April 22, 1938 - May 3, 2019
Larry was with 4-H for 27 years and retired as the Director of Communications.
Although he passed away on May 3, 2019 after a brief illness, Larry's work with and for 4-H will live on.
Although it perhaps started somewhat earlier, the decade of the 1960s produced a love affair between Americans and space exploration. And particularly the astronauts that were involved in the space program. It undoubtedly started with the space race between the US and the Soviet Union, and the launch of Sputnik by the USSR in 1957. Then came the bold challenge of President John F. Kennedy before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” And then, on July 21, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, flying on Apollo 11, set foot on the surface of the moon. And as they say, “the rest is history.”
Indeed, 4-H got caught up in this whole astronaut and space era in a number of ways. But historically, space and flight show up in 4-H history long before the 1960s.
Delegates to the 1931 National 4-H Congress in Chicago (above) were inspired to get to meet a great national hero – the man who flew over both the North and South Poles – Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.
One of the major guests attending the 1932 National 4-H Congress, handing out awards and honoring the winners, was the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
In 1933, Thomas E. Wilson brought a pair of aviators to National 4-H Congress who had become famous only the week before. Marine Major Chester Fordney and Navy LCDR T. G. “Tex” Settle made America’s first stratospheric balloon ascension on November 20, 1933, in a balloon that had a gondola brightly inscribed “A Century of Progress,” the theme of the 1933 World’s Fair. The balloon reached a height of 61,237 feet, a record that stood for many years. It was the first successful trip by man into the upper atmosphere. The pair proved to be popular guests at the 1933 National 4-H Club Congress which took place just a few days after their well-publicized trip into “space.”
Thomas E. Wilson introduces 4-H’ers (left) to the two first men in space (in uniform at right).
At a recent NAE4-HA conference two 4-H Extension agents were having a discussion. One was overheard posing a question to her colleague, “Did you know a 4-H Congress was once held in Chicago?”
For those of us old enough to have actually experienced one or more of the National 4-H Congresses in Chicago (which were actually held in that city for over 70 years), that comment would probably be a shock. But, then again, the last 4-H Congress in Chicago was 24 years ago. There may well be no need for a young Extension agent to know about these Chicago events.
But, yet, there is. National 4-H Congress in Chicago is a large part of national 4-H history. It was the premiere event on the annual 4-H calendar. It was the showcase for 4-H to the entire American population. It was the culmination of individual 4-H project achievement which extended from the club level to the awarding of scholarships in Chicago. Tens of thousands of 4-H’ers accomplished project work for six, seven, eight or more years with a goal of becoming a state winner and going to Chicago.
The history and the memories of National 4-H Congress in Chicago must be preserved. For over five years the National 4-H History Preservation team has been researching, documenting and writing this history… over 200 pages of history and still not complete! We will never be able to tell the whole story. It really cannot be done. Plus, much of the history, the records, the programs and the photos have been lost.
Guy Noble, director of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work (a predecessor to National 4-H Council), who conducted the first Armour tour of boys and girls in Chicago in 1919, and continued on with National 4-H Club Congresses for over 30 years, explained that National 4-H Club Congress cannot be described on paper. One has to be a part of it and “feel” it to fully comprehend it. Perhaps Noble was correct. Clayton Yeutter, U.S. Trade Representative and architect for NAFTA, and later U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, often remarked to audiences that every time he walked through those doors of the Chicago Hilton, chills of excitement ran down his spine remembering back to that first time he entered the Hilton’s lobby as a young Nebraska 4-H’er coming to 4-H Congress.
The Federal Extension Service Weekly Newsletter for December 10, 1970 began with a feature by Walter John, director of Information Services, FES, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Titled “4-H Congress Greatest Youth Happening in Today’s World,” John commented on the event upon his return to Washington, D.C. from Chicago. Referring to 4-H Congress, he explained, “It had just about everything that appeals to youth – serious discussion, entertainment, awards, good food, music, dancing and lots of public attention.” He went on to express his admiration for the tremendous interest and participation shown by the individual national and regional donors. “The National 4-H Congress is the epitome of success in joint action of government, education and industry in helping youth find its role in this world.”
The delegates to Club Congress were the top achievers in the National 4-H Awards programs, year after year. Many of them had worked untiringly for years to win their trip to Chicago. They had diligently assembled project record books which were judged by a national 4-H record judging committee. For many, if not most, their trip to Chicago to attend 4-H Congress was the crowning achievement of a 4-H career as a member. It was their goal. For those who received 4-H award scholarships while in Chicago, Club Congress had even more meaning. It often helped them to go to college and to choose a career. So what made 4-H Congress so very special? For many delegates it was a week of firsts. Some had never traveled on a train or airplane. Staying in the largest hotel in the world. Some had never ridden in an elevator… and the Conrad Hilton Hotel had an elevator lobby with at least 10 or 12 elevators… in the early days all manned by courteous elevator operators. For many, to sit down at an elegant banquet and be served by dozens of waiters in white coats and gloves, live music playing and face a place setting with china and crystal and six or eight pieces of silverware… definitely a new experience.
The history segment on National 4-H Congress-Chicago is near completion and will be in the National 4-H History section (at the bottom under 4-H Program Events) on the History Preservation website: http://4-HHistoryPreservation.com/History_National.asp
Over the next several issues of the 4-H History Newsletter we will be featuring various aspects of this very important event in 4-H’s history… the one that was held in Chicago!
NASA astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson embarked on her third mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in mid-November. Peggy grew up on a farm in Iowa, and was an active 4-H member. In a recent video produced by NASA and shown on PBS American Graduate Day, Peggy talked about the importance of 4-H in her life and today in the lives of millions of youth; see the interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYWk9v0jKYc .
Peggy has made NASA and space history during her career:
With her third launch into space for the Expedition 50/51 ISS mission, Peggy
became the oldest woman in space. She celebrated her 57th birthday aboard the ISS.
became the first woman to command the ISS twice on April 9, 2017.
she seized the record for most spacewalks by a female in March of 2017
surpassed Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days, 2 hours and 48 minutes of cumulative time in space. When she returns to Earth, she’ll have spent more than 650 days in space
In her first mission, Expedition 5/6 in 2002, she was named NASA’s first Science Officer.
In her second mission in 2007-08, she became the first woman to command the ISS for Expedition 16.
After returning from Expedition 16, she became the first woman appointed as chief of the NASA Astronaut Office.
During her first two missions, Peggy performed six spacewalks, totaling 39 hours and 46 minutes.
While Peggy is in space, NASA and 4-H will release a series of learning activities about how NASA prepares crews to live together in space and how youth can develop these skills for their personal lives and future education and careers. The project will be announced in December 2016 and will become available online in monthly installments on the NASA and NIFA 4-H web sites during January – April 2017.
When the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work (now National 4-H Council) was started in late 1921, it basically consisted of a staff of one person – Guy Noble – working at a “desk on loan” in the Chicago headquarters offices of the American Farm Bureau, with the assistance of a part-time secretary (also on loan). In addition to the overwhelming burden of raising funds in unchartered waters and, planning and managing the major national 4-H event, National 4-H Congress, Guy Noble also knew that it was critical to promote the concept of 4-H to broader audiences if it was to grow.
As early as 1922, before it was even a year old, the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work became a radio pioneer. Arrangements were made that year with the Westinghouse Radio Service of Chicago for news of Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work to be presented each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 PM. In 1922 there were only 30 radio stations in the country and a quarter million receiver sets scattered across the nation.
The decades of the 1920s and 1930s became a growth period for both radio and for 4-H together. At one point all the major radio networks were carrying 4-H radio programs. And, there was the National 4-H Music Hour on NBC which featured the United States Marine Corps Band and highlighted music appreciation for young people. The National 4-H News magazine carried a regular column of upcoming radio programs in their monthly publication.
David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and one of the corporate giants in the communications industry, partnered with 4-H. He became a board member of the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work and RCA would become a national sponsor, funding a new activity for 4-H Club leaders and members. It was the National Program on Social Progress which helped to train and encourage 4-H members and adults in their communities to make the community more pleasant and improve the quality of living. This included: being more “neighborly,” and more resourceful, as well as stressing more education and creative community social activities. The program placed heavy emphasis on using the radio for communications.
By the 1930s, many rural stations were hiring farm broadcasters; first to announce the grain and livestock markets each day, but then to support rural community activities and events. Four-H fit nicely into this pattern as well; with farm broadcasters becoming strong friends of 4-H. At the same time Extension at every level – federal, state and county – were embracing the use of radio. A decade later, by the end of the 40s, over half of the radio stations in the country were regularly carrying Extension programs, including much coverage of 4-H. The radio was playing in the house, the barn, the car; no longer a novelty, it was a part of our everyday lives.
In 2004 through 2006, in keeping with the Beanie Babies craze which was sweeping across the collectors’ world, Ty Beanie Babies produced “Clover, the 4-H Bear” as a 4-H Exclusive, sold only through the 4-H Mall (not at retail stores) and as an internet exclusive.
The toy bear featured the bright green and white 4-H emblem on its chest and a matching green ribbon tied in a bow around its neck. A Ty paper tag is affixed to the left ear. Inside the tag reads: “Clover, Date of birth October 2, 2004, Heads together to think things through, Hands that will work hard for you, Healthy living that we share, Hearts that show how much we care.” The Beanie stands approximately 8 ½ inches tall. The bear was available in gold fur, white fur, and tan fur.
A separate Ty Beanie Babies project was Johnny the John Deere Bear,” which was also a 4-H exclusive. The emerald green fur bear had a yellow and green John Deere logo on its chest, and a yellow visor cap on its head with a green 4-H emblem on the front, and a matching yellow ribbon tied into a bow around its neck. It’s paper Ty tag in its left ear reads: “Johnny, Date of birth June 26th 2006, Everyone across the land, Work together hand in hand, Live well; love well; think things through, And you’ll succeed in what you do!”
4-H novels and children’s books may not be well known in today’s 4-H; however, starting in the 1920s and in every decade since then, new ones have appeared. Several dozen titles are documented and, at one time, Miss Gertrude Warren from the 4-H USDA office issued a listing of “approved” 4-H juvenile literature. While current research has not uncovered this listing, many of the titles are included in the “4-H Novels” segment of the “4-H books and printed archives” section of the National 4-H History Preservation website.
“Tom Boy and the Champ,” a 1961 Signal Pictures’ production and released by Universal International-Films, starred Candy Moore, Ben Johnson, Jesse White and Rex Allen.
Tommy Jo, a 13-year-old Texas ranch girl, wins a calf at the county fair and names him “Champy.” While training the animal, Tommy Jo gets caught in a storm and develops polio. With the help of her aunt and uncle and her parson, Tommy Jo learns to walk again and discovers that the secret of training Champy is to soothe him with music. She enters her pet – now grown – in the Houston Fat Stock Show, but loses when her radio breaks down and no music is available. The parson encourages her to persevere, and with the help of the local 4-H Club, Tommy Jo is able to enter Champy in the International Live Stock Exposition in Chicago. They win the grand championship when the parson sings a song to Champy. Tommy Jo’s happiness is short-lived, however, as she learns that all champions are auctioned off for beef. Unable to raise the $30,000 auction price, Tommy Jo has a relapse and is rushed to the hospital with pneumonia. Fred Anderson, a kindly meatpacker, saves Champy from the slaughterhouse and reunites him with Tommy Jo at the hospital. During the International Exposition segment, the film shows the National 4-H Congress parade in the Arena.
Advertised through National 4-H News, “the intriguing ‘feel good’ entertainment was produced in honor of 4-H Clubs across the country.”
Music from the film includes:
Get Ready with the Ribbon, Judge Written by Tommy Reynolds and William Lightfoot
Who Says Animals Don’t Cry Written by Tommy Reynolds and William Lightfoot
“Young America,” a Twentieth Century-Fox film produced in 1941, was dedicated by the studio to “the thousands of 4-H Club leaders throughout the country.” It was considered the first major motion picture ever produced portraying the objectives of Club work.
Another thing which made “Young America” special – the premiere showing was held during National 4-H Congress in December, 1941 (probably on December 2 or 3). Little did these 1,600 delegates know that four days later – before most of them even got home – the Empire of Japan would bomb Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States of America into the second world war. The January 1942 issue of National 4-H Club News, coming out less than a month later, carries a large feature on the premiere and the film, plus a full page advertisement for “Young America” carrying a “support the war effort” theme. (Bob Cornell, one of the film’s stars, had already joined the Army by this date.)
The feature film stars Jane Withers, Jane Darwell, William Tracy, Robert Cornell, Roman Bohnen and Ben Carter.
While the movie follows a rather predictable script, 75 years ago the 4-H Congress delegates, 4-H leaders, and Extension at all levels loved it. Miss Gertrude Warren, from the 4-H Club office at USDA in Washington,, D.C. said, “We feel grateful to 20th Century-Fox for its fine portrayal of the ideals and objectives of the 4-H Club movement in ‘Young America,’ and know that it will be enthusiastically received throughout the country.”
Maynard H. Coe, chairman of the National Extension Committee on 4-H Club Work, sent a telegram to 4-H Congress which Wayne Thorndyke, national 4-H leadership winner, read to the delegates the day following the premiere. The telegram, addressed to Mis Jane Withers, stated that the 4-H members and leaders assembled at the 20th National 4-H Club Congress have today unanimously voted you a Special 4-H Award of Merit in recognition of the fine way you portrayed the ideals of the 4-H Club movement in “Young America.” It stimulates a feeling of pride for our heritage in a nation where youth is permitted to train itself in a truly democratic way in the skill and understanding needed to assume its responsibility in perfecting and preserving the American way of life. Miss Withers sent a telegram back to the delegates: “Please accept thanks from the bottom of my heart for the great honor you have conferred upon me. The 4-H Club means more to me than just a movie that I appeared in, and I will try always to be a credit to our club…”
The “Young America” film’s story is about a spoiled city girl Jane Campbell (played by Jane Withers) who is furious when her widowed father sends her to the rural town of Button Willow Valley to live with her grandmother, Nora Campbell (played by Jane Darwell). Jane and her black servant, Abraham, loathe their new surroundings, and while Abraham copes with Nora’s helper, Pansy, Jane begins attending school. Jane’s arrogance drives away all potential friends except for young David Engstrom, who nominates her for membership in the local 4-H Club. Jane, who has never heard of 4-H, is unimpressed when she learns how it promotes agricultural skills and good citizenship. Jane declines membership but changes her mind upon discovering that handsome Jonathan Blake is the club’s president. Jane’s interest in Jonathan dismays quiet Elizabeth Barnes, who is in love with him.
Elizabeth’s weak-willed father tries to comfort her by promising to buy her a purebred Hereford calf for her 4-H state fair project, but he instead loses her money in a poker game held by shady entrepreneur Earl Tucker. When Barnes tells Earl about his dilemma, Earl obtains a mixed-breed calf, then forges papers certifying its lineage. Elizabeth is delighted with her calf, which she names “Royal Jonathan II,” and happily tends to him as the months pass. Jane also chooses a calf for her project and names it “King Blake the First.” Pansy and Abraham, who have struck up a quarrelsome friendship, know that Jane is interested in 4-H only as a means to ensnare Jonathan Blake in a romance, but Jonathan still courts Elizabeth. On the day of the fair, Jane has lunch with Earl, who intimates that she will win the contest because Elizabeth’s calf is not purebred. Jane refuses to believe him but promises to buy his tractor with her prize money if she wins. Elizabeth wins, but Earl, desperate for the money, sends a telegram to the judges challenging Royal Jonathan’s lineage. The calf’s phony papers are exposed and Jane is declared the winner, but she is horrified by the proceedings, as Earl signed her name to the telegram. Barnes confesses all to his daughter, who protects him by refusing to explain the situation to the 4-H officials. Soon after, Elizabeth is suspended from the club, while Jane is ostracized by the other members for getting Elizabeth in trouble. Jonathan stands by Elizabeth, and the despondent Jane decides to return to the city. Before leaving, she sends Abraham to Earl’s office to pay a bill, and while there, Abraham overhears two government agents question Earl about a man who is wanted for draft evasion. Abraham also overhears when a drunken Barnes tells Earl that he wants to reveal the truth about Elizabeth’s calf. Abraham repeats the information to Jane, who captures the fleeing Earl and forces him to write a confession admitting full responsibility for the forged papers. The government agents then apprehend Earl, who is the draft dodger. Soon after, Elizabeth represents the club at a national 4-H meeting held in Washington, D.C., and says a fond hello to Jane and her fellow 4-H members during a radio broadcast.
“Young America” was released nationwide in early 1942. [Note: There are at least three other films produced over the years with this same title “Young America,” one as early as 1897. When searching for information on this film, be sure to include the date 1942.]
“Living in a Nuclear Age” was the first national 4-H television series designed specifically for youth in their teens. It became available early in 1973. The high energy six half-hour shows featured animated cartoon characters and the atomic sounds of Herbie Mann, Ray Brown and Barney Kessel (Columbia Studios, Hollywood) in original music compositions such as “Neutron Analytics,” “Pieces of Atoms,” and “Isotope Walk.” The animated character “Ion” was voiced by Mel Blanc (also the voice of Bugs Bunny).
The series was designed to explore not only the scientific information but the problems resulting from our move into the “Nuclear Age.” The show titles included: Discovering the Atom, Power from the Atom, Radioisotopes, Nuclear Energy and Living Things, Society and Things Nuclear, and Bombarding Things. A members’ manual and leaders’ guide accompanied the series along with other supportive materials.
The series was planned and designed by the National 4-H TV Development Committee on Civil Defense, and The Kansas State University Development Committee. Films were produced by Extension Film Production, Kansas State University and promotional materials by KSU Extension Service. The film crew traveled to many sections of the country shooting the series, including the Atomic Energy Research Labs of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The series was distributed by the National 4-H Service Committee, Chicago. The series fit well with the school system’s curriculum relating to atomic energy and also supported the growing national energy crisis, however never reached the viewership numbers of the earlier 4-H nutrition series, Mulligan Stew.
A more thorough history of the Living in a Nuclear Age series can be found on the 4-H History website in the segment on National 4-H Television Series in the National 4-H History Section.
Like many other kids, when Steve Cauthen turned nine years old he joined the local 4-H club. He and his family lived on a small 40-acre horse farm in the small Kentucky town of Walton. His main 4-H project was horses, showing at 4-H exhibitions and placing in the top three each year. He stayed in 4-H until he was 16 and then, being small in stature, he started racing. Cauthen’s first race was at Churchill Downs in May, 1976; he came in last. A week later he came in first. His rise to prominence was meteoric. He was the nation’s leader in horserace wins in 1977 with 487. His riding excellence was widely recognized: Steve was Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, Sporting News Sportsman of the Year, and Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.
Even the December, 1977 issue of National 4-H News featured Cauthen on its cover. The editor had traveled from Chicago out to New York to interview the young 17-year-old at the race track. In the 4-H News interview, Steve says that “4-H has been a part of my learning. The thing I can say for it is that it helped me see how groups work together. My friends were in 4-H and we did things together. We had duties and responsibilities in the club.” When asked what advice he could pass on to others his own age, the young man stated, “When you find something you want to do, nothing’s going to stop you from doing it, if you want to do it bad enough. It’s just important that you do your best at all times. That’s one thing I try to do. Whenever I do anything, I try to do the best I’m able. I work hard at whatever it is I do. Not just riding, but also just being a nice guy. I try to do my best. All through my career I’ve had good people around me. I’ve had my parents behind me all the way. You know, I’ve been lucky.”
Apparently, luck stayed with Steve Cauthen. The next year, 1978, “The Kid,” as he was affectionately known, won the Triple Crown riding on ‘Affirmed.’ Since 1978, no other horse has won the Triple Crown for 37 years until American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza as jockey, won the cherished Triple Crown in 2015.
Steve Cauthen’s success story… and the role that 4-H played, is certainly noteworthy.