Friday, March 25, 2011

1953: From aerial photography to a bad news month

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch
From the Jan. 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Last night Hugh Gale and I looked back over the picture news of 1952. There were some big stories. The Owyhee flood was colorful and we pictured it in considerable detail. We recalled how we rented a plane on an impulse late Wednesday afternoon. The light was just strong enough for us to take aerial photos.

I ran the camera. Hugh handled the film holders and Joe Driscoll flew the plane. It was quite a thrill for me, the one and only time I have ever done any aerial photography, although Gales has been up with cameras twice since then.

The picture of the washout at the railroad bridge at the mouth of the Owyhee River was the best picture of destruction that we got.

The biggest thrill came when we shot the dam. I had no idea of the camera setting needed. It was getting late and I knew that the light in the canyon would be poor. So I opened the aperture on the Speed Graphic clear open to 4.5 and slowed the shutter speed as much as I thought it would stand. Joe flew the plan up along the right side of the canyon, cut back across the face of the dam and turned it up into a vertical position.

We hung suspended there for just a split second with the camera aimed over the edge of the cockpit and pointed almost straight down at the dam. I tripped the shutter at that instant. The result was surprisingly good, an excellent picture when we had hardly hoped to get one at all.

We rushed back to the shop, souped film and printed pictures until almost midnight. I got up early and rushed to the engravers at Nampa Thursday morning and returned before noon in time to get the engravings into the paper. We were proud of the results. The Idaho Statesman, situated just as well for taking pictures and with many times as much news covering strength, didn’t do nearly as well.

We did an extensive job on the new high school which was a top story easily photographed. There were other important stories that produced good pictures: The Owyhee bridge cave-in that killed two workmen, the election, the polio epidemic, and the “Welcome to Oregon” centennial celebration. These events are all noted on today’s summary picture page along with some other human interest pictures.

As we selected pictures last night we recalled Gale’s first month here. I had warned him as he started that sometimes the news was sparse and it took hard digging to get out an interesting paper.

After a few weeks he asked what I meant by dullness in the news. The news seemed plenty active enough for him. In his first month we had the visit of the fabulous nut, Stanley Clement Green, a man burned to death in a trailer house fire, there was a Grad A public row over the failure of the school board to rehire two teachers, the Malheur River flooded and then the Owyhee really flooded all on top of an active situation in school district, city and county news --- plus the regular flow of news.

But in the dog days between the Fourth of July and the county fair Hugh found out what I had been talking about. He almost walked a hole in the tile of the office floor trying to dream up stories good enough for the top front page positions.

That’s the way it is in the news in a small town, in a big city or on an international wire service. It ebbs and flows. It is either feast or famine.

So if we newsmen seem a little crotchety at times, please forgive us and charge our temperament off to the vagaries in the news. We’re either having a terrible time trying to keep abreast of events or we’re tearing our hair out trying to find enough good stories to keep you reading the paper.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another era -- First graders taught using newspapers

By Don Lynch

From the Nov. 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Mrs. Sylvia Osborn, a capable Ontario teacher, brought her charts and illustrative material and various teaching helps to the weekly Kiwanis luncheon (to demonstrate how) information taught is worked into the child’s everyday living.

Each morning Mrs. Osborn’s class starts with the day’s news. At this time each day, the learning of reading is related to the habit of reading about the news.

First graders, she says, are very observant about the weather. So they keep a record every day and at the end of the year they know how many sunny days, rainy days, windy days, etc., there have been during the school term.

A major teaching effort is directed at making the first graders number conscious. Over and over again they are taught that the same combinations will produce the same results whether they are dealing with blocks, or apples, or people, or animals, or any other units. The little ones have a hard time making the transfer of mathematical reasoning from one subject to another and this is a slow learning process.

Six year olds have a different adjustment problem in getting used to the closeness of school work. The rate that reading is learned is much affected by the youngster’s natural ability to focus his eyes.

Adults who in mid-years have to adjust to bifocal glasses get some idea of what a first grader goes through in learning to focus his eyes in order to read, the teacher said.

The children make up the first stories they read, writing them in simple terms to learn simple words, and then re-reading what they have written. They also illustrate their stories, drawing the characters and situations in a group effort.

One evidence of the relation of education to everyday living is that the children in this year’s first grade classes insist on equipping their houses with TV antennas (Editor’s note: TV broadcasts from Boise began to be viewable by homes equipped with antennas just the previous summer.)

During Mrs. Osborn’s talk I was struck by the similarity of the learning process at all levels.

People starting to do advertising layout work have some of the same problems a first grader has in starting to draw numbers and letters. They have difficulty making their letters uniform in size and shape and in gauging the working space so that they make a balanced use of it. Both first graders and advertising layout beginners are helped by lines that indicate where the top and bottom of the letter should go and where the top of the lower case letters should go.

The whole learning process is one of simplification, like a blowup illustration of the parts of a machine to show how it works and where each part goes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In 1950s -- Avoiding the "softness" of "New York -- California style of education"

By Don Lynch

From the Nov. 3, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer

Ernie Hill, Foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, has made an interesting report on the experiences of his son Jonathon in attending schools in New York, Tokyo and London.

The boy had lacked interest in school in the United States and Japan and had repeatedly been tardy, but has taken a real interest in his work in London.

Hill reports, “I once went this school in New York. When I put my head in the door, someone fired a book at me. All the kids were standing up and were screaming. The teacher was shouting and banging on the desk.

“They’re so spirited this morning,” she told me outside. “Their little personalities are expressing themselves. We do nothing to curb their ego.’ When she went back into the classroom, she was beaned by an orange.

“Then, at the American school in Tokyo six of them gave their egos a workout by pushing one boy through a window.”

Hill says that British schools don’t operate that way. Jonathon was never late for school in London. He started doing his homework conscientiously and even studying ahead. When asked what would happen if he didn’t get his homework done, the boy said:

“Well, the Head would send you down to his study. He wouldn’t talk or beg you to do your work. He would just give you six of the best . . . that’s wallops with his birch cane. And boy do they hurt.”

Asked what would happen if a student threw a book, Jonathon said, “That would be a Monday night detention of three to five hours plus six of the best, plus no more swimming or football for the rest of the term.”

Hill reported that under the British influence Jonathon said, “ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Yes, thank you,’ and ‘No thank you,’ just like a civilized human being.”

Hill said he wasn’t worrying about Jonathon’s personality or ego, but just “basking in the warm glow of an unbelievable transformation.”

Thank goodness the Ontario schools and other schools in this region are not so progressively minded that the kids are permitted to run wild. We have a healthy compromise here between the severity of the English system and the softness of the New York-California style of education.

My father, a lifelong school teacher now retired, made practical application of the birch-cane technique with good results. He didn’t abuse it, but he did require discipline and order in his school.

I remember very well one occasion when he marched all of his ninth grade boys around the room whacking each one across the back with his belt when they came by his desk. They had refused to leave the outside basketball court to return to class after the noon hour. They never did it again.

There was another time I remember better from personal experience. We kids were confined to a playroom in the schoolhouse basement because of severe weather. One boy used a wooden pointer teachers used for blackboard instruction, put it in the furnace until it was charred and then wiped it across the faces of some of the rest of us. I took it away from him and broke it over his head. About that time we got caught.

The next morning I watched the old man cut three good strong lilac branches, and then walked to school through the deep snow of that year with him and the lilac branches.

The three us of who were in that fight stood up before the room and one lilac branched was used on each of us. I was ashamed because I couldn’t keep from doing a little jig while the other boys were tough enough to stand and take it.

However, the old man wasn’t always so stern. He yielded to the idea of progressive education to the extent of spending considerable effort on directing the learning process along lines that appealed to the interests of individual youngsters. Students got a chance to work on projects they liked and to acquire their learning in terms they would understand.

With that background, it’s no wonder that discipline seem to me an essential prerequisite of education. Attention is essential to learning and discipline is necessary to get attention from most youngsters.