Westport’s George Cann tells of the changes since he and his 1951 classmates graduated from high school.
During World War II, long casualty lists appeared in newspapers, and at night they would be given over the radio for what seemed like hours at a time.
We saw the ushering in of the Atomic Age in 1945, which many say brought World War II to a close. We listened to the radio as General Douglas MacArthur accepted the surrender of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri.
We heard the news in 1948, also on radio, reporting that the State of Israel had been created. We now wonder why they did not create a state for the Palestinians!
In the mid-1940s, television came to our area and life has not been the same since. Perhaps TV viewing brought about more changes in lifestyles than any other single element during this last 55-year period.
We witnessed the transition to full mechanization of agriculture between the mid 1930s and the mid 1940s.
In 1950, war broke out in Korea and some of our class members served there. This was soon followed by war in Viet Nam.
In the 1950s, Alaska and Hawaii became states.
In the late 1950s and throughout all of the 1960s, we entered the space age which culminated by landing a manned vehicle on the moon in 1969.
We have witnessed the mass exodus of people from rural communities to take up residence in urban areas.
When we started to school the population of the United States was about 130 million; in 2001, that figure is close to 285 million.
When studying Social Studies we assumed that the boundaries of countries were permanent, but throughout the world we have seen many boundaries re-drawn and many countries re-named. We saw the Iron Curtain go up and we saw it come down.
Recent events in Yugoslavia show that World War II did not solve all of the problems, but merely postponed many of them.
At one time, in earlier days, there were 14 school districts in Sandcreek Township besides the one at Westport. Most students didn’t have to walk more than a mile to school. But about 1870, Township Trustee John DeArmond decided that there were too many schools and started to reduce the number. By 1877, the number had been reduced to 10, and this included the school at Westport.
The building at Letts (1898) was school # 8 and the one at Westport (1896) was # 10. It was not until 1950 that a single building was constructed to accommodate all of the children in Sandcreek Township.
In pioneer days, schools were the responsibility of the township trustee. The office of county school superintendent didn’t come into existence until 1872. Westport didn’t come under the trustee system because it was an incorporated town. This arrangement continued through the end 1939.
The town of Letts did not exist until 1882 and, as far as I know, was never incorporated. For this reason it would have stayed under the trustee system. The original “Letts” was really Lett’s Corner, and was in the northwest corner of what is now the intersection of Highway 3 and County Road 700 South. The corner was named Lett’s Corner after the man who lived there, Allen W. Lett. The town of Letts was established after the railroad came through in 1880.
Some members of the class of 1951 started school at Westport under the old system, but this changed Jan. 1, 1940, when the Sandcreek Township School Corporation came into being. This system existed until the Decatur County Community School Corporation came into existence Jan. 1, 1963.
The advances in medical knowledge and all of technology have been almost beyond belief. Today, many diseases can be cured which could not be 50 years ago. New procedures can extend the lifespan of many. Advances in communications and transportation have been phenomenal. We have progressed from the old crank telephone to the modern computer, which challenges the television set for our attention. The trip from Missouri to Oregon, made by families on The Oregon Trail, took all summer but could now be made by the Concord in about an hour.
We constantly have to change many concepts about things around us. How large is large? How small is small? How far is far? Scientists have had to revise some basic laws and seriously question others.
Change is here to stay. I doubt people living in other periods in history have witnessed as much change as we have, but perhaps our children and grandchildren will see even more changes.