If you are like me growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, you are acquainted with the chemical bicarbonate of soda under the brand name of Arm and Hammer. Baking soda, as it was called then, was used as an antacid for the stomach. I recall my mother making me swallow a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with a glass of water to make my stomach feel better, and it worked.
I was personally acquainted with the soda’s logo, a red circle with a muscular arm holding a steel sledge hammer inside. I really never thought much about the company, however, a little research indicated a rather interesting history.
I always thought that the company was started by the tycoon Armand Hammer. But, my research tells me that the product was in use 31 years before Mr. Hammer was born.
The logo of the brand depicts the ancient symbol of a muscular arm holding a hammer inside a red circle with the brand name and slogan. This arm and hammer represents Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking. This logo is a registered trademark of Church & Dwight, a major American manufacturer of household products.
Originally associated solely with baking soda and washing soda, the company began to expand the brand to other products in the 1970s by using baking soda as a deodorizing ingredient. The new products included toothpaste, laundry detergent, underarm deodorant, and cat litter.
Armand Hammer started out as John Dwight & Company in 1846 when John Dwight and Austin Church used their sodium bicarbonate in their kitchen. They formerly made the COW BRAND trademark on their baking soda. In 1886, Austin retired and his two sons succeeded in selling their Arm and Hammer Baking Soda through their name, Church & Company as a competing company which continued selling Cow Brand baking soda. The Church & Dwight Company was formed when the two companies were merged.
Armand Hammer was so often asked about the Church & Dwight brand that he attempted to buy the company. While unsuccessful, Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum in 1986 acquired enough stock for him to join the Church & Dwight board of directors. Hammer remained one of the owners of Arm & Hammer Company until his death in 1990.
The Arm and Hammer logo has been used in heraldry, appearing in the Coat of Arms of Birmingham, and the Seal of Wisconsin.
The similarity to the name of the industrialist, Armand Hammer, is not a coincidence as he was named after the symbol. His father, Julius Hammer, was a supporter of socialist causes, including the Socialist Labor Party of America, with its arm-and-hammer logo. This symbol is referred to by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. As of 2016 the original sign is being held in the Charles Dickens Museum in London. England.
“ARM AND HAMMER”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
Henry Starr claimed that he had robbed more banks than both the James-Younger Gang, and the Doolin-Dalton Gang put together. He began robbing banks on horseback in 1893, and ended up robbing his last bank in a Nash automobile in 1921. Thus, he was the first bank robber to use an automobile in a bank robbery. Henry is alleged to have robbed a total of 21 banks, making off with nearly $60,000 in money and gold.
He was the most notorious bank robber of the old west. He glorified himself in his autobiography, and at least didn’t blame outside influences as some do, but called it his chosen path. Starr served a total of eighteen years in prison, and was generally a model prisoner.
Born in Indian Territory near what would later become Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, on December 2, 1873, Henry Starr was a horse thief, a train robber, a bank robber, and a convicted murderer. Interestingly, he wrote an autobiography and also starred in the silent film that was made from his memoirs. The movie was titled “A Debtor to the Law”.
Henry Starr was destined to become a criminal. His grandfather, Tom Starr, was known as “the Devil’s own”, and his father, George “Hop” Starr, was a bandit in his own right. His uncle, Sam Starr, was also an outlaw and was married to the infamous Belle Starr. Henry was part Cherokee, and grew up in Indian Territory near the Arkansas border. By age sixteen he had been arrested for bringing whiskey into Indian Territory, reportedly in a stolen wagon. He jumped bail and fled the territory.
Henry could not stay out of trouble with the law. He robbed his first bank in 1893, and in all that time he only killed one man, and even that is not for sure. Starr was sentenced to hang by “hanging Judge” Isaac Parker, but won a reprieve. Eventually, no less that President Theodore Roosevelt pardoned him for bravery in disarming a noted badman, Cherokee Bill, during a prison break. It is thought that his pardon was influenced because one of Starr’s relatives was a member of the Rough Riders in Cuba.
Starr then went straight, and got married, however the state of Arkansas wanted him extradited for an old bank robbery. Starr then teamed up with Kid Wilson and robbed more banks. He was eventually caught, and served four years in prison. After he was released he robbed fourteen more banks.
Starr just couldn’t stay straight. In 1915 he tried to rob a bank in Stroud, Oklahoma, but was wounded by a teenager, and captured. He went to prison again, and after his release, re-enacted his role in a movie in 1920. But, Starr went back to robbing banks. At Harrison, Arkansas, Starr attempted to rob two banks on the same day. Unknown to Starr, the president of the People’s National Bank, W. J. Myers had hidden a .38 caliber rifle in the bank vault, and while Starr was collecting the money, Myers shot him. Starr died four days later on February 2, 1921.
Henry Starr is buried in the Dewey Cemetery north of Dewey, Oklahoma on the east side of U. S. Highway 75.
For decades afterward, Starr supporters targeted the by-then blind W. J. Myers and his family. Myers’ grandson was even targeted for kidnapping and ransom. All attempt at revenge by the Starr family proved futile.
“THE SHOOTING STARR”
BY: Neal Murphy
PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
I haven’t thought of fender skirts in years until recently. I was examining a few items in my toy car collection when I looked at my 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air which had rear fender skirts. I always liked the look on most of the 1940 and 1950 model cars which sported the skirts.
When I was a kid, I considered “fender skirts” a funny term. It made me think of a car in a dress. But with the introduction of the white wall tire the fender skirt just added a bit more class to the automobile. If you were born after 1950 you probably don’t know what fender skirts were. Well, they were installed mostly on the rear fenders to cover the top half of the wheel. They had both aesthetic and aerodynamic functions. Rather than air flowing into and being trapped in the rear wheel well, it flowed smoothly over the body work. According to some fans, the fender skirts improved gas mileage due to the air flow around the vehicle, however back in those days we weren’t particularly worried about good gas mileage as gasoline was around .30 cents a gallon, a fill-up costing around $6.00.
The fender skirts were detachable to allow for tire changes and installation of snow chains. Auto makers experimented with front fender skirts on the 1950-1954 Nash Rambler, but with very limited success because the front tires must pivot which caused problems.
The fender skirt innovation introduction by Ammos Northup became common after 1933. However, by the 1970s, fender skirts began to disappear from mass market automobiles. They remained for some time longer on a few cars, particularly large American luxury cars. By 1985 fender skirts would disappear from all standard GM cars. As of 2009, the last car produced with fender skirts was the 1999-2006 Honda Insight.
Thinking about fender skirts started me thinking about other items that quickly disappear from our language with hardly a notice - like “curb feelers”. Curb feelers were springs or wires installed on a vehicle which act as “whiskers” to warn drivers that they are too close to the curb while attempting to parallel park. The devices were fitted low on the car body near the wheels. As the car approached the curb, the protruding feelers acted as whiskers and scraped against the curb making a noise and alerting the driver in time to avoid damaging the tires or hubcaps. It seems that those curb feelers have disappeared from common use today.
Remember “Continental kits”? They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car look as cool as a Lincoln Continental. I used to see them installed on Fords, Chevrolets, and Plymouths frequently, but no more.
When did we stop talking about “emergency brakes”? At some point “parking brake” became the proper term. But I miss the hint of major drama which went with “emergency brake”, don’t you?
When was the last time you saw a car with a steering wheel knob? I had one on my first car, a 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air, and I loved it. It allowed me to steer with my left hand and put my right arm around the girl sitting next to me. I understand that the all-knowing government has outlawed their use except for people with disabilities. They changed the name of the knobs to “suicide knobs” as they contended that in the event of a collision the knob would do a number on one’s chest.
I think that almost all the old folks are gone who would call the accelerator the “foot feed”, or the windshield the “wind screen”.
Some words aren’t gone, but are definitely on the endangered list. The one that bothers me the most is “supper”. Now everybody says “dinner”. Let’s save a great word. Invite someone to supper and discuss fender skirts.
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
I know you have witnessed this strange ritual many times: A baseball player steps into the batter’s box, hits the plate with his bat, then spits. After each pitch he then steps out of the box and spits again. Or, you have seen a football player get down in his stance, stare at his opponent, then spits before the ball is snapped. I have often wondered about this spitting ritual done mostly by men. Personally I have never felt the need to spit just to be doing it, so I guess that is why I don’t understand.
Spitting is currently considered rude and a social taboo in many parts of the world, including the West. In China it is considered more acceptable. Social attitudes towards spitting have changed greatly in Western Europe since the Middle Ages. Back then, frequent spitting was a part of everyday life, and at all levels of society it was thought ill-mannered to hold back saliva to avoid spitting. By the early 1700s, spitting had become seen as something which should be concealed, and by 1859 many viewed spitting on the floor or street as vulgar, especially in mixed company.
Spittoons were used openly during the 19th century to provide an acceptable outlet for spitters. Spittons became far less common after the influenza epidemic of 1918, and their use has since virtually disappeared, though each justice of the Supreme Court of the United States continues to be provided a personal cuspidor.
So, the question is this, “Is spitting functional or gratuitous?” On the sidelines, on the team bench, television gives us up-close images of a behavior that we frown upon in homes, most interior spaces generally, and out-of-doors public places as well.
Some sports see it, others don’t. Golfers, or tennis players don’t spit. Basketball players in big indoor arenas don’t - or do they? Is social class a factor? Is the culture of a particular sport conducive or un-conducive? If so, why? I watch athletes spitting water and I wonder why don’t they just drink what they need, swallow it all, and quit there?
Could it be that spitting has to do with the degree of exertion? If you’re pushing yourself hard, especially if mouth breathing is used, the mouth tends to dry out and mucous and phlegm tend to build up. Spitting clears the mouth before you inhale and start choking.
Many basketball players spit a lot, but much of this is done over the end lines in smaller gyms, or into towels. Soccer and football players are big on expectorating, but seem to try to do it where they and others will not be falling into it. The same holds true in tennis - you don’t want to grease the court, so many wait until the breaks when they can rinse their mouth with water at the same time.
Spitting is tied to chewing tobacco in our dear old American culture, and chaw use peaked in about 1890. This cultural timing may partly explain the enduring association between chaw, baseball, and spitting - and may partly explain baseball’s remarkable supply of ritual gestures and posturing.
Another point about spitting and sport: spitting has actually become a sport. In Michigan they have cherry pit spitting contests. In the deep south I have heard of watermelon seed spitting contests. These are distance competitions. I wonder if they judge the spitter on style as well as distance?
One last thought here - that is the ritual spitting of that last mouthful of water. Not in clearing the throat, but in that last mouthful of water. Why spit it out? Is it a symbolic tribute to the gods, or to make a statement? Do you know of any sport in which women athletes spit the way men do? I can’t think of any, so spitting is perhaps male-specific. One suggestion might be this - is spitting a way of an athlete marking his territory?
A lineman spits on a football field at the line of scrimmage in front of an opponent. Is he not saying, “this is my turf”? Is it not also an expression of disrespect to the opponent: “I spit in your general direction you wimpy pig-dog!” Of course, I ask myself much the same thing when I see young men and boys spitting on the street or sidewalk, too.
I suppose there is no good answer to this question. Men will continue to spit just because they can and it makes them feel good.
“THE ART OF SPITTING”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
When I was in high school during the 1950s, the game of washer pitching (Texas horseshoes) was a favorite pastime of us students. Before school, during the lunch break, and even after school one could see boys pitching washers. Occasionally a girl would participate, but it was mostly a masculine game. I loved to play and got reasonably good at it.
The school yard was replete with holes dug in the ground in order to pitch washers at them. I suspect that an inspection of the school grounds today would find no washer holes, as this game has been gone for many years, replaced by home computers, I pods, and MP3 gadgets. Boys don’t venture outdoors much anymore to play the old games.
The game was very simple to play. All one needed was a set of 2 ½ inch washers, and two 3 ½ holes dug in the ground approximately twenty feet apart. Usually two players with three washers each pitched against each other. Of course, the object of the game was to get the washer into the hole which was worth three points. A “hanger”, a washer that teetered on the edge of the hole, but did not fall in, was worth two points.
The history of washer pitching is unclear. It apparently dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece around 500 BC, as evidence has been found of the game being played. The first washers were made of fired clay, and because of this they were lighter than ours.
Tradition says that washer pitching was introduced into the United States around 1873 in Indiana. It is said that pioneers took work breaks and used spare washers for their wagon wheels to play the game. In the early West Texas oil fields, workers would pitch washers using the washers from their oil derricks. However the game was introduced to the USA, I am glad that it was, as I spent many hours refining my tossing method.
In today’s modern world, I find that the game is still played, either indoors or outside. The game is now played with two boards, each with one circular hole in the center as the target, usually made of four inch PVC pipe. The boards are placed fifteen feet apart, with three washers per player. It is said that these boards with holes are superior to the holes dug in the ground because you can’t take the holes with you when you leave. I guess that logic makes sense.
Well, at least the game of pitching washers is still around. I would like to see it get started again at our high school so the modern teenager could experience the thrill of tossing a washer twenty feet and have it land squarely in the hole for three points. That is almost as exciting as scoring a touchdown, or making a three-pointer in basketball.
I grew up in a simpler time when we kids had to make up our own games to entertain ourselves. Pitching washers was one of the best.
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972