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Monday, 16 August 2010 14:09

50 Years Ago Late Winter/Early Spring 1958

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the general news sources of the period and the Belgian and Percheron publications of the time.)

In February of 1958, the U.S. launched its first space satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was named Explorer I. I'm sure President Eisenhower was both relieved and elated when it all went well. He had taken a certain amount of flak that we trailed the Russians in this department and this success took some of the heat off.

And just a little bit later there was a change of the guard in Russia. On March 27 of that year, Nikita Khrushchev moved into the top spot in Russia, replacing a man named Bulganon. Khrushchev had an honest interest in agriculture and that would bring him to our state–and he would throw silage at the photographers. None of them were injured.

What goes around comes around. It was in April of 1958 that Eisenhower signed a huge emergency housing bill to "bolster our flagging economy." Here it is 50 years later and we find ourselves with a king-size hangover, in part because of the tens of thousands of mini-mansions being built in recent years with flimsy financing. It seems it is either too hot or too cold.

But maybe the news item that more people read than any of the above was the announcement that Elvis Presley dutifully reported to his draft board down in Tennessee for his stretch in the army. His monthly earnings went from better than a hundred-thousand bucks a month to $83.20. His statement for the press was "I'm looking forward to serving in the Army." He was 23-years-old and he had starred in four movies. I'm told that young ladies across the country were distraught.

To ease this over to the horse business, I will mention that the first post-World War II fair was conducted in Brussels, Belgium. It was like its predecessors in that there were pavilions from about 50 different countries. And it was unlike some of its predecessors because there was no livestock show–not even of Belgian horses.

With that I will go to the 1958 Belgian Review and the spring 1958 issue of the Percheron Notes. The draft horse business had hit bottom, refused to die and was rebounding a little. The Secretary's Report from the 1958 Belgian Review tells you that. But the country as a whole was completely unaware of this–not enough numbers to be indicators of anything. Those numbers were as follows: registrations totaled 338 animals versus 280 the prior year, or an increase of 17%. The gain in the stallion numbers was considerably higher than mares. Forty-six new members joined the Corporation as compared to 35 the previous year. There were 53 advertisers and 26 of them lived in Iowa or Indiana, another 16 were from Pennsylvania or Ohio, and the remaining eleven from here, there and yonder.

The great bulk of the Review was devoted to 1958 fair results and pictures of many of the winners. Likewise with the ads from breeders. It was sort of like a local paper where you know most everyone in town and you like nearly all of them.

The only story, as such, was an article in memory of Grant Good, the great Belgian importer and breeder from Iowa who made the roan stallion, Farceur, into a virtual legend. His son, Lester, succeeded his father both on the board of directors and in the barn at home. We will reproduce the top half of their ad in that Review. Les and his daughters were very helpful to us when we established The Draft Horse Journal six years later. Good people–those Goods.

The spring 1958 Percheron Notes was somewhat smaller than the Belgian Review, but the two papers were much alike in other ways. Both the breed papers were a sort of affirmation that contrary to tractor talk, these families and their horses were not going to disappear! Since we singled out one Belgian family, we will do likewise with the Percherons and run a photo of Bob Jones from Farmer City, Illinois, and his grey stallion, Ann's Silver. My guess is that it was taken in the coliseum at Springfield during the Illinois State Fair. The Jones family, like the Good family, also became wonderful friends to Jeannine and myself. There were just a lot of folks who were determined that draft horses were not going to vacate this earth if they had anything to say about it.
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