Tuesday, 17 August 2010 09:22

50 Years Ago Late Autumn/Early Winter 1956

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

The Brooklyn Dodgers were no strangers to the World Series. They had, in fact, been there eight times and never prevailed. The last five times they had participated in these autumn festivities, they had fallen to the New York Yankees. In 1955, they faced the Yankees for the sixth time ... and lost the first two games. It was just like old times. Then ... a miracle happened. They won the next four and were finally baseball's Champions of the World. It never happened again.

It had been ten years since Germany had capitulated to the Allies. Naturally the defeated Germany was disarmed. It was also divided with East Germany under the sway of Soviet Russia and West Germany under the administration of the British, ourselves and the French. It had become two countries and old allies had become foes.

It was a time for West Germany to contribute to its own security. It had a new capital, Bonn. Now it needed a new army. Most things start small, the army was no exception. There were only about 100 people sworn in, as a nucleus, and there was little public fanfare. With the memories of over four and a half million German soldiers, sailors and airmen who had been killed in WW II, Germany was sick of war.

Across the channel Clement Attlee, who had served as prime minister of Great Britain from 1945 to 1951, resigned from the leadership of the Labor party, hoping that his resignation would heal some fractures in the party. He was 72 years old and had been one of the principle architects of creating the welfare state features of the British government. The queen gave him an earldom, which entitled him to a seat in the House of Lords. What a deal. No more elections to sweat out and people calling you 'My Lord.'

The following may be true or it may be just one of those things that finds its way into print and assumes a life of its own. The time was during the brief interval from Germany's capitulation to that of Japan's in 1945. In other words, the war in Europe was just over. The story goes that Winston Churchill was taking a bath when told that the voting returns were pretty dismal for him and his Conservative party. What he supposedly (and maybe really) said, "There may well be a landslide and they have a perfect right to kick us out. That is democracy. That is what we have been fighting for. Hand me my towel." Personally, I don't think that is what he said at all.

I started this thing by stating that Brooklyn's success in the World Series was a miracle. That was sort of overkill. Important, in its own way, but not a real miracle.

On December 1, a little 42-year-old woman down in Montgomery, Alabama, set another chain of events in motion that could be called a miracle. She refused to give up her seat in the white folks-only portion of the bus and wound up changing this country. On November 25, 1955, the Interstate Commerce Commission had ordered an end to racial segregation on trains and buses crossing state lines. This was supposed to stop on January 10, 1956.

Now a city bus is not going interstate and it was still a few weeks until January 10 when Rosa Parks had stubbornly sat on that city bus. But it put a chain of events in motion. Five days later, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., there was a black boycott of the city buses. I'm sure it inconvenienced a lot of black people, but it also cut into the revenue of the bus company substantially.

The state of Alabama had a statute outlawing organized boycotting. It is kind of hard to imagine a boycott that isn't organized, isn't it? So as we entered the new year that is where things stood. You might say they were pretty tense ... especially in Alabama. It took a while, but, eventually, Rosa Parks carried the day.

Time to take a look at the draft horse business ... what there was of it.

You have probably heard the expression–"this is a slow news day," simply meaning that not much was happening. Where the draft horse and mule trade is concerned the entire decade of the '50s was a slow news decade. Unless, that is, you regarded the wholesale destruction of our draft horse and mule population as a disaster. A few of us did. Nearly everyone else just yawned ... "who cares; they are slow, old fashioned, obsolete, and besides you can milk four or five cows with what those hay burners eat. So lighten up ... they are a thing of the past." That was the majority attitude. One farm editor even called them "Beloved Culprits." They were beloved in many cases.

But old habits die hard. Even though the draft horse show at Chicago was either much diminished or dead, depending on the breed, both the Belgian and Percheron associations still held their annual meetings during International week in 1955. It didn't take a real big room for either one. As for the Clydes, Shires and Suffolks–had they held annual meetings (I don't think they did), all they would have needed were three telephone booths. I think the Belgians moved theirs to Wabash and the Percherons to Anne Brown's dining room shortly after this.

The Belgians had hit their absolute low points in 1952 with 171 registrations and in 1953 with 317 transfers. For fiscal 1955 they were up to 230 and 446! Even though no one noticed, they had "turned the corner." It was just an absolute handful of resolute men that hung in there. From that 1955-'56 board, I want to mention four men: George Harkness from Ohio; Charley House and Cliff Eller from Indiana; and Herbert Schneckloth of Iowa. All four of those names: Harkness, House, Eller and Schneckloth are honored in Belgian households. All have sons and/or grandsons and granddaughters active in the trade today, three of them served as president of the corporation, and two sons served as president. That is what it took to keep the cause for draft horses alive in these United States, continuity!

I've mentioned miracles in this round of "Days Before" ... the Brooklyn Dodgers in baseball, Rosa Parks who would not move on that bus, and maybe another one or two. Late in that year Charley House and Cliff Eller did what a lot of people would have regarded as impossible–another miracle. Working with Wm. J. Dunn, Manager of Hagan Farms, Poughkeepsie, New York, these men exported 21 Belgian and 12 Palomino horses to the Dominican Republic. The horses were purchased from breeders in five different states and they were sold to, naturally, a Generalissimo who also had Dr. after his name. He was obviously not a peon, but a wheeler-dealer.

The Belgian shipment included eight stallions and thirteen mares. They were purchased from the following breeders: Meadow Brook Farms, Rochester, Michigan; Frank Rossler, Jr., Menomonie, Wisconsin; Herb and Don Schneckloth, Davenport, Iowa; and Harry Wendell, Atkins, Iowa. From Indiana it was Arthur Winslow, Fairmount; Dale Newhart, Frankfort; Reed Shank, Brookville; S.C. Smithers, Clarks Hill; Bernard Steinke, Valparaiso; Roy Cox, Sheridan; Jim Coffman, Greencastle; Fred Hiatt, Cicero; Ralph Welch, Noblesville; James Scott, Greentown; Ralph Ingersoll, Hillsboro; and C.O. House and Cliff Eller, both of Arcadia.

If that exportation wasn't a shot of adrenaline–I don't know what it would take. Who would have ever thunk it ... exporting Belgians in 1955! My guess is that Cliff Eller and Charley House were the main spokes on that wheel. They were the Eisenhower & MacArthur in the Draft Horse army in 1955.

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