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May 31, 2024 30 mins

Tracy and Holly talk about the Disney animators' strike of 1941, Angel Island, and Tyrus Wong's Christmas cards. They also discuss the merits of dandelions. 

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, A production
of iHeartRadio Happy Friday. I'm Tracy V. Wilson and I'm
Holly Frye. We talked about Tyrus Wong this week, person
number two, who was on my episode list of topics

that do two different times. I think that's all the duplicates.
I don't think there are any more duplicates lingering on
the short list for me. But I've wanted to do
an episode about him for a while, and I'm very
glad that we finally have. I love his artwork. Of course,

I noted a couple of things talk about in the
behind the scenes that we didn't really get into. What
is man the Disney Animators strike? Yeah, had you read
about it much before this? I mean, I know kind
of the basics of it. So, Holly, you are classified

as management at our job. I am not management, and
I am on the bargaining committee for our union, right,
and so I have been through the process of organizing
a workplace, and boy, am I glad that we did
not have the kind of bitter bitter divisions that went

on in this process. Yeah, it's bad, very bad, Like
we for sure had some people who were like, I
don't really think a union is right for me, or
I don't think a union is right for our workplace,
but like we did not have the kind of real
schism that was going on in Disney animation, which sounded awful.

I don't know if you had anything to add to that,
since I know you are very versed in all the
history of Disney and all of that. Well, it's one
of those things that's really interesting to me because even
now when people talk about it, it's very divisive, and
really it kind of all boils down to, for better

or worse, this sort of cult of personality around Walt Disney.
Oh sure, yeah, and him being a visionary, which I
fully believe he was. But it's like that thing where
it was so divisive then and now when people talk
about it, there are folks who just naturally will buck

against that idea of the cult of personality and they'll
be like he was a union busting monster, and other
people who are like, no, he just was like trying
to get his stuff done in a admittedly right. This
was not a well established industry at that point, Like
there were unions and there were animators, but like it

was still a little wild Westie in terms of how
things were run, super wild weather. If you look at
like similarly, stuff that was going on at like Termite
Terras for Warner Brothers stuff, there are not quite the
same kind of thing, but there were just like in
terms of like the way people worked, the hours they worked,
the way management function similarly, not really stuff that would

fly today. Yeah, And so it is kind of interesting
to me to watch people really like, I mean, if
you want to just you know, watch a fight happen online,
say anything about Walt Disney, because there are people who
want to believe that he was secretly awful, and there

are people that believe he was a saint, and you know,
I mean I believe that he was a human, yeah,
who had many fine qualities, and I think was probably
a genuinely good person. Right. It doesn't mean you always
make the right decision, yeah, yeah, particularly in a business
like that. So it's it's an interesting one and it

does break my heart to think about. I mean, listen,
if you're like me and you love animation, this feels
like and I don't I don't want to say anything
that will make people think I don't take real huge
events seriously. But in terms of the animation biome, this
was a civil war. Oh yeah, like a total I

mean it was like two animation what the Civil War
was to the United States without trying to like obviously
there was not bloodshed and the same kind of thing,
but in terms of just the renting of people, like
people who were lifelong friends hated not anymore of it. Yea, yeah,
it was wild. Yeah. I feel like there might be
people who are like, Tracy, you just said, you're on

the bargaining committee of your union. How come you love
this person who didn't walk out with his union, And
I'm like, well, okay. One of the things you have
to recognize when you're organizing is that sometimes there are
people who have other stuff that has to take a priority, like,
for exampeople being in the United States at a time
when it was illegal to have immigrated into the United States,

not being a citizen and having kind of talked your
way into a position that was like not where the
company really thought you should be. Like, there was a
lot of there's nuance, is what I'm saying, Right, with
a wife and child, with a wife and take care
of so, like I can see being in the position
of I could walk out with my coworkers, and then

I might be deported, and then what happens? Right, Speaking
of being deported, there is so much writing about the
immigration station at angel Island. It was a horrible place.
I think on the show, we've talked before about poetry
that has been etched on the walls that by the
people that were detained there, some of which is very beautiful.

A thing that kept coming up when I was working
on this episode was that sometimes Angel Island is nicknamed
the Ellis Island of the West, and a lot of
the articles that sort of say known as the Ellis
Island of the West, and then they're like, except Ellis
Island was supposed to be welcoming to immigrants, and I'm like,

Ellis Island was welcoming to some immigrants. It was never
welcoming to everybody, And like there was a big place
for eugenics at Ellis Island. There was a big place
for ableism at Ellis Island. So like, it's just not
really accurate to be like, but at Ellis Island everyone

was welcomed because it's a magical fairyland where you got
handed flowers and chimpagne when you got off the boat.
That's part of the myth making of America, this idea
that like you're welcomed to buy the Statue of Liberty
and then you're gonna, you know, have this wonderful Ellis
Island experience. You know, not if you were disabled and

as time passed, not if you were from a range
of specific countries. Anyway, Greeting cards, Christmas cards, so pretty
moving on, They're beautiful. I love them. I think today
a lot of people think of greeting cards as a
whole as kind of like a kitchy mass produced They

don't assign a lot of value to greeting cards. And
I get it. I have for sure been standing at
the greeting card i'le trying to find literally any greeting
card that feels okay to give to a person for
a particular thing. But at the same time, like a

lot of people are doing hard work on making these. Yeah,
and at the time that tyros Wong started doing them,
there were also a lot of other like serious artists
who were doing greeting card work, Like there were Salvador
Dali Christmas cards, Andy Warhol cards. So I think like
there's a there's layers. There's the layer of you know

a lot. There are people putting time and care into
making these and trying to make them beautiful and you know,
bring some joy and comfort into people's lives. Right, and
also the you know what we think of as like
fine art having an overlap. I actually have, by coincidence,

written an upcoming episode that is going to have a
little bit more about like distinctions between fine art and
like commercial art art. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, here's what I
love about his greeting cards the most. Okay, it's so silly. Okay,
it supports my very strong personal feeling that pink is
a Christmas color. Thank you, That's fine. Yeah, the entire time.

There are some really beautiful Tyroswong Christmas cards the heavily
feature pink. His daughter Kim reissues some of these cards
and some other items related to him on Etsy, So
you can look for them on Etsy. You just got
to make sure that you are actually in that store,
because there are also other people on say who put
out like sort of copies or unlicensed things. Yeah. So yeah,

I was having a difficult week when I was working
on this, and I watched the documentary Tyrus and At
the end of the documentary, there's a focus on the
kite making and he takes a trip out to the
beach to fly the kites. And boy was I weeping
at my desk about these place. Yeah, there was also

a film made that was just about the kites, and
there is a chunk of it on YouTube, and I
I'm sorry I forgot to look up the name of
it before. But if I bet, if you put Tyris
Wong Kites into the YouTube search, you'll find it. You'll
find it. I do want to also just comment briefly

and make a plug for the Walt Disney Family Museum. Okay,
I've never been there, have you? Oh so many times?
I'm in love with that museum. Oh I'm surprising. It's well,
it's it's interesting because it's in San Francisco. It's at
the Presidio. If you really want to, there's a lodge
next to it that that was part of the presidio buildings.
It's now a hotel that's lovely and you can go

and they have food trucks come out. Because there are
a couple of other interesting places, and the presidio is
of course part of a park and it's got a
lot of interesting things. But that museum is spectacular. It's
not associated with the Disney company. It's literally like the
family that hast this museum together and they do one
it's a beautiful space, but to they curate some of
the most beautiful exhibits. Yeah, we were there a few

years back when they did their ivand Earl exhibit. Who
was the person that did a lot of the backgrounds
on Sleeping Beauty And that was like so striking and
lovely and just like if you're into movie history and
if you're into Disney, obviously there's a ton of stuff
that's about Walt's life more than it's about the movies

in the parks, although there are things from the movies
in the parks there and toys and it's just it's
a great museum and the staff there is incredible. When
we did Drawn a million years ago, it feels like
we worked with them on some of it to talk
about just how animation developed over time, and they were
just absolutely wonderful to work with. So highly recommend if

you're in San Francisco and want to have, yeah, several
hours of wonder because love that place. Just the mention
of Sleeping Beauty. There were a couple people that compared
Tyrus Wong's influence on Bambi too. Yeah, like the total
ends to end. You can draw a line pretty easily. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ivan der Ol was obviously very influenced by some of
this work. Yeah. I think last time we were there
they were doing an exhibit on cats and dogs and animation.
Oh I love it. Oh it's the best museum. I
love it, love it, love it. So so good, so good.
Go enjoy San Francisco. Go to one of my favorite museums.

We talked about Gertrude Jekyl this week following an accident
of Google. Those are great accidents. I love when those happened.
They are and I so I had feelings about this.
So when I searched with the words landscape architect, Google
search results did take me to Lancelot Capability Brown. He

was nicknamed Capability as I understand, because he liked to
tell people that their grounds had great capability for improvement.
So landscape architect would take me to him. Landscape designer
would take me to Gertrude Jekyl. Even though the term
landscape architect has been used to describe each of them.

That's a more modern term than when they were living,
but like it is, it describes what they were doing
and has been applied to both of them. So I
just I sort of felt like there were there were
some gender perceptions in what of these would be perceived
to be like the higher skill and which persons it

returned the results for which I found a little annoying.
To add to my many annoyances with Google lately, including
the fact that every single time I search now there
is an AI summary that I cannot turn off or
do anything about that is just wasting resources and not
providing me with anything that I actually need. Yeah, I

have to wait for it to load before I can
continue to Ye. I know. There are other search alternatives.
They all have their pros and cons, and pretty much
everybody seems to be throwing their hat into the unnecessary
implementation of AI. Ring Yeah, how I feel about it.
I started using the extension at Cozia because it donates

to ecological okay efforts all right, which you can use
in like your like in the browser. Yeah cool, in
Google Chrome. I love it. That's because on Earth Day,
Jane Goodall and winner of the most recent RuPaul's Drag

Race Nymphia Wind did like I love that. This was
what the RuPaul's Drag Race winner did was like a
Jane Goodall co post on Instagram where they did like
a little live where they talked about using Ecozia as
a browser extension and how you could save the earth.
And I was like, this is the best thing that ever.

I loved it. It works just great. I don't have
all the details on it of how it works, but
you can look at it and it's wonderful. Yeah, let's
talk about dandelions. Let's talk about and I didn't. I
don't have it written. I don't have it written in
my notes, and I don't want to forget to talk
about dandelions. I have so many feelings about dandelions. Okay,

one you know, like what's a weed and what's a flower?
Has made up? Yep yep. That being said, I will
confess that sometimes I do try to get rid of
dandelions in my lawn because they are pervasive. But what
I have done in recent years to try to help

myself make peace is cook them. Oh yeah, yeah yeah yeah.
And I haven't done it yet, but I cannot wait.
And I need to gather some. Next time we have
some pop up with flowers, I want to make some
dandelion syrup for cocktails. Yeah, yeah, sounds great. And I
have no problem with dandelions. I don't try to destroy

so uh. Our house came with some landscaping already done.
Same and uh there are places where like one will
show up and it's just like not a great place
for it. But in the backyard that's just I'm gonna
say grass. It's mostly not grass out there at this point,

but like, I'm not gonna do anything about dandelions in
the backyard. They're gonna be there, They're gonna be yellow,
and then they're gonna be fluffy, and I love them.
It's fine. Yuh. Also, my whole backyard at this point
is increasingly wood sorrel and not grass. I know there
are folks that feel like that dandelions are invasive in

some way. Most of where dandelions spread is grass lawns,
and grass lawns have their whole own other issue. So
I don't mind just dandelions at all. This episode kind
of inspired me to want to garden more. Yeah, I

have a couple of a couple of things. What is
that there is some work that needs to be done
around our house, and that work should get done before
spending a lot of investment on gardening, stuff on plant
life that could then be destroyed in the work. Right.
That's thing number one. Thing number two is I don't
have a good track record of actually being able to

maintain attempts to garden. So yeah, I'm I'm a little
hit or miss. You know, I've talked about on the
show before. We inherited a lot of roses with this house,
which I love, and I have put some more in
since then. And I am not a great I don't
have the touch, I have the evil I have. Sure

I give them some sort of scrufula. I don't know
what happens, but but the roses are cool. They're like,
that's fine, They're fine with it. We don't need you whatever. Well,
we'll survive despite you touching us. But lately I have
a lot of weeds in my rose bed, which I
wouldn't mind. Like we have a bull thistle that I'm

fascinated by because I'd never seen one in person that
big before. But I don't want them to take over
the roses. So I feel like, yeah, yeah, that's the
that's the thing. I feel bad when plants die. Do
you have that? Yeah, Like I have a million seedlings
right now because I had a moment where I was like,
I'm going to grow dial and peppers and squash and

pumpkins and all the things, all the thing, a million
seed links, and like when I transplant them and they
don't all make it, I feel like I literally take
it way too hard to heart. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, where
I'm like one of the pumpkin vines noted it's like okay, okay,
but like it's it's okay, right, But I can't convince

my inner child of that. I guess I don't know
what's going on there. The first time that I ever
had house of my own with a yard of some sort,
I was so excited and I got all of these plants,
and I had a little container garden that was like

a poured concrete patio in the back, and I put
a whole container garden out there, and some other container
type stuff in the front yard and all this stuff.
And then immediately after having done all that, I stepped
into a hole and broke me. And I had to
be non weight bearing for something like seven weeks and

we've discussed asking for help. It's a problem that I
have that I don't do. So all of my plants
did not This was in the summertime too, so all
of my plants did not make it through the Georgia summer.
I feel like I've never totally recovered from Yeah. Yeah,
uh yeah, that's tricky. It's that thing, right, I don't

I know. I have this and I have been examining
it a lot recently because I had a little a
little surgery that I was not expecting that has made
me need to have help with stuff. I'm fine, but
like that not asking for help thing. I literally was
trying to unpack it with my husband because even with him,
I'm like, I don't want you to be so gung

ho in the beginning of this recovery, that you eventually
become resentful that you have to do so much stuff
and then you secretly hate me. And that's how I
think it will work with everyone. Yeah, why are we
like this? This is a great question. During my broken
leg recovery, I remember friends came over and they had

brought me something and one of them was like, is
there anything else you need me to do, and I
was like, absolutely not. And he was like, Tracy, I'm
not leaving and say, you tell me what you need
help with. And I was like, can you please deal
with my crisper? Because being on crutches meant that I

wasn't able to cook. Really, I didn't. Like. I had
this one rolling office chair that I was trying to
cook from and it like just it wasn't working. And
so ingredients I had bought had just like rotted in
the fridge. Oh gotcha. And so my friend took care
of all that and then was like, don't let this

get like this again. Just just call me. So. Yes,
I understand it's weird. It's weird. I don't want to
be a burden. Some random things I found delightful about

Gertrude Chicyle. There's so many. There's a there's a bunch
that didn't make it into the episode. I'm gonna tell
you them now. We mentioned her fondness for cats. Yeah,
during her travels when she was younger, she would play
a little game she invented with her traveling companions. They
would have a contest for who could count the most

cats on their side of the walk. Oh perfect, But
whoever was the first person to spot a cat in
the window. One that was like instant winning was spotting
a cat in the window. I love it. Next thing,
Linda Sparncastle. There are cliffs like below one of the walls.

I have not looked at pictures of this to like
describe it adequately, but she reportedly seeded the flowers for
these cliffs by firing the seed out of a shotgun.
I love it. I love it. Last thing is not
actually about her. Her brother Wald her was friends with
Robert Lewis Stevenson, and so it is believed that the

Jekyll family is the namesake of what we usually say
in America or in the United States as doctor Jekyl
in the story Doctor Jekyl and mister Hyde. Apparently, this
pronunciation of Jekyl really comes from, like when this was
made into either radio plays or movies or you know,

some over on the US side of things saying this name,
making Jekyl a more common pronunciation at least here in
the US, for this name. I liked her a lot.
This was another episode that I was working on. I've
had some things going on. Nobody needs to be worried

about me. It's just been a lot to have stuff
to handle. Yeah, life is life, life is. There's just
been extra life and of life lately, and so I
just I was very comforted reading about all of her gardens.
I love the look of like the English cottage garden.
They make me happy if my own, you know, but like,

our yard is not very big at all, but if
like our little front yard looked like that, that'd make
me super happy. But I, as we said, other stuff
needs to come at first. We should not do a
whole bunch of work on the front little patch of
dirt when the front porch at needs attention from an

it's gonna fall apart standpoint, yeah kind of thing. So yeah,
I became quite fond of her. Apparently she could be
stubborn and prickly, and I love that too. I loved
to pull back the curtain a bit before we read

about her smaller house that she had built. Yeah, you
made a comment to me about you coming up is
the small house. It is ridiculous for one person, And
I was like, this seems perfectly reasonable to me. But
that's because I'm a stupphaholic. And I think, sure, yeah,
I'm like one of these bedrooms could be for my
life size e walk that I just got, Like, I,
you know, that's mister Herman needs his own room. Yeah.

We we have a house that is a hundred percent
more than adequate for two grown adult human beings that
live in it simultaneously. There are times when I wish
we had an actual guest room that a guest could
stay with us and have privacy. Right. We have places

people can sleep if they stay at our house, but
not a place with a door that they could close.
Oh yeah, we have a guest room, although it is
also I joke that people have to sign the NDA
to not disclose how many shoes I have that room.
I'm looking at the wall of shoes behind you. This

is the closet to that room, Holly records in a
shoe closet listener, I do well, it's shoes and suits.
But I have a lot of shoes and I love them.
And I'm going to say I thought about you when
reading Gertrude Cheekyles not liking new boots me too, I
was like, girl, what's wrong now? I could understand, though,

if you have a pair that you love for a
utility purpose like that, not wanting to break in new ones.
I get that, Like, it's not like, yeah, the most
of my shoes are not I have one pair of
shoes that I mowed the lawn in, for example, so
I understand, but I will replace that pair of shoes
when they get ready. This was also a different era

of quality and durability of not across the board, but
in many cases, like if you look at the picture
of these boots, you can tell that they are made
of like very durable, very well crafted parts and also

parts that can be repaired, which I would say, like
my trail runners that I hike in if they fall
apart to be repaired, we're getting new ones like that.
It's not really something you can just a cobbler can
resolve for you in the same way, right. Yeah. I
also discovered recently that like, cobbler shops don't all do

the stuff I want them to do anymore. Oh, Like,
I went to one because I bought these boots that
I really really love online and I love them and
I love the way they feel on my feet. But
I have Hammi calves and they're a little tight in
the calf, like I can't zip them up all the way,
and I asked them about doing an elastic insert like
adding a gore to it, and he was like, there's

I only know one shop in town that does that,
and it's going to be really expensive. And I looked
up the shop that he referred me to and it's
like the shop that people take their le boutons too.
And I'm like, oh, wow, no, no, no, this isn't
for me. This is so we'll see if I decide
to take up, you know, shoe gore insertion myself, because
it might happen. Yeah, yeah, and I have gumption. Yeah. Anyway,

how we got to cobblers process. I wonder about her
other shoes, because surely she wasn't wearing only those shoes.
They were definitely her gardening but yeah, they were for
the time. I don't think she wore them all the
time now, But I disagree with her fundamentally about not
wanting new clothes. I will also say she is one
of the many people in history that I feel like

there are a number of people who are in some
way neuro divergent, yeah, who see themselves in her. And
I think that's great. And I'm also not going to
try to armchair right, it makes sense I see we're
people land there for sure. Yeah, I love her, though,
I am sure, being you know, somebody who lived in

the nineteenth and early twentieth century, that if I went
digging through the vast majority of her writing, I would
find various things that I'd be like, oh, wish you
had not said that, oh, Gertrude. But I you know,
I love I love the gardens, and I love that
she made this whole career for herself when she wasn't
really supposed I was supposed to have a career at all.

I also can't help but think of our other episode
we did on a gardener, which is Andre Lenotre. Oh, yeah,
who just designed the gardens of Versailles and many other
beautiful places in France, for example. And obviously he's on
the much more formal end of things, but in terms
of personality, the descriptions are so different, like hers is
so much of like I love nature and I love flowers,

and I like to learn about the ours. And he
sounded like kind of a tyrant, And I'm like, what
would happen if you switched their two specialties? Where he
was doing more like manner littler manor gardens compared to palaces,
and she was doing like grand huge palace work, right,
I think that would be fascinating. Yeah. Well, if you

have a garden to work and over the weekend, I
hope you enjoy your garden time. And if gardening feels
like a chore to you and you want to put
that chore off, hey, you have my full sport. We'll
be back with a Saturday classic tomorrow and something brand
new on Monday. Stuff you Missed in History Class is

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Holly Frey

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