(From the 1958 Canadian Percheron Broadcaster, the American Belgian Review and general news sources of the time.)
I'm going to start this backward glance with three photographs from that time.
Hardy Salter, the Canadian Percheron secretary, was almost delirious with pride and joy over the wonderful showing of drafters at the 1958 Royal Winter Fair. He had good reason to be. As he stated in his '58 Broadcaster, "Everyone was astonished and amazed that in this day and age when some dare to say that the draught horse is done, that the old breed (the Percheron) came up with its greatest number of entries and its finest Royal showing of all time." Overall draught numbers at Toronto were Percherons, 143; Clydesdales, 135 and Belgians, 124. It was a splendid way to cap off a good year. The captions under the photos will let you know why we chose those photos to represent the two most numerous breeds on this continent. (Although, the Clydes of Canada might dispute some of Salter's claims about being number one up there.)
Down here the Belgians came forward with a 17% increase in registrations–from 280 to 338, and a small increase in transfers of 12. Not exactly a boom, as in the New York Stock Exchange, but at least the slippage had been stopped. If you are going to turn things around the first thing you have to do is stop and start moving the other way. I doubt that most horsemen saw the year as anything but ordinary. It isn't as though farmers were abandoning their tractors. But I think maybe the horse was beginning to get a little more respect.
If you were inclined to go to the movies in late 1957, there was a great one to go to. It was Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai. Alec Guinness played the lead role and was perfect for the part. It is still worth watching.
This was also the year that a guy named Geusel, who called himself Dr. Seuss, wrote a dippy little book called The Cat in The Hat. At first the book industry pretended that they thought it was just stupid. So they condemned it to oblivion. But the doctor persisted and within a year or so the book was practically flying off the shelves. So the hot shots changed their appraisals and respectable men and women had to protest that some child in their life dragooned them into buying Doctor Seuss books.
And they bought his titles like crazy.
This was also the year that haste made waste in the rocket business. The launch of the Vanguard rocket was hurried along because of the recent Soviet success in this business. They even had a little dog named Laika out there in space. We didn't even have a mouse in space. It was so humiliating.
Anyhow, the general conception was that the Soviets were way ahead of us in this race to outer space. So just about a week before Christmas we launched a rocket to even out this "race." It exploded seconds after it took off from Cape Canaveral. Fortunately that launch didn't include a dog–but it was an embarrassment as we raced to catch up.
Interestingly enough, President Eisenhower did not join in the hand-wringing about being behind. I liked Ike pretty well, even though I usually voted the other way. But old Kansas Common Sense was not prone to panic. He obviously didn't see this as a race in which we were dangerously behind.