1920 is most remembered as the year women got the vote, and perhaps these very women DID vote that year. However, this was a day of leisure, a pleasant afternoon of watching boats shuttle visitors to and from the San Jacinto battlegrounds in Houston. Most Texans know the battle happened in 1836, the year Texas won its independence from Mexico, in a fight that lasted 18 minutes and wound up with Santa Anna getting his boo-tay handed to him by Sam Houston.
And while this image seems so very long ago, and none of us was alive, let’s remember that John McCain’s mom was already EIGHT years old when this photo was taken, tackling third grade and cursive. Just throwing that out there for some perspective. And she’s STILL alive.
I love vintage National Geographics. They didn’t mince words in describing these “shanty-boat folk” in May of 1932, which, though in the Depression, was STILL probably a better May than ours, as they weren’t consumed by thoughts of invisible germs killing them. Shanty-boat folk don’t care about no germs. SBF don’t care about paying property taxes, since their “crude craft of clapboards and tin” drifted along the Ohio River and down the Mississippi as they saw fit, stealing food from cornfields and berry patches, or snatching an unfortunate stray chicken. These water gypsies had been “the bane of steamboat skippers,” who tried to maneuver around them in days of yore, and continued to incite derision as the decades passed.
Inside my 11/5/51 LIFE magazine is this mostly beige page that reads
FATHER, DAUGHTER AND WATER BUFFALOES SOAK IN INDIA’S MUD-FILLED, BUT HOLY HOOGHLY RIVER
It’s an odd image, no? I’ve never found myself in similar circumstances. I wonder if there are more petite water buffaloes drowning just below the surface?
Interestingly, a 2009 Times of India article confirms the river’s sad state:
For a good part of the remaining section, the river is either made out of bounds by hideous rusting warehouses that are housed on its edge, or inexplicably hidden behind a high wall. The purpose, it appears, is to shield the city from a shame but what actually ought to have been its greatest asset and pride.
Americans are not immune to dirty rivers, either; soapboxie.com calls the Mississippi River “the Colon of America.” That’s a new one on me. The same site doesn’t even list the Hooghly River in the top 10 most polluted rivers. Their winner of the filthiest river on earth (as of May 2016) went to The Ganges River, the most sacred river in Hinduism and the third largest river (by discharge) in the world. In their words,
Many Hindus think the river’s water is so healthful they actually drink it as if it were an elixir. Be that as it may, the importance of the river cannot be overestimated, as it affects the lives of 400 million people who live near it. Unfortunately, people dump their waste into the Ganges as they use it for drinking, bathing and cooking, giving rise to many water-borne illnesses. In fact, people who can’t afford cremation throw corpses into the river. It’s hard to imagine a filthier river than the beloved Ganges.
Yikes! Makes me thankful for cleaned city water that we then push through a whole-house filter and then through another refrigerator filter to give us sparkling water. I’ll drink to that.