the Berlin Candy Bomber

December 3, 2009

I wish I knew why I find all things Cold War Americana so fascinating. At any rate, it’s a science and tech history extravaganza.

Operation Little Vittles” airdropped candy to children in West Berlin during the Berlin airlifts. The deliveries were the brainchild of Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen, who scattered candy tied to scraps of cloth and handkerchiefs. Nicknamed “Uncle Wiggly Wings2, the “Chocolate Flyer” and the “Berlin Candy Bomber” Halvorsen soon began receiving thousands of pounds of candy and handkerchiefs collected by American school children. By 1959, he’d sent out 250,000 parachuting sweets.

Also, fantastic NPR story goes back to Town Meeting of the Air archives on ‘single national health service.’


Aaron Burr, born in Newark, tied with Jefferson for the presidency in 1800, tried for treason, but best-known for shooting founding father, Alexander Hamilton in the Heights of Weehauken, New Jersey in a duel on July 11, 1804.  Burr wrote the letter reproduced here on July 14.


The Burr-Hamilton duel followed poorly received comments made at a dinner party–and of course published in the Albany Register as reported by an upcountry clergyman. More on the dueler’s pistols and intentions here.

I am working on a story about Sputnik. Unfortunately the fiftieth anniversary was two years ago.  Luckily, with the help of the BBC, which posted instructions on how to build your own, I could launch another one tomorrow.

img via


Defn: housing

May 10, 2009

I took some time today to try to sort through some of the stack of papers that has accumulated on my desk.  This is from photocopies of the World Book Encyclopedia, 1960 ed.

This opening to the entry on housing.

Safe, sanitary, comfortable dwellings are called standard housing. Everyone works, plays, or studies better in well-constructed housing. People enjoy better health in housing that has proper heating and ventilation. Good housing allows enough space for every member of the family to have some privacy and freedom.  It includes hot and cold running water, and well-planned sewage disposal.  Standard housing provides good electric lighting at night and lets in plenty of sunlight by day.

The ideal home should be in a neighborhood where school children do not have to cross dangerous streets. Parks, playgrounds, churches and recreation centers should be nearby.

Poorly constructed, run-down, unsanitary and overcrowded buildings are called substandard housing. A neighborhood with many substandard buildings becomes a slum.  Such areas often produce crime, disease, and juvenile delinquency. See BLIGHTED AREA.

Current Encyclopedia Brittanica online pointed me to historical entries on housing by country. The internet contributes to such different ways of presenting information. SEE the beginning of Wikipedia’s definition of “house” for contemporary popular encyclopedia equivalent:

A house is generally a shelter or building or structure that is a dwelling or place for habitation by human beings. The term includes many kinds of dwellings ranging from rudimentary huts of nomadic tribes to high-rise apartment buildings.[1] In some contexts, “house” may mean the same as dwelling, residence, home, abode, lodging, accommodation, or housing, among other meanings.

The social unit that lives in a house is known as a household. Most commonly, a household is a family unit of some kind, though households can be other social groups, such as single persons, or groups of unrelated individuals. Settled agrarian and industrial societies are composed of household units living permanently in housing of various types, according to a variety of forms of land tenure. English-speaking people generally call any building they routinely occupy “home”. Many people leave their houses during the day for work and recreation, and return to them to sleep or for other activities.

I got to work on Thursday and was handed a carton of Cold-War era radio transcripts to go through (paradise). America’s Town Meeting of the Air was broadcast on Sundays on the ABC radio network from 1935-1956. Subscriptions to the program’s Bulletin in the 1950s cost $5.00 a year, 25c a copy.

The topics are a portrait of the 50s. “Desegregation: Law and Practice” (February 13, 1955) or “Are We Becoming a Nation of Conformists?” (April 24, 1955)

Then there’s “How Can We Clean up College Sports?” broadcast March 13, 1951, following “tragic scandals recently revealed in the bribery of some of the best basketball players in the country for fixing the big games in Madison Square Garden” and of course, “Does Modern Art Make Sense?” (April 10, 1951). Perennial debates.

Other broadcasts…

“American Family Life: Chaos or Character?” (July 6, 1954)

“What Remedy for Teen-Age Terror?” (September 21, 1954)

“The Army McCarthy Hearings: Intention and Effect” (July 13, 1954)

“Is the Federal Government Running Our Lives?” (Nov 3, 1954)

“How Can we Break Down Community Prejudices” (December 14, 1954), with speakers Jackie Robinson, Fred Brown and Mary Beauchamp

“Is Franco Spain a Dependable Ally?”” (January 16, 1955)

“Should College Education Require Four Years?” (January 23, 1955)

“How Can We Resolve U.S. – French Differences?” (August 10, 1954) (because some things never change)

“Does Youth Want Social Security from the Cradle to the Grave?” (May 4, 1944)

“How Can we Avert World War III?” (May 20, 1952)

“Eisenhower or Stevenson? (November 11, 1952)

“Should the Communist Party Be Outlawed?” (November 18, 1952)

“Have We Weakened the True Meaning of Christmas?” (Dec 9, 1952)

“Do We Overemphasize the Value of Competition in America?” (Jan 20, 1953)

“How Can We Convince the World of Our Belief in Brotherhood?” (Feb 17, 1953), speakers including James Michener–yes, that James Michener, broadcast during national brotherhood week.

“Is World Government a Realistic Goal?” (March 24, 1953)

“What Shall We Do With the American Communist?” (April 14, 1953)

“Are Our Immigration Laws Too Restrictive?” (April 21, 1953)

“Modern Woman–Companion or Competitor?” (April 28, 1953)

“Are We Losing Our Moral Courage?” (May 12, 1953)

“What is Happening Behind the Iron Curtain?” (July 28, 1953)

“What Makes Prosperity—Man or Machine?” (Oct 6, 1953)

“How Can We Stay Alive On the Highway?” (December 8, 1953)

“Flying Saucers: Fact or Illusion?” (Dec 29, 1953)

“Does Wire Tapping Violate the Right to Privacy?” (January 5, 1954)

“Are We Trained to Think for Ourselves?” (Feb 9, 1954)

“Is War Impairing Our Moral Standards?” (May 3, 1945)

“Is Total Mobilization a Threat to Democracy?” (Sept 26, 1950) Speakers include Albert Gore

“Are You Worried About the Atomic Bomb?” (April 24, 1951)

“Alaska’s Role in National Defense” (October 3, 1950)

Alaska’s Governor Gruening: “Alaska’s role in national defense should be a major one.  The reasons are chiefly geographic.  If you have any doubt about it, look at a map of the world….Yet while Congress has unhesitatingly poured billions of dollars into Europe to halt the advance of communist imperialism on our Eastern front four thousand miles from our shores, it has denied much lesser requested appropriations to our Western front on our own soil, which, moreover, lies within naked eye view of Siberia.”

img via UMW Centennial

Lincoln was here

April 26, 2007

Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot

“In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln said of the men who shed their blood, “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Who did he think he was kidding? We only think of them because of him.”

“His house, now a museum, is where Lincoln stayed the night before delivering the address. I walk into the room where Lincoln slept, with its flowerdy carpet and flowerdy walls, with its canopy bed and its water pitcher and towels, and for several minutes the only possible thought is that he was here.”