Monday, 25 June 2012

Berlin Airlift by Numbers







On June 24, 1948, the first "war" of the Cold War began with the Berlin Blockade in which the Soviet government cut off all road, rail and water links through Communist East Germany into the city of West Berlin to protest their inclusion in the monetary reform program.  In a show of American might, the Berlin Airlift commenced with the former Allies dropping supplies to the citizens of the democratic "island" of West Berlin.  Here are some numbers to show the scope of the airlift.

-Berlin Airlift duration was 14 months
-2.34 million tons of food, coal, fuel and other supplies were dropped
-2.2 million citizens received these supplies
-277,000 flights delivered the supplies
-300 aircraft were used
-at the height of the airlift, take-offs and landings took place every 90 seconds at Tempelhof Airport
-78 lives were lost (31 Americans, 39 Britons, 8 Germans)

The last delivery took place on August 27, 1949.  West Berliners would be eternally grateful to the former Allies, particularly the United States, for their support, without which they would have starved to death.

Source:  DPA News Agency



 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Seabiscuit




Photo of The Greatest Race of the Century courtesy http://thesaturdaypost.org.



"At four o'clock, the two horses parted a sea of humanity and stepped on to the track before a crowd...keyed to the highest tension I have ever seen in sport.  'Maryland, My Maryland' wafted over a strangely quiet grandstand.  The spectators were too full of tension...the type of tension that locks the throat." (Description of "The Horse Race of the Century", November 1, 1938, Seabiscuit:  An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand)

Seabiscuit is a book based on the horse of the same name who managed to beat War Admiral in a race held on November 1, 1938 at Maryland's Pimlico Track.  Forty thousand fans watched the race from the grandstand.  Forty million Americans listened on their radios, including President Roosevelt who postponed his meetings until the race was complete.  Although Seabiscuit was the underdog, he managed to outsmart and outpower War Admiral in a race that would go down as "The Race of the Century".

Author Laura Hillenbrand takes us into the world of the race horse.  We learn how these powerhouses are fed special diets to beef up.  We learn how they are trained:  a sheep was placed in one horse's stall to calm him down; a dog was placed in another horse's stall to stir him up.  We learn the dangers they face on the racetrack as they run with only an inch or two between them and their opponent.  Once a horse is lame, his career is usually over.

Ms. Hillenbrand also takes the reader into the world of the jockey, detail by detail.  She describes his harsh life, the danger of the racetrack where fellow jockeys often played dirty, doing whatever they could to win.  She talks about the pressure felt by the jockeys to stay thin, resulting in bulimic or anorexic jockeys who would do anything to keep to their assigned weight limit.  The jockeys barely survived on their meagre salaries and could be cast off at any time.  Attempts by jockeys to unionize were met with suspicion.  A jockey's life was full of risk.

Ms. Hillenbrand also describes the life of the horse trainer.  He not only focussed on the physical demands of the horse, but also the mental demands.  What would be the best strategy to win the race?  How would the other horses act at the start?  Was the horse a good starter?  Did the horse like to come from behind?  Could the horse run well in the rain?

The book also focusses on the role of the media in horse racing.  Reporters always had their favourites.  While the grandstand held so many thousand spectators, many more would listen on the radio.  Thousands of words were devoted to writing about one race.  Journalists would track the progress of a horse, watching his workouts.  In the case of Seabiscuit, his trainer often ran his workouts after sunset so that the press could not see his performance:  he wanted to keep them guessing. 

We learn about the horse racing fans of the 1930's and early 1940's:  famous people like President Roosevelt and Bing Crosby and Sonja Henie followed the sport.  However, the average Joe on the street could also be an ardent fan.  Wagers were placed on the big names:  War Admiral, Wedding Call and Kayak.  Some went home with their pockets full; others lost everything. 

The climax of Seabiscuit's career came with the Santa Anita Handicap held on March 2, 1940.  Thoroughbred Record correspondent Barry Whitehead described how the fans staked out their seats in the grandstand with blankets like a scene from the Oklahoma Landrush.  Red Pollard, returning from a potentially career-ending injury, rode Seabiscuit.  Another jockey road War Admiral.  At first it was neck and neck, but in the end, Seabiscuit won by three furlongs.  Mr. Pollard, who had promised his wife flowers from his winning blanket, never had the chance to deliver them as they were picked off of his mount by excited fans.  Mr. Howard, the champion's owner, walked away with $100,000.  It was The Greatest Race of the Century.

Note:  Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit is a well-researched, well-written book that hit Number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and was later made into a motion picture starring Toby McGuire.





Photo of Santa Anita Handicap, March 2, 1940 (Seabiscuit sneaking through the middle) courtesy www.sporthorse-data.com.


  





Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Barefoot Boy


Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1855)

Dedicated to my nephew, Mason, who turned 1 year old yesterday.





Painting courtesy http://harmonybybarbara.com.


Friday, 22 June 2012

Mississippi Burning

"Outsiders had never been welcome in Neshoba County, whether they were Yankee calvary, carpetbaggers, or federal revenuers..."*



"Mississippi Burning", a movie starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, is based on a true story which took place during Freedom Summer in rural Mississippi.  On April 24, 1964, the KKK had burned crosses in 66 separate locations, in an effort to scare blacks from signing up to vote.  On June 21 of that year, three civil rights activists from the North, Goodman and Schwerner (white) and Chaney (black), headed south to Mississippi for the summer to help register black voters.  That evening, they visited a burnt out church and on their way back to Meridian, they were arrested by the local sheriff and taken to the county jail.  They were released that same night, but disappeared on a rural road on their way home from the jail. 

     Two FBI agents, a Northern Liberal, played by Willem Dafoe, and a Southern Conversative, played by Gene Hackman were sent to Mississippi Neshoba County to investage the mystery.  The sheriff's office, linked to the KKK, refused to cooperate with them.  In fact, the duo encountered hostitily at the hands of the police.  The local black community was tortured, many of their houses set on fire.  More FBI agents were recruited.  Although 1000 Mississippians were interviewed, not the white community nor the black community was willing to divulge any information, leading Hackman's and Dafoe's characters to resort to other tactics. 

     "Mississippi Burning" won Academy Awards, including one for cinematography and one for best actor, Gene Hackman.  It is a frightening tale of the American Civil Rights era and how those who protested the Jim Crow laws, whether black or white, were in the line of fire of the KKK and even the local authorities.

Note:  For further information, read We Are Not Afraid:  The Story of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi (Cagin & Dray, 1988).





Image courtesy www.movieposterb.com.




Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Graduate

We arrived promptly at 5:00 pm at the school.  I, in my old red dress from 15 years ago, and Thomas, in his new black suit with red shirt and tie walked up the walkway into the school.  In the foyer, we met Lance and Nicole, Thomas' birthparents, who had just arrived from London.  We chatted for a bit and then opened the double doors to the gym.  Inside, it was an Under the Sea Wonderland.  Moving aside the seaweed hanging from the door, we made our way to the corner where a fountain was running surrounded by greenery, donated by one of the Grade 8 parents, with a backdrop of large white bubbles.  The lettering on the bubbles said:  CLASS OF 2012. 

We snapped some shots of Thomas and his best friend Riley, aka his YouTube video subject, in front of the fountain.  We made our way around the gym to admire the handiwork of the students, teachers and parent volunteers.  There were fish on the wall, one for each student.  There were drivers' licences personally designed by each student.  Lance spotted Thomas which proclaimed "IMAU2BER".  Lance says that he has seen all of Thomas' videos.  Another corner featured colourful composites of each of the students.  Above us, undersea creatures hovered; plants, hung by Thomas' classmate Kennan, sprung from the basketball nets.  And the head table was a masterpiece:  each student had a bag of candy in front of his or her place setting.  Each student had his or her own name card written in cursive writing.  Nothing was left to chance. 

Delicious scents wafted from the kitchen as the Grade 7 parents prepared our dinner (I have good memories of doing it last year).  Chatter filled the room as parents conversed with each other, many for the hundredth time, some for the first time.  The graduates took their places at the head table, looking like little adults in their tuxes and dresses.  Where did the past ten years go?  Didn't I just drop Thomas off at Kindergarten? 

Mr. Hartholt, our principal, and our Grade 8 teacher (yes, he teaches, like all principals used to do -- he's the "principal teacher") asked us to take our seats.  By this time, Rob had also arrived from London after teaching his class.  The four of us found our name cards and took our seats beside the Werkman's and the Bray's.  Mrs. Murray said a beautiful grace.  The graduaties were the first to line up to be served a meal of:  chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and corn.  My son, as a teenage boy, is always hungry.  He sets to work devouring his dinner. 

Then the adults join the queue.  Beautiful glass fish decorate the food table.  The Grade 7 parents serve us, pleasant smiles on their faces, eventhough some of them have been the kitchen cooking for the better part of the day.  Back at our table, we enjoy conversing with the other couples.  It is nice that Lance and Nicole were able to join us for the evening.  They have always been a part of his life and this is such a big occasion.  We also talk with the Bray's, who are a delighful couple, full of energy and life.  Mrs. Bray and I got to spend a couple of hours together yesterday taping bubbles to the wall.  What a small world!  I find out that Mr. Bray grew up in Toronto's East York and attended Danforth Tech, the same high school as my Dad. 

An hour later, with everyone's tummy full, we sit back to listen to a play written and performed by Mr. Summerhays and the Grade 7 class.  Rob gets out our dinosaur-like video camera and starts filming.  The play is a roast of the Grade 8 students, all done in good fun.  Rob says that Mr. Summerhays has definitely pegged Thomas and Riley, who forget their gym clothes in one scene, and sit out while the other students participate in physed.  However, when they are gone, Thomas and Riley start filming one of their youtube videos, jumping around like madmen.  The Grade Seven's return to find Thomas and Riley quietly sitting as they were when they left them. 

At 7:30 pm we all climb into our cars and head to our church for the ceremony.  I pull into the parking lot with Nicole (Lance drove with Rob) to see Jacqueline in her party dress, her hair in a French braid, sitting on the front lawn with her friends (their older siblings were also graduates).  We slowly made our way into the church, the foyer full of parents, siblings and grandparents.  We found my parents and in-laws already seated in a pew and we filed in beside them.  Jacqueline "adopted" my new camera as her own, as Thomas said.  She took about a hundred snapshots of the graduates.

The praise team took their place at the front and played a song, sounding like professionals.  Thomas was on electric guitar, another boy played drums, a couple of people played acoustic guitars and a few people sang.  Then one by one the graduates were handed their diplomas.  And one by one each graduate delivered his or her speech.  Everyone thanked God for all of the blessings he has given them, especially Brantford Christian School.  One girl thanked her anonymous sponsor who made it possible for her to attend the school.  The awards were distributed ex. music, academics, physed, citizenship.  Then Mr. Oudik, the Grade i's student teacher for the year, delivered a speech about the big picture, complete with a drawing of a green grass and trees and birds.  "Without God, we have nothing" was the message he gave the graduates.  Finally, the praise team played one last song and then the graduates filed out of the sanctuary, Jacqueline snapping pictures as fast as the graduates walked. 

We mingled for a bit with the other guests.  Thomas and Riley changed into their regular clothes for the graduation party to be held at Josiah's house.  The graduates were excited about the party.  Rob pointed out how nice it was that the class had come together so well over the last couple of years.  There was the core group of students who had been together since Kindergarten.  However, there was a second group of students who had transferred to BCS in the last 3 or 4 years and they had blended in well.  The Grade 8's really enjoyed each other's company. 

As dusk descended on Brantford and the last of the cars pulled out of the church parking lot, I thought of how blessed we have been at BCS.  They do not do anything halfheartedly.  The graduation was unforgettable.  Thank you, BCS!  And congratulations to our graduates!





Image courtesy http://2.bp.blogpsot.com.




Tuesday, 19 June 2012

From Cocoon Forth a Butterfly

From Cocoon Forth a Butterfly

From Cocoon forth a Butterfly
As Lady from her Door
Emerged -- a Summer Afternoon --
Repairing Everywhere --

Without Design -- that I could trace
Except to stray abroad
On Miscellaneous Enterprise
The Clovers -- understood --

Her pretty Parasol be seen
Contracting in a Field
Where Men made Hay --
Then struggling hard
With an opposing Cloud --

Where Parties -- Phantom as Herself --
To Nowhere -- seemed to go
In purposeless Circumference --
As 'twere a Tropic Show --

And notwithstanding Bee -- that worked --
And Flower -- that zealous blew --
This Audience of Idleness
Disdained them, from the Sky --

Till Sundown crept -- a steady Tide --
And Men that made the Hay --
And Afternoon -- and Butterfly --
Extinguished -- in the Sea --
 
Emily Dickinson
 
 


Photo courtesy www.androidmb.com.

 
 

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Day at the Splash Pad

The boys and girls ran back and forth through the sprinkling water at the splash pad underneath the giant oak trees.  They stood in line for a chance to be doused with pail after pail of water.  After several turns, they went back to running through the sprinklers, squealing with delight.  As the cirrus clouds slowly made their way across Brantford, the kids made the grade 3 students made their way over to the picnic area for a snack of chips, licorice and drinking pouches.  They laid out their towels and munched on their snacks.  Then it was time for the playground.  They waited for a turn on the swing or a climb on the monkey bars.  Some of them returned to the splash pad for another dousing or sprinkling.  And so it continued for two hours.  The teacher and the volunteers had a chance to chat.  A smiling parent brought us each an iced cappucino.  Not a coffee drinker, I politely accepted the drink which tasted a bit like coffee ice cream.  I appreciated drinking something cold on a hot day.  Before we knew it, the afternoon was over.  The boys and girls headed to the washrooms to change out of their wet bathing suits.  With their hair wet and askew and their plastic bags full, they followed their designated parent to the parking lot to head back to school.  What a great day at the splash pad!





Photo of splash pad courtesy http://www.mygrowingcity.com.



Sunday, 17 June 2012

Stroud's Fruit Market

Bette, a 13-year-old girl wearing a skirt, blouse and saddle shoes, walked down Simcoe Street in Oshawa, accompanied by her two sisters, Marlene and Sandra.  They had just left their high school, Oshawa Collegiate, and were ready for an evening of work in their father's store.  Cars, mainly General Motors products, drove back and forth down the two lane street.  The girls passed the millinery shop, lovely hats gracing its windows, the Armouries, and the Queen's Hotel, where unsavoury characters sometimes lingered at night.  After five blocks, they came to a stop at a brick building with with large windows that said Stroud Fruit Market on a large sign.  They entered the store, donned their white frocks, put on their name tags and took their places at the three cash registers.  "Boxes or paper bags?" asked the girls as each customer passed through the line. 

Occasionally, between customers, the girls faced the shelves, brought the cans to the front to make the display neat; swept the wooden floor; waited on the customers (ex. weighing their bananas);  climbed on the counter and cleaned the windows with Windex and newspaper, watching the cars whiz by. 

Stroud Fruit Market had three aisles:  one offered fruit and milk (19 cents a bottle) and butter (59 cents a pound); the second offered bread (16 cents a loaf) and baked goods; the third offered canned goods and household items (Kleenex 2 x 33 cents).  A sweets section offered chocolate bars (small - 5 cents, big -10 cents).  The city of Oshawa was a growing community in the 1950's: however, despite competition from a local meat store, a Loblaw's, an A&P and a Dominion, the Stroud Fruit Market still enjoyed a brisk business.

Mr. Stroud, would man the butcher counter, purchasing fresh beef and pork at the St. Lawrence Market three times a week along with fresh fruits and vegetables.  The girls looked forward, on occasion, to accompanying their dad to Toronto to purchase meat and produce.

On this particular day, the sisters waited on Mrs. Humphries, Mrs. Walker and Mr. Drew, the owner of the Fruit Market building.  After the customers paid their bills, young boys bagged their groceries and carried them out to their vehicles.  At closing time, the three Stroud girls hopped into their father's car and headed north along Simcoe Street to their house, tired after a hard day's work.




Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Patchwork Path: A Quilt to Freedom

                                                

Ten-year-old Hannah learned the secret messages of her Mama’s precious quilt. Though Mama passes away and her sister Mary has been sent to a far-off plantation, Hannah still has her precious quilt and the words her mother taught her that will help her find her way to Canada and freedom. Each pattern has its own shape and meaning, from monkey wrench to bear’s paw to bowties and all the way to stars, and each shape points the way and gives inspiration to Hannah and her father when the time comes for them to flee. This fictionalized account of an oral history, illustrated with stylized oil paintings, tells the now-familiar story of the nighttime escape of slaves. The frequent visual and oral references to the quilt patterns seem somewhat contrived but act to hold the story together. Stroud and Bennett tread a similar path to the one walked by Clara in Deborah Hopkinson’s landmark Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (1993). (afterword) (Picture book. 4-9)

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2004)





Cover image courtesy http://erinbanks.files.wordpress.com.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Blondin's Bravery, Wallenda's Will




Photo of Blondin crossing Niagara Gorge courtesy http://wac.450f.edgecstcdn.net.



Charles Blondin, a French acrobat and tightrope walker, walked across the Niagara Gorge on June 30, 1859, and made his mark in the record books.  Spectators stood in the tall grass of the riverbank to watch Blondin cross, sporting a dark wig, a purple vest and white Turkish pantaloons.  His manila rope was 3 inches in diameter and 1300 feet in length, stretching from Niagara Falls, New York to Niagara Falls, Ontario.  He held a 30 foot long balancing pole weighing 40 pounds.  The trip took 20 minutes. 

But that wasn't enough for Blondin.  On his return crossing, he dropped a bottle down to the Maid of the Mist boat, hauled it back up filled with Niagara River water, and consumed its contents.  He drank a glass of champagne, did a little dance and finished the rest of his crossing in 8 minutes. 

On subsequent crossings of Niagara, he rode a bicycle, walked on stilts, sat on a chair, pushed a wheelbarrow, sported a blindfold, cooked an omelette, did somersaults and a handstand.  His most impressive feat was carrying his manager across the gorge piggyback-style.  The world would not soon forget Blondin's impressive feats.

Decades passed.  Crossing the Niagara River became an illegal act.  No one even thought of trying -- until Nik Wallenda entered the picture.  Nik Wallenda is a daredevil with stunt performance in his blood (a seventh generation flying Wallenda).  Four of the members of his family's lives have ended in tragedy while performing stunts.  However, that did not deter Nik, who dedicated his crossing to his Grandpa Carl, one of the four who perished. 

Wearing black pants and a red jacket, sporting a balancing pole and attached to a harness, Nik slowly made his way through wind and heavy mists across the Falls.  The wire was 550 metres in length.  With his family waiting on the Canadian side, along with 120,000 spectators, Nik made slow but steady progress.  Within several feet of the rope's end, Nik put on a burst of speed and ran across the rest of the wire.  Beaming, he pumped his fist in the air once he reached the Canadian side.  Reporters were ready with microphones, asking him what his secret for success was.  Nik's reply?  He thanked Jesus!







Photo of Nik Wallenda crossing Niagara Falls courtesy http://msnbcmedia.msn.com.







Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Great Escape

Stalag Luft III, a Nazi prisoner of war camp 100 miles southeast of Berlin, was the site of the largest Allied escape during World War II.  The escape required incredible brain power, manpower, materials and courage.  Six hundred prisoners worked on the project.  And yet only three made it to freedom.  What happened on that fateful day in March of 1944?

The plan to dig three tunnels at Stalag Luft III was implemented in April of 1943.  One tunnel, nicknamed Tom, started in a dark corner of Hut 123.  A second tunnel, Dick, was located under a bathroom drain in Hut 122.  A third tunnel, Harry, was hidden behind a stove in Hut 110.  Some prisoners built a vaulting horse big enough to house two diggers; they would move the horse over the opening to the tunnel, and then the workers would crawl down it and start to dig, while several prisoners would distract the guards with their vaulting.  They made sure that they dug 30 feet below the surface so the guards would not hear them work. 

The resourcefulness of the prisoners amazes me.  Everyone had a job:  Robert Bushell was the overseer of much of the project; Tim Walenn forged official documents for when the fugitives were stopped and asked for identification; Al Hake was a compass maker to help the escaped prisoners find their way to neutral countries; Des Plunkieett was a map tracer; Tommy Guest was the head tailor, trying to outfit the prisoners in civilian clothing for life on the outside; "Lookouts" made sure that the guards were distracted and not privy to what was going on at digging time; and "Penguins" wore pants with yellow sand hidden inside (excavated from the tunnels) which they slowly let fall out as they paced back and forth on the prison grounds.

A list was compiled with prisoners deemed fit for the escape; those who were claustrophobics, for example, were prohibited from being added to the list since the tunnels were so narrow.  As the men made progress on the tunnels, the guards discovered "Tom", and shut it down.  "Dick", which they had been using for storage anyway, was shut down.  Only "Harry" remained.  The prisoners waited for a moonless night to make their move.  On March 24, 1944,  they seized the opportunity to try out "Harry".  The prisoners, mostly Commonwealth Airmen, crawled through Harry one by one.  The first to reach the exit discovered that they were only a few feet shy of the forest, their intended target, which made them more visible to the guards.  After the 76th man, popped his head out, they were busted. 

The Nazis searched for them for weeks.  Sadly, all of the fugitives were recaptured with the exception of three men, two of whom reached Sweden, the third ending up in Spain.  Hitler ordered that fifty of these prisoners executed and the remaining ones were sent to another prison where they lived out the duration of the war. 

Note:  Paul Brickhill, one of the prisoners who helped orchestrate the escape, but who was not on the list due to his claustrophobia, wrote a book called The Great Escape documenting the experience.  A movie of the same name debuted in 1963 starring Steve McQueen. 





Photo of Stalag Luft III courtesy www.wackyowl.com.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Handcuff Harry

"Crowds on the street gasped as they looked upward.  There he was!  A man, tightly bound in a straitjacket, hanging by his heels high above New York's Times Square.  Suddenly, he began wriggling wildly.  In seconds, he was free, spreading his arms in an upside down bow."*

Harry Houdini, a.k.a. Erich Weisz, was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1874.  He emigrated to the United States with his parents four years later, settling in Minnesota where his father worked as a rabbi.  However, it was not long before his father lost his job and the family relocated to New York City.  The family did not have much money, especially once Mr. Weisz passed away, and it fell upon Erich and his brother to make money.  They started a brothers act in vaudeville.  Both became magicians, but Erich soon learned that his specialty was being an illusionist and escape artist.  Renaming himself "Houdini" after a French magician named "Houdin", Harry learned how to promote himself well by distributing colourful posters and leaflets advertising his upcoming stunts.  One such stunt took place on June 12, 1923 in New York City's Times Square.  Houdini was strapped into a straitjacket and hung upside from a crane used to build the New York subway.  Not only did he escape successfully, but he managed to do so in only two minutes and 37 seconds, caught on film.  Houdini went on to perform more death-defying acts.  Sadly, he passed away on Halloween Day in 1926 from a ruptured appendix.

*Excerpt from the book A People & A Nation:  A History of the United States (Mary Beth Norton).





Photo of Harry Houdini above Times Square in 1923 courtesy http://25.media.tumblr.com.



Monday, 11 June 2012

Escape from Alcatraz

Alcatraz, a high security prison on an island of the same name off California's coast, was home to famous inmates like "The Birdman from Alcatraz", a.k.a. Robert Stroud, and the Mafia mobster Al "Scarface" Capone.  It was also home to Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris, the three men who tried to escape on the fateful night of June 11, 1962, never to be seen again.  What happened to these fugitives from justice?

Brothers Clarence and John Anglin were Georgia farm labourers.  They robbed several banks and were arrested in 1956, serving time in the Atlanta Penitentiary.  However, both were transferred more than once for trying to escape, ending up on The Rock in 1961. 

Frank Morris was born in Washington D.C. where he spent time in several foster homes as a child.  By 13 years of age, he already committed his first crime, ending up in a detention centre.  Later he was charged with narcotics possession and armed robbery.  He demonstrated a pattern of escape attempts in prison and was transferred to Alcatraz by 1960. 

The three prisoners got acquainted and started to plan their escape from The Rock, located a mile and a half from California's mainland.  Using spoons from the prison dining hall, the three men chiselled a hole in the wall of their cells.  Using sopa, toilet paper, real hair from the barbershop and paint from prison art kits, the prisoners made life-like dummy heads to place on their pillows the night of the escape.  Using raincoats, contact cement and glue from the glove shop, they made a rubber raft and life preservers for the trip across the harbour.  Using an electric hair clipper from the bargershop and drill bits, they made a homemade drill.  Later, they used a vacuum motor for their escape purposes.  They also found an instrument called a concertina to inflate the raft.

On the night of the escape, after lights out, the three men left the dummies on their pillows, opened the holes they had created, climbed through the tunnel to the disused service corridor, climbed 30 feet of plumbing pipes up to the roof, ran 100 feet across the rooftop, dropped 50 feet down the outer wall, inflatted their rubber raft and off they paddled through the frigid waters surrounding Alcatraz Island, nicknamed "Devil's Island".

The local police searched The Rock the following morning, but to no avail.  They also searched the neigbouring Angel Island.  The FBI also took part in the investigation.  Due to the high tides and the cold waters around Alcatraz, officials believed that it would have been unlikely that the three fleeing prisoners would have survived.  A fourth accomplice, John West, had planned to escape too but on that fateful night he was unable to remove his grill; when he finally succeeded and climbed to the roof, the other prisoners were gone.  He gave statements to the police to help them piece the mystery together saying that the Anglin's and Morris were planning on making it to Angel Island where they would steal a car, steal some civilian clothes, escape by boat to the mainland and fall in with the general population. 

Initially, the FBI was not able to track down any car thefts in the 12 day period following the escape.  No one reported having clothes stolen either.  However, a Norwegian freighter crew member did report seeing a body wearing prisoner-type clothing floating in the ocean 20 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in July of 1962.  It was also reported that a life preserver bearing teeth marks was found in the water.  After a 17 year investigation, the FBI officially closed the case.

However, a 2011 National Geographic program about the Alcatraz escape reported that footprints were found leading away from the raft on Angel Island.  They also claimed that a car was reported stolen that night.  Even so, no conclusive evidence has been found to determine the fate of the three prisoners.  The case remains unsolved.

The prison closed in 1963, the year after the famous escape.  It is now a museum visited by 1 million tourists each year.

For more information, read Escape from Alcatraz (1963) by J. Campbell Bruce.  Watch "Escape from Alcatraz" (1979) a movie starring Clint Eastwood.





Alcatraz Island, or "The Rock", home of Alcatraz Prison courtesy www.guideoftravels.com.










Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Ants Go Marching


Every spring we get ants in our driveway which eventually come into our house.  Here are ten things you didn’t know about ants:



  1. Intelligence - Ants are smarter than you think.  They are the animal with the largest brain (250,000 cells) in proportion to their body size,



  1. Agriculture - Ants began farming 50 million years ago.  They use horticultural techniques like spreading manure to enhance the growth of their crops.



  1. Warfare -  Ants are the greatest insect killers on earth, even killing their own kind.



  1. Numbers -  One tenth of the world’s animal tissue is composed of ants.  The biomass of ants is equivalent to the biomass of people.



  1. Supercolonies -  Their colonies stretch for hundreds of miles and reach 20 feet deep.  They contain millions of nests.



  1. Lifespan - Workers live only 45 to 60 days.  However, the queen ant can live up to 20 years.  The colony dies within months of the queen’s death.



  1. Carnivores -  Africa and Asia have Driver Ants.  A colony can be composed of up to 20 million of them.  They kill insects and spiders on their own.  However, as an army, they can kill lizards, snakes and even chickens.  They can attack and kill a tethered horse and have even been used as a form of execution for enemy soldiers.



  1. Ranchers – Ants farm, gather, hunt and raise other insects.  For example, honey ants feed off the secretion of aphids. They protect aphids, destroying their predators’ eggs (ex. Ladybugs).



  1. Slavery – Ants raid nests of other ants and steal their pupae.  The eggs hatch and they use the new ants as slaves (ex. The Amazon ants raid the Formica ant colonies.)



  1. Castes – The queen is the founder of the colony; she produces other ants.  The males inseminate the virgin queen.  The workers forage, care for the brood, repair and defend the nest and care for the queen.



    11.  Bonus:  Power – Ants can lift anywhere from 20 to 40 times their bodyweight. 



     Source:  http://acwsky7.blogspot.ca.





Cartoon courtesy http://4.bp.blogspot.com.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

So You Want to Write a Children's Book


Mem Fox is an Australian children's book author and public speaker.  Here are some tips she shares on her website for writing a successful picture book:

1.  Trouble should occur at some point in the book.

2.  It should be based on one of two themes:  "The Stranger Comes to Town" or "The Quest".

3.  Build characters whom the reader cares about deeply.

4.  Perfect words should appear in perfect places.

5.  Delight in happiness at some point in the book.

6.  No preaching allowed.

7.  Include subtle signposts to living in a social world.

8.  The book should affect the heart of the reader.

9.  Unexpected or unusual use of language should be evident.

10.  The story should be complex, forcing the reader to remain attentive to detail, problem-solve, predict, derive meaning and roll over hills of emotion.

11.  For younger children, establish an original pattern with rhyme, rhythm and repetition.

12.  The book's effect should lead the child to cry:  "Read it again!"

Source:  www.memfox.com.





Collage of Mem Fox books courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.





Friday, 8 June 2012

The Homerun-Strikeout King

On this day in 1926, New York Yankees player Babe Ruth hit the longest homerun in history.  It flew over Detroit's Navin Field fence hitting an automobile, then rolled over several other cars, landing two blocks away on Plum Street, with a mob of kids in hot pursuit.  Experts estimated the baseball travelled 626 feet in the air and landed 885 feet from homeplate.

Although 1926 was a pivotal year for Babe Ruth, the year 1923 was even more important as the baseball legend set three records:  the most homeruns, the highest batting average and the most strikeouts.  He was the homerun-strikeout king:  what an oxymoron! 

The baseball legend proved, however, that if we want to succeed in life, we have to be willing to stick our necks out.  Too often, we fail because we don't even try.  We hold back.  We don't give our outmost.  And the result is mediocrity at best.  If we study the great figures in history, we see people who were striving for success, but who did not fear failure. 

As blogger Benny says "There is no success without failure."  Here are some great men in history who achieved success despite their past struggles:


1.  Colonel Sanders was rejected several times before he sold his fried chicken franchise.

2.  Walt Disney was fired by a news editor for "lack of imagination".  He was turned down 302 times before he secured financing for Disney World.

3.  Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old, and did not read until he was 7, but went on to win the Nobel Prize.

4.  Vincent Van Gogh, who painted over 800 pieces in his lifetime, only sold one.  However, now his most valuable painting is worth over $142 million.

5.  Stephen King threw his manuscript for Carrie in the garbage can after it was rejected 30 times.  Now the book has sold more than 350 million copies.

6.  Stephen Spielberg was denied twice at University of Southern California film school and thus attended Cal State instead.  In 1994 he received an honourary degree from the former and is now worth $2.7 billion.

7.  Thomas Edison failed thousands of times in his laboratory.  In fact, he failed 1000 times during the invention of the lightbulb.  However, he called the invention a "1000 step process".

8.  Winston Churchill, wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, failed sixth grade, was defeated in every election for public office and yet was elected Prime Minister at the age of 62.  "Never give up" was his motto.  His "We shall fight on the beaches" type speeches led the nation through World War II.

9.  Robert Goddard, the inventor of the rocket, found his ideas rejected by his scientific peers as they thought that rocket propulsion would not work in the "rarified" atmosphere of space.

10.  Michael Jordan, the NBA retiree, was cut from his high school basketball team.  He has missed 9000 shots and lost 300 games.  And yet many consider him to be the greatest player of all time.


If at first you don't succeed, try and try again!

Sources:  www.des.emory.edu
                getbusylivingblog.com





Photo of "Babe at Bat" courtesy www.faughnfamily.com.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Rainbows

GOD ALWAYS SENDS RAINBOWS AFTER THE RAIN

Whatever your cross,
whatever your pain,
there will always be sunshine,
after the rain
Perhaps you may stumble,
perhaps even fall,
But God’s always ready,
To answer your call
He knows every heartache,
sees every tear,
A word from His lips,
can calm every fear
Your sorrows may linger,
throughout the night,
But suddenly vanish,
in dawn’s early light
The Savior is waiting,
somewhere above,
To give you His grace,
and send you His love ..
Whatever your cross,
whatever your pain,
“God always sends rainbows
after the rain.”

Pastor Connie Ciccone






Photo courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

D-Day Prayer


My former pastor pointed out yesterday that on D-Day, President Roosevelt asked employers if they would give their employees the day off to pray for the troops.  Although the weather was questionable for an invasion on the Normandy beaches that day, although the Germans had panzer tanks ready, although the odds were stacked against them, the Allies went ahead with the invasion.  My pastor believes that it was prayer which gave them a much needed edge.  The weather co-operated.  Hitler's two top men were out of the country at the time and Hitler was still in bed with orders not to be disturbed.  Therefore the Allies were able to launch a surprise attack which was successful.  Here is the radio address that President Roosevelt delivered that fateful day.


My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer (my italics).  But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Amen.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt - June 6, 1944




Photo of President Roosevelt reading D-Day prayer courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.



Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Sweden

My married name, Jonasson, is a Swedish name which means son of Jonas.  Today I looked up ten things you didn't know about Sweden. 

1.  Sweden is the third largest country in Europe with an area of 450,000 square kilometres.  Ninety-two percent of the land is rural, full of lakes, mountains and forests.

2.  By the early 1900's, 1.2 million Swedes had immigrated to the United States; today there are 10 million Swedish-Americans.

3.  Red houses in Sweden are very red due to the pigmentation from the copper mines.

4.  Sweden is the third largest music exporter.

5.  Sweden is considered the strongest trademark in the world.

6.  Swedes drink more coffee than all other Europeans except Finns.

7.  The Swedish flag comes from the coat of arms which has a blue shield and a golden lion.  Most Swedish gardens fly the blue flag with the gold cross.

8.  Sweden has between 300,000 and 400,000 moose, which cause many serious accidents.  In autumn, hunters kill 100,000 of these animals.

9.  Seven and a half percent of Swedes play golf (600,000).  Sweden has 500 golf courses, only surpassed by England in Europe.

10.  The Vikings were Swedish, a group of explorers, warriors and pirates who sailed around the world conquering other lands from the 8th to the 11th century.





Image courtesy http://2.bp.blogspot.com.




Monday, 4 June 2012

The Transcontinental Express



Photo of the Golden Spike circa 1869 courtesy www.nytstore.com.




"Express Train Crosses Nation in 83 Hours" read the headline on June 4, 1876.  The Transcontinental Express, from New York City to San Francisco, was in business. 

Back in 1800, Thomas Jefferson, who had never seen a train, had a dream of a nation stretching from "sea to shining sea".  He proposed using steam to propel a "carriage on wheels".  At the time, it took him 10 days to travel by stagecoach from Monticello, Virginia, the site of his summer home, to Philadelphyia, Pennsylvania, temporary home of the nation's capital (1790-1800). 

American pioneers took six months to cross the continent by Conestoga wagon along the Oregon Trail.  Although the West was largely unsettled in the mid-1800's, the landscape changed with the California Gold Rush which attracted many migrants, many of whom stayed.  Abraham Lincoln dreamed of a transcontinental railroad and signed a bill to that effect in 1863.   

The new railroad was built in large part by Irish immigrants (the Union Pacific section) and Chinese immigrants (the Central Pacific section).  It took six years to complete, hindered by the Civil War at first.  In 1869, the last spike, which was a "golden spike", was driven into the ground at Promontory Summit, Utah, where the two railroads met, amidst a cheering crowd, some standing on the desert floor surrounded by sage brush, others sprawled over and engine with bottles of champagne in their fists.  It was truly a historic moment.

The first trip across the continent, through the mountains of Appalachia, through the Mississippi Delta, through the Badlands of the Dakotas and through the Mojave Desert of Utah was a beautiful sight to behold for the passengers.  The black engine, complete with a "cowcatcher" at the front to clear the track of cows and other wildlife, puffed through the mid-West where buffalo once roamed. 

However, progress was still not fast enough for some.  Within 7 years, the Transcontinental Express was in operation, guaranteeing passengers a trip in three and a half days.  First-class passengers rode in plush velvet seats and slept in cozy sleeping berths and were served by attentive porters; for an extra four dollars, they could eat in a first class dining car. 

Third-class passengers, however, were not treated to the express train.  They rode in congested cars with narrow wooden benches which were shunted aside for the express train.  Their cross-country trip took ten days. 

The transcontinental railroad shrunk the United States to a manageable size.  It brought the population westward and several states were added to the Union.  Thomas Jefferson's dream of a nation from "sea to shining sea" was fulfilled.  





Photo of the Transcontinental Express circa 1876 courtesy www.littleblackstar.com.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Baseball and Writing



Fanaticism?  No.  Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
   You can never tell with either
      how it will go
      or what you will do;
   generating excitement--
   a fever in the victim--
   pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
 Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
 To whom does it apply?
 Who is excited?  Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way--a duel--
a catcher's, as, with cruel
   puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
      back to plate.  (His spring 
      de-winged a bat swing.)
   They have that killer instinct;
   yet Elston--whose catching
   arm has hurt them all with the bat--
 when questioned, says, unenviously,
   "I'm very satisfied.  We won."
 Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
 robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
   the massive run need not be everything.
      "Going, going . . . "  Is
      it?  Roger Maris
   has it, running fast.  You will
   never see a finer catch.  Well . . .
   "Mickey, leaping like the devil"--why
 gild it, although deer sounds better--
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
 one-handing the souvenir-to-be
 meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
   He is no feather.  "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
      Fouled back.  A blur.
      It's gone.  You would infer
   that the bat had eyes.
   He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
   I think I helped a little bit."
 All business, each, and modesty.
        Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
 In that galaxy of nine, say which
 won the pennant?  Each.  It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos--
   like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
      diagnosis
      with pick-off psychosis.
   Pitching is a large subject.
   Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
   catch your corners--even trouble
 Mickey Mantle.  ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
 With some pedagogy,
 you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees.  Trying
indeed!  The secret implying:
   "I can stand here, bat held steady."
      One may suit him;
       none has hit him.
   Imponderables smite him.
   Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
   require food, rest, respite from ruffians.  (Drat it!
 Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
 brewer's yeast (high-potency--
 concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez--
deadly in a pinch.  And "Yes,
   it's work; I want you to bear down,
      but enjoy it
      while you're doing it."
   Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
   if you have a rummage sale,
   don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
 Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
 O flashing Orion,
 your stars are muscled like the lion. 

Marianne Moore






Photo courtesy http://thegazette.com.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Queen Elizabeth II

Today marks the beginning of the diamond jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth II.  Her coronation took place on June 2, 1953.  Here are ten things you may not know about her.

1.  She has no passport.  Eventhough she has visited 160 countries, she doesn't need one as each passport is issued in her name.  She also has no driver's licence, although she does take occasional joyrides around her property.

2.  She has two birthdays.  Her official one is April 21, 1926.  However, in each Commonwealth country, her birthday is celebrated either in May or June.

3.  For safety reasons, during much of World War II, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret stayed at Windsor Castle or Balmoral Castle in Scotland, especially during the London Blitz.

4.  However, when Elizabeth turned 18, she begged her father to let her serve in the military and he acquiesced.  She trained as a mechanic and drove a military truck as part of the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.

5.  Elizabeth paid for her wedding dress with ration coupons, given the war had just ended two years previously and Britain was hurting economically. 

6.  Elizabeth married her third cousin, a former prince of Greece and Denmark.  The bride did not take her husband's name, Mountbatten, but chose to remain a Windsor.

7.  Elizabeth sent her first e-mail in 1976, the first head of state to do so.

8.  Elizabeth was shot at while on horseback in her birthday parade in 1981.  Unruffled, she simply calmed her horse down and kept riding.

9.  In 1982, a stalker scaled a Buckingham Palace drainpipe and entered the Queen's chambers.  She simply engaged him in conversation for 10 minutes until a palace worker was able to apprehend him.

10.  Elizabeth is a keen horsewoman who keeps racehorses and occasionally visits Kentucky stud farms.





Photo of Queen on balcony of Buckingham Palace courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.





Friday, 1 June 2012

How the Berenstain Bears Got Their Name



Image courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org.



Everyone has read the Berenstain Bears books with Papa Bear in his trademark overalls, Mama Bear in her blue dress with white polka dots, Brother Bear in blue overalls and red shirt, and Sister Bear in her pink overalls and bow.  However, few of us know how the Berenstain Bears got their name.  I assumed that the authors chose it; however, it was another author named Theodor Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.

Theodor Geisel had his first book published in 1957 called To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Random House publishing (see my blog "From Madison Ave. to Mulberry St." dated April 29, 2012).  He continued to write books, but he also became an editor at Random House.  Phyllis Cerf, another editor, connected him with two of his early clients, Stanley & Janice Berenstain.  The artistic couple soon discovered that Mr. Geisel was just like one of his book characters, The Cat in the Hat:  as an editor, he was "charming, courtly and congenial" but also "demanding, dismissive and downright difficult".   

The first manuscript they presented him was published in 1962 as The Big Honey Hunt under the Beginner Books division.  However, Theodor Geisel suggested that everyone was writing about bears (Yogi Bear, Smokey Bear, The Three Bears, the Chicago Bears) and he proposed that they write their second book about another animal.  The Berenstain's chose a penguin; however, in the middle of writing it, Mr. Geisel phoned them to say that the Bears were selling like hotcakes.  The sequel, titled The Bike Lesson, was published as The Berenstain Bears, at the suggestion of Theodor.  The "master of rhymes" also shortened the authors' names to Stan & Jan without consulting them, although the change seemed workable. 

The Berenstain's continued to pump out books.  In 1974, Sister Bear was added to the series in the edition The Berenstain Bears' New Baby.  In the 1970's and 1980's, the couple made some television specials starring the Bears.  In 2000, Honey Bear was added in the edition The Birds, The Bees and the Berenstain Bears, her name having been chosen by a fan.  In 2003, the PBS television series debuted.  Today there are almost 500 titles in the collection, written in 23 languages.  Stan Berenstain passed away in 2005, but his son Mike joined his wife in writing new titles, many of which have Christian themes like The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule.  Son Leo is involved in the business end of the franchise.  Jan passed away this past February. 

For more information, read the Berenstain's autobiography Down a Sunny Dirt Road (2002).





Early photo of Stan & Jan Berenstain, married for 54 years, courtesy http://cdn.everyjoe.com.