Saturday, 18 May 2013
Image Lierutenant Johnson & Gilbert Desclos (far left) courtesy normandie89.eklablog.com.
Gilbert Desclos was an orphan who lived with a woman named Mrs. Bisson. He loved watching the large Navy ships come and go from Omaha Beach. In fact, it was hard for his caregiver to tear him away from the beach at the end of the day.
Donald Johnson was a lieutenant in the Seabees, a U.S. Navy Construction Battalion. Homesick for his own children whom he hadn't seen for at least a year, it was a welcome treat for him to see this young boy with the kind smile. By mid-day, Lieutenant Johnson invited Gilbert to lunch in his broken French.
In the mess tent, Gilbert dined on roast beef, potatoes, carrots, peas, freshly baked bread and apple pie. What a treat for a boy who was so accustomed to meagre portions. Again, at suppertime, Johnson invited him to dine in the mess tent. And again, Gilbert filled his tummy. "A demain", said the American as he watched the French boy walk up the path to Mrs. Bisson's house.
Photo courtesy 590cjcw.com.
Soon, Lieutenant Johnson was giving the young orphan rides in his jeep to the beach. He would also give him piggy back rides. Gilbert dined three times a day in the mess tent. The duo became inseparable: when Johnson was called to repair a collapsed bridge, Gilbert would waited patiently until he returned. With each conversation between the two, Johnson's French improved as well as Gilbert's English. Hello, goodbye and ice cream were added to his vocabulary as well as Lieutenant Johnson. "L'homme americain" had grown very fond of "le garcon francais". "Could he adopt him?" he asked. The emphatic answer was "Non".
One night, in October of 1944, Lieutenant Johnson boarded a ship for America with Gilbert in tow. Within an hour, a storm raged on the sea and the ship was forced to stay docked until it passed over. Just before they planned to leave, French gendarmes boarded the ship and insisted on taking the boy with them. "Non!" he wailed, tugging on the lieutenant's thick wool Navy coat. But the decision had been made; he was to return to Mrs. Bisson.
Image courtesy goldwing.eurekaboy.com.
The next day his caregiver put him in a French orphanage where he would remain for years. Thankfully, in his teens, a kind woman unofficially adopted him. As an adult, Gilbert joined the military, found a job, married and had one daughter. But he never forgot the kind faced American who had showed him unconditional love. He told his family that he had a family in America who would come and find him one day.
Donald Johnson returned to California where he too had a daughter, named Diane. He would tell her about Omaha Beach, the French countryside, the great Navy ships and a little boy named Gilbert. When he talked of Gilbert, his eyes would shine. The year his daughter married, he returned to France to find the boy but to no avail. He thought it was not to be.
Donald Johnson passed away in 1991 but his daughter never forgot about his memories and about the little boy. In 1993, Diane travelled to Omaha Beach to write about the 50th anniversary of D-Day the following year. As she stood on the cliffs, tears rolled down her cheeks: she wished that she had asked her Dad more questions about his D-Day experience.
Image of Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 1 courtesy 3.web.britannia.com.
She wrote an article for a California newspaper mentioning Gilbert Desclos, thinking it might take years to find him.The press attache for France, stationed in San Francisco, read the article. "Why not search for him?" he asked. "The French don't move around like Americans," he explained. So, when Diane returned to France to accept a military medal on her father's behalf in 1994, she placed an ad in the local newspaper. The following day, Gilbert read the article and wrote a letter to the woman's home address. While Diane toured Europe with her daughter, her sister faxed her a copy of the letter from Gilbert. On the last day of her trip, she read the letter and phoned M. Desclos, eager to connect.
Within hours they met at a sidewalk cafe in Caen. Gilbert had the kind smile that her father had described. He actually looked like her father. As the Frenchman and the American woman talked, they sipped on apple brandy made in the French countryside. Gilbert explained what had happened to him in the intervening years. After a warm felt hug, they promised to meet again soon.
In 1997, Gilbert and his wife flew to America, a dream come true. They met with 40 members of the Johnson family. Diane made more trips to France. In fact, she planned her last trip in 2009, but found out four days before her departure that Gilbert had passed away from liver cancer. She was able to attend the funeral, however. At a chapel in the Normandy village, the daughter placed a photo of the seven year old Gilbert with the American lieutenant on Omaha Beach, on his coffin which was draped with the tri-colour flag. It had taken fifty years, but the inseparable pair was finally reunited.
Source: "Finding Gilbert" by Diane Covington, Reader's Digest, June 2009.
Author Diane Covington courtesy rd.com.
Friday, 17 May 2013
The Dina Babbitt Story cartoon courtesy a7.org
My husband said to me today: "I have a blog post idea for you." He stumbled upon a Neal Adams comic about a Jewish woman named Dinah, who, while imprisoned at Auschwitz, painted a mural of Snow White on the wall to calm down the children. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" had been the last movie she she had seen before the war. Thanks to her artistic talent, Dinah survived the war. And in a twist of fate she ended up marrying a Disney animator named Art Babbitt -- who was the head cartoonist on the movie "Snow White".
Image courtesy images6.alphacoders.com.
Dinah Gottlieb was born in Czechoslovakia in 1923. At 3 years old, she started drawing on paper sacks that her grandmother kept. At 19, she entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where she studied drawing. In 1939, Dinah was forced to abandon her art classes as the Nazis imposed stricter and stricter limits on Jews in occupied Europe. In 1942, Dinah and her mother were imprisoned in Theresienstadt. The following year, they were transported to Auschwitz.
Auschwitz entrance courtesy en.auschwitz.org
At the infamous concentration camp, Dinah was approached by Freddy, an acquaintance from Czechoslovakia, to draw a mural to calm down the children. The young artist complied, painting a picture of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Fearful that she would get in trouble for the artwork, she was surprised when Dr. Josef Mengele praised her for her talent. The "Angel of Death" who was known for his horrific experiments on prisoners, asked Dinah if she would do some sketches for him, hoping that her artwork could pick up skin tones that his camera could not. In return, he would spare her from the gas chambers. She agreed, but only if her mother was spared as well. Dr. Mengele promised that Dinah's mother would be safe.
"Selena" by Dina courtesy 3.bp.blogspot.com.
The Nazi doctor brought Dinah a pad of paper, some watercolours and two chairs, one for her subject and the other for her easel. With her pad perched precariously, Dinah sketched eleven subjects over the course of the next year, signing each one "Dinah 1944". Every subject was a Romani, or "gypsy", a group that was considered "inferior" by the Nazis. Every subject, after being sketched, ended up being "exterminated". Sadly, Dinah remembers one woman who had just lost her two-month-old baby to starvation. The artist took an extra long time to draw her, slipping her food each time she sat for her.
In May of 1945, the survivors of Auschwitz were liberated by the Allies. Dinah and her mother moved to Paris where the artist looked for work as a cartoonist. She applied for a position at Warner Brothers and was interviewed by none other than Art Babbitt, the head cartoonist for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".
Dina and her mother in postwar Nice, France courtesy www.nytimes.com
Mr. Babbitt not only hired her but married her as well. The couple moved to California where they had two daughters. Sadly, the union was dissolved in 1963 at which point Mrs. Babbitt, now known as Dina, returned to work. She sketched such characters as Tweety Bird, Wiley Coyote and Cap'n Crunch.
It was that same year that the Auschwitz Museum bought some watercolours signed "Dinah 1944:. Not connecting the name with Dina Babbitt, they were not able to contact the artist -- for six years. In 1973, Dina borrowed money to fly to Poland to retrieve her paintings. However, the museum refused to return them to her, saying they were an integral part of Auschwitz' history (although they had 2000 other pieces of art to display).
Romanis painted by Dina at Auschwitz courtesy holocaustunit2012.wikispaces.com.
There began a political battle to get the paintings back that would last until Dina died. In 2002 Congress declared the painting rightfully Dina Babbitt's. Certain politicians tried to put pressure on the President to in turn put pressure on the Polish government for the artwork. In 2006, 450 cartoonists and comic book creators signed a petition supporting Dina. A short film, "The Last Outrage", an adaptation of Neal Adams' comic strip, was produced in 2009. The paintings remain, however, in the museum.
As Dina explained: "Every single thing including our underwear, was taken away from us...My dog, our furniture, our clothes. And now, finally, something is found that I created, that belongs to me. And they refuse to give it to me." Frustrated, Dina passed away from cancer in 2009. Her children continue to lobby the government for the return of the watercolours.
Dina Babbitt at her easel courtesy www.telegraph.co.uk.
How did the son of German immigrants turn his bankrupt horseradish business into a successful ketchup conglomerate? According to Heinz: "To do a common thing uncommonly brings success." And that's just what he did. However, although we think he started with a common tomato, he didn't. He began with a common horseradish from his mother's garden.
H. J. Heinz started gardening at the tender age of six with his mother by his side. By 1851, he was selling vegetables to his Pittsburgh neighbours. Within a year he was making his mother's horseradish recipe. In 1856 he started delivering produce via horse and wagon. Within four years, he was making three weekly deliveries about town.
In 1869, H. J. Heinz formed his first company with Clarence Noble called the Heinz Noble Company. They sold goods out of a two-story farmhouse. By 1875, Heinz was selling baked beans as well.
It was in 1876 that Heinz started making the famous ketchup that he would become known for, marketing it at the Philadelphia Exposition. Recipes had already been published for the condiment including one in The Virginia Housewife in 1824. However, the product had never been mass marketed.
By 1888, H. J. Heinz opened his Allegheny River factory, a facility ahead of its time. In keeping with his philosophy, "Always put yourself in other people's shoes", Heinz provided several benefits to his employees including: a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a reading room, cooking classes and free medical care.
While Heinz' Ketchup premiered with a keystone glass bottle, by 1890, the plant started using the slender glass bottles that are still seen in some restaurants today. It was around the same time that Heinz, travelling by train in New York City, saw a billboard advertising "21 Styles of Shoes", inspiring him to adopt the slogan "57 Varieties" for his ketchup.
In 1906, Heinz was largely responsible for getting the Pure Food & Drug Act passed. While other ketchup companies used green bottles to hide the fillers in their product, Heinz insisted on using a clear bottle.
Success continued for Heinz as he was able to weather both the Great Depression in America in the 1930's and the Second World War in the 1940's in Britain. By this time he had a plant in Britain which stopped production of ketchup due to wartime food shortages (1939-1948).
The 1950's saw the introduction of TV ads with the jingle "57 Varieties". The 1960's saw the introduction of the foil ketchup packets that we see at fast food restaurants. The 1980's saw the introduction of the plastic squeezable bottle.
Today, Heinz sells 650 million bottles of ketchup per year requiring two million tons of tomatoes and 6 million tomato seeds. As the ketchup comes out of the bottle, it moves at a speed of 0.28 miles per hour which makes it difficult to fully empty the bottle. However, Heinz would consider it worth our while to be patient, believing that we should never waste anything. That is just another one of his mottoes that made his multi-million dollar company successful. And to think that it all started in his mothers garden.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
Philaelphia's Centennial Exposition of 1876 courtesy wikimedia.org.
Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition of 1876 featured some outstanding inventions. In one booth stood Alexander Graham Bell demonstrating his new telephone; in a second stood Philo Remington typing on his new typewriter; a third housed H. J. Heinz dabbing his ketchup on hot dogs; and a fourth featured Charles Hires serving his new concoction, root beer . Where did Hires get the idea for his soft drink? He was served sassafras tea at a hotel on his honeymoon.
Photo of Charles Hires courtesy wordpress.com.
Charles Elmer Hires was hired to work at a drugstore at age 12. By age 16, he had saved $400 ($9,000 today) which was enough to buy his own pharmacy in Philadelphia. Hires married in 1876 and honeymooned in New Jersey. Sipping sassafras tea at a hotel with his wife, he got an idea. Why not sell the drink to housewives and soda fountain owners? While the hotel proprietor had served her drink hot, he would serve his drink cold. Using a mixture of roots, bark, herbs and berries, Hires sold the powder for only five cents. Customers in turn took the powder and mixed it with with water, sugar and yeast to make five gallons of "root tea".
Sassafras Root courtesy 2.bp.blogspot.com.
Living in Cumberland County, many of his customers were hard-drinking, working-class folk. Being a Quaker, Hires was an abstainer and encouraged his drink as an alternative to alcohol. Being a pharmacist, he pushed a healthy lifestyle and called his root tea "the greatest health giving beverage in the world". The druggist was a keen businessman and started marketing his product using Victorian trading cards, advertising cards which many people collected at the time. With captions like "Hires Root Beer puts roses in your cheeks", the cards claimed that the drink would cure: tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough and diptheria.
Victorian trading card courtesy padbook.libraries.psu.edu.
Ten years would pass in which Hires continued to sell his concoction. However, it did not catch on. Then, a friend named Rev. Russell Conwell suggested that he pedal his product at the upcoming World's Fair in Philadelphia. Hires got a brainstorm: he would change the name of his drink from root tea to root beer, making it more appealing to the hard-drinking Pennsylvania miners. This time, it caught on.
By 1890, Hires was bottling the brew and started the Charles E. Hires Company. Now a carbonated drink, consumers would see the trademark fizz rise to the top upon opening the bottle and pouring its contents. By 1919, root beer became an even more popular beverage when Prohibition outlawed alcoholic drinks. These laws would stay in effect until 1933.
Charles Hires passed away in 1937 but his legacy lives on. You can still buy giant plastic bottles of Hires Root Beer with the trademark mug, the froth overflowing from the top. And to think that it all started with a cup of tea.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Sand dunes are areas of sand sculpted by the wind either in the desert or along the coast. Sand dunes come in many shapes and sizes: crescentic, linear, star, dome and parabolic. Here are ten of the most beautiful sand dunes in the world.
1. Arabian Desert, Asia
1. Arabian Desert, Asia
2. Great Sand Dunes National Park, United States
3. Sahara Desert, Africa
4. Murzuq Sand Dunes, Libya
5. Dune de Pyla, France
6. Sand Dunes Nature Desert
7. Red Sossusvlei Sand Dunes, Africa
8. Great Sand Dune of Pyla
9. Mingsha Shan, China
10. Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Bonus: The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Arizona. Here is a sand dune that has hardened into a rock formation.