, and was owned, most of the time, by Monroe Miller, Dundee, Ohio. Good thing he was in a community such as that. I’m sure La Don bred more mares by living with Monroe in the highlands of eastern Ohio during that period than he could have anywhere else.

Second in the running was Rowdy Degas, bred by George A. Dix, Delaware, Ohio, and owned by the same. Dix was pretty excited (in his ad) about the new colt coming up that was named Prof Degas. He had just been named junior and reservegrandatthe1954 International. I don’t recall ever hearing much more about him. Of course, 1953 was about the poorest time in the last century for a draft colt to be born.

It was all ceremonial but it was nice anyway. A portrait of Charles J. Lynn, owner of Lynnwood Farm, was hung among the other worthies at the Saddle and Sirloin Club in the Union Stock Yards in Chicago during that International. He was certainly one of the last, perhaps the last, draft horse breeders to be so honored. This collection now resides in Louisville, Kentucky-in conjunction with the big stock show down there.

So Spring 1955 didn’t find a lot of joyfulness in the draft horse trade. In many places it was worse than dull, it was dead.

But just like the crocus that announces “Spring is here!” there was that first major show of the year (still is) called the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Both the Belgians and Percherons put together a right decent show for Glenn Sonner of Delaware, Ohio, to judge. In the Percherons there was no question who the boss was as the late Marvyn Forwood took ten blue ribbons and most of the championships.

The Belgian show at Harrisburg was a good deal larger but both were very respectable. It, too, was dominated by one exhibitor. The Orndorff’s Belgians from Waynesburg won 16 of the 18 classes. And Corbly and Christina weren’t even born yet! It is fair to say that Grandpa Charlie knew a little about getting a horse ready for a show too. The other two blues went to H. Edgar Messerschmidt, Myerstown, Pennsylvania, and Edgar managed to have reserve champion in both sexes.

All in all, considering how dull the trade was, it is surprising how competitive the shows were at the major state fairs. With the winding down of the draft horse show at Chicago’s International during this period, it seemed that more Americans were taking their horses to Toronto for the Royal Winter Fair. Apparently draft horse showmen need a “fix” around Thanksgiving time. Chicago is petering out -okay, we will just go to Toronto.

We will end 50 years ago with a figure from the Canadian Percheron Broadcaster’s report of the financial situation of the Canadian Percheron Association. As of December 31, 1954, they had a balance of $433.82 at the Imperial Bank. There were kids in the lawn mowing business, here in Waverly, with bigger bank balances than that. The American Belgian Association was, by far, the most solvent of the bunch, and they were not flush by any means.

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