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Tuesday, 17 August 2010 11:34

50 Years Ago Late Autumn/Early Winter 1954

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

The “settlement” of the war in Vietnam dividing the former colony into the communist zone north of the 17th parallel and the non-communist zone south of the 17th didn’t work as planned. Instead it triggered a mass exodus of people from the north to the south. The south was soon jammed with refugees and it was the United States that was filling the void, because the emperor was just a puppet and the French sort of walked off the job site. In one sense, we got it by default.

The exodus, estimated to be better than a quarter million people, was not a ringing endorsement of communism. The communists were bitter about it and did all they could to impede the flow of people.

So we took on the role of relief agency and millions of dollars were allocated to house these people, drill wells, etc., etc., in brief–we were into “nation building” in a big way. Sort of as we had been in South Korea.

Do you remember Harold Stassen, the tall, good looking, youngest governor ever in the history of Minnesota? Back in the 1940s he was one of the great white hopes in the Republican party. Every time a presidential election came along his name would surface until “President Stassen” almost became a joke. Obviously quite a capable man, I believe he did eventually become president of the University of Pennsylvania.

But in the fall of 1954, he had been named by President Eisenhower to be the head of operations in that unhappy country-South Vietnam. Stassen called it “an epic movement of people.” I think Stassen “liked Ike” (most people did), but he didn’t think much of Ike’s vice president, Richard Nixon. So in 1956, Stassen led a “dump Nixon” movement at the National Republican Convention which aborted. That probably put an end to Stassen’s political hopes.

Back to South Vietnam. By the end of the year we were making a very serious commitment to that country, dumping millions of dollars in aid, training their army via “military advisors,” etc., etc.

The French were faced with troubles in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. It was “Frenchman go home,” everywhere. French North Africa was much closer to Paris than French-Indochina. I suspect they were overjoyed to turn their mess in Asia over to us.

Television was rapidly becoming ubiquitous all over the country. The hot shows (for all you people with grey hair) included “I Love Lucy-with Lucille Ball” and “Lassie”-the Collie dog who, when she discovered the barn was on fire and the family was sound asleep, woke them up, drug them into the kitchen, stuck her paw in the gravy that had been left sitting out and wrote “Fire!” on the wall. Then they called the fire department and hugged Lassie. But you didn’t have to be attractive and breezy like Lucille Ball, or a dog who could write with gravy-there was Ed Sullivan, also known as “the great stone face.” He was the host of “Toast of The Town,” which later morphed into “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Fifty years ago he was given a 20 YEAR CONTRACT. He couldn’t sing, he couldn’t dance, he wasn’t funny or handsome-and he got a 20 year contract. But he was a good planner. He died on October 13, 1974-20 years after he signed that contract.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we had sons eventually (not in 1954) who wore Davy Crockett hats-as did 80% of the other kids in the country. Coon skin hats were essential. Television made it so.

It was a short World Series as the National League Giants (still in New York), paced by Willie Mays, beat the Cleveland Indians in just four games.

The United States Senate gave the country a wonderful Christmas present on December 2 when they voted 67 to 22 to condemn Joe McCarthy, the Wisconsin demagogue for conduct unbecoming a senator. About time! The Democrats fresh from a mid-term victory wherein they regained the majority in both houses of Congress, voted solidly for the censure-the Republicans were about evenly split. So Ike would have to deal with the opposition party in control (thinly) of both the House and Senate.

That was late 1954 and Jeannine and I were thoroughly enjoying Fremont, Nebraska, new friends and each other. And with that I will move to the draft horse news-what there was of it.

The Belgian Corporation’s annual report for fiscal 1954, ending on October 30, stated that 71 stallions and 174 mares (for a total of 245) were recorded in that year, memberships were sold to 23 new members, and a total of 402 animals were transferred. Total income for the year was $7,781 and total operating expenses $7,547. The net worth for the association was $30,687 with $27,000 of that in U.S. treasury bonds.

The Percherons were too modest to provide their figures in the Percheron Notes. It is a safe bet that their figures were even less.

Getting back to those Belgian figures for just a minute, they were UP from the prior year. Registrations were up 25 head, transfers up 85.

Hardy Salter, the secretary for the Canadian Percheron Association could be depended upon to find something to be encouraged. He was like the little boy who found some horse muffins on the front porch and spent the entire day looking for the pony that just “had to be here someplace.”

So what did Hardy find this time? “A drop in tractor sales,” that is what. He gleefully reported in the Canadian Percheron Broadcaster, that the sale of power farm machinery was the lowest for the past ten years. So, when you consider that tractor sales in Canada were the lowest in ten years and that the volume of Belgian business was up slightly over the prior year-you can’t say that 1954 was all bad for the draft horse cause.

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