Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:09

50 Years Ago Late Spring/Early Summer 1955

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

Two of the real giants of the last century got off the stage in April of 1955. They were Winston Churchill from Great Britain and Albert Einstein who had called Princeton University home since taking refuge in this country from Hitler’s fanaticism in 1933. They were about as unlike as two men could be. We will take Churchill first.

On April 5, 1955, Sir Winston Churchill, then 80 years of age, resigned his post as Prime Minister. Now, some 50 years later, he was recently voted the “Greatest Briton that ever lived” in a BBC poll.

A new Churchill museum was opened to the public in London last spring. Far from being a typical museum centered in and around a splendid building, this one is literally underground. It is an extension of the cabinet war rooms, the very sandbagged rooms where many of the WWII cabinet meetings were held. It is well to remember that almost 30,000 civilians died from the Nazi nighttime bombings of the capital city...then add about 60,000 additional civilian casualties for the rest of Great Britain. The capital city was very much a war zone.

Churchill first became prime minister in 1940 after Hitler had unleashed his forces on Poland in 1939. He had been sounding the alarm concerning Hitler since 1930. His was a lonely voice in the House of Commons. What he saw was “Germany rearming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, and America remote and indifferent.” That is exactly what he was saying in 1935...and it did not go down well with his countrymen. He was dismissed as a fearmonger and romantic. He was scoffed at for a decade...until German tanks rumbled into Poland. Then he was summoned back into the government, becoming prime minister a year later.

Now none of this is to say that he was always right, or that he was easy to live with, or that he had few flaws. He had some dandies. He was arrogant, self-indulgent, intolerant, and intemperate. And he was also “right” about Hitler and heroic in meeting the threat.

He loved the idea of EMPIRE and probably thought it was sanctioned by heaven itself and would last forever. For example, he dismissed Gandhi (every bit as great as he was, but very differently) as a fakir. So he wasn’t always on the side of history. So much so, that his own countrymen voted him out of office at the end of WWII in favor of an opponent he once characterized as “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.” But he got even on that one in the fall of 1951 when the Labor Party lost and he was again prime minister. Those two rivals, Churchill and Clement Atlee, had a lock on prime minister for 15 consecutive years. I believe they held one another in mutual contempt.

Now for the other giant, Albert Einstein. He died on April 18, 1955. He was born in Ulm, Germany, in 1879, and was not considered an exceptional student in elementary school. However, he was a late bloomer and got his PhD in physics in 1905, the same year he published his Special Theory of Relativity and a couple years later his General Theory of Relativity. In 1933, he wisely left Germany.

Einstein was a born pacifist and a gentle man, nonetheless he urged Roosevelt to develop a nuclear bomb, but argued that it not be used…just demonstrated. He and Churchill, polar opposites in most every respect, probably did about as much to shape the world we live in today as any two men. Einstein was never in awe of himself, Churchill frequently was. And both of them were awesome men.

Ten years had elapsed since the defeat of Hitler’s Germany and a number of situations were sort of hardening. On May 5, West Germany was granted full sovereignty after a decade of allied occupation. Bonn was the new capital city. And in due time they would be a part of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

A couple weeks after Germany was granted full sovereignty, the Russian leadership, Khrushchev and Bulganan, made a kiss-and-make-up trip to Tito, who had been going his own way in Yugoslavia. Khrushchev liked to talk so he made a speech blaming the troubles between Moscow and Belgrade on a guy named Beria who, conveniently enough, was dead. Tito just stood there and did not make some mushy response.

The new maps for Europe were drawn. Austria also gained a considerable measure of independence from both sides. Unlike Yugoslavia and West Germany which were expected to cozy up to east or west, little old Austria was supposed to remain out of both camps. The Soviets had stationed up to 45,000 troops there so their withdrawal should have at least saved the Soviets a pile of money.

So one might say that in the late spring of 1955, the western world was settling into a form that lasted, more or less, for the rest of the century…with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) representing “our side” and the Warsaw Pact “their side.” It hasn’t worked too badly…considering the alternatives.

And in July of 1955, the first 306 Air Force Academy cadets arrived at the new Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs. So the Army-Navy game wasn’t the whole nine yards for service academies anymore…now there were three. But I think the season-ending Thanksgiving Day game between Army and Navy is still considered a classic. At least to old admirals and generals.

Speaking of wearing the uniform, nobody had been drafted for several years in 1955. But on June 16 the House of Representatives extended Selective Service until 1959…just in case.

And now, we will take a look at a drowsy draft horse climate some 50 years ago.

It is very hard to say exactly when a major, even catastrophic drought either begins or ends. It isn’t like a basketball game. It doesn’t come with a buzzer.

I’d say the Belgian (and by inference, the other draft breeds) touched rock bottom in the four year period from 1952 through 1955. Their registrations touched bottom in 1952 with 171. Transfers hit bottom the following year with 317. The next two years, ‘54-’55, were a little better but to the disinterested eye, it was not even noticeable–except that it just kept getting better…a little faster and faster–until in 1969, for the first time in decades, transfers topped a thousand. Five years later, 1974, registrations vaulted into four figures with 1,210. And by the 1980s those figures ranged from between 3,000 to 4,300 for registrations and up to 6,300 for transfers. Has any species of livestock ever made a more dramatic comeback? I don’t think so. I take a romantic view of it. Love is the reason. Haven’t you heard horsemen say things like…“I just love that mare.” Now, try to say “I just love that sow…or cow…ewe or hen.” I’ll grant that you might, by straining, make it work with a dairy cow, but not with a sow, ewe or hen.


Here is a horse that I haven’t seen pictured for a long time. His name was Topper and he was owned by Paul Honsberger, Tiffin, Ohio. Topper had been grand champion at the 1942 National Percheron Show…just as the war closed down such activities. Topper was a great-grandson of Carnona V, the ideal type (by vote) Percheron mare in the late ‘30s. Not only was he the champion at the last pre-war National, but he sired Top Sergeant, who was the grand champion stallion at the International, the American Royal, and Illinois for Brandtjen Farms, Farmington, Minnesota, when the shows were resumed after the war. He sired a lot of winners–he just had the misfortune of being in his prime breeding years when the trade was so dull.
Here is another great stallion who many of you haven’t seen. He is Siehl’s Tripsee Farceur. The photo was obviously taken at the International in Chicago shortly after the war. He was reserve senior and reserve grand there in 1948 for his owner, Dr. Reed Shank from Cincinnati, Ohio. The farm, however, was near Brookville, Indiana. Shank was the team physician for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. He died much too soon. After Dr. Shank’s death the Belgians were sold. By 1955, this horse was showing up in an ad from Parker L. Taft, Hickory Springs Farm, Freeport, Illinois. By the early 1960s, Taft had switched colors and was campaigning an all black Clydesdale six-up. This stallion was bred by John Siehl & Son (Farrell) from down by Grinnell here in Iowa.

As for the onset of the big draft horse drought, I can’t give you a precise road map other than to say it was all downhill from 1938 on. Howdy Brant was the Belgian secretary during that time and he did not believe in publishing bad news. Perhaps he was one of those people who figure that “if nobody knows how really bad it is, maybe it will go away.” Anyhow, when Blanche Smalzried replaced Howdy, she took a different approach. Her approach was, “here it is…what can we do about it?” Nice people, both of them.

This photo of the Garst & Thomas six-up of Belgian geldings at the last National Belgian Show before WW II shut the big shows down will bring back memories to many horsemen and dairymen. The National Dairy Cattle Congress, where it was held, was truly a mecca for both horsemen and dairymen.

Howdy, incidentally, went to Springfield, Illinois, to become the secretary of the Berkshire Swine Association. The Berks were experiencing a nice surge in popularity about then. As to whether or not Howdy ever said, “I just love that sow”…I can’t say. It wasn’t all romance. I attribute this miracle to two groups, determined and bull-headed horsemen and horse farmers and the Amish, who also have a talent for being determined and “strong minded.” Since nothing much was going on in the trade, I just ran two pictures from those mid-’50s Reviews. Both were very good stallions and both sired some first rate offspring. But 50 years ago, even the best stallions were not very busy.


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