The Salvation Army is an extraordinary organization. There are very few countries of the world where it is not known and appreciated. Yet this worldwide organization began in unpromising circumstances. 

In 1865, its founder William Booth was a young Methodist minister who walked the most depressing streets in London’s East End. While he was sometimes able to pray for the men and women who gathered around him, he also encountered mocking people who threw stones.

Booth persisted. Day after day, he found the courage to go out into the streets with his wife, Catherine and a few followers. For those who responded to their invitation, they held meetings in whatever available place they could find - a tent, an old warehouse, even a dance hall. During these meetings they tried to attend to the spiritual and material needs of the poor and miserable.

At first the group called themselves the Christian Mission, but in 1878 they adopted a kind of military system and renamed themselves the Salvation Army. William Booth had the rank of General, and both he and other staff wore uniforms.

The Army grew with breathtaking speed. Today, it operates as a Christian church, a huge charity and a social services organization as it attempts to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the destitute and hungry. It is concerned with the advancement of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable activities.

The Army is divided into territories, which are made up of divisions, which in turn consist of corps and outposts or mission stations. The General and other international officers work out of the international headquarters in London.

The Salvation Army has set up thousands of posts throughout the world. At these locations its numerous social work activities include hotels with inexpensive food and lodging, orphanages, rescue homes, day nurseries factories, farm colonies, insurance societies and so on.

The Army is a prominent non-governmental relief agency and is usually among the first to arrive with help after natural or man-made disasters. It works to alleviate suffering and help people rebuild their lives. 

The Salvation Army is well known in the Caribbean. According to the international organization, “In 1887 The Salvation Army ‘opened fire’ in Kingston, and thence spread throughout the island of Jamaica and to Guyana (1895), Barbados (1898), Trinidad (1901), Grenada (1902), St. Lucia (1902), Antigua (1903), St. Kitts (1904), St Vincent (1905), Belize (1915), Suriname (1924), the Bahamas (1931), Haiti (1950), French Guiana (1980), and St Maarten (1999). The General of The Salvation Army is a Corporation Sole in Jamaica (1914), Trinidad and Tobago (1915), Barbados (1917), Guyana (1930), the Bahamas (1936), Antigua (1981) and St Vincent (1993).”

 In 2005 the Army was operating in 111 countries and providing services in 175 different languages. Its members met in 14,918 churches called "corps," "halls" or "citadels" etc

The Salvation Army, one of the world’s largest providers of social aid, spends billions every year providing needed relief to people. Even when the media fail to mention it, the Army is often there - in disaster relief or in refugee camps - faithfully and quietly serving.


The Electric Eel

 The electric eel, Electrophorus electricus, strikes fear into the hearts of people who live in areas where they might come into contact with them. Such people want to stay clear of the nasty electric shock the eel is capable of delivering.  

However, not everyone is likely to make contact with the electric eel. In Guyana and other South American countries, electric eels tend to live in rivers and creeks or even in swamps, quietly concerning themselves with the fish, amphibians and even birds and small mammals they feed on. 

Normally, they move sluggishly in the water constantly emitting just about 10 volts of electricity, using it like radar to find their way around in their natural habitat. If they need to, however, they may give out a jolt of electricity of over 600 volts - over 4 times the voltage that comes from a wall socket.

Because of their reputation for this kind of shocking behavior, electric eels get noticed when they turn up in the catch of fishermen. If an electric eel turns up jumping in a fisherman’s net, the fisherman usually gets rid of it with some urgency. The same is true when an eel swallows a fisherman’s hook and is landed. It is even more so when people who catch fish by feeling for them with their bare hands make contact.

Some people come into contact with electric eels as they bathe in creeks and rivers.  The eels often cause a great commotion because they are likely to discharge their electricity in such situations, or to be mistaken for snakes in the water.

The shock from an electric eel could kill an adult human, but this rarely happens. However, a series of  shocks can cause respiratory or heart failure, and people have been known to drown in shallow water in such circumstances.

Freshwater predators themselves, electric eels use their high electric charge against not only those who would prey on them but also on intended prey.  Their bodies contain electric organs with about 6,000 specialized cells called electrocytes that store power like tiny batteries.  

When the eels are threatened or are attacking prey, these cells discharge simultaneously. The eels are capable of varying the levels of the electrical discharge, depending on whether they are hunting or stunning prey. 

These creatures are called electric eels but they are not actually eels. They are fish, and are more closely related to carp and catfish than eels. As air-breathers, they come to the surface every 10 minutes or so, gulp air then return to the bottom. 

Electric eels have long, snake-like cylindrical bodies and flattened heads and are generally dark green or grayish on top with yellowish coloring underneath. Over their 15-year lifespan, they often grow to a length of more than 8 feet and acquire more than  44 pounds in weight.

More often, however, one would encounter eels about three feet long and six inches in diameter, as these are very common in the rivers.


The legendary flower of Christmas

The story goes that one Christmas Eve a long, long time ago, Pepita, a very poor girl in Mexico was distraught because she had no gift to present to the Christ Child. As she walked slowly to the church with her cousin, Pedro, her heart grew increasingly heavy.

Pedro tried to console his cousin. The humblest of gifts, given in love, he told her, will be acceptable to the Baby Jesus. She accepted that, but still could not shake off the terrible sadness that seized her.

Pepita eventually knelt by the roadside, gathered some ordinary weeds, and made them into a small bouquet. In spite of her efforts, they still looked like ordinary weeds. She was in tears as she entered the church.

At the church, a manger scene had been set up. The other children were proudly going to Baby Jesus and giving him fine presents. All she had were these unattractive weeds.

As she approached the figure of the Christ Child, she made herself focus on love for him rather than on the kind of gift she brought. And suddenly there was a miracle.

As she presented it, the bouquet of weeds amazingly burst into blooms of brilliant red. People who saw the flowers that the weeds had become were, like Pepita herself, amazed. They began to call them the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night. And from then on, all over Mexico this kind of flower bloomed each year during the Christmas season. Today, the common name for this plant is the poinsettia!

Another version of the legend makes the children Maria and her brother Pablo, but the story is much the same.

As we all know, the most prominent colors at Christmastime are green and red. There are green Christmas trees and red flowers, notably the exquisite poinsettia.

Legend aside, it seems that the plant, native to Mexico, was familiar to the ancient Aztecs. They called it ‘cuetlaxochitle,’ and used the red bracts for making a dye. To them, the plant was a symbol of purity.

The unromantic chroniclers say that the use of the poinsettia as a symbol of Christmas may have arisen in the 1600’s when some Franciscan priests who were living in Mexico became enchanted by the attractive red coloring the flowers displayed as the holiday season began.

The flower was given the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima. Pulcherrima is Latin for ‘very beautiful.’ Later however, the plant was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, for his role in introducing it to America.

Now there is a National Poinsettia Day, which takes place on December 12th through an act of the American congress. The day commemorates the death of Poinsett.

Colorful as the flowers and other Christmas decorations are, for Christians these are not the central aspect of Christmas. For Christians, it is that the Baby Jesus was God incarnate who grew up to be a man and that he lived, died and rose again to provide eternal life for mankind.



When Arthur Schomburg’s Puerto Rican fifth grade teacher told him “Black people have no history, no heroes, no great moments,” the teacher began in Schomburg a crusade that was to greatly benefit the study of black history in the United States and the world. 

To prove his teacher wrong, Schomburg collected more than 45,000 books, periodicals and pamphlets, 4000 manuscripts, 200 scrapbooks, over 1000 microfilm reels of Afro-American newspapers, and 140 pieces of African art. 

Included in the collection were copies of the 1792-93 almanacs of Benjamin Banneker (Schomburg was specially proud of these); Clotel, the first novel published by a black American; early editions of the poems of Phillis Wheatley; the addresses and broadsides of free men of color and numerous other items. 

Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on January 24, 1874.  He attended elementary schools in San Juan. 

He left the island for the States in April 1891, taking up residence on the Lower East Side of New York. Schomburg read law for five years, but found work with black study groups more engrossing than law. He was founder and secretary of the Negro Society for History and Research (1911), and president of the American Negro Society (1922-26).

For a time he worked as a clerk for the New York Bankers Trust Company. At his own expense, he would go to Europe, North Africa and South America during his vacation for one purpose – to search for books, pamphlets, manuscripts, letters, paintings, etchings and the like, by and about people of African descent. In time, his library came to contain many rare and unusual items from all over the world. Naturally, the Caribbean and Latin America were represented in his collection.

Schomburg's collection became a pillar of The New York Public Library's Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints, and he would lend objects from his personal library to the 135th Street Branch in Harlem.

 In 1926, the Carnegie Corporation paid Arthur Schomburg the sum of $10,000 for his collection which then became the property of the New York Library. The library needed it.

Schomburg had been involved in the "Harlem Renaissance," a social and literary movement that started in Harlem but which spread to African-American communities throughout the United States.  Focused on providing proof of the extraordinary contributions of peoples of African descent to world history, he shared his knowledge with the young scholars and writers of the New Negro movement.  

Schomburg dedicated his life to collecting materials that would “confirm and affirm the history and contributions of people of color.” He became widely known for his extensive collection and respected for his skills as a bibliophile. He was particularly admired for his ability to find rare or lost materials.

 In 1930 Schomburg was asked to establish a collection of resources in Black history and culture for the library at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee and to plan for the library's new acquisitions. Schomburg then gave up his job at the bank and served as curator for the Negro Collection in Fisk's Cravath Memorial Library for two years.

In 1932, however, he returned to become the curator of the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. He had the unique pleasure of being paid by the City of New York. to maintain a collection which he himself had put together over the years.

After his death in 1938, his collection was called the Schomburg Collection. Today it has grown into the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture  and continues to serve as a “national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world.”

A constantly expanding resource, the Center has a theater, two galleries, a lecture hall, and over 125,000 books.


A Caribbean Favorite

Mangoes are among the most loved and celebrated fruits in the Caribbean. They grow in such easy abundance in this region that they would seem native to the this part of the world. 

But Mango -  Mangifera indica L. Anacardiaceae- originated in southern Asia. The first plants to arrive in Jamaica were captured from a French ship on the high seas by one of Admiral Lord Rodney’s ships, the HMS Flora, and taken to the island in 1782. 

Over the centuries, men have used their skills in grafting to produce dozens of varieties of the most delectable eating fruit in the world.

Today, mangoes come in various shapes, colors, flavors and consistency of flesh. They may be oval or round or kidney shaped; although they all tend to start out green when immature, the outer skin of the ripe fruit may be yellow, orange, red, purplish or combinations of these colors; the basic sweet mango taste may hint at other fruits such as peach, coconut, pineapple, berry, even lime; the consistency of flesh may range between smooth and melting and firm and fibrous, between light and dense. 

Every Caribbean territory has its own favorites. Jamaica has its Julie, Bombay and Haden. Guyana has its Buxton Spice, Long Mango and Turpentine.  

In mango season, children of the Caribbean find a mango tree loaded with fruit almost magnetic. Boys routinely get into trouble climbing other people’s mango trees. Girls love to cut up the sour green fruit fresh, and eat it with pepper and salt. 

Adults too use the unripe fruit in many ways. They too add pepper and salt and sugar to make pickles, chutneys, and salads.  They also make mango nectar, jams and other sweet delicacies. Pickled, cooked, crushed, dried, grated, pulped, chopped or scooped, mangoes are enjoyed in all forms for their unique taste. 

 But it is as just plain fruit that mangoes excel.

The Mango Sellers, a children’s song by Guyanese, Sister Rose Magdalene, reflects traditional mango life in much of the Caribbean.

Early in the morning, before the break of day

See the market women going on their way

Baskets filled with mangoes, ripe, juicy and sweet

Their faces bright, their eyes alight

Swaying down the street.

The chorus is:

Get your mangoes, ripe, ripe mangoes

The market women cry

Sweet and nice, Buxton Spice

Come to market and buy. 

Fully ripe mangoes are generally very juicy and are difficult to eat without making a mess. It is easy to get yellow mango stains on your clothing.  Because of this, eating mangoes in formal settings could be a problem.  

However, there are types of mango you can roll between your palms so that the insides get pulped. You can then bite or cut a hole in the skin and neatly suck the contents out. To do this, you need to squeeze the mango gently as you suck, taking care that you do not apply so much pressure that the sides of the mango would split. These mangoes must have flexible skin that doesn’t break as you squeeze them. In India, such mangoes are called “sucking mangoes.” 

Many people feel however, that there should not be a lot of fuss about eating a mango. Eat it at home, they say. Use an apron, if necessary; and make a mess, if you must. Hold it in your hands and let the juice run down to your elbows, if you wish. Enjoy your mango, change your clothes, and take a bath.

It is not surprising to learn from the Indian writer Madhur Jaffrey of a mango- centered ritual for all graduations from school or college in many Indian communities – a mango and ice cream party, in which family members of all ages take part.

She says: “For most Indians, the mango is, quite simply, the King of Fruit, no questions asked. And most Indians would not even try to define its flavour. No, a mango is like nothing else. It is, itself.”



The story of Wilma Rudolph

Who was the first American woman runner to win three gold medals at the Olympics?  Her name was Wilma Rudolph – a young black woman of extraordinary courage and achievement.

As a young child she had double pneumonia and scarlet fever. In addition, she contracted polio and became crippled. Her doctor said she would never be able to walk.

Yet on September 7th, 1960, in Rome, Wilma became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals at the Olympics.  She won the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, and ran the anchor on the 400-meter relay team. 

Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940, the 17th of 19 children. A premature baby, she weighed 4 1/2 pounds. Because of her early illness, most of her childhood was spent in bed.

After it was discovered that she had polio, her mother devotedly took her twice a week for therapy to Nashville's Meharry Medical College, a hospital for blacks 50 miles away. Often too, her mother, despite tiredness from the day’s work, would sit on Wilma's bed and massage her polio-stricken daughter's leg telling her she would one day walk without braces.

Wilma’s many brothers and sisters pitched in, taking turns massaging her crippled leg and even reported on her if she removed her braces. She so badly wanted to be normal, even exceptional, she would sometimes put them aside. She used those braces from age 6 till age 9.  In the meantime, she survived childhood whooping cough, measles and chicken pox.

After shedding the braces, she was able to walk only with the aid of a special shoe. Three years later, however, she discarded the shoe and joined her brother in backyard basketball games.

Rudolph attended Burt High School. While there, she became a record-setting basketball star. By the time she was 16, she was part of the U.S. Olympic track and field team, earning an Olympic Bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

In 1957, Rudolph enrolled at Tennessee State University and began working towards the Olympic Games in Rome. At Tennessee State, she set the world record for 2000 meters in July of 1960. Wilma Rudolph was now an impressive 5-feet-11 and 130 pounds. And she was fast. A commentator remarked suggested: don't blink. You might miss her. And that would be a shame.

And now, the Olympics. At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. She broke records as she won the 100- and 200-meter races and anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 4 x 100-meter relay.

Rudolph said she had a special, personal reason to want to win. She wanted to pay tribute to an American athlete who was her inspiration - Jesse Owens, the star of the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, Germany. Sports Illustrated reported that in the selfsame Germany mounted police had to keep back Rudolph’s admirers in Cologne. In Berlin, fans stole her shoes then besieged her bus, beating on it with their fists until she acknowledged them.

She received numerous awards and was called many wonderful things. In America, she was "The Tennessee Tornado," the Italians nicknamed her "La Gazzella Nera" (the Black Gazelle) and the French called her "La Perle Noire" (The Black Pearl).

She has become one of the most celebrated athletes of all time. "She's done more for her country than what the U.S. could have paid her for," one observer said.

Described as soft-spoken and gracious in manner, she both inspired and paved the way for African-American athletes, both men and women, who came later.

When she was returning from Rome, segregationist Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington, planned to head the welcome home celebration for the Tennessee star, but Rudolph said she would not participate in a segregated event. As a result, Rudolph's parade and banquet were the first integrated events in Clarksville, her hometown.

Rudolph was later to serve in many useful ways – including as track coach, as athletic consultant, and as assistant director of athletics for the Mayor's Youth Foundation in Chicago. She established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, became a noted goodwill ambassador, was a talk show host and was active on the lecture circuit. On November 12, 1994, Wilma Rudolph died at her home in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Her Foundation Award is presented to “a female athlete who exhibits extraordinary courage in her athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as an inspiration and role model to those who face challenges, overcomes them and strives for success at all levels.”

 Very fitting. 



 What is the largest animal in the world?  Without a doubt, the blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus. With lengths up to 100 feet (30 m) and weights up to 150 tons (136 metric tons), the blue whale is believed to be the largest animal that ever lived on this planet.

Blue-grey in color, and with whitish or light yellow undersides, it has a relatively long body and looks more tapered than other whales.  It is believed that blue whales live to be about 110 years old.  

The blue whale’s mouth is as large as a small garage and can accommodate 50 standing people. Its tongue is about the size of an elephant and it has the largest heart in the animal world – the dimensions of a small car. A human baby could manage to fit into the largest artery in the whale’s body, its aorta, which is about 9 inches in diameter.

At birth, a baby whale weighs about 6000 lbs – the same as a fully-grown hippopotamus. It doubles its length in about six months. During this period, it drinks approximately 100 gallons of milk every day, gaining 200 pounds of weight every 24 hours. This rate of growth is 1,000 times faster than that of a human baby in the womb.

Yet the blue whale’s throat is so small that it cannot swallow an object larger than a beach ball. The enormous blue whale feeds on tiny organisms called krill. However, it consumes four tons of krill a day -   the same as eating an elephant. It strains sea water through comb-like structures in its mouth called baleen. Baleen plates hang from the upper jaw and run back into the mouth, acting like a sieve. The plates are made of keratin - a substance also found in people’s fingernails and the hooves of horses and cows.

When surfacing to breathe, the blue whale raises its shoulder and blowhole region out of the water to a greater extent than other large whales. During breathing, the whale emits an impressive vertical single column blow that can reach 20 feet into the air and be seen for many miles on a clear day.

Blue Whales can reach speeds of 30 mph in short bursts, but 12 mph is closer to their usual traveling speed. When feeding, they move at about 3 mph.

They are found in all the oceans of the world, often feeding near the poles in spring and summer and migrating to the warmer waters of the equator in the fall. While in their wintering grounds, the whales fast, relying on the fat on their bodies to see them through. In the warm waters they give birth to their young. 

The blue whale is not only the largest but also the loudest animal in the world and communicates with other whales over hundreds of miles. But the frequencies of the sound it emits are so low, between 10 and 40 Hz, that human ears won’t normally t hear them.

Whales have been hunted for their bones, the oil in their blubber and also for their meat. By the 1960s they were near extinction. Hunting of the species was internationally outlawed in 1966. Hunting ceased in 1967 and stocks in the Southern Hemisphere and North Pacific are currently recovering.  In 2002 a report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide.

Man has been the blue whale’s greatest predator. Its only predator in the wild is the Orca or killer whale. One report says that as many as 25% of mature Blue Whales have scars resulting from Orca attack.



Each June 12, Loving Day is celebrated all across America. Loving Day is not a special day dedicated to romantic love. Yes, Loving Day about loving, but also about marriage. Loving Day was named after Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and black woman who dared to marry in Virginia when mixed marriages were illegal – and dangerous.

Before June 12th, 1967, the date of the Supreme Court decision entitled “Loving v. Virginia,” states could legally separate and punish interracial couples if they had sexual relations, married or lived together. Sometimes ordinary people violently assaulted interracial couples. The Loving couple fought to bring an end to such laws in the United States. 

Their case started in Central Point in rural Caroline County, Va., about 100 miles south of the District of Columbia. Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were young people in love. She was black and he was white. 

They first met when she was 11 years old and he was 17.  Friendship was followed by love and then by pregnancy when she was 18. An illegitimate child was a stigma nationwide in the early 1950s, and Richard wanted to head off the embarrassment. 

 In 1958 the couple drove 80 miles to Washington, D.C., where interracial marriages were legal, took their vows, and returned home to Central Point to start a new life. Someone must have complained, and at 2 a.m. they were arrested in bed by deputies. 

They were prosecuted and sentenced to a year in jail. Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile suspended the sentence but practically banished them from their home. 

In his ruling, Bazile said: "Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, Malay, and red and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.” 

    The couple avoided a year in jail by agreeing to a sentence mandating, "both accused leave Caroline County and the state of Virginia at once, and do not return together or at the same time to said county and state for a period of 25 years."

The Lovings moved into exile to the District of Columbia. And then they began a series of lawsuits. It was not until 1967, however, 13 years after Brown v. Board of Education ended segregated schools, that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law that punished them. 

After the Supreme Court ruling, Richard, a quiet blue-collar man, moved his family into a small house on Passing Road. They were celebrities of a sort and there was much they could say. Richard was not a talker, however, and it was  Mildred who gave the interviews. The Lovings just tried to concentrate on living their lives. They had three children. 

In 1975, a drunken driver struck their car, killing Richard and injuring Mildred, who lost her right eye. He was buried in a small cemetery a few minutes from their home. 

The story of the Lovings was made into a movie in 1996 titled Mr. & Mrs. Loving. It starred Lela Rochon, Timothy Hutton, and Ruby Dee. The screenplay was written and directed by Richard Friedenberg. 

Today, thousands observe Loving Day in various ways. Interracial couples, their families and others hold barbecues, and other kinds of get-togethers, eat soul food, and generally pass the time in pleasant ways. Others discuss the history of interracial life in the United States. 

Mildred Loving is still alive, aged 67 (in 2007). In spite of the historic nature of the Loving case, Mildred regards Loving Day is just another day.  She said: “Sometimes I forget.”  

    "It wasn’t my doing," Loving told The Associated Press, in a rare interview. "It was God’s work."



 In the 1860s, Granville Woods was a black child with little material resources, but with a determination to get an education. He succeeded to the extent that by the end of his life he was a well-regarded inventor who had been awarded more than 60 patents. 

Granville Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856.  His father worked in a machine shop that made speed equipment for carriages and repaired railroad equipment and machinery. Granville attended school until he was 10, but had to leave to help his father in the shop. 

It was in this environment of the railroad industry that he grew up and started his working life, and in spite of the fact that he never got a regular high school or college education, he flourished.   

Granville’s apprenticeship in a machine shop taught him the skills of a machinist - making and modifying parts, mainly metal parts, according to specification, and usually from engineering drawings.

He was also apprenticed to a blacksmith, learning to create objects from iron or steel by "forging" metal. He learned to use tools to hammer, bend, cut and otherwise shape red-hot metal in its non-liquid form. The end-product of a blacksmith’s work is seen in  wrought iron gates, grills, railings, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils and other items.

Woods sought every opportunity to gain new knowledge. He would study other machine workers as they used different pieces of equipment.  

Woods could not only shape metal but use it as a conductor of electricity. He was inspired by the story of Lewis Latimer, the brilliant young black inventor who excelled in the field of electricity and who, in1884, became an engineer at the Edison Electric Light Company where he had the distinction of being the only African American member of "Edison's Pioneers" - Thomas Edison's team of inventors.

Granville Woods spent his spare time studying electronics. Many of the books he needed for his various interests were available in the library. However, because he was black, he could not, at that time, visit certain libraries himself. He therefore had to have white friends check out books for him. 

Woods took a number of college courses. So hungry he was to learn, where necessary he would even pay other workers to sit down and explain electrical concepts to him. He realized that learning and education were essential to developing the skills he needed.

He held many jobs: on the Danville and Southern railroad in Missouri, he worked as fireman, eventually becoming an engineer; in Springfield, Illinois, he worked in a rolling mill; aboard the Ironsides, a British steamer, he became its Chief Engineer within two years. He later settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he contributed to modernizing the railroad.

Among Woods’ numerous contributions was the development of a system for overhead electric conducting lines for railroads. Interested in thermal power and steam-driven engines, he filed his first patent for an improved steam-boiler furnace. He also invented  an automatic air brake used to slow or stop trains. Wood’s electric car was powered by overhead wires.

Woods also invented "telegraphony," a process that combined features of both the telephone and telegraph and allowed operators to send and receive messages more quickly than before. The Bell Company purchased this invention at a decent price and set Woods on the road to becoming a full-time inventor.

Woods’ telegraph allowed moving trains to communicate with other trains and train stations.  The engineer of a train was then able to know how close his train was to others. This information not only improved railway efficiency and but also increased safety by reducing the likelihood of  collisions between trains.

Granville Woods was a contemporary of Thomas Edison and some people called him the black Edison, after the other more well-known inventor. At one stage, Thomas Edison offered Granville Woods an important position in the engineering department of Edison Electric Light Company in New York. Granville T. Woods, preferred to remain independent and declined.

So well respected was Woods that, well before his death in 1910, the Cincinnati Ohio’s Catholic Tribune of April 1, 1887 boldly called him the greatest electrician in the world.


Entrenched Verbal Abuse 

What is a Dutch auction? It’s one that proceeds directly in reverse of an ordinary auction. Instead of starting with a low bid and attracting progressively higher bids, the auctioneer in a Dutch auction starts with a high figure, reduces the price by regular stages and finally sells to the first person who accepts his price quotation. 

“Dutch auction” is one of many expressions reflecting a once held English sentiment that the Dutch were contrary people. It was a kind of verbal abuse directed against their neighbors across the Channel. Other examples are: Dutch courage – the kind of courage that comes out of a bottle; Dutch treat or Dutch luncheon – in which the host expects each guest to pay his own way; and double Dutch - a kind of talk intended to deceive the listener. 

In these few phrases – and there are dozens more – the English have implied that the Dutch are cowardly, miserly and deceitful. Yet the rest of the world sees Holland differently. Reference to this country invokes images of tulips, windmills, and dykes instead. Why did the British take such a contrary view?

It was not always like this. Until well after Shakespeare’s time, the Dutch were usually well-regarded in all literary references by British authors. But during the 17th century the two nations became rivals in international commerce and therefore enemies. Both wanted control of sea routes that were important to them, especially those from the rich spice islands of the East Indies. The two countries fought three wars at sea between the years 1652 and 1674. In May 1667, the Dutch went as far as to sail up the Medway River and sink British ships, and also to blockade the Thames. It was during this period that the disrespectful references began.

One of the earliest - a reference to Dutch courage – came from the poet Edmund Waller in 1665: 

The Dutch their wine and all their brandy lose,

Disarmed of that from which their courage grows.

More recently, of course, Great Britain and the Netherlands have lived in peace and fellowship for many years. But the derogatory phrases, created in a time of war and rivalry, remain. One still hears occasionally of Dutch reckoning (guesswork); Dutch defense (retreat or surrender); Dutch metal (an alloy of copper and zinc used as a substitute for gold foil); Dutch comfort or Dutch consolation (in which somebody might say "thank God it is no worse!"); Dutch concert (in which each musician plays a different tune); and Dutch uncle (someone who criticizes or rebukes you as if he really was your relative).

And a pig-headed or stubborn man is one whose Dutch is up. 


Why do they call them a national treasure?

 If you travel around the island of Barbados, you will likely notice brownish looking sheep grazing in small pastures or tethered by the roadside. Visitors may at first take them for goats, but most likely they are the famous Barbados Blackbellies. 

The Barbados Blackbellies, called one of the island’s national treasures, are hair sheep.  Instead of long, wooly coats, hair sheep have coarse hair and a short undercoat.  

The main difference between hair sheep and wool sheep is the ratio of hair to wool. All sheep have both hair and wool. In hair sheep, hair fibers predominate; in wool sheep, wool fibers predominate. 

Barbados Blackbelly sheep are indigenous to Barbados. Like most hair sheep in the Caribbean, they descended from sheep transported to the islands from West Africa in the 1500s. They look somewhat like antelopes, and are brown tan or yellow in color. 

Why are Barbados Blackbellies valuable? One reason is their high reproductive efficiency.. For this reason alone, more and more sheep farmers in many parts of the world are turning to rearing them. 

They are also relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain. For sheep farmers, other attractive features are their resistance to parasites, resistance to foot problems, ability to tolerate heat and humidity, and their lack of wool. 

Wool production used to be an important part of the sheep rearing industry. Not as much, these days. Wool is not as profitable as it used to be. Meat is the primary source of income. 

 Wooled sheep need shearing. Hair sheep do not. Hair sheep also do not need their tails docked. For  and sanitation reasons, most wool sheep must have their tails removed.

Another attractive feature of the Barbados Blackbelly is that the lambs have less body fat than other breeds. Some Barbados restaurants feature local Barbados Blackbelly lamb on the menu and its popularity is likely to grow as people seek to reduce their intake of fat. 

In 1904 to the USDA imported blackbellies to its research station in Beltsville, Maryland. The breed was later crossed with European breeds. Today, the descendants of those blackbellies are quite different from the original.  They are trophy or game animals in Texas, and have very large horns, or they are small and agile animals, running all day in sheep dog trials and demonstrations.

Occasionally, sheep in the United States are called Barbados Blackbellies even though they do not resemble blackbellies at all. Now, there is renewed interest in the real thing; and to see the real thing, your best bet is Barbados.


Winifred Atwell was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad, where she and her parents lived on Jubilee Street. She was trained as a pharmacist and was expected to become part of the family-owned pharmacy. Instead, she became a world-famous pianist.

A popular performer in Trinidad in her youth, she played for American servicemen at their air force base.  While playing there, someone challenged her to play something in the boogie-woogie style, then popular in the United States. She responded by writing and playing "Piarco Boogie" which was later renamed "Five Finger Boogie". Listen to it here.

Winifred left Trinidad in the early 1940s to study music, first in the United States and then in London. At the Royal Academy of Music in London, she became the first female pianist to be awarded the Academy's highest grading for musicianship. From playing rags at London clubs and theatres to finance her studies she moved up to topping the bill at the prestigious London Palladium.

She became a phenomenal Decca recording star - unquestionably the biggest selling pianist of her time.  Her "Black And White Rag"  (click here to hear it) had thousands of pianists turning to her honky-tonk style of playing.

 Her brilliant career earned her a fortune. She played the first piano instrumental to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart, was the only holder of two gold and two silver discs for piano music in Britain, and was the first black artist in the UK to sell a million records. No wonder her hands were insured with Lloyds of London for a quarter of a million dollars.

With her concerts drawing standing room only crowds in Europe, she played for an estimated 20 million people.  When Winifred Atwell had the honor of  playing  at a private party for Queen Elizabeth II, the admiring queen requested an encore performance of her “Roll Out the Barrel".

Winifred was also a solid radio and television favorite. She had her own television series in Britain and also in Australia where she was a wild celebrity, and where she became a citizen two years before her death in 1983.

She often returned to visit her native Trinidad and bought a house in Saint Augustine, a home she renamed Winvilla.

It’s A Fact - Page 7

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