Monday, April 07, 2014

"Faded Photographs" and "Nicky's Family"

This year's annual meeting of the Lucas County Historical Society begins at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 21, in the Lodge at Pin Oak Marsh --- just south of Chariton.

This is a low-key event at which everyone is welcome. There will be a few reports, a program and homemade pie and coffee after that. So mark it down on calendars.

We've had relatively big-name speakers during recent annual meetings, but decided this year to let some of the society's artifacts speak for themselves during a presentation entitled, "Faded Photographs: 150 Years of Images from the Lucas County Historical Society Collection."

These range from a series of town-square photographs that date from 1869 through images taken during Chariton's big U.S. centennial 4th of July celebration in 1876 to more modern images. 

We've been talking about developing a similar program for quite some time, but it seems like a good idea to do it this year before our technology guru, Karoline Dittmer, graduates from Chariton High School and heads for college.

The image here was found in the 1876 "Centennial Box" when it was opened on July 4, 1976 --- a close call, since the box had kind of been misplaced while being moved from place to place during the preceding century. It shows some of the crowd for the centennial parade gathered on the west side of the 1858 Lucas County Courthouse on a very muddy day, July 4, 1876.


Thanks to Netflix, I had the chance last evening to watch "Nicky's Family," a 2011 Czech documentary that honors Nicholas Winton, who almost single-handed saved the lives of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from certain death at the hands of the Nazis before World War II engulfed Europe. This is a good companion piece to Simon Schama's "The Story of the Jews," still available live-streamed from PBS. It is an English-language production.

Nicholas Winton and one of the children he rescued.

Sir Nicholas, who turns 105 in May, then a young stock broker, gave up a skiing holiday during 1938 to help a friend in Prague who was deeply concerned about the fate of Czechoslovakian Jews after Nazi occupation. The entire free world of that time, including the United States, had turned its back on Jewish refugees trying to escape the German threat.

Working frantically during the nine months before war erupted in 1939, Winton convinced Britain to provide refuge to children and organized a personal child transport program that brought 669 children through Germany by train into Holland, then across the English Channel to Britain, where they were placed with sponsoring families. Their parents did not survive Nazi death camps.

When war broke out, Winton enlisted in the RAF, then moved into private life. He did not share is story with anyone, including his family. Even the children did not know the details of how they had reached the British refuge that saved them.

Many years later, his wife discovered scrapbooks he had packed away in the attic containing photographs, memorabilia and a list of all 669 children. She brought his achievement into the public eye and a surprise reunion with dozens of the children, by then middle aged, occurred during 1988 on a British televsion show, "That's Life."

The 2011 documentary was a cooperative venture by private parties and various Czech and Slovak entities to honor Winton on his 100th birthday. It is an amazing piece of work. The photo here is of Winton with one of the children he rescued. If you want to read more, Sir Nicholas has a home page here.

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