Into The Valley Of The Mallee

Herald Sun

During WWII, Australia, like many countries, forced citizens to ration supplies. While fuel was rationed, wood was not, so these Australians used all manner of buggy to tote mallee root home. Never heard of mallee root? Well, it’s the rootstock of a mallee tree, of the genus Eucalyptus, which we’ve all heard of, because we picture koalas snug in their branches. And you probably have zero where you live. But Down Under, it was used to burn, like charcoal. Not a pretty sight, but functional.

Four springs ago, a competition was held for biggest mallee root, and this entry from Tooleybuc (a glorious name) was just shy of winning. However, it was more photogenic than the winner, so please enjoy what appears to be a sports bra hanging from its upper root.

But mallee isn’t just for drying skivvies. No indeed. At the mallee root festival in Ouyen, guests witness root tossing competitions. Whoever throws a 9 kilo (nearly 20 lb) stump the furthest, wins. I suppose when they’re done, they can simply set fire to all the mallee and be done with it.

And if you were lucky enough to win the event’s root lotto, you could later enjoy the evening in the honeymoon suite at the Patchewollock Pub. Who knew pubs had suites? Well, this one even has murals.

Their Facebook site reads like another language:

The Dry and Flynn Gurry this Saturday night… Fairy floss and snacks available. Enter paddock next to the pub via Federation Street near the truck stage.”

Pardon me?

Seventeen Encourages Good Ethics

My April 1947 Seventeen magazine includes some cute rhymes to help teens be better human beings. The threat of a $100.02 fine (or $1,212 today, adjusted for inflation) should prove effective. I’ve never paid a library fine, nor a Blockbuster fee, as I try to live my life by the rules. But I can’t imagine anyone accruing over a thousand dollars in library fees, no?

This next image warns against tardiness, a reprehensible character flaw.

I am reminded of the chorus to Genesis’ “Misunderstanding.”

There must be some misunderstanding
There must be some kind of mistake
I was waiting in the rain for hours
You were late

Lastly, we see a milkman at sunrise, stumbling upon a woman who has forgotten her key, but somehow managed to locate a fluffy pillow.

If this was geared toward 1940s teens, I’m not sure of the implications. Surely not the walk of shame. Couldn’t she simply have knocked on the door and had her parents open it? I don’t get it.

When Granddad Threatens To Harness The Power Of The Sun

Nat Geo 9/48

I don’t know anything about machines, so that looks like a cross between one of my mixing bowls (which reminds me, I need to make tuna salad tonight) and a hubcap, next to some cans of motor oil. It is, in fact, a solar-powered steam engine built by noted astrophysicist Dr. Charles G. Abbot. As any fool can see, the reflector focuses the sun’s rays on the boiler tube, which generates steam that drives the tiny engine. No duh.

But Abbot was smarter than the whole lot of us, retiring as both the director of the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory, as well as the first Smithsonian Secretary not to die in office. Furthermore, it appeared that he might never die out of office, as the bloke who was already 76 in the above image still yet had another quarter century to fiddle around with gadgets. He spent over 40 years developing and maintaining solar monitoring systems as his mission in life. Here you see him (in an almost Chester Conklin mustache) with his silver-disc pyrheliometer, which measured direct beam solar irradiance.

He invented the solar cooker, which was first built at Mount Wilson Observatory, the solar boiler, and held fifteen other patents related to solar energy. At 96, he was still going strong, holding what appears to be an extensive CVS receipt, but is actually a print-out of solar observations.

wikipedia

My observation: it’s hot.

What Eating Feels Like When You Have COVID

Blah. Everything tastes like cardboard, which is to say, almost nothing. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes, you’ll get an inkling of salt or of sour, but without context of other flavors, it’s just a nasty taste on your tongue. So you look like mopey Barbara here, a four-year-old hybrid gibbon, back in September of 1948, when this National Geographic image came out.

You might hate on zoos, but Barbara’s mother decided she wasn’t too keen on her offspring and refused to feed her. So without the keeper to spoon feed her, she would have certainly perished. Like a human, she sucked her thumb and played with a rattle. And I imagine she took that bottle there as well.

My, What Lovely Scales You Have!

by Anthony Stewart for Nat Geo 9/48

Curator of fishes, the vested Dr. Leonard Schultz, takes measurements of a parrotfish from Bikini Atoll in 1948. Bikini Atoll is a coral reef in the Marshall Islands, whose inhabitants were relocated in 1946, after which the islands and lagoon were the site of 23 nuclear tests by the United States until 1958. Before and after the Navy’s blasts, 70,000 marine life specimens were collected for testing, some of which you see in jars behind the good doctor. At this point, they had determined that surviving fish showed no anatomical changes, but they were concerned about future sterility and abnormal growths caused by radiation. The article states that “eventually, with the passage of time, the fish population will return to normal.”

getty images

While fish returned, the Atoll’s residents did not. In March 1946, the residents gathered their personal belongings and  were transported 125 miles eastward to the uninhabited Rongerik Atoll, one-sixth the size of Bikini Atoll. A deep-rooted traditional belief that the island was haunted by the Demon Girls of Ujae, as well as inadequate food and water (and fish that made their legs go numb), made the move a complete failure. Families were moved to other islands and moved again.

In 1970, three families were resettled on Bikini island, totaling about 100 residents. But scientists found dangerously high levels of strontium-90 in well water, and the residents were carrying abnormally high concentrations of caesium-137 in their bodies. Even coconut crabs retained high levels of radioactivity and could not be eaten. Women noticed genetic abnormalities in their children. They were evacuated in 1980.

At this point, the atoll is occupied by a handful of caretakers. Marine life, despite being radioactive and sharks perhaps missing dorsal fins, seem to have thrived in the absence of humans.

Just Shove Your Noggin In Here, Kid

9/48 Nat Geo by Justin Locke

A supervisor at George Washington University’s then-new eye clinic checks a toddler’s eyes for double vision. The clinic routinely covered a child’s “good eye” in order to strengthen the poor one in youngsters who had lost their ability to fuse what their two eyes view into a single picture. The two onlookers seem to be sizing things up just fine.

We Buy Lizard

Charles Wharton for Nat Geo 9/48

Seems a bit steep for a cagwang (flying lemur), but let’s recognize that these prices are in Filipino money. A four foot sawa (python) could run you $1.50 in US money, up to $37.50 for a 28 foot specimen. Here we see two Filipino men holding a reticulated python and a crested serpent eagle.