Sunday, February 28, 2016

First LDS Chapel in Manteca: Pine Street Chapel

The Pine Street Chapel was the first LDS chapel in Manteca.  It is located close to Doctors Hospital.  The Manteca Branch was first organized as a Sunday School in 1946, and as a branch in 1947.  They met in the Legion Hall.  In 1950 the branch was formed with President Donald Nicolayson.  The chapel was dedicated in 1957.  They were still a branch.  The branch had to contribute $50,000 as their share.  They raised money by raising tomatoes and beans.  They also did much of the labor except for the electricity and the bricklaying.
A ward was organized in 1959.  D. Leon Ward was called as bishop.  When Manteca Stake was formed in 1981 there were three wards in Manteca.  Manteca had been part of the Modesto Stake, and Tracy part of the San Joaquin Stake.  They were combined as the manteca Stake.  D. Leon Ward, who had previously served as the Modesto Stake president, was the first stake president of the Manteca Stake.  The Union building was completed in 1984, and became the stake center.  Before this stake offices were in Tracy.  The Pine Street building was also proving too small.  The current stake center on Northland was completed in 1991, and the congregation and stake offices were moved there.
The Pine Street Chapel was sold.  It is currently occupied by the Fellowship Baptist Church.

 Looks great for an almost 60 year-old building.

World War II in Colour 5: Red Sun Rampant

This documentary episode starts with the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor.  The surprise attack damaged the American fleet in the Pacific, but it wasn't the knock out blow as the U.S. carriers were not in port.  Japan was defeating everyone in the region in the air, on land and at sea.  This movie follows the conflict until in each of these areas, the Japanese had been bested.  The Battle of the Coral Sea was basically a draw, with two carriers damaged on both sides.  The Yorktown was damaged on the American side, but quick repairs prepared her for the next battle.  However it was a moral victory for the Americans.  having cracked the Japanese code, The U.S. were laying in wait at Midway, where the Japanese planned to establish a forward base.
While the Japanese were bombing Midway Island, The U.S. were able to catch them unaware, and pound them from the air.  The initial torpedo planes were unsuccessful, but the dive bombers coming from the clouds were able to inflict serious damage to three carriers.  The Japanese had four carriers in the area.  They were able to inflict a counter blow to the Yorktown, but again the Americans finally caught the fourth carrier and inflicted heavy damage.  This day would mark a great difference at sea, while four Japanese carriers were gone, one American carrier was sunk and another damaged.
ON Land and air, the battle to Guadalcanal was important.  The Japanese were establishing an air base, but the American marines attacked and took control of the base.  however the Japanese fleet was able to cut them off by chasing the American boats away, sinking a couple.  Even so the completed the airway, and were resupplied by air.  In addition the planes were able to harass the Japanese.  It was some months before they were refortified with troops, but eventually the Americans were able to get through, and slowly Guadalcanal was taken.

Book Review: It's Slinky: The Fun and Wonderful Toy

It's Slinky: the Fun and Wonderful Toy by Lou Harry, Running Press Books, Philadelphia, PA, 2000.
This books allows a lighter view of history.  the Slinky, developed shortly after WWII is a toy that has stood the test of time.  It has many off shoot toys and the company that makes Slinky has expanded.  However the original toy (in silver instead of black steal now) has withstood the test of time.  The most famous Slinky toy is Slinky the Dog.  He made it big time in Toy Story, and even sacrificed himself in the first Toy Story to save the day.
The Slinky was developed by a husband and wife team Richard and Betty James.  They did not expect the remarkable response they received.  It was Betty James who became the pioneer, as Richard left her on a religious crusade.  He later died in South America.
Slinks has not been without competition.  They had to win a law suit against the company Quirly for copyright infringement.  They were the company contracted to make the Slinky.
Slinky lead to other pull toys besides the dog.  There is a seal, a train and many others.  There are also Slinky Sillies--characters with Slinky arms and legs.  And Slinky eyes are just crazy.
I must admit, I have never gotten the skill to really enjoy a Slinky.  I can make it go back and forth however.  It is pretty cool the way it works, and the book tells it demonstrates many scientific principles.  You know you have arrived when you are on a stamp, and Slinky was featured in the decade of the 40s stamp set.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review: Henry's Freedom Box

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Scholastic Press, New York, 2007.  Caldecott Honor Book.
This is a fascinating and beautifully illustrated telling of the story of Henry Box Brown.  He is the man who sent himself to freedom.  This was not without risk.  Even though they had painted "This side up" on the box, people did not always looking at the writing, and he suffered a bad time being upside down with the blood rushing to his head.
The book also explores his reason for escaping to freedom.  He was motivated by the loss of his wife and children.  Although he had been allowed to marry, his wife belonged to someone else, and she and the children were sold.  He watched helplessly as the took them away.  I want my children and grandchildren to know that people had to struggle for freedom in our country, and that others were willing to sacrifice to help them in this pursuit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

World War II in Colour 4: Hitler Strikes East

There episode explores the war in Russia.  Hitler had forged an alliance with Stalin, but all along he intended to expand the Nazi empire in this direction.  Stalin had forged the deal, knowing that Russia was ill prepared for an all out war.
Hitler's attack on Russia had three movement, north towards Leningrad, center towards Moscow, and south towards Stalingrad.  The early part of this attack showed the effectiveness of blitzkrieg, as the Russians melted away.  However the attack to the south got bogged down.  All of the attacks were slowed as they had to deal with hundreds of thousands of prisoners.  The tank commanders wanted to move on to follow up their advantage.
Hitler made a crucial error.  As they were driving towards Moscow, and where sure to enter the city in just a few weeks, he diverted his panzers to the south, to follow up gains there.  They surrounded Kiev.  However then several times the tanks were moved back and forth, and only after precious time was lost did they finally refocus on Moscow.  The still advanced, but eventually were stalled by the weather.  It got so cold the tanks wouldn't start, nor would they function properly.
Russia on the mean time used this time to prepare a counterattack.  After Stalin assured through his espionage efforts that Japan was not going to attack Russia in Siberia, he repositioned half a million men from Siberia towards Moscow using the Siberian Railroad.  5 December the Russians counter attacked, with some gains.  Hitler ordered that the Germans go into a defensive mode.  The German generals wanted to fall back to consolidate their lines.  Hitler would not give permission, and replaced his generals.  Thousands of German troops were surrounded.  They could have escaped but were ordered to hold.  A Panzer attack to free them proved unsuccessful.  Consequently 200,000 German troops were surrendered, and marched into Russia.  Only 5000 would ever return to Germany.  
In the south, Hitler became determined to take Stalingrad at all costs.  They actually made significant progress, however again a Russian counter attack would leave them vulnerable to capture and only through a sound rear movements were they able to escape.  This was the end of offensive movements by the Germans in Russia, and from there it was always falling back towards Germany.  Of support for the Russians was a new tank which was just as good as the Panzer, and also their rockets, and finally they were able to manufacture air planes.  Initially the Germans had control of the skies, but that would change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; An AmericanSlave

Written by himself, Introduction by Peter Gomes, Afterword by Gregory Stephens, Signet Classics, New York 2005, originally published 1845.
This book is a must read to understand American history and slavery.  I have read books about Frederick Douglass, but never his own word.  He tells an exciting story of his own thirst for freedom, which was not to be denied.  A mistress gave him a thirst for reading, and he used that to learn to read, even if it meant tricking the neighborhood boys to teach him.  An early climax is when Douglass stands up to his slave runner, and tells him no more.  They scuffle for some time, but Douglass escapes the beating.  He makes an excellent point about religion and how a man of religion could tolerate such treatment.  How could a Christian go to church and profess piety, and then starve, abuse, beat and misuse their fellowmen.  I think we all need to reflect on being better people and better Christians.
As I said excellent autobiographical book.  Of course Douglass lived many years after writing this book, so we miss most of his life, but this book is about slavery, and was very useful to the abolitionists.  It is also useful today to provide a glimpse of conditions amongst the slaves.
Click here for a story about Frederick Douglas learning to read and write.
And click here for a biography of Frederick Douglas.

Monday, February 15, 2016

World War II In Colour 3: Britain at Bay

This is the story of the battle of Britain in this continuing documentary of WWII using colorized film from the war as well as maps and narration.  This battle Winston Churchill predicted would be Britain's finest hour.  The British defenses were stretched thin after the forced retreat from Dunkirk.  They also had to leave much material behind, and so their men where mostly armed with rifles.  However the established a home guard with over a half million volunteers.
Without the use of radar it would have been their last hour.  The radar gave the Britons just enough advantage so they could meet the threat from the Luftwaffe, German's air force.  The normal German tactic of Blitzkrieg was not helpful here.  It was impossible to get his tanks and troops across the English Channel unless he controlled the waterway, or at least had air superiority.  He was unable to establish either, and the possibility of invasion did not present itself so he had to look elsewhere.

Documentary Review: Battle of Britain: The Real Story (2010)

This is an incredible story about the Battle of Britain.  This battle is thought to have been a one-sided affair with Germany having many more aircraft.  However the English had control of the seas and the English Channel.  The battle wasn't as one sided as perhaps supposed.  At first the German air force attempted to attack the British navy from the air.  However there was enough resistance from fighters on the island to help Britain maintain control of the English Channel.  They would also launch attacks against the airports of the Luftwaffe, which kept some of them pinned down not attacking England.  They were made more effective by the use of a new technology, radar.  The attack then changed focus to the Royal Air Force an the radar installation.  Not enough credit was given by the Germans to the radar, and more attack there may have had an effect.  The attacks on the runways was very effective, although the airports remained in service.  A bit more concentration and the Royal Air Force may have been driven from the sky.  However, inadvertently a German plane accidentally dropped its bombs on London.  Winston Churchill ordered a retaliatory bombing of Moscow.  Hitler then lost focus, and the German air attacks began to focus on London civilian targets, rather than the air force.  This film contends however that the Luftwaffe was not very effective against the grass airfields in the first place.  It also contends that different methods of counting the number of planes in a squad.  the number of British planes was greatly underestimated.  As a result, the german airplane superiority began to ware down after repeated attacks.  They were not able to establish air superiority, and the invasion of England did not happen.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Documentary Review: World War II In Colour 2: Lightning War

Lightning war refers to a tactic employed by the Germans.  Blitzkrieg, or lightning war referred to moving fast with armored columns, bypassing the strongest positions, and letting the infantry follow and mop up.  Such was the strategy used by the Germans in Poland in 1939.  Germany used its superiority in air power and in tanks to take territory quickly.  And so it was that Poland was conquered quickly.  With this the British and French troops prepared for invasion of France, thinking the Germans would use similar tactics to the invasion in WWI, through Belgium.  In this they were fooled.  First the Germans attacked north rather than into France.  They conquered Norway, and then other Scandinavian countries, one after the other using similar tactics.  When it came to France, the expected attack was along the coastal areas.  However Germany attacked with their panzer division south and just north of the heavily defended areas considered impenetrable.  The attack was not expected over the rough terrain.  The German's were able to get behind the French and English forces, forces them back so as to avoid being cut off.  German air superiority again played a key roll.  The French and British armies were able to fight their way to Dunkirk, but there they were cut off.  The only hope for the forces was removal.  Churchill mustered a flotilla of any available vessel, but these were kept from the port by the many dive bombers.  He then recruited even smaller vessels who could go and gather the men, and take them to the larger vessels for transportation to Great Britain.  In this way the British Arm was save, as well as many of the French.   However the country of France was lost, and the Germans marched almost unopposed into Paris.

Documentary Review: Civil War: America Divided: Two Nations

This documentary does a good job of explaining just how divided the country was before the Civil War.  The Mexican American War proved a training ground for Civil War officers.  However it resulted in a dilemma, What to do with the territory gained as a result of the war.  This territory covers California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, most of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.  Should the territories by slave or free.  Kansas was one of the places where this decision turned bloody.  John Brown took advantage of the situation to carry out bloody murders.  However Southern sympathizers, many from Missouri, performed their own acts of bloodshed.  John Brown found he took his act too far when he attacked the arsenal at harper's Ferry.  He was captured and hung.  two of his sons died in their capture.  The election of 1860 was really a two part election.  Abraham Lincoln  (Republican) and Stephen Douglas (Democrat) competed in the North.  John Bell (Constitutional Union) and John Breckinridge (Southern Democrat) campaigned in the South.  Lincoln won by taking the entire North.  He was not even on the ballot in many Southern states.
His election spurred the South to action, and many states seceded even before Lincoln took office.  The stage was set for war.

Documentary Review: The Murder of a President: American Experience (James Garfield)

This PBS WGBH documentary tells the story of James Garfield.  This is a look at the life of James Garfield, and more particularly his murder.  Garfield started in poor circumstances.  His father died when he was young.  His mother gave James her life savings and he enrolled in school.  He stayed in school by working for the school, an after a couple years was so bright he was serving as a teacher.   After school he married Lucretia Rudolf.  He served in the Civil War, and in fact while in the war was elected to congress.  He would serve in congress until he was nominated for the presidency.  He had risen in congress, and had been elected to the senate when he was nominated for the presidency.  His nomination  for the presidency by the Republican convention of was not planned.  In fact he was managing the campaign of John Sherman, and gave a speech at the convention in his support.  However he was selected on the 36th ballot as an alternative to the three candidates, Ulyssis S. Grant, Sherman and James G. Blaine.  Both Sherman and Blaine turned their support to Garfield.  Chester A. Arthur was selected as the vice presidential candidate.  He was important as he was from New York and part of the political machine of New York Senator Roscoe Conkling.
In those days the party did the campaigning, and Garfield did not do much campaigning.  He did reach out to Conkling and gained his support.  New York was key to winning the election.  In the general election General Winfield Scott Hancock ran on the Democratic ticket.   The race was close in the popular count, with less than 10,000 votes separated the candidates, however in the electoral college the difference was much greater.  Garfield took key states of New York and Indiana, while Hancock took the South.
In Garfield's early days as president he worked to make appointments.  James G. Blaine was selected for Secretary of State.  On appointment not made was that of a member of Conkling's political machine to the New York Customs House.  This was a very lucrative position at the time, with considerable power due to the government being financed by tariffs.   Conkling would resign from the Senate in protest, but when he wasn't reelected as he thought, much of his power was lost.
Another person who felt he was deserved appointment was Charles J. Guiteau.  He was an individual with had worked on the periphery of the campaign, and had published a speech in favor of Garfield.  However no appointment was coming.  At this point Guiteau felt God told him to kill Garfield, and then another person would become president.  He expected to be a hero.
Knowing that Garfield was to travel by train to visit his ailing wife who was convalescing in New Jersey, he took a gun to the train station and waited.  Garfield was shot twice, in the arm and in the back.  The bullet in his back lodged in his abdomen, and was never removed.  Worries about germs had been studied, but not applied in this case.  Doctor Willard Bliss took control of his treatment.  he would not hear any criticism of his methods.  Garfield improved for a time, but then infection set in.  Even Alexander Graham Bell was called in to locate the bullet with a new metal detector.  Bell detected the bullet was not where presumed, but Bliss would not hear this.  Garfield's wife had returned from New Jersey to be with her husband.  However in the end, they both traveled back to New Jersey, with tracks laid to the door of their home, where the president could die on the sea shore.  He was shot July 2 and passed away September 19, 1881.
Still after the assassination of President Lincoln, Garfield had no  guard.  In  fact not even Garfield felt a guard was needed.
One of Garfield's passions was to assure the rights of the Black population.  He wanted to work to guarantee them the vote, as well as an education.  Arthur would become president, and would stand up to Conkling and not appoint him to the Customs position in New York.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

WWII in Colour 1: The Gathering Storm

This is a very good documentary using colorized film from WWII.  It also uses maps and explains very well the process of this war.  It explain that WWII starts with the Treaty of Versailles, and only 20 years after the treaty, Germany is ripe for dictatorial leadership and find this in Adolf Hitler.  the treaty set Germany up for economic depression due to the  steep reparations required.  Economic downturn is bad for the current leaders.   Other countries are in the same boat, Spain and Italy as well as Japan.  We have Benito Mussolini in Italy and Francisco Franco in Spain.  This film also shows the first steps, and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain hoping beyond hope he had achieved peace, but being fooled badly.  The Germans under Hitler have an expansionist mindset, and start with lands that were part of Germany before the treaty of Versailles.  They reoccupy the Rhineland, and move into German areas controlled by the French since the treaty.  Nobody does anything.  The next step is to annex Austria, which is set to have election, but the Germans move in before the election.  Then he moves to repatriate parts of Czechoslovakia, where many German speaking people live, who became part of Czechoslovakia when the country was formed.  This is where Chamberlain was part of the negotiation, and basically told Hitler he could have the country for a guarantee of peace.  Russia seeing the German expansion have two choices, align with Britain and France, or with Germany.  They choose the latter, and have already made agreements of how to split up Poland.