This week, our nation commemorated the 75th anniversary of one of its most pivotal moments. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on a Sunday morning, resulting in massive casualties of more than 1,100 US service members. With such a blatant affront to the country’s freedom, the United States could no longer remain an isolationist nation. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt prepared his remarks to address his wounded country, he had to think carefully to balance his peoples’ need for a rallying cry with the ramifications of his words on United States foreign policy. December 7, 1941, the “Day of Infamy”, called the Greatest Generation to action.
While many of us are old enough to be blessed with interacting with these men and women who sacrificed so much, our future students will be tasked with understanding the impact of global war without the privilege of speaking with first hand witnesses. As our parents and grandparents pass away, we must take the charge of carrying the vivid memories into the next century of learners.
This presents an excellent opportunity to incorporate visual and auditory primary sources into the classroom. Whether you’re teaching an entire unit on World War II or simply seeking a few images for students to examine, Pearl Harbor provides stunning images for student investigation. The art behind the propaganda that followed is also worth exploring in a discussion about the power of imagery.
Included below are a variety of visual resources, lesson plans, and other sites within the LOC website to help integrate these memories into your teaching. As the Greatest Generation fades into our nation’s memory, we owe them the debt of our freedom to continue sharing their stories with generations to come.
My husband was clearing out an old file cabinet the other day, and handed me a brochure he picked up years ago in Indiana. It was about a local Lustron house. He knew I’d be pleased to see it, since I have always loved these architectural oddities. Lustron houses are prefabricated homes made from enameled steel. They are instantly recognizable, with their square siding panels in pastel shades. Built between 1948 and 1950, the Lustron houses that remain today are usually in good condition, as the porcelain enamel finish is highly durable. These houses were designed in answer to the housing crisis after World War II: they were prefabricated from steel and were delivered to the building site, where local contractors assembled them. They were quick to build, and easy to care for. They were practical and efficient, with no wasted space; bedrooms had sliding doors and built-in storage. Despite their well-designed and affordable product, the company quickly went bankrupt. Financial problems and production delays put the company on shaky footing. Some say that traditional building trades were feeling threatened by the idea of a house that needed little or no maintenance, and that these unions worked against the company.
What would students make of images and advertisements for Lustron homes? How are the houses similar to or different from homes familiar to them? If they were designing a low-maintenance home, what would it look like? What would it be made of?
I wonder how long the Lustron house would have endured had the company weathered its financial troubles better. The houses with their built-in features, including steel kitchen cabinetry and appliances such as the Thor Automagic (a washing machine which doubled as a dishwasher) would never need updating. While I see the appeal of a home that never needs painting, would residents resist the call of fashion, and remain satisfied with their house unchanged for decades? I think of all the home shows on television, which show home buyers complaining of outdated kitchens, or builders and designers making a living from remodeling homes built not so long ago. Could it be that enduring design was its own downfall?
Here are some ideas for further information on Lustron houses.
This is a treasure trove of vintage articles and brochures on the Lustron Corporation, from a good, but possibly no longer supported website from Ohio History Connection: http://apps.ohiohistory.org/lustronpreservation.org/htdocs/about/