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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Horse had to run its course
Region the birthplace of shopping cart,
'Old Yeller'

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
The early-day printing presses at Harper's Magazine were powered by a vertical shaft running from the basement upward through two floors of the printing rooms above. The shaft turned slowly from 7 a.m. till noon, and from 1 to 6 p.m. each working day. The power came from a sturdy white horse named "The Harper Press Horse" who trudged in a circle on the basement floor turning the shaft. A factory whistle blew at the beginning and end of each shift.

Progress arrived and The Harper Press Horse was finally retired to a nice pasture on one of the owner's farms nearby. For a few days retirement and freedom was enjoyed to the fullest. However, the pasture was within hearing distance of the old factory whistle.

One morning when the whistle blew the old horse trotted to a large tree in the pasture and began walking a circle just as he had done in the basement of the press. He continued working his shift around the tree each time the whistle blew as long as he could wearing out a path in the grass. This old workhorse had a job to do and was not happy unless allowed to continue.

Today, 24 million children in the U.S. ride 450,000 yellow school busses to school traveling four billion miles per year. Why are school busses painted yellow?

Public education dates back to the mid 1600s with students walking, riding horses and in wagons and buggies to the nearest school. By 1910, 30 states had pupil transportation programs in place. As gasoline-powered trucks evolved, a need for the start of a school bus industry arose.

In 1939, a National Standards Conference was held with educators from all 48 states in attendance. The uniform color of "school bus chrome yellow" was adopted because it was easier to see in a fog, rain, at night and under other difficult driving conditions.

The Smithsonian Magazine touts the invention of "the shopping basket on wheels" in June 1937 by Oklahoma City grocer Sylvan Goldman. Inspired by folding chairs and prams on wheels, Sylvan soon had shoppers buying twice as many groceries as before. He also invented a successful luggage cart before dying in 1984 at age 86.

Remember "Lincoln Logs?" These toy logs were notched at each end to allow many configurations to be built by children of all ages. The "kits" came in many sizes and packed in handy boxes. First marketed around 1920, they were created by John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Inspired in 1917 when his father was building The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, John created the toy building block set which became one of the earliest children's products to be promoted on early TV. Lincoln Logs also initiated the interest in educational toys for children.

Today's pit-bull tragedies are a far cry from the stories of Old Yeller and Lassie. Texas can be proud of Fred Gipson, born 1908 in Mason, Texas. His book "Old Yeller," published in 1956, was based on a true story about a real dog who saved Fred's grandfather from a rabid wolf.

Walt Disney paid $50,000 for the right to make the movie and a sequel called "Savage Sam." Old Yeller was a mostly a Labrador mutt named Spike rescued from a dog pound by famous trainer Frank Weatherwax, who also trained Lassie.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
January 22, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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