American Flag’s History & Proper Display

August 12, 2012 · Posted in America, American Flag · Comments Off on American Flag’s History & Proper Display 


Congress first approved the flag on June 14, 1777.

Link to PDF

This date is now observed as Flag Day throughout America. It was first stated that there be a star and stripe for each state, making thirteen of both. Over the years, the number of stars has been changed to include one star for each of the 50 states, while the stripes remained the same to represent the 13 original colonies.


Later, the colors of the flag were given special meaning. The red is for valor and zeal – white is for hope, purity, and cleanliness of life – and blue, the color of heaven, loyalty, sincerity, justice, and truth.

The name “OLD GLORY” was given to our National Flag on August 10, 1831. The flag means the spirit of liberty and human freedom.

Proper Display of Flag * Display of the American flag is usually from sunrise to sunset.

* The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main building of every public place and during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

* Flags are flown at half-staff to show grief for lives lost. When the flag is flown at half-staff, it should be pulled to the top for a moment, and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should then be raised to the top before it is lowered for the day.

* When two or more flags are flown from the same pole, the American flag must be on top.

* When displayed with another flag against a wall, the U.S. flag should be on its own right (left to a person facing the wall).

Levitt Houses

August 4, 2012 · Posted in America, Housing · Comments Off on Levitt Houses 


A Brief History of Levittown, New York

Few communities in America are as easily recognizable by name as Levittown, New York. In addition to its distinction as the childhood home of world famous singer/songwriter, Billy Joel, (who was actually raised in a Levitt home in nearby Hicksville) Levittown is the model on which scores of post World War II suburban communities were based – a place that started out as an experiment in low-cost, mass-produced housing and became, perhaps, the most famous suburban development in the world.

Many volumes have been written which provide comprehensive histories of Levittown, including its “pre-history” as a center of early Long Island aviation and its prominence as the host of the 1908 through 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Races. Some of these are available at our Museum Shop or at various Long Island libraries. For those of you who are interested in a basic outline, the following “mini-history” is extracted from the Levittown Historical Society’s History Of Levittown, New York, by Lynne Matarrese.

In The Beginning: Island Trees

The story of Levittown begins with the story of the Hempstead Plains, sixty thousand acres of flat, treeless grasslands that was once considered the largest prairie in the eastern United States. It was here, in 1644, that a group of English colonists established Hempstead, the first permanent settlement in what later became Nassau County. Subsequently, through various grants and land deals, Hempstead was divided into territories, one of which became known as Island Trees, likely because it contained a tall group of pine trees that, from a distance, resembled an island unto itself.

The few early residents of Island Trees were mainly farmers of English descent. When the Long Island Rail Road extended its tracks from Jamaica to Hicksville in 1836, the Island Trees farmers found themselves with a new, more convenient means of transporting their goods to market – and for receiving shipments of feed and fertilizer. This made the area surrounding Hicksville highly attractive to German land developers, who soon purchased large parcels of land in the railroad’s vicinity, which included Island Trees.

Over the next several decades, small villages of immigrants, most from Germany, sprouted up around the area. Island Trees’ main cash crops in the late 1800s were cabbage and cucumbers, until a severe blight hit the area in 1912 and farmers shifted their attention to potato farming. Island Trees soon became the center of potato farming in Nassau County. But then, in the mid 1930s, farmers in the area suddenly began to experience serious potato crop damage brought on by a dreaded critter called the Golden Nematode. It was at the onset of this crisis that Abraham Levitt and his sons, Alfred and William, purchased an abandoned potato field in Island Trees at a “greatly reduced price.”

Levitt & Sons

Abraham Levitt was a real estate lawyer by trade, but also dabbled in real estate investment, purchasing land and selling it off to developers in the late 1920s. When the onset of the 1930’s Great Depression caused the developer of a Rockville Centre property to default on his payments, the senior Levitt was forced to complete the development himself to protect his investment. Having no previous experience with construction, he called on his two sons, in college at the time, for help. Together, Levitt & Sons labored to learn everything there was to know about construction techniques, and together, they completed the project.

Strathmore, as the upscale Rockville Centre development was named, was such a success that Levitt and Sons continued to purchase land and build new homes throughout the Depression. With each new development, their construction methods became more and more efficient.

When the U.S. entered WWII in 1941, Levitt and Sons won a Navy contract to build homes for shipyard workers in Norfolk, Virginia. Here, they developed and perfected the mass production techniques they later used in the construction of Levittown, New York. It may have also been this experience that inspired William, the older of the Levitt sons, to enlist in the Navy in 1943.

Meanwhile, back home in Island Trees, the golden nematode had gained a strong foothold and was wiping out a large part of the area’s potato crop, on which many local farmers depended for survival. By 1945 and the end of World War II, Island Trees farmers began looking to sell off affected land as quickly as they could.

At the same time, 16 million GI’s were returning from either Europe, the Pacific, or from military bases in the United States. Many planned to marry and raise families. But these former soldiers were running into trouble in their search to find suitable shelter for their new families. The war had created a shortage of construction materials and the housing industry had fallen off rapidly. At the end of 1945, the US was in dire need of about five million houses, as ex-GIs and their families were living with their parents or in rented attics, basements, or unheated summer bungalows. Some even lived in barns, trolley cars, and tool sheds.

During his service in Hawaii, Lieutenant William Levitt realized that the urgent need for post-war housing and the availability of cheap farmland provided a golden opportunity for his family to capitalize on their Island Trees property. He proposed to his father and brother that Levitt & Sons divide the former potato field into small lots and build simple, inexpensive mass-produced homes for veterans and their families. These returning servicemen were entitled to low-interest, insured “GI Loans,” which would make the new Levitt homes easily affordable and, therefore, highly attractive.

The Birth Of Levittown

On May 7, 1947, Levitt and Sons publicly announced their plan to build 2,000 mass-produced rental homes for veterans on their Island Trees land. Two days later, the New York Herald Tribune reported that 1,000 of the 2,000 proposed homes had already been rented. Levittown, as the new development would eventually be named, was off to a booming start!

In order to build their homes cheaper and faster, Levitt and Sons decided to eliminate basements and build their new homes on concrete slabs, as they had in Norfolk, Virginia. This practice was prohibited in the Town Of Hempstead, but, because the need for housing was so urgent, the Town modified the Building Code to allow the Levitts to proceed with their plan.

Levitt and Sons used many of the building methods they had used over the years in previous developments, but reorganized these methods for even better efficiency and cost savings. All of the lumber was precut and shipped from a lumber yard they owned in Blue Lake, California, where they erected a nail factory as well. An abandoned rail line was re-opened to bring construction materials to Island Trees. To keep costs down, non-union contractors were used, a move met with heavy opposition. The production line technique used to build this new development was so successful that, by July of 1948, the Levitts were turning out thirty houses a day.

Even at this pace, the Levitts could not keep up with the demand. Although all 2,000 homes had been rented almost immediately, hundreds of veterans were still applying, so the Levitts decided to build an additional 4,000 houses. The community soon had its own schools, its own postal delivery; even phone service and streetlights!

Then, in 1949, Levitt and Sons discontinued building rental houses and turned their attention to building larger, more modern houses, which they called “ranches” and which they would offer for sale at $7,990. All a prospective buyer needed was a $90 deposit and payments of $58 per month. The Levitt ranch measured 32′ by 25′ and came in five different models, differing only by exterior color, roof line, and the placement of windows. Like previous Levitt homes, the ranch was built on a concrete slab with radiant heating coils. It had no garage, and came with an expandable attic. The kitchen was outfitted with a General Electric stove and refrigerator, stainless steel sink and cabinets, the latest Bendix washer, and a York oil burner. Immediately, the demand for the new Levitt ranches was so overwhelming that even the procedure for purchasing them had to be modified to incorporate “assembly line” methods. Once these techniques were put into action, a buyer could choose a house and sign a contract for it within three minutes.

So great and so far-reaching was the success of the Levittown community that on July 3, 1950, William Levitt was featured on the front cover of Time Magazine. This success continued throughout 1950 and 1951, by which time the Levitts had constructed 17,447 homes in Levittown and the immediate surrounding areas.

As the GI homeowners settled into well-paying jobs and began to spawn families, the Levitt models and the surrounding community were modified to suit the needs of growing families. 1950 ranches came with a carport and a 12 1/2 inch Admiral TV set built into the living room staircase. The 1951 model included a partially finished attic. Thousand Lanes, a magazine devoted to the decorating, expanding, and remodeling of Levitt homes became a must-have for Levittown residents. Shopping centers, playgrounds, and a $250,000 community center sprang up to accommodate Levittown’s active residents. The July, 1951 issue of the Nassau Daily Review Star reported that “Levittown’s fame has spread so widely, both in America and abroad that it now ranks near the Statue of Liberty among the seven wonders which New York City visitors want to see!”

By the time the last Levitt and Sons house was purchased in 1951, Abraham, Alfred, and William had earned the distinction of having completed the largest housing development ever constructed by a single builder. Although many residents of surrounding towns had initially been apprehensive about the building of so many mass-produced, low-cost rental houses, their fears that the houses might eventually deteriorate into slums never came to pass. Today, nearly all of the 17,447 Levitt houses have been either expanded, remodeled, or dormered to reflect the changing profile of Levittown’s residents. Today’s generation of Levittown homeowners, as well as the few original residents who remain, are to be commended for the manner in which they transformed a monotonous collection of identical houses into the unique, attractive, and contemporary community that is today’s Levittown.

For the complete Levittown story, please visit the Museum Shop and purchase your copy of The Levittown Historical Society’s History Of Levittown by Lynne Matarrese.

Paris’s Catacombs

August 2, 2012 · Posted in Paris · Comments Off on Paris’s Catacombs 

The remains of more than six million people are buried in a vast network of tunnels below Paris, France. People who call themselves ‘cataphiles’ visit the catacombs illegally and occasionally hold underground parties.

Paris, France (CNN) — Beneath the streets of the City of Light lies a world draped in darkness and shrouded in silence. The tunnels are narrow, the ceilings are low and death is on display.

The skulls and bones lining the walls, arranged in a macabre fashion, make up what is known as the Empire of the Dead — the Catacombs of Paris.

The catacombs snake below the city, a 321-kilometer (200-mile) network of old quarries, caves and tunnels.

Some Parisians are drawn to this largely uncharted territory — a hidden network of adventure, discovery and even relaxation. They are known as ‘cataphiles’ and the catacombs are their playground.

It is a top-secret group. Catacomb entrances are known only to those daring enough to roam the networks on their own — and break the law.

Entering unauthorized sections of the catacombs is illegal and a police force is tasked with patrolling the tunnels, and caught cataphiles risk fines of up to 60 euros ($73).

But for explorers like Loic Antoine-Gambeaud and his friends, it is a risk they are willing to take.

“I think it’s in the collective imagination. Everybody knows that there is something below Paris; that something goes on that’s mysterious. But I don’t think many people have even an idea of what the underground is like,” Antoine-Gambeaud said.

For those who want to find out, but are not willing to take the risk of going in unsupervised, there is a legal, tourist-friendly public entrance to the catacombs off Place Denfert-Rochereau. Visitors from around the world will queue up to see death on display.

“I think people are fascinated with death,” one visitor said. “They don’t know what it’s about and you see all these bones stacked up, and the people that have come before us, and it’s fascinating. We’re trying to find our past and it’s crazy and gruesome and fun all at the same time.”

But experiencing the history of Paris in an orderly fashion is not the cataphiles’ style.

Underground, there are plaques echoing the street names above etched into the walls, helping the cataphiles navigate.

Often equipped only with head lamps and homemade maps, they explore the tunnels and ancient rooms, sometimes staying underground for days at a time.

They throw parties, drink wine, or just relax in a silence they say can’t be experienced anywhere else.

The catacombs are a by-product of Paris’ early development. Builders dug deep underground to extract limestone to build Paris above ground.

But the subterranean quarries that were formed proved to be a shaky foundation for the city, causing a number of streets to collapse and be swallowed up by the ground.

Eventually, repairs and reinforcements were made, and to this day, the tunnels and quarries are still monitored for safety.

The quarries went through several transformations throughout history. Over time, they have served as everything from hiding places for revolutionaries to mushroom farms.

In the 18th century the Catacombs became known as the Empire of the Dead.

Paris’ dead had been buried in cemeteries and beneath churches in the city center, but the number of bodies began to overwhelm the land, breaking through the walls of people’s cellars and causing major health concerns.

So, beginning in the 1780s, the bodies were transferred in carriages at night to a new, final resting place in the old quarries.

In those tunnels there are now the remains of more than six million people. And for the cataphiles, the life among the dead opens up new dreams and possibilities.

“It’s like an alternate reality,” Antoine-Gambeaud said. “You don’t have the same sort of social interaction with people as you do above. You are free to invent yourself again, to be somebody else.”

Source: Underground Paris’s secret life

United States Women’s Gymnastics Team Wins Gold

July 31, 2012 · Posted in Olympics · Comments Off on United States Women’s Gymnastics Team Wins Gold 
olympic gymanstics

Doug Mills/The New York Times

“For Jordyn Wieber, the team victory was sweet redemption after she failed to qualify for the all-around final.”

For the first time since the Magnificent Seven won in 1996,  the U.S. gymnastics team for women, has won a gold medal in the team event. According to the New York Times article for  July 31, 2012, they “did it in dominating fashion.” Their performances were solid and led from start to finish with a wide gap between them and the Russian team who won the silver medal. There was an even larger gap between the Romanian team who won the bronze.

They stood restrained, not showing a celebratory spirit, until the official score displayed the United States at the top of the leader board. At which time they broke out in an enthusiastic show of hugs, chants and roars. The victory helped assuage the pain of loss that Jordyn Wieber experienced when failing to qualify in the all-around final.


Discrimination Still Occurring in 21st Century America

July 30, 2012 · Posted in Civil Rights · Comments Off on Discrimination Still Occurring in 21st Century America 

It has been almost 50 years, since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet discrmination is still happening. A black couple seeking to be married in a Mississippi church, First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, were asked to marry elsewhere by Rev. Stan Weatherford. He said that he was honoring a request by some congregants who didn’t want the couple married at the church. Church refuses to marry black couple in Mississippi.

Timeline of the events involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights Movement Events

July 30, 2012 · Posted in Civil Rights · Comments Off on Civil Rights Movement Events 

April 1948

Gladys Noel Bates, a teacher in the Jackson Public School system, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Jackson Public School Board for its refusal to pay black teachers and administrators salaries equal to those paid to whites with similar experience and educational background.

May 17, 1954

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, ruled unanimously that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The court argued that segregation hurt both black and white students by instilling in each group false feelings of inferiority and superiority, respectively. The court added that the damage segregation did to blacks was “likely never to be undone.” This ruling opened the floodgates of civil rights activity and led to more than a decade of protest against inequality and injustice in other areas of American life.

September 13, 1954

 Medgar Evers (later the state director of the NAACP) applied to University of Mississippi Law School but was denied admission because he lacked “the right kind” of recommendation letters. As a result, Ole Miss remained closed to blacks until the admission of James Meredith in 1962.

December 1954
Medgar Evers becomes NAACP Field Secretary

May 7, 1955 —
Reverend George Lee shot and killed

December 5, 1955 —
Montgomery Bus Boycott

August 1955 —
Lamar Smith shot in Brookhaven

August 28, 1955 —
Emmett Till murdered

1956 —
State Legislative Session establishes Mississippi State Sovereignty Commision

September 9, 1957 —
Civil Rights Act of 1957

1957 —
Clyde Kennard attempts to enroll

September 24-25, 1957 —
Little Rock crisis

Civil Rights Act of 1960 —
allowed for the federal supervision of local registrars

February 1, 1960 —
Initiation of student sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina

November 8, 1960 —
Election of JFK

January 1961 —
James Meredith applies for admission to the University of Mississippi.

May 4, 1961 —
Freedom Rides

March 27, 1961 —
Arrest of Tougaloo 9

September 25, 1961 —
Murder of Herbert Lee

October 4, 1961 —
high school students jailed in McComb

Anniston bus bombing
August 28, 1963 — March on Washington, D.C.June 11, 1963 — Assassination of Medgar Evers
Civil Rights Act of 1964

1964 —
Freedom SummerJune 21, 1964 —
Neshoba County killingsAugust 6, 1965 —
Voting Rights Act1969 — Meridian church bombingJanuary 1966 —
Murder of Vernon Dahmer


©2000 Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage

Prepared by the
Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage
at The University of Southern Mississippi


Multimedia Design: Diane DeCesare Ross


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