Sharing History: Big History of a Long Time Ago

Using “big” history to jog our memories and spur our writing is fun. Here are some historical events and facts from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Probably you don’t remember many of these – most of you weren’t born yet. But you have parents and grandparents, don’t you? Ask them if they remember any of these, and if they do, write down what they say. Be prepared to be surprised.

And if you’re really feeling brave, you can share what you learn. Leave a comment!

 

1930-1939

  • Lindbergh baby kidnapped
  • A new Chevrolet costs $530
  • Harvard annual tuition is $400.00
  • US establishes forty-hour work week
  • First televised US baseball game
  • Hitler’s Germany invades Poland
  • Al Capone convicted of income tax evasion
  • Worlds’ tallest building, Empire State, opens in New York
  • Presidents this decade: Herbert Hoover & Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Banks reopen after a panic run, and then a week long “bank holiday” mandated by Congress
  • First night baseball game in major leagues at Cincinnati
  • Social Security Act signed
  • Dirigible Hindenburg bursts into flames as it approaches its mooring mast in New Jersey
  • First transatlantic regular air passenger service by Pan American: Long Island to Lisbon: 23 hours, 52 minutes 

1940-1949

  • Japan bombs Pearl Harbor; US enters WWII
  • First class postage three cents; special delivery ten cents
  • Roosevelt re-elected to a third term
  • Gasoline curfew in 1941 closes gas stations from 7 PM to 7AM
  • Tire rationing became the first rationing regulation
  • New car and truck sales banned in 1942
  • Joe Louis defends his world heavyweight championship for the twentieth time and defeats Max Baer
  • Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston kills 487
  • Meat, fat, cheese rationing starts in 1943
  • Roosevelt dies 83 days into fourth term. Harry Truman becomes president
  • US drops atom bombs on Japan; World War II ends
  • United Nations established in San Francisco conference

1950-1959

  • Color TV introduced
  • Racial segregation in public schools declared unconstitutional
  • Hurricane Audrey and tidal wave kill five hundred in Texas and Louisiana
  • US enters Korean War
  • In 1950 a minimum wage of 75 cents per hour established
  • General MacArthur gives his “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” speech to Congress
  • Eisenhower elected President
  • US and Canada agree on construction of St Lawrence Seaway linking the Great Lakes to Atlantic Ocean
  • Senator McCarthy censured by US Senate for his conduct in Senate committees
  • Vice President Nixon visits Russia. Khrushchev visits US
  • The “TV dinner” is invented

 

Compost: About Money

Lately I’ve been writing a lot about money in my morning pages. How I wish I had more, how I wonder if I’ll have enough, alternated with pages of upbeat “all will be fine” nonchalance. None of it actually means anything important; it’s just compost. In fact, money itself is compost.

Money really means nothing. It’s only meaning is what we give it. Why is gold so prized? Why don’t we worship tin instead? Or mud? Or earthworms? Is it because 1) gold is rare, not like mud or earthworms, which are everywhere. And 2) once you find it, gold is hard to get at – you have to dig and pan and sweat; it’s labor intensive and not everyone has the resources or time to do this. And 3) we can’t make gold; we can’t breed it or develop it in a laboratory, although we can make fake gold and be taken in by fool’s gold. But I think the real reason we prize gold is 4) gold is shiny. It is pretty, and it makes us pretty. It makes us seem important when we hang it on our bodies or pile it in front of our caves. We are like blue jays, our beady little eyes reflecting its twinkling light. Oooh, we croon like Gollum, so pretty, my precious …

Even today, when money is paper and increasingly, electronic digital “stuff” that 99% of us don’t really understand, we still think of money as pretty and precious, something that will make it all okay, make us beautiful, make us admired, make us loved.

And all of this is real only in our minds. It’s not real anywhere else. Money. It’s a word that means nothing – and everything.

Haiku Friday: Flood

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Flood:

after me, the flood
said the King of France, shrugging
let’s not copy him

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip: Find Yourself

Here are three writing prompts designed to help you find your authentic voice. Just answer the questions, as many or as few as you like.

  1. What do you love to do? This does not have to be what you spend most of your time on. It can be gardening, saving the whales, your children, sewing, reading, painting, traveling, architecture, crossword puzzles, money management – the list is endless. What do you get excited about?

  2. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What were your favorite toys? Favorite games? Favorite playmates? Favorite pastimes? When you dreamed, what did you dream about?

  3. Who are your heroes? Who have been your mentors, or important teachers? What did you learn from this person or persons? How did they inspire you? How did your life change because of them? This doesn’t even have to be a person. If Superman inspired you, write about how he did. If your dog taught you life lessons, write about that dog.

 

Goody Beagle on Dirt

My human has something against dirt. I don’t know why. Every morning she gets in this thing called a shower and gets wet all over! Just so she won’t have dirt. I hate wet. Anyone who prefers wet over dirt is nuts, seems to me.

Also sometimes she cleans the house. She sweeps dirt into a pile and then puts it in the trash on top of chicken bones and other good things, making them all gritty if you try to eat them when you sneak into the garbage. What’s up with that.

And that horrible vacuum thing, screaming and whining and sucking. And the sickly sweet stink of the furniture polish. All to get rid of good honest dirt. I could go on and on, but it’s making me feel yucky.

Haiku Friday: Raccoons

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Raccoons:

greedy masked bandits
dining on stolen catfood
licking their black thumbs

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History – Teaching is Learning

If you are writing your memoir, or thinking about doing so, or if your kids are begging you to “write those stories down” – or if you just want to get some perspective on your life thus far – I hope you will attend a workshop I’m giving on March 26th in Bellevue, WA.. And if you can’t attend (living elsewhere would be a good excuse) I hope you will buy my book “Making History”, which is based on over 10 years of teaching this workshop and series class.

The workshop and the book explores the relationship between big history and your individual life. History is not a dry recital of dates and places: history is stories. The workshop shows you an easy, fun, and no pressure way to:

  • Discover your place in history
  • Remember the stories of your time
  • Learn to write those stories down, painlessly
  • Hear inspiring, tragic, humorous real stories from others
  • Wow your audience with great stories of your own

Take a gallop back in time, to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s – or even further back, to the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and discover how you participated in and contributed to the events and trends of those times. Whether you were 7 or 77, what you did, thought, felt, and witnessed mattered – to history!

Every time I teach this class I learn something. I hear the best stories there are. I bill myself as the teacher, but really I am just a learner, just like everyone else.

Compost: The Writrer on Writring

A while ago I decided to create a new marketing email campaign designed to acquaint various book publishers, literary agents, book packagers, self-publishing companies, and others in the “book biz” with my services as a ghostwriter and editor. I wrote a kick-ass intro query letter, and identified a bunch of people I wanted to send this query letter to. Then I gave the query letter and my first list of people (20 book packagers) to my assistant to send out. All she had to do was customize each email with each individual’s name, and send the emails individually. Easy peasy, right? Mostly copy-and-paste. No thinking required.

Well, almost no thinking required. She did have to type the subject line in the email all by herself. So in the subject line – the first thing these 20 Word Professionals would see – instead of the word “Writing” she typed “Writring”.

And then she sent the emails out. All 20 of them.

O.M.G. Mortification. I am an editor. People pay me to edit their books. And write them. And here I was asking other book people – people whose business is words – to hire me as a writrer.

I guess I should be grateful I didn’t give my assistant ALL my lists of book people, because then even more people would know Kim Pearson, the Writrer.

I don’t know what the lesson in this story is. I still haven’t figured it out. If you know, will you tell me?

Haiku Friday: Meaning

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Meaning:

Since the earth must die
our words and deeds to space dust
why write poetry

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip: Words Matter

Years ago I taught a class called Writing as a Spiritual Practice. I loved doing this class, and the participants seemed to love it too. Many folks who attended came because of the word “spiritual” in the title. They were wonderful people. We had a great time exploring topics like “absurdity and the forbidden” and “sensory details – it’s a daffodil, not a flower.” We wrote our guts out. And then we played with them. (Not literally, of course.)

But the people who were put off by the word “spiritual” didn’t come to these classes. I’ve always believed that all of us are “spiritual” – that is, we have a spirit – even when we don’t think of ourselves that way. Many people see the word “spiritual” and think someone is going to shove a religion or an occult belief down their throats. Yet these “non-spiritual” people have great stories, heart-felt ideals, and just as much poetry inside as anyone else. Also like anyone else, they often had trouble liberating those poetic voices inside them.

So I changed the title of the class to Finding Your Voice. No one seemed to be turned off by the word voice, and all sorts of people started coming to this class. They came because many of us have writing voices that are muted, stilted, confused, or strangled by expectations. Finding Your Voice is about freeing those voices so that your message – whatever it is – can get out. After all, what good is your wisdom, beauty, or brilliance if you keep it locked up inside?

Have you ever thought the world may need what you write? That your knowledge, or inspirational story, or revolutionary method, may be the exact thing someone out there is waiting to learn? Maybe more than one person is waiting – maybe there are thousands who could be helped by what you have to say.

The bottom line is – your ideas, your stories, and your experiences matter. You matter. You do make a difference in the world. You are an actor, not just a reactor. You needn’t succumb to the despair and apathy present in the phrase, “I’m just one person.” All writers are just one person. Yet the written word has a long and distinguished history of illuminating new ways of thinking and doing. Many books have literally changed the course of history. Find your voice and make it count. Write it down!