Stone Mountain and the KKK

Stone Mountain, Georgia has been in the news lately, as the state of Georgia recently proposed erecting a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr., on the grounds of this major Georgia tourist attraction. This stirred up quite a controversy, as Stone Mountain is already the site of the largest Confederate War Memorial stone carving in the world. Some news reports don’t seem to address one of the most poignant aspects of this choice of location. The emphasis in the news seems to be on the juxtaposition of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee and associates. No, that isn’t the prime poignancy of this choice of location. Long before Stone Mountain became known for that huge carving of the Confederate generals, it was famous for something else.

1934, from the Sandusky, Ohio paper:

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“Gathers Again” says the headline. Just what did that mean? Therein lies a piece of history you need to know, in order to clearly understand some of the issues making the headlines today.

For those unaware…there was a group called the Ku Klux Klan that arose in the South at the end of the Civil War. It was neither the Klan of the 1920s, which was a second incarnation of the name, nor the Klan of the 21st century, which is a third incarnation of the name.

The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six veterans of the Confederate Army. The name is probably derived from the Greek word kuklos (κύκλος) which means circle.

Although there was little organizational structure above the local level, similar groups rose across the South and adopted the same name and methods. Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement during the Reconstruction era in the United States. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. {Wiki: KKK]

And thus the Klan of that era sort of “disappeared from history” except as a dim memory for most people. For about thirty years.

Then in 1905 author Thomas W Dixon Jr. resurrected the glorious memory of the 19th century Klan in his novel The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Immediately after publication, Dixon turned it into a stage play, and both book and play, but particularly the play, took much of the nation by storm, including productions in Los Angeles:

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Dixon, born in Shelby, North Carolina in 1864, was a “Southern Baptist minister, playwright, lecturer, North Carolina state legislator, lawyer, and author.”

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A brilliant student, he earned a master’s degree in history and political science at age 18 in 1883. While a grad student in political science at John’s Hopkins University in 1884, he became a friend of future US president Woodrow Wilson, who was also studying for a graduate degree in political science at the University.

Dixon wrote fiction, but he based much of his novel on memories from his childhood, during the period of Reconstruction.

Dixon claimed that one of his earliest memories was of a woman who pleaded for his family’s help. She was the widow of a Confederate soldier who served under Dixon’s uncle, Col. Leroy McAfee. She claimed that a black man had raped her daughter. That night the Ku Klux Klan hanged and repeatedly shot the alleged rapist in the town square. Dixon’s mother commented to him that “The Klan are our people—they’re guarding us from harm.” It was a moment that etched itself into Dixon’s memory; he felt that the Klan’s actions were justified, and that desperate times called for desperate measures.

Dixon’s father, Thomas Dixon, Sr., and his uncle Leroy McAfee, both joined the Ku Klux Klan early in its history with the aim of “bringing order” to the tumultuous times, and Col. McAfee even attained the rank of Chief of the Klan of the Piedmont area of North Carolina. But, after witnessing the corruption and scandal involved in the Klan they would both dissolve their affiliation with the group and attempt to disband it within their region.  [Wiki: Dixon]

But in spite of this “later outcome,” Dixon never seemed to let go of his admiration for the Klan, and built a grand and glorious mythology around it in his writing.

clansmanfrontispiece

There were no doubt terrible injustices committed by individuals and groups of both the North and the South during the period of Reconstruction, but you’d never know that from a reading of The Clansman. There is no hint in the book and play that the Klan was ever anything but an entirely noble Savior of the White man and woman of the South.

In The Clansman, Reconstruction was an attempt by Augustus Stoneman, a thinly veiled reference to Thaddeus Stevens, to ensure that the Republican Party would stay in power by securing the southern black vote. His hatred for President Johnson stems from Johnson’s refusal to disenfranchise whites. Stoneman’s anger towards former slave holders is intensified after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, where he vows revenge on the South. His programs strip away the property owned by whites, in turn giving them to former slaves. Men claiming to represent the government confiscate the material wealth of the South, destroying plantation owning families. Finally, the former slaves are taught that they are superior to their former owners and should rise up against them. These injustices are the impetuses for the creation of the Klan.

…The release of the movie The Birth of a Nation [see the description of this below] finally let Dixon’s work reach a large enough audience to start the refounding of the Klan. This second Klan quickly outgrew the first, drawing significant membership from Northern states in part because of the success of the novel, play, and movie. The social impact of the book was certainly enormous. Though Anglo-centric groups had existed previously, they were mostly limited to Southern states and had small membership. The book and subsequent play and movie glorified Anglo-Saxon dominance through the power held by the Klan. This appealed to Anglo-Saxons everywhere, not merely in the South. In the North the Klan not only advocated suppression of African Americans, but also Jews, Catholics, and other immigrants. Through this nativist sentiment the Klan had its greatest power in the state of Indiana. There membership reached 30% of the white adult male population. The total Klan membership is thought to have reached nearly six million in 1924, less than twenty years after the publication of The Clansman. [Wiki: Clansman]

DW Griffith’s classic movie, the first real “Blockbuster” in movie history, brought Dixon’s written words to splendiferous life.

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The Birth of a Nation began filming in 1914 and pioneered such camera techniques as the use of panoramic long shots, the iris effects, still-shots, night photography, panning camera shots, and a carefully staged battle sequence with hundreds of extras made to look like thousands. It also contains many new artistic techniques, such as color tinting for dramatic purposes, building up the plot to an exciting climax, dramatizing history alongside fiction, and featuring its own musical score written for an orchestra.

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When the film was released, it shattered both box office and film-length records, running three hours and ten minutes. [Wiki: Birth of a Nation]

And it soon swept the nation, from  Baltimore, Maryland…

baltimore

…to New York City…

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…to Appleton, Wisconsin…

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…to Wichita, Kansas…

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…to Seattle, Washington…

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…and all points in between.

Including Portland. Oregon, as you can see from these newspaper ads in the Portland Oregonian from the summer of 1915.

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The first half of the film depicted the Civil War, and after an intermission, the second half dealt with the period of Reconstruction.

It is surprising to note that the film didn’t just have a “single run” like many films of the time. Years later it was still being shown in theaters to eager crowds. Even AFTER the advent of the “talkie.” Here’s a poster for the film from 1931, when a musical and sound effects sound track was added to it.

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I have seen numerous references on the Internet to then-President Woodrow Wilson “endorsing” the movie. However, it would seem from the Wiki explanation below that many historians don’t agree that this is an accurate reflection of what happened:

…Thomas Dixon, Jr., author of the source play The Clansman, was a former classmate of Woodrow Wilson at Johns Hopkins University. Dixon arranged a screening at the White House for then-President Wilson, members of his cabinet, and their families. Wilson was reported to have said about the film, “It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true”. In Wilson: The New Freedom, the historian Arthur Link quotes Wilson’s aide, Joseph Tumulty, who denied Wilson said this and also claims that “the President was entirely unaware of the nature of the play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his approbation of it.” Historians believe the quote attributed to Wilson originated with Dixon, who was relentless in publicizing the film. It has been repeated so often in print that it has taken on a life of its own. Dixon went so far as to promote the film as “Federally endorsed”. After controversy over the film had grown, Wilson wrote that he disapproved of the “unfortunate production.”  [Wiki: Birth]

In spite of whether Wilson approved or not, huge numbers of Americans did.

…The film is also credited as one of the events that inspired the formation of the “second era” Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia, in the same year. The Birth of a Nation was used as a recruiting tool for the KKK. [ibid]

When I initially began researching the history of the KKK back in 2012, I happened to live in Rome, Georgia, just 85 miles from Stone Mountain. When we first moved to Georgia in 2007, I’d never even heard of “Stone Mountain,” although I had seen pictures in the past of the main tourist attraction that draws people to the location:

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Look very closely…in this “wide view” of the attraction, you can’t really tell what that is, etched in the stone about half-way up Stone Mountain. It looks like something tiny. It’s not.

It is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world.

The largest bas relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (and their favorite horses, “Blackjack”, “Traveller”, and “Little Sorrel”, respectively). The entire carved surface measures 3 acres, about the size of two and a quarter football fields. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet to the mountain’s surface. [Wiki: Stone Mountain]

My family made a trek to visit Stone Mountain Park in early 2011. We found the carving itself is not too impressive, even when seen “in person,” because the mountain it is on is SO big and the carving is SO high up the mountain. But in photos and with the right lighting you can see it up close, and it is indeed pretty neat.

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The Confederate Memorial carving was begun in 1922…but not finished…by Gutzon Borglum—the same sculptor who was responsible for the carvings of the presidential heads on Mt. Rushmore. (Borglum was a KKK member.) Not finished until 1972, the Confederate Memorial is now the centerpiece of a cheerful family fun park, complete with such activities as a cable car ride up the mountain; antebellum plantation with an area where you can pet sheep, goats, and pigs; children’s play barn area holding 65 games and slides and such; rock wall climbing and rope bridges; glass blower and other craft demonstrators; a totally out-of-context “4D” animated movie set in Rio De Janiero—based on the Twentieth Century Fox Rio movie; and the Stone Mountain Laser Show Spectacular.

The Spectacular is a fireworks and laser light display, with huge iconic pictures and corny animations projected on the Mountain. And backed up by booming loudspeakers playing a mix of patriotic and Southern-themed music such as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

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And, as the description on Wiki puts it, “pyrotechnics.”

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Our visit was over a year before I learned about the KKK/Stone Mountain connection. I would never have known about the connection from anything I saw that day in the various parts of the attraction or in material from the gift shop. The day we visited, the visitor’s history center was closed for renovations. But I’m going to guess that even if it was open, they would have downplayed the story of the firstpyrotechnics” on Stone Mountain, in 1915.

For right in the midst of the hoopla over the Birth of a Nation movie across the land, on the night of November 25, 1915, a group of robed, hooded men gathered for a ceremony on the top of Stone Mountain to bring back to life the Ku Klux Klan.

From the Atlanta Constitution, 11/28/1915:

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Present were two elderly members of the “original” Klan of the 1800s. William J. Simmons declared himself the “Imperial Wizard” of the Invisible Empire.

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They all took an oath…and, of course, burned a cross.

In fact, such fiery pyrotechnics continued for many years at Stone Mountain. Here is a one minute clip of a group gathering at Stone Mountain in 1949.

As mentioned earlier, in 1915 and for some time to come, the Birth of a Nation was used as a “recruiting tool” for the New Klan, as it spread from that beginning at Stone Mountain across the US, reaching Oregon in 1921.

Over forty years later, In Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech during  the Civil Rights gathering at Washington DC in 1963, JUST before King gets to the “Free at last” finale, he mentions Stone Mountain! For obvious reasons…Stone Mountain is just barely outside the city limits of Atlanta, where King was born in 1929, grew up, went to school, and graduated from college. He would have been familiar throughout his life with the activities of the Klan and with cross burnings used to intimidate blacks and others. And at least in later years he no doubt was aware of the history of the relation between Stone Mountain and the Klan. As seen in these photos from news reports from the 1920s to the 1970s.

1920 from the Chicago Tribune

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1922 from the New York Times

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The caption that was on this photo in the newspaper:

“Members of a Possible ‘Women’s Auxiliary’ of the Klan: Group From the Five Hundred White Figures Which Recently Paraded at Night Through the Streets of Atlanta, Dressed Like the Men of the Ku Klux Klan, Saying They Represented a Secret Protestant Organization for Women Whose Officers Were Initiated on the Top of Stone Mountain,Where the Klan Was Organized.”
New York Times Rotogravure Picture Section, December 3, 1922

(From the  American Newspaper Repository website)

1946 from TIME magazine

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1948

stonemountain1948Dr. Samuel Green, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon,
at Stone Mountain, Georgia on July 24, 1948,
flanked by two children

1971

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So what was MLK’s dream about Stone Mountain in 1963?

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

That was over 50 years ago.  So…how’s the hand-holding singing going at Stone Mountain today?

Have a look at a short video filmed on a night in 2009 at Stone Mountain. No, not at the Amusement Park. The area is big enough to allow… private parties in hidden hollows.

Sorry, Mr. King. Not yet. 

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The Dark Side of Barbie

On my birthday in 1959 I turned 13 years old. Far too sophisticated an age to request a doll. I don’t remember exactly what presents I got that year, but it was probably mostly clothes and jewelry, along with perhaps a portable record player like this one to play my burgeoning collection of Everly Brothers 45s.

record player

Yes, I was way too old to pay any attention to the New Girl on the Block who debuted at the New York Toy Fair that year and soon dominated the ads on TV. But if I’d been just a couple of years younger, I would no doubt have jumped on the bandwagon to nag my parents that I absolutely had to have my own Barbie, the fascinating new “teen fashion” doll in the zebra-striped swim suit. And that would have led to years of acquiring additions for her ever-growing wardrobe of the latest fashions.

In my younger years I had owned several plastic “fashion dolls,” including one dressed in a royal gown like the Queen of England. But under the glamorous fashions, the dolls’ naked plastic bodies did not look like the bodies of the kind of adult women that would have worn such clothes. The bodies were basically “pre-adolescent”…no curves of any kind.

And then along came Barbie.

How, you may wonder, did the toy industry jump in one giant leap from flat-chested girlish dolls to big-bosomed Barbie? She could have been fashioned to imitate the “wholesome” look and gentle curves of some of the popular teen/young adult stars of the day such as Debbie Reynolds in 1957’s Tammy and the Bachelor. (She was 25 years old at the time, although portraying a seventeen-year-old young woman in this movie.)

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But no. Instead we had a doll who looked much more like Sophia Loren (as in this 1957 pic from the movie The Pride and the Passion, when she also was 25 years old.)

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Not just the large bosom and tiny waist either…they managed to capture the sultry face too, with its bright red pouty lips and eyes coyly glancing off to the side rather than right at you as you would expect a doll to do.

sophia barbie

Just who at the Mattel Corporation came up with this quirky soft-porn idea for what quickly became the All-American doll, and why?

The answer to that question takes us back several years before 1959…and far away from America.

Every American who has ever been to a grocery store in the US is familiar with weekly “tabloid papers” like the National Enquirer. You can’t go through the check-out lane without having racks of these outrageous publications shoved in your face, with screaming headlines about celebrities and scandals and secrets.

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What you may not realize is that tabloids are a world-wide phenomenon. And have been for a very long time. Including in Germany.

Post-World War II Germany was a pretty bleak place. So publishing entrepreneur Axel Springer decided to liven things up with a new daily newspaper, tabloid-style, that he titled Die Bild-Zeitung. (German for The Photo Newspaper.) With a heavy dose of over-hyped news, under-dressed young women, celebrity scandals and gossip, and general smut and sleaze, the publication became wildly popular. And is to this day. Currently selling four million copies a day, it is the best-selling non-Asian daily newspaper in the world.  The more serious and respectable Der Spiegel weekly magazine had this to say in 2006 about Bild:

Axel Springer founded Bild in 1952, took lessons from the British [tabloid] Daily Mirror, and watched his readership grow fat on a diet of celebrity-bashing, populism and scandal. And, of course, well-endowed, poorly clothed babes. Whereas the Mirror relegates the flesh to page three, Bild slaps them on the front page just below the fold accompanied by a short story. Tuesday’s nugget: “Natasha Prepares for Spring.” “Finally, the moment has come,” reads the caption accompanying the photo of an improbably big-breasted blonde staring alluringly into the camera. “From now on, Natasha is only leaving the house ‘with nothing underneath.’ The tickle is so exciting — right down to her little toe. It feels so light and sexy. And gets one ready for the open-air season.”

And it takes a lot of news to bump the front page girl off the front page. When Angela Merkel won the chancellorship from Gerhard Schröder at the end of 2005, the Page One Girl stayed put. [Source]

And don’t misunderstand … although the Bild has always featured scantily-clad women, it goes far beyond what American readers at the check-out aisle are used to. Censorship of nudity in public places in Germany is much less stringent than in the US. From 1984 to 2012, all but a handful of Bild issues featured a front page photo of a totally topless model. More than 5000 over the years. (Not sure why they quit in 2012, but as I understand it, all you need to do now is turn the page to get an eyeful.)

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The Bild was risqué right from the beginning. And not just in photos. Early in the first year of publication, Springer wanted some filler material for an issue and requested staff artist Reinhard Beuthien to draw a one- panel cartoon to do the job. The rest is history.

He drew a cute baby, but his boss didn’t like it. So he kept the face, added a ponytail and a curvy woman’s body and called his creation “Lilli”.

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She sat in a fortune-teller’s tent asking: “Can’t you tell me the name and address of this rich and handsome man?” The cartoon was an immediate success so Beuthien had to draw new ones each day.

Lilli was post-war, sassy and ambitious and had no reservations talking about sex. As she had her own job she earned her own money as a secretary but wasn’t above hanging out with rich men (“I could do without balding old men but my budget couldn’t!”). The cartoon always consisted of a picture of Lilli talking to girlfriends, boyfriends, her boss (“As you were angry when I was late this morning I will leave the office at five p.m. sharp!”). The quips underneath the cartoons handled topics ranging from fashion (to a policeman who told her that two-piece-swimsuits are banned: “Which piece do you want me to take off?”), politics (“Of course I’m interested in politics; no one should ignore the way some politicians dress!”) and even the beauty of nature (“The sunrise is so beautiful that I always stay late at the nightclub to see it!”).   [Wiki]

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The Lilli cartoons were wildly popular, no doubt particularly with the male readership of Bild. So to capitalize on this popularity, as an advertising gimmick, the Bild management decided to market a 3-dimensional version of Lilli. The first attempt at this was a solid plastic figurine attached to a suction cup by a wire. In other words, like a modern “bobble-head” that you’d stick on a dashboard. This Lilli had a tight black sheath skirt, strapless top, her signature pony tail and forehead curl…and thumb stuck out in a hitch-hiking position.

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Hitch-hiker Lilli didn’t sell very well. So they decided next to try a more fully-articulated doll. No, not a doll to sell in toy shops to little girls…a doll to sell in bars and tobacco shops and on newsstands, to adults as a “gag gift.”

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I suppose they’d have been popular gifts or party favors for “stag parties.” Some guys no doubt used them as “mascots,” such as these smiling pilots.

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A modern version in the 21st century would be sold, I suppose, in Spencer’s Gifts in the malls, next to the other “novelty sex toys.” Clothes were not originally sold separately, but she did have a wardrobe that varied…you’d just buy a new doll if you wanted a different outfit, I guess. Like these fairly modest ones.

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Or these far-less-fairly-modest ones.

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Later young German girls started nagging their parents to get Lilli as an actual “fashion doll” for the playroom, since there was nothing else like her on the market. And thus the toy maker decided to start marketing separate clothing outfits and accessories.

By now I would suppose you are guessing where this story is going. If you are too young to have seen the “original” Barbie, it might not be QUITE so obvious. But if you were around in 1959 to see the very first Mattel super star, here’s what you’d remember.

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And if you saw the first Lilli in 1955, here is what you would remember.

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Uh-huh. There seems to be a distinct common Doll DNA going on here!

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The ads made the connection even clearer.

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Yes, the most famous All-American doll of all time is actually a VERY close reincarnation of a German sex toy.

Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children’s toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel’s directors.

During a trip to Europe in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper Die Bild-Zeitung. Lilli was a blonde bombshell, a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately.

…Upon her return to the United States, Handler reworked the design of the doll (with help from engineer Jack Ryan) and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler’s daughter Barbara. The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also used as Barbie’s official birthday. [Source]

“Reworked the design” is a bit of an exaggeration. “Made a few tweaks” is more like it!

The body shapes are almost entirely indistinguishable, from the ridiculously tiny feet …

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…to the ridiculously narrow waistline and the ridiculously over-endowed bosom.

And then there’s the skinny giraffe-like neck.

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The faces are indeed a bit different…but more “cosmetically” than in the basics. Both have a broad forehead, a tiny chin (remember…the cartoon Lilli started out with the head of a baby, which is where you get such facial proportions), almost identical teensy noses, puckered red lips, arched eyebrows (Barbie’s are just “bent” a bit more), and almond-shaped eyes heavy on the shadow and eyeliner. And both refuse to look ya in the eye! They are both doing the sultry “sidelong glance” thing.

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It was clear into the 1970s before Mattel even tweaked the Barbie head mold so that the doll actually looked forward instead of sideways! And relaxed the puckered lips to allow the hint of a smile and show some teeth.

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Although some might say that new look started out more of a glazed expression, a creepy “stare right through you” look than an attempt at friendliness for a change!

But at the end of the day, there is no question that Ruth Handler and the toymakers at Mattel ended up with a doll in 1959 that was easily at least a “first cousin” of Bild Lilli. They could have chosen to start from scratch and make a doll that resembled the proportions and look of a real human teenager or young adult woman. Someone recently created just such a fashion doll. Here’s what the “Lammily Doll” looks like. [Read more about her on the Lammily website.]

lammily doll

After all, long before 1959 toymakers had bragged about how “lifelike” their baby dolls and toddler dolls were. Why would they not want to make a lifelike older doll, that a child might even be able to look to in a healthy way as a “role model” to emulate? But no, Handler decided to go with the totally unnatural…and hypersexual…Lilli look. With measurements based on nothing more than the sexual fetishes of some men…wasp waist, impossibly tiny feet, exaggerated bosom. And made-up not to look like the “average” American woman of the time, but like the average American hooker of the time!

Which got me to thinking. I have a daughter who was born in 1970. Although I held off as long as I could on agreeing to get her a Barbie doll, one of her grandmothers broke the impasse and started her down the Barbie Trail in 1977 with a Superstar Barbie for her birthday.

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I have to admit at least by then the newest Barbie had a much more friendly and a much less sexual expression than the original 1959 Barbie…and than most of her incarnations for the first decade. She still had the freakishly unnatural body shape, but the smile was a definite improvement!

But what if Mattel decided to revisit Barbie’s Roots for her sixtieth anniversary coming up in 2019?  They could issue a collectible clone of the Lilli doll that started it all. And call it not “Superstar Barbie,” but…

Porn Star Barbie

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[P.S. For some more thoughts on the implications of Barbie, check out the entry One Size Fits All on my StarrTrekking blog.)

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Scandalous Furniture

I cannot imagine attempting to work regularly at my computer desk without my “swivel chair”! When we go on trips, and I have to put up with sitting in a regular chair at a tiny table in a motel room as a temporary place to check my Facebook feed, I am reminded just HOW much I love my swivel chair, which is much like the one pictured here. I hate the screeching sound chair legs make when you screech them across the floor to get your legs out from under the desk. Or, if you are sitting in a carpeted area, how difficult it is to scoot a rigid chair at all…even with casters. Being able to just rotate your chair seat in order to extricate yourself from your desk is so convenient!

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It never occurred to me until today to wonder just when the first swivel chair was invented, to know whom I might “thank” for this  modern convenience. I came across this tidbit while looking up something else. I was surprised at how long ago it was invented, and who was the inventor. And that you can actually see the very first model. Perhaps you will be surprised too. Look for the pic at the end of the quote.

A swivel or revolving chair is a chair with a single central leg that allows the seat to spin around. Swivel chairs can have wheels on the base allowing the user to move the chair around their work area without getting up. This type is common in modern offices and is often also referred to as office chairs.

Using an English-style Windsor chair of which was possibly made and purchased from Francis Trumble or Philadelphia cabinet-maker Benjamin Randolph, Thomas Jefferson invented the swivel chair in 1776.

Jefferson heavily modified the Windsor chair and incorporated top and bottom parts connected by a central iron spindle, enabling the top half known as the seat, to swivel on casters of the type used in rope-hung windows.

When the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, Jefferson’s swivel chair is purported to be where he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence. Jefferson later had the swivel chair sent to his Virginia plantation, Monticello, where he later built a “writing paddle” onto its side in 1791. Since 1836, the chair has been in the possession of the American Philosophical Society located in Philadelphia. [Wiki]

jefferson swivel

You can actually have your own Jefferson-inspired spindle-backed swivel chair for your own office. A reproduction can be purchased for only $1,400.

reproduction

I am, of course, also grateful to the person who finally thought to add casters to the bottoms of the legs of office chairs, and ESPECIALLY to the person who started the trend to generously padding office chairs! Even with its swivel mechanism, I would go crazy having to sit in a spindle-backed chair like Thomas’s all day! And I just found out who that person may be that added both of those features, and did so much earlier than I would have suspected…

victorian

The Centripetal Spring Chair or Armchair was a 19th-century American office chair, and one of the first modern designs for office chairs.

Designed in 1849 by the American inventor Thomas E. Warren (b. 1808), the chair was produced by the American Chair Company in Troy, New York. Made of cast iron and varnished steel with wood and velvet upholstery, it measured 107 × 61 × 71 centimeters with headrest and armrests, and had a seat height of 48 centimeters.

The chair exhibited all features of today’s office chairs except adjustable lumbar support: it allowed tilt movement in all directions and had a revolving seat, caster wheels for ease of movement, as well as a headrest and armrests in the armchair variant. Tilting was achieved through the flexion of the four large C-shaped steel springs on which the seat rested, using the sitter’s feet as a fulcrum. The modernity of its design, which included an innovative use of cast iron for the frame, was visually downplayed by hiding the springs behind a dense passementerie (an elaborate trim) and by rendering the frame in the nostalgic, gilded Rococo Revival style.

But it was perhaps introduced a bit before its time…

After it was first presented at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, the chair had little success outside the USA: it was deemed immoral because it was too comfortable. The Victorian morality of the time valued rigid, unsupportive seats that allowed sitters to demonstrate refinement, willpower and morality through an upright posture. [Wiki]

I am sure glad to live in an age where I can freely purchase and use a XXX-rated office chair!

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An American Hero

My mother, Pearlie (Allen) Newbauer, died in 2009 at the age of 87. She had been born in Nebraska in 1922. A couple of years later she was blessed with a baby brother, Wallace Allen. Here are Frank and Irene Allen and their first two children, Pearlie and Wallace.

Wallace was a cheerful child who brought joy to his parents and siblings.

Wallace turned 18 right in the thick of World War 2, and like so many other young men of his generation found himself in the military. His choice was the U.S. Army Air Force. That’s him posing proudly in his dress uniform with his family, between Pearlie (on the left) and their younger sister, Maxine, and then between Maxine and Pearlie.

Pearlie loved her brother dearly, and was devastated when word came late in the war that he had died in an air battle over France, while serving as a bomber tail gunner. As I was growing up, she never talked much about him, but there was always a large framed copy of that photo above of him as a little boy, and another of him in his uniform, displayed prominently in my parents’ home wherever they lived. Hanging in a closet was his WW2 brown leather bomber jacket.

In 1986, Pearlie suffered a massive stroke, which left her paralyzed on one side and unable to read and write for the rest of her life. My father, Bob, cared for her at home until just before he died in 2009, and she died three months after he did. Since Pearlie couldn’t read, and had no way to really indulge in any hobbies, Bob was always looking for things to help her while away the long hours. Her memory for incidents of the past had not been affected by her brain injury, and her sense of nostalgia was strong.

So one day in 2001 he dug out a big box of letters Pearlie had kept since WW2. Many of them were no doubt sent between the two of them—they had married in 1942, and Bob served with the Marines in the South Pacific. She wanted to rummage through the letters and have him read some to her. One 1945 letter really caught her attention. It was from a man named Morris Sunshine, and was addressed to her parents in Traverse City, Michigan. Morris had been a good friend of Wallace in the military, and he was writing to mention he hoped to make a trip to deliver his condolences to the family in person.

Pearlie remembered learning that Morris had indeed come for that visit and had spent a few hours sharing thoughts about Wallace with Frank and Maxine who were home at the time, but then the family never heard from him again. She had inherited the letter when her mother Irene had died in the 1980s and had preserved it in her collection for years. When she saw it, and my dad read the message in it to her, it brought in a sweeping melancholy about the loss of her brother so young. She wondered what he had been like during his years in the service, what others thought of him, and wished there was some way to contact the man belonging to this voice from the past who might be able to fill in some blanks for her. Morris would, of course, be past 75 years old himself, and she assumed the chances of finding him somewhere in the US would be close to zero. My dad made a couple of attempts to trace him through the return address on the 56 year old letter, and phone books in the state where he had lived as a young man, but had no success.

Then they happened to mention Mother’s yearning to me on the phone one day. And of course I immediately thought of Google.

It took perhaps ten minutes to find him, but finally on a webpage put up by the USAAF WW2 384th Bombardment Group (Station 106 Grafton-Underwood England) I found a little pic of Staff Sergeant Morris Sunshine.

The picture was on a website section called “Real Stories of Honor,” and accompanied a story written by S/Sgt Sunshine titled “Mission to St. Lo.”

How did I know that this was the right Morris Sunshine? Because as I looked at the caption on the picture of his bomber squadron illustrating the story, I was startled to notice one of the men in the pic was “S/Sgt Wallace F. Allen.” My uncle. And, even more poignantly and shockingly, as I read the story I finally realized that it was a description of the bombing run during which Wallace was killed by German fire! What are the chances of this?! Morris, a top turret gunner, described Wallace as his best friend, and told of the moment he realized Wallace was dead. And there was no chance he could forget the date—it was the day after his own 20th birthday, July 25, 1944.

At that moment I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone! I had been taken back by Google to a frozen moment in time that was of major personal significance to my own family.

And I also realized that I had been given an opportunity to get in touch with a Time Traveler who could take my mother back to 1945 to get a glimpse… alive, not dead … of her brother.

There was no contact information for Morris on the website, so I wrote to the webmaster and explained my situation, describing my aging mother and how much it would mean to her to actually hear from Morris Sunshine in person, perhaps by phone. She replied promptly. She had sent my inquiry along to him.

Dear Pam,

I am forwarding this message from Morris at his request. The only way he can communicate with you or your family effectively is by e-mail, as Morris himself so eloquently describes below. Please take care in your communique with Morris, and let him set the rules. He is my special friend.

Your friend –

Carol S

From Morris to Carol:

Dear Carol,

Please get in touch with Pam Dewey for me and tell her that I cannot speak to her by phone because of the strong emotional factor despite the passage of more than 50 years. Previous experience shows that strong emotions take my voice away and I begin to dissolve. Very embarrassing for everyone while I try to find my tongue. So the only way we can “talk” is by computer keyboard.

I do have Pam Dewey’s e-mail address and I will contact her soon. And though I am pleased to be of service to Wallace Allen’s family—he was my dearest friend—I need to put on a special suit of psychological armor before I go into those dark and dusty places in my memory. It’s very rusty, it does not fit very well, and it pinches badly in certain places, so she will have to be patient.

Now that I think about it, perhaps the easiest thing for you to do would be to forward a copy of this letter to her.

Thanks and best wishes.

Morry

I certainly understood Morris’s ground rules, and was just thrilled that he was willing to communicate by email with my family. In fact, the two emails he subsequently sent to our family left us with a permanent record of his gracious comments. They were indeed of great comfort to my mother.

Here then is the trip down memory lane into the past that Morry provided for Pearlie:

Email 1

I first met Wallace Allen at the Pyote (Texas) Army Air Corp base where we were assigned to a B-17 aircrew. That probably was in the early months of 1944. All of us had been to air gunnery school in Nevada but did not know what gunnery position we would ultimately occupy until we were assigned to a crew. The crew, as best as I can recall, consisted of Pilot Harlan Peck, copilot Bill Jennings, Navigator Al Bell, Bombardier Jerry Twomey, waist gunner George Hunter, Ball turret gunner, name momentarily forgotten, tail gunner Wallace Allen, waist gunner 2, Frank Rancatore, top turret gunner, me, and Max Algase, radio gunner. The first four people I mentioned were, of course, officers.

Pyote, Texas was in the western desert area of Texas. The sand blew and it was hot, but we were young and willing. I have no memories of Wallace in Texas. I know that we hardly ever went to town because Pyote had nothing to see and we were too young to drink anything but soda pop. There were probably l0,000 guys to every Pyotean girl. So we mostly stayed on base. I remember that every gunner tried out every gunnery position on a B-17 and except in one case, freely chose the one that they wanted. The one case was top turret. George Hunter wanted that position, but the pilot said that he was too short, so he assigned me to that position. Therefore, if Wallace was a tail gunner he chose that position.

(FYI, I am in irregular communication with the daughter of the ball turret gunner—we called him ”Oakie”—but he has alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember me at all. I am also in regular touch with Al Bell, the navigator, who was with us, I think, on that fatal mission to St. Lo. I also am in touch with the son of my bombardier (Jerry Twomey) and learned that he died a long time ago. I am not in touch with anyone else on the crew despite have made strong efforts since I bought my computer 2.5 years ago. (So, you see, Pam, I am a computer novice.) No doubt, some are now dead.

My memories of how we got to England are vague too. In April, 1944 we went to North Dakota (Grand Isle?) and picked up a brand new B-17 which we then flew to Newfoundland, Canada. From there, we flew to Northern Ireland, refueled and landed again in Scotland. On the night flight over the Atlantic, the pilot lost control of the airplane, it went into a steep dive from about l0,000 to 2,000 feet and he was lucky to have pulled it up before we hit the water. (The medical problem is called vertigo.) So we almost didn’t get to England.

I remember that we went by train to what was called a redeployment depot where newly arrived crews stayed until they were assigned to a Bomber Group. We could not leave the depot and were frequently buzzed by US and English fighters. They wanted us to learn what their planes looked like so that we would not erroneously shoot at them. We received instruction on English culture and how American English and English English are two different languages. We also got a lecture on venereal disease and on military law as it applied to desertion.

The depot was in the countryside and we saw many houses with thatched roofs. We thought that the English must be very poor.

Our biggest fear was that we would be assigned to an unlucky bomber group, a group that had lots of casualties. One such outfit, by reputation, was the 100th Bomb Group. If you wanted to frighten somebody you said, “I hear that your crew is going to the 100th!” But after waiting around until weeks, we learned that we were going to the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton-Underwood and took a train there. What happened to the new B-17 that we brought to England, I don’t know.

More later. Autobiography is hard to write. Talk to me, if the Internet will let you.

Best wishes.

Morry Sunshine

Email 2

I have been thinking about what to say to you and your family about Wallace who was my best friend in the Air Force, or Air Corp, as it was called then. After the war, you want to forget about all that and with the urge to forget, you do forget. And with the passage of so many years, I have only a few memories of Wallace. I remember that we went on leave together to London with other members of the crew sometime after D-day. I think that we shared a room together. Once in a while we went to the local town near our air base which was always crowded with soldiers. I think that Wallace and I once took leave together and went to Birmingham. Why Birmingham, I cannot say. It was our bad luck that the survivors of the 101st Parachute Division arrived back from their bloody fight in Normandy when we got there. The 101st tore the town apart celebrating. The British police and the American Military Police had their hands full and the streets were filled with drunken paratroopers. I think Wallace and I decided to return to our hotel where we met up with the crowd I am talking about and our leave was spent mostly meeting paratroopers and trying to keep out of fights.

I suppose that we were about the same age. When I flew my first combat mission about May 20, l944, I was 19 years old, really just a kid. I suppose Wallace—I always called him Allen and he called me Sunshine—was about the same age. In every respect we were ignorant and innocent. We didn’t like Hitler and the Nazis and the Germans, and it was our job to fight. Beyond that our historical knowledge was nil.

I was a city kid, and I thought of Wallace as a farm boy but he really wasn’t. I can best describe him by saying that his main feature was “purity.” By that I mean, he was idealistic, sweet, never aggressive, never used bad language, never critical of people who deserved criticism, tolerant, uncomplex, humorous, willing to listen to people he disagreed with, and for all these reasons, was attractive to girls and respected by his crew and bunkmates. Actually, if Wallace had a girl l back in Michigan, he never mentioned her and I suppose that he did not.

A B-17 bomber crew was a small group of tightly-knit people because we depended on each other. I remember on one of our early missions near the end of May, 1944, the ball turret gunner—I remember his name now, William T. Chapmon—realized that he had forgotten to bring his parachute aboard. Unfortunately, he remembered as we were approaching the English Channel on our way to the most heavily defended target in Europe: Berlin. If Chapmon had asked the pilot to return to base, the pilot would done so, but we would not have made that mission. In circumstances like that the whole crew would have had to make a seeming extra mission. In the end, the enlisted men kept Chapmon’s secret. He was ready to sacrifice his life if need be so that the crew would not have to “abort” the mission.

But coming back to 1944, perhaps the best thing that I can do is describe the world of aerial war that Wallace, and his crew and thousands of other fliers faced that summer in 1944. I will do that in my next e-mail.

Actually, after receiving that second email, we lost contact with Morry and never heard from him again. I am suspicious that given his age and serious health issues, he likely passed on before he could write again.

But actually, he did provide that description of “aerial war” in his original story that I had found on the 384th website. I hope my readers will go there to read it, as it has historical significance as well as personal significance, and should particularly be of interest to people fascinated with WW2 history. Below is the portion of the story that discusses the circumstances of my Uncle Wallace’s death. For the historical context leading up to this, and the aftermath, along with some insight into the general war efforts of the time as they affected USAAF forces, see the whole story of “Mission to St Lo” at the 384th “Real Stories of Honor” website section.

Bomber crew, 546th Squadron, 384the Bombardment Group, S/Sgt Wallace F. Allen, tail gunner, back row, third from left.

I remember July 24, l944 for a variety of reasons: first, we were being asked to directly intervene in a major ground offensive; second, the mission would be flown at a dangerously low altitude for slow-moving heavy bombers; third, the bombing had to be very precise lest we bomb our own troops; and lastly, it was my 20th birthday. I can still remember the huge groan of disbelief as we were told that the target would be bombed from l2,000 feet, an altitude so low that we would not need oxygen and the German flak gunners would not need gun sights. (Everybody had a huge respect for the German 88’s.)

If memory serves, this was not the first time we had intervened in a major ground battle. As best as I can recall, we had flown a bombing mission for General Montgomery’s British-Canadian forces trying to break out near Caen. But on that mission we bombed Caen from high altitude, as did the RAF. (It didn’t work, hence the later attempt at St. Lo.)

That morning as I got to our B-17, I was not thinking about my birthday. I was trying, like everybody else, to find an extra flak suit to spread out around the base of my top turret. I think that our crew chief went through planes that were not flying that mission and came back with a few spares. They ended up laying in the waist walkway. It was a day for flak suits, flak helmets, and good luck charms. The only thing we had going for us was the hope that the bomber groups leading the way would take out the flak.

Of course, the mission on July 24th, l944 failed. We could not find the bomb line that separated friendly from enemy forces despite our low altitude, so our squadron brought its bombs home. We had never done that before and I know I was praying that a bomb would not break loose in the bomb bay as we touched down. Because we turned back before crossing the bomb line, I do not think that we caught much flak. It was a classic milk run as far as my crew was concerned. And we certainly hoped that General Bradley could get along without us in the future…a badly mistaken view.

On July 25th we learned that it was St. Lo, again at 12,000 feet. This time I was really worried. We had previously flown to Big B [Berlin] and I had seen lots of nasty flak: big black puffs with angry red-glowing centers following us closely as we dropped our bombs from 33,000 (repeat, 33,000) feet! And we were throwing out hundreds of bundles of chaff too. So the basis for “concern,” i.e., fear, was there. If they were too close at 33,000 feet, think what could they do to you at l2,000! And this time we would not have the advantage of surprise.

The crew chiefs were all running around trying to find spare flak suits again. I should not be surprised if a couple of extra parachute chest packs were put aboard. As I looked at a B-17 crew nearby suiting up and getting ready to start engines, I did not see any brave men. I saw lots of guys hoping that someone would announce that the mission was scrubbed, permanently.

July 25

I have no memories of taking off or crossing the British Channel. … Our squadron was a bit spread out and the pilots were trying hard to get into close formation. As the top turret gunner, I was watching overhead to protect against falling bombs from friendly aircraft. The ball turret gunner was doing the same thing. The navigator and the toggelier were looking for markers indicating the bomb line. The bomb doors were open. We were flying the mission “as briefed,” at about 12,000 feet.

As top turret gunner, I could not see the target area. Looking forward I could see the bomber groups queued up ahead of us. The flak was greeting them. It was not Berlin, Leipzig or Munich but there was enough to trigger the adrenaline and cause the heart beat rate to double, maybe triple.

About that time I heard the tail gunner, S/Sgt. Wally Allen, call out, “Flak! Behind us, and low.” I swung my turret to six o’clock and looked. Black flak tracking us and getting closer. Allen said something again, I don’t remember exactly what. The next burst was closer, still behind us but the flak’s altitude was improving. Projecting where the next shell would burst, I was convinced that we were finished, dead. I keyed the mike and shouted, “Pull ‘er up!” Naturally, as we were on the bomb run, there was no option to maneuver and we didn’t.

The shell exploded with an audible noise behind and just below us. I was astonished to still be alive and that the plane was still flying. I don’t know where the next flak burst went but I do remember the toggelier shouting “Bombs away.” The formation seemed to loosen up and as we turned away from the target I looked down but could only see smoke and dust in the target area.

When we cleared the target area the navigator asked the crew to check in. There was no response from the tail gunner. The pilot ordered one of the waist gunners to investigate. I assumed it was merely some sort of intercom problem. But in a few minutes the waist gunner reported that Wally Allen had been fatally wounded.

As soon as we hit the Channel, the pilot got permission to break away from the Group and head straight to Grafton Underwood. I climbed out of my turret and went back to the waist. I thought that there might be some sort of mistake. The two waist gunners were sitting on the floor. I peered back into the tail and saw that Wally’s parachute had been opened and used to cover his body. I asked George Hunter if he was sure that Allen was dead. He said that he was sure. He did not know where the flak had hit him but there was blood all over. There was nothing to be done, according to George.

I sat down on floor near the waist guns, stunned, refusing to believe that my best friend was dead. Death was something that happened to other people, in other planes, not here and not now. I don’t remember what happened next. Maybe I was crying or shaking but I remember somebody putting an arm around me and offering me a cigarette. I was just twenty and it was the first cigarette I had ever smoked.

Months later, after completing my tour and returning to the States, I went to Traverse City, Michigan to see Wally Allen’s family. We had made certain promises to each other, so I had to go. And I told his father and sister about what we did for General Bradley at St. Lo.

…In 1995, I contracted tuberculosis. The doctor asked me if I was a smoker. I said I had quit years ago. He asked me when I first started smoking and added somewhat sympathetically, it was okay to make a reasonable guess. I said, “I know exactly when I started smoking: it was July 25, l944.” He looked at me in amazement. “How do you know that?” I replied, “That was the day we bombed St. Lo.” Still amazed, he said, “Where is St. Lo?”

It was, of course, sad to read of the details of Wallace’s death, but it strangely brought closure for my mother, especially when combined with the vignette’s of Wallace’s life that Morris had shared. I’m still amazed a decade later that my family was able to take this trip back in time via the Twilight Zone I encountered via Google Search.

What better epitaph could a man want than what Morris Sunshine wrote about Wallace F. Allen:

I can best describe him by saying that his main feature was “purity.” By that I mean, he was idealistic, sweet, never aggressive, never used bad language, never critical of people who deserved criticism, tolerant, uncomplex, humorous, willing to listen to people he disagreed with, and for all these reasons, was attractive to girls
and respected by his crew and bunkmates.

Posted in World War 2 | Tagged | 3 Comments

Mickey Mouse Saves the Day!

mickeycolorOn January 7th, 1942, one month after Pearl Harbor, T.W. Smith, Jr., the owner of the Sun Rubber Company, and his designer, Dietrich Rempel, with Walt Disney’s approval introduced a protective mask for children. This design of the Mickey Mouse Gas Mask for children was presented to Major General William N. Porter, Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service.

prototype mickey

waltAfter approval of the CWS, Sun Rubber Products Company produced sample masks for review. Other comic book character designs were to follow, depending on the success of the Mickey Mouse mask.

mickey2The mask was designed so children would carry it and wear it as part of a game. This would reduce the fear associated with wearing a gas mask and hopefully, improve their wear time and, hence, survivability.

…The Mickey Mouse Gas Mask was designed for small children in a valiant attempt to give them something that would work and still be fun. Ultimately, the Office of Civil Defense bought the M2 Noncombatant Gas Mask for small children to protect them from chemical agents. In tests, with proper coaching and good salesmanship by the leader, young children could be induced to wear the gas mask for extended periods.

mickeykid…The Mickey Mouse Gas Mask was produced as part of the war production program. The Sun Rubber Company produced approximately 1,000 Mickey Mouse gas masks and earned an Army-Navy ‘E’ for excellence in wartime production in 1944. Overall, production of the Noncombatant Gas Masks (and in fact, all gas masks) was one of the most successful production programs of the war. In fact, production had to be curtailed early due to the vast quantity produced.

Of course, celebrity endorsements helped, as usual! Here’s Charlie McCarthy getting his own Mickey Mask.

celebrity model…Thankfully, no chemical attacks occurred in the United States. Mickey Mouse Gas Masks were distributed to senior officials and others during the war as keepsakes. When the war ended, further desire for the mask vanished. It became an old idea whose time had passed. [Source]

Unlike many WW2 collectibles, you won’t likely see any of these masks for sale on Ebay.

…Very few of the Mickey Mouse gas masks survived. The US Army Chemical Museum at Fort McClellan, Alabama, has a hand-made prototype. The 45th Infantry Division Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has a production specimen on permanent display with other gas masks in the combat support area of the museum. The Walt Disney Archives, Burbank, California, has a facepiece without ears, lenses, or a canister, and a mask owned by the founder of the Sun Rubber Company was on display at the Summit County (Ohio) Historical Society’s “Toys Made in Summit County” exhibit in 1982.[ibid]

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The Cure for “Thinking Too Much”!

It was well-known in Victorian times that thinking too much was a health hazard for women. What a relief, then, that John Pemberton came to the rescue of the Weaker Sex with his new Miracle Brew that did indeed “Relieve the Fatigue that comes…from Over-thinking” as promised in the advertisement below.

cokeoverthink

During the late to mid-19th century, medicines promising to cure multiple ailments from “foul breath,” “irregularities incidental to women” and everything in between proliferated. Many times these bogus medicines were mixed with ice-cold carbonated water and served as cheaper and more refreshing alternatives.

In the spring of 1886, John Stith Pemberton, a Confederate army veteran, had created one of the most elusive and important recipes of all time. This Georgian native mixed sugar, water, kola nut extracts, coca leaf extract, and other secret ingredients into a syrupy concoction that would become the base of the world’s most prolific soft drink the world has ever known. Mixed with soda water, the drink was extremely powerful with cocaine from the coca extract and four times the amount of caffeine of the modern syrup mix. The original recipe of 1886 has since been lost in time. Pemberton’s business partner and Union army veteran, Frank Robinson decided to name the new beverage Coca-Cola. The name derived from its initial selling point: “containing the properties of the wonderful Coca Plant and the famous Cola nuts.” At the time of the drink’s inception, cocaine was a commonly used substance, but was later near-completely eliminated in 1903. [Source]

cokerevives…In the 1880s and 90s, the company utilized lithographs of the young, beautiful, and wealthy. Giving the impression that anyone who was willing to spend a measly five cents could live like the rich for the time it took to enjoy a glass of Coca-Cola. [ibid]

Yes, even if you couldn’t afford the type of shopping trips of the beautiful and wealthy young ladies shown above, you could window-shop-‘til-you-dropped, and then stop by the soda fountain to be “revived and sustained”–and imagine yourself chatting over your glass of Coca Cola with the Rockefellers and Carnegies…before going home to your tenement!

At first the models for the Coke ads were anonymous beautiful and wealthy young ladies. But it didn’t take long for the Coca-Cola company to realize the value of celebrity endorsements.

cokehildaclarkSinger Hilda Clark became the first celebrity model for The Coca-Cola Company. Also known as the First Coca-Cola Girl, Hilda’s image was used on cardboard signs, tin trays, trade cards, bookmarks, drink tickets, and calendars from 1899 to 1903. [Source]

The many moods of Hilda Clark, from prim and proper to a tad sultry graced Coke ads for several years.

coke1890orso

coke1897braintoniccokeclark3

Coke calendars became wildly popular around the turn of the century, and Hilda loaned her pretty face and poofy hair to those too.

cokeclark1901calendar

I don’t know what happened to Hilda, but by 1904 she was replaced by a more regal celebrity.

coke1890nordica

From 1904 to 1905, Lillian Nordica became the new face of Coca-Cola. Born Lillian Norton in 1857 in Farmington, Maine, Madame Nordica was also a singer who had performed with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as well as in many major musical venues in Western Europe and Russia. Early calendars and other promotional items featuring the divas of the time not only launched the popular Coca-Cola Girls advertising platform but Clark and Nordica items had also become some of the greatest hits with vintage Coca-Cola collectors over the years. [ibid]

cokenordica2

 

It would be almost 30 years later before Coke introduced the ultimate celebrity endorser, shown here in 1932 in his very first appearance in a Coke ad.

santa1932

 

 

 

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Land of the Free…

intern pageant

The details of this photo blew me away when I first saw it and it dawned on me what it portrayed. These are Japanese American children in a World War 2 so-called “relocation camp” (sometimes called an “internment” camp, but never a “concentration camp”—which, however, is essentially what they were.)

On December 7, 1941, the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, there were more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast of the United States. Within a few months, this entire population was gone. Out of fears of espionage and sabotage along the Pacific, the government removed Japanese American men, women, and children from their homes and placed them in internment camps in the interior of the country. Two-thirds of the internees were U.S. citizens. None of them was ever charged with a crime. [Smithsonian]

headlineposter

The “relocated” Japanese had been in many cases given ten days or less to prepare for the move. Each was allowed to bring from their former homes only what they could carry—and since they had to carry their own blankets and sheets and pillows, that didn’t leave much room for clothing—and toys for children or diapers for babies! The living conditions in the camps were Spartan at best and hellish at worst—their locations were specifically chosen because they were in out of the way places such as a mosquito-infested Arkansas swamp, a barren and bleak area of Utah subject to dust storms, or a spot in northwestern Wyoming where winter temps often reached 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. (Remembering that most of these folks were from California and other west coast areas with very mild winters, not told where they were headed—and thus utterly unprepared to “dress for the weather.”)

As you can see from the photo above, taken at one of the two camps which were hastily constructed in southeast Arkansas, the US government did establish makeshift schools for the children within the camps. (Teacher/grade school student ratio of almost 50/1.) And given the circumstances of their incarceration, it was very important that the children, as well as their parents, do as MUCH as they could to “prove their loyalty” to the USA. Thus the effort at ultra-patriotism for a school pageant. Exactly what the little Japanese child in “blackface” in the center back of this photo was proving is not quite clear to me, other than that this “camp” was in Jim Crow Era Arkansas…

I’m suspicious most Americans know little or nothing about the plight of Japanese Americans in that era. The topic has been pretty hush-hush since shortly after WW2 until very recently. I knew almost nothing of it myself until a “face” was put on the circumstances for me. I happen to subscribe to the Facebook feed of George Takei.

takei

Yes, Sulu from Star Trek. He usually posts just humorous sayings and photos. But a year ago or so he posted some pics of himself during a pilgrimage he had made to Arkansas. Yes, George and his family were interned for a time at one of the two camps that were in Arkansas—perhaps the very one in the Pageant Photo. And he returned to the site in recent times as part of a personal crusade to bring attention to this hush-hush history.

takeinowGeorge Hosato Takei ( April 20, 1937) is an American actor and author, best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek. He also portrayed the character in six Star Trek feature films and in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager…Takei was born Hosato Takei in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California to Japanese American parents…In 1942, the Takei family was forced to live in the horse stables of Santa Anita Park before being sent to the Rohwer War Relocation Center for internment in Rohwer, Arkansas. The family was later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California. [Wiki]

You can see George describe a bit of this experience from his childhood in this video.

Let’s put another famous face on this dark blot on America’s past:

arnold

Yes, “Arnold” also spent time as a child in one of the camps.

Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005) was an American film and television actor who was well known for playing the roles of Matsuo “Arnold” Takahashi on Happy Days and Kesuke Miyagi in the The Karate Kid movie series, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1984….[Morita was] born in Isleton, California. He developed spinal tuberculosis at the age of two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in Northern Californian hospitals, including the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. For long periods he was wrapped in a full-body cast and was told he would never walk. It was during his time at a sanitarium near Sacramento that he was given his stage name, “Pat”. Released from the hospital at age 11 [1943] after undergoing extensive spinal surgery and learning how to walk, Morita was transported from the hospital directly to the Gila River camp in Arizona to join his interned family. […later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California—where he may have been during the same time period as the slightly younger George Takei] [Wiki]

Morita also made a short video describing his camp experiences.

Takei and Morita were both children during WW2. Another famous face we can put on the Internment saga was a bit older, a young adult at the time of the forced “relocation.”

yemana

Yes, “Detective Yemana” was also a prisoner in one of the camps.

sooJack Soo […best known for his role as Detective Nick Yemana on the television sitcom Barney Miller] was born Goro Suzuki on a ship traveling from Japan to the United States in 1917. He lived in Oakland, California, and was caught up in the Japanese American internment during World War II and sent to Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. Fellow internees recalled him as a “camp favorite” entertainer, singing at dances and numerous events. [Wiki]

I find it painfully ironic that those young American citizens in the Pageant Photo were forced to deal with the cognitive dissonance between their own “lived experiences” of the time, and the hype from their teachers about the “Land of the Free” which no doubt accompanied their little patriotic pageant that year.

 

 

 

 

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