The it was re­ally IT

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - By Dodie Evans

There IT was. Flat as a pan­cake, star­ing up at me from the bot­tom of the card­board box. It re­minded me of the dol­lar bill I’d used as a book­mark and found, af­ter sev­eral years had passed, when I de­cided to read the book again. IT sur­prised me.

But there IT was. I’d for­got­ten what IT looked like. In fact, I had for­got­ten IT even ex­isted, that IT had been a part of my ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence many years ago, but I found that IT now would pro­vide some very in­ter­est­ing read­ing. More about that later.

I care­fully lifted IT out of the box, fear­ful that IT would fall apart in my hands. But IT didn’t. The string or cord that held IT to­gether so many years held. IT didn’t break apart as I care­fully laid IT on the coun­ter­top. Thus be­gan sev­eral hours, make that sev­eral ses­sions, of por­ing through IT’s pages as I re­lived those events of a cou­ple gen­er­a­tions ago.

Just was in IT? You’ll find it hard to be­lieve. It’s hard for me to be­lieve IT sur­vived all th­ese years — seventy, to be ex­act.

For there, star­ing up at me on the counter was a full se­mes­ter of those in­fa­mous “Weekly Reader” news­pa­pers which were part of the class­room work at school. There were al­ways ex­ams. I had saved all of them, nine months from Septem­ber 1947 through May of the fol­low­ing year, 1948. They were bound to­gether be­hind a cover which I had de­signed fea­tur­ing a pic­ture of the then Supreme Court jus­tices, as well as other timely dec­o­ra­tions. And there they were, pro­vid­ing a look back at the world, the na­tion and the peo­ple of that era two years af­ter the end of World War II.

All of the chal­lenges and ac­com­plish­ments of mankind were spelled out in black and white (there were no color pho­tos in those pa­pers). Black and white can pro­vide a very graphic pic­ture, while so of­ten a color photo ac­tu­ally min­i­mizes its ef­fect. As I men­tioned, there in stark black and white were well­told sto­ries of the prob­lems fac­ing the world af­ter years of war­fare, short­ages, ra­tioning, do­ing with­out, worry and frus­tra­tions.

I won’t bore you with much of the info I en­joyed and, yes, I was filled with dis­be­lief at the woes of the world and Amer­ica of that day. Sadly, many of those un­cer­tain­ties are still with us, along with oth­ers that cause so much con­fu­sion, dis­be­lief and un­cer­tainty. Top­ics of that lon­gago era in­cluded prob­lems in the Near East, Is­rael and Ara­bia, the world­wide war debt which has been a sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ment to­day. A topic that es­pe­cially grabbed me was the de­pen­dence on the good old USA to bail out so much of the world with bil­lions of dol­lars of loans (were they ever re­paid?). Western Europe, from Great Bri­tain to Italy and through ad­join­ing coun­tries, all faced se­vere re­build­ing prob­lems, food short­ages, in­fra­struc­ture de­struc­tion, de­stroyed man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and on and on.

Of course, the hand and arm and fist of the USSR oc­cu­pied East­ern Europe. The rem­nants of the USSR ex­ist to­day with a na­tion called Rus­sia, which seems to de­sire sim­i­lar oc­cu­pa­tion of those now in­de­pen­dent coun­tries. A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in­volved Korea, the first na­tion that was con­quered by Ja­pan dur­ing the early years of World War II. Seventy years ago the United States was as­sist­ing the south­ern area of Korea in its re­build­ing process and its for­ma­tion of a self-gov­ern­ing democ­racy. It was then that the USSR oc­cu­pied the north­ern por­tion and created a com­mu­nist type gov­ern­ment which was later re­placed with the dic­ta­tor­ship that rules the re­gion to­day. The USA and the USSR were un­able to reach an an­swer to the prob­lem. Sound fa­mil­iar?

As noted, bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars came from the good old USA, which we re­al­ized held the an­swer to help solve the world’s eco­nomic prob­lems. The process was known as the Mar­shall Plan, named af­ter Sec­re­tary of State Ge­orge Mar­shall. Harry S. Tru­man, from nearby Mis­souri, was the pres­i­dent (he didn’t have a mid­dle name, just an S) and the early stages of the 1948 elec­tion were chal­leng­ing to his elec­tion to a four-year term of his own. He had re­placed Franklin Roo­sevelt who died shortly be­fore the end of the war. Do you re­mem­ber how that elec­tion turned out? Briefly, the re­sult of the Mar­shall Plan was no ques­tions, no re­grets, much sat­is­fac­tion. The plan was a suc­cess.

Amer­ica it­self faced re­cov­er­ing from the war of short­ages and ra­tioning, as well as coal miner strikes, re­tool­ing and re­struc­tur­ing our man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses for mak­ing au­tos, ap­pli­ances and other items which had been changed to war sup­plies.

Briefly, those who were ex­posed to the “Weekly Read­ers” at that time can re­mem­ber the small page cov­ered the en­tire world, along with em­pha­sis of happenings in the United States. Chil­dren were ex­posed to les­sons in ge­og­ra­phy, gov­ern­ment, early Amer­i­can his­tory, how our gov­ern­ment op­er­ates at the na­tional level, es­pe­cially the leg­isla­tive process, as well as

sports in­for­ma­tion, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, floods, hur­ri­canes, for­est fires, new dis­cov­er­ies in medicine, air­plane im­prove­ments, how the United Na­tions func­tioned, in­clud­ing the dozens of ve­toes by the USSR of top­ics pro­posed by the Western world. Some things haven’t changed. In other words, couldn’t it be said, some things never change? There are al­ways in­stances of greed and self-in­ter­est (that’s the ba­sic cause of greed). As an aside, it’s amaz­ing — our learned and in­spired fore­fa­thers would have a hard task, if not an im­pos­si­ble one, form­ing our gov­ern­ment to­day.

A topic that has caused con­sid­er­able dis­cus­sion in­volved the sale of col­ored oleo­mar­garine. In those good old days, mar­garine ap­peared sim­i­lar to a chunk of lard, white and greasy. Many states even pro­hib­ited the sale of un­col­ored oleo. But­ter, which had been ra­tioned dur­ing the war years, was now the read­ily avail­able item of choice, par­tic­u­larly by the dairy in­dus­try.

How well I re­mem­ber my mother plac­ing a block of white oleo in a bowl, open­ing a small vegetable parch­ment en­ve­lope and pour­ing about a quar­ter tea­spoon of or­ange pow­der on the white stuff, then giv­ing me a fork and let­ting me know I was to mix the mass. The re­sult­ing yel­low glob, which was streaked with bits of an or­ange pow­der (I wasn’t a very good mixer) was then put in the ice­box (not a re­frig­er­a­tor). Years later, the white blob came en­closed in a plas­tic bag which fea­tured a small cap­sule on the in­side that held some or­ange liq­uid. I’d pinch the cap­sule and then be­gin squeez­ing and mas­sag­ing the bag un­til that “stuff” be­came spread for the toast. Such was the churn­ing process for non-but­ter­ers.

You can tell I’m hav­ing fun read­ing about those seventy-year-old days that were filled with many of the same chal­lenges fac­ing hu­man­ity to­day. We’ve made un­be­liev­able progress, in­stant and con­stant in­for­ma­tion, med­i­cal and other health ad­vances, cars and smart­phones … all of the things to­day we call liv­ing and, of course, more reg­u­la­tions, higher taxes … well, you get the drift.

This fi­nal para­graph changes di­rec­tions: How great it was a cou­ple of weeks ago when the Gravette Lions and Arkansas Ra­zor­backs both got on the same page. The Lions de­feated Shiloh Chris­tian af­ter 15 years of drought; the Hogs pulled one out of the fire, hope­fully, to get on a long win­ning streak. This is be­ing writ­ten be­fore last Fri­day’s games. The re­sult, we hope, was a con­tin­u­ing “Go Hogs” and that both the Lions and Pi­o­neers fare well in the play­offs.

I won­der, do they still print IT? I mean “Weekly Read­ers”?

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