Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Polio epidemic of the 1950's

In the 1950's--but even in the years before, Polio, a disease that paralyzed the nervous system, was a terrible fear for parents of young children.

My second grade teacher was a victim of polio and so were some of my other teachers in junior high and college. I even had a distant cousin who was chosen as the March of Dimes poster girl one year in Utah. During the 1950's it was a race for scientists to find a vaccination. In this case it was Dr. Jonas Salk, and later Dr. Sabin whose efforts helped eliminate polio in American. When children are very young, they are given the polio vaccination, and boosters in the years to follow.

Some people were very unfortunate. For them, iron lungs were developed which would help them to breathe until they recovered and could breathe on their own. However, others remained in iron lungs the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

In European History, students are learning about the religious wars. Perhaps the most famous incident of the wars involved the religious wars in France. Henri of Navarre was in Paris to marry the beautiful French princess, Marguerite, or Margot. As a Protestant, Henri brought with him thousands of followers. The leader of the Huguenot nobles was Gaspard de Coligny. He was assassinated during the wedding week.

In order to "cover up" the assassination, Catherine de Medici ordered the murder of other leading Huguenots. They were in town...and this was an opportunity. Wholesale slaugher broke out, and in the next few days and weeks, thousands were killed.

In Paris, the bodies of ten thousand Huguenots lay stripped and murdered in the streets. This included men, women and children.

The film, Queen Margot, was made in the 1990's about this event. As you can imagine, it received an R rating. Yes, history is often R rated or even X rated.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grandpa was a communist...

This week, students in 11th grade history learned about the McCarthy hearings and the Communist 'Witch hunts' of the early 1950's.

Many people had joined the communist party during the 1930's, including my own grandfather. There were Americans who felt let down by failure of the capitalist system which created the Great Depression.

For those in Hollywood who flirted with Communism, or went to "communist" meetings, their actions came back to haunt them. Hollywood was targeted as a hotbed of communist ideology.

Dalton Trumbo was one of the writers who was targeted. He was blacklisted, and would not receive credit for many of the screenplays he wrote. After 1989, when Communism fell, it was revealed that spying by Russian moles was more widespread than previously thought. Maybe McCarthy was right...but he was clearly wrong the way he went about fighting the perceived communist threats.